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. WHERE HAVE THE BUCS’ STARS GONE?
When Lovie Smith took over as the Buccaneers head coach in January 2014 he noted how fortunate he was about having a great weakside linebacker in All-Pro Lavonte David and a great three-technique in All-Pro and Pro Bowler Gerald McCoy to play in his Tampa 2 scheme. His defense would prominently feature both David and McCoy.
When Jason Licht took over as the Buccaneers general manager in January 2014 he new that two of the most important tasks he would undertake would be to re-sign both McCoy and David to long-term contract extensions. After all, David and McCoy were Tampa Bay’s best players – building blocks for not just the defense, but the entire franchise.
By installing a scheme that was supposed to play to their strengths, Smith did his job. By giving them tens of millions of dollars, Licht did his job.
Bucs DT Gerald McCoy, LB Lavonte David – Photo by Cliff Welch/PR
Now it’s time for David and McCoy to do their jobs. Their job is not to make tackles and fill gaps. It’s making game-changing splash plays. It’s making plays on third down that force punts. It’s keeping opponents out of the end zone.
Football is the ultimate team sport and David and McCoy are just two of the 11 players the Bucs field on defense. But they are the two most important players playing the two most important positions and getting paid the most important money.
They need to play much better. McCoy is not 100 percent after hurting his shoulder in a Week 2 win at New Orleans. He posted a combined 2.5 sacks in Weeks 4-5 before the bye week, but has disappeared over the past three games – notching just four tackles and no sacks or takeaways.
“With the success I’ve had in past years, I’m going to draw a lot of attention,” McCoy said. “You just have to learn how to play through that, find different ways to get open and produce. No, it hasn’t been what I want, especially since the bye week. I just need to pick it up, and I understand that.
“The reality is, week-in and week-out, I’m going to get the most attention up front. That’s just the reality. But I just have to find different ways to free myself up. Sometimes it looks like I have a one-on-one, and then there’s a running back waiting, or this guy, that guy. But the reality is, I need to be better. I’m doing everything in my power as far as throughout the week watching more film, at practice, whatever it is. I’m working on figuring it out.”
Bucs DT Gerald McCoy – Photo by Cliff Welch/PR
McCoy had 12 one-on-one pass rush situations against Giants guards Geoff Schwartz and Justin Pugh and lost every one of them in terms of not getting to the quarterback. There wasn’t a need for a running back to step up and block McCoy as he didn’t get past the guard, and finished Sunday’s game with just one tackle. The film doesn’t lie and McCoy has just been getting whipped lately.
As for David, he needs to react quicker and become a better tackler. While he led Tampa Bay with 11 stops against New York, David missed four additional tackles. The biggest concern is the lack of splash plays. David, who has seven career interceptions, dropped a pick on the goal line against Carolina, and doesn’t have one this year. In fact, he has just one sack and one forced fumble after leading Tampa Bay with four forced fumbles last year.
“I think Lavonte is doing some good things,” Bucs defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier said. “What’s happening is we have another guy at the inside linebacker position who’s making some of those plays that we haven’t always had made at the mike linebacker position, at least not in my short time here. Some of those plays that Lavonte would have been asked to make in the past or has made in the past he hasn’t been making those plays, but for the most part, the plays that are designed for him to make, he’s making those plays.
“There are some tackles he needs to make. We had the one dropped interception, but by and large he has not been a disappointment, he’s done some good things. We always would like to see more splash plays from all of our players and the standard that he and Gerald are held to a higher one than the other players, but I’m not disappointed in his play. I’m just really pleased with what we’re getting from our other ‘backers – in particular our Mike – that kind of takes some of those plays that he would ordinarily be making, he doesn’t have to make now.”
Bucs LBs Kwon Alexander and Lavonte David – Photo by Cliff Welch/PR
The Mike linebacker Frazier is referring to is rookie middle linebacker Kwon Alexander, who is PewterReport.com’s Bucs Defensive MVP in our Midseason Awards. Alexander has 59 tackles – 10 behind David – in addition to those splash plays Frazier was talking about. The Bucs’ fourth-round pick has produced a team-high seven pass breakups and two interceptions, in addition to a sack, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.
Ask around One Buccaneer Place and you’ll hear that Alexander is truly the best defender the Bucs have this year and is out-playing McCoy and David.
Neither McCoy nor David is a rookie any more. Yet a year and a half into Smith’s Tampa 2 scheme and David is still a step too slow in pass coverage regardless of whether it’s man coverage or zone. Former Bucs head coach Greg Schiano used David as more of a downhill defender that would attack the line of scrimmage and make more plays behind the line – whether they be tackles for loss or sacks. He racked up 145 tackles, 20 tackles for loss, a career-high seven sacks, a career-best five interceptions, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery.
Smith’s read and react scheme requires more intellect and instinct than Schiano’s defense did. David needs to rely on his instincts more and react faster.
“Holding myself accountable,” David said. “Knowing guys depend on me to make plays and make those plays. I have to be harder on myself. I’m already hard on myself. I have to be even harder on myself knowing that’s not the guy I am.”
