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Here are some things that caught my attention this week:
FAB 1. Where is the love for Tampa Bay general manager Bruce Allen? With Tampa Bay poised to clinch its second NFC South championship in three years under Allen with the Buccaneers’ next victory – which could come as early as Sunday – you would think there would be a story or two on how Allen worked his 2007 offseason plan to near perfection, or at least some acknowledgement of his strategy in the local papers, but there hasn’t even been a single mention of his name.
If Rich McKay were still in Tampa Bay he would be front-page news and it would be a love-fest (not a disgust-fest as it is in the Atlanta papers over the Bobby Petrino situation). In Tampa, McKay would probably be getting more credit than Jon Gruden, who the local media is wisely (and deservedly) praising because he’s likely on the verge of getting a long-term contract extension.
But Allen is on the verge of getting one, too, and it is clear the contempt and dislike many in the local media have for him because he is not getting one ounce of praise, which is wrong.
I don’t know Allen very well, but in talking with some of his contemporaries, he wouldn’t have it any other way when it comes to the media. Allen is a team player who likes to work in non-transparent, Raideresque ways; not telling the media of his next move – or any move – for that matter. If you can figure it out, as Pewter Report seems to have done rather well during Allen’s tenure, then good for you. If you can’t as a reporter, well, you are up the creek without a paddle.
McKay, on the other hand, would virtually share the Bucs’ offseason blueprint with the local writers in a somewhat braggadocious way. Then when the writers would write about McKay’s plans for free agency and the draft and essentially make that blueprint their own, they would be so invested in the Bucs’ plans that when it didn’t work out they wouldn’t bash McKay.
Now, we have reporters and columnists who cry out in their papers, “What’s the plan?” or the laughable, “Allen and Gruden have no plan (obviously – because they won’t share it with the media!)” They look rather silly because they simply couldn’t figure it out themselves.
Stick with Pewter Report, Bucs fans. We haven’t seen the blueprint, but we’ve figured it out, and if you have been a Pewter Insider subscriber for a while now, you’ve got a better grasp on it than some local reporters do.
Let’s do a quick recap of Allen’s plan for the new PI subscribers that weren’t around during the offseason.
• Hire better coaches. Allen did this by firing Greg Burns and Jethro Franklin and hiring defensive line coach Larry Coyer and defensive backs coach Raheem Morris. Huge upgrade and the players have responded.
• With $24 million to spend in a mediocre free agent market, do not get back in salary cap hell. This was accomplished by passing on some good, but not great, free agents who received ridiculous, Pro Bowl-level signing bonuses. The highest signing bonus the Bucs doled out was just $3 million (to QB Jeff Garcia and LT Luke Petitgout).
• Upgrade the QB play. After signing Chris Simms to an extension last December, Allen signed Garcia on the first day of free agency and executed a trade for Denver quarterback Jake Plummer. No team attempted to do more to upgrade its quarterback situation than Tampa Bay.
• Upgrade the play against the QB in coverage. Allen signed linebacker Cato June, a coverage specialist, and cornerbacks Phillip Buchanon and Sammy Davis in free agency while drafting safeties Tanard Jackson and Sabby Piscitelli.
• Upgrade the play against the QB via the pass rush. Allen drafted Gaines Adams and Greg Peterson, signed Patrick Chukwurah, Kevin Carter, who is a locker room leader, and Greg White, the Bucs’ current leader in sacks. He also traded for Ryan Sims, a former first-round pick. All but Sims have at least one sack this year.
• Release injured defensive end Simeon Rice. Allen created a lot of controversy by releasing the injured Rice during training camp after rejecting a pay cut, a move that has proven to be the right one as Rice flopped in Denver and Indianapolis and is currently out of football. In hindsight, Rice was foolish for turning down the $5 million Allen was offering.
To say that Allen’s plan has simply worked would be an understatement.
Compared to “loose lips” McKay, Allen is a mime in terms of media-friendliness and talking off the record as a source with the local media. Allen believes that the local media should give the team the benefit of the doubt in most instances when it comes to player acquisition and team strategy, while most of this group of Tampa Bay media members is like the White House press corps who always appear to be wanting to play “Gotcha!” and take down the President.
It’s unfortunate that Allen is being robbed of some of the credit he deserves, but he would rather just keep winning because winning is the goal – not media attention. Besides, winning has a funny way of shutting up critics.
