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Here are five things that caught my interest this week:
FAB 1. Much to the surprise of Buccaneers fans, Tampa Bay has done little to address its defensive tackle position outside of re-signing Ryan Sims, a backup at both nose tackle and under tackle over the past two years, and chasing (and ultimately losing out on) free agent defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth. Bucs general manager Mark Dominik opted not to re-sign former starting under tackle Jovan Haye, who failed to record a single sack or turnover since producing six quarterback takedowns and recovering four fumbles in 2007.
So where does that leave the Bucs? With Sims, team captain Chris Hovan and a trio of unheralded players like Greg Peterson, Dre Moore and Chris Bradwell. Peterson and Moore were fifth- and fourth-round picks in 2007 and 2008, respectively, while Bradwell was an undrafted free agent signee last year that failed to make the roster after going through training camp with the Bucs.
The Bucs had their chance to add a defensive tackle like Colin Cole, who was coached by new defensive coordinator Jim Bates and new defensive line coach Robert Nunn in Green Bay. But given the team’s lack of interest in pursuing Cole, that tells me the team is relatively comfortable with what it already has on the roster or Nunn and Bates know enough about Cole to realize he can’t help the team as much as fans might think he can. It’s probably a combination of both.
Fans know that Hovan is a baller and his strength is stuffing the run. Fans have mixed opinions on Sims, but I believe he will be a much better fit in Bates’ new defensive scheme which calls for bigger, more physical defensive tackles to take on guards and centers head up rather than attack gaps.
What fans don’t know is how Peterson and Moore, specifically, have developed behind the scenes. Pewter Report has profiled Moore in the March issue’s In The Lab feature, and I’ll share some of that information with you in this SR’s Fab 5.
But first, let’s take a look at Peterson, who has been really creating a buzz behind the scenes at One Buc Place this offseason. He is listed at 6-foot-5, 285 pounds on the roster at Buccaneers.com. Don’t believe it. The player the coaches call “Petey” has muscled up to 310 pounds.
“He’s making some real good strides,” said Bucs defensive line coach Todd Wash. “He played some snaps for us last year. I think this system for Peterson, who is already up to 310 pounds and is a big, physical man, will really fit him. Not that Monte Kiffin’s system was difficult and Petey couldn’t learn it, but there were a lot of different things we threw at him, and he was coming from a smaller college to this level and not the SEC or the ACC to this level. He had a longer transition maybe because of that, but his time has come. We’re excited to see what he can do. He has all the physical skills in the world – all of them. We have to make sure we get it out of him and that is Robert’s job and that’s my job.”
Don’t think that Peterson has suddenly gained 25 pounds between the end of football season and now due to some funny business. It’s been a natural progression behind the scenes starting last fall when Peterson was inching closer to 300 pounds. Peterson was already a big, chiseled specimen to begin with. According to Wash, the weight he gained was all muscle – and not flab.
“Give credit to [strength coach Kurt] Shultz and everybody that has been working with him. He’s put on good weight,” Wash said. “He’s not sloppy looking. He looks like he is about 280-290. He is a big, powerful man. We’re excited about that. We are really excited about Petey.”
Peterson’s growth was actually stunted by Sims’ arrival. As a rookie in 2007, the North Carolina Central product recorded 19 tackles (17 solo), 1.5 sacks, one pass defensed, one forced fumble and three special teams tackles in the first 10 games of the season before being inactive for the final six games. The reason why Peterson was inactive was because he hit the infamous rookie wall at the same time Sims, who was acquired after the 2007 draft in a trade with Kansas City, hit his stride.
Sims came to Tampa Bay out of shape and unfamiliar with the responsibilities that came in Kiffin’s scheme. Once Sims got in shape and caught on, he became active on game days as Peterson headed to the bench. Sims has watched Peterson’s game improve during practices, which are closed to the media, and gave Pewter Report this evaluation.
