PewterReport.com began a new offseason feature recently, giving readers an opportunity to get their questions answered by the PR staff. Today, Mark Cook answers five questions taken from Twitter submissions using the hashtag #PRMailbag. Each week, one of the questions used will earn the person who asked it one of our new Tampa Bay schedule refrigerator magnet.
Question 1. Pickett971 asks, based on talent do you think Vitale would of been drafted higher if FB was a more premium position in the NFL?
Answer: That’s a tough one, but speculating I would say no, and reason being is, he wasn’t a true fullback at Northwestern anyway. I think teams know all about his versatility and all the things he brings to the table, and if they thought he was extremely valuable or a sure-fire lock to being a star player in the NFL, he would have went earlier to any of the other 31 teams, or even to the Bucs for that matter. Now, that isn’t to say he won’t be a great player for the Bucs. Every season you can look back and in a sense redraft players and see where teams missed on guys, whether it be players that should have fallen, or players that should have been drafted earlier. How many of the teams in 1995 that passed on Sapp, wish they could have that draft over? Or even Alstott who went in the second round? The answer is lots of those teams! Only time will tell where Vitale should have gone. But for now the Bucs and Dan himself seem very happy the two are together in Tampa Bay.
Question 2. MrMaloneyPE asks will DE J. Smith make the leap this year and become the pass rusher we need alongside Spence?
Answer: I have said it multiple times this offseason, with everyone looking for the Bucs first double-digit sacker since 2005, I believe he was already on the roster in Jacquies Smith. Now, he has to stay healthy, and he has to continue to improve. But talent wise, I believe he is the Bucs best pass rusher at the end position, by a long shot. He’s fast, athletic and has a high motor. He can impact games like few on this roster. Go back and watch the Week 2 win against New Orleans. He was unblockable on that turf against the Saints. Can he put it together for 16 games? Can he take his game to a new level and develop some counter moves as opposed to being just a edge speed rusher? Those are the questions he will need to answer in the offseason and then preseason, but again, I see Smith being a guy who can hit the 10 sack mark this season.
Question 3. Suh Dude asks, what rookie signing/ free agent will have the most impact for this team week 1?
Answer: If you are talking from the whole entire rookie class, including draft picks, I really like Noah Spence to be that guy. In fact, Scott Reynolds and I discuss that topic in the latest Pewter Pulse. I think Vernon Hargreaves could struggle a little at first, and there are a lot of players at that position who probably are in the rotation, but I think Spence, if he stays healthy in camp will be a key cog on passing downs and if he gets a sack or two to start the season, he will have made a huge Week 1 impact. Of course if Roberto Aguayo hits a game-winning 60-yarder at Atlanta, or Hargreaves has pick-6, then no one will remember Spence’s sacks!
Question 4. David Stepp asks, is the Mike Smith scheme the answer to secondary woes that seem like they’ve lasted forever?
Answer: Let me just say, it can’t get any worse. I’ve watched Buccaneer football since 1977, the team’s second year, have many games on DVD and re-watch them occasionally, and I can’t remember seeing a more inconsistent and poorly coached secondary as I did the last two seasons. I don’t blame the coaching staff 100 percent, but the constant carousel and revolving door at cornerback was honestly embarrassing. Every week it seemed to be a new player or two in the starting lineup, eliminating any possibility for continuity in a unit that needs familiarity with the guy lined up beside, in front of, or behind them. We don’t really even know what the scheme or plans Mike Smith will bring to the defense, but I am almost certain it won’t be a game of cornerback musical chairs. That in itself should help with some of the woes. Add in Brent Grimes, Hargreaves and Josh Robinson, and it may the most improved unit when the 2016 season is said and done.
Question 5. Josh Owens asks, do you ever see there being a “rocket backfield” type with Doug and Sims being featured prominenently?
Answer: Interesting question Josh, and yes I could see that possibly being the case. Now you don’t hand Doug Martin the money the Bucs did to make him a part-time player, but Tampa Bay is very pleased with Charles Sims and what he was able to do in his second year, and that is looking like a terrific draft pick. Sims and Martin led the NFL as far as total yards by a duo and there is no reason to believe it will change. But I wouldn’t be surprised if Koetter and his staff look for ways to get both on the field more this season to utilize the skills of both even more. I know some fans were scratching their head that the Bucs didn’t add a speed-threat receiver this offseason, but there is only one football! Martin, Sims, Vincent Jackson, Mike Evans, Adam Humphries, Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Cameron Brate and now Vitale? There are a lot of weapons on this team.