A year and a half into Smith’s Tampa 2 and McCoy is still hitting the wrong gap on a two-way go and sometimes looping too far outside when stunting. McCoy, who is currently being outplayed by his reserve, Henry Melton, is also being called for neutral zone infractions, although he’s made strides in that area this year.
Bucs DT Gerald McCoy – Photo by: Getty Images
“This frustration that I have with myself feels like my first or second year,” McCoy said. “I haven’t been this frustrated with myself in a while. But there’s not a fan, coach or media member who can be as frustrated with myself as I am.”
McCoy, who is on pace to record nine sacks this season, was so disappointed in his play and the outcome – a 32-18 loss to the Giants – that he blew off the media after the game, choosing to speak in the locker room on Monday afternoon instead.
“I understand that me being a franchise player, I have to do more,” McCoy said. “I understand that and that’s where a lot of my frustration comes – that’s where a lot of my frustration was [on Sunday]. I know I have to be better and I just needed time to cool off. But I will be [better]. I will be.
“With us being two of the best players on the team, obviously we have to carry our own weight. If you get voted as a captain then not just your teammates, but the organization is counting on you to play at a certain level.”
Smith is confounded as to why the big plays from David and McCoy have been non-existent since the Bucs’ bye week.
“Don’t know that – wish I knew the answer for that,” Smith said. “We do have high expectations. They have high expectations for themselves. Lavonte David missed some tackles [on Sunday]. He was in position to make some other plays. Sometimes it just doesn’t happen for whatever reason. It eventually will happen. Lavonte is a great player, same thing for Gerald.
“I think you have to be careful sometimes when you just look at the stat sheet. Forgetting just the stat sheet, both of those guys would say it’s not good enough, just like very few of our defensive players would say that. Very few of our players in general would say that. When you have three wins, very few of us have played exactly the way we should, but that’s at the halfway point. That’s how we are. We’ll see improved play from these guys.”
Bucs LB Lavonte David – Photo by Cliff Welch/PR
This is not all Smith’s fault. Smith didn’t miss a tackle, nor did he get blocked on his way to getting a sack. But as one NFL source with ties to the Bucs told me, it looks like David and McCoy are playing uninspired football right now. That part is on Smith because it’s the role of the head coach to make sure his players are ready to play and produce at a level that is expected of a player’s talent. That’s where coaching does come into the equation.
Neither David nor McCoy is elevating their games, nor have they exhibited a killer mentality that Alexander is showing on defense and rookie quarterback Jameis Winston is showing on offense. In order for the Bucs to win during the second half of the season David and McCoy will need to resume playing at a Pro Bowl level and make impact plays.
“Any team throughout the league, or sports period, if a team has their best players, if a team is going to make a turnaround or change or be successful, the best players have to produce,” McCoy said. “We’re just not doing that right now. It doesn’t change who we are or what we’ve done, but this is a ‘What have you done for me lately?’ league. We understand that, so, moving forward, we just have to be better.”
And try to play like Alexander, quite frankly.
FAB 2. SIMPLY PUT, BUCCANEERS DEFENSE LACKS TALENT
Outside of the play of high-paid stars defensive tackle Gerald McCoy and linebacker Lavonte David, as well as rookie middle linebacker Kwon Alexander, the Buccaneers defense lacks real star power, and that’s a big reason why the defense is giving up 26.5 points per game this season, which is worse than a year ago when Tampa Bay’s defense surrendered 24.1 points per game.
After holding opposing offenses to 21 points or less eight times last year, this years Bucs defense has only accomplished that feat three times thus far. Tampa Bay’s 2014 defense only surrendered 30 points or more in three games last year, but has already allowed that to happen four times in 2015.
There are a few good players, such as defensive tackles Henry Melton, Clinton McDonald and defensive end Jacquies Smith, in addition to McCoy, David and Alexander, but not 11. There are a bunch of mediocre to sub-par players on Tampa Bay’s defense, especially in the secondary, and that’s why the Bucs are struggling on that side of the ball.
While the Bucs brought in several free agents that were familiar with the Tampa 2 to help on the defensive side of the ball, many were journeymen, and none came with Pro Bowl credentials except for Melton.
Bucs DT Akeem Spence, DE George Johnson – Photo by: Mark Lomoglio/PR
Defensive end George Johnson was acquired in a trade and given a big contract, and doesn’t have a sack thus far. He has been benched and he’s been a big disappointment. Fellow end Will Gholston is playing well, but he’s a better run-stuffer than he is a pass rusher.
Rookie Howard Jones, who has three sacks and a fumble recovery for a touchdown, is a good situational pass rusher, but is not ready for a starting role yet – evidenced by not even recording a tackle in his first start against New York last week.
Tony McDaniel and Akeem Spence are average, run-stuffing nose tackles that aren’t as good as McDonald, who is out for the year with a pectoral injury.
Strongside linebacker Danny Lansanah hasn’t made the splash plays he made last year and that production has been sorely missed. High-priced free agent addition Bruce Carter has been a disappointment after failing to beat out Alexander in the middle and Lansanah on the strong side. Orie Lemon and Jeremiah George are strictly special teamers.
At cornerback, Tim Jennings brought experience in the Tampa 2 scheme, but can’t play anymore. He was a liability in both man and zone coverage and after getting burned too much he was demoted after the bye week and released on Monday with the rise of rookie Jude Adjei-Barimah, who is young but shows promise.
