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. HUMPHRIES SET TO BECOME MAJOR PLAYER FOR BUCS
He was an afterthought last year, another training camp body at the wide receiver position – if he made it that far.
Not only did former Clemson wide receiver Adam Humphries go undrafted, he could only secure a try-out status with an NFL team, choosing the Buccaneers after looking at the team’s depth chart and seeing an opportunity to make the team. But it wouldn’t be easy. Several new receivers, including Kenny Bell, the Bucs’ fifth-round pick, highly touted undrafted free agent Rannell Hall and speedy Donteea Dye, an undrafted free agent from little Heidelberg University joined the training camp battle with Humphries.
Humphries, who didn’t have more than 41 catches in a season for the Tigers or a season in which he had at least 500 yards, was a long-shot to make the 53-man roster. Humphries quickly got to work and worked his way on to the team with a solid preseason, leading the Bucs with nine catches for 139 yards and a touchdown, which came at Miami in the preseason finale.
Bucs WR Adam Humphries – Photo by: Getty Images
“After the Miami game, which was our last preseason game, I felt good about where I was in terms of making the team,” Humphries said. “I had a really good game, but I wasn’t really satisfied until I got that final call. Normally, you don’t get a call if you’re making the team, but Lovie [Smith] gave me a call and let me know I’d made the 53. I was pretty antsy up until that moment, but it just felt like a lot of hard work had paid off.”
Injuries to Vincent Jackson and Louis Murphy pushed Humphries up the depth chart and into some surprisingly significant playing time. The player affectionately known as “Hump” worked primarily in the slot last year as a rookie, catching 27 passes for 260 yards (9.6 avg.) and a touchdown while appearing in 13 games.
What attracted Humphries to Tampa Bay was the opportunity to play with quarterback Jameis Winston, a fellow rookie and former ACC foe. Humphries witnessed Winston dismantle his Tigers in 2013. The redshirt freshman quarterback threw for a career-high 444 yards with three touchdowns and also had a rushing touchdown at Clemson in a nationally televised prime time game.
“Him coming into Death Valley as a redshirt freshman and doing what he did, I really admired that,” Humphries said. “He really impressed me in that game. Coming to Tampa and knowing that he would be our starting quarterback really excited me. To work with him, a former ACC companion, I knew what he had in him. He’s a really great competitor and he has an edge that most people don’t have. I saw that playing against him.”
Humphries also saw that last year on the field as Winston often looked to Humphries on third down. Despite averaging just under 10 yards per catch as a rookie, 18 of Humphries’ 27 catches resulted in a first down last year. And Winston made sure that he found Humphries for his first NFL touchdown in a 24-17 loss in Week 14.
“I think I was the last receiver on the active 53 to score a touchdown,” Humphries said. “Every week Jameis was saying, ‘We’re going to get you one this week.’ You can’t control that during the games, but when that was called it was the perfect opportunity. As soon as I came off the edge I knew I was open and was going to score, but I also knew that Jameis could have walked in for the score on the bootleg. For Jameis to dump that down to me and give me my first receiving touchdown, it was a huge moment of my NFL career. It was also awesome – the selflessness he showed to make that simple pass to me.
“Coming in, I was trying to learn the playbook as fast as I can. That’s what I was focused on early in the year. I was trying to make sure I didn’t have any missed assignments. Later on in the season when I had more opportunities, I was taking it to another level because I knew the plays and my assignments. Now, I’m reading the secondary more, and running more option routes and more choice routes. I want to be a more reliable receiver.”
The Bucs want to reward Humphries for his production and reliability with additional playing time in the slot. With veteran Louis Murphy out while recovering from a torn ACL, Humphries has been starting in the slot where he has shared reps with Kenny Bell, Donteea Dye and newcomer Bernard Reedy.
“Being in the offense for another year is a huge advantage,” Humphries said. “This time last year, everybody was trying to learn the playbook. Now I feel comfortable with the plays and the reads so we can take it to another level and master it. It’s our second year in the offense, so we’ll be more comfortable and more confident, and winning the slot [role] is definitely a goal of mine. I feel real comfortable playing the slot position. That’s what I did all last year. I feel like I can potentially win that spot. I’d love to lock that down, but also getting a few reps outside to show my versatility as well. I want to make some plays, and I know the coaches and staff will make the right decisions when it comes to the final 53.”
At 5-foot-11, 195 pounds, Humphries is one of the smallest receivers. And while he’s not the fastest pass catchers, running a 4.53 in the 40-yard dash, it’s Humphries’ quickness that allows him to create separation and excel in the slot.
“My goal is to be a reliable receiver,” Humphries said. “I’m not 6-foot-4, 230 and I’m not going to go up and catch jump balls over anyone. But in short yardage situations where we need first downs and quick routes where I can make decisions to go inside or outside, I feel like that’s an area that I can master. I just want to be as quick as I can and help the quarterback out as much as I can.
Bucs WR Adam Humphries – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
“I’m not the type of guy that’s going to beat you with downfield speed or my vertical leap, but the one advantage I do have in being more low to the ground is being quicker with my lateral quickness. Those shorter routes where I can get a split-second of separation that can allow us to pick up a first down. That’s something I can take pride in and continue to get better at. I just want to be there for our quarterback when he needs me.”
Dirk Koetter has raved about Humphries since last year, and Bucs general manager Jason Licht loves the hard-working Humphries and sees some similarities to a player he helped bring to New England in wide receiver Julian Edelman, a seventh-round pick in 2009.
“Hearing good things come from both of those guys, that’s obviously great to hear,” Humphries said. “Like I always say, when I came in here I just put my head down and worked. That’s really all you can do as a rookie try-out guy. It’s not about how many guys you have to beat out to try to win a spot. It’s doing whatever you can to get better every day. People noticed that and gave me praise for that, but I still have to earn it every day. I have to work at it every day to earn my spot every day.”
