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. GETTING THE RIGHT PLAYERS FOR TAMPA 2 WILL DETERMINE SMITH’S FATE
The Buccaneers signed head coach Lovie Smith to a five-year contract on January 6. Whether or not Smith makes it to 2018 and sees the fifth year of that contract is largely on the shoulders of general manager Jason Licht, who is charged with the responsibility of stocking the Bucs’ roster with talented players.
Following the team’s worst defensive performance of the year in a 48-17 loss to Baltimore in which Tampa Bay surrendered four first quarter touchdowns to Joe Flacco to fall behind 28-0 and ultimately 38-0 at halftime, Smith candidly assessed the play of his defense.
“We’re not giving excuses … but we’re not as talented as we need to be in some areas, and sometimes you can pick on that a little bit,” Smith said. “But at the same time, the areas where we are talented, it’s all kind of snowballing a little bit.”
On Monday, Smith backtracked from his statement about the Bucs’ supposed lack of talent, insisting he meant that the secondary was without two injured starters, cornerback Johnthan Banks and free safety Dashon Goldson, against Baltimore.
“We have all the talent in the world,” Bucs linebacker Lavonte David said. “This is one of the most talented football teams in the league. We’re just not getting it done. Hopefully this bye week will help us and we’ll get back to the drawing board.”
In an interview with former Bucs defensive tackle Anthony “Booger” McFarland and Marc Ryan on 98.7 The Fan this year, Bucs Hall of Fame defensive tackle Warren Sapp said that Tampa Bay has enough talent to execute the Tampa 2 defense. All the players need is more time to learn the nuances of the scheme.
“It’s going to be a matter of time because the talent is definitely there,” Sapp said. “There are more than enough quality players there. Now it’s a matter of reading your keys and being where you are supposed to be when you are supposed to be there. Let’s make some plays.”
Tampa Bay’s defensive players aren’t making enough plays in games, evidenced by just seven sacks and four interceptions through six games, which has some questioning the viability of the Tampa 2 defensive scheme in today’s NFL and the actual level of talent on the Bucs roster. The scheme can work as long as it has the proper talent.
“It’s never the scheme. It’s the Willie’s and Joes, never the X’s and O’s,” Sapp told Booger and Ryan. “Me and Gerald [McCoy] had a real frank conversation this morning. He said, ‘I had a bad day at the office, I’ve chalked it up and I’ve got to get better.’ I said, ‘There we go.’ It’s plain as day on film.”
Smith’s Tampa 2 defensive scheme has been hemorrhaging through the first six weeks of the season, and appears in desperate need of a talent transfusion in the coming offseason. Because there are no saviors on the streets in October, the only hope for the defense getting better is for the existing players to get more comfortable with the Tampa 2 scheme and execute their assignments.
Of course the Bucs assistant coaches and defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier have to do a better job of instructing the players and holding them accountable, too. On Wednesday, cornerbacks coach Gil Byrd repeatedly accepted responsibility for the team’s 31st-ranked pass defense.
“I have seen that I have not done a good enough job coaching, that is what I have seen,” Byrd said during the bye week. “I have seen that I haven’t gotten the players in position where they feel comfortable, where they are playing fast and it starts with me. And I have to do some self-evaluation over these next four days. I have got to be better and I think it will be reflected in the players.”
Sapp indicated that the loss to the Ravens was the rock bottom for the Bucs defense.
“It’s got to get better because it can’t get worse,” Sapp said. “Five touchdowns in 16 minutes – are you kidding me? It’s tough to watch.”
The Tampa Bay defense is allowing quarterbacks to complete 71.4 percent of their passes, which is absurd. The Bucs’ opponents are scoring 31.6 points per game through six games, and it’s getting worse – not better.
The Buccaneers defense has surrendered 37.8 points per game over the past month. Tampa Bay is on pace to give up 506 points this year, which would be a dubious franchise record and cause this defense to go down as the worst in team history.
Some, including Sapp and Smith, want to point to 1996, the first year of the Tony Dungy regime and the birth of the Tampa 2 defense within the Buccaneers organization, as an example of how it can take some time for the players to perfect their play within the scheme. Bucs linebackers coach Hardy Nickerson, who was the team’s veteran middle linebacker at the time, said that the players didn’t truly “get” the defense until Week 9 during that season.
“When Tony Dungy, Lovie, Rod Marinelli and Monte Kiffin – and Herm Edwards, and all of them have been head coaches except Monte in the National Football League – came to us with the original Tampa 2, it was me, [Derrick] Brooks, Hardy and John Lynch. [Three] of the best players I’ve played with my entire life. Three of them are Hall of Famers, and one of them should be considered – Hardy. We were 1-7 in our first eight [games], so it’s a learning process.”
Yet if Sapp, Smith and the Buccaneers think that the players will pick up the scheme in just three more weeks and the defense will begin to be dominant, chances are it won’t. Things are much different this time around for Smith’s Tampa 2 scheme in Tampa Bay.
First of all, the roster that Dungy, Smith and the rest of the staff had to work with in 1996 included two future Hall of Famers in Brooks and Sapp, another potential Hall of Famer in Lynch and a Pro Bowl middle linebacker in Nickerson. The current Bucs roster has two All-Pros in David and McCoy, but it remains to be seen if other highly touted players like safeties Mark Barron and Goldson, defensive end Michael Johnson and cornerback Alterraun Verner are ideal fits.
