FAB 5. SR’s Buc Shots

• Overconfidence in a team’s own players can be dangerous. So can overconfidence in a team’s coaching staff’s ability to effectively develop talent. Cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III, who is entering his third season, could be the next coming of Ronde Barber or Brian Kelly – two former Bucs cornerback that took three years to develop into solid starters, unlike other Tampa Bay cornerbacks Donnie Abraham and Dwight Smith, who made immediate impacts as rookies.

Bucs CB Vernon Hargreaves III - Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Bucs CB Vernon Hargreaves III – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

Or Hargreaves could stagnate and become the player he has shown to be over his first two years in the league – an inconsistent young player, who struggles with confidence and lacks playmaking skills, evidenced by just one interception in 25 games. Bucs general manager Jason Licht needs to hope for the best but plan for the worst and expect Hargreaves to be a bust and try to replace him this offseason rather than waiting.

The Bucs used the same approach with Barber and Kelly back in the late 1990s. Tampa Bay was afraid Barber, a third-round pick in 1997 was going to be a bust so it invested a second-round pick in Kelly the next year to replace him. Eventually, both Barber and Kelly developed into starters and led Tampa Bay to its first and only Super Bowl win in 2002.

The Bucs cannot expect Hargreaves to take the next step and live up to his first-round draft billing in 2018. That cannot be assumed. Make him prove it and draft or sign his replacement to provide Hargreaves adequate competition that either pushes him to excel and turn into a great starting cornerback, or pushes him out the door.

• With the schedules of the PewterReport.com staff clashing this week due to covering the East-West Shrine practices in St. Petersburg, we weren’t able to record a new Pewter Nation Podcast. However, we plan on doing two new Pewter Nation Podcasts next week live from Mobile, Ala. where Trevor Sikkema and I will be covering the Senior Bowl, while Mark Cook covers Gerald McCoy and Kwon Alexander in Orlando at the Pro Bowl.

Our first Pewter Nation Podcast will be taped in Mobile on Monday night where we will discuss the draft prospects from the East-West Shrine Game, preview the Senior Bowl and discuss what we learned from speaking with Bucs sources this week, including general manager Jason Licht. Our second Pewter Nation Podcast will be recorded in Mobile for Thursday where we will dive into the draft prospects from the Senior Bowl and whatever other nuggets of information about the Bucs that we learn from our contacts.

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• There was an interesting article in the Orlando Sentinel detailing how grueling Jacksonville’s training camp was this past summer and how that fueled the Jaguars’ playoff run to the AFC Championship Game. The article was music to my ears, as I and the PewterReport.com staff have been lamenting the fact that Tampa Bay had the softest training camp I’ve ever covered in my two decades on the Bucs beat without any live contact or live tackling periods.

New head coach Doug Marrone took away the ping-pong table in the locker room to create a workmanlike attitude at the Jaguars headquarters, and made the players run gassers after practice for penalties that occurred during their scrimmages. Here’s a snippet:

They also designed an offseason program that was more grueling than most players had experienced. Marrone’s message was clear: Go hard or go home.

“You remember guys in camp talking about this took a few years off their lives,” Jaguars DT Malik Jackson said. “It’s pretty funny just to see us now. I guess he does know what he’s doing.”

The Jaguars were in full pads nearly every day during training camp, a tortuous stretch in draining heat and humidity that left rookies and veterans questioning the process and wondering if it would pay off. It was the NFL’s version of boot camp. Break them down, then build them up.

It ultimately brought players closer, making them accountable to each other and causing them to care more for each other. Winning was the final piece, and thumping Houston 29-7 in the season opener was all the proof players needed.

Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone - Photo courtesy of Jaguars
Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone – Photo courtesy of Jaguars

“It was the toughest training camp I’ve ever been a part of,” said linebacker Paul Posluszny, in his 11th season. “Coach Marrone would talk to us and say, ‘Listen, I have a plan and you have to trust me.’ With that, guys were able to say, ‘OK, we haven’t gotten what we wanted in years past doing things a certain way, so we have to buy in, trust the head man and know that that’ll bring us success when it’s time.’

