SR’s Fab 5 is a collection of inside scoop, analysis and insight from yours truly, PewterReport.com publisher and Bucs beat writer Scott Reynolds. Here are a few things that caught my attention this week at One Buc Place and around the NFL:
FAB 1. RULES CHANGES DOOMED BUCS’ ADDITIONS OF GOLDSON, BARRON
Tampa Bay strong safety John Lynch has been a semi-finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame in each of the past two seasons. Lynch was a hard-hitting, knockout artist in an era of NFL football in which big hits were celebrated and capitalized on by the league, which used to sell videos called “NFL’s Hardest Hits.” In the present day NFL, rules changes have been enacted to protect receivers going across the middle – now called “defenseless receivers” – and quarterbacks in the pocket.
You can’t hit a quarterback below the knees or above the neck, and defenders pretty much can’t hit a receiver until he catches the ball these days. Lynch, and his violent hitting style, would have a hard time thriving in the modern day NFL, which is consumed with worrying about concussions. Not only would Lynch not be a Hall of Fame candidate in the current state of the league, which has changed the rules to favor offense and the passing game, the legendary Bucs safety, which was not the fleetest of foot and not a coverage safety, might have a hard time hanging on to his starting job.
Former general manager Mark Dominik saw Lynch’s rise to prominence in Tampa Bay during his 19 years with the Buccaneers organization. Lynch was an intimidating force in a Bucs secondary that just wasn’t the same after he was released in 2004. Dominik had tried in vain to find capable safeties, but Tanard Jackson, a fourth-round pick in 2007, couldn’t stop smoking pot, and Sabby Piscitielli, a second-round pick that same year, didn’t have the instincts to play in the NFL. Free agent signing Sean Jones was a disaster in Tampa Bay from 2010-11, and notched just one interception in 32 games in red and pewter.
When head coach Greg Schiano was hired in 2012, Piscitelli was gone, Jones wasn’t re-signed and Jackson was released prior to training camp. Safety was the team’s most pressing need and the Bucs used the seventh overall pick on Alabama strong safety Mark Barron, who had the reputation for being a fierce hitter in college, in addition to notching 12 interceptions in his final three years playing for the Crimson Tide.
A year later, Dominik and Schiano signed another hard-hitting safety in San Francisco Pro Bowler Dashon Goldson, who had 14 interceptions and five forced fumbles in six seasons in San Francisco, to a five-year, $41.25 million contract. But after two years with the Bucs, Goldson had notched just one forced fumble and one pick before being traded to Washington along with a seventh-round pick in 2016 for the Redskins’ sixth-rounder next year.
Barron had three interceptions and one forced fumble in roughly two and a half seasons with the Bucs before being traded to St. Louis last year after not being an ideal fit for Lovie Smith’s Tampa 2 scheme.
“We had our eyes on him for a while, and certainly when you watch his tape, you see as a coach the things you want in your safety,” said Dominik about Barron in 2012.
“Safety has become a very important position and a position we value,” Dominik said of Goldson in 2013. “We felt like we got an extremely productive guy, who has a lot of leadership intangibles to him that we think are needed on this defense to continue to build this defense into what Coach Schiano wants it to be.”
One of the problems was that Schiano played a lot of nickel and dime defense and blitzed his linebackers, which led to a lot of single man coverage, including the safeties. Barron and Goldson didn’t have the speed, quickness or coverage ability needed to play in that blitz-heavy scheme.
Ultimately both big-time acquisitions failed in Tampa Bay because the Bucs pursued the wrong type of safety. Over the past few years the league has put an emphasis on calling targeting penalties by defensive players, and Goldson was one of the league’s biggest offenders in 2013. Goldson, who drew Dominik’s attention in 2011 when he nailed former Bucs wide receiver Mike Williams and forced fumble, was flagged for seven penalties in 2013, including five unnecessary roughness calls and a personal foul.
Goldson was a marked man by NFL officials that year and was suspended for the Detroit game after a hit on Atlanta receiver Roddy White. He narrowly escaped a suspension earlier in the 2013 season, and racked up fines totaling $454,705.
