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President Hugh MacArthur
Let’s start by acknowledging the obvious: Cleveland is absolutely terrible. For a while, Derek Anderson was legitimately competing with Tim Rattay to see who could complete the most passes to Buccaneer players. The Browns offensive line is a shambles. They cannot run and they cannot pass. Watching them for four quarters, it is astounding to think they have actually won four games.

Here’s the odd thing about this game: The Bucs didn’t play particularly well and still won handily. Winning handily on the road when you don’t play your best game in the NFL means you must have some talent. Road wins are hard to come by no matter who you are playing. The Bucs had four trips inside the ten and wound up with 6 points to show for it. They could have easily wound up with another couple of touchdowns.

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

1) Jeff Garcia continues to do nothing to convince me he won’t be in Pewter next season. All he does is increase the price tag each time he goes out and wins.

2) Is Kellen Winslow the biggest punk in the league? All the guy has done is completely waste his talent and career thus far, and he acts like he’s still BMOC at Miami. Winslow let one pass clang off his hands for Jermaine Phillips’ first pick, and then didn’t even make an effort to knock down an overthrown ball that became Phillips’ second pick. Then he finally catches a pass for a first down, and judging by the celebration you’d have thought he just clinched a playoff berth for the Brownies. Puh-leez.

3) Braylon Edwards could be on his way to being another punk. It’s bad enough to have to carry the failed legacy of Michigan receivers in the NFL (hello Desmond Howard), but this guy, who has also done absolutely nothing, is acting like he’s some kind of superstar. I’m glad Romeo Crennel made him watch Dennis Northcutt start the game. Then Edwards gets in there and promptly drops a third down pass that hit him right in the numbers.

4) Hooray to Coach Jon Gruden for going for it on fourth-and-inches inside the Browns 10-yard line in the first half. The Bucs were up 3-0, and needed more than a field goal on the road. I am also glad that the play call was one with a high probability of success, an Alstott run. Too bad it didn’t work.

5) Twenty-two carries for 56 yards. Can we stop the screaming to build the offense around Alstott now? He’s been a good player and a Tampa Bay icon, but he is not the answer for this team.

6) Can we also stop the screaming (especially in the newspapers) that Tim Rattay is the answer at quarterback? He is a capable back-up for the West Coast offense. Period. His interception in the end zone was terrible and his fumble that was returned for a touchdown would have made for a very uncomfortable game if Derek Anderson didn’t like throwing to Derrick Brooks so much. Rattay also threw several wounded ducks that won’t make anyone forget Joe Montana. He is a decent game manager. He makes his reads and usually makes the right decision. He can make the offense move. He is not the long-term answer for the Bucs, however.

7) The more Michael Pittman plays, the more I appreciate him. He ran hard and well, caught the ball, and was very solid in pass protection. He is one of the least expensive insurance policies in the league. I’d like to see him on the field with Cadillac a lot more often next season.

8) Though they registered three sacks on defense, it was disappointing to see the lack of pressure the Buccaneer front four put on Derrick Anderson. Most of the pressure Anderson faced came on blitzes. With all of the scrubs playing on offensive line for the Browns, I had hoped to see bigger days for guys like Dewayne White, who is looking less and less like a guy I want to resign for significant dollars. Greg Spires came on in the second half, but the best defensive lineman was again Chris Hovan, who was solid against the run and helped get good interior push.

9) What are we to make of Jermaine Phillips? Two picks, including one spectacular one that bounced off Kellen Winslow’s hands. Where has this been all season? Phillips has been coming on the past few games in run support, but he has struggled in coverage for most of the year.

10) Seeing Will Allen bounce off ball carriers instead of wrapping them up continues to build the case that the Bucs need a new safety in 2007. I hope Ken Hamlin and Michael Lewis make sure that Monte Kiffin has their phone numbers.