Like Jennings, Mike Jenkins has struggled mightily in coverage this season and was benched last week. He has had some untimely mental lapses and the Bucs need smarter, better play at the cornerback position moving forward. Having signed a one-year contract this season, it is unlikely Jenkins will return in 2016.
Buccaneers secondary – Photo by: Mark Lomoglio/PR
Alterraun Verner and Johnthan Banks – both starters last year – have disappointed. Verner struggled in man coverage, especially in the red zone, as he was susceptible to pick plays, and took his time to adapt to playing Cover 2. He was benched and then inserted into the nickel cornerback position where he has made some strides.
As for Banks, who was a second-round pick in 2013, he was drafted for Greg Schiano’s system, which favored longer cornerbacks that could play man. Because the Bucs are playing more Cover 2 lately, Banks lacks the ideal short area quickness necessary to thrive in this defense. Coupled with the fact that he hasn’t been playing well and his future isn’t so bright in Tampa Bay these days.
It took a while for Sterling Moore to buy in to what the coaches were saying, but after not seeing much action after the Houston game, he returned to the field on defense as a starter against New York and played very well. Moore recorded three tackles, three pass breakups, an interception and a forced fumble in his first start of the season and he’ll likely continue to be a starting cornerback if he continues to play like that.
At safety, Bradley McDougald hasn’t developed the way the team envisioned he would after showing some promise during the second half of the 2014 campaign. Major Wright is viewed as a backup player in NFL circles, and Chris Conte, although he’s playing well thus far, wasn’t in great demand during free agency. D.J. Swearinger has been a disappointment and Keith Tandy is often relegated to special teams duty.
The lack of talent, especially in the secondary, is one issue, but untimely penalties and a lack of using proper technique are also contributing factors to poor play by the Tampa Bay defense. Cornerbacks coach Gil Byrd and safeties coach Mikal Smith would pull their hair out if they had any because their defensive backs aren’t jamming and re-routing wide receivers.
McDougald didn’t do that on Jordan Reed’s game-winning touchdown pass on a slant in a 31-30 defeat at Washington. Jennings, Jenkins, Verner and Banks were all benched in part because they were giving receivers a free release when they should have been jamming receivers. A big reason why Adjei-Barimah and Moore are in the starting lineup? They are more physical and listening to the coaches.
But if several players aren’t listening to the coaches, that’s problematic and blame falls on the coaches, too.
After starting the season running a lot of man coverage the Bucs have played a lot more Cover 2 over the past couple of weeks, especially against the Giants. The reason was because too many mental errors were happening when the Bucs were in man coverage and Cover 3. Those errors have forced Lovie Smith to scale things back and frequently play the more simple – yet predictable – Cover 2.
Bucs FS Bradley McDougald – Photo by: Getty Images
I had a former Bucs player text me this week and say the defense is getting killed because it’s playing too much Cover 2, and he’s right. To make matters worse, Tampa Bay doesn’t have the right personnel to play Cover 2, especially up front without Smith and McDonald in the lineup due to injuries.
The Cover 2 scheme relies on a strong pass rush from its front four as the back seven drop into coverage. Without the pass rush, quarterbacks like Eli Manning have time to pick apart the holes in the zone coverage. Tampa Bay didn’t record any sacks last Sunday and Manning completed 65 percent of his passes and threw for two touchdowns in addition to his two picks.
Playing more Cover 2 prevents the Bucs from doing much blitzing or bringing up a safety in the box to help stop the run. That will become problematic when Tampa Bay faces run-heavy teams like Dallas (ranked 8th) this Sunday, Philadelphia (ranked 10th) and St. Louis (ranked 4th) and Carolina (ranked 1st).
The current Bucs defenders – stars and mediocre players alike – must play better over the second half of the season and limit the mental mistakes and penalties that plagued the team over the first half of the 2015 campaign. Many of those on defense will be replaced next year unless their play dramatically improves because Tampa Bay’s scouting staff is currently scouring the country for pass-rushing defensive ends and play-making cornerbacks and safeties.
General manager Jason Licht, director of player personnel Jon Robinson and director of college scouting Mike Biehl are going to find some players that have a winning edge on defense in the draft. After focusing heavily on the offensive side of the ball over the last two drafts that have produced the likes of quarterback Jameis Winston, wide receiver Mike Evans, running back Charles Sims, tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins and offensive linemen Donovan Smith, Ali Marpet and Kevin Pamphile, the Bucs will have a draft that is heavy on defense in 2016 to increase the level of talent on that side of the ball.
FAB 3. SEFERIAN-JENKINS’ SHOULDER IS ON THE MEND
Many Buccaneers fans – and some fantasy football players – have grown frustrated with the fact that oft-injured tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins has missed the last six and a half games with a shoulder injury. Tampa Bay’s second-round pick in 2014 missed seven games during his rookie season with ankle and back injuries. His back injury required surgery and he ended the season on injured reserve.
