SR’s Fab 5 is a collection of inside scoop, analysis and insight from yours truly, Pewter Report publisher and Bucs beat writer Scott Reynolds. Here are a few things that caught my attention this week at One Buc Place:

FAB 1. NICKEL CORNERBACKS APLENTY FOR BUCS IN 2015 NFL DRAFT
The middle of the field between the hashes was fertile passing ground for Tampa Bay opponents in 2014.

Do you need a first down? An easy toss off play-action to the tight end down the seam behind the linebackers will work.

Do you want a touchdown? Attack the safeties and the nickel corner.

Collectively between the linebacking corps, the safety positions and nickel cornerback spot, the Bucs recorded just six interceptions last year. To put that number in perspective, linebacker Lavonte David recorded five interceptions by himself in 2013, although last year he failed to produce one.

Strongside linebacker Danny Lansanah produced half of the 2014 interceptions of the aforementioned units with three, including two that were returned for touchdowns.

But what’s even more damning is the fact that he was the only linebacker to record a pick last year, and no safety or nickel cornerback recorded an INT under the season finale against New Orleans. That’s where safeties Bradley McDougald and Keith Tandy and nickel corner Leonard Johnson recorded their first – and only – interceptions in 2014.

The middle of the Bucs pass defense, especially in nickel defense, was as soft as a pillow last year. That’s why Tampa Bay will most likely not be re-signing starting middle linebacker Mason Foster and is expected to part ways with underachieving free safety Dashon Goldson, who failed to record an interception for the first time since 2008, which was his second season in the NFL.

The Bucs will also be looking to upgrade the talent at nickel cornerback as the team signed Isaiah Frey, a former Chicago Bear, at midseason because of its displeasure with how Johnson was performing.

“We want to get more from our nickel player,” Bucs defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier said at the time of Frey’s signing. “That position in today’s NFL, you’re like a starter. Some of the teams are going three and four wide receivers – you play a lot of snaps. We need to get more from Leonard at that position. He was in a position on Sunday in a third-down situation to make a play. Didn’t make that play and we’ve got to make some of those plays.”

In last week’s SR’s Fab 5, I discussed how improving the talent to the team’s nickel defense was imperative if the defense wants to improve enough to become playoff-caliber and truly be considered great, focusing on some free agent fits for the Buccaneers at several positions, including nickel cornerback. In a pass-happy division like the NFC South, finding a nickel cornerback that can play close to the level of legendary Pro Bowler Ronde Barber is critical, and it takes a special player.

“Playing the nickel position is a valuable position,” Bucs head coach Lovie Smith said. “Just anybody can’t go in there.”

Smith was on Tampa Bay’s coaching staff in 1997 when Barber was drafted and also coached another great one in Aeneas Williams in St. Louis from 2001-03 and believes so strongly in the importance of the nickel cornerback position. In fact, Smith started coaching the nickels separately from the regular cornerbacks in Chicago before turning over that job to his son, Mikal Smith, who is now the Bucs’ safeties coach.

Upon his arrival in Tampa Bay, Smith hired Larry Marmie to only coach the nickels, while Gil Byrd was responsible for coaching the regular cornerbacks. That’s a departure from the old days with the Buccaneers when Barber would play an outside cornerback position in base defense and move inside to the slot to play when the team went to nickel defense.

In the defense run by Smith and Frazier, players like Johnthan Banks and Alterraun Verner never even practice playing the slot. They are strictly outside corners, while Johnson and Frey play the slot.

Smith routinely calls the nickel cornerback the team’s 12th starter because of their value to the Tampa 2 defensive scheme. A lot is expected from the Bucs’ nickels, but it is a position that underwhelmed in 2014 and needs an upgrade in talent.

“We need all our players, the nickel position and everyone, to come up with more make-a-difference plays: interceptions, fumbles, stripping the ball away, some of those kinds of things; big third-down stops,” Smith said.

Johnson only recorded three pass breakups one interception while splitting time with Frey, who had just one pass deflection and no picks, last year. After taking a look at some free agent nickel cornerbacks last week, let’s explore the nickel corner spot in this year’s draft. This is actually a pretty rich year for nickels, and Tampa Bay needs to spend a draft pick on one this year to bolster the talent at that position.

Oregon CB Ifo Ekpre-Olomu – 5-9, 195 – Senior
Ekpre-Olomu is a cornerback with amazing production. He has recorded 244 tackles, 48 passes broken up, nine interceptions, eight forced fumbles, 6.5 tackles for loss, one fumble recovery and one defensive touchdown. A four-year starter, Ekpre-Olomu had a breakthrough sophomore season in which he had 63 tackles, 20 pass breakups, six forced fumbles, four interceptions, including one for a touchdown, and a fumble recovery.

Last year, Ekpre-Olomu was a consensus All-American and the No. 1-rated senior cornerback after recording 63 tackles, 11 pass breakups, two interceptions and a forced fumble before tearing his ACL prior to the Rose Bowl. That injury, and the fact that he may not be ready for training camp, could cause his stock to slip into the second round where he may be too good of a value for Tampa Bay to pass up.

An ACL injury might knock the No. 1-rated senior cornerback out of the first round and into the second round where he would be an absolute steal for the Buccaneers. Ekpre-Olomu loves contact the way Barber did, and is fierce in run support, in addition to being an absolute ballhawk.

