The PR Bucs Monday Mailbag is where PewterReport.com’s Mark Cook answers your questions from our Twitter account. You can submit your question each week via Twitter using the hashtag #PRMailbag.

Below are the questions we chose for this week’s edition of the PR Bucs Monday Mailbag.

Question: With CBs Sean Murphy-Bunting and Jamel Dean being drafted, does that mean Vernon Hargreaves III is moving to nickel cornerback?

Answer: Not necessarily. Vernon Hargreaves III has the most experience at that position, but when in Arizona at the league meetings, Bruce Arians raved about Hargreaves and all but said he would be a starter on the outside, and the team would find a nickel. And one thing we learned from our press conferences with the defensive coaches last week, is the nickel corner in this defense will be asked to do things a lot differently that in the Mike Smith defense. In fact, the nickel corner will be more like a safety and be a physical presence against the run, and also used as the team’s primary blitzer.

Bucs CB M.J. Stewart – Photo by: Getty Images
Bucs CB M.J. Stewart – Photo by: Getty Images

I don’t know that I see Hargreaves being that type of player unless he gets beaten out by rookie cornerbacks Sean Murphy-Bunting or Jamel Dean in training camp. Instead, look for M.J. Stewart, last year’s second-round pick, to get the first crack at nickel – even though he bombed there last year – and even safety Mike Edwards slipping down at times to take on that role. If Stewart wins the job it will be more about his ability to play the run, blitz and be physical rather than cover man-to-man like he was often asked to do last year in Mike Smith’s defense.

One fun thing as reporters is with a new staff come lots of new changes, so we get to see first hand a new defensive scheme develop and get put into place during the OTAs and mini-camps, including the Bucs rookie mini-camp that beings this Friday.

Question: I have come to terms (and actually love the players we got in the draft even if it wasn’t the route I would have taken) with this year’s draft. Is it too early for you guys to know how the talent looks for O-Line and D-Line for next year? Does it look as decent as it did this draft or better?

Answer: From what we understand, next year should be a much better offensive line draft than we saw last year in terms of potential first-round talent, but it may not be particularly deep. Early buzz has Georgia tackle Andrew Thomas as the top draft prospect, but some early mocks have as many as five offensive linemen going in the first round. Of course it is way too early to know anything for sure, but we have also heard from a league source that next year’s offensive line class will be better than we saw this year.

We also heard from the same source that defensive linemen will be about the same but edge rushers might not be as deep next spring. It’s too early to get a good grasp on next year, as some will burst onto the scene as the player matures and develops. Who saw Kentucky outside linebacker Josh Allen make the jump he did between his junior and senior campaigns? And no one had Boston College guard Chris Lindstrom as a first-round pick a year ago.

The biggest question that always impacts the overall talent and depth at a particular position in each draft is the size of the junior class. How many junior offensive and defensive linemen will declare for the 2020 draft, and how talented will they be? Check back this fall for answers, but you can bet the Bucs will be looking for a right tackle candidate and some more edge rushers and help at defensive tackle, too.

Question: Harold Goodwin’s official title is assistant head coach/run game coordinator, but his specialty is the O-line. Is he gonna have a more heavy hand with the O-line or is it Joe Gilbert and Gilbert only?

Bucs O-linemen Ali Marpet and Sean Jensen with run game coordinator Harold Goodwin
Bucs O-linemen Ali Marpet and Ryan Jensen with run game coordinator Harold Goodwin – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

Answer: Oh no, it won’t just be Joe Gilbert. We have already seen through the first mini-camp that Harold Goodwin is right there coaching the offensive linemen with Gilbert, and Arians told me in Phoenix that they will split the group. One day Goodwin might be working with the tackles and Gilbert with guards and centers, and then vice versa. It will be a collaborative effort between the two and I think that is a great way to handle a unit that must improve greatly over what we have seen the last few years.

Both were very impressive to listen to last week when we had access to all the assistant coaches and both know what they are facing. I liked their confidence and no-nonsese approach, and the biggest takeaway was hearing Gilbert say that the linemen really need to finish their blocks. Too many times last season he said the linemen didn’t finish until the whistle, and that played a hand in allowing turnovers and sacks.

Tampa Bay’s offensive linemen will be more aggressive and physical under these two coaches, which is something we at PewterReport.com have been saying was needed for a while. This won’t be a finesse unit any longer under Goodwin and Gilbert.

Question: Who should we be excited about as a sleeper candidate to emerge on the seemingly ignored Bucs offensive line?

Answer: The hopes are that the four starters from last year get much better, and that Alex Cappa or newcomer Earl Watford will solidify the turnstile at right guard we have seen since Ali Marpet was moved from there to center three years ago. One name we have heard from a couple of sources to really keep an eye on is Ruben Holcomb. The team thinks he has a ceiling yet to attain and think he is a dark horse to emerge from the roster as a player who can make the roster and be a quality backup, if not push for starting time.

