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.

Bucs DE Noah Spence
Bucs DE Noah Spence – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

“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.

Bucs CB M.J. Stewart
Bucs CB M.J. Stewart – Photo by: Mary Holt/PR

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.

Pewter-Nation-Podcast-Pewter-ReportThere 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.

Former Chiefs RB Kareem Hunt - Photo by: Getty Images
Former Chiefs RB Kareem Hunt – Photo by: Getty Images

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.”

Bucs ILB Kevin Minter
Bucs ILB Kevin Minter – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

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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Scott Reynolds is in his 24th 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 son's Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: [email protected]

33 COMMENTS

  1. A block-shedding tackling machine like Ed Oliver is my hope when the card is turned in.

    Devin White does seem like a great prospect. He would definitely have immediate rapport with whichever LSU linebackers(Kwon/Minter/Beckwith) are left on the team.

    Someone has to replace McCoy though. Vea and Oliver would wreak havoc.

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    • On a trade down yes for sure but not at 5. Oliver will be there at the 10-15 range

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    • I’d be happy with the Bucs picking Oliver or White. I think it will boil down to: 1. what the Bucs do with McCoy, 2. Free agency moves, and 3. Alexander and Beckwith’s rehab progress. Another way to put this is that if Alexander and / or Beckwith were healthy, I wouldn’t waste that pick on another linebacker and I’d be shouting for Ed Oliver in the 1st round until the cows come home.

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  2. I really hope the new staff can revive Spence’s career, but I’m tired of all the hype surrounding him. The truth is on one of the worst defenses in the NFL he never saw the field. Talent rises above scheme, and fit, if Spence showed he could get to the Q.B. during preseason games he would’ve played. I watched him go one, on one against third teamers in that last preseason game, and he got completely stone walled. You either have that God given ability, or you don’t. Von Miller would be sacking Q.B.’s in any scheme. From what I’ve seen of Spence he’s been a waste of a roster spot. Time to put up, or hit the road. I’m warming up more to White being our first pick, just hope we trade down, and still get him. The Bucs need better size at LB. Don’t mind a one year prove it deal for Kwon, but that’s it. Learning a new defense, and not being able to hit the grass for OTA’s, and most likely training camp will put him behind the 8 ball. Both him, and David are undersized, and have trouble getting off blocks. Having the fast, strong White in the middle might be the tone setter this defense has been missing for years.

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    • Talent does rise above scheme, but it doesn’t necessarily rise above coaching abilities or biases, especially if that player needs some additional development as Spence did. For whatever reason, Buckner didn’t want Spence involved much at all. None of us really has any insight into that situation, so all we really know at this point is that Spence is still with the Bucs and Buckner isn’t.

      I remember when Rice’s talent was being wasted in Phoenix and he first came to the Bucs. He was only getting 5-7 sacks a season if I remember correctly (?), changed scene and changed schemes and finally reached his potential.

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      • Right – I watched Spence in training camp last summer and was impressed with his speed and strength. Was surprised when he disappeared during the season.

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  3. I thought the concern about Spence coming into the draft as a 3-4 LB was his slow 40m time.

    I wanted the Bucs to pickup Hunt off the Waiver Wire when the Chiefs cut him. We would’ve had him under his Rookie contract which wouldn’t cost as much as trying to sign him as Free Agent now even in his current situation. We could’ve pressed the NFL to suspend him immediately to count towards any games that he would miss. In that situation they would’ve had his rights but not have to pay him. By serving the punishment in 2018 it would mean missing less games in 2019 if any depending on the number of games he got. Now any team that signs him has to wait for the NFL to hand down punishment after they sign him and serve it. If they didn’t want him to play for the Bucs and take the PR hit, then they could’ve traded his rights to someone that wanted him. If you state up front that you only signed him so that you can trade him later, then no PR hit.

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    • Just a few thoughts on your Hunt ideas…

      The collective bargaining agreement ensures players don’t serve immediate suspensions. There is a process and it takes forever. I’m not sure when Hunt would start serving a suspension if he’s picked up by a new team. Could be mid year or later. Could be across two seasons. Who knows how many games he’ll get?

      If the Bucs signed him and decided they didn’t want to take a PR hit, as you put it, and decided to trade the player away, would his value take a hit since he just signed with a new team? Im thinking about Kelvin Benjamin as an example. Bills gave up quite a bit in a trade to Carolina to get him and ended up releasing him. Kansas City didn’t even have to claim him off waivers. He was without a team for a while if memory serves.

      It seems couterintuitive to sign the player, take backlash from detractors, then come back and say we did it to trade him away, thus ticking off supporters of the move.

      Im not a fan of this player, truth be told. He has had 3 incidents in his short career according to the paper, plus he lied to his team about what happened. There are lots of RB’s that need a shot. Get one that’s got his head screwed on straight.

