SR’s Fab 5 is a collection of inside scoop, analysis and insight from yours truly, Pewter Report publisher and Bucs beat writer Scott Reynolds. Here are a few things that caught my attention this week at One Buc Place:
FAB 1. GLENNON TO GET A STRONG LOOK FROM BUCS IN 2014From what we’ve gathered from multiple Buccaneers sources it appears right now that the team believes it can win with second-year quarterback Mike Glennon. That doesn’t mean that Glennon will automatically be the starter or that the team won’t ultimately spend a first-round draft pick on a quarterback.
But as of right now, the Bucs believe that Glennon demonstrated enough last year in a rookie record-setting season, in which he threw for 2,608 yards, 19 touchdowns and nine interceptions while completing nearly 60 percent of his passes, to get a strong look to be Tampa Bay’s starting quarterback in 2014. So much so that the team may have him fill the role on the roster of the young, developmental QB and bring in a veteran to compete with him for the starting job this year.
That’s why there has been some buzz this week about the Bucs possibly showing interest in Philadelphia quarterback Michael Vick, which was first reported in last week’s SR’s Fab 5. I’ll have more on Vick later.
New Tampa Bay head coach Lovie Smith has been a bit ambivalent with regards to his beliefs on the quarterback position from his initial interviews with the media. He’s said that he wants an athlete at every position on one hand, but feels like he can win with a good – but not necessarily great – quarterback on the other.
“Definitely so, I think you need an athlete,” Smith said when asked if he wants a certain level of athleticism in a quarterback. “In an ideal world, you have an athlete at every position. Sometimes, you look at the pass-rusher on the other side. They’re athletic and they can run. So you need a guy who’s mobile enough to buy time and throw the ball or just to take off and run from time to time.
“Do I believe in a franchise quarterback? You’d have to explain [what] ‘franchise’ [means]. I believe you need to have a very good player at that position. Do I think you need a Hall of Fame guy to be able to win in the NFL? No. I think you can still win with a good quarterback.”
Glennon is not the type of quarterback that would be described as athletic, certainly not when that description best fits the likes of San Francisco’s Colin Kaepernick, Carolina’s Cam Newton and the Super Bowl-winning quarterback from Seattle, Russell Wilson. But at this stage of his development, he could be considered to be a good quarterback, perhaps in the class of Rex Grossman, who teamed with a great Bears defense to help Smith get to the Super Bowl in 2006.
“What I see and what I like from him a little bit is, first off, he’s a – I wouldn’t say prototype, he’s little bit taller than a prototype quarterback,” Smith said. “[He’s] just strong-armed, and he had great pocket presence to me. Mike won’t win a 10-yard sprint, probably – or maybe not a 40-yard sprint – but he can move around in the pocket enough, make smart decisions and there’s nothing like having that experience that he was able to get his rookie year.”
Smith, offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford and Buccaneers quarterbacks coach Marcus Arroyo all have seen enough on his rookie tape to determine that Glennon should be in the mix to start in 2014.
“We can see some tools, and there are some definite tools that he has that we are excited about, and some things that we can develop to fit our system for him, so that’s exciting,” Arroyo said. “Obviously at that position, there are a lot of things we look into pretty detailed, but you’re looking at the production, you’re looking at some of the things he does in the pocket. You’re looking at what kind of throw inventory he has, what kind of arm strength he has. What kind of accuracy short, what kind of accuracy long [does he have]? How did he do on third down? How does he do in the red zone? How does he do in critical situations? How does he do when he’s behind? The things that stick out in those situations that you see on tape are all promising. He stands in the pocket well. He delivers the ball. He has a long inventory of passes he can throw. He’s got a strong arm. He seems cerebral. I could go on.”
If Glennon could build on a solid rookie season and develop into a long-term starter in Tampa Bay, it might be unwise to waste a high draft pick on a quarterback, especially with the team having a myriad of needs elsewhere, and create a possibly unsettling QB controversy between two young signal callers. The better option, and perhaps the one the franchise is considering, would be to give Glennon the 2014 offseason, training camp and regular season to gauge his skill set in person in practices and games to conclude if he is the future at the position or not.
If he is, then the focus becomes fortifying the backup QB spot in 2015. If Glennon isn’t the future quarterback for the Buccaneers, then the team can turn to free agency, a trade, or the 2015 draft to find another quarterback. So essentially, the 2014 season might be a pass-fail endeavor for Glennon.
