FAB 4. Who Are The Bucs’ “Glue Guys?”

Jason Pierre-Paul is the real deal, Bucs fans.

I’ve said it on 620 WDAE, I’ve said it on WFLA News Channel 8, and I’ve written about it on PewterReport.com – JPP is the closest thing the Bucs have had to a superstar defensive end since Simeon Rice last donned the red and pewter over a decade ago.

Some said that Rice was the missing element on Tampa Bay’s defense that allowed the Bucs to reach the Super Bowl in 2002. But the truth is, he wasn’t the missing element.

Bucs DE Simeon Rice and DT Warren Sapp - Photo by: Getty Images

Bucs DE Simeon Rice and DT Warren Sapp – Photo by: Getty Images

Rice, was a big part of Tampa Bay winning its first and only Super Bowl, but he arrived in 2001 along with quarterback Brad Johnson and was part of a Buccaneers team that lost 31-3 in the playoffs in Philadelphia that same year.

Who else was on that 2001 Bucs team? Warren Sapp, Derrick Brooks, Ronde Barber, John Lynch, Mike Alstott, Keyshawn Johnson, Dexter Jackson, and a few other star players and recognizable names. Yet those players weren’t enough to stave off another first-round playoff exit.

It wasn’t until a group of players that arrived in 2002 – along with new head coach Jon Gruden – that pushed Tampa Bay over the top.

The problem with the Bucs wasn’t a lack of talent. The team had talent, evidenced by six Pro Bowlers in 2001 – Alstott, Barber, Brooks, Sapp, Lynch and Keyshawn Johnson – along with Brad Johnson and Simeon Rice, who had been to previous Pro Bowls with Washington and Arizona, respectively.

There were plenty of “A grade” players in Tampa Bay. The problem was there were too many “C grade” players, too. NFL football is all about finding and exploiting match-ups, and despite all of the pewter Pro Bowlers, there were too many holes on the roster, especially on offense.

What the Bucs needed were “glue guys” – guys that were “B grade” players that were solid and dependable on the field and in the locker room. While the arrival of Gruden gets a lot of the credit for making the Bucs Super Bowl champions, it was also the arrival of a lot of “glue guys” to help upgrade some of the deficient holes on the roster from a talent and a team chemistry perspective.

Tampa Bay had a couple of these players in place like linebacker Shelton Quarles, wide receiver and punt returner Karl Williams, cornerback Brian Kelly and special teams ace Corey Ivy, but needed more. So Gruden and general manager Rich McKay brought in a host of “glue guys” to upgrade some spots on the depth chart and complement the team’s star players.

Former Bucs CB Dwight Smith - Photo by: Getty Images

Former Bucs CB Dwight Smith – Photo by: Getty Images

“Glue guys” like wide receivers Joe Jurevicius and Keenan McCardell, running back Michael Pittman, tight end Ken Dilger, left tackle Roman Oben, left guard Kerry Jenkins and defensive end Greg Spires were added in free agency, and rookie role players like cornerback Dwight Smith and linebacker Ryan Nece were added in the draft.

Imagine the Bucs’ championship run without Jurevicius’ 71-yard catch-and-run or Oben handling Eagles defensive end Hugh Douglas in Philadelphia? Imagine the Super Bowl without Pittman running behind Jenkins for 124 yards, or McCardell’s two touchdown catches, or Spires’ sack or Smith’s two pick-sixes?

Those players’ performances were just as necessary as the efforts of Rice, Sapp, Alstott, Barber, Brooks, Lynch and both Johnsons – Keyshawn and Brad.

I’m using the phrase “glue guys” because it’s a term used in Sam Walker’s book, The Captain Class. I first heard of the book when Bucs general manager Jason Licht mentioned it to me in a conversation after one camp practice. He had read The Captain Class during his summer vacation and recommended I read it.

Licht has done a very good job of bringing in some “A grade” talent to Tampa Bay since becoming the team’s G.M. in 2014. Pierre-Paul, the most recent “A grade” addition, has been to a pair of Pro Bowls and young stars like quarterback Jameis Winston, wide receiver Mike Evans and middle linebacker Kwon Alexander have all been to one Pro Bowl. Left guard Ali Marpet and tight end O.J. Howard also have Pro Bowl-caliber talent.

Licht knew the importance of having “glue guys” on a football roster prior to reading The Captain Class. But his summer reading only validated his belief that a new round of “glue guys” like center Ryan Jensen, defensive tackles Beau Allen and Mitch Unrein, defensive end Vinny Curry to a roster that also features existing “glue guys” like quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, wide receiver Adam Humphries, tight ends Cameron Brate and Alan Cross, offensive lineman Evan Smith and safety Keith Tandy.

