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Here are five things that caught my interest this week:
FAB 1. In the wake of Clifton Smith’s costly fumble inside the last minute of Tampa Bay’s 16-13 loss to Washington it seems obvious that he should be replaced as the team’s halfback in the two-minute offense. Smith earned the job for his receiving ability and his elusiveness in the open field, but after recording the fifth fumble of his young NFL career that isn’t even a full 16 games old yet, he needs to concentrate on special teams and getting back to his Pro Bowl form as a return man.
The player that should replace Smith in the two-minute drill is the team’s most productive player on offense – Cadillac Williams. Lost in the fact that Williams is back to his 2005 form running the ball, leading the team with 191 yards and one touchdown on 38 carries (5.0 avg.), is the fact that he has been exceptional when catching the ball this season. Williams is second on the Buccaneers in receptions with 12 catches for 81 yards and a touchdown.
Williams struggled catching swing passes out of the backfield during his first two seasons in the NFL, which landed him in Jon Gruden’s doghouse on third downs. Williams was only used on first and second downs, or in third-and-short situations as he replaced by Michael Pittman because Williams wasn’t trusted to catch the ball.
However, since his return from a torn patellar tendon injury in 2007, Williams has not dropped a single pass. He hauled in seven catches for 43 yards last year, including a tremendous 25-yard gain against Oakland, which was his career-long. Williams’ numbers this year are even better and he is proving to be a reliable weapon in the passing game.
“Catching the ball is something that has never been a problem for me, although it’s been broadcast as one in the media as one of my weaknesses,” Williams said. “I’ve never felt like it’s been a problem for me. It’s something that I have improved on since I’ve been here. I’ve always felt like I’ve had good hands, but there were times in the past where I’ve been anxious in trying to make a play and I’ve tried to run without the ball and that’s where a lot of my drops have come.”
Williams admitted that he was in Gruden’s doghouse for his drops in his first two years in the league, and is grateful that new offensive coordinator Greg Olson is more open-minded to his abilities.
“I have always felt like I’m a total package as a running back,” Williams said. “Under Coach Gruden, I didn’t get the chance to show my blocking ability and my catching ability. In Coach Olson’s offense, he’s not just handing me the ball. He’s giving me a fair chance to block and catch, too. I’m enjoying it.”
On Wednesday, Olson said he does have the confidence in Williams’ catching ability and has no problem involving him in the passing game.
“When I came in the reputation was that he was not a real natural pass catcher,” Olson said. “I haven’t noticed that since I’ve been here. I felt like he’s always caught the ball well and he has a pretty good feel about settling in zones and understanding coverages and knowing where the holes are. He’s as good a running back as you’ll see around the league as a pass-catcher.”
Bucs head coach Raheem Morris saw Williams struggle to catch the ball as a rookie and into 2006, but noticed how hard he worked on developing his receiving skills.
“The guy is on the JUGGs machine every day,” Morris said. “The guy is working as hard as you can work.” … “He’s worked on his route-running. He’s worked on everything. He kind of took the knock that he couldn’t do it and just made it a strength of his.”
Williams has already eclipsed his receiving yardage output from his rookie season in 2005 when he caught 20 passes for 80 yards. His best year as a receiver came in 2006 when he recorded 30 catches for 196 yards. Williams is on pace to catch 48 passes for 324 yards this year.
His receiving skills have evolved to the point where Williams is no longer just a threat to catch swing passes in the flat as an outlet receiver. He is becoming well versed at running routes downfield, evidenced by his 25-yard catch-and-run over the middle on a circle last year out of the backfield against Oakland. At Buffalo, Williams ran the same type of route when he hauled in an 8-yard touchdown pass from Byron Leftwich for his first receiving score in the NFL.â€¨
“That was exciting, man,” Williams said. “That was my first receiving touchdown since college. That was definitely an exciting moment for me. It was a big-time play in the game that gave us a chance right before the half to get closer. But at the same time, I’m left with a sour taste because we had a chance to win that game and we just didn’t get it done. When the game was 20-14 in the third quarter and we have those three-and-outs, to me, the great offensive teams have to step up and make plays and get some kind of points or change the field position. We had our defense out there entirely too long.”
