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May 26, 2013 @ 12:35 am
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UPDATED: Five Bucs Who May Be On The 2013 Hot Seat

Written by Mark
Cook
Mark Cook

Mark
Cook

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The 2013 season is critical for a number of players but five in particular have a lot riding on how well they perform. With a good year from these five, the Bucs most likely are in the postseason– a bad season and they may be wearing a different uniform in 2014.
A ton of optimism abounds inside the walls of One Buc Place and throughout the Tampa Bay community. The Buccaneers showed improvement last season – at one point boasting a 6-4 record – before finishing the season with a five-game losing streak, then capping off 2012 with a win on the road against the Falcons, who had the best record in the league.

The biggest downfall and blame for the nine losses – the secondary – has been vastly upgraded with the addition of Darrelle Revis via a trade with the Jets, the free agent signing of safety Dashon Goldson and the drafting of cornerback Johnthan Banks. What was the worst secondary in the league, arguably can be considered one of the best.

Other things that make Bucs fans, players and coaches giddy, is the return of guards Davin Joseph and Carl Nicks to the offense after the two were lost to injuries in 2012. The Buccaneers offense still set a number of franchise records without the Pro Bowl duo, and the thought of quarterback Josh Freeman and Doug Martin showing off their abilities behind a healthy offensive line excites many.

Even with all of the excitement there are still a handful of players who need to step up their game in order to remain with the Buccaneers in the future and help build what many think can be a long-term playoff caliber football team.

PewterReport.com has put together a list of five players who need to improve on last season and if these five play up to their potential, the Buccaneers most likely will be in the playoffs in 2013. If not some may be looking for a new team in 2014.

Quarterback Josh Freeman
No Buccaneers player has been scrutinized more this offseason than Freeman – and rightly so. As the quarterback of an NFL team the scrutiny comes with the territory. Is Freeman the franchise QB that Mark Dominik thought he was when Tampa Bay selected him with the 17th overall pick in 2009? Apparently there are some reservations – at least by head coach Greg Schiano – as the Bucs selected Mike Glennon in the third round last April.

Freeman has been a maddening fixture at the helm the past four seasons, especially in 2012. At one point last season Freeman produced a five-game stretch with a QB rating over 100. Then the Buccaneers went on a slide late in the season and Freeman turned the ball over eight times in two games and made mistakes even rookie quarterbacks shouldn’t produce.

The Buccaneers have given Freeman everything they possibly can to succeed. From a $100 million offensive line to a $55.55 million No. 1 receiver – the time for excuses are over, and Freeman and the Buccaneers understand this. Win 10 games and reach the playoffs and Freeman will move into the Joe Flacco tax bracket. Lead the Bucs to another 7-9 season and Freeman will be wearing one of 31 other NFL uniforms next fall.

Offensive tackle Donald Penn
No one is questioning Penn’s outstanding Buccaneers career, but at age 30 and due almost $22 million over the next three years, Penn must not allow his level of play to slip in 2013.

Signed from the Vikings' practice squad in 2006, the former Utah State standout is rivaling Buccaneers great Paul Gruber as one of the best – and most durable – offensive tackles in Buccaneers history. Penn has started 92 straight games at left tackle and while he rarely dominates his opponent,very few times does he allow the quarterback’s jersey to get soiled with grass stains.

Penn loves playing for the Buccaneers and is one of those locker room guys that coaches love to have, but also has an occasional lazy streak and has failed to meet most of the weight clauses in his most recent contract (UPDATED: PewterReport.com has learned on Monday that Penn did in fact meet his weight clauses for the 2012 season, although prior to 2012 Penn failed to meet some of the stipulations of weight in his contract, costing him bonus money), which also drives management crazy.

Demar Dotson proved last preseason he is capable of playing the left tackle position, and while maybe not at the level of Penn, he is capable nonetheless. The fact that the Buccaneers didn’t draft an offensive lineman last month actually bodes well for Penn, but with a number of contracts coming up in after next season, Penn could be a salary cap casualty if his play diminishes at all.

Tight End Luke Stocker
Stocker has been a disappointment to a degree since the Buccaneers moved up in the 2011 draft to select the former Tennessee Volunteer. Stocker has developed into a solid run-blocker and does a great job of chipping defensive ends when releasing into pass patterns, but the receiving numbers that the Buccaneers envisioned when he was drafted, have failed to meet expectations.

Stocker’s career got off to a bad start as he suffered a hip injury just days into his rookie training camp back in July of 2011. While he was able to get himself ready for the season opener, he always appeared a step behind – and just a step too slow over the past three seasons.

