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. THIS PRESEASON IS ALL ABOUT GLENNONIf you listened to Tampa Bay area sports talk radio this week or visited the PewterReport.com message boards you were probably engulfed in the fervor and angst over Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman not playing enough in the preseason thus far. Through two games, Freeman has been sacked four times in four offensive series, which has limited the number of snaps he’s played and the offense’s production.
Freeman has completed just 6-of-10 passes for 42 yards and the Bucs have gone three-and-out three times in his four series. Tampa Bay head coach Greg Schiano should have adjusted the script in New England after the offense went three-and-out twice in the first quarter and given Freeman and the starters one more series before switching gears to backup quarterback Mike Glennon and the second unit, but that didn’t happen.
Schiano knows that Freeman and the starters will play the first half of the team’s third preseason game, which will take place on Saturday in Miami, and perhaps into the third quarter. But the goal this preseason is not to showcase Freeman and play him an awful lot in meaningless games.
Schiano and offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan know what Freeman can do. They saw him become the first Buccaneers quarterback to throw for over 4,000 yards and also set a Tampa Bay franchise record with 27 touchdown passes. To those who believe they need to see Freeman more in the preseason, I’ll remind you that he’s a four-year starter and he started all 16 games last year in Sullivan’s offense.
This August is not about Freeman, who is in a contract year. It’s about getting the rookie, Glennon, prepared in case he has to play this year. If Freeman gets injured, performs poorly or if the season gets off a disastrous 0-4 start heading into the bye week, the Bucs would need to turn to Glennon, who could be viewed as the quarterback of the future if Freeman falters in 2013 and is not viewed as a candidate for a contract extension.
Through two games, Glennon has completed 23-of-45 passes (51.1 percent) for 290 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. There have been some great plays, such as his 61-yard pass to tight end Tom Crabtree when he stepped up and eluded the pass rush against Baltimore, in addition to big-time deep throws to Derek Hagan (which was called back due to a bad pass interference penalty) and Tiquan Underwood to set up a field goal right before halftime at New England.
“That was top quality, Hagan made a great play and then the one on Tiquan was big to go in before the half with the six-point swing right there, so Ti did a great job being down the field, and I put the ball on him,” Glennon said. “Derek made a great play on that one. I think it was a tough call. Again, that was really good because it was a six-point swing that was able to turn the game like that. It’s big going into half time. It was a great play call and Ti was able to make a great play.”
While those throws and a touchdown strike to David Douglas were among the plays that have the Buccaneers coaches and Tampa Bay fans excited, Glennon did have some misfires, including a pick-six to rookie cornerback Logan Ryan.
“Right when I threw it I knew I had to start running (to try to chase down the interception),” Glennon said. “It was a learning experience and a mistake I won’t let happen again. I think it’s just kind of how I’ve been my whole life, that’s just kind of my personality to not let too many things bother me, and I think that’s how it is. I mean, you obviously hate it, it bothers you, but once it’s over – it’s over. There’s nothing you can do to get that play back, so you just got to move onto the next play and move forward. I made some good throws, played a few good drives (in New England), but at the same time, there’s a lot to take away from it good and bad.”
The most important thing to understand about Glennon and where he is at entering the third preseason contest is that the game has slowed down for him.
“Yeah, it definitely has – it kind of felt like a college game,” Glennon said. “My first game of college felt a little fast and then in the second game I really kind of settled in a little more. I think I felt the same way out there on Friday night (at New England). I think just the step from college to the pros, it’s again the speed of the game, the physicality, and then just the mental part of the quarterback. Everything is just escalated to a higher level and it definitely takes some time. I keep saying it, but it really is true. You learn something new everyday and as a young guy new experiences arise every day in practice and every rep in the games.
“I just think I’m learning a lot. I wouldn’t say I’m pleased or not pleased. I think it’s just something I have to go through as a young guy. Being out there has been a great experience being able to get as many reps as I have and I think it’s a great experience that’s going to prepare me whenever need be.”
If Glennon does have to play for an extended period of time in the regular season due to an injury to Freeman or poor performance by Tampa Bay’s starting quarterback, the Bucs likely won’t have much of a chance at the postseason with a rookie quarterback. While three rookie quarterbacks in Robert Griffin III, Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson led their teams to the playoffs in 2012, that was an anomaly – and Glennon shouldn’t have heavy of a burden to bear if he’s called on to start in 2013.
Tampa Bay’s third-round pick has shown promise and uncanny poise for a rookie quarterback, but he still holds on to the ball too long, he must to work on his escapability to avoid sacks and needs more time and experience in this offense to refrain from throwing costly interceptions.