Also, the NFL was a different game in 1996 without as much passing league-wide, although the NFC Central division had some gunslingers in Green Bay’s Brett Favre, Minnesota’s Dante Culpepper and Randall Cunningham and Detroit’s Scott Mitchell. Teams in the 1990s ran the ball more often and there was a greater need for hard-hitting, down-in-the-box safeties.
There have been a lot of rule changes over the past few years that have boosted offensive production, specifically in the passing game by protecting wide receivers from being accosted off the line by cornerbacks and hit across the middle by safeties. The insertion of the penalty protecting defenseless receivers into the rulebook has neutered the hard-hitting style of Goldson and Barron in Tampa Bay.
It has truly taken what was a big part of their game and discarded it. As a result, the safeties are reluctant to hit receivers in zone coverage because they might draw 15-yard penalties like the one Barron had against the Ravens on Sunday.
Even if Lynch was playing for the Buccaneers in the modern day NFL he wouldn’t be able to hit like he used to without drawing fines and suspensions, and he likely wouldn’t be a Pro Bowler because those signature hits were a prime element of his playing style in Tampa Bay in the late 1990s and early 2000s. These days, the safeties making the Pro Bowls are guys like Seattle’s Earl Thomas and Kansas City’s Eric Berry. Both of whom would be considered coverage safeties.
When Smith took over as the Buccaneers head coach, he and Licht added two defensive linemen in free agency – Johnson and defensive tackle Clinton McDonald – along with Verner at cornerback. The perception was that Tampa Bay’s offense was the team’s true weakness, so the head coach and general manager invested every draft pick on that side of the ball.
But six games into the 2014 season, Tampa Bay’s defense has been the main culprit behind the team’s five losses, and perhaps one or two of those selections should have been used to bolster the talent on the defensive side of the ball, particularly at cornerback where the team took a hit when veteran free agent signee Mike Jenkins was lost for the season due to a torn pectoral muscle he suffered in the season opener.
The team has been unhappy with the play of nickel cornerback Leonard Johnson, who saw the man he was initially covering in zone defense on Sunday, Kamar Aiken, score a touchdown for Baltimore. Johnson then gave up a touchdown in man coverage to Michael Campanaro on the Ravens’ next drive. The Bucs benched their nickel cornerback after the second quarter and Crezdon Butler and Brandon Dixon saw more action on the field along with Verner.
On Wednesday, the Bucs signed nickel cornerback Isaiah Frey, who was a sixth-round pick of Smith’s while he was in Chicago in 2012, to help shore up the position. Johnson, Frey, Butler and Dixon won’t remind anyone of legendary Bucs nickel cornerback Ronde Barber from a talent standpoint.
The Bucs’ apparent lack of talent and production in the secondary gets exposed when the pass rush from the team’s front four is non-existent, which it has been over the past two games. There is a lack of talented pass rushers on the defensive line, too, that is holding back the successful implementation of the Tampa 2.
Tampa Bay’s starters – Johnson, McCoy, McDonald and Will Gholston – have combined for 58.5 sacks in their careers. In just under three and a half years, Houston defensive end J.J. Watt has 40.5 sacks by himself, while St. Louis defensive end Robert Quinn has 34.5 over the same span of time. Johnson, McCoy, McDonald and Gholston have combined for just six sacks this season in six games, which isn’t good enough.
There are five players – Bears defensive Willie Young, Redskins outside linebacker Robert Kerrigan, Eagles outside linebacker Connor Barwin, Chiefs outside linebacker Justin Houston and Denver outside linebacker Von Miller – with at least six sacks through six games this year.
“If you don’t have the players to do it, it’s not going to work,” said former Bears middle linebacker Brian Urlacher in 2008 about the Tampa 2 scheme deployed in Chicago under Smith from 2004-12. “But if you got the players to do it, it’s going to be successful.”
The Tampa 2 defense relies on precise execution for success. Players have to play the scheme perfectly for it to work. A member of the front seven not having the proper run fit and maintaining gap integrity can unleash a 52-yard run like Ravens running back Justin Forsett had last week against the Bucs. A member of the back seven, such as safety Major Wright, who played too deep at times, not getting to the correct landmark in zone coverage can lead to easy touchdowns in the passing game.
“This defense is like any other defense,” Bears coach Lovie Smith said back in 2008 when he was defending the viability of the Tampa 2 scheme. “It’s about players, it’s about execution, each play. This defense and every other defense, it’s the same thing. You’re not going to change defenses and start calling it something else and all of a sudden things are working out or things get bad or whatever. It’s still about players making plays, gap control and going from there.”
Smith had Pro Bowlers like Urlacher, weakside linebacker Lance Briggs, three-technique defensive tackle Tommy Harris and cornerback Charles Tillman among others in Chicago. The players truly do make the Tampa 2 scheme work, unlike a scheme like Baltimore’s where the plug-and-play scheme can essentially make the players have success.
