Tampa BayWatch – My Thoughts on the Bucs

The Race for 53: QB’s

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In the build up to Training Camp and preseason I’m going to take a look at some of the battles for roster spots. First up and possibly the most controversial, whose going to line up under centre in week 1 ?


Is it his Team ?

The QB position for the Bucs has always been one for debate, and this year it seems even more muddled than normal. The Bucs have 5 QB’s on the roster, including new first round pick Josh Freeman, Brian Greise, Luke McCown, Byron Leftwich and Josh Johnson. Early in pre-season it seemed that the spot belonged to McCown after he was given the big contract extension. When Garcia was let go in Free Agency it seemed even more clear that this was McCowns team. Then, in the weeks leading up to the draft the position got really muddled. Byron Leftwich was signed from the Steelers in FA and the Freeman to the Bucs draft rumours started to gain some traction.

Looking back over the media stories covering McCowns new contract there’s not a great deal that really says ‘Luke is our man and its’ his team’. Raheem was quoted on Buccaneers.com saying

“I know he is looking forward to the opportunity to be an integral part of our quarterback group this season.”

For me that doesn’t sound like a ringing endorsement for your new QB, and it looks like there will be a battle royale in Training Camp for the spot. So despite the big contract was the team ever McCowns or is he just baby sitting until Freeman is ready ? This is where training camp will give a real insight into whose team it is and how quickly Freeman is coming along.

I don’t think that the Bucs will take 5 QB’s into camp and Greise will be the first to be let go. Greise does have the veteran nous but for me he just doesn’t suit the Bucs new scheme and with Leftwich being brought in we no longer need Greises’ veteran skills. Leftwich can provide the veteran nous and seems more suited to the new Jagodzinski style than Greise. Leftwich stepped in well during Roethlisbergers injuries and should be the #2 but who will he be backing up ?

Josh Johnson was definitely a project type pick and was a Gruden pick. Whether he’s got the ability or the team feel he can contribute will dictate whether he stays. Johnson was a draftniks dream sleeper pick, small college player with outstanding stats but never tested at the top levels of college ball. In the new Morris led era I just can’t see Johnson making the roster and expect him to be cut after camp. So that leaves Freeman.

Or His Team

Or His Team ?

Certainly there is a lot of hopes pinned on Freeman, but unless he has a Flacco-esque training camp he’ll be handling a clipboard come week 1. McCown has a lot on his shoulders; the pressure of Freeman and on paper the first 7 games look brutal. If the Bucs struggle there will be a clamour to get Freeman on the field.  If we do need a replacement QB it could be a tough call. It’s hard to judge how a player will react in the heat of the NFL, some say just throw them in (Joe Flacco), others it’s better to learn (Aaron Rodgers). If Freeman is ready all well and good but if not keep him on the sidelines learning rather than taking a beating and let Leftwich run the offence.

The season is still a long way off but this is one area of the team that I’ll be watching with interest.

My 3 for the roster are McCown, Leftwich and Freeman.


Written by UK Bucs Fan

May 10, 2009 at 12:56 pm

Alex Smith Traded to Patriots

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Alex Smith has been traded to the Patriots for an undisclosed pick in next years draft. I liked Smith and what he could have brought to the Bucs offence but felt he was never used to his full potential by the Bucs. Clearly more adept in the passing game than the blocking he never the less found himself in the trenches protecting the QB. Once the Winslow trade was done it was likely that Smith would be the odd man out leaving a TE core of Winslow, Gilmore and Stevens.

Smith, a 3rd round pick in ’05 looked to be a good find after a 41 catch rookie season. He’s not matched those stats since, due to a combination of the Bucs needing more QB protection, our QB seemingly keying on key recievers and the Bucs having a lot of TE’s in the rotation. Had the Bucs had a different style of offence I think Smith could have flourished. Going to the Pats with Brady et al could really help him rediscover that rookie season form. As with all ex Bucs I wish him well

Written by UK Bucs Fan

May 2, 2009 at 12:41 pm

Freeman Pick Divides Opinion

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So the #1 pick for the Bucs has certainly divided opinion amongst the Buc faithful. Words like ‘reach’, ‘other more pressing needs’ and a lot of ‘WTF’s have been thrown around like confetti in football forums. So without Johnson throwing a pass in anger for the Bucs the pressure is already on him and the Bucs management to make sure this kid isn’t the next Akili Smith or Ryan Leaf. Clearly Dominik and Morris feel that Freeman is the man for the future and it will be interesting to see how quickly he’s brought through. If the Bucs have an early season stinker, which given the schedule is possible does Freeman get his chance ?

Rumours had circulated pre draft that the Bucs were keen on Freeman, but none of the draftniks really thought that QB was a pressing need, especially when Byron Leftwich was signed during free agency. Most mocks had us taking Peria Jerry, or any number of defensive ends. Morris clearly wanted his man and decided that the cost to trade up 2 places in the first round (a 7th round pick) was worth it to ensure they got their man. The reason given for the trade up was that they felt that if we didn’t trade up to #17 another team would trade either with the Browns or the Broncos and take Freeman from under our noses. Of the teams likely to trade up, one could have been the Vikings as they are about the only team below us that wasn’t truely settled at QB. The Broncos could have taken him but having acquiring Orton in the Cutler trade that looked unlikely. My gut feel is that the Bucs could have sat tight and still got Freeman at #19. Anyway the deal was struck and the Bucs were happy to get their man.