Humphries lights up when you mention Edelman, who he views as a role model for him. As a rookie in New England, Edelman hauled in 37 catches for 359 yards (9.7 avg.) and one touchdown in 11 games. Those numbers compare favorably to those put up by Humphries last year in 13 games.
While Edelman’s numbers dipped over next two seasons when he combined for 11 catches for 120 yards and zero TDs, he did respond with 21 catches for 235 yards and three scores in 2012. Then Edelman became a star in New England and one of Tom Brady’s favorite receivers, erupting for 105 catches for 1,056 yards and six touchdowns in 2013. He followed that up with 92 receptions for 972 yards and four touchdowns in 2014, and then 61 catches for 692 yards and seven TDs last year in an injury-filled campaign.
Edelman, who returns punts and plays in the slot for the Patriots, has a career average of only 10.5 yards per catch. Like Humphries, his primary job is to use his quickness to convert on third downs and pick up first downs.
“Julian Edelman is probably the receiver I try to mirror the most because I think we have almost identical measurables,” Humphries said. “He got drafted, but I’m very similar to him from a physical standpoint. I watch film on him and try to do some of the things that he does. I watch guys like Amendola and Welker – his stuff from the past. Those are guys that I look up to and they’ve paved the way for me. I try to look like them and run routes like them. They’ve been very successful in the league.”
While the Bucs have big plans for Humphries as a slot receiver, he’s not accepting that he’s already cemented a spot on the 53-man roster again and is simply focused on making the team once again.
“That’s exactly how I have to approach it,” Humphries said. “As an undrafted free agent, they are trying to replace me every day. That’s the mindset I have. I have to come in with the mentality that I could get cut every day.
“I remember in college Shannon Sharpe came in and talked to us. He said something to me that I’ll always remember. He said that when he was in the NFL his goal at practice every day was to do one thing to make the coaches say, ‘Hey, we need to keep this guy around one more day.’ I think about that quote every day, and it’s true. I come out with the mindset that I’m going to do something today that is going to make the coaches keep me one more day. I live by that quote.”
Humphries is not only catching the coaches’ eyes with his spectacular catches in practice, he’s also competing with Dye and Reedy for the right to be Tampa Bay’s punt returner.
“I feel like that’s a role that I feel pretty comfortable in,” Humphries said. “Bobby Rainey had that role last year, but I feel like I could have stepped in and done it if my name was called. That’s something I did at Clemson for three years and it’s something I feel comfortable in doing. It’s a great role to have in this league and a great way to make an impact on special teams and create field position for the offense.”
Ex-Clemson WR-PR Adam Humphries – Photo by: Getty Images
Humphries, who was a team captain at Clemson, returned 69 punts for 476 yards (6.9 avg.) with a 70-yard touchdown against Louisville. His best year came as a junior when he returned 20 punts for 212 yards (10.6 avg.). A 10-yard average is what’s expected at the NFL level.
“I’m working on both return spots – punt and kick,” Humphries said. “I’m trying to learn as many spots as I can and be able to play as many spots as they need me to play. I had a lot more experience with punt returns at Clemson than I did kick returns, but I’m working on both. It’s fun.”
Humphries is an avid golfer, and knows that every golfer needs a good short game in order to win. If Mike Evans is the driver and Vincent Jackson is a 3 wood in the Bucs offense, Humphries is the putter that gets the ball in the hole. Reliably getting 10 yards – whether it’s as a slot receiver or as a punt returner – is what will win Humphries multiple roles in Tampa Bay this year.
FAB 2. DAVID SURPASSES BROOKS’ 4-YEAR TOTALS
It’s been four years since Lavonte David was drafted by Tampa Bay, and ever since he’s donned the red and pewter uniform of the Buccaneers there have been the inevitable comparisons to Hall of Famer Derrick Brooks, a man who redefined the weakside linebacker position in a 4-3 defense. Some might say it’s not fair to compare David to Brooks, but I believe Brooks is not only the best 4-3 weakside linebacker in NFL history, but also the greatest Buccaneer of all-time.
Bucs LB Lavonte David – Photo by Getty Images
NFL athletes always compare themselves to the greatest players at their positions. The media does it, too, especially for players like Brooks and David, whose games relied on speed and instincts and were similarly built. Brooks is 6-foot and played at 235, while David is 6-foot-1, 233 pounds.
When you have football player who is in the caliber of athleticism that Brooks was – like David is – drawing comparisons is certainly justified.
Especially when David, who is entering his fifth year in the NFL, is statistically outpacing the greatest player in franchise history, who happened to play the same position. In 2013, PewterReport.com was the first to illustrate how David is off to a stronger statistical start than Brooks was, and then revisited the topic last year.
With less than 100 days to go before the start of the 2016 campaign, it’s time to illustrate once again how special of a player David is becoming. Despite playing in two games less than Brooks did in his first four years in the league, David has 577 tackles compared to Brooks’ 510 tackles. That’s 67 more tackles than the Bucs’ all-time leading tackler had in his first four years in Tampa Bay.
Bucs Hall of Fame LB Derrick Brooks – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Brooks, who is one of the league’s all-time best coverage linebackers, had four interceptions during his first four years. David already has nine, including a career-high five in 2013 and three more last season. David returned one of those picks for a touchdown and also recorded a safety during the 2013 season. Brooks did not record a safety in his illustrious Buccaneers career, and didn’t get his first NFL touchdown until the 2000 season after he had been in the league six years.
Brooks does edge David in terms of passes defensed, as he recorded 33 from 1995-1998, while David has logged 32 from 2012-15.
David, who has been asked to blitz more than Brooks ever was, naturally has more sacks through the first four years of his career with 13 compared to Brooks’ 2.5 sacks. David also has eight forced fumbles and four fumble recoveries, whereas Brooks had six forced fumbles and one fumble recovery over the same span.