Instead of praising Allen directly, you’ve probably read a sentence in the papers where the Bucs' “front office” made the right move. That’s a backhanded compliment if you ask me, like saying “the passing game” worked in New Orleans instead of praising the efforts of Luke McCown.
We have also seen the local media starting to praise pro personnel director Mark Dominik for the Bucs’ recent success. Tampa Bay’s director of college scouting, Dennis Hickey, will be the next one to receive the praise, and deservedly so. Dominik and Hickey are only in their late 30s and were hired by McKay as scouts in the late 1990s, but were retained and promoted by Allen to their respective positions just recently.
However, there were attempts by the papers as recent as this past offseason to suggest that Allen needed to go out and get “real personnel men” with a lot more experience than Dominik and Hickey. That was a sign of disrespect if you ask me. An insecure general manager on the hot seat would have probably done that. But one thing Allen is not is insecure. He had faith in both men, personnel executive Doug Williams and the team’s college and pro scouts.
Dominik found Jovan Haye and left tackle Donald Penn late last year and also played a role in acquiring Garcia, White, Carter, Chukwurah, Davis, tight end Jerramy Stevens and fullback B.J. Askew this year. Hickey was responsible for drafting Adams, Jackson and left guard Arron Sears, all of who are starters this year.
McKay is often credited for developing the likes of Chicago general manager Jerry Angelo, Seattle president Tim Ruskell and Seattle general manager Ruston Webster, but all three former Bucs personnel men were hired by the Bucs years before McKay became general manager in Tampa Bay. Still, McKay seemed to bring out the best in each of those men, so the credit is possibly valid.
Allen is doing the same thing in Tampa Bay. Webster was promoted from director of college scouting to director of personnel under Allen, and Dominik and Hickey have also been groomed and promoted since Allen’s arrival in 2004. Both Dominik and Hickey have the traits and experience to become general managers sooner rather than later. The same can be said of Williams, the legendary Bucs quarterback, director of football operations Mark Arteaga, Gruden’s assistant Paul Kelly and senior assistant and Bucs capologist Kevin Demoff, who was recently profiled in the November issue of Pewter Report.
Allen doesn’t mind Dominik and Hickey receiving the praise. In fact, he would likely rather see their names – and the names of Williams, Arteaga, Demoff, Kelly and others – in the paper than his. But the fact that Allen’s name has been trashed and tarnished in the local media over the DUI arrests of June, Stevens and David Boston, the release of John Lynch and Joe Jurevicius and the acquisition of Charlie Garner, Derrick Deese and Todd Steussie over the years, you would like to think that the reporters and columnists would have a sense of fairness about themselves and praise the good work he’s done in Tampa Bay. It appears that’s not the case.
As a result, there is a constituency of Bucs fans out there (likely non-Pewter Report subscribers) who have heard only one side of the story about Allen – the negative side. Given the team’s success this season and the fact that even McKay didn’t win two NFC South titles while in Tampa Bay, it’s a real shame that Allen’s contribution has not yet been mentioned anywhere other than Pewter Report. The fact that Allen appears to be on the verge of signing a long-term contract extension is a nice bit of justice it seems.
Looking back at the last four years, which general manager would you rather have running this franchise – Allen or McKay? Look at the Bucs and Falcons. Which team has a bright future, a talented roster and cap room galore and which team is perhaps the most unsettled, clueless franchise in the NFL outside of Miami with very little cap room? The answer is obvious.
FAB 2. One of the shrewdest moves I’ve seen general manager Bruce Allen and the Buccaneers make this season is re-signing cornerback Phillip Buchanon and signing former first-round draft pick Sammy Davis to a one-year, “prove it” contract. Buchanaon was acquired midway through the 2007 season and showed the type of promise that caused Allen to make him a first-round draft choice in Oakland in 2002, earning him a two-year contract extension.
Davis, who has bounced around the NFL from San Diego to San Francisco to Tampa Bay, has proven his worth this season with 17 tackles, two passes defensed and one tackle for loss after signing a one-year deal worth $640,280 that included a $45,280 signing bonus.
What makes this signing of Davis and Buchanon shrewd is the fact that not only are the Bucs immediately upgrading their nickel defense and their depth at the position with two young, talented veterans, they are also trying to address the cornerback position in the future. With Tampa Bay needing to use draft picks on other positions over the years, and with the consistent, exceptional play of Ronde Barber and Brian Kelly (with the exception of a few injury-plagued seasons), the Bucs have not really had to address the cornerback position down the road.