So what does Freeman bring to the Bucs. He’s a big mobile QB in the mould of Donovan McNabb and JaMarcus Russell. Blessed with oft quoted ‘prototypical QB size’ at 6’6 and 248 he’s a big man lining up under centre. He’s a 3 year starter at KSU and has a big arm to make plays down the field. This is one of the attractions for the Bucs in their new offensive scheme. They plan to get teams to stack the box to counter the threat from Graham and Ward and then look for Bryant and the WR core to stretch the field looking for the big plays in 1 on 1 coverage. Although not electric out of the backfield like a Vince Young or fellow draftee Pat White, due to his size he’s tough to bring down.

I’m not going to get drawn on the miles of internet chatter that this pick has warranted. Id rather sit tight, trust in Dominik and Morris and go from there. Once we start to get some news out of camps then we’ll really see what we have on our hands in Freeman. I’d like to see him get a lot of reps in camp and also get some game time preseason. My gut feel is he’s got some time to learn the ropes with McCown and Leftwich fighting for the starting job for this season, and Johnson and Greise likely to be cut.  If it all pans out he’ll hopefully be the starter for next season but in the NFL if is a very big word.

Written by UK Bucs Fan

April 30, 2009 at 2:15 pm

Draft Day 2: Focus on Defence

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So the hoopla that is the NFL draft has come to an end and after the dust has settled the Bucs have chosen the guys they felt could bring something to the roster. The Bucs only had one Day 1 pick and chose to select Josh Freeman QB from KSU. On Day 2 it was clear the Bucs needed to address the defensive side of the ball.

After drafting Josh Freeman in the first round the Bucs didn’t have a pick until the middle of the third round. With it we chose a big body run stuffing DT in Roy Miller from Texas. A massively powerful player (he holds all sorts of Longhorns powerlifting records), he should hopefully provide useful rotation for the Bucs front 4. The Miller pick does seem to show that the Bucs want to get bigger up front and at 6’1 and 310 Miller is a presence inside.

Roy Miller

Round 4 also brought more size to the D-Line when we selected Kyle Moore from USC. At 6’5 and 272 he’s a big man with a massive reach. I’d see him slotting in on the LDE rotation providing situational pass rush skills.

Kyle Moore

In round 5 the Bucs drafted a project player in Xavier Fulton from Illinois. Fulton started off as a defensive lineman but made the switch to offensive tackle. In the mould of recent Buc lineman at 6’4 304 he’s another massive lineman. Reading analysis of Fulton scouts see a lot of potential but he’ll require a lot of work to get him NFL ready. Certainly he could add depth at the line positions and i’ll be following him through camps to see how the Bucs choose to use him.

Xavier Fulton

In rounds 6 and 7 the Bucs chose to round out the roster with project picks at CB and WR. EJ Biggers, a CB from Western Michigan was up in round 6. Scouts seem to think it’ll be tough for Biggar to make the roster for the Bucs as they feel he doesn’t have elite speed, but seeing as he’s a 6th rounder thats no great surprise. However we’ve seen players like Elbert Mack seemingly come from nowhere to make an impact so there is always a chance. Sammie Stroughter was the final pick for the Bucs, a return specialist/WR from Oregon State. Stroughter has had a number of problems off the field and has come back from depression and a medical redshirt to get drafted. Stroughter projects as a slot reciever in the NFL and i’ll be rooting for him to make the final 53 man roster.


EJ Biggers

Draft Day 1: Bucs choose Freeman

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With the 17th pick of this years draft the Bucs chose to continue to retool the offense and selected KSU QB Josh Freeman. The Bucs had the 19th pick overall and traded with the Browns to get Freeman. There’s no doubt Freeman has the size and the tools to be a prototypical NFL QB but was it really the best use of the pick. Considering we already have a QB roster of Leftwich, McCown, Johnson and Greise and what appear to be gaping holes on the D-Line should we really have spent the pick on the defense ? There did seem to be no value at pick 19 for the Bucs and I felt a trade down was far more likely than a trade up. However the Bucs wanted their man and gave up a 6th round pick to get him.


It’s clear that the Bucs seem to be starting on a long term rebuilding plan for the franchise and they see Freeman as a key cornerstone of this rebuilding process. Raheem Morris probably has more of an insight than most into Freeman as they are both alumni of KSU, Morris clearly likes his man and was willing to put his neck on the line to get him. It seems a risky pick to me but if Freeman turns into the next Joe Flacco then i’ll be a happy fan.

The priority for day 2 should be a DT or DE then WR or LB. There seems to be plenty of depth at the DE position and only a few at DT so these guys maybe off the board when it comes to pick 17 in the 3rd round.

