The Pewter Report staff and I are shocked, saddened and devastated by his death. Our hearts, prayers and deep condolences go out to his son, Douglas, his girlfriend, Daisey, Erin, his ex-wife and Douglas’ mother, and the entire Cook family.
I first met Mark in the summer of 1994 when I interned with Buccaneer Magazine. Most of the other writers and reporters were older – in their 30s, 40s and 50s. Mark and I were young pups on the Bucs beat. I was 24, and he was 25 while working as an intern for WFNS Sports Radio 910AM.
Mark was my first friend in Florida.
He interned with me on game days throughout the 1990s and 2000s and we spent the last 10 years working side-by-side at Pewter Report – an organization he loved, covering the team he loved, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Because Mark and I worked together so much we really didn’t do much outside of work together. Our time spent was covering the Bucs and building the Pewter Report business into a local media empire.
We had a lot of laughs along the way. Nobody could make me – or anybody – laugh like Mark Cook.
It’s hard to laugh right now without crying. I’ve watched some of his corny “What’s Cooking?” videos over the last 24 hours and some old Pewter Report Podcast clips.
Mark Cook and Alan from The Hangover
And I laughed. And I cried.
I miss him already.
This is the SR’s Fab 5 column I thought I’d never have to write. It’s the column I never wanted to write – a tribute to legendary Bucs beat writer and Pewter Reporter Mark Cook.
That’s right, I said legend (Mark, I know you’re smiling down from Heaven – pleased to see me use that term!).
You see, Mark had a bit of an ego. And I mean that in the best and most endearing way possible. He certainly wasn’t stuck up about it. Heck, he even compared himself to Zach Galifianakis’ character, Alan, from The Hangover movie. Don’t you see the resemblance? Pewter Report was his wolf pack.
In Mark’s heavier days he would resemble the late Chris Farley and do the “fat guy in a little coat” routine from Tommy Boy with his own blue blazer that got a little too snug on him.
Can’t you picture Mark doing that? That would always crack me up.
Mark was not afraid to poke fun at himself – because he sure as hell was going to poke fun of you, too.
Mark was the “Ginger Bad Ass” – a caricature of himself, an alter ego. And he loved to be known that way. He embraced the look – with the cool beard, the dark shades, the Burt Reynolds swagger and charisma (he loved Smokey and The Bandit), and his ever-present ball cap.
The Ginger Bad Ass
Some days it was an FSU hat. Other days it was a Hurley hat, an O’Neill hat or a Volcom hat. Mark was a surfer dude and a fisherman at heart. Those are two passions – along with a love of football – that he shared with Douglas.
Mark was cool in the most lovable and non-intimidating way possible.
While he usually had a smile on his face in public, Mark rarely smiled for pictures. Instead he preferred the stoic look from the old-time days when people didn’t smile for photos. He was a throwback that way.
Think Clint Eastwood.
Mark has been an old soul since his 20s when I first met him.
Mark loved to be on the radio and on TV – and the notoriety and adoration that came with it. Mark would humble-brag and let everyone know that he was besties with Backstreet Boys star and Bucs fan extraordinaire Nick Carter, which was always hilarious.
Watch the clip from Daisey below and see for yourself.
Bucs general manager Jason Licht, Bucs communications director Nelson Luis, Bucs chief operating officer Brian Ford, Titans general manager Jon Robinson and Bucs legends Warren Sapp and Ronde Barber also reached out to share their sympathies with me and the Pewter Report team over Mark’s passing.
Prayers are with the Cook family and all his loved ones. Mark, you were GREAT man and were always a pure joy to be around. You will be sorely missed by all of us. https://t.co/mSnSy12X6r
I remember Mark telling me in February that Jason came up to him after the Super Bowl boat parade and gave him a big hug and said, “You know this one is for you too, right? You’ve covered the team so long and been through so many years of us losing.”
Warren was Mark’s favorite player. You would think it would be a Seminole like Derrick Brooks or Warrick Dunn, but it was actually a Hurricane.Go figure! Warren and Mark first bonded over chewing tobacco back in the day, as they both dipped, and their friendship grew over the years.
Mark and I traveled to London back in 2019 to cover the Bucs vs. Panthers game and had a fun trip with Cliff Welch, our director of photography. Guess who we happened to run into in Hyde Park the first day we were there?
The QB Killa, of course.