“Greg is a physical specimen – he has all the tools. That’s why they drafted him,” Sims said. “He can do it all, he just doesn’t have a lot of experience playing against top competition in college. But over the last two years, he’s become a better football player. He’s very strong. He’s extremely athletic. I really think this system can help him out a lot. This new scheme is more about power and beating the guy in front of you. I think this new scheme will benefit guys like Dre Moore and Greg Peterson. They are both big, strong, physical players for us inside.
“When I first got to Tampa, I walked in as a guy over 300 pounds and said, ‘Whoa! Is this the defensive line room or the linebacker room?’ I was the biggest guy in the room by far. Now we have some bigger guys with Dre in the room and how much bigger Greg has gotten. It’s good to see. We’ll need it with this defense.”
But just because Peterson has gotten bigger doesn’t mean he’s a lock for playing time. He has to get better, and according to Wash, that happened last year in practice by working on pad level, which is an essential key to good line play, especially for taller, more angular guys like Peterson.
“That’s an area he’s constantly working on,” Wash said. “It’s important to have good pad level and bend throughout the entire play. It is a little bit tougher for higher cut players like Petey. He doesn’t have the short body structure like some of our other guys. It’s not a situation that he can’t overcome. It’s an area he needs to improve on, but it’s not a real big issue.”
Aside from trying to Haynesworth, a Pro Bowler and All-Pro in 2008, Dominik seems content with letting the unheralded and unproven guys like Peterson, Moore and Bradwell have the chance to show what they can do.
“That is the excitement,” Dominik said. “You know we have Bradwell, Dre Moore, Greg Peterson, all young players in this new Jim Bates system in terms of defensive tackle and what we are asking them to do. That was a big part of why we wanted to get Ryan Sims signed prior to free agency. He is a bigger bodied guy that can push the pocket. With Peterson and Dre Moore they are 300-plus-pound guys that are bigger bodied guys that I think are able to step into those roles. They’ll get an opportunity to step into those roles.”
Sometimes all a player like Peterson and Moore needs is an opportunity. They didn’t have that last year as Hovan and Haye, who was tendered a restricted free agent contract over $2 million, were ironclad starters at the tackle spots due to their contracts and their status on the team. Unless Peterson or Moore came out and had four or five sacks in the preseason, there was no way they would become starters, especially under Kiffin, who always favored veterans over younger players.
Without the incentive of playing for a starting role, Peterson regressed a bit from a statistical standpoint. After posting eight tackles, two tackles for loss, one sack and one pass defensed as a rookie in the preseason, Peterson notched nine tackles and one pass breakup, but no sacks or tackles for loss last August.
It was good enough for Peterson to beat out veteran defensive linemen Marques Douglas and Patrick Chukwurah, but not enough to steal reps away from Sims and newcomer Jimmy Wilkerson, who saw action at both defensive tackle and end last year. As a result, Peterson was inactive for all but four games, but only played in two – at Carolina and at Atlanta in December – but he failed to record a tackle in limited playing time.
Part of what stymied Peterson’s development was Kiffin’s desire to move Peterson to defensive end, where he saw some action in college. But Peterson had already made the transition to defensive tackle during his rookie year and moving him outside only messed him up. It was clear to me from the first week of training camp last year that Peterson was out of position. He may still cross-train at end a little bit in 2009, but Peterson is expected to primarily compete at defensive tackle along with Moore, who came to the Bucs out of shape and overwhelmed in the 2008 NFL Draft.
Moore notched three tackles and had two passes defensed during the preseason and wasn’t good enough to make the team. Like Peterson, Moore has had to work on playing with proper pad level, and after a year on the practice squad, the Bucs are counting on the 6-foot-4, 311-pounder to not only make the team in 2009, but also contribute in the team’s base defense.
“We’re seeing some good things from him in the run game,” Wash said. “His pass rush needs to improve, but he can physically hold up in the run game and that’s some of the things we’re looking for right now.