When a team running the Tampa 2 doesn’t have enough the right players, coaches get fired. Such was the case with Edwards’ departure from New York and Kansas City, Marinelli’s firing in Detroit and Frazier’s dismissal in Minnesota. There is a reason why a defense that was once the scheme of choice around the NFL in the 2000s has been abandoned over the last decade in favor of 3-4 schemes that might be better suited to defend the pass with one more linebacker and one less lineman.
Despite the unfavorable results on Sunday, Smith threw down the gauntlet and vehemently supported his use of the Tampa 2 defense after the game in his press conference.
Absolutely not – we’re not changing our scheme,” Smith said. “I’ve been doing this scheme every year I’ve been in the league. I believe in it. We’re not coaching it and we’re not playing it as well as we need to. Zero chance we change our scheme.”
Since that’s the case, the Bucs need Licht to find better, more explosive pass rushers and defensive backs with better coverage skills next offseason.
In supporting Smith, Sapp said, “Hey, if you’re going to go down … go down with what you know and what you do.”
FAB 2. WILL BUCS CHOOSE PASS RUSHER OVER QB WITH FIRST-ROUND PICK?
The NFL Draft is just over seven months away, but what transpires over the final two months of the 2014 NFL regular season in Tampa Bay will have a huge impact on the plans for the Bucs’ first-round pick. All eyes will squarely be set on the play of quarterback Mike Glennon, who appears to have done enough to win the starting job away from veteran Josh McCown, whose sprained thumb is on the mend.
Mock drafts at CBSSportsline.com and WalterFootball.com have the 1-5 Buccaneers taking Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota with their first pick, which would currently be the third overall selection between 0-6 Jacksonville and 0-5 Oakland. WalterFootball.com even has the Bucs trading up with Jackonville to secure Mariota with the first overall pick.
If the Bucs continue to lose at the rate they are and finish with a top 5 pick, the 2015 NFL Draft will be a very pivotal one for the future of the franchise. Tampa Bay may very well have a shot a Mariota, a junior, who is expected to leave the Ducks for the NFL in the offseason, or Florida State’s redshirt sophomore, Jameis Winston, who won the BCS Championship and the Heisman Trophy as a freshman last year.
In a division with superstar quarterbacks like New Orleans’ Drew Brees, Carolina’s Cam Newton and Atlanta’s Matt Ryan, the Bucs may feel like they need an elite quarterback that can go toe-to-toe with the other prolific passers in the NFC South. Then again, Tampa Bay may need another speedy pass rusher that can hunt those quarterbacks, too.
That’s where Glennon comes into play. Through three and half games, Glennon has completed 57 percent of his passes for 986 yards with seven touchdowns and three interceptions. Projecting those numbers over the rest of the season would see Glennon throw for a career-high 3,662 yards with 26 touchdowns and 11 interceptions in 13 games this year.
Consider that Glennon completed 59.4 percent of his passes for 2,608 yards with 19 touchdowns and nine picks in 2013 and that’s quite an improvement from his rookie season. If Glennon comes close to his projections for the rest of this season it would be hard to spend the first overall pick on Mariota when Lovie Smith’s Tampa 2 defensive line needs help pressuring the passer.
If Glennon develops into a very good quarterback, which he may on the way to doing, the defensive-minded Smith will almost certainly turn to a defensive end like Nebraska’s Randy Gregory or USC’s Leonard Williams to help turn the heat up on Brees, who went unsacked in Tampa Bay’s 37-31 overtime loss two games ago and other opposing quarterbacks. Gregory and Williams are considered to be the top two defensive end prospects right now, and each brings something different to the table.
Gregory, a junior left defensive end, stands 6-foot-6 and weighs 245 pounds. His rangy frame and long arms remind me of former Dolphins Pro Bowl defensive end Jason Taylor. In his first season at Nebraska, the sophomore end recorded 66 tackles, 19 tackles for loss, 18 QB hurries, 10.5 sacks, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery, a safety and an interception he returned for a touchdown.
Gregory missed the second game of his junior season due to a knee injury, but has 4.5 sacks in five games, in addition to 23 tackles, five tackles for loss, seven quarterback hurries, a forced fumble and an interception.
An anonymous NFL scout told SI.com that Gregory is “an in-between mixture of Jadeveon Clowney and Jevon Kearse. He’s got Kearse’s freaky athlete ability. Clowney is much stronger, but he’s much tighter than Gregory. Gregory has disgusting bendability much like Barkevious Mingo.”
The 6-foot-4, 290-pound Williams is a smooth athlete for a big man. He burst onto the scene as a defensive tackle, winning the Pac-12 Defensive Freshman of the Year award in 2012 while recording 64 tackles, 13.5 tackles for loss and eight sacks. As a left end last year, Williams recorded 74 stops, 13.5 tackles for loss and six sacks. Williams has four sacks, 38 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss and a forced fumble through six games.
“Leonard is a rare guy in not just his skill, but also how hard he plays and what the game means to him,” USC defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox said. “When you put that together with his physical traits, and the fact that he’s really smart, too. He’s a pretty special player and a pretty special guy. He’s not content. He wants to be a great player and compete.
“He’s a really talented guy and a competitor. He has stuff he has to work on, but he’s pretty special. He’s still growing physically and mentally in the game.”
