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.
Publisher Scott Reynolds “Bucs head coach Raheem Morris was right to call out his receivers for dropping seven passes on Sunday by my count. Michael Clayton, who finished with three catches for 25 yards, had four drops, and Antonio Bryant, who had five catches for 62 yards, had three. Now Morris needs to do something about it by benching Clayton. General manager Mark Dominik needs to take it a step further by trying to trade Clayton over the next two weeks to try to get something for him – anything. Seattle supposedly wanted Clayton so bad in free agency. Why not start there? Dominik and Morris need to realize that Clayton owns those drops. This isn’t about injuries or Jon Gruden’s doghouse anymore. Clayton has unreliable hands. It’s been a fact since he’s been in the league. It turns out Gruden was right for putting Clayton in the doghouse after all. A source from the old regime told me during training camp that there is no way Gruden and general manager Bruce Allen would have re-signed him. Dominik and Morris weren’t afraid to admit their mistakes when it came to hiring offensive coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski and signing Mike Nugent to be the team’s new kicker by firing both of them. Why stop there? Re-signing Clayton was a mistake and he should be traded for the sake of the young players on this team. They need to realize that mistakes like an egregious amount of dropped passes won’t be tolerated by Morris and the new regime. Clayton should be made an example of. The reason why he needs to be traded as opposed to benched is because Clayton isn’t going to simply stop dropping them after being demoted or made inactive on Sundays. That obviously didn’t work when Gruden tried to bench him in 2007. I like Clayton. He’s a good guy. He’s a hard worker and one heck of a blocker, but he's not a good receiver. I lost some respect for him this week when he lobbied for more opportunities in the media and then had more drops than catches when that actually happened. And if I were receivers coach Richard Mann I wouldn’t be sticking up for Clayton any more. Mann’s fingerprints are all over Clayton’s drops too, as Clayton really hasn’t improved his hands under Mann’s watch. Don’t think that the $10.5 million worth of guaranteed money would prevent the Bucs from unloading Clayton, either. Of that $10.5 million, $3 million of it was in the form of a signing bonus, $3 million of it was a base salary and $1.5 million of it was a roster bonus. In other words, $7.5 million of that guaranteed money has already been dished out. The only remaining amount of guaranteed money due to the butterfingered wide receiver is his $3 million base salary in 2010. It’s time to see if Sammie Stroughter or Maurice Stovall can step up and make plays as the team’s starting flanker. Clayton had his chance and dropped the ball – literally. If Dominik could get a mid-round pick for Clayton he could use it next year on a player like Central Michigan's Antonio Brown or Clemson's Jacoby Ford.”
“I saw a considerable amount of improvement in Josh Johnson’s game from his first start at Washington, which was rather lackluster, and his second start at Philadelphia. Johnson completed 26-of-50 passes for 240 yards with two touchdowns and three interceptions against the Eagles. If you factor in just five of the seven dropped passes he incurred from Michael Clayton and Antonio Bryant, his 52 percent completion percentage climbs to 62 percent. That’s quite amazing considering the myriad of jailhouse blitzes Eagles defensive coordinator Sean McDermott threw at Johnson in his second NFL start. Johnson faced the toughest blitzing defense he’ll see in the NFL, and he not only survived, he led his team on several drives into the Eagles red zone. Playing against Carolina next week should be easier for Johnson because they don’t have the personnel and blitz-happy coordinator to pull it off. Next week presents the opportunity for Johnson’s game to take another positive step. I was pleased with his improvement on Sunday. I think he leads the Bucs to their first win of the season next Sunday.”
“If I’m head coach Raheem Morris, I resist the temptation to start Josh Freeman, the team’s first-round draft pick, any time soon. I would stick with Josh Johnson for a few more games – perhaps through the Green Bay game – to see how much he improves and how quickly he develops. The problem is that if Johnson is pulled for Freeman and Freeman falters, that may prompt Morris to go back to Johnson, which would create a quarterback controversy similar to the one that existed between Casey Weldon, the scrappy, mobile underdog, and Trent Dilfer, the Bucs’ last franchise quarterback by way of the first round. Morris should stick with Johnson until he plays himself out of the starting job and Freeman elevates his play in practice to Johnson’s level. The word I’m hearing is that Freeman is not there yet.”
