SR’s Fab 5 is a collection of inside scoop, analysis and insight from yours truly, Pewter Report publisher and Bucs beat writer Scott Reynolds. Here are a few things that caught my attention this week at One Buc Place:
FAB 1. BUCCANEERS NEED TO CONTINUE TO RUN WITH RAINEY
I’ve been touting Bobby Rainey’s running ability since last year when he ripped off a 31-yard touchdown in his first game in Tampa Bay – a run that proved to be the game-winner against Miami last year on Monday Night Football.
He followed up that performance with 163 yards and three touchdowns (two rushing, one receiving) against Atlanta the next week in his first NFL start. Three weeks later he ripped off an 80-yard touchdown run en route to a 127-yard performance against Buffalo. By the end of the season, Rainey had rushed for 532 yards and five touchdowns in nine games to become Tampa Bay’s leading rusher in 2013.
I continued to tout Rainey in the offseason during OTAs and training camp where his agility and ability to make defenders miss really stood out. Even though Rainey looked better than Doug Martin, who was coming off a season-ending shoulder injury, during some practices, new Bucs head coach Lovie Smith went with Martin as the team’s starter.
The evidence Smith used was the preseason in which Martin rushed for 68 yards on 21 carries (3.2 avg.) and one touchdown running behind the starting offensive line. Rainey was stuck behind lesser blockers with the second- and third-string offensive line and finished with 65 yards on 32 carries (2.0 avg.).
Because Smith had never coached either player before, he went with the player that has had the most NFL success and entered the league as a number one pick. That’s only logical, and Smith can’t be faulted for that decision.
But I don’t think Martin is necessarily the better running back. Rainey has the acceleration, quickness, field vision and agility that make him every bit the running back that Martin is – and perhaps an even more special back in my opinion. The difference-maker for Rainey is his ability to create something out of nothing when the blocking isn’t there. Martin hasn’t shown the agility to do that and needs good blocking from the offensive line to be effective.
“Bobby is one of those backs that if you give him an inch he’ll make something out of it,” Bucs right tackle Demar Dotson said. “As a lineman, that’s the kind of back you like because you don’t have to hold your block very long. He’s quick. He’s fast. He’s low to the ground. He makes people miss. I knew when Doug had his little knee injury that we believed in Bobby. He came out last year and showed that he is a capable back in this league. He had a little struggle in the last game with the fumbles, but he has to pick his head up. That’s part of the game. He has to come back from that and have success and be the guy that we know he is.”
Martin returns from a knee injury he suffered in the season opener and will likely be the starter at running back against Pittsburgh, especially since Rainey is coming off a game in which he fumbled twice. In fact, Rainey has fumbled three times in three games this season, and that could land him on the bench this Sunday, as Smith absolutely abhors turnovers.
“There was no excuse, period,” Rainey said. “I fumbled the ball, period. I have to take care of the ball. I will do that starting today and from here on out. I will take care of the ball. The team doesn’t have to worry about me losing the ball again. What I get paid to do is protect the ball. That’s what I will do – protect the ball.”
Smith is in a bit of a quandary at the running back position because despite the fumbles, Rainey has been the most productive weapon on offense, rushing for a team-high 197 yards on 37 carries (5.3 avg.), in addition to catching 13 passes for 102 yards (8.5 avg.) and a touchdown. While Martin is the starter, but he hasn’t produced for the team in some time – rushing just nine times for nine yards in Carolina, and has just one 100-yard game in his last seven starts.
Martin’s Starting Rushing Performances – 2013
Week 1 – 18-17 loss at Jets – 24 carries for 65 yards (2.7 avg.) 1 TD
Week 2 – 16-14 loss vs. Saints – 29 carries for 144 yards (5.0 avg.) 0 TDs
Week 3 – 23-3 loss at Patriots – 20 carries for 88 yards (4.4 avg.) 0 TDs
Week 4 – 13-10 loss vs. Cardinals – 27 carries for 45 yards (1.7 avg.) 0 TDs
Week 6 – 31-20 loss vs. Eagles – 16 carries for 67 yards (4.2 avg.) 0 TDs
Weel 7 – 31-23 loss at Falcons – 11 carries for 47 yards (4.3 avg.) 0 TDs
Martin’s Starting Rushing Performances – 2014
Week 1 – 20-14 loss to Panthers – 9 carries for 9 yards (1.0 avg.) 0 TDs
Martin has rushed 136 times for 465 yards (3.4 avg.) and one touchdown in his last seven starts. By comparison, here’s how Rainey has done in his last seven starts dating back to last season.
