SR’s Fab 5 is a collection of inside scoop, analysis and insight from yours truly, PewterReport.com publisher and Bucs beat writer Scott Reynolds. Here are a few things that caught my attention this week at One Buc Place and around the NFL:
FAB 1. SEFERIAN-JENKINS IS THE BUCS’ VILLAIN
I like Austin Seferian-Jenkins. You probably don’t. The talented and turbulent tight end is entering his third season in Tampa Bay and he’s probably known more for what he’s done wrong than what he’s done right with the Buccaneers. As a rookie after a 26-yard catch against Carolina in Tampa Bay’s 2014 season opener, Seferian-Jenkins missed the next two games with an ankle injury.
Bucs TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
After catching a game-tying touchdown – his first in the NFL – against Minnesota he lost the game for Tampa Bay by having rookie linebacker Anthony Barr strip him off the ball and run it in for the game-winning touchdown on the first play of overtime in a 19-13 loss to the Vikings. Two weeks later after catching his second career touchdown, Seferian-Jenkins uses the football as a prop to strike the Captain Morgan pose against Atlanta. That drew a 15-yard penalty and didn’t help the Bucs’ efforts in a 27-17 loss at home. Seferian-Jenkins injured his back against Chicago in a 21-13 loss and missed the final five games of a disappointing rookie season in which he had just 21 catches for 221 yards and two touchdowns. In the 2015 season opener, Seferian-Jenkins was the lone bright spot on offense, catching five passes for a career-high 110 yards and two touchdowns. With his team down 42-7 late in the fourth quarter, Seferian-Jenkins broke away from the Tennessee defense and strutted his way into the end zone despite the huge deficit, which rubbed some Bucs fans the wrong way. Then Seferian-Jenkins proceeded to miss the next nine games of the season due to a shoulder injury he suffered in a Week 2 win at New Orleans. While some fans clamored for a quicker returner and labeled Seferian-Jenkins soft, PewterReport.com discovered and reported that he was recovering from a significant shoulder injury. This offseason, Seferian-Jenkins caused a stir when he was kicked out of an OTA practice for not knowing the playbook well enough for head coach Dirk Koetter’s liking. Then he took to social media and got into some ill-advised Twitter wars with Bucs fans that called him out for not being on top of his game and not living up to his potential. A heated Seferian-Jenkins escalated the situation by offering to fight fans who showed up at One Buccaneer Place. That has made Seferian-Jenkins the villain of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the eyes of a good of fans that have grown weary of his immature antics. After listening to Seferian-Jenkins attempt to say all of the right things to the media on Tuesday after practice, I pulled the man also known as “ASJ” aside for a private one-on-one interview and asked him about his image.
PewterReport.com’s Scott Reynolds & Bucs TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins – Photo by: Mark Cook/PR
“I’m a villain,” Seferian-Jenkins told me with a sheepish smile. “But hey, villains have fans, too. They might have more fans than the heroes, and I’m okay with that. If someone has to be the villain, I’ll be the villain. I have no problem with it. The movies still say, ‘Starring … the villain.’ “Someone has to be the villain. I’m the most villainized player right now. People don’t like me. They say I’m out of shape. Bro, you don’t even know. I’m in the best shape of my life. I’m going to have a great year.” After Tuesday’s practice, Seferian-Jenkins took positive steps to help rebuild his image by acknowledging his failures in Tampa Bay over the last two and a half years and having a positive attitude that came on the heels of three consecutive practices in which the big 6-foot-6, 260-pound tight end scored touchdowns and made plays in the red zone. “Camp’s been going great,” Seferian-Jenkins said with a big grin on his face. “I keep getting better every day and I get so excited for the next day and the next day after that, but I’m taking it one day at a time and I’m really freaking enjoying this. I’m really enjoying the opportunity to get better and just loving playing football right now. Like I said, I’m just enjoying getting better and I’m really excited about the future.” “It’s the little details. And Coach Koetter has really been honing me on the little details. I’m a talented guy, I’ve got a lot of ability and it’s really just honing in on the details, whether it’s the pass game, the run-blocking game, pass protection, whatever it is. I’m starting to get the game and understand. Coach Koetter, he’s definitely helped me understand the game a lot more. I used to play so much with my body. Now I’m playing so much more with my mind. It’s helped me so much. I really appreciate everything he’s brought to me. Like I said, I’m so thankful to be here, it’s really a blessing to be here and to compete. I’ve really enjoyed it.” Is this guy for real? Listening to this I was waiting for R.E.M.’s “Shiny Happy People” to start playing in the background as ASJ was holding court with the media.