“I’m not sure if Shane Andrus’ first kickoff in Tampa Bay was simply a bad kick or if he was told to kick it short by special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia, but the result was disastrous. Instead of trying to drive the ball deep and make the Eagles go the length of the field to score, Andrus’ line drive kickoff was fielded by fullback Leonard Weaver at the Philadelphia 25 and returned to the 43-yard line. Two plays later, the Eagles covered 57 yards, scored a touchdown and led 21-7. Why not kick deep with less than two minutes left? Why create the potential of a short field with such a short kick, which is what happened? I can’t stand it when NFL coaches try to get cute with all this situational stuff. They end up out-thinking themselves. What’s the old saying about the ‘prevent’ defense? It prevents the team using it from winning. Just play football!”
"Tampa Bay came into Sunday's game ranked 31st in the NFL in third down efficiency on offense, converting just 23 percent of its attempts. Philadelphia's defense ranked first on third downs, allowing opponents to convert 22 percent of their attempts. Granted, the Eagles helped out the Bucs with several penalties, but Tampa Bay wound up with a 50 percent conversion rate against Philadelphia, which is outstanding. The Bucs gained 305 yards of offense and racked up 22 first downs against a stingy Eagles defense. Stats don't matter much in the win column, but these stats are significant for the confidence of this new offense which, features several young players."
"Left tackle Donald Penn struggled against a pure speed rusher like Trent Cole on Sunday, giving up a sack and a couple QB pressures. But you have to give it up for him catching that deflected ball and racing 15 yards for a first down in the second quarter. That was close to 340 pounds of beef chugging along downfield and it was a sight to see. Maybe the Bucs should consider using him on some tackle-eligible plays this year. At least he catches the ball."
Editor-In-Chief Jim Flynn "Tampa Bay's main objective heading into the 2009 regular season was to identify players for head coach Raheem Morris and general manager Mark Dominik to build around for the future. While the 0-5 Bucs haven't been consistent in too many areas, one player the team can definitely build around is tight end Kellen Winslow. Some questioned Tampa Bay's decision to trade a 2009 second-round pick and a 2010 fifth-round selection to Cleveland in exchange for Winslow, as well as Dominik's decision to sign Winslow to a contract extension, making him the highest paid tight end in the NFL during the offseason. But Winslow has delivered big for the Bucs. On Sunday, Winslow hauled in a team-high nine passes for 102 yards and scored Tampa Bay's only two touchdowns en route to a 33-14 loss to Philadelphia. Through five games, Winslow leads the Bucs in receptions (28), yards (257) and touchdowns (four). At 26, Winslow appears to be one of the young players the Bucs can build their offense around. The bad news is Tampa Bay needs several more pieces on both sides of the football before it is considered a legitimate playoff contender."
"It might sound crazy since he threw three interceptions against the Eagles, but Bucs second-year quarterback Josh Johnson looked improved in many ways Sunday. He was more accurate, aggressive and decisive than his debut vs. Washington last week. There still is plenty of room for improvement for Johnson. But should the Bucs bench Johnson in favor of rookie QB Josh Freeman this week, head coach Raheem Morris should bench wide receiver Michael Clayton while he's at it. Johnson's wide receivers absolutely killed him in this game, especially in the first half, where the receivers combined for four dropped passes. Clayton was the worst of the bunch, dropping four passes in this contest, which gives him seven dropped passes through five regular season games. Shortly after a Week 1 loss to Dallas, Morris dared the media to question why G.M. Mark Dominik re-signed Clayton to a five-year, $26 million contract during the offseason. Well, consider this Roundtable entry the first dare from the media to bench Clayton for the same problems that have plagued him throughout his entire NFL career."
"The Bucs had the most salary cap room of any team that entered free agency in 2008. That was when the New England Patriots allowed cornerback Asante Samuel to test the open market. Despite having loads of salary cap space, the Bucs showed little interest in signing Samuel, who eventually signed with the Eagles, inking a six-year deal reportedly worth $55 million. What did the Bucs pass on? Well, Samuel has nine interceptions as an Eagle, including two he notched against the Bucs on Sunday. Samuel, 28, certainly could help a Tampa Bay defense and secondary that has been lit up for too many big touchdown passes this season. No one knows for sure how interested Samuel might have been in signing with Tampa Bay, but one has to believe he would have strongly considered it given the fact that he played collegiately at Central Florida and grew up in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. What good does salary cap space do you if you don't allocate it to players that can help your football team?"