Smith has had success with both types of ends – the slender, speed rushers and the bigger ends with quickness and power. Smith went to the Super Bowl in 2006 with Adewale Ogunleye, Alex Brown and Mark Anderson. Ogunleye, Brown and Anderson averaged 6-foot-5, 260 pounds. In 2010, Smith got bigger defensive ends like Julius Peppers and Israel Idonije, who were both 6-foot-7, 285 pounds. Later, Smith drafted the 6-foot-6, 270-pound Corey Wooton to replace Idonije.
Either Gregory, who went to Licht’s alma mater, or Williams would fit in nicely at left end in Tampa Bay to compete with Will Gholston, who has been slow to develop in this scheme and has just one sack in five starts. But with the NFL being a quarterback’s league due to the importance of the position, it’s up to Glennon to determine how the Bucs will proceed in the 2015 NFL Draft.
“I like the way the kid plays,” Bucs Hall of Fame defensive tackle Warren Sapp said in an interview with former Bucs defensive tackle Anthony “Booger” McFarland and Marc Ryan on 98.7 The Fan this week. “I really like the way the kid plays. He’s not going to come out and throw the ball 50 times and do any of that Aaron Rodgers or Drew Brees stuff, but if the defense can keep us in it, he’ll make enough plays to win it.”
FAB 3. QUARTERBACK BOOTLEGS ARE KILLING TAMPA 2
Of the five touchdowns that Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco threw on Sunday, his fifth, a 56-yard bomb to Steve Smith, was by far the easiest. Flacco used a play-action fake to running back Bernard Pierce to the right before rolling back to his left on a naked bootleg to find Smith had gotten past cornerback Alterraun Verner in man coverage.
Because the one-gap nature of the defense, the Tampa 2 is very susceptible to play-action bootlegs by quarterbacks. On stretch plays with zone blocking, the Bucs defensive linemen have to move laterally down the line of scrimmage to maintain their gap integrity. When Flacco faked the hand off to Pierce, the Ravens offensive line moved to the Buccaneers left in concert, and Tampa Bay’s defensive front, which was in an under formation, followed suit.
Against Baltimore, right defensive end Scott Solomon was the culprit as he lined up in the six-technique, which was inside shading of tight end Owen Daniels. With Solomon moving full speed to his left to stay in his gap, Flacco sprinted to Solomon’s right. By the time Solomon saw Flacco escape containment it was too late. Flacco had a ridiculous total of six seconds to throw the ball – unhindered – to Smith to give Baltimore a 35-0 lead early in the second quarter.
“We’re late on the boot – we have to get there,” Solomon said. “I read it late. I was in the 6-technique in the C gap, so I came down with the tight end and read it late. I tried to get there, but I was too late.
“We need to get it better, myself included. Sometimes we aren’t in the best position, but we have to feel the tight end. Just the way the tight end was blocking me, the way he sealing me, I should have read it faster. If he’s sealing soft like that I need to get right outside like that and get pressure on the boot.”
This isn’t the first time that opposing teams have taken advantage of the way Tampa Bay plays defense. The Tampa 2 has always been susceptible to play-action bootlegs. In 2004, Broncos quarterback Jake Plummer bootlegged the Buccaneers to death and won at Raymond James Stadium, 16-13.
“There are going to be holes in the Tampa 2 – it’s just reality,” Bucs defensive tackle Gerald McCoy said. “Even over the course of all those years when Coach [Jon] Gruden got here he pointed out that they had been getting beat by the boot. There is always room to learn [more about this defense].”
Solomon isn’t the only defensive end that has fallen victim to the bootleg. Dating back to preseason this year, defensive ends Adrian Clayborn, Will Gholston, Larry English and Da’Quan Bowers have each fallen victim to a bootleg at least once. As Flacco showed the Bucs on Sunday, even one lapse of containment can be deadly.
“Just once is enough because the QB is sitting back there doing what he wants,” Solomon said. “We need to play the boot better, but I can only speak about myself. I need to do a better job.”
FAB 4. TAKING ISSUE WITH SAPP’S REMARKS ABOUT McCOY’S SPORTSMANSHIP
Buccaneers defensive tackle Warren Sapp was nasty. The country boy from Plymouth, Fla. that played at Apopka High School was full of swagger and trash talk at the University of Miami, and had plenty of talent to back it up.
Bucs fans loved the bravado and fury that Sapp played with. They didn’t appreciate his surly attitude when they were trying to get autographs, though. I’ve always said that Sapp was one of those players you could have Monday through Saturday, but I’ll take him every Sunday.
Bucs legendary middle linebacker Hardy Nickerson passed the fire and brimstone leadership baton to Sapp when he left the team following the 1999 season, and the Hall of Fame three-technique tackle carried the torch on defense until his departure after the 2003 campaign. To be honest, the Bucs defense hasn’t had a productive bad ass like Sapp in over a decade to hold the defense accountable and make opponents actually fear the Bucs defense, which hasn’t been great since 2007.
