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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 ?

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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.

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Written by UK Bucs Fan

May 10, 2009 at 12:56 pm

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.

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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.

QB:

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.

LB:

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

A New Era Dawns….

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I can’t believe it’s been over a year since i blogged last, and a lot has happened with the Bucs since then. Last season started well, but tailed off miserably, Gruden and Allen were unceremoniously dumped, we cut the franchises greatest ever player, made a splash in Free Agency with what appears some luxury picks and started to rebuild. With all this in mind i’ve decided to resurrect this blog and offer some opinions on the happenings at One Buc Place.

What have you done for me lately ? Gruden and Allen Fired.

I won’t rehash the end of last season except to say it was a train wreck. A lot has been said about how Montes’ leaving was handled and how it affected the team. Despite all the words to contrary i can’t see how losing the architect of your defense, the one thing most other fans know you for, doesn’t impact the play on the field.

There was no sign of Gruden being fired at the end of the season and I thought he was safe for another year. However, out of the blue both Gruden and Allen are given their marching orders by the Glazers. The timing did seem odd as most of the prospective candidates had been snapped up, but the Bucs clearly had men in mind and they were Raheem Morris and Mark Dominik.

It’s hard to judge the legacy of Gruden and Allen. Some will point to the SuperBowl win, but was it really worth all that we gave up to get Gruden ? Would Dungy, given another season got the team that same ring ? My gut feeling is that we overpaid for Gruden in terms of draft picks and this hampered the development of the team post the Superbowl win and lead to this cycle of mediocrity and playoff seasons that we have had since.

A New Era ….

Just like the Gruden sacking, no one saw Raheem Morris as the new coach of the Bucs. Certainly he was seen as a rising star of the organisation and is well respected by players and staff alike. He’s certainly come a long way in a very short space of time though. This time last year he was the DB’s coach, now he’s trying to mould the Bucs into his team. Does he have the skills and experience necessary to lead a team that is clearly in a state of transition ? He’s brought in a lot of new coaches and assistants to help this transition and I think the signings of Derrick Ward and Angelo Crowell shows the influence of the new offenisve and defensive co-ordinators.

For me the franchise had gone stale and we didn’t seem to have a long term plan for the direction of the franchise. I’ve had my interest in the Bucs revatilized by the off season activities at the Bucs and hope that next weeks draft also brings more to stoke the fires.

Written by UK Bucs Fan

April 18, 2009 at 11:34 am

08 Draft Review: Rounds 4-7

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Day II of the Draft dawned and the Bucs looked to build on their Day 1 choices. The lower rounds of the draft are always a crap shoot as to how those picks pan out. Recent history shows that the Bucs struggle to find the hidden gems in the lower rounds, although there have been exceptions, Tanard Jackson was a 4th round selection last year. The Bucs through some trading had managed to stockpile a few more picks and looked to add depth across their roster.

Round IV:

The first day two pick for the Bucs was Dre Moore, a DT from Maryland. Moore has been a somewhat of a late bloomer and has only lived up to his potential in the final games of the NCAA season and through the Senior Bowl and Combine. Moore certainly has the physical tools to be a force inside but needs to find a consistent level to his game. Certainly a gamble, if he continues his level of play he could be a force to be reckoned with.

Round V:

Who would of thought it, the Bucs need another QB 🙂 Certainly Josh Johnson is an intriguing pick. A Div 1A phenom with mind boggling stats, he threw for nearly 3000 yards, 43 TD’s and 1 INT last season. Like Gradkowski of a few seasons before Johnson is certainly a developmental pick and needs time to add a bit more bulk and work on some of his technical flaws. He has a tendency to throw slightly off his back foot and deep passes can go astray, to lead the Bucs offence with speedsters such as Dexter Jackson he’s going to need to sort this one out. I think Johnson is a lock for the 53 and i’ll be keeping a close eye on his progress come mini camps.

Round VI:

The Bucs bolstered the LB core with a prototypical Tampa 2 style LB in Geno Hayes. Reliant on speed Hayes is a good open field player but lacks the physical tools to stand up inside and to make tackles and get through the trash to the ball. With his speed he could be a useful ST player.

Round VII:

The final pick of the 08 draft was Cory Boyd a RB out of South Carolina. Another intreguing pick in the later rounds Boyd is a physical runner who also has good skills out of the backfield. I think he’ll be pushing for a spot on the team and vying with Kenneth Darby for that 4th RB spot

Written by UK Bucs Fan

May 9, 2008 at 11:51 am

08 Draft Review, Rounds 1-3

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The Draft is done for another year and after the dust has settled, it’s time to look if the Bucs addressed their needs. In the lead up to the draft every mock draft had the Bucs going CB or WR. The Bucs had been listed with what seemed like every CB and WR going and come draft day I felt it was nigh on impossible to call which direction the Bucs would go.

Round I:

It turned out that the Bucs felt that CB was the bigger need and drafted Aqib Talib. Despite the obvious lack of WR talent outside Joey Galloway, (maybe lack of talent is a bit harsh, maybe underperforming is a better term), I feel that the bigger need that needed to be addressed was CB. Outside of Ronde, the Bucs have journeymen corners and the Bucs needed someone that could step in opposite Ronde for 1 or 2 seasons and then hopefully take over Ronde’s mantle. They seem to have found this in Talib.

Talib, out of Kansas, is a big physical CB and at 6’1 will be able to compete well with the bigger body WR’s. He doesn’t have top tier pace but has great ability when the play is infront of him. The major concern is his ability to catchup once the plays go behind him, this play against KSU highlights this to a tee. His lack of speed was exploited by Nelson but hoping we won’t see him give up on the plays so easily in the NFL. However, he’ll often get help over the top in the Tampa 2 schemes and hopefully we won’t see too much of this.

The things he does bring is an eye for the ball and and ability to make the big hit, 

For me the Bucs made the right call in drafting Talib and I’m looking for him to start come day 1.

Round II:

The Bucs really took a gamble late in Round 2. The next obvious pick looked to be WR, however a lot of the top tier WR’s had gone in with the early picks of Round 2. The Bucs drafted what can loosely be described as a WR, but for me Dexter Jackson will be a KR and sometime WR.

Certainly the Bucs return game has been anaemic of late but to spend a Day 1 pick on Jackson when there were WR’s with Div 1 careers under their belts does seem somewhat cavalier. Despite his off field antics Mario Manningham could have been a nice pick up or LSU’s Early Doucet was still on the board.

Jackson clearly has speed and the return skills but his catching abilities and lack of top flight competition in college make this pick a gamble for me. I hope to be proved wrong.

Round III:

Jeremy Zuttah, the RT out of Rutgers was the Bucs selection in the 3rd round. Despite being the anchor of the Rutgers line, many experts predict that he will be better inside at guard or even centre. This seems to follow the Bucs ideal that their linemen are versatile and could play a number of positions. I see this pick from 2 different perspectives. Either the Bucs don’t see Trueblood as the future at RT, (despite all the plaudits he received last season I didn’t think he played that well) or that Zuttah is seen as insurance for Joseph and Sears on the inside. 

Whether we’ll ever see him on the end of a lateral in the NFL, i’ll never know 🙂

I’d grade day 1 as a C-, I think the Jackson selection has a large element of risk attached to it. For a Day 1 pick, with the real need the Bucs had at WR, he needs to contribute on both special teams and as a receiver. Talib was a good pickup in the first and Zuttah provides the cover across the line that the Bucs need.

Next Day II..