Florida Atlantic CB D’Joun Smith – 5-10, 189 – Senior
Smith was a standout at the Senior Bowl where he played bigger and more physical than his size would indicate. He had a breakout season as a sophomore, recording 35 tackles, 13 pass breakups, seven interceptions, which ranked third nationally, in addition to two tackles for loss and a sack. Last season, Smith recorded 53 tackles, eight pass deflections, 2.5 tackles for loss, two fumble recoveries, a forced fumble and an interception.

With 120 tackles, 29 pass breakups, nine interceptions, three forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and a sack in his Owls career, Smith has proven to be an all-around cornerback that can defend the run and the pass well. The Bucs may not necessarily want to invest a third-round pick in a nickel cornerback, as there are some talented players later in the draft, but Smith may tempt them.

TCU CB Kevin White – 5-9, 180
Like Smith, White fared well during the Senior Bowl week, and actually had an interception in the game. He has a good deal of experience playing in the nickel in college where he notched 146 tackles, 27 pass breakups, six interceptions, three forced fumbles and 2.5 tackles for loss. The Horned Frogs’ star met with the Buccaneers several times in Mobile, Ala.

White played in the pass-happy Big 12 conference against the likes of West Virginia’s Kevin White, Kansas State’s Tyler Lockett and Baylor’s Antwan Goodley among others. He finished his senior season with 51 tackles, 11 pass deflections, two interceptions and a sack. White is a feisty defender that played for a rugged TCU defense and he would be a solid addition to Tampa Bay in the third round.

Oregon State CB Steven Nelson – 5-10, 199
Nelson also helped himself with a great week in Mobile, Ala. at the Senior Bowl, including the game where he broke up two passes. A bigger nickel corner-type, Nelson was a junior college transfer that had two fine years at Oregon State. Nelson recorded eight interceptions in two years, including six as a junior where he returned one for a touchdown.

Nelson had two interceptions as a senior, in addition to 60 tackles and 10 pass breakups in 2014. With 122 tackles and 24 pass breakups, the Beavers star has a good degree of toughness against the run and the pass. Nelson is one of the few players that have picked off Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota. He has quick feet and incredibly flexible hips that allow him to pivot and transition in and out of breaks with ease while covering fast slot receivers. Nelson would be a solid third-round pick because he has the size to play outside as well as the agility to play inside at nickel corner. (Warning: highlight video contains profanity)

Ole Miss CB Senquez Golson – 5-9, 174
Golson’s lack of ideal size essentially forces him to play inside at the nickel cornerback position, but the Rebels star plays bigger than his smallish frame would indicate. Golson is not afraid to come up in run support and make a tackle, evidenced by 136 stops in his three years as a starter at Ole Miss. He would also blitz from the nickel cornerback position on occasion and finished his senior season with 43 tackles, three tackles for loss and half a sack.

But what has NFL scouts interested in this mighty mite is his ball skills and instincts. Golson had a career-high 10 interceptions in 2014 and finished his Ole Miss career with 16 picks, in addition to 15 pass breakups. For a team like Tampa Bay that needs more takeaways from the nickel cornerback position as well as better pass coverage, Golson would be a nice third-round pick or a steal at the top of the fourth round.

Texas CB Quandre Diggs – 5-9, 196
Diggs isn’t the athlete that some of the earlier mentioned nickel cornerbacks are, but he’s a compactly built playmaker with good instincts, toughness and a nose for the ball. He has logged 49 starts at Texas and finished with 241 tackles, 37 pass breakups, 17 tackles for loss, 11 interceptions, 5.5 sacks, four forced fumbles and a fumble recovery.

Diggs could be a late-round steal for the Buccaneers at the top of the fifth round. He was a consistent playmaker for an underachieving Longhorns defense, notching four interceptions as a freshman, four as a sophomore and three picks as a senior. He fared well at the Senior Bowl, too, having a good week of practice and recording a pick in the game, which he returned 41 yards.

Georgia CB Damian Swann – 6-0, 180
Swann is an interesting player because of his great leadership ability and the fact that he’s a big-time playmaker. After a sensational sophomore season, Swann’s numbers dipped during his junior season as Georgia switched defensive schemes. Swann quickly grasped the new defense, but tried to do too much and help his teammates, which in turn hurt his numbers.

Entering his senior campaign, Swann had amassed 115 tackles, 13 pass breakups, 5.5 tackles for loss, four interceptions, two sacks, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. During his final year at Georgia, Swann erupted for 65 tackles, eight pass breakups, four interceptions, four forced fumbles, two sacks and a 99-yard fumble recovery for a touchdown against Georgia Tech. Swann, who will likely be a sixth-round pick, is a great special teams contributor that would be a real asset to Tampa Bay, making him a four-down asset.

Memphis CB Bobby McCain – 5-10, 192
McCain is a tough, hardworking cornerback with tremendous leadership ability and better athleticism than you might think. McCain was a big-time playmaker at Memphis, recording 136 tackles, 15 pass breakups, 12 interceptions, including three he returned for touchdowns, 6.5 tackles for loss, three fumble recoveries, 1.5 sacks and one forced fumble. He had a great week at the East-West Shrine Game, leading the West with four tackles, and met with the Buccaneers.