The reality is that picking seventh in the first round, the Bucs won’t likely have a shot at any of the top three junior quarterbacks, Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater, Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel and Central Florida’s Blake Bortles, and would have to settle for Fresno State’s Derek Carr, the fourth-rated QB prospect, if Tampa Bay were to select one with seventh overall pick. Every quarterback prospect has holes in their game this year, and there are no Andrew Lucks in this year’s class. That’s why Houston, which desperately needs a quarterback, might opt for South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney with the first overall pick.
There are some intriguing quarterback prospects for the Bucs outside of the first round, including Eastern Illinois’ Jimmy Garoppolo in the second round and South Carolina’s Connor Shaw in the later rounds. If former Bucs head coach Greg Schiano had not been fired, Glennon was going to be the clear-cut starter and the team was not going to draft a quarterback at all.
If the Bucs add Chicago’s Josh McCown or Vick in free agency, Smith and new general manager Jason Licht may decide against drafting a quarterback, too. Vick is an intriguing option for the Bucs as a short-term fix at the position due to his experience and his mobility.
The 6-foot, 215-pound Vick enters his 13th year in the NFL and has thrown for 21,489 yards with 128 touchdowns and 85 interceptions, while completing 56.2 percent of his passes. He’s also rushed for 5,857 yards and 36 touchdowns in his career, averaging 7.1 yards per carry.
Vick, who has demonstrated a newfound maturity in recent years, was a model teammate last year in Philadelphia even after losing his starting job to Nick Foles, so that element is attractive to Tampa Bay should Glennon beat out Vick for the right to start in 2014. But aside from accuracy woes – Vick hasn’t completed more than 60 percent of his passes in the last three years and has only accomplished that feat once in his career – there are also durability concerns.
In his 12-year career, Vick has only stayed healthy for 16 games just once. He’s missed 26 games over the past four seasons in Philadelphia due to injury, an average of nearly six games per year.
The possible Glennon-Vick combination would give Tedford and Arroyo an interesting mix of talent and contrasting styles to work with. It’s young vs. old. It’s inexperience vs. experience. It’s a pocket passer vs. a mobile QB. And it’s a combination that could come to fruition in 2014 as the team spends its draft picks to improve the weaponry on offense and bolster the defense.
FAB 2. EXTRA MINI-CAMP WILL BE CRITICAL FOR SEVERAL BUCCANEERSThe Buccaneers could give second-year quarterback Mike Glennon the 2014 season to prove he can be the right fit in offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford’s QB-driven scheme. Of course, that’s if Glennon makes a good first impression at the team’s mini-camp in April.
Because Tampa Bay has a new head coach in Lovie Smith, the team gets an extra mini-camp from the NFL with the purpose of the coaches being able to evaluate the athleticism on the current roster up close and personnel prior to the draft. Bucs tight ends coach Jon Embree stressed the importance of the extra mini-camp to PewterReport.com last week, and it’s worth repeating his quote.
“It’s critical,” Embree said. “It’s important that you have that because then you can go into the draft and it may change what you need. It may change the priority of what you are trying to get. You may say, ‘A guard in the first round’ and then go through mini-camp and say, ‘Shoot. We can wait until the sixth round to get one.’ Those things all go into the importance of that first mini-camp.”
If Glennon – or any Buccaneer player – bombs during the mini-camp, which is hard given the fact that it’s non-contact and does not involve shoulder pads, it could drastically alter the team’s draft plans. Glennon needs to be accurate and show some pocket presence and mobility, or Tampa Bay may start considering Fresno State quarterback Derek Carr with its first-round pick if he makes a bad impression.
Other Buccaneers that the new coaches will be anxious to see on the field in April are several players that spent some time on injured reserve last year with lower body injuries, including left guard Carl Nicks (toe), running back Mike James (ankle), wide receiver Mike Williams (hamstring), running back Jeff Demps (hamstring), tight end Luke Stocker (hip) and kicker Connor Barth (Achilles). The coaches and front office are also eager to observe some players that underwhelmed on film in 2013, including right guard Davin Joseph, left tackle Donald Penn, defensive end Da’Quan Bowers and cornerback Leonard Johnson.
Keep in mind that most NFL teams truly don’t know which player they will likely target in the first round until about two weeks prior to the draft. That’s when scouts and general managers begin doing mock drafts in earnest and draft boards really start taking final shape. With the 2014 NFL Draft getting pushed back two weeks to May 8-10, the Buccaneers should have three full weeks to evaluate the practice film from the initial mini-camp.