Scott Reynolds, Bucs legend Warren Sapp and Mark Cook
In a city of 2 million people in London, we happened to run into Warren, who stopped to chat with us for about 30 minutes – talking about the good ol’ days of Bucs football. Mark loved nostalgic conversations like that and was just eating it up. I was too. Sapp, ever the Hurricane, took a picture with us and used his hand to cover up the FSU logo on Mark’s hat, which was hysterical.
I’ve received so many texts and phone calls from fellow Bucs media members – Jenna Laine, Rick Stroud, Greg Auman, Kevin O’Donnell from Fox 13, JP Peterson, the WFLA News Channel 8 crew and the guys at WDAE among others. It’s no surprise. Mark was loved by everybody. As Jenna so eloquently put it – he was the heartbeat of the media workroom and the press box.
…@MarkCook1970 had no enemies. He was truly the heart and soul of our Bucs media room. There was no such thing as a stranger to him. He welcomed all, made you feel at home. And he was so damn passionate about his job. You felt it in everything he wrote. I can’t believe this.
Mark was beyond friendly. He went the extra mile for everyone. He cared. That’s just who Mark was.
One of his favorite things to do was to provide a huge feast the day before Thanksgiving for the entire media room. He would contact one of Pewter Report’s advertisers – either Brocato’s or Holy Hog BBQ – and bring in enough food to feed 30-plus media members. Then he would insist on all of our media colleagues to take some of the leftovers home.
Yes, Mark had a bit of an ego, but he wasn’t selfish. Instead, he was selfless. He was the ultimate team player. Mark was a loyal friend, and a loyal employee. Every radio and TV spot he did and event he attended, Mark represented Pewter Report to the fullest.
Well … except for that time when Mark was accidentally shirtless on a Bucs Zoom conference call. He didn’t think the camera was turned on! The look on Auman’s face in the tweet below is priceless.
That was classic Mark. He made you laugh even when he wasn’t trying!
Mark was a great Bucs reporter. He connected so easily with the players in the locker room, especially the likes of wide receiver Mike Evans, guard Ali Marpet, tight ends Cameron Brate and Tanner Hudson, quarterback Ryan Griffin, former quarterback Jameis Winston, former tackle Demar Dotson, former receiver Adam Humphries, and of course former fullback Alan Cross, who was Mark’s doppelganger. Mark would joke that he had two sons – Douglas and Alan Cross.
Mark had several of those Bucs players star in his “What’s Cooking?” videos. He loved getting to know them and building relationships. Mark was a relationship guy.
He enjoyed telling stories about the Bucs from the 1979 Doug Williams/Lee Roy Selmon/Ricky Bell/John McKay days to the present day Super Bowl champions.
In fact, Mark’s last Bucs game was Super Bowl LV at Raymond James Stadium. Pewter Report was only issued two press box passes and we were also given an auxiliary press box pass, which was out in the stands. I asked Mark where he preferred to sit, and he chose wisely.
Mark Cook’s final Bucs game – Super Bowl LV
The Plant City native who grew up wearing Bucs footie pajamas as a child was in the stands among Bucs fans – his people – for what would be his final Bucs game. And what a game it was – a 31-9 victory over Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs.
From Mark’s Facebook page the night of the Bucs’ Super Bowl victory: “What a night! I’ve watched this team with my dad since I was seven years old and with Douglas since we adopted him 17 years ago. The only thing better would have been if we had all been together to see this. We’ve watched a lot of bad football over the last 43 years but this made it all worth it.”
After the Super Bowl, which was the longest and hardest season we’ve had covering the Bucs with all the challenges of COVID-19, the PR editorial staff came together for a celebratory dinner at Charley’s Steakhouse. It had been the first time that Mark, Jon Ledyard, Matt Matera, Taylor Jenkins and I had seen each other face-to-face in nearly a year due to the pandemic. Almost all of our communication that year, including the Pewter Report Podcast episodes, had been done via Zoom. We had a great meal with steaks and bourbon all around the table. I’m so thankful for that special night together.
Speaking of the Pewter Report Podcasts, we had so many fun times because of Mark and his stories.
There was the never-ending “Chuck Berry story” skit that he and I pulled off for nearly a year when we started the podcast.
There was Mark’s Def Leppard crop top story from middle school.
And the story about Mark getting arrested for fishing without a license in his youth.