The Tigers’ undisputed leader, McCain recorded 11 of his interceptions over the past two years in addition to his three fumble recoveries. He’s a big-time playmaker, who can also help Tampa Bay on special teams. McCain averaged 25.3 yards on 42 kick returns with a long of 95 and would be a great selection in the sixth round.

Rice CB Bryce Callahan – 5-10, 192
Callahan is a good, ball-hawking cornerback with great coverage skills. He burst onto the scene as a freshman with nine pass breakups and six interceptions. Callahan finished his Rice career with 145 tackles, 33 pass breakups, 14 tackles for loss, 13 interceptions, two sacks, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery.

The quick-footed Callahan stood out in the East-West Shrine Game and had a nice pass breakup after a good week of practice. Callahan has the ability to start at the nickel cornerback position in the NFL and could be a late-round gem in the sixth or seventh round.

Tennessee CB Justin Coleman – 5-11, 184
Coleman really opened some eyes with his athleticism at the East-West Shrine Game where he performed well on defense and on special teams. A bit of a late bloomer, Coleman didn’t really emerge until his junior season where he had his first interception, which was returned for a touchdown against Western Kentucky.

A great senior season has moved Coleman from being undrafted to a late-round pick. Of his 157 tackles, 17 pass breakups, 8.5 tackles for loss, five interceptions, Coleman notched 42 stops, five pass breakups, four interceptions and four tackles for loss in 2014. Tampa Bay was watching him closely in St. Petersburg, Fla. and could use a seventh-rounder on Coleman.

To see these 10 nickel cornerback candidates in the 2015 NFL Draft close up, click here for a special, accompanying photo gallery on PewterReport.com entitled Bucs 2015 Draft Preview: Nickel Cornerbacks Photo Gallery.

FAB 2. NICKEL CORNER McCAIN WOULD BE A GREAT PICK IN SIXTH ROUND FOR BUCS
There are a lot of nickel cornerback candidates that would look good in pewter and red in the 2015 NFL Draft. I wouldn’t complain a bit if Oregon’s Ifo Ekpre-Olomu was drafted in the second round, and I think TCU’s Kevin White would be a nice pick up in the third round if that’s where the Bucs wanted to address the nickel corner position.

Yet I have a feeling that Tampa Bay will draft a nickel cornerback on Day 3 and there are several good options, including Texas’ Quandre Diggs in the fifth round. But the one nickel corner I have really favored for the Buccaneers is Memphis’ Bobby McCain, who is the current sixth-round pick by the team in PewterReport.com’s 2015 Bucs’ 7-Round Mock Draft.

McCain can do it – support the run, cover the pass, rush the passer from the slot and play on special teams. At 5-foot-10, 192 pounds, McCain is about the size of former Bucs legend Ronde Barber, who mastered the nickel cornerback position for a decade and a half in Tampa Bay.

“I grew up watching Ronde Barber, Cortland Finnegan and Deion Sanders,” McCain told me at the East-West Shrine practices in St. Petersburg, Fla. back in January. “I really like Patrick Peterson, too. I love his mental preparation to the game.

“But my favorite is Finnegan because he’s a smaller guy. He’s one of the toughest guys on the field and he’s one of the smartest. He’s going to get in your grill and tell you about it, but he’s going to be smart about it. I feel like I’m that kind of player.”

McCain isn’t afraid to come up in run support, which is prerequisite for playing in the Tampa 2 defense, which routinely has its cornerbacks play the short area of the field. In nickel defense, the nickel corner is essentially the team’s third linebacker, so finding a tough cornerback is a must.

“I did play a little Tampa 2 at Memphis, but we were more of a zone blitz and man blitz team,” McCain said. “I played in the slot or I would press the best receiver. I played inside and out and I like them both. I like playing nickel and corner. I also blitzed a little out of the nickel.”

McCain had 1.5 sacks, but those weren’t his only splash plays in the passing game. He recorded 12 interceptions, including three that he returned for touchdowns. He nearly had a kick return for a touchdown during his sophomore year, running one back against Duke for 95 yards before getting tackled just shy of the goal line.

“I just have a feel for getting the ball,” McCain said. “Getting the ball out of the air just comes natural for me after years of playing baseball in the outfield and reading the ball. After playing baseball reading that big football is easy.

“In the return game, that’s just me being an athlete. It just goes back to my youth when I have the ball in my hands – I want to score. I’m looking for the end zone every time I get an interception or in the return game.”

McCain said that he did speak to Tampa Bay while playing in their backyard for the East-West Shrine Game.

“I did talk with the Buccaneers and it went well,” McCain said. “There’s nobody that works harder. I have the mental preparation in the film room and I take care of my body. It’s not about the check. It’s about winning ball games. That’s all I care about. That’s all I know.”

FAB 3. ANTHONY WOULD BE AN IDEAL TAMPA 2 MIKE LINEBACKER
With the Buccaneers looking to move on from Mason Foster, a four-year starter who is slated for free agency in 2015, Tampa Bay will need to find a more athletic middle linebacker that can drop into coverage and defend the middle of the field against tight ends and receivers working the seam.

There were a couple of candidates at the 2015 Reese’s Senior Bowl, including the likes of Miami’s Denzel Perryman, USC’s Hayes Pullard and Cincinnati’s Jeff Luc. But perhaps the best fit is Clemson’s Stephone Anthony, who wowed NFL scouts, coaches and general managers at both the weigh-in and during the practices.

