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Archive for February 2012

Talking Wide Outs

February 28, 2012 at 11:56am by Scott   •  6 Comments »

Pass.

There was a report on CBS over the weekend that Mario Manningham would not be re-signed by the Giants and that Tampa Bay could pick him up.

While New York Giants’ general manager Jerry Reese refused to speculate on the future of Super Bowl hero and soon-to-be-free-agent Mario Manningham, sources at this weekend’s NFL scouting combine said there is virtually no chance he is back with the Giants.

Instead, they said, Manningham is expected to follow former Giants assistant Mike Sullivan to Tampa Bay. Sullivan, who was the Giants quarterbacks coach, took a job as Tampa Bay’s offensive coordinator.

While Manningham may not stay in New York, him as a Buccaneer is redundant at best. I had all my reasons lined up all pretty to tell you why I feel that way, but Stephen Holder beat me to it. His reasons are pretty much the same as mine, especially this one:

Another issue here is whether Manningham is the best fit for Tampa Bay. The Bucs already have receivers with similar skill sets in Mike Williams, Dez Briscoe and, to a lesser extent, Arrelious Benn. Most observers, including me, seem to think what they lack is a player whose strength is getting vertical. If the likes of DeSean Jackson or Vincent Jackson become free agents, they seem like more sensible choices for the Bucs. Both are consistent deep threats who will make the Bucs’ remaining receivers more dangerous.

I think Briscoe is more of a threat than people give him credit for, but he’s still not the real burner the Bucs need. Manningham has been mediocre for his entire career until he got both Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz to take attention off of him this season and even still, he’s known for a single (albeit awesome) catch. But no DeSean Jackson, please. I was a fan of his coming out of college but he’s shown himself to be a pain in the ass, and with a new head coach trying to create an atmosphere of discipline in the locker room, he doesn’t need a perpetual malcontent corrupting that from the start. Marques Colston, Robert Meachem or Dwayne Bowe would also be worth considering.

On another note, there are so many free agent wide receivers this season that have had some success at some point in their careers. Eddie Royal, Pierre Garcon, Steve Smith (the other one), Ted Ginn, Early Doucet, Plaxico Burress, Patrick Crayton and a ton more. Now take a look at the current Bucs roster:

Benn, Briscoe, Ed Gant, Sammie Stroughter, Raymond Webber, Williams. Micheal Spurlock is an unrestricted free agent.

How much improvement could the Bucs make on that roster just with the free agents listed above? I’m not advocating any of them specifically; only pointing out that the talent level available in free agency is really high this season and most of them could probably be had at a really good price. Now doesn’t Manningham look a little silly?

Oh, and let’s give Gant a chance to make the roster. One preseason game isn’t enough to make a career, but it should be worth a good look at training camp.

Barth Will Be A Buccaneer

February 27, 2012 at 09:25am by Scott   •  7 Comments »

Barth 1

Mark Dominik made it clear that the one potential free agent he’s not willing to lose is the one who sees the field the least. Connor Barth isn’t going anywhere.

“The truth is we think enough of him that he’s not going to be an unrestricted free agent. We’ll just figure out where that takes us from here.”

Dominik didn’t use the F word (not that F word, but I wish he’d use that one once in a while, too) but he clearly meant that he would franchise Barth if they couldn’t come to a long-term deal. It would take two first-round picks to pry Barth away from the Bucs after he’s tagged, and no one is paying that for a kicker. And the franchise tender for a kicker is pretty cheap at $2.65-million, not a whole lot more than the $1.9-million he earned in 2011. Barth would be wise to get a deal worked out since hot kickers can go cold in an instant and it’s not like there’s a shortage of mediocre ones out there. Barth should also consider that he doesn’t kick off for the Bucs (and when he did he was awful) so maybe he shouldn’t get completely nuts with his demands.

Dominik would not comment on the negotiations, but it’s believed Barth is seeking a contract similar to the five-year, $15.759 million deal signed by the Patriots’ Stephen Gostkowski last season.