Rainey’s Starting Rushing Performances – 2013
Week 13 – 27-6 loss at Carolina – 17 carries for 63 yards (3.7 avg.) 0 TDs
Week 14 – 27-6 win vs. Buffalo – 22 carries for 127 yards (5.8 avg.) 1 TD
Week 15 – 33-14 loss vs. 49ers – 11 carries for 27 yards (2.5 avg.) 0 TDs
Week 16 – 23-13 loss at Rams – 20 carries for 37 yards (1.9 avg.) 1 TD
Week 17 – 42-17 loss at Saints – 11 carries for 35 yards (3.2 avg.) 0 TDs
Rainey’s Starting Rushing Performances – 2014
Week 2 – 19-17 loss vs. Rams – 22 carries for 144 yards (6.5 avg.) 0 TDs
Week 3 – 56-14 loss at Falcons – 11 carries for 41 yards (3.7 avg.) 0 TDs
During those seven games Rainey has rushed 114 times for 474 yards (4.2 avg.) and two touchdowns, and has also caught a touchdown pass. His numbers are slightly better than those of Martin, especially his rushing average, which is nearly a full yard better.
So which rusher does Smith go with on Sunday to be the lead back? If I’m Tampa Bay’s head coach, I stick with Rainey until he fumbles again. Martin would obviously play and spell Rainey when he needs a break, but both Martin and Mike James, who has 11 yards on 10 carries this season absolutely have to do better than average a paltry 1.0 yard per carry – especially with Rainey averaging 5.3 yards per carry.
“I’m just reading my keys, the offensive line is doing a great job of getting on their guy and I’m hitting the holes,” Rainey said. “Anytime I get the ball I try to make something happen. I feel like as a runner everybody depends on me to make something happen. That’s been my mentality since I was little. Anytime I have the ball I want to be the guy that everyone looks to and can depend on.”
While he has yet to find a groove himself, James has been happy that his teammate has found success and has fueled the Bucs’ ground game early this season.
“Bobby is a great runner,” James said. “He’s had some ups and downs [with the fumbles], but his production has been steady. He’s averaging over five yards per carry and he’s what you want in a running back. You want a guy that can create on his own and be a game-changer within the game. I’m proud of him.”
I know all about Martin’s 1,454-yard rushing season in 2012 in which he tied a franchise-record with 11 rushing touchdowns. I also know that Reggie Cobb and Cadillac Williams were 1,000-yard rushers in Tampa Bay – and neither is considered among the Bucs’ greatest players of all-time. As of right now, Martin is in their class after having just one 1,000-yard season in the NFL, which came two years ago as a rookie.
“It’s a business of ‘what have you done for me lately?’ and I want to go out there and prove that I’m still that back I was during my rookie year,” Martin said. “I know what I’m capable of and the coaches and players know what I’m capable of. I just have to go out there and prove it.
“It’s been a while since I’ve been back on the field and able to do my thing. I want to get back out there and be that guy again. I’ve just got to be patient.”
Martin can’t afford to be too patient because he’ll be yesterday’s news as he has only six 100-yard games in 23 starts, and six games in which he has averaged at least 5.0 yards per carry. By comparison in just eight starts in the NFL, Rainey already has three 100-yard games, as well was three games in which he has averaged at least 5.0 yards per carry. Martin has nine runs of 20 yards or more in his 23 NFL starts, while Rainey already has five runs of 20 yards or more in his 12 games as a Buccaneer.
Conversely, Martin has six games in which he has averaged 3.0 yards or less with at least nine carries, while Rainey has three of those games with 3.0 yards per carry or less.
It will be interesting to see what affect those two fumbles in Atlanta on Smith’s confidence in Rainey and how much he’ll play this Sunday at Pittsburgh as a result.
“I play every game like it’s my last,” Rainey said. “I just didn’t take care of the ball at that time. You have to run hungry and stay hungry in this business, period. I’ve seen how quickly some guys get cut and are out the league. I don’t take anything for granted. Each day, each practice I have I go as hard as I can. I want to stay in this business a long time. I love this game. It’s going to be hard to get rid of me. I’m going to make it hard to get rid of me.