With a well-built, 6-foot-2, 245-pound frame, Anthony looks the part. After the South’s practice on Tuesday, the three-year starter at Clemson sounded the part of a starting-caliber middle linebacker in the NFL.

“I definitely take pride in being a leader,” Anthony said. “The Jaguars today were talking to us about being a servant and wanting to help others. I want to lead people and I want them to feel my energy and feed off me.”

Anthony was a team captain and the undisputed leader at Clemson where he notched 330 tackles, 34.5 tackles for loss, 13 pass breakups, 9.5 sacks, five forced fumbles, three interceptions and a fumble recovery during his illustrious All-ACC career. Anthony’s head coach, Dabo Swinney, and defensive coordinator, Brent Venables were on hand in Mobile, Ala. to watch him perform on Tuesday. I had the chance to speak to both coaches about him.

“Stephone is a quarterback on the field,” Swinney said. “He has all the measurables and the intangibles to be a great player on the next level. He’s a natural leader and he always has been. He’s a great player that started as a freshman and he graduated in three and half years. He’s a guy that has always had it together and he’s had a plan. He works really hard. If you put a great work ethic with a great talent you get a great player, and he is.”

Venables, who was a linebacker at Kansas State when I went to school there in the early 1990s, marveled at Anthony’s abilities.

“He’s incredibly talented and he has great instincts,” Venables said. “He’s a prototypical middle linebacker. He can also play outside. He’s 6-foot-2 and some change, and he’s 245. He’s a legit 4.5 guy with speed. He’s highly intelligent and is very physical. He plays behind his pads well. He really understands the game and he’s an even better person than he was a player. He’s the model of consistency and was that for us for the past three years at Clemson. He was a leader on and off the field. He was an exemplary ambassador for our football program and you would want to build a defense around this guy.”

Georgia State v Clemson

When asked how he would fare in a Tampa 2 defense like the Bucs run occasionally in which the middle linebacker has to drop and cover the deep third of the field, Venables didn’t blink when suggesting Anthony could handle that role.

“He’d be a great fit,” Venables said. “We play a little bit of that defense and he knows it. He’s a guy that can run all day and a guy that can put a toe in the ground like a DB and cover. He’d be a natural fit.”

Swinney also chimed in on that topic when talking about Anthony’s coverage skills.

“He can play in any system,” Swinney said. “He can play Tampa 2. He’s done some of that with us. He can play in man coverage. He can play inside and he can play outside. He’s very versatile and he can play special teams, too.”

When I asked Anthony about playing Mike linebacker in a Tampa 2 system he said he would relish the chance to play in Tampa Bay.

“I would love to be a middle linebacker for the Bucs,” Anthony said. “We did some of the Tampa 2 at Clemson and I have that ability. Trust me. Just give me the job and it’s going to get done. I definitely feel like I can cover and play fast. I’m going to bring leadership, physicality, energy and that voice. Let’s go.”

Anthony had a great week at the Senior Bowl, notching four tackles for the South in the game and helping to boost his draft stock. Scouts PewterReport.com spoke with feel as if he raised his stock from the fifth round to the fourth round after a good showing in Mobile, Ala.

Speed is the number one thing the Bucs are looking for at the linebacker position, followed by the ability to drop into coverage. However, with the Mike linebacker position being the quarterback of the defense, having great leadership qualities is also important. Anthony is the kind of player that checks all the boxes at middle linebacker for Tampa Bay.

FAB 4. RECALLING MY VERY FIRST BUCCANEERS INTERVIEW IN 1995
To celebrate my 20 years of covering the Buccaneers I’m going to share with you some of the behind-the-scenes encounters I’ve had over the last two decades. These stories will appear in the first 20 SR’s Fab 5 columns of 2015, which encompasses much of the offseason.

The fifth entry recalls my first encounter with a Bucs player shortly after I had graduated from Kansas State University and moved to Tampa on May 17. I had an interesting experience with my very first interview with a Tampa Bay player back in the summer of 1995 after I was hired by Buccaneer Magazine.

I had followed Errict RhErrict Rhettett’s career at Florida and was excited to see the Bucs select him in the second round of the 1994 draft. I was even more excited to interview Tampa Bay’s primary weapon on offense.

I met Rhett after a mini-camp workout in one of the cramped meeting rooms at the old One Buccaneer Place. I had just purchased a copy of Lindy’s pro football annual, or perhaps it was Athlon’s, at Publix prior to heading to Bucs practice, and it had Rhett on the cover.

As I asked Rhett some questions he kept staring at the magazine with his picture on the front rather than make eye contact with me. After a few minutes, he asked if he could flip through it while the interview continued. Now I was completely distracted as I wasn’t sure if Rhett was actually paying attention to me or was more interested in reading about himself.

 

Our 10-minute interview had concluded and I thanked Rhett for his time. Rhett was quite friendly. He certainly wasn’t rude to me. Instead, he was just like a giddy kid that was enthused to see his mug on the cover of a national magazine. So what came next didn’t really come as a surprise after the interview.

“Would you mind if I have this?” Rhett asked me, picking up the magazine from the desk he was sitting at.