Where Brooks holds a clear advantage over David is the fact that he went to the playoffs in the third year of his career, which was in 1997. David has yet to play on a Buccaneers team that has made the postseason.
As a result of Brooks’ notoriety due to the fact that the Bucs went 11-7, including a playoff win versus Detroit and a postseason loss at Green Bay, in 1997, he earned Pro Bowl berths in 1997 and ’98. David has yet to play on a winning team, or even a .500 team (Brooks’ Buccaneers went 8-8 in his fourth season in 1998). That hasn’t helped his reputation across the NFL or in the national media.
David was snubbed for the Pro Bowl during his breakout season in 2013 in which he had 145 tackles, 10 pass breakups, seven sacks, five interceptions, two forced fumbles, a fumble recovery and a safety. Yet David did make the All-Pro team, which is something Brooks did twice in his first four years, both in 1997 and ’98.
David was voted the NFL’s 35th-best player in 2014 on NFL Network’s Top 100 Players list, and was ranked No. 56 and No. 53 over the last two years. The Top 100 list wasn’t around when Brooks played in the league from 1995-2008.
However, David’s popularity is on the rise. He finally made the Pro Bowl last year as an alternate, and was on the cover of Sports Illustrated before the 2015 season started. Despite all of Brooks’ accomplishments he never made an SI cover.
Brooks had the good fortune of having just two defensive coordinators in his entire NFL career in Rusty Tillman in 1995 and Monte Kiffin from 1996-2008. David is entering his fifth NFL season in his third scheme and under his fourth defensive coordinator. David entered the league in 2012 playing for Bill Sheridan and then played for Leslie Frazier (2014) and Lovie Smith (2015) before Mike Smith took over the defensive coordinator duties in the 2016 offseason.
Despite the constant change, David has managed to increase his tackle total each year from 139 during his rookie season to 145 in 2013 to 146 in ’14 and 147 last year. If he stays healthy for all 16 games, it’s a safe bet that David will top 150 tackles for the first time in his NFL career.
Coming off a season in which he posted 147 tackles, 13 pass breakups, three sacks, three interceptions, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and a defensive touchdown, David will need another monster to stay ahead of Brooks, who took his game to a whole new level during Tampa Bay’s 1999 season. That year, Brooks helped the Bucs reach the NFC Championship Game by recording 153 tackles, a career-high 18 passes defensed, four interceptions, two sacks, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.
David has a long ways to go before he can match or surpass the career that Brooks, a first-ballot NFL Hall of Famer, had. During his 14 years with the Buccaneers, Brooks was an 11-time Pro Bowler (1997-2006, 2008), a nine-time All-Pro (1997-2005), the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award (2000), the AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year (2002), a Super Bowl XXXVII champion (2002), the Pro Bowl MVP (2005), a member of the NFL 2000s All-Decade Team and an inductee into the Bucs Ring of Honor (2014).
The 26-year old David is just getting started.
But oh, what a start David is off to.
FAB 3. BUZZWORTHY BUCS FROM MINI-CAMP
A family matter kept me away from my first Buccaneers mini-camp in my 22 years of covering the team, but between my sources at One Buccaneer Place and the PewterReport.com staff I feel like I have a pretty good grasp on some of the top Tampa Bay standouts this week. Here are the 10 most buzzworthy Buccaneers from mini-camp:
Bucs CB Vernon Hargreaves III – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
CB Vernon Hargreaves
The player that got the most buzz was rookie cornerback Vernon Hargreaves, who seems like an absolutely perfect fit in Mike Smith’s defense. Like he has during the OTAs, Hargreaves made several plays on the ball and recorded multiple interceptions during the Bucs’ mandatory mini-camp.
“The guy has made plays every single day,” Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter said. “Vernon is a football player, everything we thought when we drafted him. He’s going to play. It will all fall in place. A lot of that will be determined by health, but I’m very confident that Vernon can either play inside at the nickel or play outside. For whoever doesn’t know the difference, the nickel corner plays over the slot and regular corners play outside on the wide out and Vernon can play both.”
CB Alterraun Verner
For all of the hype Brent Grimes gets for being a four-time Pro Bowler, the best and most consistent cornerback this offseason has been Verner, who is back to playing like a Pro Bowler himself. Vernon had a couple of interceptions during the mini-camp and looks as confident as ever.
“Vernon Hargreaves and Alterraun Verner have both stood out as far as the last few days, as far as making plays,” Koetter said.
Bucs MLB Kwon Alexander – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
MLB Kwon Alexander
Alexander is coming back with a vengeance after missing the last four games of the 2015 campaign due to a suspension and seeing the Bucs fall to 0-4 in his absence down the stretch. While he’s made some splash plays during the offseason, most notably some interceptions, what has stood out about Alexander is how he’s stepped up as the vocal leader for the defense.
“You can’t even get him to shut up,” Bucs Pro Bowl linebacker Lavonte David said this spring. “He’s talking all day, all day. We’re always around each other so I have to hear him talk all day and sometimes I tell him, ‘You have to chill! I’m tired of you talking, you talk too much!’ But that’s just how he is, that’s the excitement that we have.”
CB Johnthan Banks
Banks has been very good with his hands either coming up with interceptions or breaking up passes with his long arms. Banks has performed exceptionally well in the red zone. Although he has been running primarily with the second unit opposite Josh Robinson, Banks got some work with the starters during the mini-camp and showed he belonged.
“Banks is competing; that’s what he’s doing and he’s made some plays,” Koetter said during the OTAs. “He made a beautiful play two days ago down in the red zone. Mike [Evans] had him beat on a double move, he caught up and knocked the ball away, saved a touchdown.”