Tampa Bay fans love Gerald McCoy’s friendliness when it comes to taking pictures and getting autographs of the Bucs’ star player, but would love to see him be a little nasty on the field on Sundays. So, apparently, would Sapp, who took to the airwaves with disgust over McCoy’s willingness to help opposing players off the ground when discussing the topic with sports talk hosts Anthony “Booger” McFarland and Marc Ryan on 98.7 The Fan.
“Too see how Gerald McCoy could reach down and help the running back up and help the lineman up, I almost threw up,” Sapp said on Wednesday. Uh-uh! This could never happen, this could never happen. There’s a certain mentality you play this game with. Let me stop.”
On Thursday, McCoy fired back at his mentor and those that agreed with Sapp.
“If people really pay attention, then you would also notice that when someone on the opposing team gets hurt, most of time there’s one person who walks on the field and says a prayer – and that’s me,’’ McCoy said. “That’s who I am and that’s who I’m going to be. If you don’t like it, get over it. I’m going to help people up because I’m a good sportsman and because football is temporary. Sports is temporary.
“On July 15 I had twins. On July 16 I was up here [at One Buccaneer Place] in the rain running gassers and hitting the bags. If you know another person doing that, then you can talk to me about how nice I am.”
As someone who has covered Buccaneers football for 20 years I can understand where Sapp is coming from. Tampa Bay’s defense needs some nastiness to it like the kind that Sapp and Nickerson brought.
At the same time, that’s not who McCoy is. Despite him being the best player on the team playing Sapp’s position, McCoy can’t do something that is outside of his character. Hall of Fame linebacker Derrick Brooks wasn’t a nasty player like Sapp was at all. He was more like McCoy than Sapp.
The same could be said about the franchise’s first Hall of Famer, defensive end Lee Roy Selmon, who was often called a gentle giant. Selmon didn’t trash talk, refuse to help the opposition up off the ground and was considered to be a great sportsman like McCoy.
A quick look around the current Bucs defense shows that there are more players like McCoy – defensive ends Michael Johnson and Will Gholston and linebacker Lavonte David come to mind – on this roster when it comes to demeanor, and there aren’t any Nickersons or Sapps to be found. Maybe that’s what is wrong with this defense. Maybe it lacks a player that can rule with an iron fist, hold everyone accountable and intimidate opposing offenses the way Sapp did.
If that is the case, Bucs general manager Jason Licht needs to go find that kind of player in the draft or free agency in the offseason, or perhaps let McCoy go in free agency and sign Detroit’s three-technique tackle Ndamukong Suh, who has a reputation for being nasty.
In the meantime, McCoy should be praised for setting a great example for the Buccaneers, the NFL and for today’s youth instead of being criticized by trying to be somebody he’s not.
FAB 5. SR’s BUC SHOTS
• One final remark from Bucs Hall of Fame defensive tackle Warren Sapp’s interview on 98.7 The Fan this week, which can be heard right here.
“You can’t come out and play like we did anymore,” Sapp said. “We can forget those days. Buc Ball is dead, fellas. Uh-uh. The 17-10 games – all that 13-9? Uh-uh. It’s over. There will be some points put up on the scoreboard, the defense has to keep you in it and your offense has to win it for you at the end.”
Never thought I would ever hear those words from the QB Killa, but he’s right. And that’s why there will be so much debate about whether the Bucs should draft a pass rushing defensive end or a dynamic quarterback like Oregon’s Marcus Mariota in the first round if Tampa Bay ends up with a top 3 pick.
• Speaking of Oregon QB Marcus Mariota, he’s putting off any decision about foregoing his senior season to enter the 2015 NFL Draft until after the 2014 campaign is over.
“I’m really trying to prolong it as much as I can because once you start diving into those things, it can become a distraction,” Mariota said. “There are lot of things that kind of play into those decisions. I’m waiting ‘til the end of the year and we’ll make the decision as a family.”
With the chances of him being the first overall pick in 2015, Mariota will likely play his final game at Oregon in this year’s bowl game. Mariota ranks second in his three-year career with a 170.57 passing efficiency rating, trailing only Florida State’s Jameis Winston. Mariota’s 303.8 yards of total offense ranks fifth national, and he has tossed 80 touchdowns in his career with just 10 interceptions.
In his junior season, Mariota has 17 TDs and has yet to throw a pick. That could change this week as the Ducks play a very talented Washington defense.
• Unless he turns his play around quickly, it’s unlikely that free safety Dashon Goldson will be a Buccaneer in 2015. Since signing a five-year, $41.25 million deal, Goldson hasn’t created the big plays and takeaways that Tampa Bay expected from the former Pro Bowler. With an $8 million cap hit in 2015 and the team in position to just have $3 million in dead money if it parts ways with Goldson, the Bucs could be looking for a cheaper and more productive option next season and save $5 million in cap room.
Here are two stud free safeties to keep in mind for the Buccaneers in next year’s draft. The first is Ole Miss’ Cody Prewitt. The 6-foot-2, 213-pound Prewitt had 80 tackles, six pass breakups and two interceptions, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries as a sophomore before posting 71 stops, two forced fumbles and an SEC-leading six interceptions. Through six games this season, the rangy Prewitt has two interceptions, including one he returned 75 yards for a touchdown against Texas A&M. Prewitt will likely be a second-round selection.
