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1. CHANGES IN THE COLLEGE SCOUTING
When the Tampa Bay Buccaneers traded defensive end Gaines Adams to the Chicago Bears for a second-round pick, some Bucs fans bemoaned the trade because they believe that the Bucs are going to waste the pick like they have on so many occasions in the past decade. After a great run in the mid to late 1990's, the Bucs have had a rough decade in restocking their team through the draft. The Buccaneers owners, the Glazer family, believe in building a team through the draft so if Tampa Bay is going to return to respectability it is going to be through draft picks and not big spending sprees in free agency.
Mark Dominik took over as general manager just a few days before the Senior Bowl. At that time the Bucs were too far into the draft process to have a shakeup in their scouting department. Generally NFL teams will fire and change out college scouts after the draft in May. Once football season starts, and the scouts are on the road at college campuses, it is too late to lose that manpower.
Dominik retained the director of college scouting Dennis Hickey, after being promoted to the general manager position. Hickey is in his fifth year in that position, and 14th with the organization. Dominik and Hickey are best friends as well. There are those inside the organization believe that Hickey was not being listened to by the previous regime. After speaking with sources it is clear that Hickey has a bigger influence now, and his voice is second only to Dominik in the Bucs draft room. While Dominik did not overhaul the department, he made changes to some of the scouts and the way that they handled the draft room.
Dominik and Hickey dropped the two scouts of the most prominent regions in the country for scouting talent. Dom Green was the Bucs' scout for the majority of the Southeastern Conference, and former Buccaneer running back Reggie Cobb was the scout for a lot of the Big 12. Green had states like Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, Alabama, and South Carolina. Cobb worked Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Arkansas, New Mexico, and Arizona. After the 2008 NFL Draft, both were let go by the organization. One can see how important those regions are, as the Bucs have used many first-round picks in this decade on players from those states.
2001- Kenyatta Walker, Florida
2004- Michael Clayton, LSU
2005- Carnell Williams, Auburn
2006- Davin Joseph, Oklahoma
2007- Gaines Adams, Clemson
Replacing them was Byron Kiefer and Brian Hudspeth. Keifer was previously the Bucs combine scout, and has worked his way up in the Bucs scouting department over the past five years. Kiefer will take up the responsibility of scouting a lot of the Southeast. His states are comprised of: South Carolina, Georgia, Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, Tennessee, and Kentucky.
Hudspeth could be one of the most important people in the organization this year with the Bucs in line to have the number one overall pick. Dominik and Hickey have given Hudspeth the powerhouse states of Florida and Texas. He also has Louisiana, Oklahoma, and New Mexico. Hudspeth is in his first season with the Buccaneers after Dominik hired him away from the Houston Texans. Sources from other NFL teams have told Pewter Report that Hudspeth was an excellent hire. Prior to being a scout for Houston for five seasons, Hudspeth worked in the Atlanta Falcons pro personnel department for four seasons in 2001-2004.
The Bucs also added Andre Forde, a former star receiver at the University of Buffalo that spent some time with the Bears and Colts. Forde is an assistant to Hickey at One Buc Place. He evaluates talent, does advance scouting, and does data maintenance.
Jon Gruden and Bruce Allen ran the draft meetings and had final say on whom the Buccaneers were going to take. League and team sources say that Hickey deserves time to be evaluated on his own. They say that if Dominik and the Glazers don't like next seasons draft, at that time you consider replacing Hickey but it shouldn't be done largely on the drafts that occurred under Gruden and Allen.
Sources have told Pewter Report that Allen, Gruden, and the coaching staff had a big voice in who would be drafted by the Buccaneers. The one time that they didn't have as big a voice was with Adams. The Glazers, Hickey, and Monte Kiffin wanted Adams. Allen and Gruden were inclined to trade up for wide receiver Calvin Johnson.
Now that Dominik is in control, Hickey and the scouts have the louder voice over the coaching staff. It is clear that the old way wasn't working. Next April's draft looks like it could be one of the most important in franchise history. Dominik and Hickey are under the gun, and it is their time to lead the Bucs back to respectability.
2. BUCS ARE HAVING A GOOD YEAR?
After Week 8 in the NFL, Tampa Bay is the only winless football team across the league. At this time, the Buccaneers would hold the number one overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft. While many Bucs fans would say that this season is a disaster, league sources have told Pewter Report that the team is having a "good" season.
How can that be? Well, executives at other teams say that winning 2-4 games is better than winning 6-8 games. The reason is building the team through the draft. Having a mediocre season and missing the playoffs places a team around the middle of the draft. Drafting highly, especially in rounds 2-4, allows a team to have a shot at better talent in the mid-rounds and potentially elite talent in the first round.