“The mind is first,” Seferian-Jenkins said. “If you don’t have the mind right, the body’s not going to do it. So just understanding … just seeing a simple run drill – your stance, just having narrow feet, loading what hip? Before I was just like, ‘I’m going to maul this guy.’ Now I can do that, but I can load my left hip and get a better first step on the right foot, get my hands right and what do you know? You made the block. “It’s all coming together. I’ve never really been a fundamental, detail-oriented guy and that’s what I think has held me back. Coach [Koetter] has really been harping on it and getting on me, saying, ‘If you want to be a great player, if you want to be what we want you to be, you’ve got to be detail-oriented. You’ve got to be doing all those things.’ And It’s really been great for me. I’ve really been seizing every opportunity I can get. Nothing’s going to be perfect. I fail all the time. But that’s your first attempt in learning.” F.A.I.L., the acronym, stands for First Attempt In Learning, which is something Seferian-Jenkins is now embracing. Instead of being defiant and ignorant about failing, he now views failures for what they truly are – opportunities to learn and get better. Now Seferian-Jenkins openly talks about getting kicked out of practice and thanks Koetter for doing it. “Kind of what I alluded to a little earlier, [Koetter is] a detail-oriented guy,” Seferian-Jenkins said. “If you want to be a great player, if I want to be the great player that I’m capable of being – I can be a really special player – I’ve got to be detail-oriented. And Coach Koetter is not going to let me be below that. He wants me to be a great player and he’s won’t settle for being average. He won’t settle for me for being good, and he won’t really settle me for being great. I want to be special, and he wants me to be special and I’m working towards that and I respect him to the fullest. “I really thank God every single day that he kicked me out of practice, it was really a wake-up call. Like I said, ‘I’ve been enjoying every single moment I’ve had. Like I said, ‘I’ve loved it. I love Coach Koetter. I love all our coaches. I love my teammates, I love the competition that we’ve got in the tight end room. I love the competition that the D-ends are bringing. It’s just been great all the way around and I’m really, like I said, seizing the opportunities and I’m loving just being out here and playing football.”
Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
As ASJ was continuing, I was waiting for somebody to cue “Whole Lotta Love” by Led Zeppelin. The way the University of Washington product was carrying on, it felt like we were all being transported back in time to the “Summer of Love” days back in the late 1960s. The media huddle kept probing and attempting to provoke Seferian-Jenkins into saying something controversial and inflammatory. Then the question came about him being behind Cameron Brate on the depth chart. Ah ha! Brace for controversy, right? “It is what it should be right now,” Seferian-Jenkins said with a great deal of humility. “Whatever it is, the coaches know it. I’m a player. The coaches coach, and those guys know what they’re doing. So whatever the depth chart is, the depth chart is. I’m just thankful to be out here playing football and doing what I love. I don’t care what the depth chart is. I don’t care what I’m on. I’m going to enjoy it and I’m going to seize every opportunity that I get because that’s the most important thing. “Hundreds of thousands of people would love to be out here playing the game that we play. You’ve got great media coverage, you’ve got great fans that come out here. So if I’m not number one on the depth chart right now, then I’m not number one on the depth chart right now. But I’m going to be the best two, be the best three, be the best four, whatever I’ve got to be I’m going to be the best I can be. So I’m enjoying it. I’m seizing the opportunities and, like I said, I’m really enjoying it. I’m loving the game, and it’s just been great energy all the way around. I’m really loving it.” Apparently Seferian-Jenkins is really loving it. So is he being genuine, or is Seferian-Jenkins a phony politician just trying to say all the right things? I asked Seferian-Jenkins if he was the most misunderstood Buccaneer on the team. “I think everyone can be misunderstood on different levels,” Seferian-Jenkins said. “I think people that know me and my story and my heart – I’m very misunderstood, but I kind of like it. I enjoy being misunderstood because the people that really know me, they are in awe [of how misunderstood I am.] They are like, ‘Wow! He’s such a good guy. He’s all this and he’s all that.’ And other people are like, ‘This guy is an asshole. [Expletive] this guy!’ “I enjoy winning people over. I like being a politician about it. I like going in the stands and being one with the people. People are either going to like me or hate me. I think if you take the time to actually get to know me I’m a good dude. I’m a humble dude. I care for people, and not just because of football. I genuinely care for people and their well being.”
Bucs TE Cameron Brate – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Seferian-Jenkins is a different cat. He’s intellectual. He’s emotional. He has layers to his personality, but I think he’s genuine. His teammates feel the same way, especially the guy that has the current claim on the starting tight end job, Cameron Brate. “I would definitely say Austin is misunderstood,” Brate said. “My friends will send me articles that people write about Austin, and usually they are pretty negative, but as a person he is very genuine. He’s a great guy and I consider him a good friend. “As a player, you can’t really help injuries. That wasn’t his fault last year. He wasn’t even at 100 percent when he came back, either. Austin is an awesome player. He’s a huge target. He can run. He’s a smart player. We have a great relationship – 100 percent. Austin and I get a long real well. I’m excited to have both of us out there. I think we can do some pretty amazing things out there. I think it’s going to be a good year for him.” Understand that there is absolutely no animosity between Brate and Seferian-Jenkins. The two players are close and Brate credits ASJ for helping him catch 23 passes for 288 yards and three touchdowns in Seferian-Jenkins’ absence last year. “I kind of directly stepped in to Austin’s role directly as the season went on,” Brate said. “There is no one better to talk to about what I was seeing with the defense and what they were going to do and how they are playing me. He was a great resource for me, and a good person to talk to. He definitely helped me out a lot.” Whoever wins the starting tight end role in Tampa Bay will be 1A while the other will likely be 1B as Koetter will use both Brate and Seferian-Jenkins quite a bit with how well training camp has been going.