“You mean the magazine?” I asked with some hesitation, hoping that Rhett didn’t really mean it.

“Yeah, it’s cool – I’m on the cover!” Rhett exclaimed.

I sighed, thinking about how I took a job making $13,000 out of college and I hadn’t gotten my first paycheck yet. I had just moved to Florida and only had a couple hundred dollars to my name at the time. I had just spent $6 of it on that magazine, while Rhett was scheduled to make over a million dollars over the life of his contract.

Not wanting to upset Rhett, I shrugged and said with a pinch of sarcasm: “Sure, why not?”

I thought about how there were hundreds of copies of that magazine in area convenience stores and groceries stores within minutes of One Buc Place, yet Rhett wanted my copy.

With a huge smile on his face he grabbed the magazine and abruptly walked out, reading what was written about him and the Buccaneers. I don’t even think he said thank you. He was just grinning ear to ear. I had clearly made Rhett’s day, and it was an interview I wouldn’t forget.

The lesson I learned that day? Despite being rich, NFL players love free stuff – and some of them come to expect it.

Rhett was quite a character and he invited me over to his house during his contract holdout in 1996 where I got to meet his Rottweiler. Two funny Rhett & Rottweiler stories coming in next week’s SR’s Fab 5. Stay tuned.

FAB 5. SR’s BUC SHOTS
• If the Buccaneers drafted Missouri defensive end Markus Golden and Ole Miss nickel cornerback Senquez Golson this year, and decided to keep free safety Dashon Goldson, Tampa Bay could have Golden, Golson, Goldson and defensive end Will Gholston on the field at the same time. Could you imagine that?

Can’t you hear Gene Deckerhoff, the voice of the Buccaneers, with that crazy call?

“Golden and Gholston with the pressure on the quarterback. Errant throw – tipped by Goldson to Golson. Interception by the Buccaneers!”

• When talking to an old acquaintance of mine from college, Brent Venables, who is Clemson’s defensive coordinator, I had to ask him what he thought of Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston, whom Tampa Bay is considering drafting with the number one overall pick. Although Winston only played against Clemson once while with the Seminoles due to his suspension against the Tigers this year, Venables saw what he was capable of in 2013.

In what was deemed to be Florida State’s first real challenge of the 2013 season, Winston led the Seminoles into Death Valley and came away with a stunning, 51-14 victory. Winston was superb, completing 22-of-34 passes for a career-high 444 yards with three touchdowns and one interception, in addition to a rushing TD.

“He’s a great competitor and a winner,” Venables said of Winston. “That’s the main thing. He’s a winner. You can’t argue with that. He can throw in tight windows and he’s great in the clutch. He lost one college game in two years. He’s pretty special.”

Notice how most of the reputable mock drafts now have the Buccaneers taking Winston? Todd McShay’s on ESPN is the latest to come around.

“Ultimately if [teams] feel like they can trust Jameis Winston to be the face of their franchise, then it goes to on the field and on the field I think there is a big gap between Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston. Winston does things from inside the pocket, where you have to win in the NFL, that very few others you rarely see coming out of the college level do. … From purely on the field, the grade for Jameis Winston is just behind Andrew Luck’s in the last 10 years and there is nobody else in between.”

PewterReport.com has maintained the need for a pocket passer in Tampa Bay and has said that from its first mock draft that Winston should be the pick. For those Bucs fans that love Mariota, you need to come around to the idea that this team will draft Winston.

• If you’re looking for a sleeper at the linebacker position for Tampa Bay look no further than Texas State’s Michael Orakpo. If that name sounds familiar it’s because he is the younger brother of Washington’s Pro Bowl outside linebacker Brian Orakpo.

Michael Orakpo started his college career at Colorado State where he recorded 124 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, two sacks, an interception and a forced fumble before being kicked off the team for getting into a fight with students. Orakpo landed at Texas State where he recorded 71 tackles, 10 tackles for loss, a team-high 4.5 sacks and three forced fumbles.

Orakpo moved from weakside linebacker to middle linebacker in 2014, but tore his ACL in the second game of the year after a promising start to the season. He is expected to be a seventh-round pick or an undrafted free agent due to the injury and missing most of his senior campaign.

Orakpo is considered to be one of the more freakish athletes in the 2015 NFL Draft after having set the Bobcats school record for the incline bench by lifting 500 pounds. He benched 560 pounds, which is more than double his body weight, has a 41.5-inch vertical leap and has been timed at 4.53 in the 40-yard dash. He’s a player to keep an eye on for the Buccaneers.

• The contract for Detroit Pro Bowl defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh voids on Friday, February 6. Expect the Buccaneers to have some interest in pairing Suh and their own Pro Bowl defensive tackle, Gerald McCoy, together. Tampa Bay may be a dark horse for Suh’s services, but the team very well could make a run at him in free agency. Suh hails from Nebraska, the same alma mater as Bucs general manager Jason Licht, and would do wonders to improve Tampa Bay’s run defense and interior pass rush.

• And finally, it’s tax season and that unfortunately means that some of you will go to war with the I.R.S. over your personal or corporate tax returns. Don’t do it alone! Gil Munoz of Munoz & Co. CPA is skilled at negotiating with the I.R.S. and can offer the best advice for how to deal with the government when filing your taxes. Whether it is submitting your tax forms or helping to mediate with the I.R.S., call PewterReport.com sponsor Munoz & Co. CPA for assistance at 1-888-856-1688 or visit his website by clicking here.