Gostkowski made 28 of 33 field goals during the regular season (84.8 percent) and was 5-for-5 in the playoffs. Barth is 83.9 percent (73-of-87) over his four-year career.

That may be a bit much, but it’s in the neighborhood. He was pretty much the only thing the team could count on this season, so you need to reward that as long as it’s reasonable. And to think I made fun of the guy’s hair when he was first signed.

Bucs Are Almost Fully Stocked With Coaches

February 24, 2012 at 10:51am by Scott   •  5 Comments »

Between Cooper and Cox, the defensive back seven are going have some real attitude next season.
The Bucs have hired some more assistant coaches, so it sounds like they should have an entire staff together before players start reporting, which is always nice. The latest hires are a defensive backs coach and a special teams coordinator.

The chances of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers taking LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne fifth overall in this year’s draft may have increased with the Bucs hiring of former LSU defensive backs coach Ron Cooper.

Cooper has left LSU to take the defensive backs job with the Buccaneers, LSU officials announced.

Roy Cummings kind of stole my thunder with that lead paragraph, but yes, it does make the drafting of Claiborne significantly more likely. And he was already the one the Bucs would most likely draft, so now the chances of the team taking him are at a little over 100%.

Here’s what you need to know about Cooper: He has produced the best cornerback in college football twice in the last two years. LSU consistently has a great secondary. This is an excellent pickup for the Bucs.

The Bucs also hired Bob Ligashesky as the special teams coordinator. Ligashesky was with the Steelers from 2007 until he was fired after the 2009 season when their kick and punt coverage units were among the worst in the league. From there he went to Denver to be the Broncos’ tight ends coach for a year and then went to Oakland as a special teams assistant. So of course he should coordinate the Bucs’ special teams. Why not? With a resume like that, I don’t know why he isn’t a head coach or even the king of a small island country.

Needless to say, I’m not real excited about this hire, but it’s almost fucking March so they had to hire someone. I’d like to see the lengths of contracts that these assistant coaches are signing. Hopefully the Bucs aren’t giving any of them more than a two-year deal since almost all of them are Greg Schiano‘s fourth and fifth choices. If the buyouts are low enough, we may see a pretty big rotation come the end of 2012.

Need vs Value At #5

February 23, 2012 at 05:34pm by Scott   •  18 Comments »

Did he really have to work that hard against FIU?
With the Bucs having the fifth overall pick in the draft, there is going to be a lot of interest from Bucs fans this year on the top non-quarterback players available. Rick Stroud put together a list of some of the most obvious candidates, but to be fair, that high up in the draft there are only going to be a few guys that are reasonable. But it’s not the list that I’m highlighting here — it’s his opinion of the running back situation.

There’s a place for LeGarrette Blount in the Bucs offense, but it might not be in the starting lineup.

After rushing for 1,007 yards as a rookie, LeGarrette Blount showed limitations last season. He is not fast enough to get around the edge, he is not skilled enough as a route runner or pass protector for coaches to trust him on passing downs. His best ability is to bludgeon defenses late in games if the team has a lead and is milking the clock.

Yes, as the video below clearly demonstrates, Blount’s best asset is running into walls and gaining one yard per carry.

Blount has some limitations, but that’s what coaches are for. And someone line Earnest Byner could be just what Blount needs to become a better all-around back. Blount is so talented and can break a big play at any time, even when everyone on the defense has a shot at him. Why would you want to keep him on the bench until the team has a lead? Everyone is so quick to just dismiss a player if he shows the slightest weakness or has even a couple down games.

Alabama’s Trent Richardson. (Late Wednesday, the NFL Network reported he will not participate in on-field drills at this week’s NFL combine due to “minor” arthroscopic knee surgery.)

“I think the last guy where you bang the table this hard was (Adrian ) Peterson when he came out of Oklahoma and was the seventh pick of Minnesota (in 2007),” NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock said. “So, yeah, I think his height, width, speed, toughness all constitutes a pretty solid pick.”