“It was difficult just because of so many changes from what we were used to. I think the most important thing is we always said, ‘Well, if it helps us win, then it’s all good.’”

After seeing how rigorous training camps under Bucs head coaches Tony Dungy and Jon Gruden led to a combined seven playoff berths, four division titles and one Super Bowl victory, I would love to see Dirk Koetter follow Marrone’s script to see what happens in 2018. His “Soft Knocks” approach to Tampa Bay’s televised training camp last year and goal of getting everyone healthy for the season opener did result in an opening day win against Chicago, but injuries quickly set in the week after and Koetter’s soft training camp did the Bucs no favors the rest of the season.

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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]
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Pete Wood
2 years ago

I’m just not buying that the Titans are any sort of model of NFL success. I would argue that the Bucs had a better draft in 2017. If the Titans have more starters from 2016, it is solely because they had so many second round picks. I am not convinced that the Titans are on the way up and would not be surprised if they are out of the playoffs next year with a losing record. The team I think the Bucs should look to is Jacksonville. Those guys, thanks to perhaps the best drafting in the league, are going… Read more »

FLBoy84
2 years ago
Reply to  Pete Wood

Curious if the Jags fans are going to start contributing to Chris Baker’s charity since he inspired their team with his “3 wins in the playoffs” comment in the preseason. Wait.. what.. he didn’t say playoffs??

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Horse
2 years ago
Reply to  Pete Wood

Don’t forget they are in a weaker conference too than the NFC and especially NFC South.

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Horse
2 years ago
Reply to  Horse

I meant NFC South being the toughest to play in.

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Buc 1976
2 years ago
Reply to  Horse

Horse I agree NFC south is a much better Division and will be for years to come.

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FLBoy84
2 years ago

Definitely agree Scott that LIcht has seemed to miss the boat when it comes to stocking positions with more than one potential starter for depth. Koetter likes to use the “our guys” line a lot. Team might need to do a better job evaluating “our guys” and grade them more on actual production than perceived promise and potential. Something’s wrong with the current formula. New England seems to be one of the few teams that can plug in their no-name depth guys and not lose too much production. Maybe Licht needs to remember he doesn’t have BB on the sidelines… Read more »

FLBoy84
2 years ago
Reply to  FLBoy84

Don’t get me wrong guys, I’m a fan of most of what Licht has done since he’s been here, but stocking positions with players actually capable of pushing the starters for playing time isn’t one of them. While the need to maintain salary cap space for upcoming contracts is understandable, missing the playoffs for the past 10 plus years while consistently being in the Top 5-10 in available cap space each year doesn’t seem to be working. Understand FA is a crap shoot as well, as most pundits lauded the under-the-radar signing of Baker as a great move. Doesn’t mean… Read more »

ahenneke
2 years ago

I agree that NFL teams can sometimes make the play-offs with a great defense, and a solid running game helps. But to make the play-offs on a year-to-year basis, teams need a franchise QB. That has been proven over and over. It also helps to play in traditionally weak divisions like New England, but that’s another story. I would be willing to wager that the Jaquars and Vikings don’t have the same success next year, although the Eagles will with Wentz returning. New England gets by with a mediocre defense because they are often playing with a lead, making the… Read more »

FLBoy84
2 years ago
Reply to  ahenneke

Might wanna throw RB in there with OG as an offensive need.

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cheveliar
2 years ago

We like the “Informative” Scott Reynolds!!!! Nice read dog. I always knew you had it in you. LOL

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surferdudes
2 years ago

I think making the playoffs in your fourth season as a Q.B. is living up to expectations. Bortles was key last week in the Jags win, you act like the Jags defense won that game Scott, they didn’t, Bortles did, to me he is a franchise Q.B.. Should’ve promoted Robinson, and fired Licht. Licht has shown he doesn’t know how to build a team. His first draft was Evans, over Donald, big mistake. You build from the front back, Licht hasn’t shown in anytime in four years he gets that. When Coughlin was with the Giants he’d draft 2 D… Read more »

FLBoy84
2 years ago

Enjoyed the Licht/Robinson comparison as well, well researched (ht to Trevor I’m assuming). And noticed Joe Flacco’s name was missing in Fab 1. Are we really considering him “elite” now?