Munoz is a huge Bucs fan and provides top-notch customer service. His office is conveniently located right across the street from Raymond James Stadium. He’s the kind of professional you want on your side when dealing with the I.R.S. The initial consultation is free, so there’s nothing to lose. Call Munoz & Co. today and tell him that PewterReport.com sent you.

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Scott Reynolds is in his 24th year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds spent six years giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his son's Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: [email protected]

43 COMMENTS

  1. PewterReport.com has maintained the need for a pocket passer in Tampa Bay and has said that from its first mock draft that Winston should be the pick. For those Bucs fans that love Mariota, you need to come around to the idea that this team will draft Winston.

    Oooooooooh lord!!!

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  2. That line of “For those Bucs fans that love Mariota, you need to come around to the idea that this team WILL draft Winston” is a pretty strong statement. It sounds like SR has some strong inside scoop that I hope is true. Dominik on ESPN said he would take Mariota. I’m very happy he is sitting behind a desk at ESPN then a desk at One Buc Place!

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    • I was thinking the same thing. Wow. It made me a little giddy, i’ll be real with ya. When I saw Dumbanick pick Mariotta, that was the kiss of death to me. He is such a moron. Not because he said he would pick mariotta, but because he is literally the ONLY person who thinks Mariotta starts day 1.
      I like MAriotta and his intangibles, but Dumbanick was the worst talent evaluator of all time. But I sure hope PR is right on this one.

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  3. Good Fab 5 Scott! Look forward to these articles every week. Like some of those picks for nickel corner and Mike LB. we sure could use a couple of more picks this year. I think Glennon is gone for sure and one other, probably Martin. The draft can’t come soon enough!

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  4. Thought the same thing when I saw Dom take Mariota. I’m 100 percent behind Winston now. Dominick flunked his G.M. test when he chose Freeman.

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  5. Funny no one has/had an issue with Kobe Bryant being the face of the Lakers or Rothlisberger with the Steelers. T’baging Manning the face of the Colts/Broncos. I can go on and on..

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    • The Glazers don’t own those teams. Kobe had already won NBA championships when he got in trouble off the field. Roethlisberger had already won a Super Bowl when he got in trouble off the field. Winston has not won any Super Bowls yet.

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    • This is a common false narrative I have seen written on this site quite a lot: Attempts to compare Winston to players who have incomparable cases. If you’re able to find a QB prospect who went 1 or 2 overall in the draft in that had as many character concerns as Winston does then I would gladly welcome a discussion on that.

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      • What about Peyton Manning and his sexual misconduct and he went #1. He dropped his pants in front of a trainer and paid her off? That was a sign of guilt when you pay off a person that accused you, no? Winston after TWO investigations have not been arrested or paid anyone! Time to let it go as their is NO enough evidence to support the woman’s claims.

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        • “Paid her off” is a misleading statement. And if you’re comparing Winston to Manning those cases aren’t equivalent. As far as there not being evidence to support the girl’s claim against Winston, there actually is if you’ve taken the time to peruse the 200+ hearing transcript and 200+ pages of investigative material that has been released.

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          • Why is it misleading? She won the case and got paid. As far as being equivalent your right, Manning was proven guilty, Winston was not. The evidence that you are talking about was not enough to prove his guilt after TWO investigations. No proof means not guilty.

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        • The connotation of “Paid her off” implies that he was not guilty and sought to avoid legal ramifications. She also did not win the case, since a settlement is done out of court.

          You have a naive sense of what the definition of “not guilty” is. Winston never went before a court and therefore was never declared not guilty. You also contradict yourself by stating there “was not enough to prove his guilt” only to then say “no proof.” Again, there was evidence to support the girl’s claims but Harding felt that her claim was more believable than Winston’s. I encourage you to read the hearing transcript and educate yourself on the matter.

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          • that should have read, “…felt that her claim was not more believable…”

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          • I guess we will continue to not agree as my feelings are much more different then yours. In the case of Winston I believe everyone is innocent until proven guilty and believe that after TWO investigations that they didn’t have ENOUGH evidence to charge him. With Manning,I believe if you settle out of court from a SUE case you are guilty. If you are innocent you go to court and trust the legal system. With your logic, when a person accuses another you go directly to court without enough evidence to find them guilty. Why is it we have a GRAND JURY or investigations? The courts would be backed up forever with your logic.

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          • That is not true. Literally not true. There is no evidence to back up her claim. None. Neg tox screen, physical exam showed nothing indicative of trauma, loq blood alcohol level, nothing to show why she couldn’t remember the events of that night clearly, but had a story that changed from beginning to end. If you are going to bring up some mystery evidence that supported the accusers claim feel free to share it with us. Because as someone who has also read the reports you must have read something I didn’t.