Since cutting Kellen Winslow last spring the Buccaneers have drafted Drake Dunsmore and signed free agents Dallas Clark, Tom Crabtree, Danny Nobles and Nate Byham. So far Stocker has fended them off to a degree, however Crabtree is expected to push Stocker hard in training camp and don’t be surprised to see the former Packer as the Bucs primary pass-catching tight end in 2013.

Cornerback Eric Wright
Wright is on dangerously thin ice as far as continuing to be a Buccaneer. Sources have told PewterReport.com that even a minor hiccup and the former Brown and Lion will be a former Buccaneer. With that said, Wright figures heavily in the Bucs 2013 defensive plans. As of now, Wright is pegged as the starting corner opposite Darrelle Revis, but may be moved to the slot depending on the progression of rookie cornerback Johnthan Banks. Tampa Bay loves Banks length and athleticism, but also understands he is a rookie, and most likely will struggle at times if he becomes a full-time starter.

Wright’s Tampa Bay career started off poorly right off the bat last spring when he was diagnosed with an undisclosed medical condition. The illness kept Wright off the field for much of the offseason workouts, but the veteran corner was able to get on medication that allowed him to be ready for the season. Unfortunately Wright was part of the Bucs poor secondary and took a lot of heat. As the season progressed Wright suffered a couple nagging injuries (Achilles, back) then the sky fell as Wright was suspended for four games by the league for violating the NFL’s policy on banned substances.

Wright came close to being released after the season ended but after meeting with Schiano and Dominik, Tampa Bay decided to give Wright one final chance.

Wright will need to stay clean, and just as importantly perform better on the field if he has any aspirations of being a Buccaneer beyond next season.

Punter/KOS Michael Koenen
Koenen was the Bucs prized free agent from the 2011 class, much to the dismay of many Bucs fans. Many wondered why in the world Dominik would hand over a six-year $19 million deal for a punter and kickoff specialist. But Koenen earned his money that season, excelling on kickoff touchbacks and putting up great punting stats.

One of the unheralded skills Koenen possessed is working with placekicker Connor Barth as his holder. With Koenen serving as the setup man, Barth has gone on to have two of the most successful seasons years in franchise history. Barth is quick to give a majority of the credit to Koenen for his success anytime he is interviewed.

Koenen also had a solid season kicking off in 2012, and was one of the league leaders in touchback percentage, but his punting numbers fell, ranking just 22nd in the league in punting average (45.3) and 23rd in punts inside the 20.

With Koenen’s guaranteed money paid out over the first two seasons of the deal, the Buccaneers could release the former Falcon with out taking any type of salary cap hit. Scheduled to earn $3.25 million in 2013, it is even conceivable that free agent acquisition Chas Henry could push Koenen for the job this season. Even if Koenen retains his job in 2013, the Bucs will need to see much improvement as they may be in a situation where they need to free cap space to sign their own free agents in 2014.


Last modified on Monday, 03 June 2013 14:45
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COMMENTS

  • avatar


    I wonder if Pewter Report's above mentioned update on Penn's weight problem came from Penn's expletive laced twitter account ;)
  • avatar

    Bucdiez, What my deal is, is being realistic about where our talent is and where our weakness is. There have been plenty of high draft picks who have shown promise and frankly I don't get giddy when a guy is taken with the third pick in the draft and after two years ending up on IR, he finally has year where he makes it through the whole season, and the league picks him as a pro bowler ? I am not the only one not buying it. I can think of a half dozen other players on this team more deserving. One of them was allowed to walk in free agency. And another was a rookie linebacker. Our entire DL is on the hot seat as far as I am concerned.
  • avatar

    A couple of points, Dom has been front loading contracts so few players are given more than two years of guaranteed money. The Bucs won't be held hostage like the Jets with a Sanchez contract. The question is depth. Can we develop players fast enough? Glennon, Banks, Spence, etc need to backfill the big money guys spots. Second, the OL depth concerns me. Yeah, Bostad and some no name guys did a masterful job last year but the debacle in the secondary really coat us depth picks elsewhere. Also, ironic and comedic both that posters called "stats are for losers" are building a really crappy case by cherry picking convenient stats! Too funny. My hotseat guys are Stocker, Freeman, Josephand Watson. Penn can still play.
  • avatar