Bucs RB Doug Martin – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
RB Doug Martin
With all of the newcomers through free agency and the draft this year, Martin has kind of been overshadowed this spring, but it was his re-signing that kicked off a great offseason for the Buccaneers. Some NFL players get fat and complacent after receiving a big contract extension, but not Martin. He’s remained in great shape, has retained his focus and looks ready to pick up where he left off from a year ago when he finished the 2015 season as the NFL’s second-leading rusher. He’s also spent a lot of time working on correcting his fumbling problem from a year ago.
“Doug is one of those guys, when he’s in there, he plays every play full speed and you see when he get his runs he finishes like a mad man,” Koetter said. “He’s working hard on his hands – working to improve his hands, so Doug is off to a really good start as well.”
WR Kenny Bell
Bell put together a string of very good, consecutive practices during the team’s mini-camp. As the fastest receiver on Tampa Bay’s roster, Bell showed the ability to get downfield quickly on deep passes and also get into the end zone on red zone fades. Bell is confident and healthy, and those are two things working in his favor right now.
“Kenny definitely had a good day [on Wednesday] and a couple of really nice throws there in the red zone from Griff [Ryan Griffin]. If you were out here enough, every guy has his ups and downs, has his good days and bad days and Kenny certainly made a couple of plays. Kenny has a little extra gear that some other guys don’t have and today that showed up.”
Bucs TE Cameron Brate – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
TE Cameron Brate
While Austin Seferian-Jenkins made headlines for not knowing the plays during the OTAs, it was Brate who continued to open eyes during the mini-camp. Brate isn’t flashy, or overly athletic, but he’s reliable. He’s like a taller, faster version of former Bucs tight end Dave Moore. Brate is not only a lock to make the team he could wind up being the starter.
“Yeah, Cam, he’s got an uncanny ability to show up in the red zone and did so again [Wednesday],” Koetter said.
DE Noah Spence
Spence, Tampa Bay’s second-round pick, has showed great burst and speed off the edge as a pass rusher, but he’s also put his athleticism on display as a linebacker dropping into coverage. Spence will see plenty of playing time as a rookie at right end in Tampa Bay’s 4-3 under defense, and at linebacker when the team switches to a 3-4 alignment.
“Noah Spence, he brings an excitement, he brings a talent – a rare talent level, that in these days younger guys don’t really possess,” Bucs nose tackle Clinton McDonald said. “But he’s the type of guy – he’s fast, he’s agile, he plays multiple positions, so he brings an ‘X-factor’ to what we have going on.”
WR Adam Humphries
Humphries has been a “steady Eddie” for Tampa Bay’s offense. While newcomer Bernard Reedy has flashed some speed and quickness, Humphries’ reliable hands have earned him the starting slot receiver role for now, and he’s also in contention for Tampa Bay’s punt return duties.
“Hump was a sleeper last year,” Bucs cornerback Johnthan Banks said. “If you would have told me Hump was going to be the guy that was going to step up for us I would have thought you were lying, but he really impressed me. He stepped up and played a big role for us last year. I think he’s going to have a great role for us this year, too. I’m excited for him.”
Bucs TE Danny Vitale – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
TE Danny Vitale
As expected, Vitale has been used all over the field, as an H-back in the slot, in the backfield as a fullback and on the line of scrimmage as a tight end. Perhaps more impressive is his effort on in kick and punt coverage where he has the makings to be a special teams demon in Tampa Bay.
“Dan is one of those multi-faceted players who can do a lot of things – play a little fullback, a little tight end, playing a little bit of everything and we’ll use him doing a lot of those things,” Bucs running backs coach Tim Spencer said. “Running the football – I think we have enough guys running the football. He might not get any of those. He can do some other things, but I do like him. He’s a tough young man. He wasn’t really asked to do some of the fullback things that we ask the ‘F’ to do from the backfield, but he’s tough enough to do those, so that’s what I look forward to seeing him, working with him to improve, although he’s in [tight ends coach] Jon [Embree]’s room, but we sort of cross over, so we’ll get some work. We’ll both work with him.”
FAB 4. SAPP CREDITS TOMLIN FOR SUPER BOWL PUSH
Pittsburgh head coach Mike Tomlin won a championship with the Steelers in 2008, beating the Arizona Cardinals in Tampa in Super Bowl XLIII. But Tomlin’s first Super Bowl victory came with Tampa Bay as he was the Buccaneers secondary coach in 2002 – his second year in the NFL.
While the arrival of former Tampa Bay head coach Jon Gruden is widely credited for pushing the Buccaneers over the top to hoist the Lombardi Trophy, former Tampa Bay legend Warren Sapp gives Tomlin, who arrived in 2001 as Herman Edwards’ replacement, a great deal of credit, too.
I spoke with Sapp for last week’s SR’s Fab 5, and our 45-minute conversation contained lots of good stuff, including some of the QB Killa’s insight on the difference Tomlin made during Tampa Bay’s Super Bowl run. Check this out.
Jon Gruden and Mike Tomlin – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
“Mike Tomlin and Jon Gruden pushed us over the top,” Sapp said. “[John] Lynch and [Derrick] Brooks were getting new coaches because it was Joe Barry and Mike Tomlin replacing Lovie [Smith] and Herm. Joe Barry came in with the mentality that he was going to challenge Brooks in certain ways, but he’s going to let the man line up and play. Mike Tomlin came in and gave Lynch a piece of paper that said, ‘50 ways to get better as a strong safety.’ Fifty ways! (laughs)
“Lynch came to me and Brooks and said, ‘What the hell is this?!’ I told Lynch, ‘Well, it looks like you’ve got some work to do! (laughs)’”
“Lynch used that as motivation, but all of us had to get better. Mike Tomlin came in and shook up the head of that room. I told Lynch, ‘Listen, the man is coming in and he wants us better. He gave you 50. You only have 50, while the other guys probably have 70 or 80 ways! (laughs) Lynch said, ‘I didn’t think about it that way.’”