Entering his ninth NFL season in 2014, Goldson wasn’t nearly aggressive, logging just one illegal contact penalty and no personal fouls for targeting or helmet-to-helmet hits. But the penalties he racked up in San Francisco and Tampa Bay prior to 2014 seemed to neuter his big-play style.
Goldson broke up one pass and recovered a fumble last year, but it was the first time in six years that the player known as “The Hawk” didn’t force a fumble or record an interception. Fearing penalties, suspensions and fines, Goldson’s lack of aggressiveness negatively affected his play and prompted the Bucs to ditch him after paying him nearly $18 million in the first two years of his contract.
Barron had six penalties in 2013, including a roughing the passer and an unnecessary roughness infraction. Yet he wasn’t the ballhawk that the Bucs had expected he would be. In 37 games prior to being traded last year at midseason, Barron recorded only three interceptions, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. Tampa Bay’s new regime felt Barron lacked instincts in the passing game and that was evidenced in the fact that he broke up just four passes in 15 games between the Bucs and the Rams.
Between the $20 million and a first-round draft pick the Bucs invested in Goldson and Barron, Tampa Bay got very little in return for two big, physical safeties that barely forced any turnovers and didn’t play the pass well.
The type of safety the Bucs should have pursued instead of Barron and Goldson is one that is a true pass defender. Detroit free safety Glover Quin led the NFL in interceptions with seven last year, and he is listed at 6-foot, 206 pounds. Next was Cleveland free safety Tashaun Gipson, who is just 5-11, 205 pounds, with six picks. Gipson has recorded more interceptions over the past two seasons – 11 – than any other player.
Indianapolis strong safety Mike Adams is built like a nickel cornerback at 5-foot-11, 200 pounds, but snared five picks last year along with Minnesota free safety Harrison Smith, who is bigger at 6-foot-2, 214 pounds. Smith has 10 interceptions in three years in the NFL, and was a noted ballhawk at Notre Dame as a senior, notching seven picks.
In 2013 as a free safety with the New York Giants, Antrel Rolle, who is 6-foot, 206 pounds, led the NFL with six picks, while Gipson was second with five INTs along with Seattle’s Pro Bowler Earl Thomas, who stands just 5-foot-10 and weighs 202 pounds.
It’s players like 5-foot-10, 203-pound Jairus Byrd, who had 22 picks in five years with Buffalo, Denver’s T.J. Ward, who is 5-foot-10, 200 pounds and San Diego’s Eric Weddle with 19 career picks in eight seasons that are the true playmakers at the safety position because they can cover and defend the pass so well. At 6-foot-3, 232 pounds, Seattle’s Kam Chancellor has become the rare exception of a big safety in the modern day NFL rather than the rule.
Sub-par safety play since Barron was drafted and Goldson was acquired has hindered Tampa Bay’s defense. The Bucs had the league’s worst-rated pass defense in 2012, surrendering 4,758 yards – an average of 297 yards per game in addition to 30 touchdowns versus just 18 interceptions. The pass defense improved to 17th in 2013 as the Bucs allowed 3,806 yards – an average of 238 yards along with 30 touchdowns and 21 interceptions against 21 picks.
Last year in the first season of Lovie Smith and Leslie Frazier’s Tampa 2 scheme, the Bucs’ pass defense ranked 28th, allowing 4,084 yards – an average of 255 yards per game with 28 touchdowns and only 14 interceptions. What’s even worse is that opposing quarterbacks completed 68.7 percent of their passes against Tampa Bay’s defense. That figure ranked dead last in the NFL.
That’s one of the reasons why the Bucs essentially opted for former Chicago Bears free safety Chris Conte, who was signed in free agency, over Goldson. Conte has four years of playing experience in the Tampa 2 and has nine career interceptions, including three in each of the last two seasons.
Did you know that Tampa Bay’s safeties went the first 15 games of the season without recording an interception? It wasn’t until Bradley McDougald and Keith Tandy picked off New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees in Week 17 that the Bucs’ centerfielders got in the INT column last year. That won’t happen again as Tampa Bay is continuing to look for more ballhawking safeties that can defend the pass in the modern day NFL.
FAB 2. TAMPA BAY IS TARGETING PLAYMAKING SAFETIES
The Buccaneers shocked the world when they bypassed Boston College middle linebacker Luke Kuechley with the seventh overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft and selected Alabama strong safety Mark Barron instead. Tampa Bay even had a mild draft surprise last year, picking West Virginia running back Charles Sims over a guard in the third round.
