Copyright 2009 PewterReport.com
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1. BLACK STAYING BACK
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers broke from offseason workouts in mid-June. The players are on their own until July 31 when they report for training camp. Many of the Bucs players were looking forward to getting away for a while. Many take vacations, visit family, and take time away from football and give their bodies some rest.
A few players keep working for the season. Some do so with personal trainers, or go back to their colleges to work out.
One Bucs player is staying in Tampa and working hard for the 2009 season because he is fighting for a starting spot for the first time in his career. Sam (strongside) linebacker Quincy Black isn't leaving One Buc Place and is not taking a vacation. Black (6-2, 240) is one of the physically impressive and best-conditioned players on the team, and he is maintaining that while studying in the film room this month leading up to training camp.
Black was a third-round pick of the Buccaneers in 2007, and has spent his first two NFL seasons as a backup behind former Buc Cato June. Black, 25, has been a staple on special teams, and last year won a coveted prize in the Tampa Bay locker room when he led the team in special teams tackles with 24. The prize remains a secret, but leading the team in special teams tackles carries a lot of weight in the locker room.
It also illustrates that Black is developing instincts. In college at New Mexico, Black played the 'Lobo' position that was initially made famous by Brian Urlacher. The position is a hybrid of safety and linebacker responsibilities. Black excelled there, and prior to that he had played defensive end in junior college. Due to moving all around the field, Black was a raw prospect with great physical tools when he entered the draft.
Over his first two pro seasons, Black has found a home as a Sam linebacker in the Bucs' 4-3 defense. Black has kept up the momentum from 2008 when he excelled on special teams to having a great offseason. Tampa Bay signed veteran linebacker Angelo Crowell in free agency to compete with Black, but up to this point Black has been the starter. Crowell has worked himself back onto the field after missing last year with a knee injury, but Black is playing faster right now.
The coaching staff has been impressed with Black this offseason, and sought ways to keep him on the field for three downs. Traditionally, most Sam linebackers leave the field on third down as defenses put in an extra cornerback. With the Bucs not adding a proven pass rusher in the offseason, the team has gotten creative with trying to increase its pass rush. Black was added to the nickel defense and pass rushing unit known as the "Go" package. Black is lining up as a left defensive end, and this move keeps him on the field for all three downs.
It also gives the team flexibility to pull Black off the line of scrimmage prior to the snap and go to a 3-3-5 defense (three down linemen, three linebackers, and five defensive backs).
Black is a very serious and driven player. He is very hard working, and wants to not only take advantage of the opportunity to become a starter, but he wants to be a great pro. Black told Pewter Report that he was staying in Tampa to keep working because he did not want to let this opportunity escape him, and if he didn't win it, at least he would have no regrets about the effort he put in to try and take it.
The future looks promising for Black. He knows it, but he is treating the situation as if he is not the front-runner for the Sam linebacker spot heading into training camp. While most players are relaxing and taking a break, Black is still working hard to make an impact in 2009 and make the most of his opportunity.
2. ADAMS ON MOVES AND CHANGING ALLIGNMENT
Tampa Bay defensive end Gaines Adams is under the gun to have a breakout year in 2009. The Bucs are depending on Adams to become a pass-rushing force, and believe defensive coordinator Jim Bates' scheme and coaching will elevate Adams' sack production. Some fans and media pundits have also been critical of Adams for finishing the 2008 season slowly. Adams had four sacks in the first half of the season, and 2.5 in the final eight games.
Pewter Report heard from team sources that Adams struggled last season with dropping his hips, getting around the corner low enough with his body turned towards the quarterback. Not being able to do that with supreme proficiency led to him going too far around the quarterbacks.
It was also said that Adams did not to have enough pass rushing moves and was not playing physical enough. Pewter Report spoke with Adams about his efforts to improve this offseason, and here is a transcript of the interview.
PR: "We've heard you've been becoming more of a student of the game. With what you are learning there, have you been working on adding more pass rush moves?"