11) Maurice Stovall looks like an exciting player. He is big and strong and catches the ball with his hands. He stood out from the first day of training camp, and could be a monster next season. You cannot truly appreciate how big Stovall is until you see him stand next to guys like Michael Clayton. Stovall is not fast, but he is sudden, and possesses the quick move to gain separation from defenders.

12) People have criticized him in pass protection, and he certainly has improvements to make, but once Jeremy Trueblood gets his hands on a defender, you can say goodnight. The bet here is Trueblood solidifies the RT position for years in Tampa Bay.

13) Congratulations Derrick Brooks. What a wonderful flood of memories your interception for a touchdown brought back. Brooks told Pewter Report earlier last week that he was far from done, and his play on Sunday showed it.

Publisher Scott Reynolds
The Buccaneers have his some promise at wide receiver and his name is Maurice Stovall. The rookie had a great game for Tampa Bay and has really come a long way this season. His size helps Stovall present himself well as a target in zone coverage. He also shows good awareness by turning upfield as soon as he gets the ball and covers it up with both hands as soon as he gets into traffic. Stovall, who finished with two catches for 45 yards (22.5 avg.), also showed how physical he was as a blocker. He really helped Tampa Bay’s perimeter run game with several great crack back blocks on defensive ends and linebackers. Stovall now has six catches for 98 yards (16.3 avg.) on the season.

At the start of the season, I thought Jermaine Phillips would be a sure-fire salary cap casualty. He’s had a couple of good games down the stretch and I’m beginning to re-think my stance. Phillips is a good special-teamer and needs to have a very talented rookie or a good veteran come in and challenge him for playing time next year. The problem was that he went into training camp unchallenged and got complacent. Jon Gruden has put everyone on notice that they are playing for the jobs in the 2007 season down the stretch. It’s clear that Phillips is listening and he played with a sense of urgency in Cleveland. He finished with four tackles, three passes defensed and two big INTs. Tampa Bay needs to bring in a new safety in the offseason, but should keep Phillips as competition. Worst-case scenario is that a more experienced Phillips would be a backup safety next year instead of Blue Adams or Kalvin Pearson.

I didn’t like the call of the Bucs going for it on fourth-and-1 at the Browns’ 8-yard line. Tim Rattay should have audibled out of the run to Alstott to a quick throw to Joey Galloway, who was one-on-one with a cornerback who was six yards off the ball. The guess here is that a quick strike to Galloway in the flat would have turned into a touchdown. I’ll take Galloway one-on-one with a corner in a short area anytime. That was a missed opportunity for Tampa Bay.

Is Tim Rattay better than Bruce Gradkowski? Yes. Is he the answer for the Buccaneers at quarterback? Certainly not. But the one thing I hope Gradkowski was watching from the sidelines was how Rattay showed great touch and led his receivers so they could do something with it after the catch. Yet, Rattay has a penchant for throwing dagger-to-the-heart interceptions, and he did that on Sunday with 22 seconds left before halftime when he was picked off at the 1-yard line. Rattay did enough to win today against a really bad Browns defense, but not much else.

I like Anthony Davis. I think he is a good offensive lineman, who is in his second year as a starter. But Davis has given up two sacks that have forced blindside fumbles and wound up being touchdowns for the opposing team over the last three weeks. I’d like to see Tampa Bay draft Wisconsin left tackle Joe Thomas and move Davis inside to left guard next year. I think Davis’ 6-foot-4, 329-pound frame could be better utilized inside and I’m not yet convinced that he has the feet to shut down some of the elite NFL speed rushers like John Abraham and Kamerion Wimbley. With Dan Buenning’s ACL injury casting doubt on his availability at the start of the 2007 training camp, perhaps Davis could fill the void at left guard.