The “I will fight you” feud between Mark and former Bucs cornerback Jude Adjei-Barimah.
Mark Cook, Trevor SIkkema and Mark Cook
The constant Florida State vs. Florida banter between Mark, the biggest Noles fan around, and Trevor Sikkema, who was a Gators fan.
There was the time where Trevor and I pranked Mark at the end of the 2018 season (I think) where we fake fired him on air.
Mark saying the words “Adam Caplan” and “Matt Nagy” in a thick Chicago accent on the podcast.
The time, around six weeks ago, where Jon and I pranked Mark on the podcast by having Jon kick off his “Top 10 Bucs of all-time” with Alvin Harper. Alvin and Mark had some contentious moments in the Bucs locker room back in the day. The look on Mark’s face when Jon said Harper’s name … priceless.
Of course he wrecked so many podcasts as “Captain Interruption.” And that joker sure could segue into commercials with our podcast sponsors like no other.
And who could forget MyCookie.ag?
Oh, this is so hard.
Mark’s death is so tragic and sad. But his life was full of joy – when he wasn’t being an old curmudgeon, which was a role he actually embraced. Mark suffered from diabetes and used to imitate actor Wilford Brimley and call it “dia-bee-tus.”
I guarantee you that Mark is up in Heaven cracking up right now over me playing that Wilford Brimley video for you!
He and I shared a dark, twisted sense of humor, which was great. We would text each other Super70sSports tweets all the time, as we could totally relate to them having grown up in the 1970s and ‘80s. Here’s one of the last ones we shared.
I don’t know how to end this tribute because … I don’t want it to end.
I don’t want Mark to leave us. Not now.
Mark Cook and the Pewter Report staff – Photo by: Ashley Reynolds/PR
Not at age 50 with so much life ahead of him with Daisey to love and Douglas to raise. Daisey made Mark smile. Douglas made Mark proud.
Not with more jokes for Mark to crack, more stories to tell and more love to give.
Not with more Bucs victories to come.
It’s true that Mark and Pewter Report parted ways recently. It was not personal, and he knew that. Nobody replaced Mark, and he knew that, too. Nobody could replace Mark.
Mark I still remained friends through that time, and us parting ways was the most difficult thing I’ve had to go through in my 26 years at Pewter Report and its predecessor, Buccaneer Magazine.
Or so I thought.
Losing Mark is now the toughest. He shared with me on Monday that he had a great opportunity ahead of him, making even more money than he did at Pewter Report. He bought a sweet new car and his future was really looking rosy.
Daisey Charlotte and Mark Cook
Mark was also working on a new side project where he would still stay connected to the Bucs and do some reporting on the side, which was awesome. I was really happy to hear about his exciting future plans – and his future with Daisey.
We had some great text exchanges over the last couple of days – even as he shared with me on Monday night that he grew gravely ill late last week. Mark was struggling with some health issues over the past years and he told me had a bad reaction following his shot. I prayed he would recover … but sadly Mark never did.
I tried to capture Mark’s essence for you, but to be honest it’s hard for me to remember everything that made him “Mark Cook” right now with his sudden passing. My grief is clouding some of my memories over the past two decades of knowing Plant City’s finest.
They’ll come to me in time. And I can’t wait for those times to come.
I encourage you to share your memories of Mark in the comments section below and to join us for a special “Remembering Mark Cook” Pewter Report Podcast on Monday at 4:00 p.m. ET. No commercials. No super chats.
The family is setting up a GoFundMe page for Mark’s funeral and other expenses and we hope to share details about that on Monday’s Pewter Report Podcast or sooner. Any and all donations need to go to and through the family – not Pewter Report. Please do not send them our way.
For those that will be in attendance at Saturday’s preseason opener, the Buccaneers will be doing something special at the stadium to remember Mark. And for those of you watching the game at home on WFLA News Channel 8, Ronde texted me to pass along his condolences and let me know that Mark will be remembered on the broadcast, too.
I’ll end with this. Mark loved Anna Maria Island sunsets with Daisey and Douglas.
He loved raising Douglas with Erin. Douglas was adopted, but he looks so much like Mark and Erin it’s amazing. Mark knew that and would tell me that God worked in mysterious ways.
Because of Douglas’ adoption he really connected with Bruce and Chris Arians over the Arians Family Foundation’s support of CASA (court appointed special advocates). Mark and I and the Pewter Reporters had a great time at the Arians Family Foundation dinner and hanging with the Loose Cannons guys that night.