The Bucs tried to find a prospect to groom behind Kelly and Barber, who only have a few years left, when they drafted Penn State’s Alan Zemaitis in the fourth round. I really liked Zemaitis’ game in college and thought he would be a natural fit in Tampa Bay’s zone coverage schemes. But to the surprise of many, including myself, he lacked the ability to grasp the defense and execute the assignments, and struggled with understanding and applying the fundamentals and techniques that Tampa Bay uses. The fact that he lacked top-end athleticism hurt Zemaitis as well.
But the one trait I admire about Allen is that he quickly learns from his mistakes. We haven’t seen any more wasted signing bonuses that were given to Todd Steussie, Derrick Deese and Charlie Garner. We saw him refuse to head into another season where the depth at quarterback was insufficient, as it was in 2006. We saw him quickly correct the coaching hire mistakes of Jethro Franklin and Greg Burns by snatching up Larry Coyer and Raheem Morris.
The fact that “The Alan Zemaitis Experiment” didn’t work prompted Allen and the front office to immediately go out and find another better, young cornerback who could be groomed to potentially replace either Barber or Kelly. Bringing Buchanon back was a no-brainer, but to go out and lure Davis could prove to be huge down the road if this kid can continue to develop and mature into a credible NFL starter.
After witnessing Morris’ coaching talents since 2002 when he was Mike Tomlin’s protégé, I’m not going to bet against this happening. Thus, we have The Sammy Davis Project to track and monitor after he re-signs with the Bucs this offseason. Davis is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent, but loves the coaching he has received in Tampa Bay and that will most likely be the reason why he’ll remain a Buccaneer in 2008.
“Raheem is by far the best DB coach I’ve had since my time in the league, and I’ve had quite a few,” Davis said. “He’s easily the best. He’s really good at magnifying what you do well, having you play great technique and making you comfortable when you are out there playing.
“I think I’ve made a lot of progress under him. Ultimately, it really just depends on what the coaches think, but I think I’ve been able to get the scheme of this defense down and the techniques down. I’ve been able to grow in this defense and play well.”
Like Tomlin before him, Morris is a master of the fundamentals and techniques and taking a player’s weaknesses and turning them into strengths.
“Raheem really made me focus on my body control and staying low and staying under control,” Davis said. “I needed to stay at a good level so when I am coming out of my breaks, I’ll be at the same level as the receiver and I will eliminate a lot of the wasted movement and wasted steps. That’s how he helped me.”
One of the areas in which Davis, who was a great cover corner at Texas A&M, has greatly improved is in run support. Tampa Bay corners must be physical and willing to come up and make the tackle. That is something that Davis hasn’t come close to mastering in the NFL.
“I knew that with the Bucs running a lot of Cover 2, the corners would have to be in a lot of run support situations,” Davis said. “But you don’t realize how much until you are actually here, watching tape of Ronde do it. Seeing Ronde fill in the run support, I know what I have to do and what they want from me.
“I needed to improve my tackling and just being more physical. I was just trying to rely on being a cover guy, but in this league, there are no more cover guys. You have to support the run and make the tackle. When I was able to sit down with Raheem, watching film before the start of the season, I knew that is what I had to bring.”
Davis’ improved physicality and tackling technique were on display two weeks ago in New Orleans when he made a key stop on third-and-1 on 6-foot-4 wide receiver Marques Colston in the second half. Colston was lined up wide and at the snap of the ball, quarterback Drew Brees threw a quick screen his way, but Davis eluded the attempted block by David Patten, surged forward and stuffed Colston for a loss.
“In our DB room, Raheem always emphasizes pulling your trigger,” Davis said. “I knew it was third-and-1 and with the offensive set they were in, I had a feeling they were going to try to come over to me with something quick. When I saw the quarterback come up quick, I just pulled my trigger like Raheem said and made the tackle.”
It’s plays like that, and the fact the he never surrendered any big plays in the passing game playing nickel defense when Kelly missed several games earlier in the year that have Morris and the Bucs’ front office excited about Davis’ potential. Davis realizes that some players in his situation that need to repair their reputation might let ego or greed get in the way and go to a place where they might be able to start or earn more money. But if he goes elsewhere as an unfinished product and puts bad film out there in 2008, his NFL career could quickly come to a close.