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      • The way I look at it is even if we only got a 7th rounder for him, it’s a pick that we didn’t have for a player that cost nothing to get.

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  4. I was just thinking same thing about pre season and watched him going up against 3rd and 4th string scrubs and never sniffed a QB. It was crazy to see really. Not sure what his issue is perhaps he wasn’t as healthy as they say. Who knows. I don’t have lot faith he will do much but would be nice not to write off draft pick that high. He will get best shot to do something now for sure in 3-4 with better coaches.

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  5. Nice piece on White. I particularly like the idea that he’s a high-character guy to go with all of his other talents. I’m still a big Jonah fan as well. No OT in the mock? I can’t see that. I’m assuming that the Bucs are going to end up trading out of the 5 spot. Dropping a few spots and picking up another 2nd, and still having a shot at either of the afore mentioned, would work for me.

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    • I was wondering about OT as well, I know he’s probably thinking to keep Smith at LT but what about RT? Dotson?? Cappa?? I hope we find a better solution.

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      • That’s definitely a concern, Ry… The tackles on both sides are big question marks. I did like the Lindstrom pick in the mock… Guard as well.

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        • I’d go OT in the first round. Hope they do trade back a bit tho. Would love to see an extra pick or 2 added. Devin White looks great but this team needs an Oline bad. I expect Bowles to work wonders with the LBs and DBs already here. The next corner blitz will be the first one i can recall in years. Gona be exciting seeing a defense trying to make plays rather than hoping for offensive mistakes.

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          • I can see them going OT in the first round only if they manage to renegotiate McCoy’s contract and he stays here. Or, if Alexander’s on schedule or ahead of schedule with rehab.

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  6. Yes, sign Hunt ASAP. Funny you brought up the Tampa Bay Times articles. It is becoming an unreadable newspaper. Their politics has always been way out there, but the Sports section used to be good at least.

    Scott, you list all the linebackers we have (including Spence and JPP) and then insist on drafting another one first round. I don’t get it. Not all of those injuries will be limiting. Lets work on the O Line and another cover corner first…

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  7. I am warming up to the idea of drafting White, but I still think there’s bigger needs along the OL, at DT if we release GMC, and probably in the secondary. All this becomes even more true if Beckwith comes back 100% from his ankle injury, which from all I’ve heard doesn’t appear to be career threatening or anything. Drafting White would essentially relegate Beckwith to backup duties, while we still have immediate starters at multiple other positions. Seems silly to make a good player a backup when we still yet to have a starting caliber RG or DT to replace McCoy.

    As for Spence, I really do hope he can return to form in Bowles defense. I don’t think people focus enough on how multiple shoulder injuries really damaged his career thus far, as arm usage is absolutely crucial to success as a pass rusher. Then on top of that, being asked to gain weight when his best attribute as a rookie was his explosiveness only damaged it further. In Bowles system, hopefully he can think less and get back to the basics as a situational pass rushing OLB…which is what he was projected as coming out of college anyways.

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  8. Selecting a middle linebacker would the last nail in Licht’s coffin. I’m sure White will be excellent – maybe he’ll even be the next Kwon Alexander in this league – but unless he can cover Julio Jones, pass rush Cam Newton, or pass block Cam Jordan, it’s a luxury pick at #5.

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    • Don’t forget, Arians and his staff will have a lot of input toward who we select. I, for one want Oliver, whether McCoy is here next season or not. But, if they, as an organization, decide White is their guy, I trust that B.A. and Bowles know what they’re doing.

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  9. Nice Fab 5 Scott. White does sound awesome but i still think if there is a DL or OL player with the same ranking or higher on our draft board where ever we end up picking then we should still work on the trenches which I feel is more important right now. GO BUCS!!!

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  10. In a draft with elite talent along the DL you guys keep mocking us a LB. If Licht has shown us anything about his drafts its that he can identify impact LBs outside the 1st round. Stop with this waste of a pick, it should be Ed Oliver plain and simple. If you want to sell me on trading back and selecting the huge guard from Oklahoma Ford then I’m on board with it. But we need help along the trenches. As for Spence, he couldn’t get on the field for a team that needed pass rushing help. Hoping this staff can fix him is one thing, actually expecting it would be crazy. He’s slow for his position, the trait most of Licht’s busts have in common. See VHIII and maybe even MJ for details. I hope somebody tells him that when push comes to shove draft the superior athlete, stop with the “hard nosed” but athletically inferior players.

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  11. We’ll see if Bowles and company can salvage Spence career, if not he’s likely done.

    Yes re-sign Minter…. And Kwon!

    No still pass on White.

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  12. Fennelly and Morono- I mean Romano- need to follow their equally bitter and hateful former colleague Tom Jones into the cesspool or sunset or wherever they send washed up has beens.