When asked whether he feels comfortable enough to lead the Bucs offense if necessary, the highly intelligent Glennon said he was.
“I’m going to be ready when need be,” Glennon said. “I feel prepared and I don’t think that’s really an issue. It’s good, we have a good group of coaches, a good group of quarterbacks. Everyone has just been a lot of help, really encouraging and providing information to make me better.”
The Bucs’ plan was to get Glennon close to 100 snaps over the first two games and that has been accomplished. He will likely see action in the middle of the third and the fourth quarters, and then see the majority of playing time in the fourth preseason game against Washington next week.
“How to manage the game in an NFL atmosphere, what it’s like to be out there, the speed of the game, the different looks, and just what it’s like to really be out there has been a great experience,” Glennon said. “Practice is one thing, but to get out there and play in that game atmosphere, I know it’s not exactly regular season, but just to get reps is extremely valuable. There wasn’t really a time when I was out there and I don’t know what’s going on. I know what we’re trying to accomplish as an offense, but I think as I grow I’ll get to those levels where I know the defense is not and where our players are in order to be more effective.
“I think there definitely is a quicker speed, everything happens a little faster, and you have to anticipate a little faster. It’s the best of the best. In college there’s usually one or two guys who can be faster than everybody else. Here all 11 guys can be that fast.”
The game is already slowing down for Glennon, and that’s a good thing as he aims to prove that he can take the necessary steps to become a franchise-caliber quarterback in the NFL – whether Freeman remains the starter in Tampa Bay or not.
FAB 2. BUCS RELYING ON PRO BOWL EXPERIENCE TO PREPARE NICKS, JOSEPH, REVISMuch to the consternation of Tampa Bay fans, the Buccaneers have decided to playing it safe this preseason, and opting not to play guards Carl Nicks and Davin Joseph or cornerback Darrelle Revis in any of the August exhibition games. Granted, Nicks’ MRSA infection would prohibit him from playing in Tampa Bay’s preseason game at Miami on Saturday, but sources tell PewterReport.com that the team would have likely held him even without contracting MRSA.
Joseph and Nicks have each been to two Pro Bowls, while Revis has been to the NFL all-star game four times representing the AFC while with New York. The Bucs are counting on that veteran experience, as well as practice reps, to prepare those players for the fast-approaching season opener against Revis’ former team, the Jets.
The team believes the risk is too great to those players who are recovering from knee injuries (Revis and Joseph) and a toe injury (Nicks) to play them in a preseason game, especially since Joseph was lost for the season in the third exhibition game against New England last year. Because Joseph, Nicks and Revis are all seasoned veterans, they have plenty of playing experience to rely on to prepare for the upcoming season, and they can make the most out of mental reps in practice rather than take part in 11-on-11 team drills where the risk for injury is at its highest.
Yet the Bucs believe practice is much safer than preseason games, and that’s why Nicks and Revis have been gradually worked in with the rest of the starters, along with Joseph to a degree. For Revis and Joseph, that plan will continue to increase their reps over the next three weeks prior to the season opener against the Jets. The team hopes Nicks responds to treatment for his MRSA infection and returns to practice next week.
Bucs fans are chomping at the bit to watch Revis stick to opposing receivers like glue and make quarterbacks who dare challenge him pay with a pick-six. It’s understandable that they want to see Josh Freeman get better pass protection with Nicks and Joseph in front of him, as well as witnessing wider running lanes emerge for Doug Martin.
The media has touted the return to action of these Buccaneers in stories. Revis, Nicks and Joseph have appeared on billboards, TV commercials and on mammoth signs outside of Raymond James Stadium – everywhere except inside the stadium on the gridiron where the fans are dying to see them.
It’s hard to argue the Bucs’ point about patience and their preference to showcase their players in practice rather than games. While injuries can still occur in practice, practices are more controlled environment with rules. Coaches control the whistle to stop the plays – hopefully before injuries happen.
In game-like situations under the lights with the intense pressure of players fighting for starting jobs or their livelihoods, anything goes. The only whistle happens when the play is truly over, and the refs control it – not the coaches.
Will there be any rust on Nicks, Joseph and Revis when they return to action? That remains to be seen, but it’s safe to say that they won’t play their best football of 2013 in Week 1 against the Jets. Yet with the remaining talent the Bucs have acquired over the past two or three offseasons, the team may not need Nicks, Joseph and Revis playing at a Pro Bowl level in the season opener to beat the Jets.