“You are right. You are exactly right about that,” Davis said. “I think it comes to a point where a guy has to check himself and his pride and go to a good situation where he can learn and grow from a great coaching staff.
“The ideal situation is that I could be an heir apparent to Ronde or B.K., but right now I’m the understudy. I’m the apprentice trying to learn from two of the best that have ever played the game – especially Ronde. He’s a great all-around football player. He had a sack the other week. That’s what I’m trying to become.”
While Davis is eager to assume one of the roles of heir apparent to Barber or Kelly, he knows he isn’t ready for that to happen just yet.
“That’s my big picture goal,” Davis said. “But I want to be around them as long as I can. I don’t want them going anywhere right now. The more I’m around them, the more knowledge I pick up and my football I.Q. goes up. Those guys’ awareness on the field is off the charts.
“Coming in, I knew I was going to be a guy who was going to have to prove myself, especially being a former first-round pick. I just wanted to come in and work and learn. I’ve had that opportunity.”
FAB 3. Cornerback Sammy Davis is slated to be an unrestricted free agent in 2008, as are the following Buccaneers: fullback Mike Alstott, tight end Anthony Becht, running back Michael Bennett, tight end Keith Heinrich, wide receiver Mark Jones, center Matt Lehr, running back Michael Pittman, tight end Jerramy Stevens, linebacker Jeremiah Trotter and center John Wade.
As Pewter Report has illustrated in its Future Forecast article in its December Cheerleader issue, linebacker Antoine Cash, defensive tackle Jovan Haye and safety Kalvin Pearson are all restricted free agents, while long snapper Andrew Economos, left tackle Donald Penn, wide receiver Michael Spurlock, fullback Byron Storer, wide receiver Paris Warren and defensive end Greg White will all be exclusive rights free agents in 2008.
Surprisingly, Davis has yet to talk contract extension with Tampa Bay, and Pewter Report also asked several players who would seemingly be ideal candidates for contract extensions if they had any discussions regarding new deals with the Bucs front office. Surprisingly, not one player we spoke with has been approached by the Buccaneers about a contract extension.
“No, and I’m not really worried about that right now,” Penn said. “I want to just keep playing hard and finish off the season strong. Hopefully I can get a raise and I’ll talk to my agent about that when the time comes. But right now we’re just trying to make the playoffs and all of that stuff will fall into place when the time comes.
“I want to be here. I love it here. I definitely want to be here. This is my home and this is where I want to play. It’s up to the Bucs and my agent, but they are probably thinking about the same thing I am thinking about – making the playoffs and getting on a playoff run. All of that stuff will fall into place after the season. But I love this team, I love the players and I love the coaches.”
“No,” White said. “We’re taking it one game at a time. I’m not opposed to it, but right now, nothing’s happening. Nobody has told me anything yet, [but an extension] would be nice.”
“Nah, nothing right now,” Haye said. “I’m just worried about finishing the season. I’m not worried about my contract.”
Even some young, promising players who will be entering the final year or two of their deals in 2008 have yet to receive extension offers from the team.
“Not that I know of,” said middle linebacker Barrett Ruud, who is under contract through 2009. “At least my agent hasn’t told me anything about it. I hope he would say something to me about it! But no, we haven’t talked about a contract extension. You always consider it. You always want to see what [the team] has to say. Now whether you agree with them right away is a different story, but you always consider it. This is kind of where it gets complicated – the non-football side of it. But we haven’t talked about it yet.”
“I have not,” McCown said. “That will take care of itself. I've never been one to come asking for something that hasn't been offered to me. I'm going to work my way into it, and if they see that I've worked my way into it, then that's fine. That's up to them. But I would love to be here. Obviously I love the team, I love the coaches, certainly I enjoy this offense immensely. It's proven that it can win. We've got a great franchise here, and I'd love to be here. I'd love to be here for an extended period of time. But again, that will take care of itself and that will be up to them. I'm just going to continue to try and help my team win. That's what I've been saying from day one at training camp – that's what it's about, wins and losses."
With two weeks left to go to roll over some of Tampa Bay’s excess $14 million salary cap room into 2008, the Bucs will have to find a couple of players’ contracts to extend. I’m just surprised that it hasn’t happened to players like running back Earnest Graham and the players mentioned in this segment of SR’s Fab 5 as it would seem that they would be the likely candidates.