Bucs TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
After a dazzling season-opener in which he caught five passes for a career-high 110 yards and two touchdowns, Seferian-Jenkins raised expectations for a breakout year, but after landing hard on the carpeted concrete in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome he suffered a significant shoulder injury. When Seferian-Jenkins returned to practice three weeks ago prior to the Atlanta game there was speculation and some guarded optimism that he might return to action against the Falcons – or at the very least last week against the Giants.
But when neither happened questions surfaced about Seferian-Jenkins’ toughness.
“That’s where we made our mistake a little bit,” Bucs head coach Lovie Smith said last week. “You might have made that mistake a little bit of assuming that when we put him out there in pads that he was ready to go. [When] you talk to a player he is always going to tell you that he is ready to go. I don’t think there has been a setback. I think he’s been on schedule. This is the schedule he’s been on. Again, we had him go out and practice a few weeks back, but that was just running around. He didn’t have any contact or anything like that. We can’t wait to get him back on the football field. He is making progress, but he’s not there yet. As far as this week on whether [he’ll play or not], when a player is ready to go and he is good to go we’ll get him out there. He’s not there yet.”
On Thursday, Seferian-Jenkins addressed his shoulder injury and why it’s taken so long for him to get healthy.
“I’m doing my part, coaches are doing their part, everyone is doing their part, the medical staff is doing their part,” Seferian-Jenkins said. “We have to make sure everyone is healthy and make sure it’s safe for people to go out there. I understand that people want to be out there and all that, but you have to make sure you are healthy and you can, first of all protect yourself, and then protect you teammates. I’m not going to go out there if I can’t protect myself and can’t protect my teammates.”
That’s not Seferian-Jenkins being a prima donna, according to Bucs sources. He’s had a legitimate shoulder that has taken a good deal of time to recover from.
I spoke with PewterReport.com’s resident sports medicine expert Dr. Jason Hunt of Kaizen Orthopedics about shoulder injuries so he could put Seferian-Jenkins’ injury – the exact nature of which hasn’t been revealed to the media – and recovery time into context.
“Inside the shoulder is a labrum – it’s a lining of the shoulder,” Dr. Hunt said. “Your biceps tendon actually connects to the top part of the labrum. That’s an injury that is very susceptible to linemen, who are pushing off on every play. If their arm gets turned a certain way they can have a labrum tear. An injury to the top part of the labrum is called a ‘slap tear.’
“For people who have sublux or dislocate their shoulders there is a capsule at the front of the shoulder, so having a shoulder sprain or a stretch of that capsule can cause some pain and create difficulty in raising the shoulder.”
From what PewterReport.com has heard, Seferian-Jenkins had a dislocated shoulder at New Orleans, but hasn’t been able to confirm that. Dr. Hunt said that shoulder injuries can take longer than some knee injuries to recover from and noted that the Bucs put running back Doug Martin on injured reserve in 2013 with a shoulder injury and he missed the final 10 games of that season.
“The shoulder is a complicated joint and the potential for injury there is probably higher than a knee, especially in football,” Dr. Hunt said. “Your arms are often prone and you’re raising them throughout the play. You are in-line blocking and pushing off on it. A lot of shoulder injuries go unnoticed. It’s not like a knee injury where you are cutting and you fell down to the ground. Sometimes it’s ‘I don’t know what happened yesterday, but my shoulder hurts.’
“When you fall directly on your shoulder the most common can be an AC sprain or dislocation. Depending on the degree of the injury it can be a three-to-six week recovery time. Getting back the full range of motion without pain is the key. It can be up to six weeks, and people with a Grade 2 sprain it can be up to 12 weeks. It’s a long recovery in some cases.”
When Smith said Seferian-Jenkins is on schedule the guess here is that he had a Grade 2 sprain because he’s missed the past six games and was out of commission during the bye week. Bucs officials confirm that Seferian-Jenkins’ injury was severe and the extended recovery time was definitely legitimate. He is itching to get back on the field and put his injuries behind him and pick up where he left off, catching touchdown passes and putting up 100-yard games. That could come on Sunday depending on how practices on Friday and Saturday go.
FAB 4. PAMPHILE IN LINE TO REPLACE MANKINS AT LG
The Buccaneers have done a great job over the past two years finding talented offensive players in the draft. In April, Tampa Bay general manager Jason Licht, director of player personnel Jon Robinson, director of college scouting Mike Biehl, head coach Lovie Smith, offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter and quarterbacks coach Mike Bajakian all agreed that Florida State’s Jameis Winston become the team’s franchise quarterback and first overall pick in this year’s draft.
Tampa Bay followed up that selection with the drafting of left tackle Donovan Smith and right guard Ali Marpet in the second round to help fortify the offensive line. The Bucs got a third-day steal in the fourth round with the selection of linebacker Kwon Alexander.
Bucs LG Kevin Pamphile – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
In 2013, the Bucs used their first-round pick on wide receiver Mike Evans, their second-rounder on tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins and their third-rounder on running back Charles Sims. Tampa Bay believes it had another third-day steal in offensive lineman Kevin Pamphile, a sixth-round pick in 2013.
While Winston, Marpet, Smith, Alexander, Evans, Seferian-Jenkins and Sims have all made instant impacts since being drafted, Pamphile’s development behind the scenes has been more gradual. Pamphile saw some playing time at left and right tackle last year, in addition to tight end where he has been an additional blocker in the running game.