“Within our base package we are looking for an interior push. That’s the benefit of having the bigger guys like Petey and Dre. You are going to have that push and the quarterback will be inclined to move laterally in the pocket. That’s when your defensive ends’ sacks will come. They put stress on the pocket for guys like Gaines Adams and G. White. In order for them to get sacks, we need to have the guys inside really get a big push. It’s really an entire unit come together to get sacks. Our defensive ends should be our leading sackers. When we get into some of our packages and substitutions and the things we need to do on long-yardage and passing downs, then we need to have guys beat guys inside – not just push the pocket and eat up blocks. When we get to that package, then we have guys like Jimmy that can beat people one-on-one when they go into protection. It all depends on the package we’re in.”
One thing that Peterson and Moore need is a kick in the butt in 2009.
“He’s a quiet, hard-working guy like myself who is developing behind the scenes,” Moore said of Peterson. “I think he’s going to be a swing man for us because he can play inside at tackle and also at end. I think he’s a great player. Greg’s a beast. He’s extremely strong and plays that way when he’s fired up.”
Both Peterson and Moore are soft-spoken, gentle giant types that could use some positive – yet loud and forceful – motivation. That’s where Morris will come in as the team’s head coach. He has a great rapport with the players and could play a big role in helping both young defensive tackles develop a mean streak – along with a real opportunity.
Kiffin always preferred playing veterans like Sims, Hovan and Haye instead of the younger players, which always irritated the team’s front office scouts. Dominik and Morris seem content on letting players like Moore and Peterson have a chance to shine, in addition to linebackers Quincy Black, Adam Hayward and Geno Hayes – all second-day draft picks from the last two drafts.
For all the talk of former Bucs head coach Jon Gruden loving veterans, at least he played the offensive players that were drafted during their rookie seasons. Wide receiver Michael Clayton, tight end Alex Smith, running back Cadillac Williams and offensive linemen Dan Buenning, Davin Joseph, Jeremy Trueblood and Arron Sears all started as rookies, as did quarterback Bruce Gradkowski – although that one was not by design.
Kiffin was the exact opposite. He loved veterans and had it not been for Greg Spires’ calf injury in 2007, Adams wouldn’t have played nearly as much as he did. The fact that Kiffin preferred to play a broken down Spires instead of the fourth overall pick in the draft who needed to get on the field infuriated the front office. The same type of disappointment was prevalent last year when by midseason Aqib Talib, last year’s first-rounder, was the team’s best cornerback – yet he was relegated to nickel back.
Behind the scenes, Tampa Bay’s personnel men bristled at Kiffin’s approach because the young players didn’t have a chance to compete because they knew he would always choose the veteran over the young player and that stunted their growth. The two lone exceptions during Kiffin’s tenure were cornerback Donnie Abraham in 1996 and safety Tanard Jackson in 2007. One would think that with the success those two players had as rookies that Kiffin would be more inclined to trust the team’s scouting department and play other rookies. But that was not the case and the scouts are quite glad over Kiffin’s departure for that reason.
Kiffin wouldn’t do it, but Dominik and Morris are putting their faith in Peterson and Moore. While they won’t pass up the right defensive tackle in the draft, if the option presents itself, Peterson and Moore will finally have their chance to legitimately compete for not just roster spots but starting jobs. It’s amazing what a little faith can do and it will be interesting to see how much Peterson and Moore embrace it.
FAB 2. Before I get back to the defensive line discussion, which comprises most of this SR’s Fab 5, let’s take a break and talk about the Bucs quarterback position, which consists of two largely unproven young talents in Luke McCown and Josh Johnson – McCown is more NFL-ready than Johnson at this point in time – and one veteran retread (or journeyman, if you prefer) in Brian Griese. Everyone knows that the Bucs will take four quarterbacks to training camp and most fans are hoping that QB will be Denver’s Jay Cutler.