The same fate befell Williams and the Bucs last week at Washington. Despite having a 10-0 lead over the Redskins, Tampa Bay’s offense had a turnover and went three-and-out twice in the third quarter. Williams was only able to get four carries for eight yards before turning up the production in the fourth quarter.
On Tampa Bay’s fourth quarter field goal drive, Williams was the workhorse as a runner and a receiver. The Bucs’ first-round pick in 2005 moved the chains with a pair of 5-yard catches before hauling in a 6-yard reception and rushing for seven yards. Williams picked up eight yards to get another first down, and his 17-yard run set up Tampa Bay with a first-and-goal at the Washington 7. However, the Bucs drive would stall and they would have to settle for a field goal.
“As a competitor, a pro and a winner, you can’t be satisfied with what we’re doing as an offense,” Williams said. “In crunch time when it’s time to move the ball and score, we haven’t always been able to do that. We haven’t gotten it done. We have some things going that we can build on, but when the critical times come, we have to make those plays.”
After picking up 38 of Tampa Bay’s 48 yards on their field goal drive and finishing with 99 yards of total offense, Williams was on the sidelines during the team’s two-minute drive, watching Smith fumble away a chance to tie or win the game.
“Clifton Smith presents some different problems [for defenses in the two-minute offense],” Olson said. “Of that group of running backs, he’s probably the best at fulfilling that role, but there’s not such a drastic drop off with Cadillac that he shouldn’t be in there.
“We’re going to get him more involved, and that’s on me. Clifton has been our guy because he’s been a threat as a wide receiver and often times in those situations the back gets out and he’s involved with that. He’s been our guy going back to last year. Cadillac has proven that he understands the pass protections and he’s a real solid pass protector and he’s really developed as a receiver. We went into the season with the mentality of ‘Let’s work Cadillac in, maybe we can rotate him in’ but as good as he’s looked here early on in the season I think it’s time that we become more committed to Cadillac Williams as a full-time guy.”
It’s clear that Cadillac Williams is catching on to all phases of the Bucs offense – pun intended. It’s time that the Bucs include him in all phases of the game, including the two-minute offense, and let him become Tampa Bay’s feature back. He’s earned it.
FAB 2. The Buccaneers have been getting a terrible return on their investment at the skill positions this year. General manager Mark Dominik’s decision to franchise wide receiver Antonio Bryant, trade for tight end Kellen Winslow and re-sign Michael Clayton would all look better with more credible quarterback play, but with Josh Johnson currently at the helm and rookie Josh Freeman in waiting for later on this season, don’t look for that to happen.
The most telling aspect of the play of most young quarterbacks is accuracy, or lack thereof. In Johnson’s five quarters of NFL action, which encompasses his lone series against New York and his first career start at Washington, he has completed 17-of-32 passes (53.1 percent) for 142 yards with one touchdown and one interception. However, veteran Byron Leftwich wasn’t much more accurate, completing just 54.2 percent of his throws with four touchdowns and three interceptions in his three starts in Tampa Bay.
When quarterbacks are completing a combined 53.6 percent of their throws through four games that is bound to hurt the production of the team’s receivers and tight ends, and it has.
Winslow is the Bucs’ leading receiver, but has caught only 17 passes for 155 yards and two touchdowns. While he is capable of becoming a 1,000-yard receiving tight end, he is only on pace to finish with 620 yards on the year. That’s not a lot of production for Winslow considering the fact that he is earning $5,171,560 this year.
Tampa Bay’s top tight end has virtually disappeared from the offense and is not talking to the media – a possible sign that Winslow is unhappy with the way things are going in Tampa Bay right now. Who can blame him? The team is 0-4.
After starting the season with touchdowns in the first two games, and 90 yards receiving at Buffalo, Winslow caught three passes for 14 yards last week against New York and had just two catches for 21 yards at Washington. With five catches for 35 yards over the last two games, the Bucs are getting a horrible return on their investment from the league’s highest-paid tight end.