I’m a big fan of Mike Alstott and have wanted to see him get more touches all year. I really want to see him get a lot of touches next week in what could be his last game as a Buccaneer. However, I think we saw today why Jon Gruden hasn’t turned to Alstott more often. Alstott got the chance to be a workhorse today, but only tallied 56 yards on a team-high 22 carries, averaging 2.5 yards per carry. But he lacks the burst of a halfback and his longest run was only eight yards. With Cadillac Williams out due to an injured ankle, Michael Pittman wound up being the most effective back against Cleveland, finishing with 16 carries for 86 yards (5.4 avg.), including an 11-yard touchdown run in the third quarter to give Tampa Bay a 19-0 lead. Running with purpose, speed and power, Pittman had a great game. Perhaps the folks at GiveMikeTheBall.com were touting the wrong Mike all along.

Editor-In-Chief Jim Flynn
He’s not the one that’s personally lobbying for the football, but fullback Mike Alstott has got to do more than what he did Sunday in Cleveland to convince head coach Jon Gruden to give him more touches in games. Alstott carried the ball a season-high 22 times Sunday, but only for 56 yards, which gave him an unimpressive average of 2.5 yards per carry. While Cleveland’s defense was stacking the box, especially in the second half, Alstott’s teammate, running back Michael Pittman, managed to run for 86 yards on 16 carries (5.4 avg.). In addition to getting stuffed for a loss on a fourth-and-1 play in the first half (not all his fault as the offensive line did a poor job blocking), Alstott also dropped a potential touchdown pass in the flat on a pass thrown by quarterback Tim Rattay in the first quarter. There are legitimate reasons why Alstott is not the featured back in Gruden’s offense, and Sunday was an example of that. However, if the regular season finale vs. Seattle is indeed Alstott’s final game as a pro, he still deserves the opportunity to get the majority of carries in that contest at Raymond James Stadium.

Where have Bucs safety Jermaine Phillips’ playmaking skills been? Heading into Sunday’s game, Phillips had recorded two interceptions in five seasons as a pro. Needless to say, that stat was unimpressive. But in just two Cleveland offensive series, Phillips managed to record two more on Sunday, giving him a career total of four picks. Both of Phillips’ interceptions set Tampa Bay’s offense up with great field position. While Phillips came threw with a solid performance vs. the Browns, expect the Buccaneers to attempt to upgrade both safety positions in free agency and through the draft in 2007.

I like Derrick Brooks. I really do, as a player and as a great community guy. However, he didn’t deserve to make the Pro Bowl this season, as he’s clearly lost a step. However, Brooks has shown flashes of playmaking ability this season, evidenced by his interception return for a touchdown vs. the Browns on Sunday. Brooks sounds like he wants to play again in 2007, but the Bucs can’t afford to not upgrade the weakside linebacker position next season. I’m starting to wonder if the Bucs won’t try to find a win-win situation by signing a free agent like Chicago’s Lance Briggs and having him take over at the Will linebacker spot, and then moving Brooks over the strong side to replace Ryan Nece. Brooks has the intelligence to play all three linebacker spots, and his aging body could still serve as an upgrade over Nece. It’s just an idea, but it has to be one the Bucs consider in 2007.

Tampa Bay is 4-11 and will finish the 2006 regular season either 4-12 or 5-11, depending on what happens against Seattle. No matter what happens next Sunday, the Bucs’ 2007 regular season opponents are set. Tampa Bay will host Atlanta, Carolina, New Orleans, Arizona, St. Louis, Jacksonville, Tennessee and Washington. It will travel to Atlanta, Carolina, New Orleans, San Francisco, Seattle, Houston, Indianapolis and Detroit. This schedule isn’t easy, but it’s not as difficult as this year’s, either. The good news is the Bucs are playing in the right conference. The AFC is much tougher than the NFC, where teams that finish the season with 8-8 records have a legitimate shot at making the playoffs this season. With a solid offseason, including free agency and the draft, the Bucs could right their ship rather quickly, especially when you consider the fact that 8-8 can get you in the playoffs in the woeful NFC.

Want the inside scoop on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' 2007 offseason plans? Want to find out who the Bucs are targeting in free agency and the NFL Draft? Subscribe to PewterReport.com's Pewter Insider by clicking here.


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