Let’s rewind a bit for those fans that slept through free agency. Bucs general manager Mark Dominik caught wind of a trade involving Patriots franchised quarterback Matt Cassel between New England’s Bill Belichick and Kansas City’s new general manager Scott Pioli, who used to work in the personnel department in New England with Belichick. The trade sent Cassel and veteran defensive end/rush linebacker Matt Vrabel to the Chiefs in exchange for a second-round pick and was basically consummated before Tampa Bay and Denver caught wind of it.
Broncos new head coach Josh McDaniels, who as Belichick’s quarterbacks coach and game day play-caller, wanted in on Cassel for two reasons. First, he had a track record with him in New England and knew him better than Cutler, the quarterback he inherited. And second, he didn’t want Cassel landing in arch rival Kansas City’s lap.
Dominik and the Broncos got together and were going to swap quarterbacks if Tampa Bay could swing the trade for Cassel for the Bucs’ first-round pick. If Dominik could land Cassel, he would be shipped to Denver in exchange for Cutler. Dominik was not slighting McCown or anyone else on the Bucs’ roster by trying to acquire Cutler, a former first-round pick in 2006 and a Pro Bowler in 2008. He was just simply following the number one rule in the NFL, which is: when a G.M. has the chance to upgrade the QB position, he does it.
The trade fell through as Cassel went to Kansas City and Belichick leaked news of the possible three-way trade to the media to cause problems for McDaniels and Cutler out in Denver. A week after “the trade that never happened,” Cutler is still very upset with McDaniels and wants out of Denver. That appears to be unlikely as the only other viable quarterback on the Broncos roster is former Bucs starter Chris Simms.
Do I think that Cutler will remain in Denver? Yes, because the Broncos need him and they don’t have another alternative that is comparable.
If he’s traded, is Cutler a lock to land in Tampa Bay? Not now. Back on February 28 when nobody but Denver and Tampa Bay knew Cutler was on the trading block it looked like he could have become a Buccaneer, but now all 31 other teams know Cutler is probably available for a trade. All that is going to do is drive up the asking price.
Detroit and the New York Jets have huge needs at quarterback, and you would have to throw other teams like Chicago and Cleveland into the mix as well. NFL.com’s Vic Carucci suggests the Browns may want to swap Cutler for Brady Quinn. Tampa Bay would be just one of many teams in hot pursuit, thus I would not count on Cutler landing with the Buccaneers – if he’s even traded at all.
So who is going to be the fourth quarterback that Tampa Bay brings to training camp? Don’t be surprised if it’s Kansas State’s Josh Freeman, who had a great workout in Manhattan, Kan. on March 12. Buccaneers quarterbacks coach Greg Olson was in attendance for Freeman’s workout and he is definitely in the mix for possibly being selected with the 19th overall pick.
As many of you know, Freeman was a freshman starter for the Wildcats in 2006 when Bucs head coach Raheem Morris was a 29-year old defensive coordinator at Kansas State, which happens to be my alma mater. Freeman and Morris (and Yamon Figurs) teamed up to upset fourth-ranked Texas on November 11 when yours truly was in town for the game and to visit Morris.
I am not going to rehash anything I said about the 6-foot-6, 250-pound signal caller that I previously wrote about in a January 23 SR’s Fab 5 other than to say that I have in fact warmed up to Freeman. The NFL scouts I have talked to have said the same things that I have said about Freeman with regards to poor coaching and poor talent surrounding him. They think that putting up with egomaniacal head coach Ron Prince for three years has actually made Freeman mentally tough.
I have changed my opinion on him, as have the scouts that have gone back and watched his tape since the end of the season. Every scout I have talked to has warmed up to him after further study of the circumstances surrounding his days at K-Sttae. Freeman is more accurate than his statistics indicate due to a plethora of dropped passes through the years from every receiver not named Figurs or Jordy Nelson.