Expect another twist in the 2015 NFL Draft when the Bucs use a third- or fourth-round pick on a safety this year. At first glance, safety doesn’t look like a huge need as the roster lists veterans Chris Conte and Major Wright, and young, developing players in Bradley McDougald and Keith Tandy – even with the departure of Dashon Goldson, who was traded to Washington last week.
But a closer look at the safety situation in Tampa Bay shows that Wright signed a two-year, $3 million deal this offseason with no cap penalties if he’s released after 2015. Conte signed a one-year deal worth $1.5 million. Both Wright and Conte are considered to be fringe NFL starters and are not ideal, long-term solutions at free safety.
Tandy, who is entering his fourth year in the NFL recorded three interceptions, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery in a handful of starts in 2013, but struggled adjusting to the Tampa 2 scheme and only saw late-season action last year where he recorded one pick. McDougald has the most promise of all the safeties, but only has five starts in his two-year NFL career.
The Bucs have spent the offseason scouting playmaking free safeties hard and the ones that the team has targeted for private workouts or visits are all deemed to be third-, fourth- or fifth-round draft candidates. Here’s a look at seven ballhawking safeties that are on Tampa Bay’s radar:
Arizona State FS Damarious Randall – 5-11, 196 – Senior
In two years at Arizona State, Randall posted 177 tackles, including 106 as a senior, in addition to 12 pass breakups and six interceptions, including two returned for touchdowns, four forced fumbles and a sack. Some teams are looking at Randall, who played at the Senior Bowl, as a nickel cornerback due to his size, but the Bucs view him as a free safety.
Including the nine interceptions that he had at Mesa Community College, Randall had 15 picks in college. Randall could be a late second- or an early third-round pick. The Bucs have already privately worked out Randall and he’s visiting One Buc Place on Sunday, too.
Samford FS Jaquiski Tartt – 6-1, 221 – Senior
Tartt is a big, physical safety with a penchant for creating takeaways in the secondary. He notched 277 tackles, 20 passes defensed, six interceptions, including two pick-sixes and two forced fumbles at Samford and played in the Senior Bowl in his hometown of Mobile, Ala.
Tartt had two 17-tackle games in 2013 when he recorded a career-high 98 tackles. Tarrt suffered a leg injury that limited him in 11 games last year, but he’s expected to be drafted in the third round due to the versatility to play either strong or free safety.
Utah FS Eric Rowe – 6-1, 205 – Senior
Rowe isn’t the ballhawk that some of the other safeties the Bucs are scouting, but he is very good in pass coverage with 36 pass breakups and three interceptions. Rowe played cornerback last season and had 13 pass breakups and an interception returned for a touchdown.
Rowe is a solid tackler, notching 261 tackles in four seasons, in addition to 1.5 sacks in his Utah career. At 6-foot-1, Rowe has good size to be a centerfielder and is likely a second- or third-round prospect and some teams are viewing him as a cornerback in the NFL.
Northwestern FS Ibraheim Campbell – 5-11, 208
Campbell, who starred at the Senior Bowl, played strong safety for the Wildcats, but will likely switch to free safety at the next level due to his size. He had 316 tackles, 27 pass breakups, 10 interceptions and six forced fumbles as a four-year starter.
Despite only playing in eight games last season, Campbell came away with three interceptions and four forced fumbles after posting a career-high four picks as a junior in 2013. Campbell is regarded as a third-round prospect.
Fresno State FS Derron Smith – 5-10, 200 – Senior
Smith was a four-year starter at Fresno State, recording 304 tackles, 18 pass breakups, 15 interceptions, including two he returned for touchdowns, four sacks, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. After six interceptions as a sophomore followed by seven as a junior, Smith was a marked man in 2014 with quarterbacks staying away from his area of the field. The senior safety only had one interception and seven pass breakups to go along with 93 tackles.
In 2011, Smith had his first forced fumble and first interception against Jason Licht’s alma mater, Nebraska. That’s something that the Bucs general manager might remember about the third- to fourth-round prospect.
