FAB 5. SR’s Buc Shots
• Several Bucs fans and draftniks were fans of “The Human Joystick” Tarik Cohen, a short, shifty running back out of North Carolina A&T last year. Cohen was selected in the fourth round by Chicago and has totaled 1,118 yards during his rookie season with the Bears. As a change-of-pace back, Cohen has 262 rushing yards and two touchdowns, 267 yards receiving and one TD on 35 receptions, 155 yards on punt returns and 413 yards on kick returns. The 5-foot-8, 181-pound rookie even threw a 21-yard touchdown pass.
This year’s version of Cohen may be Grambling State’s 5-foot-8, 205-pound runner and return man, Martez Carter. The senior halfback, who has accepted an invitation to the NFLPA Collegiate All-Star Game, has rushed for 2,574 yards on 382 carries (6.7 avg.) and scored 28 touchdowns. He’s posted at least 800 yards in each of the last three seasons.
Like Cohen, Carter can be a factor as a third-down back in the passing game as he has amassed 906 yards and seven touchdowns on 70 catches and an impressive 12.9 yards per catch average. Carter also has averaged 9.92 yards per punt return and averaged 22.8 yards per kick return with four returns for touchdowns.
Carter has great contact balance, a fearless running style, very good speed, and surprising power for a smaller back. He’s had nine offensive plays of 40 yards or more this year. Check out his highlights – Carter is fun to watch.
• He took a lot of heat from a lot of overenthusiastic Bucs fans this spring for writing this column, but give Tampa Bay Times columnist Tom Jones some credit for writing a cautionary tale about the 2017 Buccaneers. In a column called “Tapping The Brakes On The Bucs’ Bandwagon,” Jones looks like a soothsayer or a prophet for suggesting that 2017 wouldn’t be a playoff year in Tampa Bay.
With the disappointing Bucs saddled with a 4-7 record heading to Green Bay, Jones doesn’t necessarily want to be vindicated because I think he wants to see the team do well as a commentator on all things Tampa Bay sports, but I’ll vindicate him anyway. Sometimes fans mistake a good writer’s objectivity for negativity just because it’s something they don’t want to hear, and I think that was the case here.
Jones is a friend, a colleague and one of my favorite columnists. I don’t always agree with his takes, but I know he’s a straight shooter and writes what he believes. I certainly respect him for it – even when it isn’t necessarily good news.
Bourbon Barrel Foods Smoked Sugar / $12.99
Bourbon Smoked Sugar is a raw Demarara sugar that has been slow smoked with bourbon barrel wood. The ensuing flavors and aromas are incredible and add another dimension to foods both savory and sweet. The bourbon flavor comes from actual barrel staves. Rachel Ray and Good Morning America even featured this product on their respective shows. For an added treat, try sprinkled on pies, scones or cobblers. In addition, Bourbon Smoked Sugar is perfect when muddled into an Old Fashioned cocktail.
Pick up some Bourbon Barrel Foods Smoked Sugar at Just Grillin, which is located at 11743 N. Dale Mabry Highway in Carrollwood, just 15 minutes north of Raymond James Stadium. Or shop online at JustGrillinFlorida.com
• Thank you, Pewter Nation, for helping us surpass 28,200 Twitter followers for our @PewterReport Twitter account. For those of you who don’t follow us on Twitter, please do so and help us reach 29,000. For the latest Bucs news, observations from the PewterReport.com staff, reports from Bucs press conferences and notifications of the latest PewterReport.com stories, join the masses who follow @PewterReport and help us continue to grow our following on Twitter. And if you are on Facebook, please follow our Facebook page by clicking here.
• I spent the last two weeks working some of my league sources to get their gauge on the Buccaneers from the outside looking in. The universal conclusion is that the talent is not bad in Tampa Bay. The offensive line isn’t functioning properly, especially in the run game, but there is some talent there. The defensive line definitely needs help with an edge rusher or two, the running back stable needs some fresh legs and some juice, and the cornerback position needs an upgrade, but the Bucs are definitely underachieving.
Shaky kicking early in the season, the lack of a pass rush, poor game management, bad defensive game plans are the general consensus of what’s wrong with the Buccaneers, and most of the sources I spoke with pointed the finger at coaching. Unless Tampa Bay wins five straight games to finish 9-7, I don’t see any way this staff stays employed.
