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. FOCUS NOW TURNS TO MORE POINTS FROM KOETTER’S OFFENSE
Congratulations to Dirk Koetter, the new head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
For the first time in franchise history, Tampa Bay had a top-five offense, producing 375.9 yards per game. Koetter did this with as many as five rookies in the starting lineup, including record-setting quarterback Jamies Winston, offensive linemen Donovan Smith and Ali Marpet and wide receivers Adam Humphries and Donteea Dye.
Bucs RB Charles Sims – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
When you factor in the fact that the Bucs also had a host of second-year players playing regularly in running back Charles Sims, tight ends Cameron Brate and Austin Seferian-Jenkins, wide receiver Mike Evans and offensive lineman Kevin Pamphile, there were times when there were as many as nine – nine! – first- or second-year players on the field running Koetter’s offense at the same time.
Congrats – now go score some points. More points than your offense scored last year.
That amount of youth and inexperience is a big reason why the Bucs produced a franchise-record 6,014 yards, but only scored 342 points this season. The expectation for teams that cross the 6,000-yard threshold is to score 400 points. The difference between 400 and 342 points is too many field goals by the Bucs and not enough touchdowns.
Tampa Bay had the fifth-highest total offense in 2015, but lagged behind in scoring offense, averaging just 21.4 points per game, which ranked 20th in the league. It’s not uncommon for points to lag a year behind an increase in yardage production, especially for teams with young quarterbacks.
A great example of this is Washington, whose offense ranked 13th last year, averaging 358.6 yards per game in 2014, while scoring just 18.8 points per game, which ranked 26th in the league. Once settling on Kirk Cousins at quarterback, Jay Gruden’s offense slipped slightly to 17th with 353.8 yards per game, but scoring rose to 24.2 points per game, and that ranked 10th in the NFL.
Six more points per game is what turned Washington into the NFC East champions this past year.
Six more points per game for Tampa Bay in 2015 would have given the Bucs an 8-8 record with wins over Washington and Chicago, and Smith is still steering the Bucs’ ship and Koetter is still in the role of offensive coordinator.
Other young offenses around the league have shown progress from a quarterback’s rookie year to his second year. Minnesota became a playoff team in 2015 with Teddy Bridgewater and the Vikings offense scoring just a few more points per game. In Bridgewater’s rookie season, the Vikings scored 20.2 points per game, which ranked 20th in 2014. That rose to 22.8 points, which ranked 16th, in 2015.
In Oakland with Derek Carr, the Raiders had the league’s worst offense in 2014 with an average of 282.2 yards per game and a paltry 15.8 points per game, which ranked 31st. A year later, Carr improved to help the Raiders move up to the 24th ranking in total offense with 333.5 yards per game, and up to 17th in scoring offense with 22.4 points per game. The Raiders went from three wins in 2014 to seven wins this season.
Jacksonville improved the most under second-year quarterback Blake Bortles. The Jaguars had the 31st-ranked offense in 2014 with 289.6 yards per game, and ranked last in scoring with 15.6 points per game. In 2015, Bortles guided the Jags to the league’s 18th-ranked offense with 348.8 yards per game, and also the 14th-ranked scoring offense, averaging 23.5 points per game. That’s nearly an eight-point improvement from a year ago.
If Tampa Bay’s offense had scored eight more points per game this year the Bucs would have a 9-6-1 record – and that’s without any improvement on defense. Tampa Bay’s porous defense was a big culprit in the team’s 6-10 record and one of the main reasons Smith got fired.
The Bucs had the 10th-ranked defense in 2015, but the scoring defense ranked 26th, allowing an average of 26.1 points per game. During Tampa Bay’s four-game skid to close the season, the defense allowed an average of 29.75 points per game, while the offense only averaged 17.75. That’s nearly four more points allowed per game on defense, and nearly four less points scored by Koetter’s offense.
At the end of the season it became crystal clear what the next step to Koetter’s offense was, and he addressed it with quite frankness during his weekly press conference.