As for the Bucs, I had one member of the organization respond to my End Zone column back in February when I wrote: “If I’m Mark Dominik and I’m looking for a QB of the future, I re-sign veteran Luke McCown, draft K-State’s Josh Freeman and continue to develop Josh Johnson. Yes, the Bucs may take some lumps with such a young group, but a franchise QB should emerge from that trio.”
Their response was, “Makes a lot of sense to me. Give McCown the year to sink or swim and if he sinks, Freeman has been on the bench the entire year learning and adjusting to the NFL. Then he can get his shot in 2010. If McCown excels, then we have a situation like Cleveland with two good quarterbacks in Brady Quinn and Derek Anderson, or like San Diego had a couple years ago with Drew Brees and Philip Rivers.”
By the way, the Bucs have Freeman ranked ahead of USC QB Mark Sanchez, whom the team is not hot on at all. The feeling at One Buc Place is that Sanchez should not have come out after only one year as a starter. Tampa Bay also feels that Freeman has the most upside of any quarterback in the league and he is rising up draft boards.
Freeman won’t last until the second round. In fact, Freeman may not even be available at number 19 with the buzz he is creating from a good pro day workout and the K-State film that NFL scouts are further dissecting.
Based on my continuing film study and consultation with scouts around the NFL, I’ve changed my tune on Freeman. I think the scenario I laid out in my February End Zone column makes some sense and if the Bucs don’t go defensive line in the first round and opt for the Wildcats signal caller I couldn’t fault them.
And no, my praise for Freeman has nothing to do with me being a Wildcat alum. I would say the same thing if he was a damn Jayhawk. Hey, I’ve already warmed up to Aqib Talib, who went to KU.
FAB 3. Pewter Report has made no secret of the fact that it likes Northern Illinois defensive end Larry English, who is currently atop our seven-round Bucs mock draft. English has a quick burst of speed and power packed in a muscular, 6-foot-2, 255-pound frame that is capable of adding another 10 pounds to withstand the rigors of life in the NFL.
The Bucs like English too, along with several other defensive ends. Most of the more attractive ends, such as English, Penn State’s Aaron Maybin and Georgia Tech’s Michael Johnson, are better suited for the right side in the NFL due to their pass-rushing ability.
But the Bucs already have a right defensive end, Tampa Bay’s director of college scouting Dennis Hickey might argue. After all, the Bucs spent the fourth overall pick on Clemson defensive end Gaines Adams in 2007 and the premium defensive end position is on the right side, rushing the passer from the quarterback’s blind side.
I know some NFL directors of college scouting would bypass a player like English, Maybin or Johnson just because Adams is already on the roster. I hope Hickey is not one of those types because I think that approach is narrow-minded and foolish.
The reality is that Adams played both left and right defensive end in college and has done the same in Tampa Bay over the last two years. He starts off at right end on first and second downs and generally moves over to the left side on third-and-long situations or on obvious passing downs while G. Stylez White or Jimmy Wilkerson rush from the right end spot.
Personally, I think Adams is a better left defensive end than he is a right end. I think he plays the run better than he gets credit for and I like him matching up his speed against slower, less athletic right tackles than facing quicker, more athletic tackles when rushing from the right side.
Conventional wisdom says that high first-round picks like Adams need to match up against the left tackles and attack the quarterback’s blindside. That’s where Simeon Rice lined up during his career and that’s where Dwight Freeney lines up, right?
I say Hickey should buck the trend and look at what Julius Peppers has done rushing from the left side throughout most of his career in Carolina. Adams reminds me a lot of Peppers with his quick first step, his body type and his athleticism. I think Peppers is more physical, but Adams will toughen up if permanently parked on the left side.
I just don’t understand the pigeon-holing that some directors of college scouting do with players, especially first-round picks, and hope that Hickey does not subscribe to that theory. Take the case of Leonard Davis, who was drafted second overall by Arizona in 2001. The 6-foot-6, 355-pound Davis was a massive left tackle at the University of Texas, but couldn’t cut it there in the NFL. The Cardinals thought he was a bust just because he was a round peg that they tried to fit in a square hole.
