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President Hugh MacArthur
Well, we have higher class problems now in Buccaneer-land. Instead of talking about making a first down we’ve graduated to talking about making touchdowns. The offense showed it could generate yards, but the efficiency of turning those yards into points was poor. The Bucs had big plays on offense and 95 yards rushing in the first half, but could manage only seven points from 216 yards of offense and wound up down two scores as a result. The second half was more of the same. By the fourth quarter the Seahawks were auditioning RJS ushers to be cornerbacks, and somehow Tim Rattay couldn’t complete a 4-yard pass with three cracks at it for a score. The Bucs gave good effort for most of the game, but seemed to lose enthusiasm as the mistakes piled up in the second half.

Here’s another baker’s dozen of quick thoughts on Sunday’s game and the season:

1) I’m beginning to wonder now if the Eagles and Buccaneers will be swapping back-up quarterbacks in the off-season. I think Jeff Garcia will want to start, and will likely be too expensive for the Eagles to keep. If Andy Reid still has faith in Donovan McNabb, who was having an excellent season before he went down, then Tim Rattay makes sense as a less expensive insurance policy for 2007 and beyond for the Eagles.

2) Maurice Stovall just keeps looking better and better. He can catch and now we see he can run too. Finding ways to feed him the ball needs to be a priority in the 2007 off-season. By the way, did he retire at halftime?  Where’d he go?

3) The play of Mike Pittman is going to put pressure on Cadillac Williams. Pittman has improved as a runner and exploded through holes against the Seahawks, especially in the first half.  He also was productive as a receiver and continued to block well in pass protection.  He’s not the best runner in the world, but he has an all around game that is currently superior to Cadillac’s. The pressure will be on for Caddy to catch the ball better and learn the protections, or he should get a seat on the bench when he messes up next season.

4) Still don’t know what to make of Dewayne White. He seemed to give a huge effort today, and provided all-world tackle Walter Jones with a stiff test, even drawing a holding penalty. Where has this effort been all season? And, what’s up with that horrendous cheap shot in the back to an offensive lineman away from the play?

5) I am so tired of watching our (sic) pass rush. It has been mostly awful for 17 weeks. For most of the day, Seahawks QB Matt Hasselbeck could have had a cup of coffee and phoned a few friends from the pocket before throwing the ball. Keep Chris Hovan and let’s call the rest of the line a do over. Where are you Robaire Smith, Dwight Freeney,  Justin Smith and others? We have room for you on the Buccaneer roster.

6) Yes, I’m still a huge Hovan fan. I know those two holding penalties late in the fourth quarter were frustration penalties.  

7) Not sure what you were complaining about, Jamie Winborn.  Running into the kicker is a penalty, and a dumb one, especially when said punter is standing in his own end zone.

8) Is Joey Galloway ever covered? Coach Jon Gruden is right when he suggests Galloway could have had a 1,500 yard season if the Bucs could have kept a decent quarterback upright.  

9) If you want to know why Phillip Buchanon will likely be back in pewter next season, you needed to look no further than his spectacular pass break-up vs Deion Branch in the first half. The speedy Branch had gotten two steps on Buchanon as he streaked down the sideline, but Buchanon was able to close the gap with his recovery burst and then read Branch’s eyes and body so he could slap the ball away at the exact right moment. No other corner on the Bucs roster makes that play.

10) If you want to know what Buchanon needs to work on to see the field more next season as a Bucs corner, it is tackling. That red and pewter blur that missed Shawn Alexander on an attempted tackle around the shoulder pads as Alexander waltzed into the end zone in the first quarter was none other than number 31. Buchanon must support the run better and learn to wrap-up ball carriers.

11) It will be sad if the final memory of Mike Alstott as a Buc is fumbling on his own five, and the final memory of Dave Moore is fumbling on the Seattle five.

12) I still have no idea why Alan Zemaitis never saw the field this season. He played Cover-2 at Penn State and the Bucs were pretty desperate at cornerback most of the year with Brian Kelly out and Juran Bolden hurting.

13) Let’s say it together, Bucs fans, “number three or four pick in the draft!”  With lots of cap room, expect to see the Bucs fill most of their pressing defensive needs through free agency, where a number of talented young players will hit the market.  For that reason, I am thinking the Bucs will go offense with their first round pick. Joe Thomas of Wisconsin would be an intriguing choice.  Thomas stands 6-8 and weighs 315 pounds.  He is just 22 years old.  I’m intrigued by having two 6-8 tackles anchoring the offensive line. Whatever direction the Bucs go, there will be much to discuss and debate. Happy offseason! The Bucs are 0-0 again.