Mark loved to teach. He was in charge of training so many of our writers and interns from Andrew Scavelli, Eric Dellaratta, Victoria Horchack, Zach Shapiro, Wolf Heard, Eric Horchy, Sikkema, Grizz, Matera, Ledyard and others through the years – and did a great job passing along his wisdom.
He loved Southern writer Lewis Grizzard and famous Tampa Tribune columnist Tom McEwen, who was his idol. I guarantee Mark will be enjoying the conversations with those two legendary scribes up in Heaven real soon.
He loved Evel Knievel, too.
Tom McEwen and Mark Cook in 1996
Mark was a guitarist, and loved The Beatles, Elvis Presley, Simon and Garfunkel, Jerry Reed, George Jones, The Drive By Truckers and Jason Isbell. Going to Abbey Road was one of the coolest experiences Mark had in London.
He also loved Ronnie Van Zant and Lynard Skynard because Mark was Southern by the grace of God. Collard greens, black eyed peas, grits and fried chicken and some shrimp would make a fine Southern meal in the Cook household.
Mark would also say “y’all” all the time – like a true Southerner.
He loved working with us at Pewter Report. He told me time and again that it was his dream job – most recently after the Super Bowl victory. To Mark, watching that game was literally a dream come true.
Erin, Douglas and Mark Cook
I’m sure y’all can relate.
And he loved you Bucs fans and Pewter Report readers – and listeners.
But most of all, Mark loved faith, family and football – in that order. He grew closer to the Lord over the last month – we texted about that over the past couple of weeks. Please keep Mark’s immediate family in your prayers.
I started this column by saying that Mark was a great friend. But really we were family.
And y’all were part of his family, too. He would want you to know that.
Rest in peace, Bad Ass Ginger. You are a legend.
Love you, Cookie.
FAB 2. My Favorite Bucs Locker Room Relationships
How do I transition back to Bucs football after just writing that?
Well, what would Mark Cook do?
A fantastic segue, of course!
He was much better at segues on the Pewter Report Podcast than I am or ever will be. But I think I found the perfect topic to discuss in memory of Cookie.
Former Bucs NT Akeem Spence and Mark Cook
I’ve shared with you some of Cook’s favorite Bucs players over the years, and I’ll share some of mine with you, too. It’s totally appropriate right now because for the second year in a row the media is getting shut out of the Bucs locker room due to COVID-19. Whether media members are vaccinated or not, the NFL is not allowing open locker room media sessions in 2021 over health concerns for the players.
That’s understandable, but disappointing. For the second straight year, my ability to gather insight from on and off-the-record conversations with the Bucs players will be diminished and that will negatively impact my SR’s Fab 5 column, which was usually packed with unique quotes and stories generated from those interactions.
There are so many Bucs players that I have enjoyed getting to know over the years, I thought I would give you a baker’s dozen – in chronological order based on their time with the team. While some of the Bucs’ star players were toeing the company line, these are the guys that made my job easy as a reporter by routinely going off script.
DT Warren Sapp
The biggest challenge I had as a reporter was facing Sapp because I didn’t know what type of mood he would be in on any given day. And his moods could change in an instant, too. He could go from jovial to surly with one wrong question. But Sapp loved the game of football and revered the history of it. He ruled the Buccaneers locker room with an iron fist and I greatly respected him for it. A Bucs legend in every sense of the word.
Bucs legend Warren Sapp and Scott Reynolds – Photo by: PewterReport.com
Bucs DT Brad Culpepper
Quick-witted and the jokester of the Bucs locker room back in the day, Culpepper was a fantastic quote and really loved reading Buccaneer Magazine. Pretty much all of the players did in the 1990s, but Culpepper especially. He is super smart and maxed out his physical ability. I admired that – along with his toughness – most about Culpepper. I’m not surprised he’s a successful attorney in Tampa. You could see it coming back then.
DE Tyoka Jackson
Sometimes the best quotes come from the backups rather than the star players. That was the case with Jackson, who was a Bucs’ super sub along the defensive line. Jackson had great insight into the team and he and I became really close during his time in Tampa Bay. He attended my first wedding and we went to dinner together and even caught saw our Washington Wizards play the Magic in Orlando. Fun times.