    Rat, can't really argue with your Post as it is very reasonable.
  • avatar

    @seat26 what is your deal man? Is this just your story and you're stickin to it? Gerald McCoy did have early career injury problems, but was a top player in the country coming out of highschool, then obviously college, and now in the NFL. He was voted a top 100 player by all the other players in the league meaning they all respect his game. Every scout and sports writer unanimously concur that he is a top 5 player at his position. So he's not Sapp yet and hasn't had 10 sacks each season? If you know football and watch him play you can easily see how he disrupts the pocket every play making the QB AT LEAST flinch a half second and sometimes screw up the play. There's no reason not to believe he won't be a perrenial Pro Bowler for years.
  • avatar

    Dbuc, there is nothing to get. Stats are everything. If a corner has two IT's, he is not a pro bowler when there are corners with 10. And if an agent says his player makes all the other players play better when his guy cannot even get 2 tackles in game, he is setting the groundwork for a future contract negotiation, and it is nonsense. I guarantee you that offensive coordinators don't fear McCoy. When you average 2 tackles a game, and 1 sack every 3 games, that does not keep any OC's up at night. He is hardly disruptive. You can call me misinformed all you want, but this guy is marginal at best. I hope I am wrong, but I will stand by my earlier remark that we will be picking a DL very early in the next draft.
  • avatar


    seat23- stats are not everything, they are a tool used to measure an athletes performance. Hence Tool. Stats are important and I can agree a significant part of the player but there is no "everything" one size fits all approach to objectively evaluating a player. I will stand by my comment of "not getting it" and do so with all do respect. If a CB plays in all 16 games and only has 30 balls thrown his way the entire season and has 4 picks your stats show him as a bust or below average. What if this CB is that good and the QB knows that his WR is covered well and has a good chance of throwing an interception or incomplete pass so he throws it somewhere else? What if this QB's first read is matched up to this CB and the QB needs more time to look off his first target to throw to someone else and the DT gets a sack? McCoy being disruptive is not only measured in tackles. He makes the RB change direction in the backfield which gives the other DT's/ LB's time to reposition to make the tackle (#1 run defense) so is that bad? If a guy makes the pro bowl dude, there is something to it. Arguably it is not his looks that got him there.
  • avatar


    I've got to agree with Dbuc63's reply. In addition to McCoy being a top 5 DT on ProFootballFocus he was also NFL Network Top 100 player in the league as voted by the players. How would know whether OC's fear McCoy? I can't provide a link to show that they do fear him, but I don't think you can show me a link to an OC that says he doesn't fear McCoy. Want I can tell you is that teams double-team McCoy, even in the Pro Bowl.
  • avatar


    Here is my hotseat list: everyone who makes big money, gets injured a lot, or sucks.
  • avatar


    If two future backups and the punter are on this list, how bad can things be? Actually Mark, as big a fan as I am of the coach, I'd have to have him on this list. I'm of the opinion that he made too many stratigical mistakes during games. Such as, telegraphing predictable blitzes, while putting marginal db's on islands. I still believe that he did a good job of taking the Bucs from 0 to say a 75, but can he now take the team to a 90 to 95 level? That's the hard part!
  • avatar

    In all honesty all 53 guys, staff and management are on the hot seat, but that is the case for most NFL teams. I could have picked nearly any players on the roster and made an argument. Even Revis for that matter. I agree with you Jack, can Schiano get this team to the 95 plus level? Huge question. I am willing to give him a pass on some of the coaching mistakes. He and his staff will be better in 2013, just based on experience. As loved as Tony Dungy was, he couldn't push the team over the hump. Will Schiano? Who knows, but just to get them to perennial playoff contenders as Dungy did will be a big accomplishment.
  • avatar


    Keep your chin up Mark. Maybe you and #70 could have a sit down at Berns. Just keep him away from the desert room upstairs.
  • avatar

    I think Gerald McCoy just needs help on the defensive line. All the focus is on him during blocking and he just can't get into the backfield. As for the offense I think Freeman is on the hottest seat. When your own head coach doesn't trust you you know you're doing something wrong.
  • avatar


    Gerald McCoy is no where near the hot seat. In his first full season healthy he made the Pro Bowl, enough said. As for a name that was left off the list I recommend Bill Sheridan. Its no secret that I'm not a fan of his as he allowed us to have the worst pass defense in the league when it appeared solutions were available in the form of schematic changes. The Atlanta game was a big indictment on the whole season as it showed the Cover 2 and more zone schemes could have worked earlier in the year had he not been so stubborn and used them. He now has the secondary that his aggrezive, blitz happy, island coverage defense asks for so it will be interesting to see if it works, in the Giants game we were fully healthy and still got lit up like a Christmas tree. Players are nothing without competant coaches that put them in positions to succeed. Sheridan, Freeman, Dom, Wright are the ones truly on the hot seat bc they will be facing relocation unless the results are drastically different this year. As always Go Bucs!
  • avatar


