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. When will Darrelle Revis be ready to play? Is he going to be ready for the season opener against the New York Jets? Or is Revis going to miss going up against his old team in Week 1?
Those are the questions I’ve been bombarded with during Bucs training camp.
Here’s my thought: who cares?
If you were to pick one game on Tampa Bay’s 2013 schedule and say, “Darrelle Revis could miss this game and the Bucs would still have a chance of winning” my game would be the Jets. It just so happens to be the season opener, and missing that game would give Revis one more week to rest, recover and prepare for the remaining clashes during the 2013 season.
Neither Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez nor Geno Smith scares me if I’m Buccaneers head coach Greg Schiano. That’s the one game on the 2013 slate I would feel comfortable lining up with rookie Johnthan Banks, Leonard Johnson, Michael Adams and Danny Gorrer in pass coverage without Revis.
Sanchez is under siege in New York and his fighting for his life in professional football. For all of you Josh Freeman haters out there, the Bucs got the right quarterback in the first round of the 2009 NFL Draft. Sanchez, who was drafted fifth overall by the Jets, has a lifetime completion percentage of 55.1 percent and has 68 touchdowns and 69 interceptions in his four years in the league.
Fresh off a season in which he set career highs with a 56.7 percent completion percentage, 3,474 yards passing and 26 touchdowns in 2012, Sanchez tanked last year. He completed just 54.3 percent of his passes for 2,883 yards with just 13 touchdowns and 18 interceptions, in addition to a career-high nine fumbles while dropping back to pass. That computes to a QB rating of 66.9.
By comparison, Freeman had a QB rating of 81.6 last year and has a career rating of 79.8, which is superior to that of Sanchez’s career QB rating of 71.7.
It’s also worth noting that Sanchez ran the ball 22 times for only 28 yards, fumbling five times and losing two of those.
To be honest with you, outside of Santonio Holmes, Braylon Edwards and Jeremy Kerley, I couldn’t name another New York receiver and had to look up a Jets roster online. I have no idea if Michael Campbell, Joe Collins, Marcus Davis, Clyde Gates, Vidal Hazelton, Stephen Hill, Ben Obomanu, Zach Rogers, Titus Ryan, Ryan Spadola, K.J. Stroud or Jordan White makes the 2013 Jets roster, but none of those receivers scare me if I’m Tampa Bay defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan.
I like the chances of Banks, Johnson, Adams and Gorrer – along with safeties Dashon Goldson and Mark Barron – winning those matchups with the aging Edwards and Holmes without Revis having to step foot on the field in Week 1.
The Jets’ tight end situation is so bad after losing Dustin Keller that the team had to sign former Buccaneer Kellen Winslow, who was out of football last year and has clearly lost a step.
On paper, the Bucs outgun the Jets in terms of talent. While anything can happen on any given Sunday, Tampa Bay shouldn’t need a four-time Pro Bowler like Revis to beat the Jets. Having him on the field definitely increases the Bucs’ chances of victory, and Revis undoubtedly wants to play against the team that traded him rather than meet his contract demands.
But the Bucs’ focus for Revis shouldn’t be Week 1. It should be Week 2 against Drew Brees and the Saints in the home opener and making sure Revis is on the field in Week 3 against Tom Brady up in New England and back home to play Arizona’s Carson Palmer and match up against Larry Fitzgerald in Week 4 before the bye week.
If there are any doubts about Revis’ return at New York in Week 1, hold him out. Save him from playing on artificial turf and allow him the chance to start the 2013 season on the grass at Raymond James Stadium, which is typically voted by the players as having the best playing surface in the NFL. Give Revis an extra week to prepare for a very important NFC South clash in Week 2.
But if the player nicknamed “Revis Island” is indeed ready to play in Week 1, then bring on the Jets.