FAB 4. After scouring the game film of the Houston vs. Tampa Bay and not finding many interesting nuggets to analyze, I’ve decided to take a week off of the X’s and O’s feature and bring you a discussion I had with Luke McCown on Wednesday about the experience he gained from his back-to-back starts at New Orleans and at Houston.
Out of the hundreds of Tampa Bay players I’ve covered in my 13 years on the Bucs beat, McCown is easily one of the most likeable and most honest players I’ve ever encountered. If I had to describe him, the first word I would use would be genuine. I appreciate his candidness and the depth in which he can go into a topic.
I wanted to discuss how this experience can help McCown down the road and how he handles the fire-breathing dragon on the sidelines that is Jon Gruden. First of all, McCown said that despite a two-week hiatus due to a sore back, he doesn’t expect Jeff Garcia to be rusty at all on Sunday.
“I don’t think so, Jeff is a pro,” McCown said. “He's been doing this a long time. Every physical rep you that you get helps even more. But Jeff's being doing this a long time, so he'll be fine.”
The thing that you will come to find out when talking to McCown is that he is really a team-first guy who does not like talking about himself. He’s not caught up in his stats and only cares about the win-loss column.
“I really don't like to put a grade on myself,” McCown said. “It wasn't about me. These two games weren't about me – they were about wins. We were 1-1. We did some good things as an offense. There were two or three plays that I'd like to have back, probably per game, and the good thing is that there weren't seven or eight plays in those two games that I'd like to have back. So, I would say that's a good thing. One of the things that I really worked hard on from college and even my rookie year is protecting the football, sometimes to the extent of a sack. So there's a balance there that I've got to continue to work on, but as far as that goes, I think I've improved in that area.”
I asked McCown if he’ll be looking more closely at certain aspects of Garcia’s game from the sidelines since he’s just fresh from the huddle. One of those areas we talked about was knowing exactly when a quarterback needs to get rid of the football.
“Yeah I think so,” McCown said. “Any time that Jeff plays I watch every aspect of his game. If you look at what he does and maybe a particular play on the field that he made, you kind of rewind the tape. Then put yourself in that position, and say, ‘What would I have done?’ That's how you kind of train your mind to make the right decisions in those types of situations in a game.”
We talked about how little credit quarterbacks coach Paul Hackett has received in having to prepare five starters to play over the past three years alone in Brian Griese, Chris Simms, Bruce Gradkowski, Garcia and McCown. Hackett was the one who stood up on the table in the war room on draft day in 2005 and lobbied hard to trade a sixth-round pick for McCown, the former quarterback who succeeded Tim Rattay at Louisiana Tech and was fresh off four starts as a rookie for the Cleveland Browns in 2004.
Hackett loved McCown’s mobility, strong arm, accuracy and the sense of poise and confidence he plays with, and McCown says how fortunate he has been to have the support and the coaching from one of the more noted QB gurus in the NFL.
“Well I think number one, you sit back and look at what he's done with any quarterback in the NFL – what he did with Joe Montana, what he did with Chad Pennington in Pennington's younger years – just the work that he's done, it speaks for itself,” McCown said. “I am still extremely excited to come to work each day and work for Coach Gruden and Coach Hacket because I know that they're going to make me better. That's what this game is about and that's what you want.”
I asked McCown about playing for Gruden and having to deal with him on the sidelines on game day when Jon can turn into ‘Chucky’ when things don’t go well. We’ve all seen how livid Gruden can be at his quarterbacks, really getting into it with Rich Gannon in some memorable, expletive-laden exchanges in Oakland, and the verbal beating Chris Simms took in 2005 and ’06. How does McCown, who is a deeply and openly religious fellow, take the F-bombs and the G-damns that are directed at him can from Gruden’s mouth during the heat of battle.
“You learn as a player to take the good and the bad,” McCown said. “Coach Gruden doesn't do that to belittle you, he's not doing that because he hates you, he's doing that to you because he wants to make you better. With that understanding, you want to work for a guy like that. And the work that Coach Gruden puts in during the week to get you a game plan, that fits you, that is going to work, you want to be as good as you can be because you see the work that he puts in. And again, these two guys – what they've done with quarterbacks and what they've done with me – it's beyond words. I couldn't thank them enough.”
After seeing his face as he was telling me this, I could tell that the cussing and screaming don’t get to McCown like they got to Simms. In fact, I think McCown prefers this type of coaching the way Gannon did in Oakland.