    I dont think McCoy should be on the hot seat either, BUT I do think both Clayborn and Bowers should be. dominik is putting his job on the line with these two guys, IMO. Yes, McCoy was on the hot seat last year, but he did show he could be dominant. Neither Bowers or Clayborn have shown anything. Clayborn showed some promise in 2011 but did not follow it up in 2012, even before his injury. Imagine what McCoy could do if Clay and Bowers live up to what Dominik thinks they can do. Another 'hot seat' candidate is Mark Barron. I really like him, but he's got to step up. Remember, we could and SHOULD have taken Kuekly. I do think Barron will have a much better year with Goldson, and the added quality at CB. But he has not really lived up to his high draft status, yet. If Barron, Clay and Bowers can get off the "hot seat" this year, LOOK OUT, we will have the makings of a legit top 5 defense.
  • avatar

    ON THE HOT SEAT... Mark Cook for reporting bullpiss! Lol
  • avatar

    On the hot seat : Akeem Spence Gerald McCoy Daquan Bowers Adrian Clayborn Mark Cook
  • avatar


    This article is an insult to Gruber, Penn not in same league. ------- Look at GMC's play over span of his contract, not one season (that you still have to make excuses for) and you'll understand why he has to have a huge yr or he goes on the bust scrap heap and can be a nameless DT for a more talented team. -------- Scorn me as you see fit but I'm almost more fearful of Free having a decent year and getting a huge contract that cements us into mediocrity for 5 more yrs. ------ We'll be better than last yr but people need to be objective and not emotional about these things. Too many front office and personnel mistakes to overcome this quickly.
  • avatar


    I think this is a fair list (after it was updated of course). I'm not sure if the listing is in order of the hottest seat starting at the top, but if so I would have ranked them Stocker, Wright, Koenen, Freeman and Penn.
  • avatar


    All I remember is fat man Penn trying to get in shape to pass a fairly easy physical test before he was allowed to practice with the team when pre season practices began last year. The only time I actually saw Penn in shape was when he reported to camp a couple years ago; something to do with trying to get that big multi million contract worth ten of millions and the year after that he shows up totally out of shape. Mark Cook and Pewter Report are right to call him out. Now all he has to do is show up in eight weeks in shape to prove us wrong. You would think that would be normal for any professional; right Donald?
  • avatar

    Damn Penn is putting Mark Cook on blast! Well at least it should give him extra motivation to prove you wrong haha. And @seat26 yes I was going to show you the same links at @macabee, those guys at BleacherReport do really nonbiased research and they think McCoy is easily a top 5 DT in the league right now.
  • avatar

    McCoy should be on the hot seat, not because of performance, but because he has only played one full season in his three year career. If it wasn't the left bicep it was the right, and if it wasn't the bicep it was an ankle. Whether its tackling form or not, if the kid cant stay on the field he is useless. That goes for Clayborne as well, just not to the level of McCoy because its his second year. Heres to a healthy season for the Bucs!!! As far as Freeman i fail to understand the heat. He has three full years as a starter. He won 10 games in his first year throwing 25 tds and 6 picks with over achieving weapons. He walked into just a horrible situation the next year with the same over achieving Mike Williams who was clearly not a number one and a confused offensive coordinator who failed to establish an identity for the offense. Last year he had a new system and a true number one wr for the first time in franchise history. Sully preeches taking shots down field. I dont see how you can knock the ints in that system, their going to be there. In his first year in that system he flurished throwing for over 4000 yrds and 29 tds. We set multiple records on offense. The whole team flopped in December not just Freeman. The problem on this team is defense. Its hillarious to me that Bucs fans are knocking this kid like we have some rich history as on offense. Would you rather have Vinny? Casey Weldon? No wait Sean King??? How about Dilfer?? No i got it, Bruce Gradkowski!!! No?? How about Chris Simms??? Well then maybe Brian Griese. Cmon now!!! Schiano needs to shut his mouth about who he is sold on. Schiano himself was responsable for 2 losses last year, at home vs NO with his horrible call to pass on the FG and run Blount who is horrible in short yardage (see 2010 @Atlanta) and at home vs Philly when he decided to sit on the ball and punt trusting one of the worst secondarys in NFL history to defend the 2 minute drill. Im not sold on him.
  • avatar