FAB 2. In my opinion, newcomer Tom Crabtree took hold of the starting tight end job last night with a 61-yard reception on the first pass from rookie quarterback Mike Glennon in the first quarter of Tampa Bay’s 44-16 loss to Baltimore on Thursday night in the preseason opener for both teams. The oft-injured Luke Stocker has missed valuable time in training camp for the third straight year and it has hurt his development as an NFL tight end and his chances for building a stronger rapport with quarterback Josh Freeman.
Make no mistake that Stocker, who was slated to start this season with the team parting ways with the aging veteran Dallas Clark, will make the roster along with Crabtree. But Clark’s departure opens up another roster spot at tight end, which is arguably Tampa Bay’s weakest position on the team.
Stocker and Crabtree were primarily backups and Nate Byham and Danny Noble have very little playing experience. Rookie Tim Wright is a converted college receiver. Zach Miller has the most NFL experience and production, but has not performed well and is buried on the depth chart behind the less experienced players.
The player to watch behind Crabtree and Stocker is Noble, a second-year player from Toledo who played in the first four games of the season before being placed on injured reserve with a shoulder injury. Listed at 6-foot-5, 248 pounds on the roster, Noble is actually a few pounds heavier.
As a primary pass catcher at Toledo, Noble was a flex tight end in the slot and didn’t do much in-line blocking. Speed was emphasized over size at Toledo and he was ill-equipped to block at the next level when he arrived in Tampa Bay as an undrafted free agent a year ago.
The front office wanted Noble to add some bulk, and he did. The problem is he gained so much weight he weighed close to 270 pounds during the offseason, which slowed him down.
“I gained a little weight here,” Noble said. “I had to slim down before camp. I had to gain some weight this year to get better for my team. I’m around 253-ish right now. At Toledo, I was just a little boy. I grew into this weight. I feel the same, which is good, and I’m a little heavier, which is needed in this league.”
Noble impressed last preseason and was able to catch four passes for 18 yards and earn a spot on the 53-man roster. While his rookie season was derailed due to injury, Noble stuck around One Buccaneer Place and continued to learn from tight ends coach Brian Angelichio.
“I’ve improved since last year,” Noble said. “Last year I was coming out of the MAC conference and coming into the NFL. That’s not just a regular step, that’s a big step. This is my second year in the program. I’ve been with Coach Angelichio and I’ve got my footwork down. There’s always more I can learn, but I feel comfortable with what I know. Now I just want to perfect it and become consistent.”
Clark’s absence isn’t just seen on the depth chart. With plenty of Pro Bowl credentials, the former Indianapolis Colts star was the unquestioned leader of the tight end room. Now that room is currently without a leader.
“You miss [that leadership] here and there, but Dallas was Dallas, and Luke is Luke, and Nate is Nate, and so on,” Noble said. “As we go along someone will step up and emerge as our leader like Dallas was for us last year.
“It’s an opportunity for us guys that aren’t household names. We’re just trying to establish our names and come out and compete and try to get a spot.”
FAB 3. In last week’s SR’s Fab 5, I spotlighted the exceptional play of Buccaneers right tackle Demar Dotson, who has been having a phenomenal training camp. Dotson was solid in the Bucs’ preseason debut against the Ravens on Thursday night, and even showed off his athleticism and skill by playing some left tackle when Donald Penn was done for the game in the first quarter.
Out of all of the great moves by general manager Mark Dominik, including signing high-profile free agents, such as Pro Bowl guard Carl Nicks and Pro Bowl receiver Vincent Jackson, trading for Pro Bowl cornerback Darrelle Revis, and drafting the likes of Pro Bowl running back Doug Martin, linebacker Lavonte David and quarterback Josh Freeman, the acquisition of Dotson could be right up there. To bring this former college basketball player in as a try-out free agent and have him be a starting-caliber right tackle three years later is absolutely remarkable.
Not only is Dotson good at keeping defenders off Freeman, he’s also a pretty good quote and doesn’t pull many punches. Since the Bucs are flipping their defensive ends on certain plays and having Da’Quan Bowers and Adrian Clayborn play both left and right defensive end, I wanted to get Dotson’s scouting report on each player.