The second one is Michigan State’s Kurtis Drummond, who had 91 tackles, 10 passes defensed and a team-high four interceptions last year. The 6-foot-1, 200-pounder is considered to be the quarterback of the Spartans defense and has great ball skills and timing. As a senior, Drummond has 31 tackles, five passes defensed and two interceptions. He will likely be a second-round pick.
• On paper, it looks like the next four games are potentially winnable for the Buccaneers, as the Vikings (2-4), Browns (3-2), Falcons (2-4) and Redskins (1-5) all have a combined record of 8-15. Of course one of Atlanta’s two wins this season was a 56-14 beat down of Tampa Bay in Week 3.
Scott Reynolds is in his 23rd year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds enjoys giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: [email protected]
Coaches are bad, but talent is worse! Stop shuffling players nobody else wants through the roster. Get rid of the ne’er-do-wells and bring in game changers. I took a stroll through the Buccaneer roster and believe these players and cap numbers will not return next year. Here’s the money to make bold moves in FA.
DaQuan Bowers 1,226,000 not met expectations
Jonathan Casillas 1,400,000 out played by Lansanah
Adrian Clayborn 2,612,000 not met expectations
Oniel Cousins 635,000 not an NFL caliber lineman
Dashon Goldson 9,000,000 salary exceeds performance
Mike James 520,000 not enough production
Mike Jenkins 1,875,000 injury prone
Leonard Johnson 570,000 too slow, no instincts
Mike Kafka 570,000 not an NFL QB
Michael Koenen 3,250,000 short punts, long salary
Luke Stocker 775,000 too much tub, no plays
Total Cap Savings 22,433,000
Current Salary Cap 8,250,000
Proj. 2015 Cap Incr. 10,000,000
Proj. 2015 Cap Space 40,683,000
-Vincent Jackson could be added to this list if he fails to get 1,000 yards. He will be 32 in January and has a 12.2mil cap for 2015. At minimum, he will be asked to restructure to remain with the Bucs – too many drops.
-Doug Martin may also find himself on this list. If he does not improve his rushing stats he could be traded. Stevan Ridley/Pats has a torn ACL, if they have a mind to do it now would be a good time to do it before the trade deadline.
-There are others on this team, picked up in the off-season who do not belong on this team. Too many Crezdon Butlers, Jacquies Smiths, Brandon Dixons to name a few.
-Cap increase due to CBS and DirectTV contracts.
-The Bucs need to make 3 free agency moves. They will have the dollars to make it happen.
-Bucs should pursue a defensive game changer in FA. Do something bold. Add some nastiness. Put DT Ndamukong Suh next to Gerald McCoy. Suh is your junkyard dog. Stomps people, doesn’t help them up! They will have the dollars.
-Bucs need a strong run blocker to secure the O-line and improve the run game – OG Mike Iupati, all-pro from the 49ers.
-Bucs should add a veteran CB with man coverage skills – CB Perrish Cox
-Round 1 – Draft DE Randy Gregory/Nebraska. We need a speed rusher off the edge. Move Michael Johnson to the left side.
-Round 2 – Draft FS Cody Prewitt/Ole Miss. We need a big hard-hitting FS that can cover deep.
-Round 3 – Draft WR Dorial Green-Beckham/Okla. Another 6-5 WR to groom as V-Jax replacement.
-Remaining rounds, draft MLB, CB, OG, C
I totally agree with your assessment!
Number 4 is intriguing, the trade part. if it could be done I think I’d do it in a heartbeat, only if I thoroughly knew Suh could control himself on the field.
1. Free agency is overhyped. The Redskins have been trying to build that way for years. It doesn’t work unless you only need one piece and the Buccaneers need more than one.
2. Take Quinn off your list. Six games, no sacks. May be benched.
3. Middle linebacker is the key. Hard to judge Foster since he’s missed so many games this year. Next five games will tell that story. Loss of Clayborn was bigger than most people think.
4. We have yet to outyard opposition or win time of possession in a single game. The defense can’t get off the field and the offense can’t stay on the field.
5. There is hope. Evans looks like a budding star. S-Jenkins plays like a rookie but you can see the talent and the drive. Glennon is more comfortable in the pocket and when he has time, he’s better than average. He’s going through his progressions faster and not making many bone-headed decisions. I discount the first quarter of the Ravens game because the team just wasn’t ready to play. That’s on the coaches.
6. Please stop saying that Ryan is an elite quarterback. He’s 6-16 in his last 22 games. That’s awful. He’s not earning his salary and we can now see that he was really a scheme quarterback who benefitted from having a Hall of Fame tight end. Indeed, Glennon may have more upside considering the guys he had to throw to last year.
7. Once every decade there is an Andrew Luck who comes along but do not bet on it. Defensive End/tackle, offensive line, linebacker. That’s our draft.
And history repeats itself yet again… There is zero chance the Bucs should select a pass rushing DE in the first round next year. Tell me the last time that has worked out for this franchise. Go ahead… I’ll wait. In fact, I’ll argue the very reason the Bucs are in this predicament is the waste of all the draft picks we’ve made trying to develop a pass rush through the draft over the past 5-7 years. Clayborn is gone next year. So is Bowers. That’s two high picks from just a few years ago – wasted. Brian Price… another player who should be sliding into his prime right now – wasted. Let’s not forget the wasted pick we gave away for a meaningless year of Revis… gone.
