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1. OFFSEASON NEEDS ARE CLEAR
Even though the Buccaneers have only played six games, the needs of the roster in the 2009 offseason have become blatantly clear. The number one need position on the team will be at wide receiver. Unfortunately for Tampa Bay, the best free agent wide receivers — Lee Evans and Roy Williams — have signed contract extensions and will not hit the open market. Thus, it looks like the Bucs will have to make a trade for a veteran wide receiver, or will have to select one high in the draft.
The Buccaneers, under general manager Bruce Allen, have proven to be a team that drafts in the first round based on the needs of their roster. This year, Allen took cornerback Aqib Talib after losing veteran Brian Kelly to free agency, and anticipating the need to eventually replace Ronde Barber. In 2007, with Simeon Rice and Greg Spires winding down their careers, Allen selected defensive end Gaines Adams. A year earlier the only starting position open on the team was right guard, and Allen selected guard Davin Joseph. The year before Tampa Bay needed to jump-start its running game, so the Bucs took halfback Carnell Williams.
Unfortunately for Tampa Bay, the free agent receivers do not seem to be very deep on talent, and it is unclear which receivers could be available to trade for. At this time, the senior wide receivers entering the draft seem to be a group that may not have a first-round wide receiver like the 2008 class. The best wide receivers in college football are underclassmen, including Missouri's Jeremy Maclin, Texas Tech's Michael Crabtree, and Florida's Percy Harvin. It would be surprising if they all return to college.
2. GRUDEN RESPONDS TO "WHY NOT McCOWN?"
In the previous PI Quick Hits, the prospect of starting quarterback Luke McCown was covered. After publishing the article, Pewter Report caught up with Bucs head coach Jon Gruden and asked him why McCown does not get a shot at being the starting quarterback.
"We are doing what we think is right," said Gruden. "We are doing what we feel the evaluation tells us to do. Jeff played pretty good last year if you were here. He's a pretty good quarterback. He's had some injuries. He missed the entire camp, and then he hurt his pinkie and ankle. We like Luke. If you pay attention to the NFL, it is just a matter of time before all these guys are going to get their opportunity. We have a lot of confidence in Luke. I want to be honest with the fans. I have a lot of respect for what Jeff has done here and what he is capable of doing when he is healthy."
3. STEVENS INTEVIEW EXTRAS
In the latest issue of Pewter Report, tight end Jerramy Stevens sat down for an in-depth conversation. During the meeting, Stevens hit on many interesting subjects and spoke out for the first time about the controversy that went on last spring when he was re-signed.
One part of the conversation that did not make it into the magazine due to space restrictions can be read below.
PR: Coach Gruden's mother was a teacher and he credited her as a role model for the work ethic that allowed him to achieve success. Both of your parents worked in education as well, and I imagine that had a big influence on you.
Stevens: Oh man, it has had huge influence on me. Both my parents being in education, my mom was at my middle school and my dad was at my high school as a teacher and coach. There was no room for error and you had to do things by the book. I definitely learned work ethic from my dad, and my mom. Having both of my parents there to support me has probably been the biggest influence in helping my career. I have my brothers and sisters and my mom and dad always supporting me 100 percent. It was cool to have my parents and family there to watch me play at UW and in Seattle too. I think the fact that I've always had their support has led to the success I've had. Because I've always known that no matter what, my family has always got me, and there is never any pressure to succeed for them. I just knew that whatever I did they were going to be happy for me, so that allowed me to go out there and do the best that I could.
This part was follow up conversation that was had with Stevens this week.
PR: You appealed your suspension to help the team with its' playoff push last season. A lot of players wouldn't do when it hurts their free agency status. You had the remainder of the suspension carrying over to this year. You sacrificed your own interests for the team. Can you tell us about your thought process with that decision?
Stevens: It was a situation where I felt the Buccaneers went out on a limb to give me the opportunity to play out here. I knew it was going to be a drawn out process because of my legal situation and so it was something that I was willing to do to show them that I was serious about making a change and being on board with the direction that organization is about. It was risky on my part, and I suffered a lot because of it. But I am where I want to be as far as playing in a city and a situation that is healthy for me to be in. To me in the long run that was worth it.