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  13. We need to trade back with a QB needy team and pick up another 2nd round pick. White would be great but seems to be more of a luxury pick, unless there’s already info that Alexander or Beckwith won’t be available for next season. I agree with most that the lines are where we need to focus first and foremost. I could get on board with trading down and still getting a top LB as long as there is trench help available for us with our extra picks, but other than that…no

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  14. Scott, this is a great piece of writing; on exactly the right subjects for this stage of the new regime. Excellent insights and thought-provoking analysis of the most critical issues for the Bucs. Its clear that you put good work and thought into this.
    You’re doing a great job of upping your game at Pewter Report. PR has the best Bucs coverage in the business, by far. Thanks for that. Keep growing.

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    • Sycophantic suck up! Except that you’re right. Pewter Report is my favorite website to go to because of the in-depth Bucs reporting, perspective, and of course, feedback fan boards!

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      • BucWild02, thanks for agreeing. And when your insights are better than your criticism, I’ll say something similar about your writing.

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        • Ouch! I better pour a glass of the good stuff to ease my pain from your criticism. Truth is, I just wanted to (finally) use the word “sycophantic”.

          Cheers!

          Go Bucs!

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  15. I have written about it before, Spence should have never been drafted by the BUCs. He is not a 4-3 defensive end. He was meant to be a 3-4 rushing Linebacker. He is not that great at stopping the run, but he is a rushing lb in a 3-4 system. He has wasted his time on a 4-3 team trying to be a rushing DE like Paul. He is just not quite big enough to be a 4-3 end. He tried to bulk up like one and it did not work. It just slowed him down. He will now need to be back to his original weight, get his speed up, and see if Todd Bowles can use him in one of the now available 4 linebacker positions. With the Buc’s injuries at LB and if Spence can show that rushing ability, he will make the 53 man roster for Bowles. He has no trade value. You can cut him, but you might be surprised and get a valuable rushing LB that can be out there every down in a 3-4 system. In a 4-3 system they could only use him once in a while, maybe.

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  16. Great in-depth article once again, Scott. However, those NFL Teams that want Turnstyle Smith for their LT should get a phone call from Licht offering to trade him to the highest bidder and get a draft pick for him and don’t waste a penny of our cap on Smith who can’t stop speed rushers and draws lots of holding penalties and he would be no better at RT for us. Then drop down in the First and still take either Bama’s or Mississippi’s LT. If you get a second first pick go after Oliver to replace McCoy when he retires even if he takes a reduced contract. Oliver would still need to play half each game to keep McCoy fresh for the fourth Quarter. By drafting a first round LT you protect our cap for many other needs on this team. Both Beckwith and Alexander must be thoroughly studied by medical experts to see if either will be able to play this season. If either one will pass on White. We will have Minter inside to pair with them and will likely have Cichy back and Bullough behind them and still David and Taylor could also play inside too. We should have David outside on the weak side to start and have Spence on the other side. And if both Alexander and Beckwith both come back Beckwith could play Outside on the strong side if Spence couldn’t cut it and Taylor is able to play either outside position.

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    • Why would a team allow the Bucs to negotiate on their behalf for Smith’s salary and trade a draft pick or two? Why would Smith sign a contract or accept the tag to begin with. As an UFA he has a pick of 31 other teams to see what he can get? The only other option would be to franchise him and trade him to someone willing not only to give him 14 million, but give the Bucs a draft picks – all this for a one year player, unless of course they both sign him to a long term deal and work out draft compensation with the Bucs since they aren’t aren’t going to give up two first round picks. Since all the “experts” say he is the top Free Agent Left Tackle and will certainly be overpaid, his agents would be nuts. If the Bucs move on, which I hope they will as a fan only. I acknowledge, however; the coaches are much more capable than me of knowing his ability) and may want him. Best bet is hope for a high compensatory pick.

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  17. By the way Spence never looked slow running down QBs from outside in his first year here. This year in preseason he could not get around LTs so there was no way to see if he was slow. JPP and GMC thought he was “fast” this year from practices against him so I have no idea where the idea he is slow comes from. JPP and GMC should know better from first hand experience. I thoroughly believe Spence can at last be developed properly to play outside strongside LB for the 3-4 base defense. With our second round pick this year we should grab Charles Omenahu from Texas so our Defense should be really scary for our opponents especially since Bowles teaches five or six new blitzes each week for our adversaries. I hope Bowles will go one step further this year and take some lessons from Clemson’s DC when beating Bama and learn how to disguise his defenses to set up interceptions. Also I hope BA will teach Jameis how to alter his cadence to trick opponents to jump off sides and get some free plays to throw deep. Koetter foolishly would not let Jameis do that.

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  18. It’s great that we have new trainers, but does anyone know if the medical staff was replaced?

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