Random thoughts on the Bucs and the NFL.

1. I love some of these proposed rule changes the NFL owners have been voting on this week. Making the replay permanent? Wow! It’s about time.  Now all the league needs to do is throw out this stupid red flag system and just implement the college replay system of reviewing every play upstairs. The ref in the sky decides whether to review a play and actually makes the call. No red flags. No refs under black hoods. No five minute delays in games. No calls off-limits. It works well in college. What is the problem here?

Want to know why the proposed rule change concerning having a defensive player with a radio headset in his helmet was voted down? For students of the Bucs defense, this vote at first might make no sense. However, for those teams in the league that don’t play a Tampa-2 style defense where the personnel, especially the Mike and Will linebackers, are fairly constant from play to play — think Patriots, Ravens, Raiders, and Eagles, a headset in one player’s helmet might not help much. Many defenses have so many substitution packages that it is quite possible the player with the headset would be coming off the field on certain downs.
Also, what about injuries? If the quarterback goes down, you know the next quarterback will have a radio in his helmet. If the Mike linebacker goes down, will the next Mike linebacker have a radio? Someone else? There just aren’t great answers to these questions, and that, more than anything else, is why the vote failed.

4. How many guys should suit up — 47 or 45? Why did the league vote go for 45? While an increase might sound appealing at first, many coaches and GMs in the league are against it. Why? Because it has the potential to increase specialization in a league where many folks feel things have already gotten too specialized. Want that kickoff specialist? Now you can have one.  How about a long field goal kicker?  Short punter that can place that ball inside the 20 every time? Kickoff return specialist? Where will it end?

I think the guy that is losing the most money right now because of the focus on a new conduct policy and Roger Goodell’s meetings with PacMan Jones and Chris Henry is Marcus Thomas. Oh, how the mighty have fallen! This guy was essentially a potential top 10 pick in November before he got tossed off the University of Florida team. Then, he became a potential second or third round pick because of his offfield issues. Now? Heck, he is definitely moving into the second day, and frankly, depending upon the rule changes and the debate over NFL behavior he could well be a late second day pick. He has all of the talent in the world, but so did Darrell Russell.  Tank Johnson has a lot of talent and PacMan Jones does too. The problem is, teams just cannot risk the public relations issues as well as the financial issues if one of their top draft picks is wearing county orange before his first couple of seasons in the NFL are in the books.

I think I still like Antonio Johnson, the defensive tackle from Mississippi State. I mentioned him in this space when I saw him during Senior Bowl practices. He is raw, was never a consistent starter, and will never be confused with Stephen Hawking at a cocktail party, but he is extremely well-built, athletic, and has great power and a suddenness about him. If he is there at the top of the seventh round, this is a no-brainer pick for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Frankly, depending upon who is on the board, I would move up into the 6th round for him.

Scott Reynolds is going to try to tell you that if the Bucs draft Boston College guard Josh Beekman, you heard about Josh from him first. Now, I love SR, but any of you that read this space know that I was comparing Beekman’s calves to Two-Ton Fonoti’s after the first day of Senior Bowl practices. Tell SR sorry, but the amateur on the PR team found the Bucs’ new guard first. Second round, by the way.

8. Fishwrap spin of the week: “Glazer: Bucs Need to Improve” or how about “Glazer: Mediocrity Won’t be Accepted”? If you read the wraps yesterday morning, you might be forgiven for thinking that what lay inside these article titles was a stern warning that the Buccaneers had to make the playoffs in 2007 or else head coach Jon Gruden and general manager Bruce Allen would be getting the keys to the street. Ah, but did you actually read the articles? The Glazers said they expected the Bucs to improve from 4-12. That is a shocker! Anybody here thinking the Glazers would expect the same or worse as last year? 

As we have been writing for months, the Bucs have been hamstrung by a lack of draft picks and being in salary cap hell for the past few years. And, amazingly, Joel Glazer recognizes that these were issues too! Too bad the wraps never recognized it, but read the quotes from Joel Glazer. The Bucs are out of hell now, have some young talent and have cap room, so why shouldn’t the owners expect improvement on the field? We all expect improvement! Did you also notice that as there was no Dan Snyder-esque “make the playoffs or else” ultimatum, and that there was also no phony “vote of confidence” for Gruden and Allen by the Glazers? They are reasonable. They want to see improvement. Allen and Gruden no longer have their hands tied behind their backs. Shouldn’t we all be responsible optimists now?

Fishwrap hype masquerading as insight of the week: The Bucs love Calvin Johnson so much they are going to move up in the draft to get him.  Simply put:  no freaking way! This team needs players, not just a single wide receiver. The Bucs are going to get a good player with the number four pick in the draft. It’s very possible Calvin Johnson will be there at number four. If he is not, it is very possible Joe Thomas, Amobi Okoye or Alan Branch will be there. It is even possible the Bucs will trade down. Don’t get me wrong, everything I’ve heard has convinced me the Bucs love CJ, but they aren’t  moving up to get him.

One thing you can believe is that the Bucs will draft a running back in late April. The Cadillac has been in the shop a bit the last two seasons, and Michael Pittman isn’t getting any younger. With the move to more multiple back systems becoming popular in the NFL, it makes sense for the Bucs to add another runner. My guess is it will be a  third rounder or a second day pick.

12.  I just can’t help it, but what are the Washington Redskins doing? They make an offer to the media for Lance Briggs (No. 6 pick for the Bears' No. 31 pick) instead of the Bears. Then head coach Joe Gibbs says the Skins are more likely to trade up in the draft vs down. Does anyone know what is going on here? Hello? The hot rumor du jour is that the 'Skins get Briggs and flip him to head coach Rod Marinelli’s Lions for the second overall pick and the right to take Calvin Johnson. The Redskins just have to try to win the offseason every year. They make my head hurt. All this yapping to deliver something like 6-10 again in 2007 must make their fans’ heads hurt!

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