FAB 5. SR’s Buc Shots
• In a previous SR’s Fab 5, I wrote how the Bucs dodged a bullet by not hiring former Tampa Bay head coach Jon Gruden as Dirk Koetter’s replacement. The basis for that column was the ill-fated trade of Pro Bowl pass rusher Khalil Mack to Chicago. Since then, Gruden is in full demolition mode, trading away another Raiders first-round pick in wide receiver Amari Cooper. There are rumors that quarterback Derek Carr could be next, which is crazy.
Carr is the most talented young quarterback Gruden has ever had, and his track record for drafting quarterbacks is abysmal. Simply put, Gruden is destroying the Raiders, who were once regarded as a young team on the rise. Now Oakland is 1-5 under Gruden and the honeymoon is over for the Silver and Black faithful, who have seen him fail at drafting the right players. This is not a great draft for quarterbacks, but I could see Gruden target West Virginia’s Will Grier. That’s his type of QB.
But Gruden would be foolish to get rid of Carr. In his first four years in the league, Carr has had a favorable touchdown-to-interception ratio – even as a rookie when he had 21 touchdowns and just 12 interceptions. The next season, Carr had 32 touchdowns and only 13 interceptions. In 2016, Carr threw 28 touchdowns and had just six picks before tossing 22 TDs and 13 INTS last year.
Somehow under Gruden, Carr has just seven touchdowns this season and eight interceptions, but he has increased his completion percentage from 62.7 percent to a career-high 71.7 while averaging a career-high 7.65 yards per pass.
“I don’t see us making any more trades,” Gruden said this week. “Certainly, I don’t see us trading our quarterback.”
Yeah, not during the season – but wait until the offseason. The guess here is that Carr will be dealt before the draft for a first-round pick.
Cooper put up back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons in his first two years in the league with over 70 catches in each of those seasons, and despite catching just 48 passes
for 680 yards last year in 14 games, Cooper did have a career-high seven touchdowns. Yet he’s not good enough to play for Gruden, who prefers 33-year old Jordy Nelson instead?
As Bucs fans know, Gruden hasn’t met an aging vet he doesn’t like. It seems like young players somehow frustrate Gruden. I think Dallas got a steal in Cooper, who was dealt to the Cowboys for a first-rounder.
I think all of the talk about Gruden supposedly winning a Super Bowl with Tony Dungy’s team in Tampa Bay got to him. The reality is that half of the players – many on offense – that played on the Bucs’ 2002 Super Bowl team never played a down for Dungy and were added to the roster that year by Gruden and general manager Rich McKay.
But just to be sure that no one can say that Gruden is winning with Jack Del Rio’s team in Oakland he is doing quite the demolition job to defeat that potential narrative. It’s a shame for Raiders fans.
• Thanks to you – the loyal PewterReport.com fans and readers – our @PewterReport Twitter account eclipsed 30,000 followers at the start of the Bucs’ regular season. We’re now over 30,700 followers and approaching 31,000. If you aren’t following PewterReport.com on Twitter please do so now so you don’t miss out Bucs press conference and interview footage as well as breaking news and injury updates. To follow @PewterReport on Twitter please click here, and to follow us on Facebook please click here.
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DRAFT DIAMOND – WASHINGTON SS TAYLOR RAPP
PewterReport.com is the undisputed leader in Bucs draft coverage each year. During the 2018 draft, we accurately forecasted the selection of three Tampa Bay draft picks as defensive tackle Vita Vea, offensive lineman Alex Cappa and wide receiver Justin Watson were all Bucs’ Best Bets.
Draft season for the PewterReport.com staff starts in September as we do a great deal of scouting during college football season. Trevor Sikkema, who also provides content for TheDraftNetwork.com, will provide SR’s Fab 5 with a weekly segment called Draft Diamond where we focus on a different draft prospect each week. This week’s Draft Diamond is Washington strong safety Taylor Rapp.
Jordan Whitehead has done a decent job stepping into a starting role in his rookie season, but perhaps the Buccaneers may look for a more true strong safety in the draft in 2019. If that’s the case, there’s a safety by the name of Taylor Rapp out of Washington who might be on their radar.
Rapp, a 6-foot, 215-pound junior, is a smart and aggressive safety who can play the run very well. He understands where run plays are going before they form, and is stout when it comes to filling gaps and limiting additional yardage. He’s a fierce player who knows how to get off blocks and can lay nice hits on receivers and ball carriers. Where Rapp is limited is in how quick-twitch of an athlete he is. Though his acceleration is good in a straight line, quick receivers or any ball carrier that is elite at change of direction can give him trouble.