Bucs GM Jason Licht and DT Beau Allen - Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

Bucs GM Jason Licht and DT Beau Allen – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

Jensen, Allen, Unrein and Curry are “B grade” players who will serve as upgrades at their respective positions, and bring toughness to Tampa Bay. Allen, Curry and Unrein bring Super Bowl experience, while players like Fitzpatrick, Humphries, Brate, Smith, Cook and Tandy are all excellent teammates and solid contributors.

For years the Patriots have won Super Bowl after Super Bowl, not just because of star players like quarterback Tom Brady and tight end Rob Gronkowksi, but because of less heralded players like wide receiver Julian Edelman, running back James White and offensive tackle Nate Solder, who have never made the Pro Bowl.

Gerald McCoy, Lavonte David, Winston, Evans, Alexander, Marpet, Howard and others haven’t been enough for the Bucs to make the playoffs yet. Another superstar was added this offseason with the trade for JPP.

But don’t be surprised if players like Jensen, Curry, Allen, Unrein and other “glue guys” play just as big of a role in turning around Tampa Bay as the Bucs’ star players.

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About the Author: Scott Reynolds

Scott Reynolds is in his 25th year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds spent six years giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: sr@pewterreport.com
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Jolly Bucs Fan
2 years ago

Sorry, dont care if you plug him, I am not going to give Tom Jones any clicks.

Reply to  Jonathan Goodfellow
2 years ago

Jones is Horrible…..

2 years ago

I’m with you Jonathan. Tom Jones is a self absorbed, sanctimonious hack and my advise Scott is to stay away from plugging for your “friend”. He is only going to hurt your business.

I know you would loose a large number of loyal supporters of your site if you were to ever hire Tom Jones.

2 years ago

Tom Jones is a tool.. thank god he is no longer on 620..
Really excited about Howard this year.. The sky is literally the limit with him.

2 years ago

Great insights and glad PR is also appearing on Channel 8’s Sports Shows because that is my Family’s favorite channel.

Buc 1976
2 years ago

Tom J
Is so,so negative!!

Buc 1976
2 years ago

OJ Howard is sure to become a pro bowler. I have no idea what other were thinking when so many passed by him? But I am happy they did.Go Buc

2 years ago

Great Fab 5 Scott. I cant stand T Jones. Wasn’t gonna click but i did just to see his answer. Jones says the debate is Winston or Mariota…. then he says neither. What a Wuss!!! What an idiot!!!!! That’s not how a either or debate works. He’s the one who should be run out of town! And that was the last Tom Jones article I will ever read! GO BUCS!!!

Ken Grant
2 years ago

Completely agree on glue players/exploitable holes. I’ve seen fans take players like McCoy and Jameis to task for not doing more to carry the team, but they were not the problem last year. Holes on both lines, in the secondary, in the kicking game, and in the running game were. Football is the consummate team sport and if there are weak links at this level other teams will surely find them. Look no further than the additions made during the off-season as evidence the team saw those same deficiencies. The team had/has outstanding core players in Jamies, McCoy, David, Evans,… Read more »

2 years ago

Enjoyed the Fab 5 as always except for the negative article by Tom Jones.

2 years ago

Who cares what Tom Jones think? He was the idiot that blew Jameis’ words to the girls sit down out of proportion and caused national hysteria by the talking heads. Any sane person could clearly see that was not what Jameis was doing especially if you heard the entire speech. Tom is definitely not worth the click.

2 years ago

Between Jones and Fennelly, the Times brings us enough doom and gloom to make me wish I was a Browns fan.
Most of their columns are written in a condescending arrogant superior than the reader tone.
The column they combined to write together after the Dolphins game was the absolute worst. Full of pithy sarcastic remarks. It was like listening to a group of girls tear down the new girl in class because of her hair and dress.
I have pretty much quit reading either one of them.

2 years ago

Wow, wrote that Jones post before I read any of the other posts. I’m very rarely part of the herd but this time I don’t mind grazing with the rest of you.
My attitude about Jones and Fennelly also have nothing to do with them not being homers for the Bucs.
Both of their sanctimonious writing styles are annoying, especially Fennelly’s.

2 years ago

I just hope WDAE has gotten rid of Michael Clayton on their Sunday game broadcasts. He was so annoying I would turn the radio off off after a game, even after a win.
Someone please tell me they did.

2 years ago

One of the reasons I’m so happy with my subscription to pewter report is in sites such as wide Tampa will not be giving up on Ryan Smith due to his special teams prowess. I would not of thought of that. We had some discussion about it on the red board but still believe you are too hard on Ronald Jones. He was not perfect, but don’t believe most of what happened to him was his fault. As you say though, what we think of him at the end of the year will not depend much and what he did… Read more »