It is Monday and that means another Bucs Monday Mailbag where we answer your questions that readers submitted via Twitter using #PRMailbag.
Question: If hurricane Irma impacts Week 1, what is the best and worst case scenario for Bucs scheduling?
Answer: Checking the latest advisory on Monday, it is hard to imagine the hurricane not having some type of impact on the game Sunday. For us living in Florida, we have seen scenarios that look like gloom and doom, only to have the storm make a sudden change. However, forecasting tools have gotten better over the last few years, and the accuracy has improved as well. But we are still six days out before potential impact. The problem is, the NFL will need to make a decision sooner rather than later. And with all of Florida in the potential path, moving the game to Tampa or Jacksonville doesn’t seem likely.
The two most likely scenarios are, the team moving the game up a day or two, or postponing the game and rescheduling it for the bye week. Both the Dolphins and Bucs share the same bye week, so that seems like the most likely scenario, if in fact the storm keeps on its current path.
Regardless, while everyone is super excited for the season to get underway, the safety of the citizens has to be the most important factor. And from a public relations standpoint, the NFL doesn’t need to take a hit by making it appear they are hell bent on playing the game with a major hurricane bearing down on the state wouldn’t be a good look.
Question: Love the T.J. Ward signing. You got Ward/Tandy or Ward/Conte starting next Sunday and why?
Answer: It will be Conte and Tandy in Week 1, as Ward is most likely inactive this game upcoming against Miami. Getting him up to speed in a new defense can’t happen in six days, so the Bucs will take their time. They are not in a position where they have to rush him into the lineup, and safety is one of those positions where continuity and communication are crucial. You definitely want to see Ward on the same page as the others on the defense, particularly in the secondary. Ward wasn’t signed to be a backup, so it won’t be long before he is in the lineup, I just don’t believe it will be this week.
Question: Given the recent turnover at safety, does this indicate that the staff is not happy with the current bunch, or the opposite?
Answer: I think the Bucs were pleased overall with their group on Saturday evening, but woke up feeling much better on Sunday morning with the addition of three-time Pro Bowler T.J. Ward. When you have an opportunity to go out and get a proven Pro Bowl player you have to do it. And at only $5 million (with incentives) it was a great move by Jason Licht to get him in the fold.
The Bucs liked Wilcox but there was a log jam at that position and someone had to go. The Bucs weren’t getting rid of a second round pick in Evans, so the player who knew the defense the least was the odd man out. Special teams was a factor as well as Evans contributed on special teams, and Wilcox did very little.
Question: Will we see the second TE or the third WR on the field more this week?
Answer: That’s a difficult one to answer and unless Dirk invites me upstairs to help with the game plan, then we will both have to wait and see. Guessing? I would say both about equally. But we do know Koetter, like most coaches, loves having two tight ends on the field because it makes it more difficult to for defensive coordinators to know if it is a run or pass, and most likely keeps teams in their base with three linebackers – whichever tight end gets matched up with a linebacker should win that battle more often than not. Then it will be up to the defense to adjust, which opens things up on the outside with possible man coverage, if they choose to put a safety on either Cam Brate or O.J. Howard.
Question: What are the Buc’s plans with the abundance of tight ends?
Answer: Well, it clearly tells me Koetter wants to run a lot of 12 personnel (1 running back, 2 tight ends) and wants to have horses in the stable if someone gets hurt. However, Luke Stocker and Alan Cross fit the bill more of the team’s fullback/H-back instead of being true tight ends. Both are asked to do the dirty work that rarely gets noticed by the fans, but is still a very important job. We saw how things changed when Stocker went down last year in Week 2. We also saw the Bucs passing game suffer when Brate was injured in the Saints game on Christmas Eve.