PR: From talking with people in the organization it proved to them that you were a team guy.
Stevens: That is something that I have always been. Regardless of what my reputation might be, I think that my teammates have always respected me as a guy that is going to be there for the team. Maybe opponents don't, but my teammates do. It was a situation where I feel like it was going to be the most beneficial for me, and I wanted my teammates and the staff to know that I'm committed to them in the long run.
PR: The Seattle week is here now. That has got to give you some added motivation.
Stevens: I'd be lying if I said there wasn't some extra juice. I think what is important for me though is to just go out there and play my game. I obviously I'm going to be excited, but when I try too hard I don't play as well. I'm going to go out there and stay within myself. Hopefully I get some opportunities to make some plays.
PR: Well, you already have a big-time play this year with your touchdown to force overtime in Chicago. Against Green Bay, Brian Griese threw towards you in the end zone. Last game you got tackled at the two. The team keeps going to you near the end zone. That looks to be a real trend.
Stevens: I hope so. I don't know. It depends on the situations that come up. I'm just going to take advantage of the shots that I get.
4. COLLEGE GAMES TO WATCH
There is a college game to key on this weekend if you want to look ahead to some college talent that could be playing for Tampa Bay, or in the NFL next season. While some people may think that it is too early to discuss draft prospects, NFL front offices are working overtime on next April's draft. Considering our readers still have the opportunity to watch players that are highlighted for them, here are players to key on this Saturday and in weeks to come.
The marquee matchup this weekend is Missouri against Texas. Missouri has NFL talent on both sides of the football. Fans around the nation are quickly getting acquainted with Maclin, if they did not know him from last year. The speedy Maclin may be the most explosive, dynamic player in college football. Missouri also has NFL talent in tight end Chase Coffman, defensive tackle Evander Hood, and defensive end Stryker Sulak. Quarterback Chase Daniel is a great college player and is fun to watch, but he does not seem poised to be a high draft pick.
A few Longhorns have caught my eye for the NFL. Senior defensive end Brian Orakpo had a banner game against Oklahoma, and its future NFL offensive lineman Phil Loadholt. Texas also has two wide receivers, Jordan Shipley and Quan Cosby, that are not big receivers but get the job done. They look like mid-round players right now.
5. DEFENSIVE LINEMAN IN THE CLASS OF 2007
Last season, Gaines Adams was the best rookie defensive lineman in the NFL followed closely by Houston's Amobi Okoye. There were seven first-round picks along the defensive line. The production of first rounders in their second year is expected to improve. It is an interesting comparison to see how Adams stacks up.
Gaines Adams– 14 tackles, two sacks, no forced fumbles, two interceptions
Atlanta Falcon Jamaal Anderson– 16 tackles, one sack, no forced fumbles
Houston Texan Amobi Okoye– eight tackles, no sacks, no forced fumbles
St. Louis Ram Adam Carriker– nine tackles, no sacks, no forced fumbles
Green Bay Packer Justin Harrell– has not played in game action
Denver Bronco Jarvis Moss– two tackles, inactive for three games
Dallas Cowboy Anthony Spencer– six tackles in four games, no sacks
Even though Adams has not recorded a sack in the last four games for the Buccaneers, he has been the most productive player of this group through the first six games of the season. Adams was also closing in on sacking Carolina Panthers quarterback Jake Delhomme for a safety, but was tackled by Panthers offensive tackle Jordan Gross and drew a holding penalty. While Adams has been a good contributor thus far, the Bucs are going to need him to step up his production from a pass-rushing standpoint to help propel the team into the playoffs, and make some noise when they get there.
6. PROTECT YOUR QUARTERBACK
On the doors to the Bucs locker room and in various players' lockers this week is a print out sending a message to the players prior to playing Seattle, which recorded five sacks vs. Tampa Bay in 2007 and has 13 sacks this season. On the print out is a picture of Seahawks defensive end Patrick Kerney and another Seahawks player putting a hit on quarterback Jeff Garcia. Above the photo is the message "Protect Your Quarterback."