RG Frank Middleton
Big Frank was known for his frank speech. He would tell it just like it was and pulled no punches. I remember a game back in 1998 when the Bucs were playing the Saints. Both teams were 3-3 and Middleton said, “Man this game is the battle of the sucks. We both suck right now.” Hilarious stuff. Middleton was right. Tampa Bay did suck in 1998, and lost 9-3 to New Orleans en route to a disappointing 8-8 record.
CB Ronde Barber
I’ll admit. Barber is my favorite Buccaneer of all-time. Like Culpepper, Barber loved Buccaneer Magazine/Pewter Report. He was also generous with his time. I would ask the Bucs P.R. staff for a 15-minute interview and Barber would give me 45 minutes after practice. Barber is highly intelligent – and worldly. He could offer a strong opinion on any subject – sports, world affairs, entertainment, you name it. Put this guy in the Hall of Fame, please. He belongs. Toughest Bucs player pound-for-pound, too.
Scott Reynolds and Bucs legend Ronde Barber – Photo by: Mark Cook/PR
WR Keyshawn Johnson
Johnson and Sapp couldn’t stand each other, which was an interesting dynamic to cover. I asked for Johnson’s phone number one day and he gave it to me but said, “Just because I give you my number doesn’t mean I have to take your call.” But he did, and Johnson would call me often at night to bitch and complain about Jon Gruden, and how much he missed Serena Williams and his kids in California.
DE Simeon Rice
Rice was a trip – literally. He was a trip to outer space where you would visit Planet Simeon in open locker room. Always smiling, Rice and his ego were on display and he would always make up new words on the spot. Easily the best athlete I’ve ever covered, Rice would never disappoint with his quotes. There never has and never will be another Simeon Rice. Truly a unique individual.
QB Chris Simms
I’ve covered a lot of Bucs quarterbacks in my 26 years of reporting – too many if you ask me. But what I liked about Simms was his honesty. He would deliver the unvarnished truth, and do so with a sense of humor. He would call me Wildcat because I went to K-State and I would call him Longhorn because played at Texas. He lost a bet on KSU-Texas game and bought me dinner at Maggiano’s where we had a great conversation. Not surprised he’s a success in the media. Very entertaining guy.
RT Demar Dotson
Some guys would tell it like it is. Guys like Sapp and Barber were brutally honest, which I loved. Dotson was in that category, too. Dotson was so friendly, so humble – you couldn’t help but love Dotson. And he always made himself available during the week and after games – win or lose. Everybody in the media respected Dotson for that. Truly a gentle giant. Really wish he would have gotten to taste the playoffs in Tampa Bay
DE Will Gholston
Scott Reynolds and Bucs WR Mike Evans – Photo by: Mark Cook/PR
Gholston is just so easy to root for. He’s a hard-working guy that does the dirty work in the run game and doesn’t seek the fame and notoriety that others do. As someone who loves the defensive line, I really admire his craft and approach to the game. Gholston is also honest as the day is long when it comes to dishing out quotes and is one of my go-to guys if I need support quotes about other players. Gholston is just an ultimate teammate in that locker room.
WR Mike Evans
Evans is the most humble superstar you’ll ever meet. He’s the epitome of class and a truly great ambassador for the Bucs on and off the field. In fact, I think the more money he’s made the more humble and generous he’s become. He’s the definition of a class act and is always generous with his time. Evans deserves all the credit and accolades that have come his way. Definitely one of my favorite players to engage and talk to.
TE Cam Brate
Brate is smart, funny and he has that “aw shucks” demeanor that is just so endearing. His Fox 13 trivia segments in the locker room are legendary and I miss those. Brate never wants any credit for the things he does and always deflects praise and gives it to his teammates, which is so admirable. He’s gone to plenty of Pewter Report events as our celebrity guest and he’s just so generous with his time in and out of the locker room. It’s hard not to root for Brate, who has a great blue collar mentality.
Bucs ILB Kevin Minter and Scott Reynolds – Photo by: Mark Cook/PR
LB Kevin Minter
Like Jackson, Minter is not a star player. It might surprise you that I have him on this list rather than Derrick Brooks, Lavonte David or Devin White. The reason is because Minter can go deep with his quotes and doesn’t talk in generalities. He’s always accessible and is happy and willing to provide support quotes for stories about other Bucs players. I appreciate Minter’s depth and his availability. He’s a great teammate – one of the “glue guys” that helps the Bucs stick together.