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e
e
2 years ago

I agree, Scott, that I hope that Koetter has a more “nose to the grindstone” approach this offseason. It seems pretty obvious that the OL & DL are where the upgrades need to take place. Nelson seems like a great prospect, but why not a guy like Ohio St. C Billy Price who is the unquestioned captain of that O-Line and shows all of the leadership that you look for, beyond simply a guy that blocks? Moving Ali back to his natural guard position would help set up both the running game and passing game. Last thing, not a huge… Read more »

chefboho
2 years ago
Reply to  e

Agreed. And I feel like markcwalton will get lost in the shuffle because of so many good rb’s entering the draft this year. Would love to get him in the third round. He can catch the pass out of the back field and has great wheels

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Graham
2 years ago

Hindsight articles are fun. “But what Licht should have done immediately there after is not believe that the real Martin was the 1,400-yard guy in the contract year, but rather the sub-500-yard guy the two previous seasons in 2013 and ’14, because that’s who he is – evidenced by two more sub-500-yard seasons in ’16 and ’17. He should have signed Martin and then signed another highly talented running back or do what the Titans did and draft Henry with a premium pick even though they just acquired Murray, who signed an extension worth $6.3 million per season.” Tell me,… Read more »

Pete Wood
2 years ago
Reply to  Graham

It’s funny to me that most of the pundits and fans seem very happy with Bucs free agent moves and draft picks at the time. Graham is right about twenty twenty hindsight. There was universal relief when Bucs signed Martin to a new contract. Most fans were thrilled to keep him. And, pundits from the local to the national level all praised the signing of DJax. Let’s be real here. The only draft picks that I have not liked the past few years were Hargreaves and that second round picker. Would I have preferred more defense overall? Sure. But, I… Read more »

Naplesfan
2 years ago
Reply to  Graham

The best running backs often get drafted well back of the first half of the first round. All the hype and PR went to Leonard Fournette last spring … but the guy who will win OROY this year is Alvin Kamara, a third rounder. Good drafting isn’t just about picking decent first rounders … it’s about finding talent throughout the draft, particularly in the mid-round Day 2 picks. Licht has been pretty uneven in finding value. He’s had a couple of good ones, like Justin Evans and Kwon Alexander , but he’s also had some stinkers, like ASJ and Noah… Read more »

Devasher
2 years ago
Reply to  Graham

Licht, who gave Doug Martin a top 5 leaguewide contract for a RB with the first two years guaranteed didn’t believe in Martin at all? So when he kept Doug at his inflated top 5 salary even though it wasn’t guaranteed this year due to his drug suspension and still had to serve the remaining 3 of his 4 game suspension this year you think that shows a lack of belief in a him? 😂 If we want to go the hindsight route, then Jason could have merely drafted Devonta Freeman in the third round in 2014 instead of Charles… Read more »

Graham
2 years ago
Reply to  Devasher

What kind of contract do you think Doug was going to get elsewhere as a free agent coming off his 2015 season? You think he would have signed here without any guaranteed money?! The fact Licht was smart enough to put language in the contract that got the Bucs out of it if Martin got himself suspended was brilliant. My guess is they were all set to take Dalvin Cook with the 19th pick and release Martin until OJ Howard fell. When that happened they made the decision to give Doug another chance. Justin Evans, Chris Godwin, and Beckwith are… Read more »