Our money is on Watford who has played and was drafted by Arians, and knows the system and what the coaches expect.


And after reading his Twitter recently, Bucs fans should also love his attitude coming into the season and a new team.

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Mark Cook currently is the director of editorial content and Bucs beat writer and has written for PewterReport.com since 2011. Cook has followed the Buccaneers since 1977 when he first began watching football with his Dad and is fond of the 1979 Bucs team that came within 10 points of going to a Super Bowl. His favorite Bucs game is still the 1979 divisional playoff win 24-17 over the Eagles. In his spare time Cook enjoys playing guitar, fishing, surfing and family time at the beach. In addition, Cook can be found in front of a television or in Doak Campbell any time the FSU Seminoles are playing. Cook is a native of Pinecrest in Eastern Hillsborough County and has written for numerous publications including the Tampa Tribune, In the Field and Ya'll Magazine. Cook can be reached at [email protected]

11 COMMENTS

  1. I love that we are finally going to have an aggressive defense! It was getting very old watching teams orchestrate huge 4th quarter comebacks, and watching backup quarterbacks carve up our secondary and have the game of their lives, and have ten seconds a play to find an open man because we were in prevent defense. No more of that, we have to stay aggressive and give them less time to carve up our defense. Sometimes our aggresiveness will backfire, surely, but it will also cause opposing quarterbacks to make mistakes.

    Does anyone know how much of our pass rush is going to come from outside linebackers in our 3-4, and how much of it is going to come from defensive ends? In passing downs is the team planning on having 4 defensive linemen, and coming out in nickel or dime formations? Are we doing about 30% 3-4 or what’s the story here? Either way, as long as we have aggressive play calls, we should see a better defense.

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  2. Mark,

    How long will it be before you folks will be allowed to be on the field and watch the players in action? I don’t mean to just watch the players go through warm ups, but to see them on the field making plays and doing drills. I would like to get your opinions based upon performance and not from the coach’s based upon hype. Thanks.

    RB4TampaBay

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  3. Well this is exciting! Seeing that tweet from Watford is an excellent sign and has me rooting hard for him!!

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  4. I am okay with most of the answers, but the offensive line improvement is a hope and a prayer. I just hope those prayers are answered and all it is – is coaching.

    “The hopes are that the four starters from last year get much better, and that Alex Cappa or newcomer Earl Watford will solidify the turnstile at right guard we have seen since Ali Marpet was moved from there to center three years ago.”

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  5. If our O line stays pretty much intact, and kicks butt, what will Jacksonville think about hiring Warhop, or any of the other coaches hired by other teams? I would just be curious to know if our success with the same players would translate into their downfall as coaches, or if there really is no baggage in the NFL. I guess I’m just really wondering how we’re expecting all of these great things from all of these new coaches when they’re all coming from teams that didn’t want them anymore either? Except for Bruce. Aren’t we getting everyone else’s outcasts? Don’t get me wrong, I’m all excited about the change over in personnel as much as the next guy. I have really high hopes. Color me cautiously optimistic with pessimistic tendencies.

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  6. @bucianco coaching hires are as much about fit as player acquisition. A good coach in a poorly run organization produce poor results (Belichecht in Cleveland) or Great organization Steelers with rookie coach Mike Tomlin.

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  7. if Watford is our starting RG, this Oline should stay at the bottom of the league…
    Watford only value is versatility, perfect for depth but no way he’s starting material!
    next year, Dotson will be 35 and a free agent, Jensen isn’t worth $10M/year and will be cut, E.Smith and Watford are just stopgap on the bench, RT or RG Benenoch doesn’t have the level to start and not be a liability…

    building the Oline has to be n°1 priority in 2020!
    need new RT, RG, C, depth in 2020 (and maybe a new LT in 2021 if D.Smith doesn’t improve)!

    Bucs Oline picks in the last 10 draft: three 2nd day picks (D.Smith, Marpet and Cappa) and three 5th round project (Edwards, Pamphile and Benenoch)…
    + only signing FA bust: Anthony Collins, JR Sweezy, Ryan Jensen, Gosder Cherilus…
    Marpet is the only long-term piece! (unacceptable!)

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  8. + with $47M of the 2019 salary cap, this Oline is the most expensive in the league behind Dallas!

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  9. RB4TampaBay,

    We were allowed on the patio for the last mini-camp but there were three fields being utilized and we had to stay in as general area. Also we weren’t allowed to report a lot of specifics. I would guess that our location and what we can write and post continues until training camp.

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  10. nothing against Vernon, but with the team getting tighter and tighter under the cap, i’m sure they were hoping that one of these guys makes it easy for the team to rescind VH3’s 5th year option. If 2 of the 5 or so CBs drafted in the last 2 seasons can win themselves a starting job the bucs will save about $9 million against the cap by letting Vernon move on

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  11. “Even though he bombed there last year”…you JUST said nickel was almost a completely different position than last year, so MJ didn’t bomb anywhere. It’s a different position than last year’s defense.

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