Written by UK Bucs Fan

April 26, 2009 at 11:51 am

Day 1 Draft Targets

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So this weekend its the NFL draft, possibly one of the most hyped weekends in all of football. Will that 1st round pick change the fortunes of the franchise or will it be a bust ? This is the lottery that is the draft, some so called can’t miss talent fails (Ryan Leaf) or some late round steals become franchise stars (Tom Brady). Without a 2nd round pick the Bucs could be in an interesting position. They don’t have any real ammunition to trade up to get a player like Mark Sanchez in the first round, and there maybe no real value for the Bucs in the players that could be available at #19 so a trade down could also be on the cards.

So if the Bucs stay put at 19 who are the potential Buccaneers ? Taking into account the Free Agency pickups the biggest need for the team is D-Line, whether that be DE or DT, CB as Ronde isn’t getting any younger and at WR we really are struggling to get a partner for Antonio Bryant.

Round Pick # Overall Pick #
1 19 19
3 17 81
4 20 120
5 19 155
6 18 191
7 8 217
7 20 229
7 24 233

Defensive Line;

Looking at the D-Line, at End players  such as Michael Johnson of Georgia Tech, Aaron Maybin of Penn State, Larry English of Northern Illinois and Robert Ayers of Tennessee are all being mentioned as potential picks by the draftniks. Ayers stock appears to be rising fast and he could have been picked by the time the Bucs are on the clock. Both Johnson and Maybin, have been labelled a liability against the run by some scouts and the Bucs like their LDE to be stout against the run, and there are doubts that English has the bulk to play DE in the NFL. With their issues against the run it seems that none of the DE’s that could be available suit the Bucs current defensive scheme. Inside BJ Raji, of Boston College will be long gone if the draftniks have it right, so the only other possible round 1 talent is Peria Jerry of Ole Miss. Rumours have it that the Bucs are looking to get bigger across the front 7 and Jerry at just under 300lb could be a bit undersized for this new defensive front.


With the offseason pickup of Byron Leftwich and the contract handed to Luke McCown you could say the Bucs are set at QB. A few sites seem keen on Josh Freeman and with the Bucs looking to be able to stretch the field a QB with a cannon arm is a must. Freeman is big at 6’6, but has great athleticism. Raheem Morris has Kansas links so wouldn’t be surprised if the Bucs pulled the trigger if he was available.


Brooks and June have gone and the Bucs are looking for Jermaine Phillips to step up from Safety to try and fill #55 cleats. Can he do this ? The Bucs may look for some insurance and USC LB Brian Cushing could be available.

My gut feel is that the Bucs will look to bolster the D-Line and if their targets aren’t availble look to possibly trade down to try and pick up a 2nd round pick.

Free Agency Acquisitions

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The Bucs made a few high profile FA signings during the off season some of which seem to be in areas of the team I felt we didn’t have a need. I certainly didn’t see that the Bucs had glaring holes at either RB or TE but LB was certainly a hole after the departures of June and Brooks. The Bucs were linked heavily with a number of QB’s, both Jay Cutler and Brady Quinn had been linked but the Bucs settled on Byron Leftwich to give McCown a fight in Training Camp.

Derrick Ward certainly bolsters the RB core, but it does make me wonder what the future holds for Cadillac. He came back well from the horrific knee injury before being injured again. Either the Bucs feel he’s not the player he once was or that he’ll be too injury prone to be a reliable back up. Certainly with the size of the interior O-Line and with Graham and Ward in the backfield it won’t be ‘Smash and Dash’ it’ll be more like ‘Smash and Bash’. Ward was a great complement to Jacobs in NY and i’m hoping he’ll make the same impact for the Bucs.

The signing of Kellen Winslow was a real WTF moment. I felt comfortable with the TE core last year and although not in the top tiers in the NFL they delivered what was required. It’s an interesting signing especially when you factor in the signing of Ward. The signing of Ward seems to suggest we’re going to be a smashmouth type of team, but then why sign one of the best pass catching TE’s in Winslow ? Only time will tell how the team are going to use Winslow. For me, Winslow is the #2 reciever on this team behind Bryant as neither Stovall or the re-signed Clayton are a true #2 WR for me. It’s vital that the Bucs figure out the best way of using Winslow.

Crowell has suffered a few injuries with the Bills and I hope he can stay fit. He’s a  got a combination of size and speed and is a physical tackler and should provide a good partnership with Ruud. He’ll be competing with Adam Hayward and Quincy Black for the strong side spot but fancy he’ll be the starter come game 1.

The Bucs seemed to have given McCown the QB job with his new contract, however bringing in Byron Leftwich does muddy the waters somewhat. McCown has had some moments where you think he’s capable of being a starter and then others where you think he’s only good to hold a clipboard. Leftwich brings starter experience from his time with Jacksonville and Pittsburgh and should push McCown for the starters job.

Bucs FA Signings..

Player Pos. FA Type Ht. Wt. Exp.
Angelo Crowell LB UFA 6-1 246 6
Niko Koutouvides LB Released 6-2 238 6
Byron Leftwich QB UFA 6-5 250 7
Mike Nugent PK UFA 5-10 190 5
Derrick Ward RB UFA 5-11 228 5