Bucs TE Luke Stocker – Photo by: Mark Lomoglio/PR
“With him and I on the field together, it’s just another big target for the defense to have to worry about, especially when you put Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson out there, too,” Brate said. “It’s going to be hard to cover us. I think we’re going to use two tight ends a lot.” Since Seferian-Jenkins has been kicked out of practice and demoted, Brate has seen ASJ respond to Koetter’s direct and indirect messages and rise to the occasion. “He made a couple of mistakes on Twitter,” Brate said. “I think he would be the first to admit that, but once people get to know Austin he’s a good guy. He just wants to succeed and score touchdowns for the Bucs fans just like everyone else. He’s a team player and he’s been making a ton of plays the last couple of days for us.” Bucs tight end Luke Stocker, who is the leader and elder statesman in the tight end room, wants to see Seferian-Jenkins continue to mature because there is greatness in his path if that happens. “There’s no question about Austin’s talent, and there’s no question about Austin’s work ethic,” Stocker said. “It’s just a matter of him controlling his emotions and the passion he has for the game and be able to assert that into a productive way so that it doesn’t detract from what he wants to do and what the team wants to do. He’s younger and very passionate, but he has to learn how to channel that energy and be productive with it.” With the smiles, the autographs and pictures for fans at training camp, the fancy, self-help acronyms be blurts out to the media, Seferian-Jenkins is saying and doing all the right the things right now – so much so one would think he’s running for office. So far, he’s got my vote.
Bucs TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins – Photo by Mark Lomoglio/PR
“Every practice really energizes me,” Seferian-Jenkins said. “Like I said, I enjoy coming out here, working out, getting better, getting in better shape, and enjoying my teammates, and enjoying the fans that are here. Just living in the moment and just trying to get better. And that’s really just been the big focus for me – just living in the moment, enjoying the moment and just being a technically sound guy. “Am I going to be perfect? No, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to sulk and cry about it if I’m not perfect – if I’m not what I want to be right now because realistically a lot of people aren’t what they want to be in football and in life. It takes time, it’s a process and it’s a day-by-day thing, it’s an hour-by-hour thing and I’ve really enjoyed every bit of it and I’m seizing the opportunity.” Every villain has his day, and Seferian-Jenkins’ is coming soon as he’s trying to build on a sophomore season in which he caught 21 passes for 338 yards and a team-high four touchdowns, including a Hail Mary catch that came too late in a December loss against Chicago. Imagine what Seferian-Jenkins could do being healthy for all 16 games this season. He’s right. Villains do have their fair share of fans. Darth Vader, Boba Fett, The Joker, Magneto and the great white shark from Jaws all come to mind. Imagine how many fans ASJ will have if he grows up and lives up to his vast potential. After a very productive start to training camp, he’s well on his way to being … dare I say heroic?
Bucs TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins – Photo by: Getty Images
“I’m sure 10 years from now you and I will be having a conversation about how I’ve become so understood,” Seferian-Jenkins said with a laugh. “It takes time. I’ve done some stupid things in the past and I’ve been immature. The fans have every right to be upset or think that I’m the villain. “But at the end of the day, we’re a family – and they still love me. They still want me to be successful. The only reason I’m a villain is because I haven’t done yet what they want me to do on the field. They just want me to be better. Anyone that doesn’t like me just wants me to be better.” FAB 2. BUCS “D” WAS SHARP, OFFENSE WAS DULL, SPECIAL TEAMS AWFUL IN PHILLY The Buccaneers lost the 2016 preseason opener in Philadelphia, 17-9, and there is plenty to discuss. First, let’s hear how head coach Dirk Koetter recapped the first half where Tampa Bay trailed 14-6 with WFLA sideline sports reporter Dan Lucas. “Great news – our defense played fine,” Koetter said at halftime. “We had an awesome pass rush. The bad news? That could be the worst special teams play I’ve ever seen in my life. And we turned it over three times.” New Buccaneers defensive end Robert Ayers isn’t the only one in Tampa Bay who is “pissed off.” After his first game as the Bucs’ head coach, Koetter was, too. “When we got punched in the mouth to start the game I kind of got pissed off, to be honest with you,” Koetter said in his post-game press conference. “Not nervous, just pissed. We can’t play like that and expect to win.” Ah, refreshing, isn’t it? After two years of Lovie Smith’s tired old clichés, it’s nice to hear Koetter speak his mind.
Tampa Bay outgained Philadelphia 329-188 yards, but it was the same self-inflicted wounds – turnovers and penalties – that plagued the Buccaneers last year that reared their ugly head on Thursday night. The Bucs had five turnovers, including Kenny Bell’s fumble on the opening kickoff and a fumble by Jameis Winston on a sack that gave the Eagles the ball twice deep in Tampa Bay territory as Philadelphia built a 14-0 lead in the first quarter. Bell had the ball in the wrong hand on his return, and that’s the kind of stuff that drives a detail-oriented coach like Koetter nuts. “Special teams was really scattered,” Koetter said. “A horrendous, horrendous start fumbling the opening kickoff. You just can’t have it. Missing an extra point. You can’t have that. It’s just not good. Not good.” After watching Bell fumble on Thursday night, Koetter might want to join Mark Richt and support abolishing the kickoff in football. The Bucs, who were tied for the NFL lead in penalties last year, also had 10 penalties for 92 yards at Philadelphia. There were some bad calls on Tampa Bay and some no-calls that should have been called that would have helped the Bucs. But when a team has dubiously earned a reputation for being penalty-ridden, it’s tough for officials to give the Bucs a break because they usually don’t deserve it. The first rule of football is “Don’t beat yourself.” When the Bucs learn to stop beating themselves with penalties and turnovers they’ll start beating their opponents on a regular basis. This team has talent, but Koetter has to make the Bucs stop being their own worst enemy.