"My dad coached me through all the little league stuff and was extremely hard on myself and my two older brothers because he expected more out of us. And I treat that the same way with what Coach Gruden does. My dad coached us a lot harder than he did the other guys on the team because he expected a lot more out of us. It was the same way with my high school coach. He coached all three of us extremely hard because he knew what we were capable of and coached us that much harder – he coached us to that level. Even into college, Coach Jack Bicknell was extremely hard on me.”
But to the extent that Gruden is hard on him?
“Yeah, certainly,” McCown said. “That's how he was. He wanted to push you as far as he could push you to see if you could take it. And once he knew you could take it, he's going to push you eve more so you could be better. And I relate it to my faith – the Bible says that gold is refined by fire, and the hotter something is, the more pure it becomes. And so the harder Coach Gruden pushes us, the better we will be. And again, some guys respond to it and some guys don't. There's nothing wrong with the guys that don't, that's just their style. Again, I could never thank Coach Gruden and Coach Hackett for everything they've done for me thus far in my career.”
My point of discussion with McCown was regarding Gruden’s proven track record for dealing with experienced, veteran quarterbacks who have been in the league and know how to play in the NFL, but his inability to develop a young quarterback into becoming a star starter in the league. Is he concerned about the lack of success that Gruden has with young quarterbacks and their development?
“That's a great question, because every person takes coaching differently,” McCown said. “Some people may not respond to the way Coach Gruden coaches, and that's fine, there's nothing wrong with that. They may respond better to somebody else coaching them in a different way. That's another great thing that I see about Coach Gruden and Coach Hackett is they balance each other out. While Coach Gruden will chew you up once side and down the other, Coach Hackett pulls you aside and then kind of talks to you a little more. Not that Gruden doesn't – but there's a little difference there, and they really balance each other out. For anybody working with Coach Gruden, I think it's just understanding that when he yells at you – because he's going to do, it doesn't matter what age you are he's going to, because you're not going to be perfect – he's doing it because he wants you to be great. He accepts nothing but excellence and you've got to respect that.”
McCown isn’t bothered by the fact that Gruden hasn’t taken a young quarterback and developed him into stardom the way Jason Garrett has done with Tony Romo in Dallas. McCown would love nothing more than becoming the first young quarterback to burst on the scene under Gruden’s tutelage. He really wants to be that guy.
FAB 5. Here are some things that will hold you over until the next SR’s Fab Five:
• Don’t get too down on Tampa Bay backup quarterback Luke McCown for taking too many sacks and not winning the Houston game. The guy has NFL skills and has only started six games. If you fell in love with Chris Simms after only 20 NFL starts, don’t hate on McCown. Bruce Gradkowski he’s not. McCown has poise to go along with a very good arm and some real scrambling ability. I think this experience will serve him well heading into next offseason and training camp where his game should improve. Remember, that while the Bucs traded a sixth-round draft pick for McCown in 2005, he was originally drafted in the fourth round out of Louisiana Tech in 2004. In fact, McCown was drafted only 10 spots behind where Simms, who was the final pick in the third round, was drafted a year earlier. I think McCown has the potential to develop into a better quarterback than Simms over time. Give McCown 14 more starts and I think he’ll have more wins and a better touchdown to interception ratio than Simms.
• Speaking of Simms, some of our national sources tell Pewter Report that Simms’ dad, Phil, the legendary New York Giants quarterback and CBS NFL analyst, is pulling some strings to try to orchestrate a trade for his son to be traded to one of the New York teams. The Jets’ quarterback situation is a bit muddied with neither Chad Pennington nor Kellen Clemons having a stranglehold on the starting job. Eli Manning has his share of critics among Giants followers and the team’s brass may want a competent alternative in case they have to pull the plug on the lesser Manning in 2008. With McCown impressing the Buccaneers in his limited opportunities this year, Simms is certainly expendable. If this scenario goes down, look for general manager Bruce Allen to talk one of the New York teams into a draft pick between rounds 2-4. Common wisdom would tell you that Simms is worth no more than a fourth-round pick, but if Allen could peddle Anthony McFarland to Indianapolis for a second-rounder, I’m not going to sell “Bruce Almighty” short.