Minter is one of the guys that was featured in our popular Pewter Report Bucs Training Camp Diary series, that unfortunately had to be put on hiatus due to COVID-19. Can’t wait for the day when this awful pandemic is behind us for a multitude of reasons. Having better access to the players and the team we cover is certainly one of those reasons.
FAB 3. 5 Bucs To Watch On Offense In The Preseason Opener
The Bucs preseason is here and the Bucs open up at home against the Bengals. Here are five players to watch when the Bucs have the ball on Saturday night.
TE O.J. Howard
There’s a fine line between pushing Howard too much in the preseason given that he’s coming off of a torn Achilles tendon, and making sure he’s ready for the season. Howard has shown a good deal of rust in training camp from missing most of last year with his injury. He’s dropped too many passes and he still needs to work on his run blocking.
The Bucs should push Howard to play a good deal in the preseason because they have ample depth at the position with Rob Gronkowski and Cameron Brate. Howard won’t be counted on to take the majority of snaps during the regular season as a result. So why not let him shake the rust off in the first two preseason games with a healthy dose of game action, which is something he hasn’t seen since Week 4 of last year?
TE Tanner Hudson
Bucs TE Tanner Hudson – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Hudson is one of the guys that Bruce Arians just can’t quit. He’s a pet project, if you will. He’s in the same boat as wide receiver Cyril Grayson and quarterback Blaine Gabbert. Hudson is a really good pass catcher and showed it in the 2019 preseason when he teamed with Ryan Griffin to lead the league in catches and yards that August.
Hudson needs to show up as a blocker in the preseason and win the fourth tight end role on special teams. He’s facing stiff competition from Codey McElroy and newcomer Jerell Adams, and needs to rise to the occasion. There will be one less preseason game this year to make an impression, too.
OT Nick Leverett
Leverett has been the surprise of training camp along the offensive line. He’s in line for the ninth spot on the depth chart behind Donovan Smith, Ali Marpet, Ryan Jensen, Alex Cappa, Tristan Wirfs, Aaron Stinnie, Josh Wells and Robert Hainsey. Leverett has shown great position flexibility between playing left tackle as well as guard. That versatility will help his cause.
Leverett gets good competition in practice every day going against the likes of Jason Pierre-Paul, Shaquil Barrett and Joe Tryon. That experience should have him ready to prove he’s worthy of a 53-man roster spot this August. I’m excited to see what he can do, especially at left tackle. His body type reminds me of former Bucs left tackle Anthony Davis.
QB Kyle Trask
Bucs QB Kyle Trask – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
We’ll get our first look at the Bucs quarterback of the future – now. Trask is expected to play quite a bit during the preseason because he’s essentially going to be shelved for the rest of this year as the No. 3 QB. He’s had his highs and lows in camp, but Bruce Arians is really pleased with his progress.
Because he’s gotten such few reps in practice due to Tom Brady, Blaine Gabbert and Ryan Griffin it will be interesting to see how much Trask has absorbed from taking mental reps and how his chemistry is with the receivers he’ll be throwing too. Just remember, he’s a work in progress and the Bucs are taking it slow with Trask’s development.
RB Ke’Shawn Vaughn
Yes, I want to see rookie wide receiver Jaelon Darden in the preseason, too. But he’s been featured so much in practice already. Instead, I want to see more of Vaughn, who has had a great camp and looks bigger and faster than he did a year ago. He’s catching the ball better, too.
Vaughn, last year’s third-round pick, is talented, but he’s buried on the depth chart behind three veterans in Ronald Jones II, Leonard Fournette and Giovani Bernard. The preseason will give him a chance to shine and earn a few touches in the regular season despite the logjam ahead of him on the depth chart. Vaughn didn’t have a preseason last year, so I’m anxious to see him be featured this August.
FAB 4. 5 Bucs To Watch On Defense In The Preseason Opener
After taking a look at who to watch on offense, let’s take a look at five players to keep an eye on when Tampa Bay is on defense as Cincinnati comes to town on Saturday night in the preseason opener.
DB Ross Cockrell
Cockrell has been the surprise star in camp on defense. The coaches had to move him to free safety when Antoine Winfield and Jordan Whitehead were out, and all he did is pick off a bunch of passes. Cockrell is smart and tough, and showed great instincts in coverage in practice. So far that has made up for his lack of elite speed and size.