Bucs WR Russell Shepard – Photo by: Getty Images
Winston did have a costly fumble, but otherwise was his usual splendid self, completing 7-of-9 passes for 97 yards and a 26-yard touchdown to Russell Shepard, who outperformed Bell, Jonathan Krause and Evan Spencer on Thursday night, catching three passes for 62 yards. The backup quarterbacks – Mike Glennon and Ryan Griffin – were awful, each with a QB rating below 40 with a combined three interceptions, including Griffin’s second of the night on the Bucs’ last play of the game on a potential game-tying pass in the end zone. I think Jerry Jones has taken Jason Licht’s phone number off speed dial after Glennon’s disappointing outing. Tampa Bay’s running game was also dreadful, as the offensive line couldn’t handle Philadelphia’s eight-man fronts. The Bucs rushed for just 31 yards on 21 carries (1.5 avg.). “Running the football in general, you need to get in rhythm,” Koetter said. “The back needs multiple carries and the offensive line needs repeat runs. When you are playing 84 guys and three deep on the offensive line that’s difficult to do. They played a lot of eight man front. That’s really no excuse because we know how to run it against an eight-man front. I’m confident our run game will emerge here before it’s all over.” Koetter’s not worried about it, so I won’t be. But seeing Eagles defensive tackle Bennie Logan blow by Kevin Pamphile, who has had exactly one NFL start at left guard, to hit Winston a second after Fletcher Cox’s sack-strip of Winston was unsettling. If Cox hadn’t gotten to Winston a second earlier, Logan would have gotten the sack. It was also unsettling to see Roberto Aguayo clank his first NFL kick – an extra point attempt – off the left upright. I hope the left upright doesn’t prove to be Aguayo’s nemesis. He nailed the left upright on field goal attempts on back-to-back days the first week of training camp. After Aguayo missed his extra point, NBC Sports Network’s Ross Tucker, a former journeyman offensive lineman, decided to be a smart ass on Twitter by saying “Already a terrible pick.” Really? The rookie kicker hits the upright on his first PAT attempt and he’s already a bust? I tweeted back to Tucker, reminding him that Winston threw a pick-six on his first NFL pass against Tennessee, so he must be a terrible pick, too, right? Aguayo missed the extra point, but made his first and only field goal attempt of the night, a 38-yarder to trim Philadelphia’s lead to eight points in the fourth quarter after both teams went scoreless in the third quarter. It seems as if Tampa Bay’s draft class was included a series of near misses. Spence missed a sack, but helped nose tackle Clinton McDonald get one with strong pressure from the right end position. Strongside linebacker Devante Bond also missed a sack blitzing from the left side of the line, and cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III dropped a “gimme” interception. “Hargreaves has to catch that ball – dropped interception,” Koetter said. “When you have a chance to make plays you have to make plays.” Lots of learning lessons for the Bucs’ rookies, but that’s what the preseason is for. Now on to the bright spots from Thursday night’s loss, which outside of Winston and Shepard was the play of Tampa Bay’s defense.
Bucs DE-DT Robert Ayers – Photo by: Getty Images
“Robert Ayers was a beast out there,” Koetter said. “Lavonte David, you would expect that. That’s what they’ve been doing in practice. “I had a great view of the pass rush, and they did an awesome job. Not only did we hit the quarterback, we pressured him a couple of times out of the pocket. Overall, it’s going to be hard to find too much fault with the way our defense played tonight. I’m really encouraged by that.” Tampa Bay’s starting defense and some key reserves combined to take down Chase Daniel four times. Defensive ends Jacquies Smith and Howard Jones, and nose tackles Clinton McDonald and Akeem Spence each recorded a sack. Perhaps more importantly was the play of Tampa Bay’s secondary, which was as porous as Swiss cheese in 2015. The first two waves of Bucs defensive backs smothered Philly’s receivers. When factoring in the yardage lost due to sacks, Sam Bradford and Daniel combined for minus-1 passing yards up until rookie quarterback Carson Wentz made his NFL debut with less than two minutes left in the first half. It was good to see the Bucs get to the quarterback with a four-man rush multiple times in the first half. There is nothing that helps a pass rush more than tight coverage, which was missing all last year. The Bucs did get gashed a bit in the running game, but the front seven was missing the play of run-stuffing defensive end Will Gholston, who was excused for family matters. Jacquies Smith gets pushed around a bit too much in the run game as the strongside defensive end in my opinion.