Richardson (Alabama) is the #1 back available and there isn’t a close #2. He’s very talented and went completely nuts in 2011 with 1,679 yards and 21 touchdowns. He also caught 29 passes for another 338 yards, pushing him over 2,000 yards from scrimmage. He’s a workhorse that is very good at everything and would definitely be a strong addition to the team.

BUT, is that really where the #5 pick is best spent for this team with Blount already on the roster at such a bargain? The Bucs need a shifty, speed back and Richardson isn’t that. Aqib Talib may be going to jail or getting suspended, Ronde Barber may retire and isn’t a long term solution at cornerback anyway, and Morris Claiborne (LSU) is a strong pick at the #5 slot. And for those who say the Bucs should draft the best player available and not for need, I will argue that Richardson and Claiborne are probably right around the same level of “player” for their positions, and most draft charts agree with me.

Mike Williams suffered through a sophomore slump and Arrelious Benn never hit his stride coming off ACL surgery. QB Josh Freeman needs more targets, so Oklahoma State’s Justin Blackmon will be on the Bucs’ radar.

“I mean, look at the Buccaneers,” Mayock said. “The Buccaneers really probably need a speed guy, because they’ve got a couple good, solid, young, possession receivers.

“As far as Blackmon … I think you have to look at him like Larry Fitzgerald, which is I don’t think he’s going to run a great 40. I think he’s going to run a 4.5 or a 4.52 … and I think you have to say that’s okay. He’s big, he’s physical, he’s got tremendous body control and tremendous ball skills.”

Mayock isn’t the only analyst to compare Blackmon to Fitzgerald, and if you had the chance to go back in time and draft Fitzgerald, you’d do it. The Bucs don’t have anyone like Blackmon on the team right now and he’s right in there at the same value level as the other two. I would be totally cool with drafting Blackmon at #5. And honestly, with two quarterbacks likely to go in the top four and Matt Kalil (Couthern Cal) and Claiborn and Richardson there, too, Blackmon will almost surely be available. It’s a great position to be in.

One of those three guys will be there at #5. If it’s Richardson, I still have to think about whether I would take him or try to trade the pick (not likely) or if there’s someone else of comparable value at another position that the Bucs could use. Someone like LB Courtney Shaw (Alabama) would be a really nice pickup for the Bucs, but #5 is a bit of a reach for him. If Richardson really is the next Adrian Peterson, you have to take him, but I’ve been watching him for a couple years now and I’m not convinced he’s up to that elite level. Still a lot of research to do, so I better get off my ass. Opinions welcome in the comments.

A Look At The 2012 Defense

February 22, 2012 at 11:13am by Scott   •  8 Comments »

Sheridan 2

The Bucs’ new defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan took the podium yesterday told everyone how the defense was going to look in Tampa in 2012. Everyone left the room hopeful and optimistic because he promised he wasn’t going to be the one to devise it.

But there will be marked differences in Sheridan’s experience as a coordinator in New York and this foray The most obvious: He’ll run coach Greg Schiano‘s defense, not his own. Sheridan and Schiano discussed that during Sheridan’s interview, and Sheridan said he fully accepts the arrangement.

My enthusiasm for this season just took a 25% jump because of that statement. Call me crazy, but I wasn’t looking forward to defensive linemen trying to cover Jimmy Graham down the seam.

“It’s going to be Greg Schiano’s defense because he’s our head coach and I’m coordinating for him. Obviously, he hired me because he thinks I have a lot of experience, knowledge and competence, and he’s relying on that as well.”

Oh, and there was literally no one else. He was the last guy they tried before they were going to put an ad on Monster.com.

The Bucs will keep the 4-3 defense, with some changes. There will be some principles borrowed from the 3-4 Sheridan worked in with the Dolphins last season. For instance, some linemen will, at times, use a two-gap approach vs. the Bucs’ traditional one-gap attack. And there will be a significantly more aggressive approach to pressuring quarterbacks.