Isn’t the tight end considered to be a young quarterback’s best friend? One would think that Johnson would have been looking Winslow’s way with greater regularity last Sunday.
Winslow has not caught every pass thrown his way as he did have a key drop on fourth down against Dallas, which hurts his production somewhat, but not near as much as drops have hurt Clayton’s production. Despite signing the Bucs’ first-round pick in 2004 to a five-year deal worth nearly $26 million in the offseason, Clayton is still dropping passes despite the pay increase.
In fact, he’s earning a jaw-dropping $8,102,080 in salary this year – all for seven catches for 120 yards through the first four games of 2009. If you are disgusted by that and sick to your stomach, imagine how Dominik and the Glazers feel.
What’s the term? Oh, yeah … buyer’s remorse.
Bucs head coach Raheem Morris dared for anyone in the media to write about why Tampa Bay re-signed Clayton after opening day when he had four catches for 97 yards against Dallas. Well, Rah, I’ll take that dare.
I don’t care how good of a blocker Clayton is. He has to catch the football. It’s the primary job description of a wide receiver. Clayton shouldn’t be leading the NFC in drops, which he is by the way.
That’s right. According to Stats, Inc., Clayton has an NFC-high four drops through four games, which is ridiculous considering he only has seven catches. Clayton ranks second in the NFL behind Pittsburgh’s Santonio Holmes, who has five catches.
Clayton doesn’t have any excuses this year. He’s not hurt and there’s no more Jon Gruden doghouse to blame. I stood in the same media huddle with Clayton as the Tampa Tribune did on Monday when it gathered the information for its story on the butterfingered wide receiver, but couldn’t bring myself to finish transcribing the interview. I won’t play a role in facilitating Clayton’s excuses to the Bucs’ fan base.
“I’ve got to get more opportunities,” said Bucs wide receiver Michael Clayton. “I’m a guy that can help this team win. We’ve got to get our players the ball. Everybody needs more opportunities.”
More opportunities to do what, drop the football? Clayton doesn’t need more opportunities. He needs to make the ones he has count. That’s how players earn more opportunities, and thus far, Clayton has done nothing to earn them – or his big paycheck outside of the Dallas game.
I am much more sympathetic to Bryant, who has been hampered by a knee injury this season. His production is not even close to what it needs to be as Tampa Bay’s primary receiver, but some of that can be attributed to the fact that he missed the Buffalo game with inflammation in his knee.
Still, Bryant has a measly seven catches for 79 yards and a touchdown, which is barely better than third-string rookie receiver Sammie Stroughter, who has seven catches for 68 yards. At this pace, Bryant will barely crest 400 receiving yards on the season, which would severely hamper his chances for the lucrative contract extension he is seeking.
That’s not going to make Bryant a happy camper come November and December as the season winds down unless the Bucs’ best playmaker starts getting the ball more often. Dominik used the franchise tag on Bryant last spring, giving him a one-year contract worth $9,885,560 this season.
As tempting as it would be to not let the team’s top receiver leave in free agency in 2010, if Bryant doesn’t have a 1,000-yard season – even if it was due to sub-standard quarterback play – it will be hard for Dominik to sell the notion of paying him over $10 million per season with another franchise tag to Bucs fans, much less the Glazers. Yet if Bryant walks, Dominik and the Bucs are left with Clayton and Stroughter as an in-house answer (Maurice Stovall is slated for free agency and the jury is still out on him, too), which isn’t saying much.
Consider that tight end Jerramy Stevens has comparable numbers to Bryant and Clayton and comes at a fraction of the price as he is making $2,022,080 this year. Based on his salary and production, he’s the best value among the top four receiving options in the passing game. Stevens has had a couple dropped passes this year, but has hauled in eight catches for 71 yards and a one-handed touchdown grab at Buffalo.