Last year, teams like Arizona, Buffalo, Chicago, Cleveland, Kansas City, Jacksonville and San Diego with new head coaches received an extra voluntary mini-camp on the weekend of April 16-18 from the NFL and saw the offseason program for those teams start on either April 1 or April 2, while the rest of the teams began their offseason programs on April 15 or April 22. Expect the Bucs to have that early start to the offseason around the start of April, and the benefit of an extra mini-camp due to the arrival of Smith.
FAB 3. GAROPPOLO COULD BE AN INTRIGUING PICK FOR BUCS IN ROUND 2If the Buccaneers want to go ahead and draft a quarterback to compete with Mike Glennon for the right to start in 2014 and beyond, there won’t be many intriguing options available. The reason is that the top three quarterbacks in 2014 – Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater, Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel and Central Florida’s Blake Bortles – will likely all be drafted in the top five picks.
LSU’s Zach Mettenberger and Georgia’s Aaron Murray are both coming off torn ACLs late in the college football season, and their availability for 2014 is uncertain. Both players figure to be mid-round picks along with Alabama’s A.J. McCarron and San Jose State’s David Fales. Murray, McCarron and Fales have questions about their arm strength, and some NFL talent evaluators think Clemson’s Tajh Boyd, who is viewed as a fifth-round prospect, is nothing more than a good college quarterback.
But there is one rising quarterback prospect that would be a good fit in Jeff Tedford’s QB-driven offense. Eastern Illinois quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, who was the MVP of the East-West Shrine Game and parlayed that success into a last-minute Senior Bowl invite, has seen his pre-draft stock rise from the third round to the second round this offseason.
The 6-foot-2, 219-pound Garoppolo completed 66 percent of his passes while throwing for 5,050 yards with 53 touchdowns and only nine interceptions as a senior. He outperformed Heisman Trophy finalist Jordan Lynch in a 43-39 loss to Northern Illinois, passing for 450 yards with six touchdowns a week after ripping Illinois State with 480 yards and seven touchdowns. Garoppolo was a four-year starter for the Panthers were passed for 13,156 yards with 118 touchdowns and 51 picks.
Garoppolo has to make the transition from being strictly a shotgun quarterback to a signal caller that can thrive under center in a pro-style offense. Former NFL coach Jerry Glanville coached Garoppolo at the East-West Shrine Game and didn’t try to put the Italian passer under too much pressure by making him operate from under center in St. Petersburg, Fla.
“We don’t try to do that this week,” Glanville said. “I try to let them go with what they’ve been doing so they can showcase themselves and make them look better. They’ll get that he can get done before the season starts. The offseason is where you can learn to take snaps under center. I think he’s a great prospect.”
Garoppolo did make a smoother than expected transition at the Senior Bowl the following week, but knows that he needs more repetitions prior to the NFL Scouting Combine and his pro day.
“What I need to work on right now is the three-, five- and seven-step drop for the pro-style offense,” Garoppolo said. “In our offense we were doing the Tom Brady style where it’s one step and throw out of shotgun. We had a couple of play-action passes, but not as many as a pro-style offense. Getting under center is a repetition thing. I’ve only been doing it for a couple of weeks now, but I already feel more comfortable with it. That’s the biggest thing I have to work on.”
Speaking of Brady, that’s Garoppolo’s idol.
“Tom Brady has perfected the craft,” Garoppolo said. “If you want to look at the perfect quarterback, that’s him. I try to model my game after him as much as possible. But I think I compare best to Aaron Rodgers. We both have quick releases and we are both athletic. We can make a lot of throws that a lot of guys can’t make because they aren’t athletic enough. Those two things really stand out to me.
“I’d much rather throw the ball for 50 yards than take it that way, but if an opening presents itself I’ll take it and slide down to avoid the hit. I’m athletic enough to scramble.”
While Brady and Rodgers are quarterbacks that Garoppolo aspires to be like, he has been hit with Tony Romo comparsions because he broke most of Romo’s passing records at Eastern Illinois.
“I’ve been hearing that for four years now,” Garoppolo said. “They are good comparisons. He’s a great quarterback in the NFL and well established with the Cowboys. He’s done great things at Eastern Illinois and great things in Dallas. It’s a good comparison because we are both from Eastern, so it’s fun. I’m honored to be mentioned in the same sentence with him.”
Garoppolo met with the Buccaneers at length in St. Petersburg during the East-West Shrine Game week, and would love to have the opportunity to be drafted by Tampa Bay and coached by Tedford.
“Jeff Tedford made Aaron Rodgers successful at Cal,” Garoppolo said. “He’s a very smart guy and runs a quarterback-friendly offense. There’s great weather in Tampa and I would love to go there. I’d never been to the Tampa Bay area before, but it was great when I was down there. I come from Chicago where it’s minus-10 in the winter. I would love the opportunity to learn from Coach Tedford.”