Bucs HC Dirk Koetter – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
“We got to get off to a faster start,” Koetter said. “The last two games, we’ve ran the ball okay to start the game, we’re moving the chains, but when I say get off to a faster start; moving the ball, moving the chains, getting first downs, that doesn’t get you points on the scoreboard. We’ve got to finish drives. We’ve been playing from behind and from an offensive standpoint we have to take that on ourselves. ‘Hey, get off to a fast start. Let’s get the lead and play with the lead.’ Come out of the gates and get points on the board sooner. That’s one thing we definitely need to get better at. … The bottom line is, on all these stats we talk about in here, the bottom line is get more points than the other team and we haven’t done that.”
Koetter gets it. If the Bucs can improve to score four more points per game in 2016 – which is the difference between a field goal and a touchdown – to reach 25, and the defense can drop down to a more respectable figure like 23 points per game, which would rank 16th in the league, Tampa Bay would have a legitimate chance to make the playoffs.
After all, that’s why Koetter was hired to replace Smith – to get the Bucs to the playoffs. That may not happen in his first year as head coach, but history suggests it better happen by 2017.
Tampa Bay’s defense needs a serious repair job, especially the secondary where new coaches and players are needed. But Koetter was chosen by the Glazers to keep a good thing going with Winston and the offense in 2016 and beyond.
Figuring out a way to score a few more points per game and improve red zone efficiency is Koetter’s key to job security in Tampa Bay.
FAB 2. THANKFULLY, GLAZERS REFUSE TO SETTLE FOR MEDIOCRITY
The national media has spent the last week trying to convince you that Tampa Bay is a laughing stock for firing head coach Lovie Smith – despite the fact that he was 8-24 in his two seasons in red and pewter.
The national pundits have tried to tell you that the Buccaneers have turned into the southern version of the Browns – an unstable franchise that has had a revolving door in the front office and the coaching departments.
That’s what they want you to believe, but don’t believe them. Nothing could be further from the truth.
With the Bucs having a young general manager that has produced two very good drafts in Jason Licht and a promising young talent in Jameis Winston. The Browns have to be green with envy.
A quality G.M. and a franchise quarterback are two essential ingredients for any successful franchise.
The Bucs have them – the Browns don’t.
You’ve seen Tampa Bay play over the past two years. Most of you have probably seen every game – either at the stadium or on television.
How many Bucs games do you think ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith, who called Smith’s firing a “travesty” and “embarrassing,” has seen over the past two years?
Has the Chicago Tribune’s David Haugh, who likened Tampa Bay to Cleveland and labeled the Bucs as “bumbling,” watched any Bucs games outside of the two games against the Bears over the past two seasons?
The national media sees a good, honorable man in Smith. They still see a good coach.
We’ve seen a good, honorable man that has gotten outcoached and has one of the most undisciplined teams in the NFL over the past two years. Smith also hasn’t gotten a sniff for another head coaching job or defensive coordinator gig.
They see a man who built a great defense in Chicago. They still think he’s a defensive guru.
We’ve seen a man who rolled through over 15 new, hand-picked defensive players over the past two years and deemed most of them couldn’t play in his defensive scheme for whatever reason.
They see a man who took the Bears to the Super Bowl with Rex Grossman.
We’ve seen a man that won just three home games in two years. Sam Wyche’s name comes to mind.
Do you know who else has seen the never-ending penalties, the wide-open slant passes, the carousel in the secondary, the bad game management decisions and the games that should have been won, but were lost instead?
Ex-Bucs head coach Lovie Smith – Photo by: Getty Images
They saw it all and decided they’ve had enough so they fired Smith three days after the season ended. Thank goodness they did.
What I had written about since before the Jacksonville game, after the Washington game and following the Chicago contest – which was that Smith should be fired – the Glazers had seen with their own eyes. Yes, the Glazers read PewterReport.com, but they’re smart enough to realize on their own that they made a mistake by hiring Smith after seeing that the same issues that prompted his removal in Chicago after a 10-6 season were surfacing in Tampa Bay.
The Glazers too saw progress during the 2015 campaign, but on just one side of the ball – the offensive side – and were wise not to believe Smith’s pie-in-the-sky press conference rhetoric about the Bucs showing enough improvement to warrant a third year in Tampa Bay with him at the helm. The defensive-minded head coach had two years to improve the Bucs defense and tried to do that with a myriad of experienced, veteran players – many of who had experience in Smith’s Tampa 2 system. Yet the defense got worse as the 2015 season went on.
The easy thing to do would have been to let Smith return in 2016 for one more year and give him a defensive-laden draft class. But there were three issues at hand that forced their hand to make the hard decision to fire him.