Bucs fans have a right to bemoan the fact that the top four receiving targets in the passing game have a combined 39 catches for 425 yards and four touchdowns. That’s a sad average of almost 10 catches for 106 yards per game for this talented quartet.
By comparison, New York Giants receiver Steve Smith has 34 catches for 411 yards and four scores by himself this season.
Dominik deserves criticism for the lack of return on the team’s combined $25,181,280 investment in Winslow, Clayton, Bryant and Stevens thus far in 2009. That’s an awful lot of money for an unproductive quartet of receivers. But there is two ways to look at it.
Good offensive talent is essentially underachieving and being wasted because of a quarterback stable that can’t collectively complete more than 60 percent of its passes. Yet, at the same time, it’s good that young quarterbacks like Johnson and Freeman have such credible receivers to throw to.
Trent Dilfer wasn’t as lucky back in the mid- to late-1990s with the likes of Reidel Anthony, Jacquez Green, Dave Moore and Patrick Hape to work with.
Dominik can’t be directly faulted for the fact that his QBs can’t complete more than 60 percent of their passes because he’s not out there throwing the ball. However, he is the guy that is in charge of acquiring the team’s quarterbacks, so there is some definite culpability there.
I know Bucs fans were concerned with the fact that their team only spent $449 million from 2004-08, which ranked dead last in the NFL in terms of actual cash spent on salaries. They want to see the team spend more money, but they want to see the money spent wisely, too. Given the production – or lack thereof – it’s hard to say that it was through four games. We’ll see how the next 12 games unfold.
FAB 3. Here are some of the observations I had from watching the game tape of the Bucs-Redskins game this week:
• Credit Tampa Bay strong safety Sabby Piscitelli’s tight man coverage on Washington running back Clinton Portis on the Redskins’ second play that greatly contributed to Gaines Adams’ sack. Quarterback Jason Campbell wanted to throw to Portis on a wheel route down the right sidlelines, but Piscitelli had him blanketed and that allowed time for Adams to close in on the sack. Piscitelli needs to become a better fundamental tackler and must refrain from peeking into the backfield and reading the quarterback’s eyes, especially in man-coverage. Yet his coverage was quite good on Sunday.
• With 5:16 left in the first quarter, Washington was forced to punt out of its own end zone. Bucs linebacker Adam Hayward had a great jump off the line of scrimmage and would have blocked the punt right up the middle if not for a blatant hold by Redskins long snapper Ethan Albright. Hayward achieved great inside leverage on Albright’s left shoulder before being tackled by the long snapper. Unfortunately for Tampa Bay, there was no holding call on the play.
• The Bucs aren’t running the zone-blocking scheme on every play. In fact, against Washington it seemed like Tampa Bay was only running the scheme maybe two-thirds of the time. Under new offensive coordinator Greg Olson, the team is going back to some of its power running plays that worked so well last year. With 5:10 left in the first quarter, both guards Davin Joseph and Jeremy Zuttah did a great job of getting to the second level as Cadillac Williams dashed for an 8-yard gain on first down. Zuttah posted 64 off the ball and transferred him to center Sean Mahan and then attacked the Redskins linebacker. What we haven’t seen yet are some of those off tackle runs to the run behind Joseph and Jeremy Trueblood – probably because the team doesn’t have Arron Sears, who was a tremendous pulling guard for Tampa Bay.
• The play of Tampa Bay defensive end Gaines Adams was even more impressive the second time around watching it on tape. In having the chance to isolate on him on every play with video, Adams had some fantastic rushes, showed a lot of confidence and played phycial football throughout the entire game. Playing hard and physical for 60 minutes was what impressed me the most. With 7:05 left in the second quarter, Adams quickly and easily shed tight end Fred Davis to make a physical, form tackle on Redskins running back Clinton Portis.