Tampa Bay’s secondary had recorded 19 of the team’s 25 interceptions under Edwards before he left to become the head coach of the New York Jets in 2001. Tomlin, who arrived from the University of Cincinnati, took over the secondary that year and saw his unit produce 23 of the Bucs’ 28 interceptions that year. The following year, the Bucs’ secondary recorded a team-record 31 picks with 20 of them coming from the defensive backfield en route to the Super Bowl.
During Tampa Bay’s postseason run, Tomlin’s defensive backs recorded seven of the team’s nine interceptions over three games, including some of the most notable plays in Buccaneers history. Ronde Barber’s 92-yard interception return for a touchdown at Philadelphia in the 2002 NFC Championship Game propelled Tampa Bay to San Diego where Tomlin’s free safety, Dexter Jackson, was named Super Bowl XXXVII MVP after recording two interceptions. However, it was another member of Tomlin’s secondary, cornerback Dwight Smith, who set a Super Bowl record by recording two pick-sixes in a 48-21 triumph over the Oakland Raiders.
Mike Tomlin and John Lynch – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Sapp said the important intensity that Tomlin brought the Buccaneers is often overlooked by the arrival of Gruden and the mere presence of a star-studded lineup in Tampa Bay.
“Mike T. just had so much fun, and a challenge for everybody, including me,” Sapp said. “The difference between Mike T. and Herm was that every practice Tony Dungy had a trick play for each person. He used to run the trap at me unannounced in the middle of practice. I would laugh at him and say, ‘I’m too fundamentally sound to be trapped!’ He said, ‘Well, we’re going to see!’ Tony challenged his best players in every way possible. You had to be on your Ps and Qs. One time I caught Herm, and he was back there with the practice script and his [trick] play for Lynch would come around and he would say, ‘Stay back! Stay back!’ to Lynch. I told him, ‘How is he going to get any better if he doesn’t get beat on a play? You’re telling them the flea-flicker is coming! What do you mean, ‘Stay back? Have them read their keys!’
“Herm didn’t like when I told him that, but that’s how we were getting beat by certain plays at certain times in games because we had a coach who was back there and he wasn’t holding the line. You’ve got to hold the line. If Lynch gets beat on a flea-flicker, then he gets beat on a flea-flicker and then he wakes up and gets better. Herm would never challenge [the secondary] in that sense.”
Sapp said that changed when Tomlin, who is often labeled as a players’ coach because of his ability to relate to and connect to players, didn’t do his defensive backs any favors during practice.
“Mike T. was not having it in any way, shape or form, and it didn’t matter if it was Lynch, Ronde or Brian Kelly,” Sapp said. “He challenged all of them. We were going to hold this thing to a standard and that was how we were going to play. Boy, did we take off as a defense when Mike T. got here.”
Mike Tomlin, Monte Kiffin and John Lynch – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
That’s not to say that Edwards was a bad coach at all. He helped develop Lynch into a two-time Pro Bowler before Tomlin got to Tampa Bay, and laid the foundation for the team’s cornerbacks – Barber, Kelly and Donnie Abraham. In fact, Edwards made a great point to Sapp, which the Hall of Famer carried throughout his illustrious career.
“You worked to get here, it is a blessing that you are there,” Sapp said. “Now that you are here you have to work your damn ass off to stay here. Don’t give me no lip service. Let’s see it. That’s the way it was for me and my crew. Let’s put it on tape. Let’s scare the world. Let’s send our tape out.
“Herm Edwards used to say that, ‘Autograph your performance, men.’ Aw damn, I used to love it when he would say that! That’s the one thing I took from Herm. He told me, ‘Autograph your performance, big fella. Put your John Hancock on it.’ If you know what a John Hancock is – it’s three-inch letters. It’s big letters. Put it on there and let them know it was you. We have one rule in the football world – the eye in the sky don’t lie. If you are out here working, it’s going to show you working. It was all about a workman’s mentality. You remember the days when Tony used to keep us in pads until damn Week 12. None of us bitched about it because we knew some day it would pay off for us. And it did.”
FAB 5. SR’s BUC SHOTS
• The play of Tampa Bay’s secondary in Mike Smith’s defensive scheme might have stood out the most during the Bucs’ OTAs and mini-camps. After surrendering a pitiful 70 percent completion percentage last year and recording a pathetic six interceptions in the secondary, Tampa Bay’s defensive backfield has entered 2016 guns blazing, aggressively picking off passes and swatting away passes during every practice.
“I’m really excited with what I’ve seen from our defensive backs,” Bucs wide receiver Adam Humphries said. “Obviously, I’ve been going against Jude [Adjei-Barimah] a lot because he’s been playing quite a bit of nickel. He wasn’t in that position last year, but I’ve been impressed with his instincts and his patience and his footwork at nickel. He’s also been playing some corner, too. He’s making plays left and right. What I’ve seen out of him is awesome. I’ve seen [Vernon] Hargreaves make some incredible plays coming out of nowhere, too. He’s had some picks and break-ups for us already. [Brent] Grimes is just a tremendous athlete as well, and [Alterraun] Verner looks great, too. All around the board, we have some real playmakers.”
Grimes, Verner and Adjei-Barimah were the team’s three starting cornerbacks in nickel defense for the majority of the offseason, and there was little drop off on the second-team defense with established veterans Johnthan Banks and Josh Robinson and Hargreaves, Tampa Bay’s first-round pick, on the field, too.
“The competitive depth is the biggest thing,” Humphries said. ““You can attest to that watching practice, seeing our DBs make more competitive plays on the ball. We have very good players all over the board on first and second team. I think when you have competitive depth like that it raises the level of energy at practice and makes practice even more competitive. Everybody is out trying to prove something to the coaches.”