Underestimating any NFL team can be a dangerous proposition, but the Bucs are wise to remain cautious with their trio of veteran stars that are rebounding from injuries to risk a little rust in Week 1 against the prospects of those players suffering a setback in August. Besides, with the Bucs facing an important NFC South clash in Week 2 against New Orleans in the home opener,
Notice how defensive end Adrian Clayborn, who has just 19 NFL starts, including only two-and-a-half regular season contests in Bill Sheridan’s defense, is seeing plenty of playing time in the preseason despite the fact that he – like Revis and Joseph – is recovering from a season-ending knee injury? The reason why the team is not being as cautious with Clayborn as it is with the others is because Tampa Bay’s 2011 first-round pick is not as established in the NFL as the likes of Nicks, Joseph and Revis.
Clayborn doesn’t have the game experience and Pro Bowl credentials to draw from as he prepares for the upcoming 2013 season. Instead, the team feels the best way he can prepare is to get the on-field reps during preseason games after missing the final 13 contests of the 2012 season.
Bucs fans are understandably nervous, anxious and perhaps even upset that some of the team’s more decorated stars aren’t suiting up for battle in August. But at least they will be healthy and on the field come September. Stay calm and remain patient, Bucs Nation.
FAB 3. SURPRISINGLY, KICKING JOB IS DIMKE’S TO LOSERookie nose tackle Akeem Spence isn’t the only young player from Illinois impressing the Bucs brass these days. Spence’s former Fighting Illini teammate, kicker Derek Dimke, has been an unlikely star in training camp and the preseason for Tampa Bay.
Dimke connected on 84.7 percent of his field goals at Illinois. After converting all five field goal attempts in 2009 as a sophomore, Dimke saw plenty of action as a junior, hitting 24-of-29 field goals (82.8 percent). As a senior, Dimke only attempted 12 field goals, but hit on 10 of them (83.3 percent).
After getting a look with Detroit last year as an undrafted free agent, Dimke surfaced in Tampa Bay during the offseason after newly signed veteran Nate Kaeding abruptly retired after suffering a leg injury. Despite already having a franchise kicker in Connor Barth, the Bucs signed Dimke to use in training camp and as an emergency fall back option in case Barth were to get injured.
Unfortunately for Barth and the Buccaneers, that emergency plan went into action as Barth tore the Achilles tendon in his kicking foot right before training camp and was lost for the season. Needing a veteran kicker, Tampa Bay signed Lawrence Tynes, who won two Super Bowl rings with the New York Giants and many automatically assumed he would be Barth’s replacement.
Bucs head coach Greg Schiano was quick to caution against ruling out Dimke from winning the kicking job at the start of training camp, and PewterReport.com bought into that. We named Dimke the winner of the kicking competition over Tynes prior to the start of the preseason – and prior to the disclosure of Tynes’ ingrown toenail and MRSA infection – in our 53-man roster prediction.
“You know, I’m not really worried about starting or not starting,” said Dimke. “I’m just worried about making kicks everyday in practice and helping my team win.”
Dimke impressed the Bucs in the preseason opener against Baltimore, connecting on all three of his field goals, including a 45-yarder, and also making a touchdown-saving tackle on Bobby Rainey’s 58-yard kick return. With Tynes still sidelined with his injured toe, Dimke made both of his field goals against the Patriots and is a perfect 5-of-5 heading into Saturday night’s game at Miami.
“Timing is a big thing, and you know, we have probably some of the best snappers and some of the best holders that I’ve had the opportunity to be around, so it helps a lot and it makes our job a lot easier,” said Dimke. “The guys at the front of the line are doing a great job as well so it makes my job a lot easier.”
With Tynes sidelined indefinitely, the Bucs signed former Buffalo kicker Rian Lindell to help rest Dimke’s leg and provide some veteran competition. Despite the fact that he’s barely had a cup of coffee in the NFL, Dimke is already forging a steely resolve.
“Yeah, you know, there’s competition every day at every position, you know, that’s what the coaches are trying to promote,” said Dimke. “Tynes is a great kicker and he’s had a great career. He’s extremely helpful to me, and like I said, we’re not really concentrating on the competition we’re just trying to help the team win.”
On one hand, Dimke feels for his injured teammate. On the other hand he has taken advice from Tynes and taken advantage of his opportunity.
“Oh, you know, don’t miss,” Dimke said when asked what helpful tips he’s received from Tynes. “That’s probably the biggest thing. Other than that, you know, we just try to help each other out. Like I said, I’m trying to help the team win. It’s not so much about the competition between him or I, it’s about who’s going to give the team the best opportunity to win.”