The answer is very simple, folks. The Bucs have wasted far too many picks in search of the elusive pass rusher that never seems to pan out in Tampa regardless of what regime is in place.
What the Bucs need more than anything is an electric playmaker behind center for the offense… and then utilize the rest of the draft on hard-working players that fit the system – regardless of whether or not they are combine freaks.
Look at Seattle… yes, there are a handful of first rounders dotting their landscape – but the VAST majority of their talent are system picked guys who they coached up and are now stars in the league.
If the Bucs chase another combine pass rushing freak again, we are merely doomed to repeat this hellish cycle of ineptitude.
Agreed. Time to get that QB. We’ve wasted at least 3-4 1st round picks looking for that pass-rusher and $24M invested in Johnson.
I say Brett Hundley!!!!
Good Fab Five as always Scott. This Tampa 2 thing, I keep hearing about how difficult it is to play, that it takes time. But how often are they actually running it? We also hear only about 35% of the time. And why did Lovie insist we could win this year, unlike last year, with the payers he has if that is simply not the case? Player evaluation is piss poor IMO. Sounds like MORE rebuilding next year two. With Licht and Lovie in charge of picking players? MORE new players to this “difficult” system? I have my doubts. I want to see DRASTIC improvement with this defense by the end of the season. We SHOULD see DRASTIC improvement as the team is at an all time low on defense. If not, Lovie has to go. Better than prolonging our misery IMO.
The defense doesn’t work without a good pass rush. The offense can work with an average quarterback and I think Melman fits the bill. Argument over. DE is the first pick, there is no other logical choice. I would love to have them get a first round qb that turned into a real franchise player for years. I just don’t see it happening with a Defensive minded head coach.
Hey Scott, Could you please pose a question to Lovie about DJ Moore and why he was cut in favor of Leonard Johnson. My reasoning for asking comes from Moore’s twitter account… he was prophetically predicting what was going to and what was currently going on with the Bucs D during that Ravens game.LITERALLY. I couldn’t belive it as I was reading them. You really should check that out if you haven’t seen it. It’s INSANE considering how bad Johnson has played the nickel compared to Moore’s BEYOND OBVIOUS depth of understanding of the ENTIRE defense, and not just what he’s supposed to be doing…Which is the most common theme I’ve heard coming from our D players…they know what they’re supposed to be doing (most of the time) but they need to get down how what everybody else around them compliments and works with what they individually are doing. Just a thought. Thanks for the gr8 read.
I agree with all points made SR. To me, Clayborn was going to be our no-nonsense player on defense, but with 2 seasons ending early on IR I think he’s done as a Buc. I think GM’s are scared to draft the “Bash Brothers” from the Mighty Ducks because of the potential for off the field headlines. What a shame. As bad as our O-line and D-lines are I would take Mariota over the DE’s you named. It’s about the best player available. Mariota isn’t just the top rated QB, he’s the best one since Luck. Yeah we really need another DE, but I don’t think the guys you highlighted measure up as special when compared against the other DE’s in the NFL. Mariota will become a top 5 QB in the NFL, especially with Peyton and Brady heading out of the league in the next couple of years.
Be careful wishing for Marriota, Oregon & the PAC 10 have a terrible reputation for Qb’s being NFL flops!!
Oh and as far as “Buc Ball” being dead…the great Payton Manning did only manage a measlely 8 points in that last Super Bowl right??
1st round draft pick next year needs to be CB or O-line. 2nd round find goldson’s replacement at safety. Resign Clayborn to a 1year incentive laden deal. Overhaul the secondary- only keep Barron, Vernor, and Banks. Resign Foster, slide him to SLB; find a true tampa 2 MLB in FA/draft. Glennon looks like a franchise QB to me, his confidence is growing every game
Sorry Scott but really have to disagree about which QB the Bucs should draft. After watching both I think Dak Prescott would be a fit. He is tall, has a cannon for an arm and can move like Cam when needed. AND he can play under pressure (beaten LSU, A&M and Auburn in a row).
I have changed a lot on my thoughts because the League has changed for more points not less. Glennon is adequate for the time being. Lets say we draft 2 -4 spot; I’m trading down and giving any team that has an older QB a chance to stay on top because we need draft picks. I’m done with the free agents; they usually aren’t worth the value. I would trade Martin, Johnson, Barron, Stocker, right now. I still believe the last 10 roster spots should be a revolving door; you can see what they can do within 3 weeks and then it’s nice knowing you or it’s Hello!
If we had Manning, Brady, Rodgers, Wilson and Mariota on the bench during the 1st qtr of the Ravens game when we were being seal-clubbed 38-0, which one of these elite QBs could have prevented that from happening? Neither of them! You know why? Because they don’t play defense!
We need to take a long look at where the real problems are before we go shopping. We had two offensive tackles that looked like a screen door in a submarine. We have a D-Line that refuses to pressure a QB for fear of hurting his feelings. We have a secondary that treats TEs and WRs like they just flew in from West Africa.