The chiseled Garoppolo is looking forward to the Combine where he hopes he can run in the 4.6 range in the 40-yard dash and show off his athleticism and futher improve his draft stock.
“I personally think the Combine is a good chance for me to separate myself from the other quarterbacks,” Garoppolo said. “Hopefully the 40-yard dash time is good and the shuttle times out well. That’s what I’m training hard for right now. I’d like to think I’m a pretty fast guy. We’ll see what happens.”
With the experience of being a four-year starter in college and getting to gauge his talent to those from FBS schools at the East-West Shrine Game and the Senior Bowl, Garoppolo feels like he can legitimately compete for the starting job as a rookie in Tampa Bay or elsewhere.
“With all of the offseason programs to help you, I think I can honestly step in next year to help a team,” Garoppolo said. “Obviously, I have to learn the playbook. Everything is new with that. I have to get the footwork down. It’s a big learning curve I’m going through to get adjusted to the speed of the game, but I think I’ll be successful. Getting adjusted to the speed of the game is a big thing. That’s a big thing that everyone is saying and it’s apparent from high school to college and from college to the pros. Everyone is fast at the NFL level, but I’m a fast learner.”
FAB 4. BUCCANEERS FOOTBALL IS A FAMILY AFFAIR FOR THE SMITHSLovie Smith has made his stint as the new Buccaneers head coach a true family affair by adding his oldest son, Mikal, 37, and his youngest son, Miles, 24, to the coaching staff. As for Smith’s other son, Matt, 27, he is his agent and helped negotiate the contract that brought him to Tampa Bay.
Mikal is Tampa Bay’s safeties coach, and this marks the second time the father and son duo have coached together. The father-son duo spent three seasons together in Chicago from 2010-12 with Mikal spending the first two years as a defensive quality control coach before being assigned to coach the team’s nickel cornerbacks in 2012. After Lovie was fired following the 2012 campaign, Mikal followed Rod Marinelli, who was the defensive coordinator, to Dallas to coach the Cowboys’ nickel backs.
While Mikal enters the fourth season working for his father, he says it’s all business around One Buccaneer Place.
“Yes, the head coach is my father, but I don’t go around the building calling him ‘Dad,’” Smith said. “We have a business relationship while we are in the office. I am obviously aware that he’s my father. I’m going to try as hard as I can to get along with anybody I work with, but it’s a little different when it’s your dad. Not just that, I’ve been learning football from my father since I started in sixth grade. He’s never changed. He’s always been the same way that you see him on tape or the same way you read about him. It’s a joy of knowing your boss like I know my boss, but we keep it professional when we’re here.”
Mikal, Smith’s son from a previous relationship, was adopted by Smith’s wife, MaryAnne, at the age of three and grew up idolizing his father. Coaching has always been in Smith’s blood, and he’s received some invaluable advice over the years.
“Dad always taught me that whatever you do, be detailed,” Smith said in an interview with the Chicago Tribune in 2007 shortly before being hired as a member of Chicago’s coaching staff. “Players respect guys with knowledge behind what they’re doing.”
Mikal Smith recalls attending three different elementary schools in an eight-month period growing up, and says that being raised in a football family hasn’t always been easy.
“When you grow up most coaches sons realize that the mood of the family for the week is predicated on if you’ve won or lost,” Smith said. “I would be mad at school if somebody said something bad about the team my dad was coaching. You want to help him win and you know what it meant when they won games because you saw the time and effort that he put into it. I can’t do it playing, but I can help him as a coach.
“As a son, I had a hard time with being on that staff that got my father fired at one point in time, and that was hard to handle. To be able to come down here and for us to reunite again and to get the wins that we’re going to get, I’m looking forward to it and I think he is, too.”
Smith, who overcame a brain tumor a few years ago, is excited that his youngest brother will be a fixture at One Buccaneer Place on a daily basis, too.
“My younger brother, Miles, is an intern here,” Smith said. “I told him the hardest thing to do is to go from calling him ‘Coach Smith’ to ‘Dad.’ I was calling him ‘Dad’ for 32 or 33 years before hand and then you have to switch to ‘Coach Smith.’ Then you go home, and it’s not ‘Coach Smith’ there, it’s ‘Dad.’ It takes a little getting used to. It’s a fun thing to have to deal with.