The first was that Tampa Bay’s star-studded offensive draft class in 2015 was an anomaly. It’s rare for a team to get two impactful rookie starters from a single draft class – let alone four. Even two impact defensive players from the 2016 draft class might not have improved the defense enough to truly turn the Bucs around.
The second was that the Bucs blew an opportunity to win more games with an easy schedule in 2015. Like PewterReport.com has outlined, the Glazers saw a much more challenging schedule in 2016 with Tampa Bay set to play five playoff teams in Arizona, Seattle, Denver, Kansas City and Carolina. The expectation was that Smith would have to make the playoffs in 2016 to keep his job, but that was unlikely to happen given how bad the defense had become.
Third was coaching. Ownership – and likely Licht – would have forced Smith to make some changes on his coaching staff this year, especially on the defensive side of the ball, if he would have stayed. As I had pointed out several times this season, Tampa Bay’s secondary coaches simply weren’t good.
Firing cornerbacks coach Gil Byrd would be one thing. Asking Smith to dismiss his own mentor, nickel cornerbacks coach Larry Marmie and his own son, Mikal, who was the Bucs’ safeties coach, would have been something else. Smith wouldn’t have done that if asked, and then the Glazers would have had to fire him anyways. They did the right thing by sparing him from having to even contemplate the decision.
Keeping Smith would have been easy for the Glazers. Firing him was actually the more difficult thing to do.
The Glazers should be applauded for refusing to accept mediocrity in Tampa Bay, and that’s putting it mildly.
An 8-24 record really isn’t mediocre. It’s an awful record, especially for such a veteran coach that was hired to win now in 2014 after two novices – Raheem Morris and Greg Schiano – had failed over the past five years.
It would have been easy to stick with Jon Gruden and Bruce Allen following the 2008 season. The Glazers paid Gruden an awful lot to not coach in Tampa Bay. They thought they had the next Mike Tomlin in the building in Morris and didn’t want to lose him when he became a hot commodity around the league. The Glazers gambled on Morris when they fired Gruden and it didn’t pay off.
In hindsight, keeping Gruden might have been the wise thing because he’s a heck of a coach, but credit the Glazers for recognizing the talent drain in Tampa Bay from a series of poor drafts and the constant reliance on aging free agents that put the franchise on a 9-7 treadmill.
I’ll admit that a 9-7 record sounds good right now to most Bucs fans that have witnessed just one winning season since Gruden’s sudden departure in 2008. The Glazers took a big chance, as they did in trading for Gruden in 2002, but happened to strike out with Morris.
The Glazers & Jon Gruden – Photo by: Getty Images
The Glazers then went for a big-name college coach and had discussions with Alabama’s Nick Saban before coming close to landing Oregon’s Chip Kelly in 2012, but when they were rebuffed they took a chance on a disciplinarian and settled for Greg Schiano.
For decades this team tried to draft a franchise quarterback in the first round from Vinny Testaverde in the 1980s to Trent Dilfer in the 1990s to Josh Freeman in the 2000s. Just because those quarterbacks were misses didn’t stop the Bucs from drafting Winston years later.
The Glazers have taken the same approach with head coaches. Just because Morris, Schiano and Smith were flops doesn’t mean that shouldn’t try to keep taking chances on finding the next great coach of the Buccaneers. Offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter now gets his chance to prove he can be the next Gruden or Tony Dungy.
To their credit, the Glazers have tried to land the likes of Jimmy Johnson and Steve Spurrier in 1996, Bill Parcells and Steve Mariucci in 2002, Saban and Kelly in 2012. Can’t fault their effort.
And the Glazers ended up signing the likes of Dungy and Gruden, who have a combined seven playoff seasons, three divisional titles and the team’s only Super Bowl championship. Since 2008 the Glazers have tried to find the next Gruden and the next Dungy and I’m glad that they’ve kept looking.
It’s time to give the Glazers some credit.
Are they impatient owners? You’re damn right they are.
They saw Dungy come in and take the woebegone Buccaneers to the playoffs in 1997, his second year on the job after the franchise had gone 13 years without a postseason appearances. They saw Gruden come in and totally revamp the offense in one year and deliver the organization its first and only Super Bowl 11 months later in 2002.
The two best coaches in Tampa Bay history have produced immediate results for the Glazers. Impatience is in their DNA.