He doesn’t have the range to warrant a top draft pick, but he could be a Day 2 player who can step in and bring more physicality to the Bucs secondary with sure tackling, run support and above average athleticism to pair with someone like Justin Evans. Rapp has 144 career tackles, six interceptions, five sacks, three pass breakups, three fumble recoveries, two forced fumbles and a defensive touchdown in his three years as a starter. This year, Rapp has 34 tackles, three sacks, all three of his career fumble recoveries and one interception as a junior.
• We’re up to (over) 100 episodes of the Pewter Nation Podcast. In fact we’re at Episode 100 Part 5. Usually it’s Pewter Report.com’s Mark Cook, Trevor Sikkema and yours truly providing the Bucs insight and entertainment on the Pewter Nation Podcast, but for our latest edition special guest Greg Auman of The Athletic filled in for me to talk about the Bucs injuries, new defensive coordinator Mark Duffner and to preview the Bucs’ big game on Sunday in Cincinnati against the Bengals … in the appropriately titled Pewter Nation Podcast Ep100 Part 5: Big Game vs. Bengals
If you missed out on my latest appearance, it came on Episode 100 Part 4, which happened right after Sunday’s 26-23 overtime win against Cleveland. Sikkema, Cook and myself recap all the action and discuss the injury to Bucs middle linebacker Kwon Alexander in our post-game podcast. You can hear Pewter Nation Podcast Ep100 Part 4: The Great Escape by clicking this link.
Listening to the Pewter Nation Podcasts on your drive home from work on Fridays or on Saturdays while doing some chores around the house or running errands this weekend is just smart. So do it. The next Pewter Nation Podcast will be taped after the Bucs – Bengals game, so stay tuned for the post-game thoughts from Sikkema, Cook and yours truly as Tampa Bay tries to get over .500 with back-to-back wins – something the Bucs haven’t done since a Week 2 victory against Philadelphia.
The popularity of the Pewter Nation Podcast continues to grow. In addition to listening to the Pewter Nation Podcasts on PewterReport.com you can also subscribe to the free podcasts at PodBean by clicking here and on SoundCloud by clicking here. Make sure you subscribe so you don’t miss a single episode.
• In looking back at the Bucs’ safety against the Browns on Sunday, you have to wonder if offensive coordinator and play-caller Todd Monken was thinking about Ryan Fitzpatrick throwing a pick-six out of the end zone against the Steelers in calling for two consecutive runs – the last of which was stuffed for two points.
The Bucs invested $11 million per year in center Ryan Jensen, just paid left guard Ali Marpet over $10 million per year and plan on paying left tackle Donovan Smith over $10 million per year – and they can’t pick up a yard in two tries? I already talked about how tight end Antony Auclair’s poor block attempt caused the penetration that led to the safety, but why not have Jameis Winston plow ahead for a yard or two behind Jensen and Marpet with a quarterback sneak to create more running room?
When Tampa Bay was faced with this situation again later in the game, Monken called for a pass from the Bucs’ 1-yard line and Winston hit Jacquizz Rodgers out of the backfield across the middle for 10 yards and a first down. I’d still like to see Winston do more QB sneaks up the middle, especially with over $20 million worth of blockers directly in front of him in Jensen and Marpet.
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• The Bucs have a big job ahead of them replacing middle linebacker Kwon Alexander, who was not only the captain of the defense, but also the unit’s heart and soul. Alexander had a tremendous first half against the Browns with seven tackles and a pass breakup in the first half before tearing his ACL on a blitz right before halftime.
Now weakside linebacker and fellow team captain Lavonte David will have to step up and be the leader on defense in Alexander’s absence.
“Big loss, huge, humongous loss,” David said. “Me being comfortable with him and playing with him the last four years – it’s going to be different. It’s an unfortunate situation. It was tough to deal with. It was tough to see. Guys in the LB room that have to step up now.”
Adarius Taylor is the man charged with filling Alexander’s shoes in the middle of the defense. He played well in stretches in Alexander’s absence in the second half and finished with five tackles and a sack.
“He’s a veteran at this game,” David said. “He’s a special teams guy, but also a guy that has made plays on defense. But there’s no panic. He’s been in this situation before. We are expecting him to come in and do what he’s supposed to do. Not try to be Kwon – just do his job.”
The timing couldn’t be worse for Alexander as he was negotiating a contract extension with the Bucs that would pay him over $10 million per season. Alexander is in the final year of his contract and is set to be a free agent next year.
Although the injury drives his value down because he might not be ready to go by training camp, look for the Bucs to take care of Alexander and get a deal done. While they have some leverage now, I expect the Bucs will be fair to Alexander when it comes to his contract extension. The organization loves him.
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