Bucs RB Doug Martin – Photo by: Getty Images
But Smith, Ayers, Jones and Spence give the Bucs some real heat off the edge. That had defensive line coaches Jay Hayes and Paul Spicer, as well as Koetter, smiling after the game. “Noah Spence did good,” Koetter said. “He was in there on the second play of the game. The game is definitely not too big for him. He’s going to be fine.” And despite all of the turnovers, nine points and the lack of a running game in the preseason opener, Koetter’s offense will be just fine. It wasn’t a great start in Philadelphia, but there was plenty of progress to behold, and on the side of the ball that needed it the most – Tampa Bay’s defense. FAB 3. PRESEASON GAMES EXPOSE REAL TRUTHS IN TAMPA BAY Back in the 1990s as a young Buccaneers reporter in my mid-20s, Hall of Fame head coach Tony Dungy taught me a very valuable lesson about football. The preseason games do matter. Players can look great in shorts and shirts, running around grabbing passes and scoring touchdowns in OTAs and mini-camps. Players can look great when the pads come on in training camp. But when the lights come on in front of tens of thousands of NFL fans and the bullets are flying for real from opposing teams, that’s when the truth and the hype often get separated and exposed. Dungy would never buy into an unknown player’s hype in training camp and would always reserve judgment until seeing how they perform in real game situations, which can never truly be simulated in practice. Taking that lesson to heart, here are 10 truths that were exposed in Tampa Bay’s first preseason game.
Bucs OC Dirk Koetter – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
1. Jameis Winston and Dirk Koetter are for real After two sluggish offensive series in which the Bucs gained minus-4 yards on four plays, Bucs play-caller Dirk Koetter decided to kick-start things and go up-tempo to help quarterback Jameis Winston get in rhythm. Does Koetter know his quarterback or what? When the going got tough Winston exceled in a no-huddle, up-tempo style of play at Florida State and also last year as a rookie. Trailing 14-0 early in the first quarter, Koetter went back to Winston’s crutch and saw the second-year quarterback complete 4-of-4 passes for 73 yards on a 79-yard touchdown drive, including a 26-yard strike to Russell Shepard for paydirt. Winston started 2016 strong, but did miss a shot downfield to Mike Evans, which says the deep ball is still a work in progress. Yet there also should have been a defensive holding call on cornerback Jalen Mills on that play. 2. The concern over Roberto Aguayo is real I hope the left upright doesn’t prove to be Aguayo’s nemesis. Aguayo’s first NFL kick, an extra point attempt, clanked off the left upright and was no good, which sent shockwaves through Twitter accounts in Tampa Bay and across the country. Aguayo didn’t miss an extra point at Florida State, but the NFL moved PATs back to the 15-yard line, so what used to be a 17-yard kick is now essentially a 32-yard field goal attempt. What concerns me is that I saw Aguayo nail the left upright on field goal attempts on back-to-back days the first week of training camp. Aguayo did bounce back with a 38-yard field goal on his only three-point attempt, but I just hope that the left upright doesn’t become his nemesis this year. And I hope that this kid doesn’t prove to be the bad draft pick that some NFL analysts already think he is.
Bucs WR Russell Shepard – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
3. Russell Shepard is for real Count Shepard out at your peril. I did in my initial Bucs’ 53-Man Roster Prediction, projecting that Kenny Bell, Donteea Dye and Jonathan Krause would make the roster over Shepard, who is known more as a special teams ace than a receiver. Shame on me. Shepard, who has not really stood out in training camp practices, made the team last year after catching a pair of 22-yard passes, including one for a touchdown, and running for 12 yards on an end-around in the second preseason game against Cincinnati last year. This year, Shepard didn’t waste any time asserting himself, catching three passes for 62 yards, including a 26-yard touchdown. Tampa Bay’s special teams captain had just three receptions for 28 yards and a touchdown last year playing behind rookies Dye and Adam Humphries. Maybe he should see more action on offense in 2016? His play on Thursday night should move him up to the No. 4 spot on the depth chart. 4. Kenny Bell is in real trouble Bell, a promising speedster, has had an up-and-down start to training camp. He’s a favorite among the coaching staff and the personnel staff, but he has to start living up to his potential – and time is running out. Bell has had an up-and-down training camp, and the fact that he lost a close friend in Sam Foltz, the Nebraska punter who was recently killed in an automobile accident, doesn’t help. Dating back to last year, Bell has yet to catch a pass in three career preseason games now, and he fumbled away his lone kickoff return opportunity on the first play of the game. If Bell wasn’t so well liked at One Buccaneer Place I could see Koetter cutting Bell the day after the game to make an example out of him. If Bell lives to play another day he has to make amends in Jacksonville as his roster spot is in serious jeopardy.
Bucs DBs coach Jon Hoke – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
5. The hype over Jon Hoke is for real In a summer edition of SR’s Fab 5, I hyped up assistant coach Jon Hoke, who is in charge of improving the most maligned position in Tampa Bay – the cornerbacks. Even in the OTAs, I saw Hoke’s no-nonsense approach and attention to details make an immediate impact with the team’s cornerbacks even in the offseason. Sure, the addition of Pro Bowl cornerback Brent Grimes and first-round draft pick Vernon Hargreaves helps, but Hoke is resuscitating the career of Alterraun Verner and turning Jude Adjei-Barimah into a starting caliber nickel corner. The fact that Philadelphia had minus-1 passing yards through the first 28 minutes of the first half is a tribute to how tight the Bucs’ pass coverage was. 6. The hype over Jude Adjei-Barimah is for real Dating back to the OTAs, PewterReport.com has been the first to herald the development of Adjei-Barimah, a second-year cornerback who is locking down the nickel cornerback role. Alterraun Verner called Adjei-Barimah the best and most consistent defender during the OTAs, and has kept Hargreaves at bay throughout training camp. Hargreaves dropping an easy pick didn’t help his cause, either. Hargreaves is talented enough to see the field and split time at both nickel and outside cornerback, but expect Adjei-Barimah to do the same. After playing outside all of his rookie season, Adjei-Barimah showed he still has what it takes to cover receivers on the perimeter against Philadelphia as he moved outside in the second half. Right now, Adjei-Barimah is Tampa Bay’s third best cornerback behind Grimes and Verner.