“Adrian is a phenomenal player because he has a lot of things working for him,” Dotson said. “He’s got power and he’s got speed. Going up against Bowers is tough because the guy is so big and so strong. You have to bring something different to him than Clayborn. With Clayborn, he’s a quick, physical, strong, powerful player, too.”
Dotson alluded to the fact that Clayborn, who had a team-leading 7.5 sacks and three forced fumbles as a rookie in 2011, is a more polished player with a wider array of pass-rushing moves. He has started all 19 games that he has played in during his two-year career, while missing the final 13 contests of the 2012 season after tearing his ACL against Dallas in Week 3. Bowers has even less starting experience. While he has played in 26 NFL games, he has mostly been a part-time player, evidenced by only six starts.
“I think Bowers is more of a powerful, downhill player,” Dotson said. “He’ll bull rush you. He’ll get into your chest and knock you back to the quarterback. That’s his biggest strength – his power. Clayborn has a little power, but he’ll put a move on you. He’ll beat you with quickness and he can beat you with an inside move, too. If you get off balance he can bull rush you. That guy has a little more working for him, but Bowers – what he does, he does well and it certainly works for him.”
It will be interesting to see how rapidly Clayborn and Bowers will develop this season as both will be given the opportunity to be a 16-game starter. The Bucs played the Ravens in the preseason opener without Clayborn, who is recovering from a pulled groin, and missed his pass rush. Bowers played the entire first half against Baltimore and had just two tackles.
“I wasn’t focused on him, really,” Bucs head coach Greg Schiano said after Tampa Bay’s 44-16 loss to Baltimore. “I was kind of looking at the backend more. I heard coaches say some things on the headset, good and bad, so we’ll see the tape, we’ll figure it out. The good thing is that he played extended play, and that was the goal, so I’m anxious to see how he handled that.”
Schiano has been getting onto Bowers about the challenge of becoming an every-down defender in the NFL – not just a situational pass rusher. Bowers’ two-tackle performance and his lackluster effort on some plays against Baltimore was a bit concerning.
Yet Dotson, who goes up against the two young defensive ends in practice on a daily basis, believes in both Clayborn and Bowers.
“They are both really good,” Dotson said. “You have one on one side and one on the other. It’s going to cause a lot of havoc for quarterbacks this year.”
FAB 4. Here is some analysis of Tampa Bay’s 44-16 home loss to Baltimore in the 2013 preseason opener:
• The Bucs defense only had three sacks and five interceptions during the entire 2012 preseason. On Tampa Bay’s first defensive series of the 2013 preseason opener, the Bucs notched a sack and an interception, which was a welcome sight. Weakside linebacker Lavonte David sacked Joe Flacco for a 10-yard loss to set up a third-and-14 situation that resulted in an interception by cornerback Danny Gorrer against his former team.
“I thought we played competitively on defense, with the sack and then the interception, that’s a third-down stop,” Bucs head coach Greg Schiano said. “Danny Gorrer had two – he had an interception and a PBU. That’s great against one team’s ones. I mean, they were missing some people and we were missing a lot of guys, too. But that was, I guess it was 6-0 at the end of the first quarter, and that was a positive. Certainly we got sloppy a bit after.
• Rookie cornerback Johnthan Banks really had a solid debut for the Buccaneers. He led the starters with five tackles, and was a superb tackler, and his coverage was tight, too. He broke up a play intended for Ravens receiver Tandon Doss on third down midway through the second quarter.
“I thought Johnthan – without watching the tape, it’s hard to tell, but I thought he showed up a few times,” Schiano said. “And that’s a guy who the stage wasn’t too big for tonight, and that’s promising. I think there’s a couple other guys at the corner position that kind of showed up tonight, which is good. That’s what we’re hoping for.”
• Credit rookie quarterback Mike Glennon for not panicking on his first pass attempt, a 61-yard completion to new tight end Tom Crabtree. Glennon was under duress in the shadow of the Bucs’ end zone, but kept his eyes downfield and found Crabtree sneaking behind the defense. Glennon finished the night completing 11-of-23 passes for 169 yards with a couple of good deep passes, including a 41-yard strike to wide receiver Chris Owusu, and an interception.
