PewterReport.com began a new offseason feature this year, giving readers an opportunity to get their questions answered about the Bucs by the PR staff. Today, Mark Cook answers five questions taken from Twitter submissions and our message boards using the hashtag #PRMailbag.

Question. Went to my 1st game this year yesterday, and loved it. However, I have no clue who Ryan Russell is. He played well, who is he?

Answer: First off all you went to your first game and didn’t bother to look us up and say hello? You aren’t the only one who was wondering where Russell came from and earned the amount of playing time that he received on Sunday. But he did, and he played well. Russell came to the Bucs following his release from the Cowboys back in September. Tampa Bay signed him to their practice squad but with injury concerns on the defensive line they promoted him to the active roster earlier this month. Obviously he impressed the coaching staff enough to get on the field the last three games, including seeing more snaps (35) than Will Gholston. 

Russell played his college ball at Purdue and was a fifth round pick by the Cowboys in 2015. He struggled in Dallas, but it appears the proverbial light has come on. Sometimes guys need a change of scenery, or maybe the scheme fits him better than what it did in Dallas. Regardless, the Bucs are pleased with his development. 

Is it time to pay Gholston now? I don’t know if the fans realize exactly what he means to this defense.

Answer: In the words of many on the PewterReport.com message boards, pay the man! Seriously, Gholston is one of the most versatile lineman the Bucs have had in years, able to line up at any position on the defensive line. He is so big and strong, and provides matchup nightmares for opposing offenses. And he plays with a mean streak and an edge. The crazy thing is, Gholston is so young still, and has a ceiling that is yet to be met. He is still learning the game, understanding how to utilize his strengths, and should only get better if he stays healthy. I joked with him after the game yesterday, if he needs an agent, I am available. Someone is going to pay him very well this offseason, and hopefully it will be the Buccaneers. 

Question: Is Adam Humphries too valuable to the offense to be returning punts?

Answer: Yes and no. Certainly he is a contributor and if that continues to grow in his Bucs career, then at some point, the coaching staff may look to take him off of kick return duties. For now though, his contributions to special teams are important, as the Bucs haven’t been able to secure a dependable kick returner over the last two years. Humphries isn’t the biggest or fastest player on the team, but he is one of the toughest. You need a fearless kick returner, and that is what you have in Humphries. I texted him a picture of one of his against Seattle earlier on Monday, and the first thing he said to me was, I should have scored on that one. He did return one for a score against Cleveland in the preseason, so we know he has the ability. And I think he gets one this year.

How do you see the team ending the season? Do they crumble like last year or soar into the playoffs?

Answer: After the Seattle win, there isn’t game left on the schedule I don’t think the Bucs can’t win, including beating the Cowboys. Now, I am no way predicting that they run the table, by any stretch, but tell me who you guarantee they lose to. If you had asked me that a few weeks ago, I would have said pretty much every one on the schedule, but this team has made a believer out of me. Putting me on the spot, I see the Bucs winning in San Diego, losing at Dallas, splitting with the Saints, and beating Carolina in the final game of the season. That would leave them at 9-7 on the season.

Question: Do the Bucs keep Verner around next season after his contributions the last two games? Is he finding a place in the D?

Answer: That is really tough to say at this point. I think Verner is a terrific backup, but unless the Bucs part ways with Brent Grimes in the offseason, I don’t foresee Verner getting back in the starting lineup. His contract calls for him to make $6.5 million next year and I am not sure the Bucs are willing to pay him another salary like that to be a part time contributor and backup. With that said, I absolutely believe Verner has a role on this team, and believe the Bucs would like to see him back in 2017, but it may come down to if Verner would play for less. This is all just speculation on my part, however. 

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About the Author: Mark Cook

Mark Cook currently is the director of editorial content and Bucs beat writer and has written for PewterReport.com since 2011. Cook has followed the Buccaneers since 1977 when he first began watching football with his Dad and is fond of the 1979 Bucs team that came within 10 points of going to a Super Bowl. His favorite Bucs game is still the 1979 divisional playoff win 24-17 over the Eagles. In his spare time Cook enjoys playing guitar, fishing, the beach and family time.Cook is a native of Pinecrest in Eastern Hillsborough County and has written for numerous publications including the Tampa Tribune, In the Field and Ya'll Magazine. Cook can be reached at [email protected]
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Twistedwires
Twistedwires
5 years ago

Come on Bucs. Do what you’ve been doing all season and go on the road and beat the Bolts. Then come back home and beat the saints. And then shock the world with a win over the Cowboys. After the first drives of the last two weeks I immediately said to myself “the Bucs can beat these guys”, and you did. Put it all together and YOU CAN WIN. Every game is critical at this point. I am beginning to believe. Go Bucs.

Bucnut2
Bucnut2
5 years ago

I totally agree on all of Gholston, we need to pay him. As far as playoff run is concerned, anything is possible but I think Saints and Panthers are both better than their records, so beating them will be very difficult.

fredster
fredster
5 years ago

I say try hard to keep Gholsron. He’s not best pass rusher but like you said versatility is huge. We have had rotten luck in free agency on D line other than Ayers. I think we may lose to Chargers we don’t travel there well and they are pretty good team. Plus last two weeks may have drained the Bucs some. I do think we can beat Dallas. We match up well and play run well. Their defense isn’t that good either they just haven’t been on the field much. I think we likely split with Saints and beat Panthers… Read more »

chetthevette
chetthevette
Reply to  fredster
5 years ago

Fred, I don’t think that the BUCS have been drained. Just the opposite, I believe they are energized after beating 2 quality teams.
GO BUCS

Horse
Horse
5 years ago

I’m not sure what you mean by paying him? He obviously is not worthy of pay lile McCoy, McDonald, Ayers on the DL. I would rate him as average with slight continue improvement. I don’t know what the value is; anybody got an idea?

cgmaster27
cgmaster27
5 years ago

Gholston needs to be paid. Not like top 10 tackle money or what ever, but this guy is a key on run downs and can still get to the QB. His versatility is also outstanding as he can play anywhere on the line. You need guys like this on your roster to continue to get better.

chetthevette
chetthevette
5 years ago

You have to pay Gholston. Is he the next JJ Watt? No but he is pretty good. You can build a team with guys like him and some quality draft picks.
Keep Humphries on punt return duties, He is fearless and that is the best trait of a punt returner. Besides that it seems like when he is retuning good things can happen. Plus he doesn’t muff a lot of balls.
GO BUCS