Arizona didn’t put the franchise tag on him and allowed him to leave as a free agent two years ago. Dallas promptly signed him to a seven-year, $49.6 million contract that includes $18.75 million in guarantees. Oh, and by the way, Davis became a Pro Bowl guard for the Cowboys in 2007.
Who cares if Adams was drafted to be a right end? I think he can be just as successful on the left side as he could on the right. Personally, I don’t like matching up strength-versus-strength. I prefer matching up strength-versus-weakness. I don’t want a speedy, finesse pass rusher like Adams going against a speedy, finesse pass protecting left tackle. I want him rushing the passer against the mauling right tackle who is not a gifted pass protector. That’s where the sacks are going to come from. Then I want a more physical, attacking-type right end to beat the hell out of that quick, finesse left tackle.
Hickey would be wise to not pigeon hold Adams into a right end and not ignore some viable right end candidates that don’t have the versatility that Adams does to play either side of the line. He should be satisfied that Adams is not a bust and is a legit NFL starter and that the pick wasn’t blown. I believe Adams has the potential to be a double-digit sacker from the left end spot.
Now with the 19th pick, Hickey can go after a bookend with real pass rush ability and the skills to become a double-digit sacker from the right end position. I hope that’s the Bucs’ plan. Using a first-round pick on a lesser player like Tennessee’s Robert Ayers or LSU’s Tyson Jackson to play on the right side and stuff the run and mail in four sacks per year from that side is not getting good value for a premium draft pick.
FAB 4. I’m sorry but I can’t buy into the hype surrounding Tennessee defensive end Robert Ayers. I know he’s high on the radar of NFL Network’s draft guru Mike Mayock, but the lack of production in the sack department is quite scary for someone who is being touted as a first-round pick. If a team is drafting a defensive end in the first round, that player better be capable of rushing the passer with the potential of posting double digit sacks. Ayers is not that type of player.
In four years at Tennessee, including three as a starter, Ayers recorded only nine sacks. He posted one quarterback capture in both his freshman and sophomore seasons, followed by a career-high four sacks as a junior and just three in 2008 as a senior. In breaking down those sacks, his sack in 2005 as a freshman came against Mississippi. The next season as a sophomore, his lone sack came against Marshall. In 2007, Ayers’ four sacks came against Southern Miss, Arkansas State (two) and Wisconsin. During his senior year, he posted one sack against Mississippi State and two against Vanderbilt.
Where was the production against arch-rival Florida? How about against tougher foes like Alabama, Auburn and Georgia? It simply wasn’t there except for an interception and three tackles for loss against the Bulldogs.
To put Ayers’ nine sacks in perspective, keep in mind that real first-round-caliber defensive ends like Florida State’s Everette Brown (13.5 sacks), Penn State’s Aaron Maybin (12 sacks) and Texas’ Brian Orakpo (11.5) had more sacks during the 2008 season than Ayers had in his entire career. Even Cincinnati’s Connor Barwin, a converted tight end who played defensive end for the first time in his collegiate career, posted 11 sacks last year and was more impressive than Ayers was.
One other troubling note about Ayers is that he did not force a fumble during his Tennessee career. Teams expect sack-fumbles from right defensive ends that attack quarterbacks’ blindsides. Northern Illinois’ Larry English, who finished his career with 30.5 sacks, forced eight fumbles for the Huskies. Orakpo forced six at Texas, Brown forced five at Florida State and Maybin forced four.
One NFL scout I spoke with told me Ayers is a second-round pick because he lacks a quick first step off the ball and the speed to finish plays off. Another NFL scout told me that Ayers graded out as a third-round pick due to those same reasons and the stunning lack of sack production. Both scouts see Ayers as a left end in the NFL because of his lack of speed, which means he’ll have to make the transition to that side as he was primarily a right end at Tennessee.