Louisville FS Gerod Holliman – 6-0, 218 – Redshirt Sophomore
Holliman was a one-year starter at Louisville and burst onto the scene with a school-record 14 interceptions, which tied an NCAA record. With such a gaudy INT total one would think that Holliman benefited from a lot of tipped passes, but 12 of Holliman’s picks didn’t come from deflections.
Holliman has to work on his tackling technique and taking the correct angles, but his ballhawking skills will prompt a team like Tampa Bay to draft him in the third or fourth round.
Penn State FS Adrian Amos – 6-0, 218
Amos was a three-year starter at Penn State who posted 149 tackles, 22 passes defensed, seven interceptions and three sacks. The Senior Bowl participant has ideal NFL size at 6-foot, 218 and helped his draft stock by running a 4.37 in the 40-yard dash at his pro day.
Amos is coming off a good senior campaign with a career-high three interceptions and seven pass breakups, but NFL teams want to see him progress in run support. The Nittany Lions star is viewed as a fourth- or fifth-round pick.
One of these safety prospects could be wearing pewter and red beginning in May, possibly Randall in the third round, as we have him in PewterReport.com’s 2015 Bucs’ 7-Round Mock Draft. If you don’t think Tampa Bay could draft a safety that high, consider that that Lovie Smith spent a third-round pick on safety Brandon Hardin in 2012, a third-rounder on Conte in 2011, and a third-round selection on Wright in 2010.
FAB 3. TRADING DOWN IN THE SECOND ROUND COULD HELP BUILD BUCS ROSTER
A few weeks ago I explored the prospects of Tampa Bay trading down in the second round in a previous SR’s Fab 5. I’d like to revisit that topic because doing so would allow general manager Jason Licht and head coach Lovie Smith the opportunity to address more needs with a trade-down opportunity after getting a franchise quarterback in Florida State’s Jameis Winston.
With a better read on which positions and players the Buccaneers are targeting, here’s an updated look at how trading down in the second round could benefit Tampa Bay. First, there has to be a willing trade partner.
The Dallas Cowboys need a premier running back to replace DeMarco Murray, who left for Philadelphia in free agency, and they will want their pick of the slew of rushers that will be selected in the second round – presumably Boise State’s Jay Ajayi. Unfortunately for the Bucs, the Cowboys own the 60th overall pick, which is a draft choice near the end of the second round. Luckily for Tampa Bay there are about 20 players in the second round alone that would fill a need and be a great addition to the Bucs, so the team has a very large draft pool of players to consider in that round.
Because the Cowboys would want to jump up 26 spots they will have to surrender a multitude of draft picks to do so. Tampa Bay would trade down from 34 to 60 in the second round with Dallas and acquire the Cowboys’ third- and fourth-round picks (91 and 127 overall) as part of the bounty.
The Bucs’ second-round pick (34th overall) is worth 560 points on the widely regarded draft trade chart. The Cowboys’ second-round pick (60th overall) is worth 300 points, while their third-rounder (91st overall) is worth 136 points and their fourth-rounder (127th overall) is worth 45 points. Those three picks total 481 points, which means the Bucs could ask Dallas for a fourth-round pick in 2016 to help make up the 79-point difference between 560 points and 481 points.
Since we are playing some fantasy football with this mock draft, let’s also assume the Bucs trade former first-round running back Doug Martin to Tampa Bay’s favorite trading partner over the years, New England, along with the Patriots’ original fifth-round pick, No. 168, for New England’s fourth-round pick (No. 131 overall), and Tampa Bay’s original sixth-round pick (No. 178).
These two trades would give Tampa Bay a total of 11 draft picks and their draft could look something like this after trading down in the second round with Dallas and dealing Martin to New England:
Round 1 (1) – Florida State QB Jameis Winston – 6-4, 231 – Redshirt Sophomore
Winston is widely regarded as the top quarterback in the draft, and with his experience in a pro-style offense he will be a Day 1 starter in Tampa Bay.
Round 2 (60 from Dallas) – Colorado State OT Ty Sambrailo – 6-6, 311 – Senior
The Buccaneers like Sambrailo’s toughness, athleticism and versatility, and believe he could start in the NFL at left tackle, right tackle or guard.