• Young linebackers Quincy Black and Geno Hayes fired their guns on Sunday. That’s the expression Joe Barry likes to use. When you’ve got the moving target in your sights – don’t hesitate. Fire your gun. Hayes has been firing his gun over the last couple weeks and was extremely effective in knifing through the line and recording a couple tackles for loss. On Sunday, Quincy Black showed up in a big way, recording a career-high six tackles, a tackle for loss, a quarterback hurry and his first NFL sack, which came when he was spying quarterback Jason Campbell with 4:42 left in the second quarter. Campbell extracted some revenge on Black later as he beat him to the corner on a 13-yard scramble on third-and-12 on a key touchdown drive. Black came back and made a key tackle on running back Clinton Portis on third down at the 2:00 warning in the fourth quarter to set up forth-and-1 and allow Tampa Bay to get the ball back. Black and Hayes played with a lot of confidence and that’s what Barry and the Bucs coaching staff want to see.
• All of cornerback Aqib Talib’s interceptions were dramatic in nature, showcasing the incredible hands that made him Tampa Bay’s number one pick last year. One of these seasons Talib is going to have 10 picks. With three interceptions through four games, Talib is on pace to do it this year. The thing that was reconfirmed to me when I saw Talib on Sunday was that while he has good speed, he doesn’t have good closing speed. He doesn’t have that burst or that extra gear to catch up to a speedy receiver like Santana Moss. Talib can hang with most receivers off the line and down the field, but if he bites on a move, a speed receiver will have some cushion on Talib and he probably can’t recover. We saw that on Moss’ touchdown.
• Ryan Sims outplayed Albert Haynesworth on Sunday. That’s not a misprint. Sims had five tackles, two tackles for loss and two QB pressures against Washington while Haynesworth was invisible and didn’t even record a tackle. In fact, Haynesworth, who was banged up heading into the game, has just nine tackles and one sack in four games this year. Meanwhile, Sims has 17 tackles, 2 tackles for loss and 3 QB pressures through four games. What’s the difference between the two? Oh, reputation and about $92 million. Sims signed for four years at $8 million. Haynesworth is set to make $100 million over seven years. I’m not saying Sims is as good of a player as Haynesworth is, but on Sunday and through the first four games of the season – Sims is playing better than Haynesworth is. With 13:00 left in third quarter, Sims sniffed out a screen to tight end Chris Cooley and caught him from behind after a 3-yard gain. Sims also teamed with linebacker Quincy Black to stop tight end Fred Davis on tight end screen for 2-yard loss with 5:15 left in the third quarter. Sims had three tackles in third quarter along with a tackle for a loss and was dominant after halftime.
• I was not that impressed with quarterback Josh Johnson, who completed 53 percent of his passes against Washington in his first NFL start. I saw the things that made him the team’s fourth string quarterback. Outside of the touchdown pass to wide receiver Antonio Bryant, I saw Johnson overthrow receivers, look indecisive, struggle to find open receivers, throw an interception, and almost throw a pick-6 to cornerback Carlos Rodgers before halftime. I didn’t see a lot of real promise from Johnson, who was blitzed heavily in the first half and then rarely blitzed in the second half. After halftime, Washington played a ton of zone coverage and rushed only three or four linemen, which took away the scrambling lanes and forced Johnson to use his arm to beat the Redskins as a quarterback. He didn’t get it done. Washington’s defense was not the toughest defense Johnson will go against and I think he’ll really struggle in Philly against Sean McDermott’s blitzing scheme. The Eagles will blitz their corners to keep Johnson in the pocket and force quick throws. I hate to say it, but I think if Byron Leftwich or Luke McCown was the QB on Sunday that the Bucs would be 1-3 right now. Johnson did not move the team outside of one drive. He stunk on third downs, and most them were manageable third-and-3 or third-and-5 situations. I can’t see him faring any better this week against Philadelphia.
• The question I have about the Tampa Bay defense after watching it record three sacks, notch four takeaways and hold Washington to 277 yards is have the Buccaneers actually improved or did they just show up against a winnable opponent that has less talent than a team like the New York Giants possess? In other words, was Sunday’s defensive effort a sign of things to come or will it revert back to its form when it goes against a more talented team along the lines of the Giants when it travels north to play the Eagles on Sunday?