• Tampa Bay cornerback Alterraun Verner loves Adam Humphries’ work ethic and appreciates how hard he works on his craft. As a rookie, Humphries caught 27 passes for 260 yards and a touchdown, and he figures to be in the mix for Tampa Bay’s punt return job in 2016 after returning a punt for a touchdown at Clemson. Verner appreciates Humphries’ mastering of the playbook, his precise route-running ability and his drive to be the best.
“He came in and worked hard every day,” Verner said. “He was fighting an uphill battle last year. You have Mike Evans, Vincent Jackson, Louis Murphy and Russell Shepard. It’s going to be tough for any undrafted guy coming into that situation. You saw his work ethic and how quick he is. It’s surprising how quick he is. He gets in and out of his breaks real fast and there’s not too many times I’ve seen him drop a pass. He’s a sponge and he would always ask me questions about coverages. It’s not like I’m taking any credit for what he did. That’s all on him. But he’s not afraid to ask questions, learn and get better. That’s why I’m not surprised he had the kind of success he did. I think he’s a very good player and he’s going to have a big year for us.”
• When wide receiver Adam Humphries arrived in Tampa Bay as an undrafted try-out free agent, he looked at the depth chart and thought there might only be one or two roster spots available for rookie receivers, and one of those was likely speedster Kenny Bell, the team’s fifth-round pick. But when the Bucs put Bell on injured reserve with a hamstring injury, it paved the way for both Humphries and fellow rookie Donteea Dye to make the 53-man roster.
“It was cool to have so many rookies on the 53 and with Kenny staying with us on I.R.,” Humphries said. “Coming in we all thought we had to beat each other out for a position, but to have all three of us around was cool because we became so close. Our player development director, Duke Preston, did a good job of bringing the rookies together. We did a lot of activities off the field that really brought us together. The rookie class last year was really tight, and a lot of guys like Jameis [Winston], Kwon [Alexander], Donovan [Smith] and Ali [Marpet] really contributed on Sundays. The time we spent together really contributed to our on-field chemistry. That’s only going to grow stronger as we move forward. It was a great experience to share the field with a lot of young guys like that.”
Humphries has been very impressed with some of the catches Bell and Dye have made during the team’s mini-camps and OTAs.
“They both have put in a lot of work this offseason,” Humphries said. “Donteea continues to work on his hands and get better. It’s awesome to see Kenny get out there after not being out there last year. You forget what he can do, but he steps on the field during the OTAs and he’s flying around and making big plays.”
Bucs DT Gerald McCoy and LB Lavonte David – Photo by: Getty Images
• Buccaneers Pro Bowl defensive tackle Gerald McCoy is entering his seventh NFL season and has yet to make the playoffs. Over the years he’s grown closer to linebacker Lavonte David and the two have formed a bond similar to the bond that existed between Bucs Hall of Famers Warren Sapp and Derrick Brooks that helped turn Tampa Bay around in 1997.
“Lavonte and I always talk,” McCoy said. “I pulled Lavonte aside in 2013 and I told him I talked to Sapp and I talked to Brooks and they said what made them so good was the connection that Sapp had with Brooks. As long as he and I have that same connection, we can make this thing work. It’s only a matter of time.
“Surprisingly enough, I also got some great advice from Drew Brees of all people. He told me you have to take your core guys and set the standard and bring everybody else with you. It may not be six, seven, eight or 10 guys. It may just be three depending on the team. But every day if the whole team sees those three players doing things the right way, practicing hard, paying attention in meetings and taking care of their bodies, then they’ll know that’s the standard. Lavonte and I believe in that and that’s what we’re trying to bring to the team.”
• Hall of Fame Bucs defensive tackle Warren Sapp is a huge fan of Pro Bowl quarterback Jameis Winston and might be a bit jealous of how prolific Dirk Koetter’s fifth-ranked offense was last year compared to some of the less-than-high-powered offenses he suited up with during his Tampa Bay playing days. But as I mentioned in last week’s SR’s Fab 5, Sapp is not yet sold on Koetter, nor does he believe that a good offense can win games by itself.
“I still believe we have to have the other side of the ball,” Sapp said. “What are we going to do on defense? What [Bill] Belichick is great at is situational football, defensive football and some special teams stuff, too. He has a set way about doing it. He has a left-footed punter for a reason and all the quirky stuff about him, he uses the tight ends and all of that, but he has a system in which his people believe in. The system is the key. That’s what we need in Tampa.
Bucs coach Dirk Koetter – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
“That’s what we won with – Tony Dungy’s system that says ‘No excuses, no explanations – let’s go to work.’ That’s what is missing with the new Bucs. What’s our system? What’s our plan? How do we attack people? What do we play? We used to play ‘Buc Ball.’ Kick off and kick ass. Seventeen points, that’s all we needed [from the offense]. What system do we have with this guy (Koetter)?”
Koetter’s system offensively is to feature a balanced attack running the ball and hitting explosive plays downfield in the passing game. However, the jury remains out on the defensive side of the ball, where despite the quarterback showing multiple looks and being more aggressive in pass defense in the secondary this offseason, a true system has yet to be revealed in pads. That will come in training camp, but has Sapp a bit apprehensive for now.
• We got some great feedback on the initial SR’s Fab 5 Reaction on Tuesday. This new feature will continue each Tuesday throughout the summer. Feel free to leave your comments on this edition of SR’s Fab 5 between now and Monday and I’ll pick a handful of them to appear next Tuesday in SR’s Fab 5 Reaction where I will answer your questions, comment on your comments and expand upon some points made in this edition of SR’s Fab 5.