With early-season injuries to Seferian-Jenkins and Luke Stocker, Pamphile, who was a left tackle at Purdue for two years, has played some tight end this year in Koetter’s offense. Surprisingly, Pamphile also received his first NFL start at left guard – a position he hadn’t played in five years dating back to Purdue – after Logan Mankins suffered a groin injury during practice that caused him to miss the Jacksonville game.
“I don’t think he ever played guard before, it was impressive how he went out there and did what he did,” Bucs center Joe Hawley said of Pamphile’s play in the Jacksonville game. “The way we run the ball, it takes all five guys, and the tight ends, and the running backs. The way he stepped in there was very huge for us.”
The Bucs rushed for 183 yards, two touchdowns and a 4.8-yard average against the Jaguars, who had a top 10 run defense at the time. Pamphile received the second-highest grade among Tampa Bay’s starting linemen in that game and his pulling was a key factor in springing some of Doug Martin’s big runs.
“I was out there doing my job,” Pamphile said. “Assignment-wise, I know everything about our O-line plays, it was just technique-wise that I need to correct. I’m happy to come away with the win. The coaches put a lot of faith in me and I had to return the favor. I had to play my butt off to let them know I appreciate this and I’m here to help Jameis, Doug and Chuck out. It’s really good having two running backs that are on the same wavelength as the offensive linemen.”
Pamphile, who has a big, strong 6-foot-5, 315-pound frame, was drafted to become a developmental offensive tackle, but the Bucs coaches and scouts liked what they saw so much that they believe he will be Mankins’ eventual successor at left guard. Mankins, who will be 34 in March, has one year left on his contract and the Bucs want him back for his final year if he still wants to play.
When Mankins was injured in practice Pamphile leaned on the former six-time Pro Bowler for wisdom throughout the week.
“When he went down and I went in for him at practice, I was going up to him and talking to him about how I should take my sets on this play, or on third-and-6 should I take a different angle on my pull?” Pamphile said. “I really leaned on him a lot. During the game I asked him, ‘Hey Logan, how did I look?’ He said, ‘A1 – perfect.’”
Tampa Bay offensive line coach George Warhop was thrilled with how Pamphile fared against Jacksonville, saying he looked like a natural.
“Coach [Warhop] said I played amazingly and I played with aggression,” Pamphile said. “He said I’ve got to work on little things like my aiming point, but other than that I played a very decent game. That was good to hear. Him praising me felt good. Now I’m just going to add on to that and continue to get better.
“I played some left tackle last year and I got thrown in towards the end of the [season finale] game at right tackle. But this was my first wire-to-wire game. It was exciting and a bit stressful. I was nervous, but as the game went on my confidence kept rising. I was able to just play balls to the wall. It was fun.”
Smith also heaped some praise on Pamphile
“Last week we put him there [at left guard],” Smith said. “He’s been working a little bit here and there. He’s been primarily at tackle, but when you dress you need to be able to do both. We normally dress seven [offensive linemen]. Around Wednesday we put him in there more full-time. He hadn’t gotten a whole lot of reps there, which is says a lot more just from that. Great job by him.”
“Kevin did a good job in that game and stepped up,” Koetter said. “When Kevin came in a year ago they had high expectations for him and that was really his first chance this year to prove it and he did a good job. Our theory on that is once a guy proves he can do it he should be able to do it again.”
Pamphile did that against Jacksonville and the Bucs are very excited about a future that has him playing in between Smith and Hawley. But until Mankins is ready to turn the left guard duties over to him, Pamphile brings great value to the team as a versatile offensive lineman that is capable of playing a multitude of positions.
“I started at guard at Purdue and then I moved to tackle my last two years there,” Pamphile said. “They always say the more you can do in the league the longer you can last in the league. I just want to be available at any position – tight end, tackle or guard – either side. Wherever they need me to play – just not at center. I’m not ready to be snapping the ball just yet. I’ll leave that up to Evan [Smith] and Joe.”
When Marpet went down with an ankle injury last Sunday, Warhop opted to put Smith in at right guard instead of Pamphile, but only due to his experience and the Bucs wanting to give Smith, who has been sidelined since suffering an ankle sprain in Week 2, some on-field action. The team doesn’t think any less of Pamphile and still has big plans for him in the future.
“Kevin Pamphile – that’s our future left guard right there,” said Bucs right tackle Demar Dotson.
And another third-day steal in the draft for the Buccaneers.
FAB 5. SR’s BUC SHOTS
Bucs CB Sterling Moore – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
• Bucs cornerback Sterling Moore is one of three former Dallas Cowboys on Tampa Bay’s roster, joining linebacker Bruce Carter and defensive tackle Henry Melton. He’s excited to play against his former team on Sunday and his ascension to the starting lineup came just in time for him to face the Cowboys.
“I honestly didn’t know they were on the schedule until I got down here,” Moore said. “I found out two weeks after I signed here that they were on the schedule. It’s obviously a game I’m going to look forward to. I’m not going to get too hyped, though. At the end of the day I’m going to go out and do my job. I can’t let that change the way I play, but it’s there in the back of my mind. I’m sure it will be at the forefront when the time comes. I didn’t realize that, but we have three guys here that were in Dallas last year. It will be a big game for us. We’ll be ready to play.”