The sources say that a season of 2-4 wins allows you to play your entire roster and evaluate every player on your team. Going forward a team knows who is worth keeping around, and who is not worth retaining.
3. FREEMAN DRAFTED FOR A DIFFERENT OFFENSE
It is going to be interesting to see how offensive coordinator Greg Olson calls plays with Josh Freeman at quarterback. The first three weeks of the season with Byron Leftwich as the starter, Olson called a lot more downfield passes and play-action passing. When the Bucs switched to Josh Johnson, Olson transitioned the offense to be more focused on West Coast offense principles with a mobile quarterback. The offense was closer to Gruden's playbook and principles.
With Freeman coming into the lineup, Olson said that his style of play is halfway between Johnson and Leftwich. While Freeman has some mobility, the Buccaneers will have to transition the offense again because Freeman is not a West Coast quarterback. He is better when taking five and seven step drops and throwing downfield.
One of the reasons why Freeman is not a West Coast quarterback is because he is not the most accurate passer. In the preseason Freeman completed 44.9 percent of his passes for 238 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions. In his collegiate career he started 30 games and had a record of 14-16. For his career, Freeman completed 59 percent of his passes (680 out of 1151) for 8,078 yards and 44 touchdowns with 34 interceptions. In his final year at Kansas State, Freeman completed 58.6 percent of his passes for 2,945 yards with 20 touchdowns and eight interceptions.
Due to Freeman being a passer that does not complete a high percentage of his throws, he definitely would not have been the choice of Gruden if he had stayed as head coach of the Buccaneers. When Raheem Morris was named head coach, the Bucs offense went with a new direction with Jeff Jagodzinski as offensive coordinator. Jagodzinski and Morris envisioned an offense like the Pittsburgh Steelers when they drafted Freeman, a run heavy offense with a big-armed quarterback to go downfield with play action passing.
"The offense we are running right now, whether it was Jags or coach Olson, it is very similar to what I ran in college, just a little bit different terminology," Freeman said.
Morris fired Jagodzinski on the eye of the final preseason game, and promoted Olson to that role. Olson added a lot of the west coast concepts and plays of Gruden's offense to the playbook this year. Currently the Bucs are running something in between Jagodzinski and Olson's desired offense. Each week though it moves closer to Olson's vision. It seems that Freeman was drafted for a different kind of offense, but at least he is running something that is similar to what he has experience in.
4. 2007 AND 2008 DRAFTS- WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN
It is no secret that the Bucs drafting has been sub-par this decade. The 2007 draft looked pretty good after the players played their rookie season. Adams, the fourth overall pick, finished the year strong. Second-round pick Arron Sears started all season and was productive at left guard. Fourth-round pick safety Tanard Jackson started all season and was very effective.
In the two plus seasons since the end of the 2007 season, the ‘07 draft class has fallen apart. Adams made no strides after his rookie season and was traded for a second-round pick in the 2010 NFL Draft. Sears has been dealing with personal issues and decided not to play football in 2009. Nobody knows for certain if he will ever play again. Second-round pick Sabby Piscitelli has been up and down in his performance, and third-round pick Quincy Black has had a quiet debut as a starter in 2009. In my opinion Jackson is the best draft pick made by Gruden, Allen, and Hickey. Getting one of the better safeties in the NFC in the fourth round is a steal. That pick is the only late-round steal of the decade. Linebacker Geno Hayes and wide receiver Sammie Stroughter could join Jackson if they maintain and improve, but it is still to early to say.
At 0-7 the Bucs have needs all over their roster, and more than anything they need elite players that change games and make their teammates more effective due to their All-Pro skill set. Taking a look back at 2007, the Buccaneers passed on some of the NFL's best young players at their positions.
In the first round the Bucs passed on Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis, and Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis. In the second round Tampa Bay could have had Vikings wide receiver Sidney Rice, Steelers defensive end LaMarr Woodley, and Eagles quarterback Kevin Kolb. In the third round the Bucs could have had Seahawks defensive tackle Brandon Mebane.
In 2008 the Bucs chose wide receiver Dexter Jackson in the second-round. Again they passed on some young offensive players that are contributing well for their teams. Jackson was taken over Texans running back Steve Slaton, Giants wide receiver Mario Manningham, and Bengals wide receiver Andre Caldwell.
5. WEEKEND DRAFT FOCUS
A good draft matchup this Saturday will feature Northwestern senior defensive end Corey Wooten against Iowa junior offensive tackle Bryan Bulaga. Both are potential first round prospects, and it will be strength vs. strength when they square off. The 6-foot-7, 280-pound Wooten is a power player and Bulaga (6-6, 312) is a mauler of an offensive linemen. Whoever gets the better of this matchup could fire up draft boards.