FAB 5. SR’s Buc Shots
• Bucs defensive end Noah Spence has seen his sack production and playing time drop in each of the three years he has been in Tampa Bay, but the team has noticed how hard he has worked behind the scenes to develop and isn’t giving up on him yet. The fact that Spence had 5.5 sacks as a rookie but has had just one sack since, and struggled to earn playing time last year has fans baffled.
I spoke with Tampa Bay’s six-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Gerald McCoy about Spence’s lack of production at the end of the 2018 season and he put it in perspective.
“You can’t do the same thing you do every year,” McCoy said. “To be good in this league you have to learn new ways to reinvent yourself. That’s why there’s something called a sophomore slump – that’s real. When you come in as a rookie you’re fresh, no one knows who you are or what you’re capable. Then people have a whole offseason to study you, know what you can do and can’t do, and then you’ve got to show what you can do. You’ve got to find ways to be yourself but in a different way. Don’t change who you are, but find a new way to do it.
“Guys who last in this league are the ones who do that. It isn’t as easy as people think to get sacks. How many times do you see D-linemen randomly around the NFL have a big year and it’s like, that’s the only big year he’s ever had. Sometimes it’s just like that. Sometimes people just have those years. But being consistent, the work has to be put in and you’ve just got to stay the course. Noah is staying the course.”
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• Here are a couple of things I want to point out about the most recent PewterReport.com 2019 Bucs’ Mock Draft – most notably about the lack of drafting secondary players. I had Tampa Bay selecting SMU cornerback Jordan Wyatt in the seventh round and not drafting a safety at all – despite the Bucs’ struggles in the secondary over the last couple of years.
I’m not suggesting that the Bucs won’t draft a cornerback earlier, or even spend a pick on a safety, but I’m anticipating Tampa Bay signing a veteran cornerback to replace Brent Grimes in free agency, and also adding a veteran safety in free agency to replace Chris Conte – perhaps former Cardinals like Tyrann Mathieu or Deone Bucannon. The Bucs have invested a first-round draft pick (Vernon Hargreaves III) and two second-rounders (M.J. Stewart and Carlton Davis) in cornerbacks over the past couple of seasons and it’s time to see if these players can truly develop. Keep in mind that Ryan Smith and Javien Elliott made strides last year and are solid reserves.
Stewart might be a better fit at safety, and if so, there are several young players there that can compete for both starting jobs, including Justin Evans, Jordan Whitehead, the team’s fourth-rounder last year, Isaiah Johnson, Andrew Adams, who led the Bucs with four interceptions last year and Stewart – if he converts to safety as I expect he could. That’s five players. Throw in a veteran free agency as the sixth, and the Bucs seem stocked at the safety position in terms of young developing talent.
• The Buccaneers finalized their coaching staff with the additions of head strength and conditioning coach Anthony Piroli, speed and conditioning coach Roger Kingdom, assistant strength and conditioning coach Michael Stacchiotti, and assistant strength and conditioning coach Chad Wade. New Bucs head coach Bruce Arians has a staff of 26 coaches, including himself, which is four more coaches than Dirk Koetter’s previous staff had.
Tampa Bay’s 2019 Coaching Staff
Head coach Bruce Arians
Defensive coordinator Todd Bowles
Offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich
Special teams coordinator Keith Armstrong
Assistant head coach/run game coordinator Harold Goodwin
Quarterbacks coach Clyde Christensen
Running backs coach Todd McNair
Wide receivers coach Kevin Garver
Tight ends coach Rick Christophel
Offensive line coach Joe Gilbert
Defensive line coach Kacy Rodgers
Outside linebackers coach Larry Foote
Inside linebackers coach Mike Caldwell
Cornerbacks coach Kevin Ross
Safeties coach Nick Rapone
Assistant special teams coach Amos Jones
Specialist coach Chris Boniol
Offensive quality control coach John Van Dam
Offensive assistant Antwaan Randle El
Defensive quality control coach Tim Atkins
Defensive/special teams assistant Cody Grimm
Assistant to the head coach Mike Chiurco
Head strength and conditioning coach Anthony Piroli
Speed and conditioning coach Roger Kingdom
Assistant strength and conditioning coach Michael Stacchiotti
Assistant strength and conditioning coach Chad Wade
“The staff that I wanted and always wanted is available,” Arians said during his initial press conference in Tampa Bay on January 10. “It’s going to be a staff of fantastic teachers. We will have a large staff that do things a little bit different. In spring when you guys come out to OTAs (Organized Team Activities), you’ll see two practices going on because we’ll have a staff that can take all our young players and get those 40-45 reps that the veterans are getting,. You can’t find a diamond in the rough if he’s standing on the sideline watching. We don’t know if a rookie can really learn if he only gets three reps. We’re going to have those guys and we love young players. I love veteran players. This is a great group. I think we have the core here to win quickly. I’m not about building – I’m about reloading.”
• NEW PEWTER NATION PODCAST! The Pewter Reporters returned from the Senior Bowl to deliver a new Pewter Nation Podcast. Mark Cook, Matt Matera and yours truly discussed the future of Bucs left tackle Donovan Smith and defensive end Noah Spence in Pewter Nation Podcast Episode 106: The Reclamation Project. This one is full of Bucs insight and analysis. Make sure you check it out!