• There is nothing that helps a rookie quarterback more than a great running back to turn and hand the ball off to. And that’s been the case for Jameis Winston, who absolutely loves the hard-charging running style of Doug Martin, who is PewterReport.com’s Bucs Midseason Offensive MVP.
“He’s a dynamic back,” Winston said. “You can’t knock our offensive line, because they block amazingly. When you’ve got a guy going to go against a defense, a great defense, and their main focus is to stop the run, he pounds it and he grinds it and works hard and competes to have a day like he did. It’s amazing. He’s special. God just blessed some of us in different ways and He blessed him to tote that rock, man. He’s amazing.”
• While veteran receiver Vincent Jackson is still sidelined with a knee injury that he suffered four weeks ago at Washington, the team is getting a look at life without Jackson on offense. Jackson, who will be 33 in January, will be entering the final year of his contract in 2016 and making a base salary of $9,777,777 with a salary cap charge of $12,209,777 next year. That’s awfully expensive for an aging possession receiver.
Bucs WRs Adam Humphries and Donteea Dye – Photo by: Mark Lomoglio/PR
The Bucs will be evaluating how young receivers like Donteea Dye, Adam Humphries and Russell Shepard play in Jackson’s absence to determine whether or not they feel like they can move on from him next year or whether he’s worth keeping around until his contract expires either at it’s current price tag or with a pay cut.
• Speaking of receivers, I chronicled Tampa Bay’s stockpiling at the wide receiver positions a few weeks ago in a previous SR’s Fab 5 column, and listed practice squader Donteea Dye as an up-and-comer, in addition to another practice squad receiver in Adam Humphries and Kenny Bell, who is on injured reserve. The Bucs have another talented receiver on the practice squad that is making some noise in Evan Spencer, a former fifth-round pick in this year’s draft by Washington.
Spencer, the son of Bucs running backs coach Tim Spencer, was a reserve receiver at Ohio State where he caught 52 passes for 579 yards and seven touchdowns in his career. Evans also threw a 13-yard touchdown pass to tie Alabama right before halftime in the first round of the College Football Playoffs last year.
Bucs wide receiver Mike Evans lauded some praise on Spencer, whom the team feels has some real upside as a receiver and as a special teams ace.
“Spencer works so hard,” Evans said. “His first day he was cramping because he took so many reps and he had to come in and lift [weights] on his first day. He had to take all of the practice squad reps and then take some reps on offense for some of the guys that were going to be playing in the game to help save their legs. He’s a hard worker.
“He’s 6-foot-2 and he has good speed, but he has really good hands. That’s what people don’t realize. He has really good hands.”
Scott Reynolds and Just Grillin’s Doug Driscoll
• And finally, I had the privilege of attending my first grilling class at Just Grillin on Saturday and learned how to smoke turkeys. Just Grillin owner Doug Driscoll smoked two turkeys – one on a Louisiana Kitchen grill and one on a Big Green Egg and they were the most flavorful, delicious turkeys I’ve ever tasted. And yes, you do get to eat the food that is cooked in the Just Grillin classes.
This week’s class, which is Saturday from 10:00 a.m. – noon, is “perfecting your steak” and Driscoll will be marinating and grilling steaks and making a few delicious side dishes on the grill, too. As a steak lover, I can’t wait.
If you love steak too, I want you to join me at Just Grillin, which is located at 11743 N. Dale Mabry Highway in Carrollwood – just 15 minutes north of Raymond James Stadium.
The cost for the class is $15 and you walk away full and with the recipes used. Consider it a gourmet lunch with the knowledge gained that will make you a better chef and grillmaster. You can call (813) 962-1700 to register or click this link to sign up on JustGrillinFlorida.com.
This class is expected to sell out, so don’t delay. I’ll see you Saturday morning and bring your appetite!
Scott Reynolds is in his 23rd year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds enjoys giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
We are two or three defensive drafts away from being a Competitive team. My guess is we will concentrate there with a couple of offensive players snuck in for good measure. But we need help on defensive line and secondary yesterday.
I THINK ITS TIME TO LOOK AT THE OVERVIEW OF WHAT THE BUCS NEED TO DO IN 2016 BEFORE TAMPA FANS LEAVE IN DROVES. NO#1 USED ALL THESE DRAFT CHOICES AS CORNERSTONE FOR NEXT YEAR.NO#1 GET THE PLAYER THAT WILL MAKE AN IMMEDIATELY IMPACKED IN 2016, NO#2 SHOULD BE AN IMPACKED 2016 AND NO#4 IMPACKED. ALSO FIRED LOVELY SMITH AND DEF COACH FRAZIER. PROMOTE THE OFFENSE COACH TO HEAD COACH. LET THE NEW HEAD COACH SELECT A NEW DEFENSE COACH AND A NEW OFFENSIVE COACH. MAYBE THE GLAZERS COULD ASK THE MAN TONY DUNGY TO HELP MOLD THE NEW BUCS IN 2016&2017 AS A CONSULT. I BELIEVE HE WOULD COME BACK AS LIMITED ADVISER-GO BUCS
Hmm … anyone else notice a trend of defensive players underperforming under defensive minded Lovie Smith? Perhaps this isn’t a talent issue …
I liked the defense Schiano fielded a lot more than Lovie’s. McCoy has been consistent since coming to Tampa though. He gets his stats but ultimately doesn’t make any game changing plays or have any impact performances. And boy do I wish he would stop calling himself a franchise player. The franchise player is the face of the team and I can think of 3-4 players who have been that face every year since McCoy’s arrival.
