The PR Bucs Monday Mailbag is where PewterReport.com’s Mark Cook answers your questions from our @PewterReport Twitter account. You can submit your question each week via Twitter using the hashtag #PRMailbag.
However, with Mark Cook enjoying some well-deserved vacation time, this week’s mailbag questions have been answered by our Bucs Beat Reporter Trevor Sikkema.
Question: Sporting News ranked Jason Licht as the number 30th-best GM in the league. What number do you put on him?
Answer: Uh, a lot higher than 30th. That’s for sure.
I’ve sort of talked about this before, but I don’t know how you look at Jason Licht’s path with the Buccaneers with all the context involved and not come out thinking he’s done a pretty damn good job. When he came on initially, he was hired by the already-chosen head coach (which is weird) Lovie Smith, and it was his first time as a general manager. Knowing that, you can infer there not only being potential conflict of draft and team building strategies, but also him likely not being as strong to his own instincts with a bunch of different voices in his head telling him what to do and not a lot of experience of his own to weed through those outside voices. Thus you have some picks and signings that looked bad early on, but, in context, shouldn’t be all on him, especially in an unforgivable manner.
But, if you look at what Licht has done with this team since firing Smith, yes the 2016 draft has blemishes, but he made the right, initiative decision to keep Dirk Koetter, has kept the Bucs in one of the healthiest cap situations in the league, went after big talent and got it, and his last two drafts look like home runs – if the pieces fall into place.
The article says the Bucs need to get some wins for him to move up, and yet they have guys like Oakland’s Reggie McKenzie, who just gave head coach Jon Gruden $100 million dollars and then had all of his power usurped by Gruden, Denver’s John Elway, a Hall of Fame quarterback, who has whiffed on every quarterback he’s had minus an aging Peyton Manning, and Cleveland’s John Dorsey, who literally hasn’t done anything for the Browns yet, ahead of Licht.
I get why people have some reservations about Licht – even he’s been fairly critical of himself for the lack of wins in Tampa Bay (his record is 22-42) – but he’s higher than 30th.
Question: How many fingers should we prepare to point after starting 1-4 with Saints, Eagles, Steelers, Falcons in the first 5 weeks?
Answer: Hey now. I know the schedule is tough, but we don’t have to sign this Bucs team up for a poor start right out of the gate before we even see what they look like in camp.
If you want to choose to not believe in this team until they prove something to you, then yes, there will be no convincing you of a better start than 1-4 in the first five weeks. Dirk Koetter and his staff may have gone 9-7 in 2016, but however you weigh each excuse, the 5-11 season was on them. The players played hard for them down the stretch, which was good, but there were far too many games that were “just out of reach.” Better coaching puts those game in reach.
Now, am I going to sit here with blissful ignorance and tell you that the Bucs can go 4-1 in that stretch? No, I’m not. But, I will tell you that there is no league like the NFL when it comes to turnover of which teams were good the previous season. And when you talk about the start of a season, no team, even ones with returning talent and coaching staffs, are guaranteed success.
The Bucs are more talented than they were last year, so if a start like 1-4 were to occur this season, I likely think the only two fingers you’ll have to point at are either for Koetter or Jameis Winston, because if those two do what they need to do, this team won’t be 1-4, even with a tough schedule to open 2018. Of course there might be another finger to point if the NFL does suspend Winston for at least one game in a case that may not contain much other than flimsy evidence.
Question: What is the percentage chance that Ronald Jones is the starting RB after the bye week?
Answer: Mark Cook has talked about this before, but even though there is a “starter” for every game, the Bucs rushing attack is going to be a “by committee” thing.
Peyton Barber is going to be the first running back out there for most of the first half of the season, if not more, pending how he performs. He has experience over Jones, and he has the trust of the coaching staff, which has seen him play for two years now. Jones will likely be the second running back in during all situations, and there may be games where he gets more carries or more yards than Barber if he’s the hot hand, but then I think Charles Sims will always be the third down back.
But, even then – not trying to dance around your question – if Jones really shows off in the first few weeks against some of those big-name teams, I’d say there’s a 30 percent chance he’s the “starting” running back ahead of Barber after the bye week (Week 5). If that happens we’ll see if Barber can pry some third-down opportunities away from Sims as a result because Barber is just a better all-around back than Sims is.
Question: Haven’t heard much from Kendell Beckwith, did you guys get a chance to speak with him during minicamp and will he be ready to rock for training camp?
Answer: Though I did not see Beckwith with my own two eyes, we have been told that he has been around the facility and in plenty of contact with the players and coaches since his car accident in mid-April.
When explaining that accident, Bucs general manager Licht said “We’re very fortunate that it wasn’t life-threatening.” The Bucs also seemed optimistic that Beckwith could be ready to open up the regular season, but said that they won’t really have a good grip on his progress until training camp.
We haven’t heard much since that update. I’m sure the hope is to get him back the week or two before the regular season begins, but, if you ask me, that might be a stretch listening to how severe that accident was. I would be surprised (pleasantly, of course) if Beckwith started the regular season healthy, but it wouldn’t be the first time he pleasantly surprised me and others as his recovery from a torn ACL in 2016 was speedy and impressive going into his first year with the Bucs in 2017.