“I thought Mike Glennon handled himself with really good poise,” Schiano said. “The one interception was a good throw, it was the wrong route. You’ve got to throw that route before it breaks. So, it looked awful because it was awful, but it was not on him. I think he – for his first time out there, again another guy that it didn’t look too big for him. Now, he was playing against [backups], but not all the time. In that first quarter, he was playing against some one’s [starters], so a good start for him as well.
“What a great reference point for him to say, ‘Okay, this is what it felt like. Now I can move ahead.’ I’m looking forward to the week against the Patriots, when we get up there, because that’s another team all week long. So, that’ll be really good for everybody but for Mike especially.”
• Now you can see why I predicted that first-year kicker Derek Dimke would make the Bucs’ 53-man roster over veteran Lawrence Tynes. Dimke was perfect on the night, connecting on field goals from 29, 35 and 45 yards, in addition to his extra point, and he also saved a touchdown by making a tackle on Bobby Rainey after a 58-yard kickoff return in the second quarter.
While Tynes is out due to a toe injury, Dimke has impressed in practice and also in the Bucs’ first preseason game. Tampa Bay’s kicking competition is far from over, but with three more performances like the one he had on Thursday night at Raymond James Stadium Dimke will remain a Buccaneer come September.
“I think when you sign a veteran guy, everybody assumes that’s it, but we didn’t just sign Derek on a whim,” Schiano said. “We had some really good information about him as a kicker. So, he’s got a nice start to his race. I’m sure Lawrence Tynes is a proven vet that is going to come, when he gets his chance, and battle back. We’re going to hopefully have a tough decision. That tough decision at the end of training camp is the best thing for our team.”
Outside of Dimke, Tampa Bay’s special teams were lousy. The Ravens blocked a Chas Henry punt in the end zone for a touchdown. Owusu muffed a punt that resulted in a turnover.
“[The dropped punt] was a technique error that may not be easily correctable,” Schiano said. “Sometimes that’s part of why guys are cut. The blocked punt, it was a young guy and they were four and four – it was a basic rush. A guy just individually beat another guy. And then the kickoff return, someone who has not done a lot of special teams got caught in a position and didn’t get to where he needed to and it cut off the rest of the coverage. So, it’s not a mystery. We were excited about giving a lot of guys chances on special teams. So, for some guys, that may curtail their chances moving forward. That’s the nature of the business.”
• Don’t call me a hater of rookie running back Mike James, but I am definitely a doubter. I have been since Tampa Bay drafted the former Miami Hurricane in the sixth round in April. The Tampa Bay coaching staff loves James’ versatility and likens him to former Buccaneers running back Earnest Graham. I don’t see it.
I see a nice kid that is okay at doing the required things – running, catching and pass protecting – but not exceptional at any of those. Graham had quite a bit of power and exceptional hands and pass protection skills. James did nothing to change my opinion of him in the season opener, rushing six times for 15 yards (2.5 avg.) with a long of four yards. In my opinion, Brian Leonard, who had six carries for 23 yards and a touchdown against the Ravens, and Peyton Hillis, who had four carries for 13 yards (3.3 avg.) are more worthy of a roster spot and carries behind starter Doug Martin.
Hillis ran hard behind the Bucs’ second- and third-team offensive line, but suffered an injury when the helmet of a Ravens defenders hit his knee.
“I don’t know yet,” Schiano said about Hillis’ knee injury. “They’re working, checking it out. That’s a shame. He and Brian Leonard really did a nice job. We’re looking for that depth behind Doug, so that’s a positive. But, let’s hope he’s well.”
Notice how Schiano didn’t mention James? He likes him, but the eye in the sky (the film) doesn’t lie.