Devasher
2 years ago
Reply to  Graham

NFL contracts ALL have clauses for outs when a player is suspended due to drugs/PDA’s. Remember Eric Wright? Do you think Mark Dominik was just really shrewd when he magically inserted that into Wright’s contact? No, it’s common for ALL NFL contracts to included clauses like that. LOL First, Licht failed to take on Martin’s option year, which would have been the one year he played well, allowing Martin to become a free agent when he otherwise would not have. THEN he compounded his previous mistake (par for the course for him) by keeping Martin around and not renegotiating his… Read more »

macabee
2 years ago

A few thoughts regarding free agency and the up-coming draft. I do not believe the Jason Licht strategy of waiting until the end of free agency to get value (not hiring top dollar free agents) has worked – we get Chris Baker instead of Calais Campbell. Incredibly, six of the top 10 2017 spenders in free agency, a period formerly reserved for desperate teams to throw money at anyone, made the playoffs: the Patriots, Titans (yes Jon Robinson, a Licht understudy), Rams, Vikings, Panthers, and the Jaguars (who spent $20 million more than any other team). Maybe it’s time to… Read more »

Naplesfan
2 years ago

Certainly agreed that a strong running game and a strong defense are keys to championship football. But let’s not make the same mistake the Bucs have repeated over and over again since the Super Bowl team of relying upon superstar running backs and failing to build and maintain the strongest possible offensive line. A super running back like Cadillac Williams or Doug Martin may temporarily boost the running game, but when these backs are continually running into brick walls they inevitably get injured too much and their productivity drops off the proverbial cliff. Been there done that twice now. But… Read more »

Bob Will
2 years ago

The biggest thing that gets me about all of this is adjustments. Look at all the playoff teams, look at the teams that just lost and they are making adjustments. They fire some coaches and hire others, special teams, OC’s, DC’s. They evaluate why they didn’t make the Super Bowl and they are making changes. I agree with keeping our head coach but when we look at the rest of the staff and say, “Oh no we did fine this year we are keeping everything as it is.” Are we crazy? If you make no changes you will get the… Read more »

FLBoy84
2 years ago
Reply to  Bob Will

Had a similar reaction when no changes were announced, but in hindsight, it’s easy to see how some of the coaches might’ve gotten a little complacent after the D in particular started to come around during the last half of 2016. Hard to imagine they all just magically forgot how to coach overnight. Thinking they’ll have a better approach in 2018. And hard to put all the poor production and results strictly on the coaching staff, as most of the players, if they were being completely honest. would probably say they could’ve executed their assignments better and left some plays… Read more »

Pick6
2 years ago

the biggest difference between the bucs and titans is that 2015 season. while the bucs ascended to mediocrity under lovie smith, the titans continued to be horrible. that led to them getting a king’s ransom from the eagles for the right to draft wentz, and they turned that incredible haul into multiple starters and all pros. while the titans parlayed the #3 overall into multiple premium picks over the next 2 drafts, the bucs took their smaller quantity of picks and used 2 of them to trade up for a kicker who is no longer with the team. Rate this… Read more »

Horse
2 years ago

I could care less about comparing Titians and Bucs; I’d stay focused on NFC and especially the South. I’ll stick to the only thing I have heard out of Licht’s mouth, ” our need is DE and RB”. We shouldn’t be discussing any Center or Guard under 6’2″; same for DE’s. I’m hoping Licht will find a way to pick up more draft picks and not for trading back up. Time for GM and Head Coach get tough with their players in how they practice in 2018. I remember we practiced very hard in Orlando during the preseason of our… Read more »

JustaBuc
2 years ago

Wow. I know this wasn’t the point of this Fab 5, but Mariota is starting look very suspect right now. Not a bust, but suspect af. How the heck are you going into a complete nosedive in production on a playoff team that’s supposedly built around keeping as much pressure off of you with a good line and a great running game? 15 games – 281-of-453 (62 percent) passing for 3,232 yards 13 TDs / 15 INTs with 2 fumbles, 1 fumble lost and a 79.3 QB rating. Like what?!! That’s getting close to like Blake Bortle’s rookie numbers. Not… Read more »

Garv
2 years ago

When we saw how much better the running game was with Peyton Barber in there over Doug Martin, even with a depleted OL minus the Bucs two best starters, doesn’t it seem likely that a good running back can make an OL better just as much as the other way around? Imagine having great running back? If Barkley happens to fall to 7? Bucs have to take him IMO. Right away Jameis gets better. One of his strengths is play action. Imagine it with a legitimate threat! Of course if he’s not there and the only one of the top… Read more »

Horse
2 years ago
Reply to  Garv

Garv, agree with you. It is one of the priorities.