“It doesn’t matter if Doug comes back and he’s the guy or whatever. I’ll be ready. I was always train like I am the number one guy – the starter. So whenever my time comes it will be just like the last time that I was starting and I won’t skip a beat. It doesn’t matter when Doug comes back or not. We can be a little dynamic duo when he does.”
Playing both Rainey and Martin is fine. Just lead with Rainey because he’s been the Bucs’ top producer on offense.
FAB 2. TAMPA BAY FACES TWO-HEADED RUSHING MONSTER IN PITTSBURGH
The Buccaneers’ struggles against the pass this year have been well documented. The team ranks 27th against the pass, allowing 261.7 yards per game, has just four pass breakups on the year and one interception. Furthermore, two backup quarterbacks completed over 72 percent of their passes in Tampa Bay’s first two games this season, and Pro Bowl quarterback Matt Ryan completed a Falcons franchise record 87.5 percent against the team last Thursday night.
So this week the Bucs face yet another Pro Bowl quarterback in Ben Roethlisberger when they travel to Pittsburgh on Sunday. But Big Ben isn’t the chief concern this week for Tampa Bay’s defense, which ranks tied for 27th. It’s the two-headed monster that the Steelers have in their backfield with Le’Veon Bell and former Buccaneer LeGarrette Blount.
Bell is the second-leading rusher in the NFL with 315 yards and a touchdown. He ripped off an 81-yard in last week’s 37-19 win at Carolina in which he totaled 147 yards on 20 carries (7.0 avg). While Bell, Pittsburgh’s second-round pick from a year ago, is still listed at 6-foot-1, 241 pounds, he’s really dropped weight and weighs about 20 pounds less.
“He ended last year in the mid-220s,” Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said. “He reported back this year in the mid-220s. He has shown he is committed to maintaining a level of conditioning over the course of a 12-month calendar and he has taken off from there. I think his play is reflecting that.”
Bucs defensive end Will Gholston played with Bell at Michigan State and has the utmost respect for what he can do after facing him for three years in practice.
“He’s leaner, faster and I think he’s down to five percent body fat,” Gholston said. “He’s a phenomenal athlete as always. When he came in as a freshman with some of the runs he’s doing, but now they are way more explosive. He’s been doing it for a while. Everything he’s been doing has been expected.”
Bell is considered to be a complete back and is also a dangerous receiver out of the backfield, catching 13 passes for 146 yards. When Bell needs a break, the Steelers turn to Blount, who is a few pounds shy of the 250 pounds that he listed at on the roster.
After a slow start in which he gained 14 yards and scored a touchdown on seven carries in the first two weeks, Blount erupted for 118 yards and another score on 10 carries at Carolina. In addition to a season-high 50-yard run, Blount also ripped off a 17-yard jaunt in which he hurdled a Panthers defender.
“He did? How about that,” Bucs defensive tackle Gerald McCoy said. “And he’s still hurtling people, huh? Blount looks good. Blount has gotten a lot better. He’s dropped weight and he’s gotten faster and more elusive.
“Le’Veon Bell is going to be special. I’ve been watching him all week. He’s going to be special. We have to corral him because he can make you look bad. Both of them – you think Blount is going to try to run you over and then he makes you miss. Le’Veon Bell will be going one way and then 40 yards later he’s up the field. You never know. We have to play 11 strong.”
With Bell and Blount finding their groove in Carolina, Pittsburgh’s fifth-ranked offense has the league’s number one-ranked rushing unit, averaging 163.3 yards per game on the ground. By comparison, the Bucs’ running game ranks 20th in the league. Don’t blame Tampa Bay’s Mike James, who has only rushed for 11 yards on 10 carries (1.1 avg.), if he’s a bit jealous, but he has a great deal of professional respect for the Steelers’ rushing attack.
“My wife and my in-laws are from Pittsburgh, so I watch the Steelers,” James said. “I trained with Le’Veon Bell for the combine, so we’re good friends. They are doing an amazing job running the ball. I know it will be a big challenge for our defense to stop them.”
And if Bell and Blount aren’t enough, rookie Dri Archer, who is one of the fastest players in the NFL, is slated to return from a Week 1 injury he suffered against Cleveland.
FAB 3. TAMPA BAY’S 2014 SEASON HAS FAMILIAR, OMINIUS START
Remember when Connor Barth’s Achilles tendon injury in July signaled the beginning of dark clouds around One Buccaneer Place last year? That was a prelude to all of the drama surrounding Josh Freeman’s fall from grace and ouster in Tampa Bay during the team’s 0-4 start, which turned into eight winless games before a triumph over Miami on Monday Night Football.