Bucs LG Kevin Pamphile – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
7. The concern over Kevin Pamphile is for real Logan Mankins’ offseason retirement not only left a leadership void along the offensive line, it created a hole at left guard that has yet to be adequately filled. The Bucs like Pamphile, a solid, versatile third-year offensive lineman, as do I, but he may not be ready for prime time yet. The plan was to have experienced starter J.R. Sweezy take over for Mankins, but a back injury has sidelined Sweezy all offseason and there is some doubt that he will be able to be ready by the start of the regular season in one month. Pamphile has looked great at times during training camp as a fill-in, but gets routinely beat by Pro Bowl defensive tackle Gerald McCoy in one-on-one pass rush drills. That lack of experience showed up again in the first quarter as Eagles defensive tackle Bennie Logan blew past him to hit Winston after Fletcher Cox knocked the ball out of Winston’s hand to set up Philadelphia’s second touchdown. The hope is that Pamphile will get better as the preseason moves along, otherwise Koetter will have to slide center Joe Hawley to the left to help him more often and that will create predictability upfront and put more stress on second-year right guard Ali Marpet. 8. The hype over Clinton McDonald is for real In last week’s SR’s Fab 5, I wrote about how badly the Bucs missed McDonald, the team’s unheralded nose tackle, last season and how he was coming back with a vengeance this year. McDonald has had a stellar training camp and was unblockable at times on Thursday night. Yes, Robert Ayers put on a show in his Buccaneers debut with several pressures, including what should be have a sack for a safety in the second quarter, but the refs missed an intentional grounding call. McDonald was just as good, if not better, setting up Jacquies Smith’s first sack with pressure, and then recording his own sack a few plays later. Just as important, McDonald’s play is being mimicked by his understudy, backup nose tackle Akeem Spence, who also recorded a sack and had a few good quarterback pressures, too. As McDonald is famous for saying, “Iron sharpens iron.”
Bucs DE Howard Jones – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
9. The hype over the Bucs DEs is for real Tampa Bay’s defensive ends made their presence felt on Thursday night with Ayers being a holy terror at right end and also inside as a nickel rusher. When Ayers moves inside that paves the way for rookie Noah Spence, who had some fantastic rushes and nearly had a sack that went to McDonald instead. Howard Jones, the third-team right end, showcased his juice and speed off the edge with a big sack to prove that last year’s success – five sacks, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery for a touchdown – wasn’t a fluke. Veteran Jacquies Smith got the chance to start at left defensive end in Will Gholston’s absence and made the most of it with the Bucs’ first sack of the night. Even reserve Kourtnei Brown flashed from the left side with some QB pressures. Tampa Bay’s defensive ends lived up to the hype in Philadelphia, now they must prove that their pass rush from the edge can be applied consistently. 10. Tampa Bay’s punter battle is for real When the Bucs signed veteran punter Bryan Anger in the offseason most assumed he would easily snatch the punting duties from the unheralded Jacob Schum after a lackluster first year in Tampa Bay. But former special teams coach Kevin O’Dea asked Schum to sacrifice his personal stats for short, high kicks that could easily be covered and returned for no gain. The punter battle has been neck-and-neck in camp with Schum having the slight edge and getting the start in Philadelphia. On Thursday night he punted five times for a 41.2-yard average and a 38-yard net with two punts downed inside the 20 and a long punt of 51 yards. Anger punted twice for a 45-yard average and a 44-yard net with one punt inside the 20-yard line. Expect this position battle to come down to the wire and be decided in the fourth and final preseason game against Washington on September 1. Keep in mind that there are three more preseason games to go, and just because a player shined or bombed on Thursday night in Philadelphia doesn’t mean that his place on – or off – the roster is set in stone. Consistency counts and that’s what Tampa Bay’s coaches and scouts will look for next week in Jacksonville. The Bucs will be looking to see who can maintain some early preseason momentum as they take on the Jaguars, and who can bounce back from a forgettable performance in Philly. FAB 4. HAWLEY, SMITH DUKING IT OUT AT CENTER Training camp is always full of interesting battles, especially for starting jobs. But there are surprisingly very few starting jobs up for grabs in Tampa Bay heading into the preseason. On defense, free agent newcomers Robert Ayers, Daryl Smith and Brent Grimes are entrenched as the new starting right defensive end, strongside linebacker and left cornerback, respectively. On offense, there aren’t many jobs up for grabs, especially with Adam Humphries already being tabbed as the No. 3 wide receiver. Except for the most important position on offense except the quarterback. I’m talking about the center – the player who touches the ball on every offensive snap. Joe Hawley is battling Evan Smith for the right to keep the starting center position, and it’s a critical year for both players.
