FAB 5. SR’s Buc Shots
• There was a funny moment at the NFL Coaches Breakfast at the NFL Owners Meeting on Tuesday. Steve Isbitts of JoeBucsFan.com asked Tampa Bay head coach Dirk Koetter whether or not he feels that criticism of his soft training camps is warranted. Actually, Isbitts asked a leading question, prompting Koetter to say whether or not he thinks that the criticism – largely coming from myself and the PewterReport.com staff – is ridiculous.
I think it’s a legitimate question and not necessarily one that wasn’t trying to make me look bad (or was it? No, Joe wouldn’t do that!). Here’s the complete exchange, and Koetter’s answer.
Isbitts: “There have been criticisms of you that training camp has been too soft, do you think that’s ridiculous?”
Koetter: “There have been criticisms of me? Oh, I didn’t know that. Ask Scott – he’s usually the one that’s doing it, so ask him about it. … I don’t have any comment on that.”
That drew some laughs from the Tampa Bay media members in attendance, including me. Koetter was half joking and probably half pissed, and he’s entitled to those feelings.
It was a funny answer and I certainly didn’t take it as a burn. In fact I did appreciate Koetter deferring the question to me, so I’ll answer it.
The answer is yes, I do believe the Bucs had too soft of a training camp last year without a single period of full, live contact – only periods that had “thud tempo.” I’ve spoken with several members of Tampa Bay’s coaching staff and they certainly support doing whatever Koetter wants to do in camp practices. It’s his team and he’s the head coach.
However, at the Senior Bowl I asked three coaches from three different teams about the Bucs’ lack of contact periods in camp and they couldn’t believe that Tampa Bay didn’t have a single live contact period with some real banging in the trenches. One coach said, “No wonder you guys had trouble running the ball and getting a pass rush” – which supports my argument.
Here’s what I think will happen this year. I don’t see Koetter’s approach changing this summer, but I do think the addition of some real tough, talented guys up front with physical center Ryan Jensen, defensive linemen Beau Allen, Mitch Unrein, Vinny Curry and Jason Pierre-Paul will naturally help the running game, the run defense and the pass rush. I also think new assistant coach Brentson Buckner will bring more intensity and attitude to the defensive line, which will help.
With this added toughness the Bucs may not need any live contact periods this year, although I don’t think having a few is a bad thing, and I don’t mind Koetter disagreeing with me at all. It’s his team. He’ll continue to err on the side of caution in camp, trying to prevent injuries.
“Our philosophy is always to get our guys healthy to the first game,” Koetter said when asked about the team’s planned use of the new indoor practice facility during camp. “I have a plan for it and I’m not quite ready to tell you guys about it yet. We are going to use the indoor some, but the one thing we have to remember about the indoor is that we have 90 guys, we have 20 coaches, we have six trainers and it’s one field.
“We are definitely going to take advantage of the sun not being on us, and the air conditioning and all that. That will be a piece of our training camp plan, but we’re not going to all of a sudden practice 25 times (indoors). It’s also turf versus grass. We have the best grass fields in the league, too. It will be a combination of those.”
• Defensive line coaches always talk about “affecting the passing game” and that sacks are not always the truest measure of a pass rusher. If a defensive lineman has eight sacks out of 600 pass rush snaps what is he doing on the other 592 snaps? Sometimes it’s better to have a defensive lineman with six sacks and 22 quarterback pressures than it is to have eight sacks and 13 pressures because that D-lineman is affecting the QB seven more times. Perhaps a quarterback throws an interception or two on one of those extra seven plays where he’s pressured.
To defensive line coaches, the pass-rushing stats that matter are sacks, sack-fumbles and quarterback pressures (hits and hurries). The stat that rarely gets mentioned – pass breakups – is also a factor. As it was mentioned earlier, one of the traits that Tampa Bay general manager Jason Licht likes to see when scouting defensive linemen is the number of passes batted down at the line of scrimmage.
To Licht that shows a defensive lineman that has awareness in the passing game and the willingness to do whatever he can to make a play – even if he can’t get close enough to the quarterback. Bucs Pro Bowl defensive tackle Gerald McCoy won a game for Tampa Bay in Atlanta a few years ago with a batted Matt Ryan pass on fourth down.
While new defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul has 58.5 career sacks, Licht also loves the fact that he has batted down 47 passes at the line of scrimmage, including 13 over the last two seasons. In eight NFL seasons Pierre-Paul has had no less than four in a year, and that was in 2013 when he played in 11 games and started just six. Yet even when Pierre-Paul played in just eight games in 2015 he still managed to knock down six passes. The former New York Giant had a career-high eight pass breakups in 2016, which was his first season back from his fireworks accident the previous year, and he posted five last year.