They’re just like you Bucs fans. You should be impatient, too.
You’ve seen Bruce Arians walk into Arizona in 2013 and take a 5-11 team and deliver the Cardinals three straight double-digit winning seasons right off the bat. So have the Glazers.
You’ve seen Andy Reid waltz into Kansas City and transform a 2-14 team in 2013 into an 11-5 squad in his first year. So have the Glazers.
You’ve seen Todd Bowles step into New York and improve the Jets from a 4-12 squad to a 10-6 team on the verge of the playoffs. So have the Glazers.
Call it impatience. I call it refusing to settle for mediocrity.
Bucs GM Jason Licht & ex-HC Lovie Smith – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
“Our ownership, I commend them on the fact that they take their time, they think things through, they don’t make emotional decisions, they don’t make in-season decisions,” said Bucs general manager Jason Licht at his press conference discussing Smith’s firing. “They take in all the information.”
Every move the Glazers have made has been to try to improve this team. Since 2009 they’ve spent hundreds of millions of dollars on player contracts and contract extensions, and on current and former coaches and don’t have a single playoff berth to show for it – yet. But they have refused to settle and they’ve kept trying.
In Koetter the Glazers like what they’ve seen on the field from his lone year as the offensive play-caller and what they’ve heard from his frank and energetic press conferences.
“That’s very simple – you’ve got to win games,” Koetter said late in the season when asked what is next for the Bucs offense. “You’ve got to find ways to win. We talked about it before. Numbers are nice. Numbers look good on those pieces of paper we talk about, but all that anyone gives a shit about in this league is W’s, alright?
“You’ve got to win games. I’m sorry. Excuse my language. I forget about this [broadcast on Buccaneers.com], I’m just thinking I’m amongst friends here. I forget that this is going worldwide. Come on. Give me a break. This is hitting Pocatello, Idaho, man. This is my hometown. My mom doesn’t even know I know that word.”
Winning eight games was unacceptable, as it should be. Winning just three home games in two years at Raymond James Stadium in front of their hard-working, paying customers was absolutely unacceptable.
The Glazers do give a crap about winning, and I’m glad they do.
You’ve likely got two years, Dirk Koetter. Time to get to work.
FAB 3. SOME POSSIBILE BUCS ASSISTANT COACHING HIRES
New Tampa Bay head coach Dirk Koetter may come out on Friday afternoon at his press conference and announce his staff as reports surfaced during the week that he was reaching out to assistant coaches around the league in the event that he got the Bucs’ head coach position. But in case he doesn’t, I’ve come up with some possibilities for assistants to satisfy your thirst for information.
Bucs DL coach Joe Cullen – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Just as important as naming Lovie Smith’s replacement as head coach will be hiring a good defensive coordinator that can take a defense that was ranked 10th in yards allowed, but 26th in scoring defense and improve it immediately. The Bucs defense surrendered an average of 29.75 points per game over the last four games of the season and it’s impossible to win in the NFL with that type of performance.
The two obvious names that come to my mind for consideration, as Tampa Bay’s defensive coordinator, are former Atlanta head coach Mike Smith and current Bucs defensive line coach Joe Cullen. Smith has a history with Koetter dating back to their time together in Jacksonville in 2007 when he was the Jaguars defensive coordinator from 2003-07 following a stint as a defensive line and linebackers coach in Baltimore from 1999-2002 where he won a Super Bowl. Koetter was hired as Jacksonville’s offensive coordinator in 2007 and served in that role through the 2011 season.
Smith ran an attacking style of 4-3 defense that was usually in the top 10 in both total defense and points allowed, as well as getting to quarterbacks and picking them off during his time in Jacksonville.
JACKSONVILLE’S TOTAL DEFENSE, SCORING DEFENSE
2003 – 291.1 yards per game (6th), 20.7 points per game (18th)
2004 – 320.9 yards per game (11th), 17.5 points per game (7th)
2005 – 290.9 yards per game (6th), 16.8 points per game (6th)
2006 – 283.6 yards per game (2nd), 17.1 points per game (4th)
2007 – 313.8 yards per game (12th), 19 points per game (10th)
Smith became Atlanta’s head coach in 2008, and he hired Koetter to be his offensive coordinator four years later, which was a post Koetter had until Smith and his staff were fired in 2014. Mike Nolan was Atlanta’s defensive coordinator at the time that Koetter was with the Falcons, but his specialty is running a 3-4 scheme and that may not best suit Tampa Bay’s personnel, which has been built for a 4-3, one-gap scheme. That makes Smith a better fit than Nolan as a defensive coordinator candidate under Koetter.