Adams: "Most definitely. I'm just trying to expand my game with Coach Bates, and the coaches. I've been listening a lot, and trying to figure out what I can do to elevate my game."
PR: "In Bates' defense you are split out wider than past seasons. That puts in a straight line towards the quarterback. In the past two years you were closer to the tackle and the rest of the offensive line. Do you prefer being split out wide?"
Adams: "Oh yeah, that is great for a speed rusher. Anytime I can get outside a one-on-one with a tackle or a tight end that will help me in the game even more."
PR: "How does this compare to where you would line up in college?"
Adams: "In Clemson I was mainly a wide end, I really didn't get a double team that much. It is a different league now, you have mismatches and you get double teams so you have to play within the scheme and work at it."
PR: "There is a lot of pressure on you and the rest of the defensive line to amp up the pass rush this year."
Adams: "It is going to be crucial with the guys playing bump coverage. A, it is going to give us a chance to rush the passer, and B, we're going to be able to actually get to the quarterback because I know they are going to do a phenomenal job in the back end. We are just going to have take care of it on our end."
PR: "Some of the defensive linemen like Chris Hovan and Greg Peterson have added weight this offseason. Jimmy Wilkerson has been dropping weight. Are you going to change your playing weight for next season?"
Adams: "Roughly the same at 260. I'm just trying to be in the best shape I can be at that weight."
3. WASH ON ADAMS
Here is an intriguing excerpt regarding Adams from Pewter Report's Training Camp Preview. Defensive line coach Todd Wash talked about Adams and his improvements for next season.
"You know Gaines is really starting to get it," said Wash. "He's really starting to study, become more of a student of the game, and create more moves for his pass rush. He has always been known as just a speed guy, and we are starting to develop what we can without pads, some different tools we can put in his toolbox. We're seeing him use those, and he is starting to make a difference in the pass rush."
The straight-shooting Wash also has some interesting comments on rookie defensive end Kyle Moore, Stylez G. White, and Wilkerson. You won't want to miss this the Pewter Report Training Camp Preview, which will be mailed in mid-July.
4. BATES BLITZES LIKE JOHNSON
Bucs defensive coordinator Jim Bates loves getting pressure from a four-man rush, but is known to dial up some pass rush from blitzes as well. Under former defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin, the Bucs did not do a lot of blitzing, and when they did it typically wasn't all that effective. The only consistently dangerous blitzer under Kiffin was cornerback Ronde Barber.
To get a good perspective on the Bucs blitzes now, before under Kiffin, and from other teams that blitz effectively, linebacker Matt McCoy is the player to talk to. McCoy, 26, played for years under Philadelphia Eagles defensive coordinator Jimmy Johnson, who is known as the best blitz schemer in the NFL. McCoy (6-0, 235) was with Kiffin last year, and now is learning Bates' system. McCoy said playing for Bates is closer to his Philadelphia experience.
"Actually the schemes are a lot a like," said McCoy. "With man coverage underneath, some zone over the top, we can be more aggressive against the run. It is more my style of defense, and fits me a little bit better."
McCoy said that Bates does call some similar to blitzes to Johnson in Philadelphia.
"Yeah, but Jimmy's blitzes are a whole other level," said McCoy. "Jimmy Johnson had so many blitzes, Bates does too and it is similar, but Jimmy had 80 blitzes that he doesn't even use. He had about 120 blitzes in his package. He might use only 20, but they both have aggressive defenses that I'm excited about."
Last year, McCoy was a reserve Mike (middle) and Sam linebacker. This year, McCoy is back at the Will (weakside) linebacker spot that he played in Philadelphia and New Orleans. Entering his sixth season, McCoy has gotten to play for three legendary defensive coordinators and couldn't pick which system was his preference.
"I like Monte's because it was a zone off scheme that allows linebackers to make plays," said McCoy. "Now we are more man up. It is a little more difficult for a linebacker to play, but we get to be more aggressive against the run."