It will be interesting to see where the Bucs play him in the preseason – at safety or cornerback, which is where Cockrell played last year as a super sub. Tampa Bay is thrilled with the position versatility he brings. Will those INTs keep coming for Cockrell in the preseason?
FS Mike Edwards
Bucs S Mike Edwards – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Edwards has had a tremendous camp so far. He’s playing with a ton of confidence in both the run game and the pass game, picking off a few errant throws in camp to impress. Edwards struggled as a tackler last August, but cleaned up his tackling form and took better angles as the season went on.
It will be fascinating to see how Todd Bowles deploys Edwards this year with Whitehead and Winfield ahead of him on the depth chart. Yet if Edwards keeps making big plays he could challenge Winfield for some snaps or force Bowles to use three-safety packages in the regular season.
DT Khalil Davis
Davis, the team’s sixth-round pick in 2020, didn’t have a preseason to develop last year, so he could use a ton of reps this August to help him gain experience. He’s had a solid training camp and looks like he’s one of the quickest and most explosive defensive linemen the Bucs have.
With Ndamukong Suh and Steve McLendon likely playing their final seasons in the NFL, Tampa Bay would love to see Davis become a viable option to possibly step in as a starter next to Vita Vea next year. At the very least, the Bucs hope Davis develops enough to be a wave rotational defensive tackle in 2021 and beyond.
OLB Joe Tryon
Bucs OLB Joe Tryon – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
To say Tryon, the Bucs’ first-round draft pick, has been dominant in several training camp practices would be accurate. He looks the part as a chiseled, 6-foot-5, 260-pound pass rusher. And he’s playing the part too, showing great bend in getting around the arc to the quarterback.
After facing stiff competition from Tristan Wirfs and Donovan Smith on a regular basis, Tryon gets to test his skills against the enemy for the first time. The Washington product hasn’t suited up for a game since the 2019 season due to the pandemic, so you know he’s itching to record a sack.
ILB K.J. Britt
Britt, fellow rookie Grant Stuard and newcomer Joe Jones are all battling for the fourth and final spot on the depth chart at inside linebacker. After a slow start to camp, the game seems to have slowed down for Britt in practice over the last two weeks. Britt is playing faster and the light bulb appears to be coming on.
Britt is a thumper in the run game, but the Bucs want to see how he handles coverage responsibilities against the pass, in addition to how he fares on special teams. The winner of the fourth linebacker spot will likely come down to who can cover kicks and punts the best. So far, Britt has been solid in that area, too.
FAB 5. SR’s Buc Shots
• BRADY CHECKS IN ON MANNING AT THE HALL OF FAME: You’ve got to love Tom Brady’s humor on social media as he attended Peyton Manning’s Hall of Fame induction ceremony in Canton, Ohio last week with head coach Bruce Arians, quarterbacks coach Clyde Christensen and offensive assistant Tom Moore.
“I don’t think people got to know how close they got later in their careers,” Arians said of Brady and Manning – both of whom he’s coached. “It wasn’t as adversarial as everybody thought it was. When you’re two guys in the stature they’re in, you’re about the only guys they can talk to. So, yeah, I think it speaks a lot about Tom. It was his idea to get us all up there.”
Not only are Brady and Manning two of the best quarterbacks of all time, they are the only two quarterbacks to win a Super Bowl on two different teams in NFL history.
• WIRFS READY FOR ROUND 2: Bucs right tackle Tristan Wirfs was dominant last year as a rookie and he’s had a tremendous training camp. What’s in store for Wirfs this season? More dominance most likely.
• COOK’S FINAL PEWTER REPORT PODCAST: Speaking of Tristan Wirfs, the Pro Bowl-caliber right tackle was a recent guest on the Pewter Report Podcast, which happened to be Mark Cook’s final episode. Here is that episode if you missed when it aired.
• COOK’S COMEDY SHINED IN WHAT’S COOKING?: I’ll end this SR’s Fab 5 with a farewell video of some of Mark Cook’s most comedic times on his What’s Cooking? shows, featuring several Bucs players. He hated the fact that we couldn’t do any more episodes last year due to the pandemic. Rest in peace, Cookie.
Scott Reynolds is in his 25th 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 spent six years 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: firstname.lastname@example.org
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