Ex-Falcons HC Mike Smith – Photo by: Getty Images
Defensive backs coach Tim Lewis coached with Koetter and under Smith in Atlanta from 2010-14 and spent the last year in San Francisco with Jim Tomsula, who was fired last week. Chip Kelly’s arrival there could make Lewis available, and the Bucs do have an opening in the secondary as cornerbacks coach Gil Byrd, nickel cornerbacks coach Larry Marmie and safeties coach Mikal Smith were all fired by general manager Jason Licht after Lovie Smith and defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier were dismissed last week.
Another possibility to coach the secondary, and a long-shot for the defensive coordinator role, is Brent Guy, who was the safety coach at Memphis last year. The 55-year old Guy served as Koetter’s defensive coordinator at Boise State (1998-2000) and at Arizona State (2001-04) before leaving to become Utah State’s head coach in 2005.
After a four-year stint with the Aggies, Guy spent the 2009 season as Louisville’s defensive coordinator and linebackers coach before going to UNLV to coach linebackers in 2010 and Tulsa to serve as the defensive coordinator and linebackers coach from 2011-14. Guy has the longest history with Koetter of all the defensive coaches Koetter has coached with.
Tampa Bay linebackers coach Hardy Nickerson and Cullen were both retained by Licht. There’s a strong chance both stick around to coach under Koetter. Cullen aspires to be a defensive coordinator and may get a shot to interview for that position with Koetter. At the very least, Cullen stays in Tampa Bay as one of the league’s best defensive line coaches, but he does have defensive coordinator experience in college with Richmond (1997-98, 2000) and Indiana (2004).
Bucs DL coach Joe Cullen & LB coach Hardy Nickerson – Photo by: Mark Lomoglio/PR
Should Cullen, who coached with Koetter in Jacksonville from 2010-11, get a promotion to the role of defensive play-caller, Boston College defensive line coach Ben Albert could get the nod in Tampa Bay to replace him as the Bucs defensive line coach. Cullen coached Albert at UMass and then hired him as Richmond’s defensive line coach from 1997-98. Cullen also brought Albert to Jacksonville with him to be an assistant defensive line coach in 2010.
With Koetter expected to remain the Bucs’ offensive play-caller as head coach, quarterbacks coach Mike Bajakian could receive a promotion to offensive coordinator, but still serve as the position coach for Jameis Winston, Mike Glennon and Ryan Griffin. Tight ends coach Jon Embree could also get offensive coordinator consideration in Tampa Bay while still serving as the position coach for that unit.
Offensive line coach George Warhop deserves to be retained and he is expected to return. The same could be said of wide receivers coach Andrew Hayes-Stoker.
Running backs coach Tim Spencer coached with Lovie Smith from 2004-12 and again in Tampa Bay from 2014-15, but did a great job with developing Doug Martin and Charles Sims and deserves to be back, too. The fate of special teams coordinator Kevin O’Dea, another long-time Lovie Smith assistant, is uncertain, as Tampa Bay’s special teams have been average at best over the past two seasons.
FAB 4. NO SURE-FIRE STAR RIGHT NOW AT NO. 9 FOR BUCS DRAFT
PewterReport.com’s initial mock draft, which came out on Monday was widely met with applause from Bucs fans, but there were some that took some issue with my selection of Oklahoma State defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah for Tampa Bay with the ninth overall pick.
I’m actually one of those taking issue, too.
I really like Ogbah at this point, which is why he’s in the top spot in PR’s mock draft, but I don’t love him. I’m not sure he’s a sure-fire Pro Bowler and I don’t know if he’ll be an elite pass rusher in the NFL. When a team has a top 10 pick, it needs to hone in on drafting Pro Bowl talent, and this year’s top 10 talent outside of the top 5 is a bit shaky.