To put himself in better position to make an NFL roster prior to heading into the 2013 season, Dimke took part in former Pro Bowl kicker John Carney’s kicking camp.
“You know, he kind of took me under his wing,” Dimke said. “He’s been extremely helpful throughout my high school, but also my college career. He’s given me advice now and he’s introduced me to a lot of great guys. During the offseason I went and worked out with John Carney and Steve Weatherford, a couple guys, Nick Folk was out there. There were a lot of guys out there. It was really a great learning experience. Coach Carney really runs a great camp.
“It was great. I learned a heck of a lot. Most of those guys have been around quite a few years and to just hear their perspective and a lot of their journeys. You know Tynes played in Canada and NFL Europe and now he’s had an amazing NFL career. It’s all about timing. Some guys get drafted and they get the job right away. Some guys have to travel five or six years. I think [Matt] Prater bounced around the league for about five or six years.”
If Dimke remains perfect on his kicks against Miami on Saturday and Washington next week, he will almost assuredly be assigned the task of replacing Barth this year. But the young kicker isn’t looking too far ahead.
“You really can’t worry about, you know, where I’m going to be tomorrow,” Dimke said. “You really have to focus on how can I help the team win? How can make this kick, and what do I have to do to do that? That’s really all you really have to worry about.”
FAB 4. BUCS TRAINING CAMP BATTLE UPDATEHere are a couple of updates on training camp battles from information gathered from PewterReport.com’s sources within the Bucs organization:
• Behind the scenes, the Buccaneers have all but declared the training camp battle for the starting right tackle job over with Demar Dotson emerging as the clear winner. As PewterReport.com has reported since the very start of training camp, this was Dotson’s battle to lose – and he didn’t lose it. Throughout most of training camp Dotson has been the most improved and the most impressive of the offensive linemen while having the best camp of his young career.
So what does that mean for Gabe Carimi? He will make the team as a versatile backup that can play right tackle or either guard position. If Donald Penn were to succumb to injury Dotson would slide over to left tackle and Carimi would be inserted at right tackle.
• Dekoda Watson began training camp as the starting strongside linebacker, but through four weeks and two preseason games Jonathan Casillas has closed the gap and now the battle for the right to start is neck and neck. While neither player has made any real splash plays, Casillas has five tackles in two appearances while Watson has three, including a tackle for loss.
Buccaneers middle linebacker Mason Foster hasn’t noticed much of a difference between either Sam linebacker candidate.
“They’re both tremendous athletes and you know they’re both fighting hard, competing at a high level for that spot,” Foster said. “You know, there’s no drop off for either one of them. Whoever gets that spot, they’re going to hold it down so it’s great to have that kind of depth with two guys that can make a lot of plays there. I’m excited to see how this competition goes, especially with this game coming up. You know you get a little more playing time and I’m excited to see who’s going to go out there and make plays.” “I’d have to say J.C. has a great feel for everything that we’re doing. I feel like he picked up everything really quick and I feel like J.C. can play multiple positions on this defense, so he’s just a great all-around linebacker. You can have Dekoda rush or whatever and he’s going to make plays, so it’s a tough competition. It’s tough to say who’s doing what better because they both do a lot of things great. You can put on the film and see that they both make plays so we’re going to see. They’re both my really good friends and whoever’s in there they’re going to do a good job.”
• The Bucs continue to send the message to Da’Quan Bowers that his level of play isn’t good enough and that the team needs more effort and production from its 2011 second-round pick. Daniel Te’o-Nesheim, who started 13 games at defensive end for the injured Adrian Clayborn last year, started in place of Bowers against New England in last week’s preseason game. If Bowers’ play does not improve, the team will continue to start Te’o-Nesheim and won’t hesitate to do that during the regular season – even though Bowers is the better athlete.
• Rookie nose tackle Akeem Spence did a fantastic job against New England and was impressive in his second preseason game. Spence had a great pressure on Tom Brady’s first pass and nearly got a sack. He also sniffed out a screen pass and made a nice tackle for loss against running back Shane Vereen. Spence also got penetration and was clearly held by the guard on Brady’s first quarter touchdown pass to wide receiver Danny Amendola.
As well as defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, who has been displaying an unbelievably quick get off, has played in his limited reps this preseason – and he’s been virtually unblockable through two games – Spence has been just as impressive. With Spence and cornerback Johnthan Banks it appears the Bucs have two rookie defenders from this draft class ready to start in the NFL. Spence will start over Gary Gibson at nose tackle.