Despite a roster overhaul and the arrival of experienced head coach Lovie Smith, which came with much fanfare, it seems like that black cloud has returned to Tampa Bay at the start of the 2014 campaign. A rash of injuries that started in the preseason with promising rookie running back Charles Sims hit the Buccaneers, who lost defensive end Adrian Clayborn (biceps) and cornerback Mike Jenkins (pectoral) for the year after the season opener.
Those injuries, coupled with defensive tackle Gerald McCoy’s broken hand and ankle sprains that have sidelined defensive end Michael Johnson and tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins, have played a big part in the team’s 0-3 start.
The Freeman-like drama element to this Buccaneers season has been the health of offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford, who suffered chest pains after the Bucs’ preseason win at Buffalo and had to have two stents put into his heart. After weeks of speculating when he would return as the team’s offensive coordinator, “The Tedford Watch” at One Buc Place finally ended this week when the team announced his indefinite leave of absence.
Simply put, Tedford may not coach a down for the Buccaneers this year – or ever if his physical health doesn’t improve. This unfortunately brings back memories of much ballyhooed offensive coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski in 2009, who was embarrassingly fired for incompetence prior to the preseason finale. Quarterbacks coach Greg Olson had to step in as the team’s impromptu play-caller.
Tedford’s heart situation has caused Tampa Bay’s 30th-ranked offense to be down a coach from a manpower standpoint, and puts more work on every assistant, including interim play-caller Marcus Arroyo, who is also the team’s quarterbacks coach. For every minute that the extra work in game planning and studying the opponent takes, it’s a minute lost in working with Josh McCown and Mike Glennon and preparing each player ready for Sundays and improving each quarterback’s fundamentals.
And speaking of the quarterback position, McCown is sidelined for at least a week with a sprained thumb after smashing it on the helmet of defensive back Robert McClain after a pass in Atlanta last week. That means that Glennon, who was 17-of-24 (70.8 percent) for 121 yards and a touchdown in relief of McCown last week, will get the start at Pittsburgh in Week 4.
It’s ironic how Glennon got his first NFL start in Week 4 last year when Freeman was abruptly benched, and it took the Bucs five more weeks to find their first victory. Barring an upset on Sunday, it’s feasible that the Bucs could be 0-6 heading into their bye week after a Week 6 home game against Baltimore.
The good news is that Glennon is a far better quarterback than he was a year ago at this time. He completed nearly 60 percent of his passes as a rookie and threw for 19 touchdowns and just nine interceptions in 2013.
“He got thrown into a circus already [last year],” McCoy said. “He had to take over as the headmaster. He’s been through this. The circus is making its annual trip. We just have to make sure the circus stops in Tampa.”
Yes, the circus does have to stop. An upset win at Pittsburgh on Sunday could push those dark clouds out of Tampa Bay and leave only Jacksonville and Oakland as the league’s winless teams this year.
A victory over the Steelers could also give the Bucs a sliver of hope as only three teams have started 0-3 and made the playoffs since 1990 – the 1998 Bills (finished 10-6), the 1995 Lions (finished 10-6) and the 1992 Chargers (finished 11-5).
FAB 4. SKOV AN INTERESTING PRACTICE SQUAD PICK UP FOR BUCS DEFENSE
With starting middle linebacker Mason Foster expected to be out with an injured shoulder for a few weeks, the Buccaneers made an interesting practice squad move this week signing former Stanford All-American middle linebacker Shayne Skov. The 6-2, 241-pounder went undrafted despite recording 109 tackles, 13 tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks and three forced fumbles last year and notching 354 career tackles, which is the sixth-best in Stanford history.
Despite his heady football I.Q., his nasty demeanor and a ton of production, Skov didn’t get drafted in May due to a very slow 5.11 time in the 40-yard dash due to a knee injury in 2011 where he tore his ACL and MCL and broke his tibia. NFL scouts say his speed hasn’t come back to where it was before the injury and that’s what caused his draft stock to fall.
“It was tough,” Skov said about going undrafted. “There are all kinds of projections about where you will or won’t go. I assumed I was going to get drafted – and wrongly so. It was a tough time to sit there and not hear your name called. Now I’m here to prove them wrong and stick around. That’s over with. Now the only person that has control over my future is myself. I want to dictate that and send a message about how I feel.