OSU DE Joey Bosa – Photo by: Getty Images
As of right now, consensus is building around the top five players in the 2016 NFL Draft, which appear to be Ole Miss left tackle Laremy Tunsil, Cal quarterback Jared Goff, Ohio State defensive end Joey Bosa, Oregon defensive lineman DeForest Buckner and Florida State defensive back Jalen Ramsey. Don’t expect any of those players to be wearing red and pewter next year as the only chance the Bucs have at drafting one of those is to trade up.
The next four positions could be filled by the likes of Clemson cornerback Mackensie Alexander, Notre Dame offensive tackle Ronnie Stanley, Memphis quarterback Paxton Lynch, Florida cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III, Alabama defensive lineman A’Shawn Robinson, Baylor defensive tackle Andrew Billings, UCLA linebacker Myles Jack, Ole Miss wide receiver Laquan Treadwell or Ogbah.
There are some Bucs fans and draftniks that want Alexander, but with Jacksonville, Baltimore and Miami drafting ahead of Tampa Bay with those teams needing help at cornerback, I don’t think he lasts until the ninth overall pick.
With defensive end and cornerback being the top two needs on the Bucs’ draft board, I went with Ogbah because I’m not a huge fan of Hargreaves III, whose played dipped at the end of the 2015 season, and Ramsey and Alexander figure to be off the board by the time Tampa Bay picks. Of the first-round defensive end group that includes Ogbah, Michigan State’s Shilique Calhoun and Clemson’s Shaq Lawson, I like Ogbah the best.
At 6-foot-3, 275 pounds, Ogbah is a natural left defensive end, but also has experience playing the right side. He’s great against the run and has a quick burst for such a big, strong defensive end. Ogbah reminds me of Carolina defensive end Charles Johnson, who has had three double-digit sack years for the Panthers and is considered a very good pass rusher, but not a future Hall of Famer by any means.
OSU DE Emmanuel Ogbah sacks QB Jameis Winston – Photo by: Getty Images
Ogbah burst onto the national scene as a sophomore in the 2014 season-opening loss to Florida State, sacking Jameis Winston twice and notching six tackles, two tackles for loss and two pass breakups. That made an impression on Winston.
“He’s very talented and got me a couple times,” Winston said. “He was going against a very talented Florida State offensive line, too. He’s good. Absolutely he’s a first-rounder, especially with his size and strength and his explosion. The fact that I remembered his name from playing against him tells you what I think of him.”
Former Bucs linebacker Orie Lemon played at Oklahoma State before Ogbah, but has enjoyed watching the pass-rushing defensive star for his alma mater.
“He’s an unbelievable talent,” Lemon said. “He put in the work to get where he’s at. I certainly wouldn’t mind to see him in Tampa. I know he’s going to be successful and great in the league. He’s got some get-off and he’s very aggressive. Playing D-line, you have to be aggressive. He has the size and the motor to get the job done. He’s a great leader. Just watching him I can tell that the guys love him and they rally around him.
“We put up a good fight against Winston and it’s unfortunate that we didn’t come up with the win in that game. We put up a real fight and it was a great start to our season. It was the first game of the year, and for him to do that against a great player like Winston set the tone for his season.”
Ogbah went on to record 49 tackles, 17 tackles for loss, 11 sacks and a forced fumble during his sophomore season. As a junior, Ogbah recorded 13 sacks and had at least half a sack in every game except for two in 2015. He also produced 64 tackles in addition to 17.5 tackles for loss, three forced fumbles and a fumble recovery for a touchdown. Ogbah’s 28 sacks over the past three years make him one of the most productive junior pass rushers in college football and he finished with six multiple-sack games for the Cowboys.
MSU DE Shilique Calhoun – Photo by: Getty Images
Ogbah is a top 10 talent and his athleticism will be on display at the NFL Scouting Combine and his pro day and should cement his status as one of the top pass rushers. Calhoun, 6-foot-5, 250 pounds, was also quite productive at Michigan State and has supreme athleticism. He could give Ogbah a run for his money as a top-10 pick, but there were stretches in games where Calhoun would disappear at Michigan State. Still, he produced 27 sacks, including 10.5 as a senior, 44 tackles for loss, five fumble recoveries, four forced fumbles, three defensive touchdowns and an interception in four years for the Spartans.