Bucs C Joe Hawley – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Smith was Tampa Bay’s starter until spraining his ankle in a Week 2 win at New Orleans. Hawley, who had just been signed after being cut by Atlanta, came in to save the day and remained the starter for the rest of the year as the Bucs offense eclipsed the 6,000-yard mark for the first time in franchise history. Dirk Koetter, who was Tampa Bay’s new offensive coordinator a year ago, asked general manager Jason Licht to sign him, as he was Koetter’s starting center for years with the Falcons. “It felt good to come here and then beat Atlanta twice last year,” Hawley said. “Any time you transition teams, especially when they let you go and you find work within the division, it’s always good to get some payback. It was a good thing Dirk wanted me here. I’m so thankful to him for giving me the opportunity here. “We both were excited to go into those games and beat them twice. They’re a good football team and we have to face them to start the season in the Georgia Dome. It’s going to be exciting. We have to start fast as a team. That’s going to be huge because our schedule is tough. We’re focusing on that game big time.” Hawley loves beating his old team, but doesn’t want to do it on the sidelines. He wants to be on the field with Jameis Winston’s hands nestled under his butt when the Bucs kick off the 2016 season against the Falcons. To do that, he has to continue to beat out Smith, who is in the third year of a four-year, $14.25-million deal. “My whole career I’ve had to come in and win a job,” Hawley said. “That’s the way the NFL is. Nobody is really handed anything unless you are getting a $100 million deal. If someone is playing better than you they’re going to take your job, so you better play better than them. That’s what we try to teach some of the young guys, too. Sometimes young guys come in and get complacent. We tell them there is going to be a younger guy in here next year that is going to try to take their job.” In the case of the 27-year old Hawley, it’s an older player – the 30-year old Smith – that is trying to take his job. But Smith and Hawley have a lot of mutual admiration for each other, so it’s the friendliest of training camp fights.
Bucs centers Evan Smith and Joe Hawley – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
“It’s good,” Smith said. “I mean, me and Joe are good friends. We talk a lot, we see a lot of the same stuff, that’s just football, man. It’s competition. You’ve got to go out here and play, you’ve got to compete, and at the end of the day they want the best five on the field.” Hawley and Smith both have a base salary of $2.5 million this year. Hawley has an extra $250,000 roster bonus and an additional $750,000 in playing incentives for increased motivation. If that wasn’t enough, Hawley is also in a contract year. “I’ve been around long enough to know that I’m not just trying to prove myself here, but there are 31 other NFL teams that are watching me, too,” Hawley said. “When it’s your contract year you definitely try to get every edge or advantage when you compete. I’m coming in here trying to take more of a leadership role and mentor some of the younger guys with Logan Mankins gone. I want to help the team take the next step before I take my next step.” So far it’s Hawley’s job to lose. He started with the first-team offense in Philadelphia, but don’t be surprised if Koetter doesn’t want to see Smith log some time with the starting unit in the preseason, too. This training camp battle is far from over. FAB 5. SR’s BUC SHOTS • It was notable that Tampa Bay tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins was down on the depth chart in the team’s preseason opener in Philadelphia. Cameron Brate, Brandon Myers, Luke Stocker and Danny Vitale all saw playing time in the first half before Seferian-Jenkins entered the game with just minutes left before halftime. If not for Myers injuring his knee, Seferian-Jenkins might not have played until the second half. When he did enter the game, he did make a nice 7-yard catch to pick up a first down on third down by fighting through tackles with tremendous effort. Seferian-Jenkins led all tight ends with two catches for 10 yards against the Eagles. “I can do anything I can put my mind to,” Seferian-Jenkins said in training camp prior to the Thursday night preseason opener. “I’m capable of doing whatever. I can block like a tackle and I can catch like a receiver. I can make runs after catch and score touchdowns. I can do anything I want to if I can put my mind to it every day.”