And no, I don’t think these guys were engaging in any pre-draft smokescreens in an attempt to talk Ayers’ stock down so he falls to their particular teams.
If Tampa Bay were to pick Ayers, which I doubt they will, it will be wasting a premium pick on a 6-foot-3, 272-pound run stuffer with limited sack potential. If the Bucs want that type of player, they should just re-sign Kevin Carter.
FAB 5. Here are some things to hold you over until the next installment of SR’s Fab 5:
• Much to the surprise of many, Missouri defensive tackle Evander “Ziggy” Hood has appeared as the Bucs’ first-round pick in this week’s mock drafts by NFL.com’s Pat Kirwan and SI.com’s Don Banks. Hood is a good player, but he’s not a great player. He posted 14.5 sacks and 12.5 tackles for loss during his career at Missouri and has good size at 6-foot-3, 300 pounds. Hood plays with a passion, and that is a trait that general manager Mark Dominik, director of college scouting Dennis Hickey, head coach Raheem Morris and new defensive coordinator Jim Bates all look for in a player. I could see the Bucs making Hood their first pick in the draft – but only after trading down into the second round and acquiring extra picks. And I’m not sure they would draft Hood before Boston College’s Ron Brace, who Pewter Report has been talking about for months. The Bucs don’t have a second-round pick this year due to the Kellen Winslow trade, and that’s where Brace will likely be drafted. But Tampa Bay is bringing him in for a pre-draft visit nonetheless. The 6-foot-3, 336-pound run stuffer is definitely on the Bucs’ radar. Don’t be surprised if they try to make a play for him in the second round as he is an ideal fit in Bates’ new 4-3 defense. Hood would likely be a fall-back option in case the team can’t land Brace in the second round. I just don’t think the Bucs will spend a first-round pick on him at number 19 as Kirwan and Banks forecast. Hood is a solid defensive tackle – not a special one.
• One of the players the Bucs are debating in their pre-draft meetings is Ole Miss defensive tackle Peria Jerry, who ranks as the second defensive tackle behind Boston College’s B.J. Raji and ahead of Missouri’s Ziggy Hood. The 6-foot-2, 295-pound Jerry would have been an ideal fit in Monte Kiffin’s gap-penetrating 4-3 scheme as an under or over tackle playing the three-technique. But in Jim Bates’ new defense, which requires defensive tackles to play head up on guards and centers instead of in the gaps that might not be Jerry’s strong suit. The Bucs are going back over Jerry’s tape when he played nose tackle to evaluate his ability to anchor against the run. He certainly has the ability to push the pocket and has 11.5 career sacks, including seven as a senior. Jerry’s ability to disrupt is also evident by 33 career tackles for loss, including 18 in 2008. Although Jerry is not an ideal 6-foot-4, 310-pounder like Bates may prefer, the fact that he is similar in size to Bucs defensive tackle Chris Hovan and other undersized players that have played for Bates before tells me that he cannot be ruled out of Tampa Bay’s pick at number 19 in the first round – especially because the Bucs have a need at defensive tackle.
• Aside from wanting too much money for a lack of production, the reason why the Bucs did not re-sign defensive tackle Jovan Haye is because he’s undersized at 6-foot-2, 285 pounds. New defensive coordinator Jim Bates likes beefier defensive tackles, but he has made some exceptions and played smaller guys like Haye in the past. Here’s a list of the defensive tackles that have played for Bates before and their heights and weights.