If you missed our two Senior Bowl-oriented Bucs podcasts, you can check out Pewter Nation Podcast Episode 104: Senior Bowl Preview From Bama, in addition to our previous podcast, Pewter Nation Podcast Episode 105: Senior Superlatives.
There is no better time to listen to a new Pewter Nation Podcast than on your drive home from work on Friday or running around doing errands or at the gym on Saturday. The next Pewter Nation Podcast will be taped during the middle of next week.
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.
• Holy smokes the columnists at the Tampa Bay Times were fuming mad this week about the NFL and the Buccaneers. First, Martin Fennelly basically called this year’s Super Bowl a lie based on the fact that NFL refs blew it when they didn’t flag Los Angeles Rams defensive back Nickell Roby-Coleman for pass interference in the NFC Championship Game. That will go down as one of the worst non-calls by an official in NFL history, but to automatically call the upcoming Super Bowl a fraud because of one blown call? That’s a joke.
As long as humans play and officiate the game of football there will be mistakes. That’s part of the game. And applying Fennelly’s logic, the Rams’ win in Super Bowl XXXIV must somehow be null and void because it sure looked like Bert Emanuel caught Shaun King’s pass in the waning moments of the 1999 NFC Championship Game, which the Bucs lost 11-6. Had Emanuel caught the ball in the Rams’ red zone the Bucs would have been in prime scoring position for a potential go-ahead touchdown, but that wasn’t the call.
You can’t automatically assume that the Saints would have won the NFC Championship Game had pass interference been called on Roby-Coleman. What if there was a bad snap on the Saints’ potential game-winning field goal, or it was missed or blocked? The truth is we’ll never know, but as bad as that non-call was, that wasn’t the only play in the game. The Saints punted four times and kicked three field goals.
Had they kicked another field goal instead of punting to end one of their drives New Orleans wins the game. Had the Saints scored a touchdown instead of settling for one of those three field goals, they win the game. Sorry, one unfortunate bad call at the end of the game does not make the Super Bowl a lie.
The other Times columnist, John Romano, says that the Bucs can’t afford to sign running back Kareem Hunt. Romano’s not talking about Tampa Bay’s salary cap. He’s talking about the signing of Hunt, who will be suspended for assaulting a woman in the 2018 offseason, which led to his release from Kansas City in December, and how it could divide the Bucs’ fan base even further. Romano mentions how the drafting of Jameis Winston and the alleged groping incident involving an Uber driver in March of 2016 has already divided the fan base.
Romano writes: “This is not about whether Hunt deserves a second chance. This is about the bond between a team and a community. Around here, it’s been tested. It’s been frayed. It’s been stretched close to the breaking point after too many lost seasons and one high-profile investment in a player with a trail of disturbing accusations.”
The key phrase in there is “too many lost seasons.” The fan base isn’t just frayed over Winston. It’s frayed because Bucs fans are sick and tired of losing after suffering through a miserable decade without one playoff appearance. Signing Hunt isn’t going to be the last straw for people to either support the Bucs or not. They’ve already made up their minds to either jump ship or remain a loyal, die-hard fan.
In a previous SR’s Fab 5 column, I suggested that the Bucs should take a risk on Hunt as new head coach Bruce Arians is a big believer in second chances. I am, too. Forgiveness isn’t a trait that is exclusive only to Christians, yet it seems like it’s an ideal that is not popular with more and more people, such as Romano and others at the Times that don’t see the positive power of redemption when it comes to recovering from a mistake.
I’ve advocated for the Bucs to sign Hunt and stated the reasons why. NFL insider Ian Rapoport says the team is considering it, and I fully support the move. Hunt will get a second chance to play somewhere after he serves his suspension, which will likely be between six and 10 games. Might as well be in Tampa Bay.
• One final note about Bucs linebacker Kevin Minter, who is slated to be a free agent in March, but wants to return to Tampa Bay. Minter spent the 2018 offseason and training camp with Todd Bowles in New York when he was the head coach of the Jets, but didn’t make the final 53-man roster. I asked Minter what happened to see if there was something that would impede Bowles from wanting the veteran inside linebacker to play for him again.
“What I was told was that I didn’t do a lot of special teams stuff, and that was it,” Minter said. “I didn’t play much on special teams at the time and I was the odd-man out. I wasn’t the guy they needed me to be. That’s what I was told, but you never know. Hopefully I’ve shown everybody the special teams film since coming to Tampa Bay. I had to prove that I could play that position and play on that side of the ball. Hopefully I can stick around this time.”
Minter did just that with the Bucs, recording four special teams in five games, which should help his cause as he wants to stay in Tampa Bay.
“It was fun being down here in Tampa with these guys in this organization,” Minter said. “I was able to get close to some of the guys and show a little bit on film and play with guys like Lavonte David and Gerald McCoy. It was definitely a blessing. Jason Licht didn’t have to come get me off the street, but he did. I appreciate this organization and I always will for what they’ve done for me and my family. At the end I understand that this is a business, but I would love to be here again. He has a lot of decisions to make. He’ll do what’s best for this organization. I hope I’m here. If not, I wish this organization the best of luck.”
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