• After practice last week I went up to Bucs starting tight end Cameron Brate to get his thoughts on the hashtag that’s making waves in Tampa Bay right now – #MakeAmericaBrateAgain. It’s a play-on-words on Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s slogan, “Make America Great Again.” “I’ve seen that,” Brate laughed. “It’s pretty cool. I like it. It’s a pretty cool hashtag. I support it. I support the cause. Cam Brate supports this message.” When asked if he happed to support Trump for president, Brate politely declined to endorse. “I wouldn’t say that,” Brate said. “I don’t think I’ll be voting come November. Not a fan of the choices.” • Tampa Bay reserve tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins, who is known around One Buccaneer Place as ASJ, is king of the acronyms. He unleashed a few to reporters on Tuesday after the Bucs defense had its way with the offense in the red zone before the team departed for Philadelphia for the 2016 preseason opener. “Yeah, we failed,” Seferian-Jenkins said. “We failed today, we were 0-for-9, but it’s our first attempt in learning (F.A.I.L.) and I’m sure we’ll get a second attempt. I’m not worried about it, no (N.O.) means ‘next opportunity’, and end (E.N.D.) means effort never dies.” That’s an interesting perspective from an interesting guy. • Bucs head coach and offensive play-caller Dirk Koetter got a look at virtually every eligible receiver in Tampa Bay’s 2016 preseason opener. Quarterbacks Jameis Winston, Mike Glennon and Ryan Griffin combined to target a whopping 22 different receivers comprised of wide receivers, tight ends and running backs. Fourteen of those receivers got at least two targets, too. There is lots of good film in the passing game for the offensive coaches to evaluate while trying to find the fourth and fifth receivers behind Mike Evans, Vincent Jackson and Adam Humphries, as well as backup running back and tight end roles, too. • I ask you to accept my apologies for not delivering a SR’s Fab 5 Reaction story this week. Covering training camp early in the week, producing the PR Analysis: Breaking Down The Bucs’ First Depth Chart and the PewterReport.com’s 53-Man Roster Prediction stories consumed a lot of time this week from an editorial standpoint, in addition to delivering some big news from my role as vice president and publisher of PewterReport.com. PewterReport.com welcomes some new advertising partners to the website with Helicon Property Restoration, Tampa Bay’s premier sinkhole repair and home restoration company, in addition to Two Henrys Brewery, which will be the official beer of PewterReport.com. If fire, floods or sinkholes have your home in distress, call Helicon today at 844-HELICON or visit them on the web by clicking the Helicon banners on PewterReport.com And then grab a beer from Two Henrys while Helicon does all the work to restore your property. Two Henrys is the sister company of Keel & Curley Winery located in Plant City and they have a tremendous selection of tasty craft beer to choose from. The name Two Henrys comes from Florida’s railroad barons, Henry Plant and Henry Flagler, who helped develop cities and railroads across the state back in the early 1900s. My favorite Two Henrys beer is the Gilded Age Lager, but you might like the 7 Mile Bridge IPA, which is named after the bridge to get to the Florida Keys. Two Henrys’ best-seller is the Belleview Biltmore Blueberry Vanilla Wheat Beer, which is full of flavor, but isn’t too sweet. For those that like exotic craft beer, try the Roasted Jalapeno Blueberry Porter. All four of those beers are available in cans at places like ABC liquor, Publix and some convenience stores around the Tampa Bay area, and are on tap at the Two Henrys/Keel & Curley tasting room at 5210 Thonotosassa Road in Plant City just five minutes off I-4 and 15 minutes away from downtown Tampa. Join me there for a beer after work at our first Pewter Report Happy Hour and a question-and-answer session on Wednesday, August 24 from 5:00 to 6:30 pm. We will be having monthly Pewter Report Happy Hour events at Keel & Curley. It’s a great opportunity for you to come meet myself and the PR editorial staff, get some inside scoop on the Bucs and answers to your questions and drink some tremendous beer. Feel free to bring your spouse as the tasting room also pours Keel & Curley wine and Keel & Curley MadMan Hard Ciders. The pineapple and elderberry ciders are insanely good. Come out and try it yourself on Wednesday, August 24 and stay for dinner as Two Henrys and Keel Curley now serve food at their Railcar 91 restaurant. • PewterReport.com is excited to announce a two-year partnership with Just Grillin, who will once again be sponsoring the Pewter Player MVP stories over the next two years. Just Grillin is the official grilling and outdoor kitchen store of PewterReport.com. With a huge selection of Weber grills, Big Green eggs and various smokers, Just Grillin is your one-stop shop for all of your grilling needs this tailgating season. I grill three nights a week on the Weber Spirit grill I bought at Just Grillin last year, and they have a wide variety of sauces and rubs, too. I personally recommend Dizzy Pig Pineapple Head, Voodoo Chef’s Dirt, Honey Hype, and Bourbon Smoked Salt & Pepper if you’re looking for some new seasonings to try. Haven’t been to Just Grillin? Here’s a great offer exclusively for PewterReport.com visitors. Call Just Grillin at (813) 962-1700 and mention “Pewter” to get enrolled in a FREE Saturday cooking class from 10:00 am to noon. It’s a $15 value and well worth it. My wife and I did a couple of “day dates” at Just Grillin last year for the steak grilling class and the turkey brining class around Thanksgiving. For $15 you get the inside scoop on food preparation and cooking, the recipes used in that day’s meal, and you get to eat a hearty lunch and walk away full from fantastic grilled food. Complimentary beer and wine is included in the $15 grilling class, too, but by mentioning “Pewter” the grilling class is FREE. Space is limited for tomorrow’s Pizza On The Grill class and next week’s Stuffed Burgers class, so call (813) 962-1700 today and register. Please note that if you are bringing a spouse or guest that there is only one free offer per couple. Just Grillin is located at 11743 N. Dale Mabry Highway in Carrollwood just 15 minutes north of Raymond James Stadium. Click on the Just Grillin banner for more information and for their selection of grills and accessories. • And finally, there will be a new SR’s Fab 5 Reaction next Tuesday. I promise. So please leave your comments below. I hope to meet you at Two Henrys on Wednesday, August 24 for our first Pewter Report Happy Hour. In the meantime, follow us on Twitter at @PewterReport. Mark Cook and Eric Horchy will be covering the Bucs vs. Jaguars joint practices live from Jacksonville next week. Stay tuned to PewterReport.com for all the great practice and game coverage leading up to the start of the Bucs’ 2016 season.
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]
Hi. Any chance an article like this can be posted without it being one long paragraph? Thanks. It sure would be easier to read.
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