Round 3 (65) – Kansas State WR Tyler Lockett – 5-10, 182 – Senior
Tampa Bay gets a slot receiver and a return specialist that can score on punts and kicks with the tough and speedy Lockett, who is K-State’s all-time leading receiver.
Round 3 (91 from Dallas) – Florida State G Tre Jackson – 6-4, 330 – Senior
The Bucs get a starting-caliber right guard in the massive Jackson, who is 6-foot-4, 330 pounds and has two years of experience blocking for Winston.
Round 4 (109 from St. Louis) – Michigan State RB Jeremy Langford – 6-0, 208 – Senior
Tampa Bay drafts a workhorse back in the fast and physical Langford, who runs a 4.42 and had 40 TDs and nearly 3,000 yards the last two years for the Spartans.
Round 4 (127 from Dallas) – Louisville FS Gerod Holliman – 6-0, 218 – Redshirt Sophomore
Holliman tied an NCAA record with 14 picks in his first season as a starter and has great instincts, but must become a better tackler and a bit faster in the NFL.
Round 5 (131 from New England) – Central Michigan WR Titus Davis – 6-1, 196 – Senior
Productive four-year starter with deep speed and production (204 receptions for 3,700 yards and 37 TDs) averaged 18.1 yards per catch during his career.
Round 5 (162 from Baltimore) – Kansas MLB Ben Heeney – 6-0, 230 – Senior
Fast (4.58), hard-nosed middle linebacker that produced with 335 tackles, 35 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks, four interceptions, and will be a stud on special teams.
Round 6 (178 from New England) – Towson DE Ryan Delaire – 6-4, 254 – Senior
Physical, electric pass rusher that resembles Tampa Bay’s Jacquies Smith off the edge with 22.5 sacks and five forced fumbles the past two seasons at Towson.
Round 6 (184 from St. Louis) – Memphis CB Bobby McCain – 5-9, 195 – Senior
Playmaking cornerback with 12 INTs and five defensive touchdowns in four years as a starter that also has kick return experience at Memphis (25.3 avg.).
Round 7 (219) – Clemson DE Tavaris Barnes – 6-4, 282 – Senior
Big, athletic reserve defensive end that split time with Corey Crawford the past three seasons and recorded five sacks and a forced fumble.
If you prefer a more premier pass rusher, you could substitute Utah’s Nate Orchard for Jackson in the third round and then replace Barnes with Miami guard Jon Feliciano in the seventh round.
Now that you’re familiar with the picks I’ve made for Tampa Bay after incorporating some trades, let’s see how the new Bucs fit into the roster. The first five picks – Winston, Sambrailo, Lockett, Jackson and Langford – all have the chance to start right away as rookies.
Winston will be Tampa Bay’s starting quarterback from the moment he’s drafted. Sambrailo gives the Bucs two players – with Demar Dotson being the other – that can play either left or right tackle. That’s a great option to have in Tampa Bay and training camp can be used to sort out who starts where.
Lockett can compete with Louis Murphy for the right to be Tampa Bay’s slot receiver and he can also be the team’s starting punt and kickoff returner. He had four kick return scores at K-State and had two punt returns for touchdowns last year, in addition to having a punt return and a kickoff return for TDs called back in 2014 due to penalties.
Langford replaces Martin and could see time as a rookie splitting the carries with pass-catching slasher Charles Sims and ultra-quick Bobby Rainey. Langford is a bruiser and is deadly around the goal line.
Holliman also has a chance to start at free safety as a rookie opposite strong safety Bradley McDougald, but has to become a better tackler first after just one year’s worth of starting experience at Louisville. He can be a core special teamer and develop behind Chris Conte and Major Wright – neither of whom is a long-term starter in Tampa Bay.
Davis is too talented to pass up in the fifth round and can be groomed behind Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans. The speedy Davis had 11 games with at least two touchdowns at Central Michigan, in addition to 17 100-yard games and eight catches of 50 yards or more.
Heeney is a fast, tough defender that is equally good against the run and the pass. He’ll get a chance to compete with Bruce Carter for the middle linebacker job in camp and may be an eventual starter down the road if he loses in 2015. Heeney will be an immediate contributor covering kicks and punts and has the makings of a special teams demon.