FAB 4. Bucs general manager Mark Dominik desperately wants to upgrade the team’s talent through next year’s draft. The problem is that the Bucs only have one pick in each of the first three premium rounds, and have several pressing needs.
With the NFL trade deadline approaching in two weeks, Dominik doesn’t have many players with trade value to increase the team’s warchest for draft day. The ones that do have trade value are the ones he probably wants to keep.
The Buccaneers have obvious needs along the defensive line and I’ve been touting Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh since June. If playmaking junior safety Eric Berry is available, it may hard to pass up the possible second coming of Ed Reed, especially with Monte Kiffin’s blessing.
What we’ve seen through the first four games of the 2009 season is also the pressing need at wide receiver. A legitimate case could be made for the selection of Oklahoma State junior Dez Bryant if he enters the draft early due to the fact that he’s been declared ineligible, or Minnesota’s Eric Decker due to the lack of playmaking ability at wide receiver outside of Antonio Bryant. Michael Clayton has vanished as a pass-catcher, not recording a single catch over the last two games and having two big drops, including a dropped touchdown against New York and a key third-down drop at Washington.
If you are curious, here’s where the Bucs stand in terms of their 2010 NFL Draft selections:
Round 1 – Buccaneers
Round 2 – Buccaneers
Round 3 – Buccaneers
Round 4 – Buccaneers
Round 5 – Patriots (Alex Smith trade)
Round 5 or 6 – Jaguars (conditional pick for Luke McCown – although not official)
Round 6 – Buccaneers
Round 7 – Buccaneers
Round 7 – Baltimore (Marques Douglas trade)
Tampa Bay is excited about the draft because it is perceived to be a deep one at two trouble spots on the team – defensive tackle and cornerback. The Bucs need pass rushers, but it’s extremely thin at defensive end unless some juniors declare. However, there are a couple defensive tackles that can really get to the quarterback – namely Suh and Louisiana Tech’s D’Anthony Smith.
If you are interested in doing some couch scouting of the nation’s top pass rushing draft prospects, this week is a good one to tune into the television. Here’s what is on tap:
• On Thursday on ESPN at 9:00 p.m. ET, Nebraska visits Missouri where Suh gets a chance to add to his two sacks this season against the Tigers’ pass-happy offense. Suh had 7.5 sacks last year and is a top 10 talent. The Bucs love the 6-foot-4, 300-pounder.
• On Friday on ESPN at 9:00 p.m. ET, Louisiana Tech travels to Nevada where Smith, a player I am quite high on, will get several opportunities to rush the passer. In last week’s Louisiana Tech win over Hawaii, the 6-foot-2, 300-pound Smith had his first two sacks of the season. He posted six as a junior in 2008.
• On Saturday on ESPN’s regional coverage at 12:30 p.m. ET, South Carolina hosts Kentucky. Senior defensive end/linebacker Eric Norwood has six sacks on the season as part of his school-record 28 QB takedowns throughout his career. Norwood is coming off another dominating performance in the Gamecocks’ win over South Carolina State in which he blocked a field goal and recorded his second interception of the season.
• On Saturday at 3:30 p.m. ET on ABC, UConn squares off against Pittsburgh. Senior defensive end Lindsey Witten has eight sacks in four games for the Huskies, while Pitt’s junior defensive end, Greg Romeus, has six sacks on the year, including three in last week’s win at Louisville.
• On Saturday at 7:30 p.m. ET on CBS College Sports, TCU travels to Air Force to take on the Falcons. Horned Frogs defensive end Jerry Hughes has 31.5 career sacks, including six this season. His opportunities against rush-happy Air Force will be limited, but it will test the undersized Hughes’ ability to defend the run.
• On Saturday at 8:00 p.m. ET on CBS, top-ranked Florida travels to LSU to battle the fourth-ranked Tigers. Junior defensive end Carlos Dunlap has two sacks on the season for the Gators and will see plenty of snaps against LSU’s All-American left tackle Ciron Black.