I’ve been one of ASJ’s most vocal critics. I’ve even used the unflattering term “tub hugger” before. But have I (we) been too critical of a future superstar that has had some unfortunate and untimely injuries that simply need time to be totally effective? Perhaps so! As I understand it, he’s raring to go, but is being held out by Buc officials that do not want to risk further damage to a perceived valuable asset. JBF reports that ASJ seems irked at being sidelined. And Lovie Smith treats info on injuries like revealing top national secrets. So we’re left to our own opinions about ASJ’s playing status.
If we are to believe former TE Tony Gonzalez, ASJ is indeed a valuable asset and has the potential to play at the same level as Rob Gronkowski or Jimmy Graham. Gonzalez has ASJ as his “number one young guy” among emerging talents in the NFL. That’s high praise coming from a sure future HOFer himself.
It is way too early to compare ASJ to Gronk, but their early and frequent injury history has similar parallels. The first two years of Gronk’s NFL tenure is a number of injuries that kept him off the field so much so that fans and officials had labeled him “injury prone”. But the Pats were patient and stayed with him and finally the results are paying off big time.
If Tony Gonzalez has an eye for talent and the Bucs believe he is worth the wait, then maybe we (me, et al) should be more tolerant and wait for him to fully recover and realize his potential. There is no doubt that when he has played, he has looked the part. From this point on, I’m going to hold my fire and trust that the Bucs are handling him properly. Besides, who am I to doubt Tony Gonzalez? He’s set the standard for the position, so I’m hoping he’s right and we’ll all see it soon! Go Bucs!
I would hardly say Future super star. He had a couple of good games but he has only played two games this year and how many last year ? He is obviously injury prone. I would say after two bust years we have to look elsewhere.
If every player we have on defense is bad except for a rookie MLB then something is wrong with coaching. I see many teams do more on defense with less stars than our coaches are doing…
I thought this was a good Fab 5 all around. Fab 1 and 2 were spot on and Fab 3 and 4 were very informative. The only thing I’ll comment on in Fab 5 is that I want to see how V. Jackson performs the rest of the season when he gets back from injury before I decide whether we should bring him back next year. Also if we bring him back whether we should ask him to take a pay cut. The only thing I’ll say about what I’ve seen from him up to this point is that over the years he’s been here he seems to feel the need to push off just a bit to get any real separation as of late. Sometimes the refs call it and sometimes that don’t, but as he continues to age he may do that more and often and those penalties could cost us in key situations. I still think he’s a good WR though so again, we’ll see how he’s trending the rest of the season.
Great Article Scott! Just as I thought ASJ should have gone on IR weeks ago. There is no need to take the chance of him injurying that shoulder because it will get injuried again this season if he plays. I had dislocations and separations on my right shoulder for years. Surgery is the ultimate answer. I wished they had done it weeks ago so he would be ready to go next July. Now he is one play away from having to have the surgery and may not be ready to go in July.
As to McCoy, he lost too much weight. DT’s have to be around 295 and up. Who the heck allowed him to lose so much weight!?. We draft heavy in Defense and we are set. My only thought is which will be faster to fix; Tampa2 players, or Man to Man players?
Agreed!!! We go and draft defensive players to fit Lovie’s scheme and he is let go then we are right back to square one.
I think some of your are confused.
The scheme Lovie uses is the same one that allowed both Warren Sapp, Derrick Brooks and John Lynch, Rhonde Barber and many others to excel in.
In fact, this scheme is designed for pass rushing DL.
As Sapp used to say, “We tackle the RB on the way to the QB.”
I don’t know what scheme David is going to go to where he doesn’t have pass coverage responsibilities.
But as PR says, the Bucs were trying to use Cover 3 and man on man but out CBs were having problems with them.
Why they were having problems jamming receivers at the line and redirecting them after the coaches tell them to is beyond me.
If the coach tells you to jam the receiver, jam the damn receiver.
Why you wouldn’t do that is beyond me but it directly transferred into a couple of losses for the Bucs, the Redskin loss in particular.
As far as ASJ is concerned, I am so tired of hearing about him and his shoulder.
To even put his name in the same sentence as Rob Grankowski is absurd.
He had one good game in garbage time against the Titans and that’s it.
If ASJ is dying to get on the field his comments to the press haven’t reflected that in the least.
Ronde not Rhonde
They’re all just opinions. You’ve got yours, Tony Gonzalez has his. Nothing less, nothing more!
Everyone understands the scheme Lovie is trying to run and it is not necessarily the problem. The conundrum is that it is not just Lavonte who is having problems running this defense. No one in the secondary seems to be able to play at a high level. We are shuffling players in and out weekly but the results are always the same. Tim Jennings was the starter a few weeks ago and now he is walking the streets…. Verner, a pro bowl corner, is now a nickel back… Lavonte looks like a scrub… What is the common denominator here?