McCain has experience playing nickel cornerback at Memphis against slot receivers and has big-time ball skills and instincts. He’s a willing tackler in run support and will have the chance to compete with Sterling Moore, Isaiah Frey and Leonard Johnson as a rookie, in addition to playing special teams.
The Bucs use picks in the sixth and seventh rounds to select a pair of defensive ends in Delaire and Barnes. Both pass rushers run in the 4.8 range in the 40-yard dash, but have explosive quickness off the ball with a 1.67 time in the 10-yard split, which is comparable to Missouri’s Shane Ray and Utah’s Nate Orchard, who posted a 1.65 time. Both defensive ends would compete for playing time during their rookie season with Delaire mostly a right end candidate while Barnes is a left end prospect.
Under this scenario with Tampa Bay selecting players at 10 different positions, including return specialist, and finding five potential starters in 2015 from this draft class the Bucs could be well on their way to turning the corner and climbing the ladder in the NFC South division.
FAB 4. DRAFT DAY FUN WITH BRUCE ALLEN IN 2006
To celebrate my 20 years of covering the Buccaneers I’m going to share with you some of the behind-the-scenes encounters I’ve had over the last two decades. These stories will appear in the first 20 SR’s Fab 5 columns of 2015, which encompasses much of the offseason.
Each year in its positional draft previews PewterReport.com names its Bucs’ Best Bets, which are players that we believe Tampa Bay would select if they were going to draft a player at that position. For well over a decade we have listed two Bucs’ Best Bets at each position – one of which is a Round 1-3 pick if the team is going to draft a certain position early, and the other is a Round 4-7 pick if Tampa Bay is going to select one on Day 3.
Due to an immense amount of scouting during the fall, winter and spring, PewterReport.com has been able to accurately predict nearly two dozen Bucs’ draft selections from our Bucs’ Best Bets over the years. One of our better years was in 2006 when PewterReport.com listed wide receiver Maurice Stovall, quarterback Bruce Gradkowski and tight end T.J. Williams as Bucs’ Best Bets and they were all selected by Tampa Bay.
One of the things we do as the PewterReport.com staff when the draft begins is to list all of the Bucs’ Best Bets and then cross their names off when they come off the draft board. Our goal each year is to just hit one of those players because it’s not an easy feat. Some years that has been the case as it was in 2010 with defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, in 2011 with safety Ahmad Black, and in 2013 with quarterback Mike Glennon. Last year we forecasted Charles Sims getting picked, as he was a Bucs’ Best Bet at the running back position.
In 2003 we were down to our last Bucs’ Best Bet, which was cornerback Torrie Cox, as Tampa Bay went on the clock with its sixth-round pick, which was the final one in that draft. When the pick came in and it was Cox, former Pewter Reporter Jim Flynn and I turned to each other and high-fived. We escaped being shut out that year.
What made the 2006 draft so funny was that after Tampa Bay drafted Stovall we realized that a good deal of our Bucs’ Best Bets were still alive for Day 3. Flynn and I discussed e-mailing former Bucs general manager Bruce Allen with our “suggestions and recommendations” for Tampa Bay’s remaining picks in rounds 4-7. When Allen drafted Gradkowski in the sixth round, I e-mailed Allen.
“Thanks for making us look good, Bruce!”
“You’re welcome,” he replied.
“Now please help us out again and draft North Carolina State tight end T.J. Williams!”
Sure enough, Williams came off the board and Flynn and I began laughing and high-fived each other. There was no reply from Allen this time after we sent another congratulatory text his way.
When Allen came to the post-draft press conference, Flynn and I were smiling and we gave him a thumb’s up. Allen smirked and shook his head as he saw us while he was on his way to the podium.
After the draft Allen said that in no way shape or form did we influence the Bucs’ selections of Gradkowski and Williams, but he did want to know why we had those specific players listed as Bucs’ Best Bets because they were obviously targeting them. Of course we didn’t tell him. We have our sources and methods.
Former Bucs general manager Mark Dominik wondered the same thing in 2009 when we nailed three Bucs’ Best Bets that year. Listing Josh Freeman as the early Bucs’ Best Bet at quarterback wasn’t difficult. That was easy. Having both Arrelious Benn and Mike Williams as the early and late Bucs’ Best Bets at wide receiver was the real challenge.