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• Father’s Day is this Sunday and Just Grillin is full of great gift ideas for dads and granddads in the month of June. Just Grillin is located at 11743 N. Dale Mabry Highway in Carrollwood, which is just 15 minutes north of Raymond James Stadium. With Weber grills, Big Green Eggs, outdoor furniture and all of the grilling accessories you can think of, Just Grillin is the perfect place to do your Father’s Day shopping – and to drop some hints to the wife.
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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: [email protected]
Another insightful article, Scott! Hump is one of the guys that I’m pulling for the most. I hope he can become that “Mr. first down” for Winston, when he is in a jam… It’s also interesting to see so many players with that fire on the field that seemed to be missing year’s past. The only other thing is that it seems eerily quiet on the O-line front? I hope that’s a good thing.
When I think of Hump…I think of Wes Welker
Minicamp breakdowns hmmm I don’t think tis is truly a good way to evaluate players when they run around in shorts with no contact its more or less a flag football game esp with the praise of such minicamp hero’s as Maurice Stovall, Patrick Chukwara and D Jackson as we have had in the past. I will wait for training camp and preseason to give more credibility to the eval process. I like Humphries I don’t love him he is a blue collar guy who waorks hard even though he lacks intangibles and physical attributes he will work hard and give you everything he has on field> He will never be a pro bowler or a Julian Edelman or Wes Welker as much as like to compare every small white guy to these players, remember Jordan Shipley? Another player I heard these same comparisons too, I think he works at Home Depot now
A guy I’ve thought about bringing up as a sleeper is Freddie Martino. His college highlights, for whatever reason, don’t excite me that much, actually. He tested out as just under 4.4 forty time(for what it’s worth); his college stats are off the charts, but unfortunately, he’s ‘very’ small school. But, he did catch a Td from Tebow with the Eagles . . . it’s interesting neither the Eagles or the Falcons held on to him, because as far as I can tell with the Bucs, he’s been making an impression on Koetter(and probably the Wr coach, Glennon, Winston, you name it . . . !)
Lavonte David surpassing Derrick Brooks is only because Derrick Brooks has given all his knowledge to him. Not that Lavonte didn’t bring the mind and genes along with him.
Somewhat similarly, some of Winston’s success could be attributed to Glennon willing to impart all his experience to Winston. I forget where I read that.
Further, Koetter has used the Gruden lesson of using vets to train the youth, by bringing in Grimes to teach Hargreaves.
I don’t know if Jon Gruden innovated bringing in vets to teach the youth; but, that was something he really tried to do. I find that his drafting wasn’t good enough to do this though.
I meant to say, Lavonte David’s surpassing of Derrick Brooks is because he stands on the shoulder’s of a Giant – namely, Derrick Brooks.
There’s definitely a lot of doubt about Koetter outside One Buc. But from PR’s reports, I really love a lot of things he’s implemented. The players seem to really like playing for him and he comes across as a Bruce Arians type – someone who had been looked over for a long time that deserved a shot.
SR, what is your opinion on Koetter? Do you think he is the coach that can get us back to the playoffs?
Jason- I live in AZ and also root for the Cards and know Arians well as far as his personality in the media etc I also know Koeter from his ASU days, please don’t use that comparison as its not a comparison
There were some fine coaches on the 2002 Championship team. This list is headed up by Jon Gruden and Monte Kiffin. But they also had Mike Tomlin, Rod Marinelli, Joe Berry, Bill Muir, Richard Bisaccia and Raheem Morris. I hope we have some all-stars on this staff.
I remember that touchdown pass that Jameis threw to Humphries. I remember how impressed I was with Jameis because he had an easy, and safer, path to the end zone. Jameis has been so impressive and selfless. I wonder, if presented with the same situation, whether or not Cam Newton would of done the same thing. The team mates in the locker room saw how hard Humphries worked and how Jameis rewarded it. That has to have a positive effect.
On the Buzz Worthy Bucs, I would of loved to seen Jameis, Aguayo, Evans. Also, I guess it’s difficult to put offensive linemen on the list since there are no pads on. But, I am happy to see those that are on it.
Cam “crybaby” Newton would have ran it in and did some ridiculaus dap, or some weak Super man stuff. He was a “crybaby” at Florida and has always shown to be immature “crybaby”.
I thought Fab 2 was very good analysis. It was an apples to apples comparison; you didn’t drop the last season for David because he missed two games or only include the last two seasons because they were the only seasons where they both played in Tampa 2. You put it all out there and compared every aspect of the position: tackles, INT’s, FF, etc. That’s the kind of no agenda, non-biased breakdown I would like to see in every article. That’s the way it used to be on PR on every article.
A very solid Fab 5 Scott; really enjoyed it. The unknown for me is still the DL and next the Safety position. Both of these positions in my opinion needed a big upgrade; I hope we have enough there. Go Bucs!
Great Fab 5 as always. Humphries was one of my favorite players last year and everyone lovers the little guy that works his ass off and gets some good shots. He was very clutch on third downs and with the majority of his catches going for first downs, he was money. I personally am rooting for him in 4 receiver sets, and he will probably start, but I really want to see what Kenny Bell is about this year.
Great breakdown of Lavonte and Derrick in their early years. You hit every stat, as Pink said above, and really made a good comparison considering he played in the same defense as Derrick played in. I think it’s even more impressive because, in today’s passing league, Lavonte would have to make way more tackles in space than Derrick. Derrick would probably be making many more plays at the line, merely based on the way the game is played those days. Don’t get me wrong, Derrick could cover like a shadow, ever since his days at FSU.
For Fab 3, it doens’t surprise me that our secondary guys look better, they actually have someone there to teach them to to freaking play! When I heard them mention Lovie didn’t even go over back peddling because he didn’t use it, absolutely blew my mind and made me fully realize why the slants where killing us. Really like to hear Hargreaves making plays. I didn’t like the pick , but he’s a Buc now and I’m excited to see him work. Vitale is the one I really want to see this year. I think he will be very special in this offense.