Publisher Scott Reynolds
I’ve never understood why Bucs center John Wade doesn’t snap the ball when he sees a defensive lineman encroach and come across the line of scrimmage. This has happened several times this season and happened again today. Thankfully for Tampa Bay, a Seahawks lineman touched guard Davin Joseph and the play was whistled dead, otherwise it wouldn’t have gotten the penalty. As a veteran, Wade should know better, and he should have been coached better. As soon as a defensive player crosses the line of scrimmage, that ball should be snapped. It gives the offense a free play at worst, and is also an automatic 5-yard gain. Wade had another instance where he could have snapped the ball early, but didn’t. He also drew a five-yard snap infraction penalty in the fourth quarter. I don’t think Wade will be back next year, and if he does return, I don’t think he’ll start. I think Tampa Bay will go with a younger player at center, and hopefully one that is more alert and aware of encroachment.

Once again, the folks at GiveMikeTheBall.com were touting the wrong Mike. Mike Pittman had another sensational day with 12 carries for 73 yards (6.1 avg.). Everybody wanted to see Mike Alstott get the ball today because he’s the sentimental favorite and it was likely his last game as an NFL player. But the reality is that he didn’t deserve more opportunities than Pittman did. Pittman ripped off runs of 32 yards and 15 yards against Seattle and head coach Jon Gruden was wise to continue to give Pittman more touches. Head coach Jon Gruden has an obligation to his players, coaches, fans and owners to do everything he can to try to win that Seahawks game. The Seahawks were stuffing Alstott routinely with an eight-man front, so going away from the A-Train was the wise move. It was disappointing that Alstott didn’t deliver more highlights in his last game with six carries for four yards (0.7 avg.) and a costly fumble, but there aren’t always happy endings in life. I really have a lot of respect for Alstott, and I’ll admit that I am a fan of his, but I’m also realistic. He’s not the same “A-Train” that he was in 1997-2000. A lot of fans expect to see him bounce off six would-be tacklers like the old days, but those days have come and gone. Now, Alstott is getting stuffed in the backfield or stopped at the line of scrimmage routinely. It happened against Cleveland and it happened against Seattle. The problem is that some fans are so drunk on Alstott’s past that they just aren’t willing to see the 2.1-yard average that he has amassed over the last two games despite a total of 28 carries. He’s not the same player he was when he was younger. Thankfully, he will walk away from the Buccaneers healthy. I put his chances of returning last year at 50-50. This year I think they are 20-80. I saw the look in his eye in the locker room and it was different from a year ago. I think he really will retire this offseason.

Michael Clayton, you are officially on notice. You will have a fight on your hands for your job next year. No, we’re not necessarily predicting that Tampa Bay will draft Georgia Tech wide receiver Calvin Johnson. Rookie Maurice Stovall has shown some considerable growth down the stretch and should push Clayton for a starting role next season. Stovall has been cross-trained at both flanker and split end and will undoubtedly see more playing time in 2007. Stovall had 29 yards on two reverses and showed good toughness and quickness. Stovall also hauled in a four-yard catch against Seattle, and couldn’t quite hang on to a jump ball that would have been a touchdown. You could tell that Jon Gruden was doing some specific game-planning just for Stovall and for the most part he delivered. Stovall’s best attribute in Gruden’s eyes? He didn’t get hurt. Watch out, Mike.

Dewayne White had a banner game against Seattle, which should do nothing but help his asking price in free agency this offseason. White, who was matched up against Pro Bowl left tackle Walter Jones, had numerous QB pressures and forced a fumble. He did miss two sacks, lined up offsides and drew a personal foul for drilling a Seahawks lineman from behind, but he also drew a 10-yard holding penalty on Jones and finished with seven tackles, three QB hurries and a forced fumble. I would like to see White become a more consistent playmaker, but Tampa Bay has to re-sign this guy. He’s young, quick, athletic and knows the defense inside and out. He also can play multiple positions. The wise thing for the Bucs would be to sign a veteran free agent defensive end like Dwight Freeney, Justin Smith or Charles Grant – whoever is available, re-sign White and spend a first-day draft pick on a stud pass-rushing defensive end like Gaines Adames or Anthony Spencer.  

