This story is intended to be read by Pewter Insider subscribers only. Sharing of the PI content with non-subscribers of this service can result in cancellation of your subscription to the service and/or further actions by the publishers.

Normally this particular Pewter Insider column focuses on one issue or topic. However, with Pewter Report publisher Scott Reynolds busy putting the finishing touches on the Pewter Report Mid-Season Issue of Pewter Report, which will be printed and mailed in less than two weeks, I decided to tackle a few topics this week in an effort to give our Pewter Insider subscribers their fix on Bucs information until Scott actually has time to produce his next Fab 5 column.

STAR WARS
PewterReport.com was the first to report several weeks ago that Bucs head coach Jon Gruden was seriously contemplating implementing the shotgun formation after swearing it off for several years.

Last Sunday, Tampa Bay gave Philadelphia and the rest of the National Football League a sneak peak at Gruden’s version of the shotgun formation when rookie quarterback Bruce Gradkowski lined up three yards behind center John Wade on a third-and-8 play with 1:21 remaining in the second quarter.

The formation featured seven players on the line of scrimmage, which made it legal, but only three of them – right tackle Jeremy Trueblood, center John Wade and left tackle Anthony Davis – lined up in the middle of the field in front of Gradkowski. Wide receiver Michael Clayton lined up in the slot while WR Joey Galloway lined up on the far right-hand side of the field along the line of scrimmage. On the left side of the field, tight end Alex Smith, guard Sean Mahan and right guard Davin Joseph lined up on the line of scrimmage. Fullback Mike Alstott lined up in front of Gradkowski in an offset “I” while RB Michael Pittman lined up two yards behind the three offensive linemen on the left-hand side of the field.

While the formation was unique in nature, Gruden didn’t call that play because he thought it was going to pick up a first down. Instead, he had other intentions, which he explained to Pewter Report this week.

“I basically hadn’t called that in some time. I kind of wanted to dust it off,” Gruden said of the shotgun play. “That was a key situation and I was going to take a timeout. Instead of just taking the timeout, we called ‘Star Wars’ – that’s what we call the play – to see how people around the league want to defend it. We do have a couple of different options that we run out of that play, but I told Bruce, ‘No snap, no play’ to see if Philadelphia takes a timeout. I was going to take the timeout anyhow, so instead of just taking the timeout we stuck that out there to see if they’d take one for me. I also wanted to see how they were going to deploy to it. I also wanted to make them run around and sweat a little bit since it was a hot day.”

Using the shotgun formation makes a lot of sense for the Bucs, especially since Gradkowski thrived in it during his collegiate playing days at Toledo. But it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the Bucs haven’t actually taken a snap out of that formation during a regular season game yet. After all, teams don’t just implement the shotgun and successfully execute plays out of it in just a few weeks. It takes time.

But rest assured, the Bucs are continuing to work with the shotgun, or as Gruden calls it, ‘Star Wars,’ in practice, and the formation will show up again in a regular season game sooner rather than later.

“We’ll see it again at some point,” Gruden said.

TERRY RIDING THE BENCH
What in the world has happened to Bucs guard Jeb Terry?

During the offseason, the Bucs were raving about Terry’s improved play and how he was poised to compete for – and win – a starting job.

But things have changed quite a bit since then. Terry appeared to enter training camp as a starter, but was quickly unseated by first-round pick Davin Joseph and Sean Mahan, who started all 16 regular season games at right guard for the Bucs in 2005.

But Terry got his big break after starting left guard Dan Buenning sprained his ankle in the preseason finale vs. Houston and Joseph suffered a severe knee injury in the week leading up to Tampa Bay’s regular season home opener vs. Baltimore.

Those injuries gave Terry his first career start in Week 1 vs. the Ravens, but his performance was far from impressive. Not even close. Terry has since gone from contender to pretender, and he’s riding the bench. In fact, Terry has been inactive for two of Tampa Bay’s past three games.

Why?

“All I can say is he’s got to play better,” Bucs head coach Jon Gruden said of Terry. “We’re losing games, and we’ve got to play better in games and on the practice field. Put it on film. He didn’t play well enough versus Baltimore.”