“Any speculation only concerns my ability to play football. I put on tape what I put on tape. There is no questions or doubts or speculations about what I can or can’t do. I either do it or I don’t.”
In other words, Skov is ready to play football – not run 40-yard dashes anymore. He’s ready to let the film do the talking as he did in his final game at Stanford, which was a loss to Michigan State in the Rose Bowl where Skov had nine tackles, three tackles for loss, a sack and a forced fumble. Here is a highlight video of Skov playing at Stanford.
Although Skov didn’t get drafted, he did sign with the San Francisco 49ers, which was thought to be an ideal fit for his skills. He was recruited by head coach Jim Harbaugh and defensive coordinator Vic Fangio when both were at Stanford and the 49ers run the same 3-4 defense that the Cardinal does.
So it’s a bit puzzling that Skov didn’t excel in the preseason and only recorded six tackles, which led to his dismissal from the 49ers active roster in early September and the San Francisco practice squad last week. Still, Skov has his believers, including 49ers six-time All Pro linebacker Patrick Willis.
“The kid can play,” Willis said during the preseason. “He really understands the defense and looks good.”
After playing in a 3-4 scheme in college and during his first offseason in the NFL, Skov is anxious to see if he’s a good fit in a 4-3 defense.
“They want to give me a look at the Mike position and I think I fit well there,” Skov said. “Whether it is making calls or getting the defense settled, I can do those things and I’d like to showcase my ability in both systems and prove I can play in a 4-3. I look forward to growing out here.”
One of the aspects about Lovie Smith’s Tampa 2 defensive scheme is that the Mike linebacker blitzes quite a bit.
“I think I’m an aggressive player and blitzing is part of that,” Skov said. “I can have a large impact as a player doing that. It’s fun. I hope I have the chance to do it and showcase those skills out here.
“I’m passionate and aggressive. When I take the field I like to take that mentality with me. I’m also cerebral. I’m smart. I like to study my opponents and get to know them while I work on my weaknesses.”
One of those weaknesses is pass coverage, which Skov was rarely asked to do at Stanford. In Cover 2, the middle linebacker is responsible for turning and dropping into the deep third of the field. That requires anticipation and speed, and it will be interesting to see if Skov has the ability to do that.
“I don’t have any experience doing that,” Skov said. “That’s going to be an adjustment. It’s just going to take reps. It is a learning process and I can’t wait to get started.”
For Skov to make those adjustments and learn how to drop into coverage he’ll have to rely on the teachings of Bucs linebackers coach Hardy Nickerson, who played at the University of California, which is the rival school of Stanford.
“We’ve set our previous ties aside for now,” Skov laughed. “I’m trying to soak up every advantage I can from [Nickerson] because this is all new for me. Using his wisdom and his experience to my advantage will be critical for me moving forward.”
We’ll see if Skov is just in town for a one-week look on the practice squad, or if he has the talent to stick around and develop. If Skov proves he has enough speed and ability to be effective in pass coverage he may be a nice in-season addition for Tampa Bay, especially since Foster is in a contract year.
FAB 5. SR’S BUC SHOTS
• Remember when I was touting Tampa Bay’s offense during the OTAs and mini-camps this offseason and marveling at how quarterback Josh McCown was hitting 80 percent of his passes and throwing to wide open receivers? We’ve now learned why.
We’ve learned that the Bucs offense isn’t dynamic at all and that McCown isn’t that accurate. He looked good – and the offense looked good – because it turns out that Tampa Bay’s defense is so bad. Everything I saw in the offseason and reported was simply a mirage, unfortunately. I apologize for not seeing through the mirage and realizing that it was the defense that looked so bad – rather than the offense looking so good. The real problem is that I’m not the only Bucs beat writer that was fooled. Most of us were.
The reason why receivers were running wide open in practice is because the defensive backs have problems in coverage, evidenced by the fact that the secondary has just two pass breakups and no interceptions through three games. Part of the problem has been the lack of a consistent pass rush as Tampa Bay has generated just four sacks in three games and is on pace for only 21 this year after recording 35 in 2013.
“This defense is predicated on pass rush,” Bucs defensive tackle Gerald McCoy said. “It’s a rush-coverage combo. There are some holes in the Tampa 2, but those holes are covered up by the pass rush. The job is to make the quarterback throw the check down. The rush has to get there, whether it’s pressure or actually getting him on the ground, but the rush has to get there.”