The offseason is here, Bucs fans. Nothing is guaranteed. The first-round draft pick could flop or get hurt. Same with the big-name free agents that are signed. This Buccaneers team could be 4-12 or worse next year. Or, with a more favorable schedule, with some more luck in the health department, Tampa Bay’s draft picks and free agents could pan out, its young second- and third-year players could improve and Tampa Bay could be playoff bound. That’s the great thing about the NFL. Teams like New Orleans and Baltimore find the missing ingredients in the offseason, everything clicks, and the team is playoff-bound. It happened to Tampa Bay in 2005. Or the Bucs might find some – but not all – of the ingredients and become a competitive team that pushes for the playoffs and may or may not get in, such as Tennessee, Denver and Kansas City. I have a feeling that Tampa Bay will get better in 2007. How much better will be decided by the Bucs’ actions this offseason. So to Bruce Allen, Jon Gruden, Kevin Demoff, Mark Dominik, Dennis Hickey, Doug Williams and Co., good luck this offseason … your jobs are on the line. Fail this offseason and you don’t get another one in 2008.

Editor-In-Chief Jim Flynn
Mike Alstott needs to retire. That was apparent today when he carried the ball six times for 4 yards (0.7 avg.) and fumbled the football to set Seattle up with a field goal in the second half. Alstott was a special player, and he’s a special person. But the “A-Train” doesn’t have what it takes to be a feature back, especially in Jon Gruden’s offense. He’s good for a play here or a play there, but the Bucs need to find themselves a true fullback this offseason, one they don’t have to worry about feeding the ball to, and one that can be a great lead blocker for Cadillac Williams and Michael Pittman. Alstott has had a great run. He’s been one of the most exciting players to watch in team history, and if the Bucs ever have a Ring of Honor in Raymond James Stadium, No. 40’s jersey should be one of the first to be retired. But it’s time Alstott to call it a career, and what a great one it was.

Bucs head coach Jon Gruden told Pewter Report earlier this season that he planned to move rookie wide receiver Maurice Stovall from the Z (flanker) position over to the X (split-end) position to groom behind WR Joey Galloway. While he’s not nearly as fast as Galloway, Stovall’s 6-foot-5, 225-pound frame is one that will help the Bucs get physical on that side of the line of scrimmage once Galloway calls it a career. However, I’m wondering if Gruden shouldn’t rethink that idea and have Stovall compete with Michael Clayton for the starting flanker spot in 2007. Stovall is a solid upfield blocker, and he’s got a good head on his shoulders. Clayton has produced two sub-par seasons in a row, and the Bucs can’t afford to have him suffer through a third. Stovall, who was actually drafted as an insurance policy for Clayton, showed real progress and could really push Clayton for a starting job next season.

Tampa Bay has now gone 31 seasons without returning a kickoff for a touchdown. That’s an unbelievable stat, and one that likely will not end until the Bucs invest money in a free agent or a high draft pick in a player that has playmaking ability and a proven track record for returning kickoffs for touchdowns. There are no more excuses. The Bucs have the draft picks and salary cap room next year. We don’t want to hear anymore about the Bucs’ woeful starting field position. Do something about it – draft or sign a proven return specialist once and for all.

I liked how the Bucs came out and spread out the Seahawks defense by featuring three- and four-receiver sets. This was a nice, new wrinkle in head coach Jon Gruden’s offense, and one I’d like to see more of in 2007. Not only did these sets put the receivers, particularly Joey Galloway, in favorable matchups with defensive backs, it opened up the Bucs’ running game. The other wrinkle I expect to see from the Bucs offense in 2007 is the shotgun formation. If Jeff Garcia, Chris Simms and Bruce Gradkowski are indeed Tampa Bay’s quarterbacks next year, the shotgun needs to be part of Gruden’s offense. All three quarterbacks have thrived in the shotgun at some point in their football careers.

If Tampa Bay’s defense was hoping to not get blown up by the organization during the offseason, it didn’t exactly do itself any favors Sunday by allowing Seattle to produce 344 yards (including 132 yards on the ground) and 28 first downs. The Seahawks converted 58 percent of their third downs on Sunday. Although it has starters Brian Kelly and Simeon Rice on injured reserve, expect the Bucs to spend a significant amount of money on the defensive side of the ball in 2007.

Get ready for a busy offseason, Bucs fans. With $23-plus million to spend in free agency and a top 5 pick in the 2007 NFL Draft, Tampa Bay will be one of the most active teams during the offseason. If the Bucs are going to right the ship, and they’re going to have to spend and pick wisely. Expect things to really heat up, starting at the Senior Bowl in late January. Pewter Repot will be there to keep Bucs fans up to date on the latest news and scoop.

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