    PR....What happened to the Fab 5?
  • avatar


    Mark do you plan to respond to Penn? I think you should,either he is making his weights or not. Do you stand by your reporting?
  • avatar


    Donald Penn going off on PewterReport on Twitter!
  • avatar


    Donald Penn taking great offense to article on Twitter!
  • avatar


    @ scubog- let's face it, some posters will never "get it". McCoy was disruptive (biggest part of his job) hands down. Imagine if he didn't get double teamed as much. Also, I think Mark was looking more into starters even though it isn't stated. Since we have several high salary guys on this team now, salary cap can become an issue to those starters who are not as effective as once thought. I think Mark's 5 are dead on. Since most D-line will be under contract beyond this coming year so the Bucs will not release the projected starters until they can be replaced which will more than likely take a couple of years..through the draft or developed through coaching.
  • avatar


    Unfortuntely, there just may be more than 5. I believe the entire DL is suspect except for McCoy.
  • avatar


    Put Davin Joesph on this list. He's had heath concerns during his career, and if he isn't the same player after tearing up his knee this could be his last year in pewter. We are gambling a bit on Penn, and Dotson playing at a high level all season, not much behind them. Dotson can't be as good as last year he needs to take that leap forward and be better, or be replaced. I'd be shocked if the Bucs don't take a left tackle with their first pick next year unless they sign a quality free agent.
  • avatar


    Some still down on Gerald McCoy is puzzling. All some people see are sacks as the measure. A good total is10 but that is such a minute part of the 500-600 snaps over the course of a season. What about the other plays? And don't you think logically if the QB targets had been covered just a smidgen better # 93 might have had the 1/2 second needed to take down the passer? So the people in the league who actually have a clue think McCoy is one of the best; but we here in Buc Nation are still giving him a ho hum. At least Horse came to recognize his initial evaluation of our young DT was "premature". In my view a player designated for the "Hot Seat" is one that had lofty expectations but thus far not lived up to them. We have quite a few of them on the D-line mostly due to injury. The names Mark listed fit the criteria. But to a lesser degree, I'd like to add five more: WR Tiquan Underwood, LB Najee Goode, RB/RS Michael Smith, S Cody Grimm and of course, CB Myron Lewis. These are players in danger of losing their seat in the locker room entirely.
  • avatar


    My perspective its all about D this year we will put up the points again like last year but it means nothing if we cant stop the other team...you can score all day if you don't have D forget it just ask Brees...
  • avatar

    Bucdiez, I appreciate your enthusiasm for McCoy, but he is far from being one of the top DT s in the league. He has played only one complete year so far and his best year he had 5 sacks and had several games without even 1 tackle. His pro bowl birth was a bit premature, and for this team to succeed he is going to have to take it to the next level along with the rest of the line. I predict we will be picking Dl next year with our first pick
  • avatar


    seat26, Profootballfocus thinks McCoy is pretty good. This is a value ranking based on number of snaps. link to: https://www.profootballfocus.com/blog/2013/05/24/neils-nfl-daily-may-24-2013/
  • avatar


    seat26, Here is an absolute ranking. You decide! Link to: http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1444340-br-nfl-1000-2013-top-50-defensive-tackles
  • avatar


    Good article, Mark. While the Bucs did not draft a tackle, you might have mentioned that they still picked up a left tackle that may be able to put pressure on Penn. If the Bucs did move Dotson to left tackle, I believe he is athletic enough to be able to hold that position, and Meredith should be able to handle the RT position, too, at a high level, but doing that would not leave us in very good position as to depth for Tackle if any of those starters got hurt. We could use a quality guard to emerge from our Preseason this year, too.
  • avatar


    Maybe it's just me, but I have a hard time imagining a player on any hot seat that is guaranteed to make upwards of 10mil a year with any of 10 or more teams in the NFL if he leaves the Bucs under any circumstance. Yes! That would be Josh Freeman.
  • avatar

    @seat26 Gerald McCoy is nowhere near the hot seat. He has become one of the best DTs in the league. The rest of the D line is another story. @Horse, I saw you said starters, but I really don't think Watson will end up starting. I would bet Casillas wins the Sam job. But either way its not that important of a position in this defense.
  • avatar


    AS starters here are my five that are on the hot seat: Freeman, Penn, Watson, Bowers, Clayborn. In order to obtain 10-11 wins these guys must produce.
  • avatar

    Great article. The entire defensive line is on the hot seat. No excuses. Somebody on that line has to stepped up and be the leader. We will not be able to compete without a pass rush. Bennett is gone.
  • avatar


    Understandable.
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