A hybrid defense that combines the 4-3 and the 3-4? Has that ever been tried before? I can’t see what would possibly go wrong with that. *bangs head on desk until it finally cracks in half*

Holy shit, will someone just line Gerald McCoy up in the 3-technique and let him penetrate and rush the fucking quarterback for an entire season and let him get good at it? Is that so hard?

Sheridan has spent his first couple of days on the job watching video of some of the Bucs’ worst plays of 2011. In examining the big plays, Sheridan noticed a consistent theme.

“On the big pass plays, there wasn’t any pressure,” he said. “And I don’t mean just four-down (lineman) pressure. Of course, if you can pressure the quarterback with four down (linemen), you’re going to win in the National Football League.

“But from a schematic standpoint, the one thread was that (the big plays came against) a four-man rush. Now, you’re vulnerable (when you blitz) because the passing game is so fantastic in this league. … But unless you disrupt the guy throwing it, it’s tough sometimes to match up and cover the down-the-field routes.”

Then I guess they need to learn how to get more pressure with four guys. The Bucs did that ten years ago with a relatively simple scheme and excellent coaches and athletes. Everyone knew their role and perfected it. I’m not saying there’s not room for some trickery and surprises and I’m not calling for a return to a straight up Cover 2, but when I hear about combining 4-3 and 3-4, all I see is linemen not knowing their role or being able to get great at anything. I really hope Schiano keeps that hybrid shit in check. He is said to be a big believer in discipline, and part of that should be to try to win with fundamentals and effort instead of coming up with bullshit schemes that do nothing but confuse the players and allow other teams to score at will.

“I Wouldn’t Change Anything…”

February 21, 2012 at 09:49am by Scott   •  7 Comments »

One of Raheem's assistants watches as the Angel of Death rains failure all over the field.
I haven’t said a whole lot about Raheem Morris since he was fired because, well, I don’t spend a lot of time keeping up with what other teams’ secondary coaches are doing. But if any of you out there are still lamenting Morris’s dismissal, see if this doesn’t change your mind.

“I wouldn’t change anything about it. You put yourself in a position of power and you put yourself out there and you want to go out there and want to be great and we had the opportunity and almost pulled it off … The year that we went 10-6, people say you’re too young, but we just went out and won. This year [2011], we didn’t have some of that same fortune. Some of those games [in 2010] we won by three, some of those games Josh pulled off fourth-quarter comebacks, they didn’t play in our favor this year. For whatever reason, it just didn’t work out that way.”

– Raheem Morris, fired as Tampa Bay coach after the Bucs ended the season with a 10-game losing streak, on WDAE in Tampa, via sportsradiointerviews.com.

Wouldn’t change a thing about it. He made ALL the right moves at yet, somehow, it mysteriously turned into a ten-game losing streak. We all know the math of football. If you miss the playoffs in one season, you should do absolutely nothing to improve or make any changes whatsoever, and you’re sure to win the following season. But at the very least, Raheem should have had One Buc Place exorcised or rubbed down with sage or something since it was obviously a ghost keeping the Bucs from winning this year. Maybe that’s the one thing he could have changed.

There’s a fine line between confidence and arrogance.

Anyway, Peter King added his seven cents (he’s a larger gentleman) to the conversation and he seems to agree.

Sometimes, I understand when former coaches are interviewed about their former place of business and they don’t want to say much of anything controversial, or of substance. That sounded like Morris on WDAE when I saw the transcript of this interview. But to suggest that “for whatever reason” these narrow wins just didn’t quite happen, and only the football fates know why, is patently absurd.

The Bucs collapsed because Morris’ defense collapsed horribly, and because the team lacked discipline. Period.

In other interviews, Raheem places the blame on himself, which is the right thing to do. But to take responsibility for a shit season and then say you wouldn’t have changed anything is bordering on insanity. Or maybe possession. Has anyone called that exorcist yet?