Despite the lack of a pass rush, the Bucs coverage has simply been too loose and not enough plays are being made on the ball. The secondary has some talent – on paper – in a first-round draft pick (strong safety Mark Barron), a second-round draft pick (cornerback Johnthan Banks) and two former Pro Bowlers (cornerback Alterraun Verner and free safety Dashon Goldson). Regardless of whether the defensive line can pressure the quarterback, the star-studded defensive backs must simply cover receivers longer, which is something they haven’t done well dating back to the offseason.
“We don’t look at stats like [pass breakups],” Goldson said. “We just try to come in and focus in on things and we’re in a tough time. Tough things are going on, but we’ll get it changed.”
As much flack as quarterbacks coach Marcus Arroyo has caught calling plays in place of Jeff Tedford, who is dealing with heart issues, it’s time to start putting some heat on defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier, whose unit is embarrassingly bad right now.
• Speaking of bad, Bucs running back Mike James looks like a shell of his former self. Last year as a rookie, James led the Bucs with a 4.9 average with games against Seattle (28 carries for 158 yards) in which he rushed for 5.6 yards per carry, and Miami (five carries for 41 yards) where he averaged 8.2 yards per rush.
This year, James has just 11 yards on 10 carries (1.1 avg.) with his longest run being eight yards. That means James has produced three yards on nine carries, an average of minus-3 yards per carry. To make matters worse, James also has one catch – for minus-5 yards this year.
“It’s always a humbling experience playing this game,” James said. “It’s a blessing to be able to be here and to touch the ball in the NFL. A lot of people overlook that. It’s been a rough start. It hasn’t gone like I’ve wanted it to, but I believe that God has a plan for me. We’ll get it going and we’ll all be popping off six yards per carry and all of the backs will be successful.”
The sooner the better for James and Tampa Bay’s 30th-ranked offense.
• Bucs running back Bobby Rainey echoed what many of his teammates said this week about quarterback Mike Glennon. In his second year, Glennon has been more at ease in the pocket and going through his progressions quicker after starting 13 games as a rookie in 2013.
“He’s more comfortable and more relaxed,” Rainey said. “The more games you play after your rookie year the better you are and the more comfortable you get with the speed of the game. The game comes more natural to you. That’s the biggest thing for Mike Glennon. He’s becoming more comfortable with his reads.”
Rainey said that Glennon’s arm strength allows the Bucs to push the ball down the field more in the passing game, which is an element of the offense that has been missing thus far. Tampa Bay’s longest pass play this year was a 36-yard reception by rookie Mike Evans last week at Atlanta.
“I think so,” Rainey said. “When you throw the ball up to Vincent Jackson, you pretty much know he’s going to come down with it. Then you drafted Mike Evans, and you know he’s a playmaker. When you throw the ball up for him, he’s going to play like Vincent Jackson. Mike is more comfortable at quarterback and he’s going through his progressions faster.”
Sources tell PewterReport.com that opponents have not been putting a safety up in the box to stop Tampa Bay’s running game and that’s why it’s been difficult to complete deep passes because of safety help over the top. Carolina’s front seven was so stout they didn’t have to bring a safety down in the box. St. Louis chose not to and was scorched for 144 yards by Rainey. Atlanta only played man coverage in the second half with a 35-0 lead and that’s when the 36-yard pass play to Evans happened.
Look for Glennon to be opportunistic in the passing game this week and try to take some shots downfield in Pittsburgh, but the Bucs running game will have to get going to bring a safety down in the box and create some one-on-one situations.
• Bucs free safety Dashon Goldson spent the offseason working on his tackling technique – even hiring a tackling coach in the spring for some individual work away from One Buccaneer Place. That move apparently paid off as Goldson has yet to draw a personal foul and his target zone has been much lower when tackling opponents.
“I am proud of that,” Goldson said. “It’s something I can hang my hat on. From where I was at this time last year and correcting that it’s so much better. I was getting letters and e-mails and coaches coming up to me and telling me I was a primary target and that the refs were eyeing me. I think I’ve done a good job of keeping them off me so far.”
This time last year, Goldson had notched a personal foul for a high hit in New York in the 2013 season opener, and then another unnecessary roughness call for a high hit against New Orleans in Week 2. In all, six of Goldson’s seven penalties last year were of the 15-yard unnecessary roughness variety and he served a suspension for a game last year as a result.
In 2014, Goldson has been flagged just once through three games – an illegal contact penalty, which was declined.
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