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Should Tampa Bay Trade DE Adams?
When the Tampa Bay Buccaneers invested the fourth overall pick in the 2007 NFL Draft in defensive end Gaines Adams, expectations were set quite high for the former Clemson standout from a pass-rushing standpoint.
Adams had 28 career sacks at Clemson, which led Bucs director of college scouting Dennis Hickey, and former head coach Jon Gruden and general manager Bruce Allen to believe Adams could build on that success in the NFL.
Well, that hasn't happened yet, and time is running out for the third-year pro. Adams hasn't been a complete bust, evidenced by his 12.5 career sacks, but he is not proving to have been worthy of such a premium draft pick. Not even close.
Adams has been a decent defender vs. the run, but he simply hasn't made the type of impact plays the Bucs defense needs on passing downs.
Tampa Bay signed defensive coordinator Jim Bates to succeed Monte Kiffin this offseason, and his 4-3 defensive scheme had proven to get the most out of defensive ends. Miami recorded 212 sacks (42 avg. per season) in Bates' five seasons with the Dolphins.
Through two regular season games, the Bucs have three sacks, and none have come from Adams, who has just four tackles and two quarterback pressures. Adams has just one sack in Tampa Bay's last six regular season games dating back to 2008.
Needless to say, the Bucs and their fans are frustrated with Adams' sack production, or lack thereof. According to Bates, Adams is, too, which might be part of the problem.
"I think he's frustrated," Bates said of Adams. "The expectations are so high and I think he puts more pressure on himself, and he gets frustrated. Gaines has set high goals and he wants to attain them, and when that's not happening it's frustrating. It's been two games and he hasn't made a sack. He played better [against Dallas] and has actually played the run fairly well. He didn't have a good rush scheme in Buffalo, and he knows that. He just needs to calm down and play his game, let things happen and take advantage of the skills he has because he has a lot of them. Sacks oftentimes come in bunches and don't just happen every week. Once you get in that groove they will come, but you have play to make them happen. That's what Gaines has to do – he has to raise his game, play to his ability level, improve every week and get the job done."
The question is how long will the Bucs remain patient with Adams? Bucs head coach Raheem Morris recently questioned Adams' effort, which was a concern of the team when it drafted him in 2007. Adams disagrees with his head coach's assessment.
"I'm a football player just like everyone else is in this locker room," Adams said. "I work hard just like everybody else. Maybe the numbers aren't showing it right now, but I'm not worried about that. I can't worry about that.
"I feel I am [working hard], but we all have our different aspects on things. Like I said, I respect Raheem to the utmost, and if he is saying that then I will give more effort."
The Bucs have already discussed the possibility of benching Adams, or just using him as a situational pass rusher, but it's difficult to understand the logic in the latter part of that scenario since Adams' main problem has been his failure to get after the quarterback.
The Bucs were in a similar situation with defensive tackle Anthony McFarland during the 2006 regular season. Just three years after signing McFarland to a five-year, $34 million contract extension, Tampa Bay had enough of his underachieving play and traded the former first-round pick to Indianapolis in exchange for a 2007 second-round draft pick, which the team used on safety Sabby Piscitelli.
The Bucs are 0-2, and their young team has a brutal remaining schedule, which means the playoffs are highly unlikely for this group. So, should Tampa Bay consider trading Adams before the Week 6 trade deadline in an effort to get something more in return than the production Adams is giving the team right now from a sack standpoint?
Although the Bucs are $33 million under the salary cap (more than any other team in the NFL), trading Adams would be quite expensive. In fact, Tampa Bay would take an $11 million salary cap hit by parting ways with Adams this year, and another $4 million cap hit in 2010 (if there is a salary cap then — right now, 2010 is scheduled to be an uncapped year in the NFL).
From that standpoint, the Bucs probably would be better off allowing Adams to work through his on-the-field issues in hopes of him finding confidence — and the quarterback — as the season progresses.
However, no one could blame the Bucs for trading Adams if they found a team willing to surrender a second-round pick for him just as the Colts did for McFarland in 2006.
Adams is, after all, earning approximately $1.44 million per sack when one considers the $18 million in guaranteed money he received to sign his rookie contract in '07. And although it would be an expensive maneuver, the Bucs could certainly afford to take an $11 million cap hit given their current cap status.