I mean think about it guys, you have him at FB, Charles Simms at RB, both split out on third down. And Evans, VJ, and who ever our slot guy turns out to be out wide. The possibilities are pretty staggering.
That superbowl team was a dream team from top to bottom. That coaching staff was incredible.
Glad to see you remove the hatred for Gator Players Hat and root for them when they become Bucs I had to do the same for Winston as I always hated FSU ha, btw I didn’t like the Hargreaves pick either rather would have had Karl Joseph
Not so much a hate for Florida playes , just that Hargreaves in particular didn’t look good in the games that I watched, which were a few for being an FSU fan. Heck I don’t care who the bucs draft, the minute they do, they’re a buc to me . Can’t hold it against players that they went to the little sister of the Florida schools. Haha.
I think a pattern is starting to emerge that will define this head coach’s philosophy…MULTIPLE.
Offensive lineman cross training at multiple OL positons. WR’s range from 5’10 to 6’5 with speed from 4.3 to 4.5. TE’s like Brate and ASJ can catch or block. Doug Martin is working on his hands out of the backfield. Winston is working on a moving pocket. I think it’s brilliant. It gives the Bucs a chance to win on every down and not be predictable on offense. On defense, we have heard the term “multiple” since the arrival of Mike Smith. Early on people asked if he would employ a 4-3 or a 3-4? He has said that DE will sometimes shift to DT. DE can be expected to drop into coverage occasionally. LB’s could have their hand in the dirt and be on the line of scrimmage at times. There is a DB and a Secondary coach. There is not a specific positional coach for CB, Nickle, or Safety. This team should be fun and not predictable like the teams of the recent past.
Well fellas it’s been a long road for this ‘rebuilding’ process that we’ve been undergoing for the past 8 or more seasons, but I think this year I can actually say that I feel somewhat happy about the talent that we are trotting out on the field this year, save for a few spots here or there. We have legitimate high caliber ball players all over the field. Let’s not forget about the stud we finally have behind center for the first time since…. ever? I consider myself a Bucs optimist, almost to a fault at times. However, after so many years of heartbreak I honestly and truly feel that we are on the brink of having a year-in-year-out playoff contending team coming up the pike.
If we can keep ourselves relatively healthy and have our coaching work out as it looks it should, there is no reason why we can’t shock the league sooner rather than later. Once again it all comes back to the biggest piece of the puzzle hopefully finally being in place with Jameis. I know it’s only underwear football at this time but this Fab 5 in particular has been extremely positive and is really pumping me up!
If we can gel this season and continue to build I can see all of our pain and suffering ending sooner rather than later. This is an exciting time to be a Buccaneer faithful, and I for one am all aboard this pirate ship. Dirk steer us into the breeze and let’s see where this ship ends up!
With Mini-Camp in the books we might as well go into football hibernation. This off-season has been comparatively ho-hum. No arrests, no hold-outs, no trade demands. no woulda, coulda, shoulda Draft debates, no injuries, no childish off-field antics, not even a Miko Grimes rant. We can all take a nap for the next six weeks. Sing me a lullaby jonnyg.
I believe this will be the year we turn the corner. I’m reminded by my wife that I say it every year, then lie crushed in my recliner, tears on my jersey. My hope still springs eternal, this year feels different. After Sunday’s US open, and game seven, it’s over for the next six weeks. Happy father’s day everyone, have a fun safe summer.
chetthevette, I couldn’t agree with you more in regards to Newton. I despise the guy because he is such a narcissist.
He in the only QB in the league who acts in such a way. The rest are very humble and are quick to shine the spotlight on their teammates.
But not Newton. Like all narcissists, it’s all about him and his coach is his biggest enabler.
I liken him to Don Johnson’s character in Tin Cup, who hated kids and old people when the camera wasn’t on him.
As far as Kwon Alexander becoming more of a vocal leader, I hope this is so.
I’m a fan of McCoy’s but believe the defense needs a more fiery leader with a lot more attitude and edginess. See Ray Lewis, Warren Sapp.
Let’s face it, McCoy just isn’t that guy and if he has been the so called, “leader” of this defense the last few years, his style hasn’t been very effective.
I was going call him a narcissist myself , but I couldn’t spell it. GO BUCS
Fantastic Fab 5. I believe that our WR’s will step up this year. If Hump performs at a level like Edelman’s, I’d be jumping up and down with glee. But I am most excited about receivers out of the backfield. Other team defense’s will go nuts trying figure out who is going to catch the ball.
Just a word about L. David. It’s a travesty that NFL pundits do not recognize talent when they see it. They cater to big markets and are sycophants to the flavor of the day. It should not be surprising though, the Bucs did not get any respect even after winning it all. Not getting a home Monday night game after we won the SB was just a big bitch slap. Loved the outcome though, smacking down Philly in their new stadium was sweet.
Kind of went on a rant there about the unjust treatment small market teams get. Just for fun I Tivo’d NFL Today on ESPN and fast forward through. Dallas had a segment everyday. EVERYDAY. Man I hate Dallas.
chetthvette: There was a similar lack of recognition of Paul Gruber and James Wilder who toiled on some poor Bucs teams. Not only are we the only Superbowl winner who had to play on the road first game of the following season, there was no White House visit either.
Forgot about White House snub. The Bucs are like Rodney. Get no respect.
Winning has a lot to do with everything.
I believe the reason the Bucs didn’t get an invite to the white house was because there was a silly stupid war going on at the time that our village idiot of a President conjured up.
Funny and unfortunately true
I look forward to the battle between Hump/Bell/Reedy for the slot. Although Bell may be used more on the outside as a possible future replacement for VJax. Jameis has many more weapons this year than he did last year. As long as the Dougernaught can maintain his performance, our passing game should make another leap or two
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