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scubog
2 years ago

Gee, a lot of really nice comments respecting each others’ opinions and philosophies on how to construct a play-off team. Bravo fellow commenters! Fact is, there are a number of ways to achieve success. To me, having a stout Defense that can limit the opponent’s ability to score, makes having a high scoring offense of our own a lesser priority. As Sapp used to say, “Just give me 17 points.” That said, having a great ball-control running game that maintains possession of the ball, also limits the opponents’ ability to score. Do both and victory will be a much easier… Read more »

Horse
2 years ago
Reply to  scubog

Scubog, Amen!

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drdneast
2 years ago

This was really a great read, Scott and it solidified many of my preformed opinions. First off, it really clarified the performances of Mariota’s and Winson’s last three years. Mariota has really benefited from having a solid running game and defense to play with. In the meantime, Winston has had to shoulder the burden of carrying the offense himself while not being able to rely on a defense that has been lackluster except for an 8 game stretch in 2016. Unlike a lot of people, I don’t worry to much about Winston’s INT’s, it’s the fumbling that drives me nuts.When… Read more »

Horse
2 years ago
Reply to  drdneast

Drdneast, do you think you were the only one who said the same thing? Despite the pleads for the last couple years to draft defensive ends, it could have easily been the correct moves that they chose except they chose the wrong players. We got to live in the now, not the past. Let’s hope they do better this time in drafting.

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jvato24
2 years ago

I agree, Get a Beast Running game and every stat on Offense and Defense will Improve .. Get some Big Backs

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martinii
2 years ago

Nice thing about this time of year is that everyone is right and no improvement idea should be ignored. If you choose you can Bash everyone and everything about the Buc’s or you can focus on minor improvements that in your mind would push the Buc’s into the playoff’s and possibly beyond. Remember what reality hands us at the end of the season may be totally different. That being said, I agree with Macabee, Defense has historically been our strong suit as proven by the Dungy years and the very chemistry of the team. Until the last few years offense… Read more »

surferdudes
2 years ago

Since there has been no change to the coaching staff, or front office, I’m not expecting much change to our record in 2018, 7-9, 6-10 seems reasonable. I believe the Glazers should’ve brought in an outside consultant to assess the whole organization. They could use a Tom Coughlin type, vice pres of football operations, to at least make some recommendations on F.A., and the draft. Maybe the Glazers should mend fences with Dungy, and just pay him for some different opinions. Licht, and Koetter seem fixed on certain players, like Martin last year. While we were screaming for Barber, they… Read more »

Freeman Strickland
2 years ago

The Bucs do a good job limiting the commitment of guaranteed money to the first year or two of a contract. That makes it all the more puzzling that they do no “overstock” more. CB Haden mentioned in the article is such a failure to overstock. The one that has made me crazy all year is LT Andrew Whitworth who left the Bengals for the Rams in 2017 and had his third straight Pro-bowl year. I still hope for the best with Donovan Smith, but “overstoking” with a guy like Whitworth could have helped Smith’s professional development and allowed a… Read more »

drdneast
2 years ago

I have no reason to doubt your word Horse. But the overwhelming number of and Pewter Report wanted the Bugs to draft Bargreaves. This year they wanted the FSU kid who had a history of injuries in college. Not surprisi fly, they followed him to the NFL.
I also have blundered as a GM. I urged the Bugs to resign Martin and then ,esp hi for another year. Unfotunaly since Martin got his big money, I believe he has lost his hunger for the game

Ll

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owlykat
2 years ago

If you study Licht’s philosophy in our drafting most of the time he ignores our real needs such as great linemen on both sides of the ball and instead drafts trying to take the best player available. So we had a great TE and could get another TE in later rounds who could both block and catch, Auclair, just as big as his first choice last year but he still used his first choice on another TE we didn’t really need, instead of taking the highest rated DE which we badly needed. Remember his first draft when he spent a… Read more »