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  6. Fab 1: I agree that there are a ton of great nickel CB’s in this draft. I’d rather have a healthy White in the 3rd round than Ifo Ekpre-Olomu coming off an ACL in the 2nd round. Those are my favorite two CB’s in this draft though. The others SR listed sound intriguing as well.
    Fab 2: I don’t know much about this guy but from this description I’d be fine with McCain in the 6th round.
    Fab 3: Anthony sounds fantastic. I didn’t watch as many Clemson games as I normally do this past season. My question is I didn’t hear any negatives about this guy so why is he only projected to go in 4th or 5th round? He sounds like a 2nd rounder from this glowing report. Either way, I’d like to see him as a Buc.
    Fab 4: I’m glad to hear Rhett was a nice guy. He was my favorite player at the time.
    Fab 5: Yeah, like that’s going to happen. Last time I checked SR we as the fans pay PR so what gives PR the authority to tell us what we “need” to do? On the subject at hand, I’ve stated before I’m not trusting any mock draft whether they have us taking Mariota or Winston because they change like the wind. I’ve put all my chips on the table based on what the Glazers will do and I’ve backed that up with facts on past behavior with players who get in trouble off the field. No one in the national media has mentioned the Glazers one way or the other because they stay out of the public light unlike some other owners. The national media quite frankly isn’t looking at all the factors that weigh into the decision to take a franchise QB in Tampa. PR has said little in regards to the Glazers role in this decision and the national media at most has mentioned Lovie as being able to calm the storm that is Winston. None of that matters when the Glazers are involved and there is a better option in Mariota available. No, I will not be “coming around” to Winston. Instead I will continue to post facts, analysis, my opinions and links to other websites to validate those 3 things between now and the draft.

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    • Well pink I have to ask, do you personally know the glazers? I mean come on man, you sound like you eat lunch with them every day. SO they can’t change course? Maybe they do see Winston as no problem. Maybe the value his skill set. My point is what you are stating is history and has no indication on what could happen.
      I think you know it’s a 50 50 shot of Winston or Mariotta at leaste on this so you might have to get used to Winston.

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      • No Cgmaster27, I don’t know the Glazers personally. I believe anything is possible so it is possible they can change course. However, I live and work in the West Palm Beach area. It’s unlike any other area I’ve ever been to in terms of the high ratio of senior citizens, rich citizens and both. Hell, where I work is only 2 or 3 miles from Palm Beach Island, where the Glazers, Trump, Limbaugh and other billionaires have houses. I’ve learned many things from my interactions with rich folks and one of them that stands out is that rich people don’t get less conservative with age, they get more conservative. So could they rid themselves of Winslow, Talib, Blount and Williams who made bad headlines only to have a change of heart and embrace a face for their franchise that has made bad headlines? Yes. However, that is a very, very risky move which is the opposite of conservative. My interactions with such men has taught me that the likelihood of such a move by a rich person is less and less likely with age. I would be more inclined to believe they would change if they were changing from a history of taking a chance on troubled players to not taking a chance on one since again that would be a conservative move with low risk. I’ve learned that as rich people age it’s more important to conserve the legacy they want others to remember them by.

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  7. If SR has his way, the Bucs would have extended Freeman and they’d still be hamstrung by his contract. Too long between now and the draft to come around to anything.

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  8. Oh.. Thanks for that fundamentally flawed logic. The pick should be JW. I think we should make everyone think if we can get teams at 3,4,5 think we are going to take Leonard Williams. Maybe the Jags would be willing to deal move down to 3 get a couple extra picks and take the QB that’s left. Although Mariota is not a winner. Has never brought his team back from a deficit greater than 14 pts. NEVER!!!

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    • Yeah your right, when has Mariota ever won anything. As for the deficit, thankfully Mariota is so good at scoring points he didn’t have nearly as many opportunities to come back from a deficit. When you do things like throw 4 INT’s like Winston did against Florida you have plenty of opportunities to erase deficits.

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  9. Give me a break with the INTs. You know what they mean. Nothing. Just like MM’s TD passes. They mean nothing in the NFL. They both have an equal chance of being busts. But JW has the the better chance of good to great. Can’t win if you don’t bet.

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  10. I am not saying the BUCs should pick MM but for those who want JW, think long and hard about this kid’s personality.
    Giving sensible, responsible people a lot of money can often change them (into idiots). But give millions to a kid who has a proven track record of being irresponsible…
    I don’t know if that is a wise decision.
    People are what they are and a leopard doesn’t change his spots.
    All I can say is that if the BUCs vett him and deem that he is ok to take a chance on, then I will gladly have him, but I will also be pleased if they avoid his baggage and take MM.
    As far as the article is concerned, great read Scott, but I don’t know if I would want the light-weights below 180. That just seems way to light to be durable.
    I was stoked about Anthony. He would be a great pick-up for the BUCs.

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  11. Lovie and Licht will never draft Mariota, because he will not play next year. Period. These guys know that drafting him means they will have to play McCown or some other retread and will likely be back in the top 5 of the draft next year. If that happens they will be unemployed next January. If they draft JW and he plays that probably buys them another year at least.

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  12. Good Fab 5 Scott. I myself am not loving the thought that our Nickel is 5-9 to 5-10; in today’s game they have to be bigger than that because they also have to cover TE’s and tall WR’s. That’s just my opinion.

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    • Lovie Smith shares your opinion Horse. So do I. Enjoy and have a good weekend, my friend!

      http://tbo.com/sports/bucs/taller-cornerbacks-become-a-necessity-20140531/

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  13. The thought of Suh and McCoy BOTH being Bucs has me smiling ear to ear…If it happens~Im buying a Suh jersey! Teams will have to fear our D then~plus his presence will bring more attention to the club and maybe give guys like David a better chance at making the proBowl which he deserves..I have my fingers crossed…

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    • cremdonado,I’m with you, I haven’t purchased a Jersey in a while but if they get Suh or Winston I’ll try and be first one in line.