• Through 13 games in 2007, Tampa Bay rookie defensive end Gaines Adams is tied for the second on the team with defensive tackle Jovan Haye for sacks with five, trailing defensive end Greg White (eight sacks). Adams has more sacks as a part-time starter than several standout defensive ends such as Buffalo’s Aaron Schobel (4.5 sacks), Carolina’s Julius Peppers (three sacks), Cincinnati’s Justin Smith (two sacks) and New Orleans’ Charles Grant (1.5 sacks). Adams trails only Houston defensive tackle Amobi Okoye (5.5 sacks) for the most sacks among 2007 rookies. It’s doubtful that Adams will record five more sacks in the next three games, but if he does, he will tie Santana Dotson for Tampa Bay’s rookie record (10 sacks in 1992). With another sack or half sack, Adams will move past Eric Curry (five sacks in 1993) for second place for most sacks by a Buccaneers rookie. Not a great rookie season for Adams, but it’s a good one – and he seems to be coming on strong instead of fading down the finish. I think Adams has a chance to do what Mario Williams is doing in Houston in his second season in the NFL, especially with a player like White playing opposite him in 2008.
• What happened with Bucs rookie defensive tackle Greg Peterson, a player that I was really high on earlier in the season when his 1.5 sacks were more than what Gaines Adams had produced? Peterson has been inactive over the second half of the season while Ryan Sims has been active and getting some playing time. Is it Sims really coming on and stealing the spot on the depth chart or Peterson, who played collegiately at North Carolina Central? I went to defensive line coach Larry Coyer looking for answers. “It’s both,” Coyer said. “Everybody has to go in there and produce. Pete had a couple of tough shots out there, but this guy is going to be a great player. I wish we could play him, too, but the numbers only allow so many guys. Sims, when he is in the game, is very disruptive and productive. It’s just a matter of who is doing what when he is out there and Sims took the ball and ran with it.”
• In case you didn’t hear me on Wednesday’s PewterReport.com Buccaneer Blitz show, the reason Michael Bennett isn’t getting much playing time is that Jon Gruden doesn’t trust him in pass protection situations. Gruden has already gone through a myriad of starting quarterbacks – ninth to be exact – in his six years with the Bucs. He doesn’t want to continue the QB shuffle because of a failed blitz pickup. He knows that he needs to give Earnest Graham a breather down the stretch, but has to see Bennett makes strides in this area before he is willing to give his new running back a chance to see more action. And don’t think that Gruden can just put Bennett in to run the ball. It’s not that simple and doesn’t work that way. Gruden can’t handicap Jeff Garcia by not allowing him to audible from a run to a pass with Bennett in the game. If the opponent is showing a run blitz, Garcia might have to check to a pass and have Bennett either run a pass route or stay in and block. That’s the situation Gruden is most fearful of.
• A few months ago I wrote how the Bucs were on the upswing under Jon Gruden four years after former Tampa Bay G.M. Rich McKay quit and abandoned ship when times got tough and the salary cap mess he created was on looming on the horizon in 2003. The fact that he quit during the week of the Bucs vs. Falcons game was a slap in the face to Tampa Bay. I lost a lot of respect for him when he did that. I wrote that McKay’s Falcons were on the downswing going 8-8 and 7-9 after posting an 11-5 record in 2004 with a team that he had little to do with constructing (McKay inherited 20 of 22 starters on that NFC South champion team). With Atlanta heading towards a dismal season I wrote that this was karma at work. I was a bit premature in writing that. I should have waited for Tampa Bay to destroy Atlanta 31-7 in the Georgia Dome and for the Falcons to fall to 3-10 after a humiliating defeat on Monday Night Football at the hands of archrival New Orleans – on the same day Michael Vick was sentenced to 23 months in prison for his dog-fighting scandal. Then, the next day, Bobby Petrino, who was clearly a terrible hire from Day 1 (McKay can’t handle Gruden’s demeanor … yet he could handle Petrino’s demeanor, which is 10 times worse?!), quit on McKay and the Falcons when the going got rough. Sound familiar? The fact that Petrino quit on McKay the week of the Bucs vs. Falcons game is more than poetic justice. That, my friends, is karma without a doubt – and no, my name isn’t Earl. McKay’s two hires – Jim Mora and Petrino – have been disasters. Without Tim Ruskell, McKay’s lack of personnel sense has been exposed. It would be a shame if Falcons owner Arthur Blank fires McKay because he needs a scapegoat. He should fire McKay because he’s not a very good general manager without the likes of Ruskell, Jerry Angelo and Ruston Webster getting him players and Tony Dungy and Gruden winning games for him.
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