You can bet Tampa Bay director of college scouting Dennis Hickey and his scouts will either be in attendance or reviewing the film of these games next week.
FAB 5. Here are some things to hold you over until the next installment of SR’s Fab 5:
• If you are looking for bright spots – and I mean really looking for bright spots – on the Buccaneers consider that Sunday’s loss at Washington will help Tampa Bay on draft day. The Redskins are a bad team with their only two wins coming against winless St. Louis and Tampa Bay by a combined five points. The guess here is that Washington will be among the bottom 10 teams in the league when the 2009 regular season concludes, but at least they will probably be behind the Bucs in draft order. Are we really talking a lot about the draft in October? After a 0-4 start, why not?
• History says that Tampa Bay head coach Raheem Morris and the Buccaneers are in for a long, tough road this year after starting off 0-4. Tampa Bay has begun its season 0-4 eight times in franchise history – 1976, 1977, 1983, 1985, 1991, 1996, 2004 and 2006. The most wins a 0-4 start produced in any of those seasons was six, which occurred in 1996 during Tony Dungy’s first year. John McKay’s Bucs finished 0-14 and 2-12 from 1976-77 and 2-12 in ’83. Leeman Bennett’s Bucs went 2-14 in ’85, while Richard Williamson’s Tampa Bay team went 3-13 in ’91. Jon Gruden’s Buccaneers went 5-11 in 2004 and 4-12 in 2006.
• It always seems like unheralded players or slumping high-profile players have breakout games against the Buccaneers. Vinny Testaverde came off the couch to beat the Bucs as a New York Jet in 2005. Reggie Bush scored his first NFL TD against Tampa Bay in 2006. Keyshawn Johnson returned to Tampa Bay and scored two touchdowns as a Panther at Raymond James Stadium that same year. Backup quarterback Sage Rosenfels helped Houston upset the Bucs in 2007. Detroit rookie receiver Calvin Johnson scored his first NFL touchdown against Tampa Bay in 2006. In 2008, Brad Johnson stepped in for Tony Romo and beat the Bucs, throwing a critical touchdown pass to Roy Williams, whose only TD catch of the year in Dallas came against Tampa Bay. Terrell Owens scored his first touchdown in Buffalo against Tampa Bay in 2009. Fred Jackson rushed for over 200 yards against Tampa Bay in that same game. I would not be shocked this week if Michael Vick scores a rushing touchdown on the Bucs on a highlight-reel run. As if facing Donovan McNabb coming off an injury wasn’t enough, Tampa Bay’s young defense will have to do some extra game-planning for Vick and the Wildcat offense, too. Vick hasn’t had any impact plays to put into ESPN’s 24-hour highlight reel loop and you just know he is due. As if losing to the Eagles and dropping to 0-5 isn’t bad enough, the embarrassment of an incredible Vick touchdown highlight playing on ESPN ad nauseum will likely infuriate Bucs fans come Monday. I hope it doesn’t happen, but history suggests it might.
• The Buccaneers re-signed defensive end Maurice Evans today for depth reasons with rookie Kyle Moore still hampered by his torn meniscus in his knee. I would have preferred that the Bucs sign Louis Holmes, who was the leading pass rusher during the preseason, but there must be something negative about him on or off the field because after a very good preseason he hasn’t even landed on an NFL team’s practice squad. The Bucs inquired about veteran defensive end Travis LaBoy, who is an unrestricted free agent, but he had elective surgery and is out for the year. LaBoy is undersized at 6-foot-3, 250 pounds, but has 23.5 sacks in his six-year NFL career. That’s more than any defensive lineman in Tampa Bay, including 10-year veteran Chris Hovan. LaBoy, who has a high motor, had 19.5 sacks in his four years in Tennessee before playing for Arizona last year where he recorded four sacks. He had a career-high 6.5 sacks in 2005 and came close to matching that in 2007 when he posted eight for the Titans. His stint in Arizona ended after only one season as he tore his biceps. Keep an eye on him in the offseason as the Bucs remain interested in LaBoy.