Despite a plethora of talent on offense, Dirk Koetter can’t figure out third downs and the Bucs don’t score enough points – with or without Jameis Winston. The game-planning on defense has just been terrible this season. Defensive coordinator Mike Smith should be fired for manning up a green cornerback like Ryan Smith so much on Julio Jones. He used to coach Jones in Atlanta and has coached against him three times in Tampa Bay and should know better.
If my instincts are correct and Jon Gruden comes back to the Buccaneers, the three assistant coaches I believe are worth keeping are linebackers coach Mark Duffner, tight ends coach Ben Steele and wide receivers coach Todd Monken, although I think Monken could wind up leaving Tampa Bay for a college coaching gig sooner rather than later. I’d also give some thought to keeping cornerbacks coach Jon Hoke and safety coach Brett Maxie. I haven’t been impressed with anyone else.
• I wanted to pay a quick tribute to veteran tight end Luke Stocker as this SR’s Fab 5 draws to a close. It was a bit of a surprise move because it came so late in the season, but the Bucs needed to see more of rookie tight end Antony Auclair and that came at the expense of the 29-year old Stocker, a seven-year veteran in Tampa Bay.
Stocker was often a widely criticized player by Bucs fans because he never became the receiving tight end he was at Tennessee where he broke some of Jason Witten’s records. Stocker was more of an Anthony Becht-type blocking tight end and they rarely get much credit. Where I’ll give credit to Stocker is for his time and insight. Stocker was always a “go-to guy” when I needed a quote or some clarification about what I saw on the field. He was always quick to praise his teammates and took great pride in helping develop young tight ends like Cameron Brate, O.J. Howard, Alan Cross and Auclair.
Stocker has a burning desire to coach either in the NFL or college when his playing days are over, and with so many injuries over the past few years, his college career may be starting in the near future. A lot of Bucs players call him “Coach Stocker” because of his immense knowledge of the offense and how he would help any teammate in need.
There’s a reason why Stocker stuck around through four head coaches during his Tampa Bay tenure. They saw his value as a blocker and as a great teammate. Perhaps you didn’t see that on TV or from watching the Bucs from the stands, but Stocker did bring some real value to the Bucs over the year, and that deserves to be recognized. He’ll be missed at One Buccaneer Place, and on behalf of the PewterReport.com staff, I certainly wish Stocker well in his future endeavors and thank him for the time he spent talking football with us.
• I’ve had a reversal of thought when it comes to Tampa Bay playing quarterback Jameis Winston down the stretch. This team needs to see him on the field to gain more experience and improve. Winston is in his third season and next year will be a contract year unless the Bucs pick up his fifth-year option for 2019. This organization needs to know if he’s going to ascend as a quarterback or if he’s going to continue to be a streaky passer capable of making some tremendous plays or boneheaded mistakes.
Waiting until next year only shrinks the amount of film the team will have to draw some conclusions about Winston’s progress. This team needs to know if he’s a better version of Josh Freeman or a player that deserves a second contract and fulfills his potential of being a franchise quarterback.
Those wanting Winston to stay out of harm’s way for the sake of his future have a valid point. Playing him in front of a shaky line has its risks and nobody wants to see him turn into Andrew Luck with a severely damaged shoulder. But there is also a risk of not playing the 24-year old passer and stunting his growth. That has as much risk to the future of the franchise as anything. If Winston doesn’t develop into the player the Bucs thought he was when they made him the first overall pick in 2015, that will hinder Tampa Bay’s chances of making the playoffs in 2018 and beyond.
• The holiday shopping season is upon us and if you want to get your dad, your son, your brother, your uncle – or yourself – a great gift or two, look no further than Just Grillin in Carrollwood. Just Grillin is like Toys ‘R Us for grown men (and women) who like to grill. With hundreds of spices, sauces, rubs and brines, along with a wide selection of Weber Grills, Big Green Eggs and Yoder Smokers, and plenty of grilling tools and accessories, Just Grillin is your one-stop shop for the holidays.
Just Grillin sponsors the Tailgate Spice of the Week in every SR’s Fab 5 column, and I highly recommend the Bourbon Barrel Sugar that is featured this week. The Bourbon Barrel Sugar, which I use in Old Fashioneds as well as on meat and chicken on the grill, in addition to the Bourbon Barrel Salt and Pepper make great stocking stuffers.
Whether it is for the gifts you’re looking for or things you’ll need to help you cook a fantastic Christmas dinner this year, shop online at JustGrillinFlorida.com or in-store at 11743 N. Dale Mabry Highway in Carrollwood, just 15 minutes north of Raymond James Stadium.