“We have a very close family. Miles is with us this year, but before it was just my two brothers and my mom at home. They were sharing in our pain together and our happy times together. Now the whole family is in this with the Bucs and it seems like we’re sharing more together. There are highs and lows, obviously, but we’re experiencing them together. Getting to work for my father – I can’t ask for anything else.”
FAB 5. Here are a few things to hold you over until the next edition of SR’s Fab 5:
• When PewterReport.com and the rest of the media got to meet with the Bucs’ new assistant coaches Tampa Bay quarterbacks coach Marcus Arroyo was undoubtedly one of the most popular interviews. Arroyo was asked about his thoughts regarding Mike Glennon, which I shared with you earlier in this edition of SR’s Fab 5, as well as what he and offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford are looking for in a quarterback.
“A lot of those things are the tangibles and intangibles that we feel can make a quarterback successful.” Arroyo said. “The ability to make good decisions. A good tough, smart, honest, accountable, dependable, hard-working guy who has some tools to make plays on the football field.
“When you put together exactly what those qualities are, identify who we have, who the free agents are, and who’s in the draft, I think will give us a better clue moving forward. I can’t sit here and say that there’s one guy who’s in this draft, or an unrestricted agent that we can add to the process right now, without being really set on who those guys are on and off the field. I think it’s too soon for us to tell. Obviously sitting down with them in the interviews are a real vital part of this position.”
• Eastern Illinois’ Jimmy Garoppolo is one of those quarterbacks that came across very well in interviews. The charismatic and well-spoken Garoppolo made a strong impression on me at both the East-West Shrine Game and the Senior Bowl when I asked him to describe himself.
“I’m a passionate, hard-working, tough-nosed guy,” Garoppolo said. “I was raised in a blue-collar family. That’s all I know. I’ve never had the fancy stuff in life or the silver spoon, nor do I want it. I’m one of those guys that like to be the first one in and the last one out of the building. That builds your leadership as a quarterback. That’s your job – to be a leader – on and off the field as a quarterback.”
Good stuff, Jimmy. It will be interesting to see which team takes this kid and how well he fares in the NFL.
• Another quarterback that expects to do well in the physical tests at the NFL Scouting Combine later this month is Fresno State’s Derek Carr, who was the Bucs’ first-round draft pick in PewterReport.com’s first mock draft of the year. Carr is excited to show off his athleticism in Indianapolis.
“I ran track in high school,” Carr said. “I consider myself mobile and I can run, but I’m going to beat you throwing the football. That’s how you win Super Bowls. You win from the pocket. That’s how the game is played in my eyes for whatever’s that worth.”
• It was great to see Tampa Bay’s iconic linebacker Derrick Brooks get elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame last Saturday, although it was a bit anti-climatic as he was considered to be a consensus first-ballot selection. There’s not much more I can add to Brooks’ legend other than to say that I consider him to be the greatest Buccaneer of all time.
No other Buccaneer is even close. Not even Hall of Famers Warren Sapp and Lee Roy Selmon who are second and third in Tampa Bay history behind Brooks in my opinion.
Brooks went to a franchise-record 11 Pro Bowls and was a nine-time All-Pro. He was the 2000 Walter Payton Man of the Year, a Super Bowl champion in 2002, in addition to being the AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year that season. Brooks was the MVP of the Pro Bowl in 2005 and was named to the NFL’s 2000s All-Decade Team.
Brooks, who is a co-owner and president of the Tampa Bay Storm Arena Football League team, has logged the second-most consecutive starts for a linebacker in NFL history (215) behind Washington’s London Fletcher. No other weakside linebacker has started more consecutive games than Brooks has. The former first-round pick in 1995 has played in 224 games, which is tied for 15th most in NFL history.
For 14 wonderful years Brooks, who was known as “The Don” for his leadership style at One Buccaneer Place, brought excellence to Tampa Bay. Now he’s bringing it to Canton, Ohio.
• Congratulations are in order for former Bucs defensive end Michael Bennett, who won a Super Bowl with Seattle last Sunday. Bennett also made the cover of Sports Illustrated as the Seahawks defense dismantled the Broncos offense in the team’s lopsided, 43-8 victory.
If you want to know how Seattle head coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider built a Super Bowl team, I strongly encourage you to check out this ESPN The Magazine story on the Seahawks, which was written prior to the start of the 2013 season. It’s an excellent read.
• One final note. Be sure to visit PewterReport.com on Monday for a new version of the 2014 Bucs 7-Round Mock Draft. Lots of changes in this mock draft from the first one.
Scott Reynolds is in his 23rd 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 enjoys 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 protected]
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