It will be interesting to see how we do this year’s Bucs’ Best Bets. Of course general manager Jason Licht can help PewterReport.com get things started off right by selecting Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston with the first overall pick.
I think I’ll e-mail him just prior to the start of the draft on April 30 just to make sure he knows.
FAB 5. SR’s BUC SHOTS
• There is a lot of pot-stirring going on right now when it comes to the Buccaneers and their draft plans. Don’t buy into Charles Robinson’s Yahoo report about Bucs co-owner Darcie Glazer Kassewitz being concerned about the team drafting Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston. It’s not going to change the organization’s draft board or affect the pick. Winston will be the Bucs’ new quarterback.
• The real debate inside One Buccaneer Place right isn’t whether to select Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston or Oregon’s Marcus Mariota. It’s whether to select a defensive end or an offensive tackle in the second round. With the investment in a quarterback – likely Winston – in the first round, the Bucs are almost obligated to use the second-round pick on an offensive tackle to help protect that investment.
Considering how the Bucs cobbled together 36 sacks last year without a premier edge rusher, Tampa Bay may have to rely on that strategy again this year and lean on defensive line coaches Joe Cullen and Paul Spicer to work their magic and squeeze as many sacks out of Pro Bowl defensive tackle Gerald McCoy and an unheralded group of pass rushers. Keep an eye on new defensive tackle Henry Melton, who will be a wave pass rusher in Tampa Bay this year. The team believes he’s as productive getting after the quarterback as Ndamukong Suh, but he’s not the elite run stuffer that Suh is.
• One of the most revealing insights from Steve Mariucci from NFL Network’s “Game Changers” show was the advantage that Jameis Winston has in play-action passes over Oregon’s Marcus Mariota and other spread quarterbacks that operate almost exclusively out of the shotgun. Winston used the traditional play-action pass from under center, while Mariota’s play-action was always in front of him in the spread offense.
“The system that you ran at Florida State is an advantage for you because it’s a pro-style system,” Mariucci said. “The spread guys don’t get this. They don’t turn their back to the defense like this, make a play fake here and then try to pop their head around and find somebody.”
That’s very true and another reason why Winston is the more pro-ready quarterback for a regime that needs to bounce back quickly after a very disappointing 2-14 season last year. General manager Jason Licht and head coach Lovie Smith just don’t have time to wait for Mariota to develop.
• One of the more interesting quotes from Jameis Winston’s pro day in Tallahassee from last week was the Florida State quarterback talking about his competitive nature.
“I am a competitor – like 100 percent Juicy Juice,” Winston said. “I am a competitor. When it’s time to play football, I want to play football. People don’t get this chance. You all don’t understand. There are so many brothers where I am from, the inner cities, that are great players, but don’t get the chance to see this day. Whether it is trouble, or whether they don’t get the opportunity. I am doing it for all of them. That is what all of us are here for. I am representing.
“Every football field is my sanctuary. The locker room is my sanctuary. Football is my sanctuary. I am not just talking about the field. I am talking about everything, and I mean everything – dealing with my teammates, my brothers, the locker room. Just being a great teammate to the players the last three years that I have been with. This is my fraternity. These are my brothers.”
• Good move by the Buccaneers to sign Lions restricted free agent George Johnson to a three-year, $9 million deal. Detroit has until Saturday to match, but they probably won’t as they didn’t match a similar offer last year for restricted free agent defensive end Willie Young. It’s a move I hoped the Bucs would make and mentioned it in last week’s SR’s Fab 5. If Johnson becomes a Buccaneer it won’t prevent Tampa Bay from drafting another defensive end, and it won’t make Johnson an instant starter, either.
Jacquies Smith came out of nowhere and had 6.5 sacks last year, which was half a sack more than Johnson. The Bucs view Johnson as a role player that could share some snaps with another defensive end and help Tampa Bay’s pass rush. He’s got to develop more of an all-around game before he’s ready to be an every-down starter. Having defensive line coaches like Joe Cullen and Paul Spicer will help in that endeavor.
• Don’t be surprised if the Buccaneers claim former Packers offensive tackle Aaron Adams off waivers. He spent the 2013 training camp with offensive line coach George Warhop in Cleveland before being signed to Green Bay’s practice squad later that year.
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