This story is intended to be read by Pewter Insider subscribers only. Sharing of the PI content with non-subscribers of this service can result in cancellation of your subscription to the service and/or further actions by the publishers. 1. QUARTERBACK FEEDBACK Throughout training camp and the organized team activities the pluses and minuses with Buccaneers quarterback Byron Leftwich are striking. The positives of his big arm, ability to push the ball downfield, leadership presence, and big play potential are obvious. The negatives of his lack of mobility, slow footwork, and slow delivery are also apparent.
Pewter Insiders that have been reading our practice reports know that it has appeared to us that Leftwich is taking a lot of sacks. Remembering his days as a Jacksonville Jaguar, and speaking with sources from around the league, confirmed that taking sacks has plagued Leftwich as a pro. The sacks also led him to missing games with injuries.
In order to get a straight answer on if Leftwich is taking a lot of sacks while operating the Bucs offense, the person to ask is quarterbacks coach Greg Olson. The former St. Louis Rams offensive coordinator is known as a straight-shooter, and earlier in the offseason workouts Olson said he nicknamed Leftwich the ‘slug' due to his lack of athleticism. Olson answered whether Leftwich was taking a lot of sacks.
"I don't think that's fair to say," said Olson. "We don't have live rush. I wouldn't say that at this point. His internal clock will get faster as we near the regular season."
Olson believes the preseason games will speed up Leftwich's decision-making process. One potential challenge for the Bucs will be keeping both veterans, Leftwich and Luke McCown, healthy for the regular season. The Buccaneers backup offensive line has struggled in training camp to protect the quarterback, and both Leftwich and McCown may have to play behind that line some in the preseason games. The Bucs may keep their starting offensive line in the games longer to give both quarterbacks better protection. Olson said that the amount of reps in the preseason games and avoiding injury to the quarterbacks are concerns.
"No question," said Olson. "All four of the quarterbacks have played with the one and two offense. They've been doing it throughout training camp. Certainly, injuries are a part of the game, knock on wood, but that's the way it falls here. There's a certain amount of reps we want each guy to have with the one offense and the other with the two like any backup quarterback would. They are comfortable with that."
While the starting offensive line might log more snaps to give equal pass protection for the candidates to be the Bucs' starter, rookie Josh Freeman and Josh Johnson are going to have to play primarily with the second-team offensive line. General manager Mark Dominik and head coach Raheem Morris staked a big amount of their future in Tampa Bay with the selection of Freeman in their first draft. A major injury to Freeman in the preseason could stall his development greatly. One asset that Freeman has is he is tough to bring down for defenders, and he moves well to avoid a pass rush. Plus, Freeman is used to playing behind a shoddy offensive line from his three seasons at Kansas State. Olson updated the progress of Freeman.
"I like what I've seen from Josh Freeman this far into camp," said Olson. "He's just got to become more consistent. There have been days where he's been too careless with the football. He had his first day going in there against some all out blitzes, so he'll get better in that situation, but he's progressed to the point where we'd thought he'd be to this point." 2. "GO" PACKAGE During the organized team activities the Buccaneers installed their pass rushing ‘Go' package for obvious passing downs. The first team ‘Go' package then consisted of Gaines Adams at right defensive end, Jimmy Wilkerson at defensive tackle, rookie Kyle Moore at defensive tackle, and linebacker Quincy Black at left defensive end.
During training camp the group has been shaken up. Moore has been taken out of the first team in favor of veteran defensive end Stylez G. White, and Black is on the second team 'Go' package. The fourth lineman is unclear at this time.
"Right now we have three. We have Stylez, Gaines and Jimmy and we're kind of seeing where our fourth guy comes from," said defensive line coach Todd Wash. "We are kind of doing it by committee. If Quincy is in at left end then Gaines stays at the right side and Stylez moves inside. If you want Gaines on the left and then Stylez is on the right, then we'll move one of our bigger guys inside like Roy[Miller], Hov [Chris Hovan] or Sims [Ryan Sims]. Right now it is by committee to try and figure out what meshes and who works well with each other."
What has been interesting is the rookie Miller replacing the rookie Moore in the first-team 'Go' package some. Miller has had a great training camp, and has been earning the praise of Morris, the assistant coaches, and his teammates. In the interview Wash started complimenting Miller unprompted.
Wash said that Miller is playing really well right now, and Moore is starting to come around and show the skills the team saw when they drafted him. Miller is already the third defensive tackle, and is on the first-team defense in the goal line and short-yardage package. Judging by Wash's comments, Miller is going to be in the game regularly in the 'Go' package.
"The thing about him is he's 6-foot-1, very compact powerful guy so he's doing a really good job of getting underneath some of the guards pads and getting real good push on the pocket," said Wash. "If we can do that it is only going to help our defensive ends get the quarterback to flush out to them. He's doing a real good job and he'll have a place on our pass rush group at times. We are kind of doing our fourth guy by committee right now. Trying to figure out who that is. He's rushing the passer well, and he's playing well for a rookie now."
Wash said Black has made progress as an end, and has had some good practices rushing the quarterback. The team plays Black as an end regularly in practice, but Black is not on the first team 'Go' package like he was in May and June.
"Right now [Black] is probably our back up left end within our 'Go' package," said Wash. "But we'll put him on some of the tackles that maybe aren't that fast, and used to his speed off the edge. But he's developing some moves when you see him get in the one-on-ones during the seven-on-seven portion of practice. You see him improving also." 3. ADAMS DOESN'T LIKE TO USE A NON-SPEED RUSH In the interview with Wash there was an interesting exchange regarding Adams developing a move to combine with his speed rush. Here is the transcript.
PR: Gaines Adams seems to be developing a nice rip move. He has won some of the one-on-ones with it. Is that something you see him improving each day as he works on it more?
Wash: "It is. You know it is not something, with his power move, it's not something he really likes to do, but it is something he knows he has to do, to make himself a better pass rusher, so we're excited about how he's developing a power move, and the strides he's making also."
PR: It looks like he does some bull rush, but his main off speed pitch is that rip move to go with his fastball speed rush?
Wash: "Yep. He's got his speed flash, speed and he's also got a power move now to really set those guys down. So he can keep the offensive tackles off balance with his speed, and his power. Like you said he does a secondary move of the arm under off the power, so he's developing."
4. BARBER'S UNDERSTUDY Safety Tanard Jackson has continued to get some work as a slot cornerback. Jackson is learning behind the veteran Ronde Barber, who has been one of the best slot cornerbacks in the NFL during his career. In his two seasons as a pro Jackson has shown flashes of having Barber's instincts of being around the ball. With those instincts and his background in college as a cornerback, Jackson looks like a potential good backup for Barber.
"Ronde is my [mentor]. I learn from him day in and day out," said Jackson. "He's the nickel back right now, but I'm getting some work. I'm just trying and hopefully one day fill in his shoes."
Jackson said he believes the defensive backs are going to make a lot of plays on the ball this season in their man-to-man coverage scheme.
"Things are going good," said Jackson. "We are making plays. I think the safety position, the DB position is an opportunity for us to make plays back there. I think we're stepping up to the plate and I'm anxious to see the first preseason game how we're going to do."