FAB 5. Here are a few things to hold you over until the next edition of SR’s Fab 5:
• What hurts Cody Grimm’s chances of making the team this year is that newly acquired starting free safety Dashon Goldson is the fact that Goldson is taking first-team reps as the Bucs’ personal protector on punts. Grimm, who has been a reserve safety since starting for part of the 2010 season, has stuck on the roster for the past few years due to his ability to play on special teams and be the team’s personal protector.
• If first-year player Derek Dimke earns the kicking duties over veteran Lawrence Tynes this season that all but solidifies Micheal Koenen sticking as the team’s punter and Andrew Economos returning as the long snapper. The reason is that if the Bucs are going with an unproven kicker, the team will want a veteran holder and long snapper working with him.
It’s amazing how a chain reaction can occur when a starting kicker like Connor Barth goes down, but Barth’s injury – and Tynes’ lack of performance thus far in training camp – could have a detrimental effect on the chances of unheralded punter Chas Henry and young long snapper Andrew DePaola making the team. Neither Henry nor DePaola has much playing experience in the NFL, and neither will get the benefit of the doubt of sticking if Dimke winds up being the Bucs’ kicker this season.
• It’s amazing to think that the Dallas Cowboys had a sixth-round grade on former Mississippi State cornerback Johnthan Banks, who was selected in the second round by Tampa Bay this year. The 6-foot-2, 185-pound Banks has been so impressive in training camp that he’s on his way to earning a starting job opposite Darrelle Revis this season.
“Banks is very long and athletic,” Bucs wide receiver Tiquan Underwood said. “They threw him right into the fire and he’s responding very well. He’s a natural.”
Banks has been getting heavy praise from a lot of veterans since the team’s mandatory mini-camp. It is probably because he’s playing like a veteran.
• Pewter Report’s official Training Camp Get2gether will take place next Saturday, August 17, at The Grille at Westchase from 12:00 – 2:00 p.m. ET and feature special guest Tampa Bay Buccaneers general manager Mark Dominik along with Pewter Reporters Scott Reynolds, Mark Cook and new Bucs beat writer Gil Arcia. Dominik will be on hand to answer the questions from Bucs fans and talk about Tampa Bay’s preseason game against New England from the night before.
“Once again, Pewter Report is very excited to have Mark Dominik as a guest speaker at one of our official Get2gethers,” PewterReport.com publisher Scott Reynolds said. “We have been fortunate to have Mark out at our Get2gethers in the past and he’s always been a huge hit with our readers. Bucs fans will enjoy the opportunity to engage the team’s general manager in a question-and-answer session in the heart of the preseason, just weeks away before Mark sets Tampa Bay’s final roster. It should be a fun, interesting on August 17 at the Grille at Westchase.”
The Grille At Westchase, which is located at 13234 Race Track Road in Tampa, is the official home of all of the Pewter Report Get2gethers. Past guests from the two previous Get2gethers include Bucs free safety Ahmad Black and former Tampa Bay defensive lineman Tyoka Jackson in February, and Bucs quarterback Josh Freeman in April at Pewter Report’s 2013 Draft Party.
This Training Camp Get2gether event is free and open to ALL Bucs fans. However, the first 25 Pewter Insider subscribers in attendance will receive a FREE Pewter Report T-shirt.
There will be free snacks and soft drinks/tea, and discounted menu items and drink specials for all PewterReport.com visitors in attendance. The Grille at Westchase will be featuring $5 appetizers, including boneless wings, fiery shrimp, buffalo chicken dip, chili dogs and fries. Drink specials include $11 buckets of Budweiser, Bud Light and Michelob Ultra, and $5 margaritas.
As always, there will be some fantastic prizes given away, such as two tickets in Pewter Report’s luxury suite to the Bucs’ preseason finale on August 29 against Washington, an authentic Buccaneers helmet signed by legendary defensive back Ronde Barber and other autographed memorabilia.
While this Pewter Report Training Camp Get2gether event is free, space is limited and reservations are required.
Bucs fans and PewterReport.com visitors MUST RSVP by e-mailing [email protected] with their Pewter Report username and the number of people that will be attending.
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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