It is clear there is a problem in the way this defense is being implemented and Lovie, being Lovie, will do nothing to address the problem beyond shuffling personnel.
Thanks jongruden. I can never get that right.
As for ASJ, maybe we should start referring to him as the Unicorn.
Drdneast- No problem- most people misspell Gruden’s name “John” instead of Jon too, ha
My two favorite words in the article amidst all of the doom and gloom, was “franchise quarterback.” I’ll take that any day, as a Bucs fan.
Great Fab 5 as sual. Some good things to think about here. As far as Mccoy and David are concerned, I would have no idea why they are so ineffective. When it comes o Mccoy, I agree with Horse completely that he is too small. He lost all of that weight and gets pushed around regularly now.
And on a side note, and this is just me thinking out loud people, I think Mccoy hates that Jameis is taking “his team”. He looks like he’s sulking as he is playing like crap while Jameis is excelling and leading, something Mccoy was never good at. Just a thought, but maybe a reason for the “uninspired play”.
As for Lavonte, that ones just a mystery. He thrived in Schiano’s much more aggressive scheme and is just wilting in this one. But we all know stubborn Lovie, won’t change anything to fit his personnel. Hell when was the last time anyone saw Lavonte blitz?
As for our lack of talent, that one is an obvious one to all of us, our secondary is other teams castoffs and won’t improve till the offseason.
As for Vincent, Iw ould love it if he stays on this team. He should have to take a reduced rate obviously as his age and numbers don’t match the pay, but this guy is great for our lockeroom. And from what I see in other articles, great in the local community as well. I think he’s a great presence for not only Jameis, but Evans as well.
Does Lavonte David have:
Or Albert Haynesworth Disease?
I actually started checking out some 2016 draft sites the other day. For the past several years by mid season most of the optimism has faded and Free agency and the upcoming draft begin begin to prevail over the current season. I love college football but pro ball IMO is not what it used to be. Big money, big contracts, rule changes and an overall deterioration of parity has for me greatly detracted from the game. Many coaches and players are nothing more than revolving doors and off-field newsmakers. Fortunatly I am getting up there in age and have some great memories of days when this was a special part of my life. Now I find myself telling my grand kids about guys like Jim Brown, Joe Montana, Mike Ditka, Larry Zonka, Jerry Rice and so many others.
I enjoy reading all your post and wish I was more enlightened regarding current situations. For now I will muddle around in the off season and see what new players and coaches might be on the horizon. Go Bucs
I know the feeling. I remember my grandparents and parents saying how fast time goes by when you’re older; they were right.
LVD and GMC played the best of their careers with Revis behind them..not a coincidence. We dont have a starting caliber safety on the roster and our secondary is woeful. For the record, WR Evan Spencer is a great prospect. ASJ is a butterball- he’s never in football shape but Winston is playing well, Sims is night-and-day from last year, Martin is back, and the O-line has improved.
I completely disagree that the defense lacks talent. We are an edge rusher away from having ample talent. What SR failed to mention is how terrible the scheme is. There are no players available who could excel in this scheme, because the scheme itself is unviable.
Almost every one of the defensive players has already proven to have good NFL talent.
All played better under Frasier.
Lovie Smith is the common denominator here. As soon as he took over the defense we started sucking.
The narrative that all we need is better talent is bogus. Raheem Morris did more with EJ Biggers than Smith can do with former Pro Bowl players.
Why is McCoy pushing up the field so much? I dont know. Ask Melton because he is doing the same. Coaching?
Let me try this one more time for all you Lovie haters.
This defense is designed for the DL to put pressure on the QB and also for a DT to exert a lot of that pressure up the middle.
Also, I don’t know of any 4-3 defense that doesn’t require its LBs to play pass coverage.
To say it is the scheme that is hampering McCoy and David is absurd.
Look, when Lovie’s teams did good in Chicago Ron Riviera was his D.C.. Riviera runs the same defense as us his team is 8-0. What would our record be same players if Ron Riviera was our head coach?
Does any of this sound eerily similar? And what saved Rivera’s job? Wasn’t it drafting a franchise QB (Newton) and fixing the defensive front seven through the draft?
It looks like we may have our franchise QB now. Shouldn’t Lovie get a defensive draft to fix his front seven too?
You’re right Rivera was DC for Lovie in Chicago in 2004, had a great 2005, but the defense faltered in in 2006 and Rivera was let go or as the historical record reflects – his contract was not renewed. He went to the Chargers as LB coach, later named DC, before being named HC of the Panthers where his troubles began before his current success. Not an easy correlation as it might seem!
Agree with you. He gets one more draft to right the ship.
I’m greatful you explained ASJ’s injury to us Scott. It’s benn frustrating for fans but obviously far more painfull and frustrating for the player. I just want to see the kid play and succeed here.
Garv: Was the misspelling “Benn” a Freudian Slip referring to another oft-injured second round pick? It’s really funny how even after ASJ’s serious injury is explained in detail, some here think he should just wrap it up with duct tape, take an aspirin and go suck it up. Probably the same folks who call in sick every time they feel a little tickle in their throat.
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