I understand the constant cry for a franchise QB. When the Israelites were wandering in the wilderness, they never asked for a map, they asked for a king!
Superb article Scott. The good old days are over and it sucks. You are so correct about some of my favorite players like Lynch would not make it today with these rules. I do think Glennon could be our Brad Johnson if we can run the ball, and play some decent defense and special teams.
Good report. I have a few comments, one of which will get me thrown off the board ;o)
—At 1st I thought “1st round QB, of course!” But then I remembered we won a SB with 3rd overall pick Simeon Rice at RE & 9th round pick Brad Johnson. So there is that.
—Funny Scott brings up how much the defense plays & the running game/ball control. I just read an article where Marinelli has coached the Cowboys to the exact same yardage per play as last year—but the defense is infinitely better because the running game on the offensive side of the ball is completely controlling the clock. And then one witnesses last nite, where for the 1st time in NFL history a team actually lost controlling the ball 40 minutes of the time, but Geno Smith was awful in the red zone. Combine all this with QBKilla’s quote of “getting it done when it counts” (as an offense). I proffer Tim Tebow. I just do. What does he do? Not turn the ball over, control the running game, & makes plays when it counts. He’s a punchline & a scourge, I know, but I’d take him over Glennon & I’d do it yesterday. You win with Glennon/Brad Johnson if the QB doesn’t throw backbreaking picks, & if the defense is top-10 all time. This was all sparked by Scott’s “there’s no help on the streets in October for this defense”, which led me to think—you know, there kinda is.
—Why isn’t Da’Quan Bowers getting a shot at left end? We know how semi-incompetent the last staff was, but this staff is accepting a player (Gholston) with one sack in 5 games. Bowers can’t do better than that? How do we know?
O line D line. Glennon is gonna be a really good QB. And I do agree if we have pick 2-5 we should trade back for more picks. No more spending big on FA most of them hasnt paned out. And that goes back more then 3-4 years
They should have taken Johnny Football this last draft – at least we’d have something interesting to talk about for the rest of the year.
Glennon isn’t a playmaker, the only game I’ve ever seen him clutch in was that Pittsburgh game, and that was only after they scored to fail on the previous drive at the end zone. The best Glennon can ever be is Brad Johnson, but he’s not even close to that now.
If they pass on yet another QB this offseason we’re going to be looking at another high draft pick in 2016, so on and so forth. Glennon is not the answer.
If Lovie goes for one of your DE picks in the first round and misses Marriota in the first round he will not be a Buc when he retires. Carr almost beat the 49ers last week for the Raiders of all teams, and Jacksonville’s QB easily beat out Glennon’s production last week too. Glennon is OK for a backup QB but is not the future of this franchise, and yes, Tebow would turn around this team like he did the Broncos, winning seven straight when he took over after they had lost four in a row.
Totally agree Owlykat!
Except for your Tebow comment (again!).
Tebow would be for entertainment value only. He was a great college QB, but there is nothing he could contribute to the Bucs situation.
Sad when we’re not even to the half way point of the season and we’re talking top 5 draft pick. Someone asked what DE the Bucs drafted in the first round who had lived up to expectations. Only the great Lee Roy Selmon. Then again, we could ask the same question about drafting QB’s in the first round. Not much “Luck” there either. Nice piece about the Tampa 2. Funny, not one quote from an ex-player who thought it to be obsolete. Funny too when someone mentioned only playing it 35% of the time. If that’s the case, what defense are we playing the other 65%? None in those Ravens and Falcons games.
I think the Bucs should do the George Costanza, whatever player they think they should draft, they should do the opposite. It worked for George!
Unless Glennon has a spectacular year and actually wins some games, I cannot see a situation where we don’t go after a QB. Glennon has the skills to be a very good back up, but so far he has been way to inconsistent, and in this Division if you don’t have a franchise QB, forget it. I think Bucs can address the problems on Defense with the rest of the draft and in free agency.
This team needs to inject HOPE into this fan base next year. They need to draft the best QB available in the first round. I for one will not renew my season tickets after 25 years. I’m done paying for this garbage year after year.
They have to pick a DE first, then take a second round QB, or move back up to getthe one they want, they are all a crap shoot anyway.
Weren’t we in the NFC North with Green Bay in ’96? Not the NFC Central?
Yes We went 6-10 for last place. Losing 6 of 8 in the NFC Central Division.
This is why we don’t have enough talent, first round picks for the last 10 years:
2004 15 Michael Clayton Wide receiver LSU
2005 5 Carnell Williams Running Back Auburn
2006 23 Davin Joseph Guard Oklahoma
2007 4 Gaines Adams Defensive End Clemson
2008 20 Aqib Talib Cornerback Kansas
2009 17 Josh Freeman Quarterback Kansas State
2010 3 Gerald McCoy Defensive Tackle Oklahoma
2011 20 Adrian Clayborn Defensive End Iowa
2012 7 Mark Barron Safety Alabama
31 Doug Martin Running Back Boise State
2013 No pick
2014 7 Mike Evans Wide Receiver Texas A&M
Few players that we pick in the first round turn into stars, or at least lasts as a star. GMC ok, Evans still a maybe, the rest are a flash in the pan, or not stars, or are gone, or a combination.
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