Lawson, 6-foot-3, 270 pounds, has to battle against the bad reputation of former Clemson defensive ends like Gaines Adams, Phillip Merling and Da’Quan Bowers not panning out in the NFL in the minds of pro scouts. He needs to improve his physique and conditioning as his body resembles that of Bowers and it’s a stark contrast to that of Ogbah’s and Calhoun’s. Those two work hard in the weight room and it shows. Lawson won’t time as well as Ogbah and Calhoun will in the offseason, but his production – 20 sacks, including 12.5 in 2015, and two forced fumbles – can’t be ignored.
If Stanley or Treadwell is still on the board when the Bucs’ ninth pick comes up, I’m not sure drafting Ogbah over one of those players gets Tampa Bay the best player. Ultimately that’s the goal of general manager Jason Licht – to draft the best player available of Pro Bowl-caliber talent for the Buccaneers.
In most years, drafting a player in the top 10 is exciting because of the quality of talent available. This year’s group has some question marks as there is no obvious Simeon Rice or Terrell Suggs-type at defensive end in the top 10, nor is there an obvious Patrick Peterson or Marcus Peters-type player at cornerback that could be there for the Bucs.
There is still a long way to go between now and the draft in April in terms of research and player evaluation. Maybe I’ll warm up to Ogbah even more, or perhaps there will be a better fit in Tampa Bay in round one of PewterReport.com’s next mock draft, which will come out later this month following the Senior Bowl. Stay tuned.
FAB 5. SR’s BUC SHOTS
• Why did the Bucs wait so long to name offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter as the team’s replacement for Lovie Smith as the head coach when PewterReport.com has forecasted this move for months? One reason is for appearances. The organization did not want to seem like there was a palace coup going on behind Smith’s back between Koetter, general manager Jason Licht and the Glazers. And there wasn’t.
The Glazers – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Koetter wasn’t campaigning for the head-coaching job in the building, nor was Licht plotting to fire Smith at any point in time during the season. This decision was made following Tampa Bay’s 38-10 loss at Carolina, and the results of that that fourth-straight loss to end the season factored significantly in the team’s decision to move forward with Koetter and not Smith leading the way.
Licht and the Glazers felt there were more than eight winnable games over the past two seasons under Smith’s watch in Tampa Bay, and there were. And it was concluded that Koetter was more important to the team’s future because of the Bucs’ tremendous strides made on offense than Smith was. Keeping Koetter, who was getting head-coaching interest around the league in San Francisco, Miami and Philadelphia, was a priority for Licht and the Glazers.
Another reason it took a while to name Koetter as the Bucs’ 11th head coach is because it can be difficult dealing with three owners in Bryan, Joel and Ed Glazer, according to two sources that have worked in the front office. The Glazers are not always on the same page initially, and it can take awhile for them to reach consensus, which explains some delayed decisions involving the franchise. Those sources, that have had front office roles on other teams, say it’s much easier dealing with one owner than three.
• Congratulations are in order to former Bucs director of player personnel Jon Robinson for being hired to be the Tennessee Titans general manager this week. Robinson is a fantastic hire for the Titans, but he will be missed in Tampa Bay where he helped general manager Jason Licht build two fantastic draft classes that will be the foundation for the Bucs moving forward. Licht issued the following statement about Robinson.
Jon Robinson and Jason Licht – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
“I first met Jon while I was a scout with the New England Patriots and he was a young position coach at Nicholls State University,” Licht said. “After spending a day with him, I knew that he had a bright future in this business because he possessed the type of personnel and talent evaluation skills that NFL teams highly covet. A couple of seasons later, he was working with us at the Patriots and it became very clear that he would one day rise up the ranks to run his own team. During our 14 years together, Jon has been a valued co-worker and trusted advisor, but more importantly, a great friend. He was the first person I attempted to hire when I was named general manager of the Buccaneers and I was fortunate to have him by my side these past two years. Based on all that I know about Jon, I am certain he will enjoy great success with the Tennessee Titans. They could not have hired a better person to lead their football operations.”
I’ll admit that after a 10-year run with Jim Flynn, I wondered if PewterReport.com would be the same after he left years ago. I was fortunate enough to have Charlie Campbell step in, followed by Mark Cook, and PewterReport.com hasn’t missed a beat. In fact, we’ve continued to grow.