If Pierre-Paul can’t get to the quarterback with a hit or a pressure, he has shown the knack to affect the passing game by swatting passes down at the line of scrimmage, too. That’s a trait that will benefit the Bucs’ pass rush this coming season.
• The PewterReport.com staff taped a brand new Pewter Nation Podcast live at the NFL Owners Meeting in Orlando, Fla. and we had a special guest. Long-time Bucs beat writer Stephen Holder, who used to work for the Tampa Bay Times and now covers the Indianapolis Colts for the Indianapolis Star, joined Trevor Sikkema, Mark Cook and I to discuss how how the Colts picking ahead of the Bucs at No. 6 could affect Tampa Bay’s draft plans. We also shared some old Bucs stories that will enlighten and entertain you and give you a few laughs.
Plus, Cook shares the story his confrontation with former Bucs left tackle Donald Penn in Orlando on Monday. You can click here to listen to Episode 67: Orlando Owners Meeting Update.
If you didn’t get a chance to listen to our previous Pewter Nation Podcast, which featured special guest and draftnik Riley Auman, son of Tampa Bay Times Bucs beat writer Greg Auman, you can hear the PR staff analyze the trade for defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul and take a look ahead to the NFL Draft. You can click here to listen to Episode 66: You Down With J.P.P?
If you haven’t listened to this week’s podcast yet, it’s the perfect way to enjoy your lunch on a Friday afternoon or battle rush hour traffic on your way home from work. 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.
• Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter spoke to PewterReport.com and members of the local media at the NFL Owners Meeting in Orlando, Fla. on Tuesday morning on a variety of topics. One of the questions he answered was what a typical day for Tampa Bay’s coaches looked like in the offseason.
“You do a lot of tape study,” Koetter said. “We split our day in half. In the mornings we are working on ourselves. So we study ourselves in the mornings, all of the things we were talking about earlier that we need to do better – or making teach tapes or tapes to show the players or studying other teams. There were five teams in the league that were 60 percent in touchdowns in the red zone. We study those five teams. We study RPOs (run-pass options) a lot because that’s going to be a hot trend next year. So we study all the RPO teams in the league. Defense and offense are both doing it – so are special teams.
“In the afternoon you are doing personnel, so it started off where we did all of our free agent work and now we’re doing draft work. You go to the Combine and we’ll be doing draft work right up until the draft. And now this time of year, our coaches are on the road with our scouts going to pro days and doing private workouts. Then we’ll be bringing in our Top 30 visits. We’ll be bringing 30 guys into One Buc. So studying ourselves, formulating our plan in the morning, and then watching pro and college tape in the afternoons is what we’ve been doing.”
• Despite how Bucs fans may feel about the ability of running back Peyton Barber, the team is very confident in him based on the improvement he showed last year stepping into the lead role at the end of the season when the team finally demoted starter Doug Martin after being ineffective over the last two years. I view Barber as a No. 3-type running back ideally, but I feel that he deserves the right to compete for the starting role after leading the team in rushing with 423 yards and three touchdowns on 108 carries (3.9 avg.) to go along with 16 catches for 114 yards (7.1 avg.).
The five-foot-11, 225-pound Barber produced the team’s only 100-yard rushing performance last year with 23 carries for 102 yards in Green Bay. He then rushed for 50 yards or more in each of the last four game of the season, averaging 4.5 yards per carry during that span.
While I see him as more of a backup at this point of his career, the Bucs feel Barber is a starting-caliber back capable of rushing for 1,000 yards if he were in that role over an entire season. In the team’s mind, he’s an ideal No. 2 running back, which means that Tampa Bay may draft only one running back this year – not two as PewterReport.com has projected the team to do in each of its last two mock drafts.
The Bucs also have confidence in Jacquizz Rodgers, who led the team in rushing in 2016 with 560 yards and two touchdowns on 129 carries (4.3 avg.). Tampa Bay head coach Dirk Koetter suggested that Rodgers may replace Charles Sims in the role of third-down back this year.
“Jacquizz was that guy for us when I was in Atlanta,” Koetter said. “Yes, Jacquizz can play that role. I don’t think it’s any big secret – we can’t go into the season with two running backs. We’re going to be adding a running back here somehow, someway between now and when fall camp starts. How the roles shake out, we’ll see how that goes, but I’m confident that Jacquizz can play that role if need be.”
• PewterReport.com is on the road to 30,000 Twitter followers thanks to our constant updates free agency. Stay up to date with the latest Bucs free agency news and Bucs draft news by following us on Twitter. Help us grow to 30,000 by draft weekend. To follow @PewterReport on Twitter please click here, and to follow us on Facebook please click here.
• Spring is here and summer is around the corner, and that means high school and college graduations will be coming up, in addition to wedding season. When large groups of people congregate, whether it’s for a work function, a church function or a family gathering, catering is a must.
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