Defensive tackles who played for Bates in Miami in 2000-04 Chidi Ahanotu 6-2, 283 Jeff Zgonina 6-2, 285 Josh Shaw 6-2, 290 Daryl Gardener 6-6, 295 Bryan Robinson 6-4, 305 Dario Romero 6-3, 305 Earnest Grant 6-5, 310 Larry Chester 6-2, 325 Mario Monds 6-3, 325 Jermaine Haley 6-4, 325 Tim Bowens 6-4, 325
Defensive tackles who played for Bates in Green Bay in 2005 Mike Montgomery 6-5, 276 Cullen Jenkins 6-3, 292 Kenny Peterson 6-3, 295 Corey Williams 6-4, 313 Colin Cole 6-1, 330 Grady Jackson 6-2, 345
Defensive tackles who played for Bates in Denver in 2007 Kenny Peterson 6-3, 295 Amon Gordon 6-2, 305 Alvin McKinley 6-3, 310 Marcus Thomas 6-3, 314 Antwon Burton 6-3, 315 Sam Adams 6-3, 325
Defensive tackles on Tampa Bay’s current roster Chris Hovan 6-2, 296 Ryan Sims 6-4, 315 Greg Peterson 6-5, 310 Dre Moore 6-4, 311 Jimmy Wilkerson 6-2, 290 (can also play DE) Chris Bradwell 6-4, 280
• Bucs signal caller Luke McCown was seen working out on the field with quarterbacks Greg Olson a couple times this week. McCown is absolutely jazzed about getting the opportunity to compete for the starting job after biding his time behind Jeff Garcia the past two years, and it’s showing. McCown cut his offseason family time in Texas short to hurry back to Tampa Bay to get a jump on learning the new offense in advance of the team workouts beginning at One Buccaneer Place.
• In case you missed it, multiple media reports have Maryland wide receiver Darius Hayward-Bey, Boston College defensive tackle Ron Brace, Georgia Tech defensive end Michael Johnson and Western Illinois linebacker Jason Williams all setting up pre-draft visits with the Buccaneers. All of those prospects should be on your radar based on previous coverage in Pewter Insider articles or in Pewter Report magazine. The lone exception would be Williams (right now), but Bucs linebackers coach Joe Barry is high on him and worked him out at his pro day last week. We learned of Tampa Bay’s interest in Williams last week and he is the Bucs’ fifth-round pick in Pewter Report’s revised seven-round Bucs mock draft in our March issue, which is currently in the mailstream to subscribers.
• If you know of any Tampa Bay fans who you think would enjoy Pewter Report (or whose Bucs knowledge could use our services!), have them e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for a free Pewter Report Bucs Draft Issue, which is our April issue. We want to get a sample copy of one of our most sought after editions into the hands of non-subscribers in an effort to grow our subscriber base. As many long-time PR subscribers have seen, when our business grows more benefits come your way. We’ve rebuilt our website (and stabilized it many times over with new, bigger and better servers to handle our traffic), we’ve added an additional beat writer in Charlie Campbell, our Pewter Report issues have gotten bigger (and hopefully better), we’ve added a video department and hosted Get2Gethers for training camp and the draft with our subscribers and other Bucs fans. So contact your friends and family members who are Bucs fans and tell them to e-mail their info (name, address and phone number) to Pewter Report and we’ll send them a complimentary copy of our Bucs Draft Preview for them to check out. Thanks in advance for helping out.
• And finally, just because the Bucs have moved training camp from Disney’s Wide World of Sports to One Buccaneer Place doesn’t mean the end of the annual Pewter Report Training Camp Get2Gether. It just means that we’ll have it in Tampa rather than Orlando. And speaking of Get2Gethers, the Third Annual Pewter Report Draft Party will be held once again at Champps at International Plaza in Tampa on Saturday, April 25 starting at 3:00 p.m. and will be sponsored by Budweiser. From 3:00-4:00 p.m. Jim Flynn, Charlie Campbell and yours truly will be on-hand to answer questions and dish out some last-minute inside scoop prior to the start of the draft. Subscriptions manager Kim Roper and advertising sales director Kimberly Winters will be on hand to do some Bucs trivia, giveaways and prizes after 4:00 p.m. (the Bucs will likely pick around 6:00 p.m. if they stay at No. 19 in the first round). We’ll have an official announcement on PewterReport.com this week. Hope to see you there.
Scott Reynolds is in his 25th year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds spent six years giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: email@example.com