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  14. I’d think If Tampa can trade Glenn and Martin for 2 picks then Tampa could selects 2 CB and a LB in the draft go bucs-Oh Just don’t trade down for a simple 2 or 3 picks,Like the writer said its got to be 3 to 4 number one picks. Like Cleveland give up their first two pick plus 3 future #1 picks, then I would make that trade. Maybe we can pick up Cleve vet qb in Brian Hoyer also.GO BUCS words are only words unless the trades do happen,if not Winston is the man.

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  15. Holy Moses George… I am now dumber for reading your comment.

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  16. I get tired of PR trying to tempt the Bucs to take Defensive Players in the draft when the biggest need after Franchise QB is OL. PR needs to be talking about the huge turnaround last year by taking OL high in the draft even though they were full of holes on Defense by the Cowboys but they had a great Defensive Coach who still got good production with what he had. Lovie is a great Defensive Coach. He can find hidden Gems to improve his Defense like he has already found this year with Smith, Lansanah, etc. I would keep Claiborne and sign Pierre Paul. They both are good DEs when healthy but have had health problems. That should give at least one healthy DE opposite Smith. Get Max from Houston for MLB and find another hidden gem for Nickel Back and you can use 2d to 4th round to stock OL and sighn the 49er’s Guard in Free Agency and with a veteran OC and Mariota we would be set. Have Licht find a great run back specialist, and trade off Glennon for a second round pick.

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    • I think they are correct in building defensive depth. Most OL take a while to develop so I would rather them find a couple of quality, experienced OL starters in FA.

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  17. That’s a funny story about Errict Rhett. I have a hand-painted, autographed portrait of #32 on the wall in front of me that was painted by my son in law. He and Mr Rhett had planned to sell prints, but it didn’t pan out. I ended up with the original.

    I’m not going to get into the Winston-Mariota debate since there really is no comparison in my mind. As for the Glazers. They’ll want the guy who has the best chance to bring wins and Bucs fans back to our stadium on Sundays. Me too!

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  18. IMO the Buccaneers will draft Jameis Winston and I’m fine with it. With the first pick in the draft why NOT pick the best player? And he plays the position we need the most. No freaking brainer.
    I still have an Eric Rhett jersey I won in a contest on 820 the Team years ago. GREAT throwback! And it’s an Wilson orginal.

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  19. I think much of this discussion is premature. A lot will be decided after the combine and FA. If Jameis Football gets in trouble again all bets are off.

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  20. Good read. I agree MLB and nickel CB needs improvement, but if they don’t improve pass rush changing personnel elsewhere will not matter. Still burns me they let Bennett go to Seattle for 5 million/ one year deal then pay this clown Johnson almost double. Lol. Getting rid of our whole O line this year was even more stupid! It starts up front but for some reason the Bucs haven’t really seemed to grasp that on either side of the ball. Sounds like Winston will likely be our QB. Sure wish it was Andrew Luck we were taking! Tired of losing but thugs haven’t helped us in the past. Talib always hurt or suspended for this or that.Suh and McCoy would overnight be one of best D lines but not overly excited to possibly have one the biggest A holes in the league either. I just hope we draft well for once.

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  21. Getting rid of Bennett for me was no big deal. Bennett is now surrounded with players that allow him to succeed. As to our OL, how many of them went to winning teams and contributed? One Zutah. I think that was their only mistake because of his versatility .

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    • Have to disagree Horse. Bennett is only succeeding now because of other talent around him? Is that why he had 9 sacks in 2012 with a bad Bucs D line and defense. Who else has had close to that kind of production for DE position? Nobody even close to his talent level at DE last few years IMO. His production in terms of sacks actually dropped in Seattle to 8 and 7.5 last couple years in but he makes huge splash plays and plays run pretty well too. Zuttah is average talent.

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      • Also doesn’t matter if the other O lineman were stars on other teams what matters is we had worst O line in the league! Took average to maybe little better than average starters and replaced with garbage.

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  22. If Hardy (despite his baggage) and Suh somehow found their way onto the Bucs roster, then we would have a DLine to be reckoned with…! No stomping required.

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  23. I feel like i’m losing my mind or something. Consider the following – the NFL is right in the middle of a full-on PR nightmare regarding the treatment of women overall and domestic violence in particular. They are suspending guys all over the place with any hint of violent altercations. Right at this time, the Bucs are considering using the #1 overall pick on a known (though unproven) domestic abuser and proven knucklehead. I don’t think Mariotta is the answer either, but this Winston thing is just tailor made for a historic Buccaneer implosion. If we blow this pick, we’re done for the next 5 years. Is this REALLY a risk worth taking? Get as many picks as possible and trade out of this HORRIBLE position. Only the Bucs could land the #1 overall pick when it’s a liability. God why do a love this team.?Somebody shoot me.

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  24. I love the fact that you have recognized that we need a MLB, but please God NO MORE CLEMSON PLAYERS!! Denzel Perryman would be a steal in the 2nd round if he falls to us.

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