While Terry, a 2004 fifth-round pick out of North Carolina, has to improve his play, Gruden was quick to give credit to Joseph and Buenning for working their way back from their respective injuries and playing well enough to unseat Terry.

“Davin Joseph is back,” Gruden said. “Dan Buenning is back healthy now. Neither one of them was healthy against Baltimore. Buenning has basically been physically limited for the whole season. It’s a competitive situation, and Sean Mahan isn’t a bad player, either. There’s three guards right there. Right now, Jeb is our fourth starter.”

Terry is running out of time to work his way into the staring lineup. He’s scheduled to become a restricted free agent at the end of the 2006 season and will become an unrestricted free agent in 2008.

SPENDING SPREE COMING IN 2007
Tampa Bay has been severely handcuffed from a salary cap standpoint for the past several seasons. Each year has had its challenges. This past offseason, the Bucs were scheduled to be as much as $19 million over the salary cap, but Bucs general manager Bruce Allen creatively got the team under the cap by restructuring several players’ deals.

But the storm that has been raining on Tampa Bay’s salary cap parade in recent years is about to blow over, Bucs fans.

As it stands right now, Tampa Bay is scheduled to be $24-27 million under the league-mandated salary cap in 2007, and that’s before cutting any players or restructuring any contracts.

Don’t think the Bucs aren’t aware of how much money they’ll have to spend in free agency next year. They’re already doing their homework on free agents, some of which they know they won’t sign this year but feel they could be interested in inking to contracts in 2007.

Free agent punter Todd Sauerbrun is a perfect example of this strategy. The Bucs have P Josh Bidwell on their roster, and although he’s not having the type of season that earned him an invitation to the Pro Bowl in 2005, he’s still a quality punter.

However, Bidwell is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent in 2007, and there’s no guarantee the Bucs will re-sign him. So, when Denver released Sauerbrun on Oct. 10, Tampa Bay saw the opportunity to take a good look at him and possibly begin the recruiting process when the team had him in for a workout on Tuesday.

In fact, that’s what Tampa Bay has been doing all season long. Each week, the Bucs have brought in several players that play the same position for workouts and visits. For the first time in several years, the Bucs are going to have a good chunk of change to spend in free agency, and they’re basically doing their homework before embarking on what will likely be a big spending spree.

“We’re going to have a lot of money to spend, and knowing Bruce [Allen] he’s going to spend it all,” said Gruden. “That’s doubly exciting. If you’re a free agent, we’re allowed to talk to you, give you a physical, we’re allowed to get official, updated information. We don’t have to talk to a coach or somebody out there. We get to bring you in and meet you for ourselves. We’re going to work you out, and we’re going to get updated information. Some of these guys are just looking for a home. Some of these guys are pretty good. So let’s bring in guys that play the same position and compare them to one another. That’s just our philosophy. It’s an expense, but at least we’re trying.”

The Bucs were thinking along the same lines when they brought Seahawks quarterback Seneca Wallace in for a visit during the offseason. Wallace, who was a restricted free agent at that time, was not a player the Bucs were necessarily interested in giving up compensation for, which would have been required because of his RFA status. However, the Bucs saw the opportunity to bring Wallace in for a visit to evaluate him and start the recruiting process if they deemed it necessary after his initial visit.

Although Wallace later signed a long-term contract with the Seahawks, the Bucs feel that doing their homework on players now when the opportunity presents itself will pay off at some point down the road, starting in 2007.

“You never know,” said Gruden. “You might want to call these free agents up down the road and say, ‘Hey, bro. Remember me? We brought you in and I saw you out there. We put you in a nice hotel and bought you dinner, and we’d like to sign you now.’ They have a tendency to appreciate that. With a lot of these guys, I’ve been accused of bringing in washed up guys before and things like that. But who really knows who is washed up? Who the hell really knows unless you look into everybody that still says they can play? So, that’s what we do, and hopefully we can find a diamond in the rough.”

This story is intended to be read by Pewter Insider subscribers only. Sharing of the PI content with non-subscribers of this service can result in cancellation of your subscription to the service and/or further actions by the publishers.

       
       
       
       
       
       
       
       
       
       
       
       

       
       
       
       
       

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