It’s certainly a test when you are the constant within an organization, as I am and have been with PewterReport.com for the past 22 years, and you have to deal with some variables. Licht’s personnel evaluation skills and his hiring skills will be tested with J-Rob’s departure. Knowing Licht like I do, I’m confident he’ll rise to the challenge when it comes to scouting and staffing. Robinson is a very talented scout, but so Licht and he’ll find an able replacement, perhaps director of college scouting Mike Biehl or director of pro scouting Rob McCartney gets a promotion.
• I’m not surprised that the Rams are moving from St. Louis to Los Angeles. When former Bucs senior assistant Kevin Demoff left Tampa Bay to become the Rams’ chief operating officer in 2009 I thought this might happen. Demoff is from Los Angeles where he was the general manager of the Los Angeles Avengers Arena Football League team. It’s a no-brainer that he and Rams owner Stan Kroenke saw much greener pastures in L.A. and wanted to make the move.
• To familiarize yourself with new Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter a little more, here are some of his thoughts on some hot-button issues from some of his December press conferences.
Bucs OC Dirk Koetter – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Koetter on why Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston should win Offensive Rookie of the Year:
“Let me preface that by saying to those other candidates how extremely biased I am,” Koetter said. “With that said, I’ll do my politicking right now, when you have a guy that touches the ball every single offensive snap of the season, that guy is going to be really tough to beat. Not one other guy that you mentioned has touched the ball every snap of the season. You look at everything Jameis has done, his numbers for a rookie quarterback are pretty darn good. Obviously, he has had his ups and downs. Like I said, the three other guys you mentioned [Marcus Mariota, Amari Cooper, Todd Gurley], I have a ton of respect for all three of them, but for a guy to play every snap in his rookie season and to do the things that Jameis has done, to me that’s a no-brainer.”
Koetter on fixing penalties and how much responsibility falls on the coaching staff:
“That’s a good question,” Koetter said. “I’ve actually been thinking about that a lot lately. When I came last year and looked at the procedure penalties – I’m going to talk about the procedural penalties on offense – I was thinking to myself, ‘Ah, that’s not going to be a problem. We’re not going to have that problem.’ But we have had that problem. Lovie [ Smith] talks to the team, there’s playing hard penalties – on the one I mentioned before, we got that third down Donovan’s [Smith] hand got caught in the guy’s facemask. He wasn’t trying to get his hand in the guy’s facemask. That’s going to happen sometimes and unfortunately it did and that was a good call. Procedural penalties, we had a couple procedural penalties. Those are inexcusable. I’m speaking about the offensive side of the football. That starts with me. I’ve got to figure out a way in the offseason to be more demanding on our guys to eliminate senseless penalties that contribute to getting you beat. That’s on my list. You asked how much falls on those kinds of penalties, I’d say that should fall on me and our staff.”
Bucs RB Doug Martin – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Koetter on how hard will he try to make sure running back Doug Martin is on the team in 2016 and beyond:
“I’ll lobby hard,” Koetter said. “The guys that make that decision, they’ll make the decision that’s best for the Bucs. I mean heck, as a coach you want all your guys back. It’s hard to say goodbye to anybody. Reality is after next Monday it’s never going to be the same. There’s going to be turnover, that’s just reality. It’s hard, but I told the guys the other day, coming off a hard loss to Chicago, I can never get mad at the guys in our room. I can get mad at them in the short term, but those guys have given us effort this year. They have played hard. They’ve play physical every game. There isn’t one game that we didn’t play physical enough or we didn’t play hard enough. We made plenty of other mistakes that have hurt our football team and have hurt our chances to win, but when your guys are playing hard and playing physical, it’s hard to stay mad at them for too long. Even though some of the faces are going to change, I would lobby for all those guys. That’s the coach in you. People with higher titles than me have to make harder decisions about personnel.”
Now Koetter is one of those men with a much higher title at One Buccaneer Place. We’ll see what he can do to fix the Bucs’ penalty problems and keep Martin in red and pewter.
• Here is a great stat from USA Today’s Tom Pelissero on Twitter on Thursday night. He said that one year after seven head coaching jobs became filled with coaches with defensive backgrounds, this year’s opening tally is six for six on the offensive side of the ball. The NFL is definitely trending towards the offensive side of the ball from everything from rules changes to the number of the emphasis on the passing game with record numbers of wide receivers being drafted in the early rounds lately. The Glazers made the right choice in seeing this trend and following it with the hiring of Dirk Koetter.
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: email@example.com
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