REAR ENTRIES: Hiring Frenzy

February 20, 2012 at 10:38am by Scott   •  5 Comments »

Rear Entry 115

BUCS HIRE SHERIDAN: Hey, remember that guy we were talking about in the previous post that sucked and set records for points allowed while he was with the Giants. Well, rest easy because the Bucs hired him.

Tampa Bay hired former Giants assistant Bill Sheridan as defensive coordinator on Friday, two days after introducing former Giants quarterbacks coach Mike Sullivan as offensive coordinator.

The reason Rick Stroud brought up Sullivan again is so the line before that one made sense:

The Bucs are in a New York state of mind when it comes to selecting coordinators.

Die.

“Over the last three decades, he has had the opportunity to work under some great head coaches like Bo Schembechler, Nick Saban, Lloyd Carr and Tom Coughlin. His experience and know­ledge will be a great benefit to our defensive staff.”

When you’re just starting out in coaching, you can get away with pumping up the guys you worked for. If you’re in your 20s or early 30s, fine, you worked for Tom Coughlin. Congratulations. Sheridan is 53 and been coaching since 1987. Why does he not have his own accomplishments for Greg Schiano to brag about? “His linebackers have been in the top ten in the league for the last four years.” I just made that up, of course, but something like that would be nice to hear.

Instead what I’m hearing is Giants fans feeling sorry for us Bucs fans. “Enjoy watching Bowers and Clayborn covering wide receivers,” was a good one. Most of them are guessing how far into the season we’ll call for him to get fired. The over/under seems to be about week 7.

BUCS BRING IN COX: In news that I find much more uplifting than the above, the Bucs hired former linebacker Bryan Cox as a defensive assistant. As I said in my Twitter about this over the weekend, shit just got real for the linebackers in Tampa.

Cox was an excellent linebacker, especially early on in his career. But that’s not what I’m really excited about. Cox loves football. Loves it. He would marry football if it was allowed (note: may actually be allowed in Boston). More than anything, he wanted to be great at it and he demanded greatness from his teammates. Any slacking that may have been going on from the linebackers is officially done. If Cox thinks Quincy Black is running a play at 90%, Quincy better go back to the locker room and get his backup ass because Cox will have chewed his first one off. Cox is intense. Back in his playing days that intensity bordered on crazy, but age has mellowed him out just a little to where he can now focus his intensity without anyone having to call the cops.

I’m hoping he comes in as linebackers coach, but any position where the players need some motivation will be fine. I’m pumped about this hire.

BUCS ALSO HIRE BYNER: The running backs coach position has been filled by Earnest Byner. Please take all fumbling jokes and shove them up your ass.

Byner has coached Clinton Portis when he was at his best and Chris Johnson when he ran for 2,006 yards in 2009. He also coached Maurice Jones-Drew for the last two years, but I’m pretty sure MJD was already good before Byner got there. Still, MJD had his career high in rushing yards this season with 1,606. So it’s a pretty impressive list of running backs that have been under his care for the last several years. It’s another strong hire by the Bucs.

AND AN OL COACH: To round out the weekend, the Bucs hired former Wisconsin offensive line coach Bob Bostad to be the same position in Tampa. Bostad was recently hired as the OC for the Pitt Panthers, but apparently being a position coach in Tampa is better than being a coordinator in Pittsburgh. We all knew that, though.

Wisconsin is famous for producing good offensive linemen and the last few years under Bostad was no exception. Both Gabe Carimi and Joe Thomas were drafted under Bostad’s watch. Also, Bostad was the tight ends coach for the Badgers when Owen Daniels was there. Sounds like another solid hire. Pretty strong weekend for the Bucs overall. Except for that DC thing.

Pickings Are Getting Mighty Slim

February 17, 2012 at 11:19am by Scott   •  3 Comments »

Sheridan 1

According to coachingsearch.com (via Pewter Report), the Bucs interviewed Bill Sheridan for the defensive coordinator spot. Sheridan just joined Ohio State as part of Urban Meyer‘s new regime, although his position is a little vague (“defensive assistant”). Sheridan has one year of experience as a defensive coordinator in the NFL. So how did that work out?