• David Douglas has come on strong down the stretch and is challenging Chris Owusu, Eric Page, Derek Hagan and other receivers for a roster spot. With three catches for 16 yards, including a 1-yard touchdown catch last week at New England, look for Douglas to be showcased in the fourth quarter against Miami and also in the Washington game next week.
Owusu’s dreadful performance (two drops and a muffed punt) against Baltimore really knocked him down the depth chart and took him out of the mix for the third receiver job, which is currently being fought for by Kevin Ogletree (eight catches for 101 yards) and Tiquan Underwood (three catches for 49 yards). With an impressive showing down the stretch, Douglas could move into contention for the slot receiver job, although Ogletree seems poised to be the guy.
FAB 5. Here are some things to hold you over until the next edition of SR’s Fab 5:
• Tampa Bay middle linebacker Mason Foster has struggled in pass coverage over the past two seasons, and he was exposed twice more by New England quarterback Tom Brady last Friday night. Foster was in a trail position behind wide receiver Danny Amendola on Brady’s 26-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter in what appeared like a blown version of Cover 2, in which the Mike linebacker is supposed to have the deep middle of the field covered.
After the touchdown, Brady went after Foster’s assignment again, hitting tight end Zach Sudfeld with a two-point conversion pass in the back of the end zone. Strong safety Mark Barron, who peeled off his man to help cover Sudfeld, was actually closer to the ball than Foster was and nearly swatted the pass down. In the Week 3 rematch, expect Brady – and possibly other teams throughout the season – to target Foster in the passing game.
• Kickers are typically a different breed and cut from a different cloth than other NFL players. They usually hang out with the punters and long snappers and don’t have a lot of interaction with the rest of the players. However that’s not the case with Bucs kicker Derek Dimke and rookie nose tackle Akeem Spence. Those two played together at Illinois and were excited to be reunited in Tampa Bay.
“Akeem is my dog,” Dimke said. “He’s a great guy. I mean he is unbelievable. He is so strong. He has to lift by himself in the weight room because he’s so strong. You know he’s going to be a play maker this year and for a long time to come.”
Spence was happy to see a familiar face already on Tampa Bay’s roster when the Bucs drafted him in the fourth round in April.
“I’m so happy to have Dimke as our kicker,” Spence said. “Since he’s been here he’s just been making everything Coach [Greg Schiano] asks him to make, making all the kicks, and I’m just happy to see him performing and having him on my team again. That’s my former kicker and he’s been doing a lot of great things.”
• Buccaneers rookie quarterback Mike Glennon watched starter Josh Freeman take most of the reps in practice in New England against the Patriots and he made the most of his time. Glennon spent a good deal of each practice watching future Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady from across the field, studying his every move.
“I think you can tell the command of the offense that he has,” Glennon said. “It was nice to watch just how well he knows their offense, how accurate he is, how he anticipates and he knows where all 11 guys are. You can tell, both offensively and defensively, just the way he uses his eyes and just all the little subtle things that kind of go unnoticed. He was really impressive.
“He knows exactly where he wants to go with the ball. Like I said, he knows where everybody is on the field, where the mismatches are and that’s why he’s as good as he is.”
• And finally, we had a great turnout at The Grille at Westchase where Bucs general manager Mark Dominik was the featured guest at the Pewter Report Get2gether last Saturday. We thank him for his time and for interacting with the 50 Bucs fans in attendance for well over an hour. The Pewter Report staff is currently planning our next and final Get2gether at The Grille at Westchase, which will take place during the bye week. Stay tuned for details.
Please accept my apology regarding the posting of this SR’s Fab 5 a day late on Saturday instead of the customary Friday posting. I was able to finish and publish my SR’s Pick 6 column and do the Pewter Report Chat session yesterday, but I was called away on business in the afternoon and unable to finish my SR’s Fab 5 column, which is nearly 5,000 words long, until nighttime.
The good news is that it’s been an extremely busy week for me as the publisher with PewterReport.com, striking a bunch of new partnerships that will put us one step closer to building a brand new PewterReport.com website in 2014. As you may know, advertising is the lifeblood of any website, and PewterReport.com is no different. In the coming days, please welcome our new partners – Holy Hog BBQ, Pipo’s Cuban Café, Tampa Bay Radiation Oncology, Bahama Breeze, Tru Beaute Med Spa and Keel & Curley Winery – by clicking on their ads and giving them your business.
And please take the time now to click on our current advertisers and give them your business, too. Thank you for doing so, and I hope you enjoyed this edition of SR’s Fab 5.
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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