If Adams were traded, Bucs backup DE Stylez G. White, who has proven to be a better rusher (has 13 career sacks) up to this point, likely would replace him as the starting right end. Tampa Bay also invested a fourth-round pick in rookie DE Kyle Moore back in April, but jettisoning Adams likely would mean the Bucs would enter the 2010 offseason with defensive end listed as a top priority on their free agent and draft boards.
The good news for the Bucs is even if the team was open to trading him, Adams still has a few more games to turn things around. The bad news for the Bucs and Adams is time is simply running out for the third-year pro to become a bigger and more consistent force on passing downs.
Giants Have Potent Pass Rush
If you want to watch a team that can flat out get after the quarterback, look no further than the New York Giants.
The Giants notched 95 sacks from 2007-08 under former defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, who left the team during the offseason to become the new head coach in St. Louis.
Like the Bucs, the Giants only have three sacks through two games, but don't read too much into that sub-par sack total. New York has one of the best groups of pass rushers in the league.
Tampa Bay's current stable of defensive ends has combined for 36.5 career sacks. To put that number in perspective, Giants DE Osi Umenyiora has notched 42.5 sacks alone heading into his seventh year in the NFL.
The Bucs offensive line has played well in pass protection despite being without starting center Jeff Faine for last week's game in Buffalo. This unit will have to be on top of its game vs. the Giants defensive line, which has the ability to show the Bucs D-line a thing or two about getting after the quarterback.
Bring On The Blitz
Tampa Bay's defense has struggled mightily through two regular season games, evidenced by its 31st overall ranking in the NFL. That's certainly not what Bucs fans are used after watching Monte Kiffin's defenses finish 11 of his 13 seasons ranked in the top 10.
But one bright spot thus far has been Bucs second-year linebacker Geno Hayes. The former sixth-round pick has impressed in his first two career starts in the NFL.
As a rookie, Hayes received significant praise behind the scenes at One Buccaneer Place by flashing instincts, speed and playmaking ability on the practice field. Bucs fans caught a glimpse of Hayes' potential when he blocked a punt and returned it 22 yards for a touchdown vs. Carolina in Week 2 last season.
Unfortunately, Hayes' rookie campaign was cut short in Week 11 when he sustained a knee injury and was placed on injured reserve.
Jermaine Phillips' move back to safety, along with Tampa Bay's youth movement, have allowed Hayes to enter the starting lineup in just his second year as a pro, and the Bucs aren't wasting any time utilizing the 6-foot-1, 226-pound Hayes' tools.
Not only does he rank second on the team in tackles (22) behind middle linebacker Barrett Ruud, Hayes also leads Tampa Bay's defense in quarterback hurries with five.
"There's been a few instances where we picked up on their blocking schemes or passing schemes, and that opened up a few holes for me so we started blitzing some," said Hayes.
Hayes had eight sacks in three seasons at Florida State, but told PewterReport.com that his days of pressuring the quarterback started before his collegiate career began.
"It comes from back in high school when I was averaging like 19 sacks a year," said Hayes. "I've always had a passion for being the type of guy that can go get sacks. We're showcasing that a little bit right now."
Hayes' biggest need for improvement is in the running game, but it's clear he has the athletic ability to blitz and get after the quarterback. Hayes has impressed a lot of people with his knack for blitzing and covering players in pass coverage thus far.
Although it is not ideal for Bates' 4-3 scheme, the Bucs might have to call on Hayes to blitz more if Tampa Bay's front four doesn't find a way to get after opposing quarterbacks on a more consistent basis.
Hayes hasn't registered a sack yet, but has come very close. He comes across as a humble guy, but Hayes couldn't help but crack a smile when asked if his goal this year was to lead the Bucs in sacks.
"Of course," Hayes whispered as he looked around the locker room to make sure his teammates didn't hear him. "It's kind of frustrating when you're just a split second away. You want to get the sack, but as long as I can do something to disrupt the pass then that's good, too. Hey, I'll take the QB hurry that leads to an interception any day of the week. As long as the play is getting disrupted, I'm good.
"I'm just going along with the game plan. If Coach Bates wants me to blitz then I'll blitz. If he doesn't then I'll play within the scheme and make plays that way."
Longest Current Losing Streaks In NFL
Pewter Report debuted this tally in a Pewter Insider column last week, and we've decided to keep it going until the Bucs notch their first win of the 2009 regular season. As you can see below, the Bucs currently rank tied for fourth in the NFL for longest losing streak based on regular season play.
Detroit – 19
St. Louis – 12
Cleveland – 8
Kansas City – 6
Tampa Bay – 6