Sheridan has just one year of experience as a defensive coordinator for the New York Giants in 2009, but was fired after the season as the Giants lost eight of the last 11 games, and surrendered 40 points or more a franchise-record five times in one year.

The Giants started in 1925, so setting franchise records isn’t easy against 86 years of history. Bill Sheridan is amazing! He started coaching the linebackers for the Dolphins after he was canned from the Giants, and Miami has a pretty solid group of linebackers right now. So if he’s interviewing for LB coach, great. But as a DC, it sounds like we’re going for “Well, he’s better than no one,” which may be the last option of they don’t hire him.

Could that be a possibility? If the Bucs don’t find someone they like for a defensive coordinator, will Greg Schiano try to do the job himself for a year? Hey, what’s the worst that can happen?

Oh, right.

Jimmy Raye Brings Experience, Curse

February 15, 2012 at 08:59pm by Scott   •  7 Comments »

Jimmy Raye finally figured out how to make Alex Smith a good quarterback and resigned after the season.
The Bucs hired Jimmy Raye as senior offensive assistant. Generally, “senior” means that a guy has been around for a while and seen a lot of things and has a certain level of wisdom to pass on. Evidently, it doesn’t mean you had to have any real measure of success because Jimmy Raye has yet to be associated with a really good offense.

The Chiefs in 2000 were his best team, landing at 8th in the league in total offense and sending three players to the Pro Bowl. The team still went 7-9 and that’s the most success Raye has had this decade — or ever. Other teams where he ran the offense: 2001 Redskins (28th), 2004-2005 Raiders (17th, 21st), 2009-2010 49ers (27th, 23rd). And if you want to go digging way back in history, he was Leeman Bennett‘s offensive coordinator with the Bucs in 1985-1986 (23rd, 27th) and the OC for the 1990 Patriots (28th), possibly one of the worst teams in NFL history.

And he’s here to help.

“With over 30 years of NFL experience, Coach Raye has attained a wealth of knowledge that will be an invaluable resource to our coaches and players,” Schiano said in a statement issued by the team.

“Here’s everything I did for the last 30 years. Do the opposite.”

I don’t get this hire, but if “promising but inexperienced” failed over the last three years, why not try “hopeless and old”? The Bucs were last place before Raye, they can’t do worse with him. And maybe he’ll be watching Josh Freeman practice one day and say something like, “I saw Marc Wilson do something just like that. We need to nip this shit in the bud now.” Now that would be helpful.

Bucs Release Haynesworth

February 15, 2012 at 03:40pm by Scott   •  2 Comments »

Superman got fat.
In a move that will surprise precisely no one who knows how to add, the Bucs cut Albert Haynesworth today.

Haynesworth, claimed off waivers in November after Gerald McCoy‘s season-ending biceps injury, immediately stepped into the starting lineup for Tampa Bay and had a noticeable impact. But his play and effort level tailed off toward the end of the season. The Bucs considered cutting him during the season.

The reviews of his “effort” level are not all in agreement. Some say he was playing hard, so say he wasn’t. It’s generally along the same lines of who thinks the team quit of Raheem Morris and those who don’t. But it really wouldn’t have mattered if he looked awesome, the Bucs weren’t going to tie up another $6.7-million in his salary for 2012 when they already have so much invested in the defensive line out of the draft.

With an entirely new coaching staff, I was thinking Haynesworth could end up back in Tampa if the price is right. He didn’t burn any bridges and he had some games where he played well. But the way Mark Dominik phrased it doesn’t make it sound like he’s too eager to bring him back for depth.

“I appreciate Albert playing for us after some key injuries this past season,” general manager Mark Dominik said. “He was very professional and we now wish him all the best as he moves forward.”

Sounds pretty definitive. So for those of you who were hoping to get the biggest defensive disappointment of the last ten years back on the team, you’re out of luck. Maybe Mike Mamula is looking to make a comeback.