"Tampa Bay's pass rush has not produced the desired results in Jim Bates' defensive scheme this year. That has brought heavy criticism, and rightfully so. While the Bucs pass rush wasn't good enough vs. the Eagles, let's give credit where credit is due. Kudos to Bucs defensive end Jimmy Wilkerson, who recorded a career-high three sacks against a fairly talented Eagles offensive line. The three-sack performance is certainly something Wilkerson will highlight on his resume' since he is in a contract year."
Beat Writer Charlie Campbell "For a number of weeks in the post-game Roundtables I've been suggesting that the Buccaneers get more aggressive in their game plans, and their in-game strategies. Today against the Eagles, the Bucs were the most aggressive and innovative in their five games under head coach Raheem Morris. Offensive coordinator Greg Olson called a bomb downfield on the first play of the game, and it came up just short. Tampa Bay also ran two option plays with quarterback Josh Johnson. While the plays were not effective in getting yards, they were new wrinkles in the offense to try and take advantage of a superbly athletic quarterback. Morris made some more aggressive decisions like going for it on fourth down three times. Two of them failed, but one produced a touchdown. Considering the Buccaneers entered the game 0-4 trying to upset a clearly superior Philadelphia team, getting more aggressive and throwing in some different looks deserves to be applauded."
"The blueprint for defending Bucs quarterback Byron Leftwich was laid out in the Week 2 loss to the Buffalo Bills. The next week, the New York Giants executed that game plan more effectively. The Buccaneers felt other teams would copy it, and the offense would go nowhere. Leftwich couldn't escape the pressure up the middle of the offensive line, and thus the change to quarterback Josh Johnson. Now that Johnson has played two games it will be interesting to see how teams attack him and the Bucs offense. Yet if teams follow Philadelphia's game plan it won't be surprising. Johnson is a more diverse threat with his ability to run and pass. The Eagles made it tough on Johnson with heavy blitzing, and their game plan was to take away the run and see if Johnson could beat them with his arm. If Johnson's wide receivers had done their job, it would be interesting to see how much closer the game would have been, especially in the first half. Going forward, expect teams to stack the box with defenders to take away the run, and blitz Johnson heavily. The offensive line is going to have to do a better job of picking up blitzes, and Johnson is going to have to burn some teams downfield before defense's start playing more honestly."
"Josh Johnson had an encouraging performance against the Eagles despite three interceptions. The one thing that Johnson still has to make major strides in is accuracy. In his game action in 2009 he is 43-of-82. That is a completion percentage of 52 percent. Johnson completed 56.7 percent of his passes in the preseason. From watching training camp practices, and from what Bucs players have told Pewter Report, Johnson has always been about a 50 percent passer since coming to Tampa Bay. Johnson is a young quarterback that has been denied practice reps since entering the NFL. Hopefully for his sake he will get more accurate with more experience in games and more reps in practice. His completion percentage would be better if his receivers did not drop catchable passes, but other times they (mainly tight end Kellen Winslow) made tough catches on passes off the mark. Johnson has a list of great attributes: intelligence, athletic ability, work ethic, and a strong arm. Accuracy is the only thing that is holding Johnson back being a legit starting quarterback. If Johnson can improve his accuracy and avoid interceptions he certainly should not be a career backup in Tampa Bay like Raheem Morris voiced earlier this year."
"Tampa Bay's third quarter struggles continued against the Eagles. The Bucs allowed a touchdown and threw two interceptions. For the season, the Buccaneers have been outscored 33-0 in the third quarter. The opposing teams players and coaches are clearly doing a better job of making halftime adjustments. Throughout the offseason and training camp, Morris talked about the need to finish. That was a necessary message after the Bucs failed to finish games late in 2008, and failed to finish off their season with a victory in the final month. It is hard to finish in the fourth quarter when a team is consistently ineffective in the third quarter."