2008 Bucs' Schedule: PNG

Monday, June 25, 2007

State Of The Team - Defense

If you haven't read the post below this one, READ IT FIRST!! Then come back to this one.

Having said that, let's look at the defensive positions, having covered the offensive position already. With that we'll start on the defensive line. A real battle is apparently brewing here between Haye, Wyms, and Carter. Pewter Report has more details in several articles on this, but overall, it's looking like we'll be seeing much improved play from one of the most key positions on the defensive line. The Nose is pretty much set with Hovan, and deservedly so. Should be interesting to see if the other players draw enough attention to allow Hovan to get more heat on the QB this year. At the ends, Gaines Adams is primarily practicing at right DE in place of Rice, whose still not ready to constantly battle, and needs to save the shoulder for training camp. Chukwurah apparently is getting reps at the ends as well, and appears to be doing a good job. Spires will likely see his time split with Adams and Chukwurah if Rice comes back 100%. The battles here should greatly impact the defense as a unit, and Coyer is a tremendous DL coach who should be able to get similar results to Marinelli. I expect to see at least a 10 sack improvement out of this unit.

At Linebacker, the talent, and the raw speed, is gushing at the seams. With newcomers June, Black, and Hayward, adding to the talents of Brooks, Ruud, Winborn, and Nece, this unit is clearly one of the most talented, if not THE most talented, positions. The real interesting thing will be to see how often the Bucs decide to slip the 3-4 in to try to confuse QB's. June is probably a lock at Sam and Brooks will likely hold the Will for another year, though I wouldn't be totally shocked if Winborn got in on plays from time to time in place of Brooks to keep Derrick fresh, while giving Winborn more looks at the Bucs' most important 4-3 LB position. Ruud will likely start at middle, but Black could give him a run for his money. Black could also slide over to one of the other positions. Hayward will have to work to make the team, but he's got a good shot to make the club. Linebacker will not be a weakness this year, you can rest assured of that one.

At the corners, Kelly is coming back, but is still limited. If he's fully healthy for camp, it will greatly boost the corner back position. Barber is still Barber and he probably has a couple more strong years left in him. Buchannon will likely win the starting Nickel, has he appears to be an interception machine and will most often be paired with lesser receivers that he can easily cover. If Kelly can't go at any point in the season, Buchannon can step in and start and continue to play that position solidly. Davis is apparently looking pretty good, and will likely sew up the dime spot. Jackson will be battling it out with Hamilton, Cox, and Zemaitis for the 5th CB spot, though he may also go over to safety. Cox may not make the team, and Zemaitis needs to pick it up if he's going to be able to maintain a roster spot. We'll see where Hamilton ends up. No matter what happens, assuming this group stays healthy, the Bucs will be quite deep at Corner, and will be able to hang with any receiver trio in the league.

Finally, at safety, Phillips will be in a battle to retain his spot from Sabby Piscitelli. Sabby has a good shot at unseating him, and is apparently looking very good so far. I would be shocked if Sabby isn't at least splitting time with Phillips during the season. Allen looks like he may be returning to form, much like the corners, due to the presence of Morris as the DB coach. If Allen can start looking more like the promising safety we drafted, the position will be in good hands. If not, look for Jackson to get a shot to unseat him. Pearson and Nicholson probably won't make a dent here, but you never know. Safety play MUST improve over last year's pathetic showing. The Bucs have to be tougher to pass deep on, or it will continue to cause issues for the defense. I find it unlikely that we will see play as bad as last year. Morris is going to ride these guys, and Sabby can unseat Phillips if he doesn't improve.

So far, the team looks to have good talent and competition throughout the roster. The most important thing is that this team finally has depth at most positions. Unfortunately the depth is young and not highly experienced, but the talent level is at one of the highest we've seen for some time, and that alone can help if we have some more key injuries. Going forward I'll keep an eye on signings and make some comments as they occur. The real good stuff will start once training camp hits. I intend to be there for one of the sessions, as I've mentioned before, and should be able to post a lot of good info, pics, and even some video. Should be fun. Now if it was only here a little sooner...

Signings...State Of The Team

The Bucs have started signing their rookies with CB/S Tanard Jackson hitting the cash flow first, quickly followed by CB Marcus Hamilton. That leaves the Bucs with 8 wet ears left to go. It looks like Allen will probably get most of these guys signed within the next couple of weeks. They have until the last week of July to get everyone signed up so that they don't miss any training camp practices.

Well, now that all of the OTA's are over, and the Bucs are coasting along until training camp starts up, I thought I'd review the team a bit on a positional basis. Starting at QB, Garcia appears to clearly be the leader, with an ability to execute the offense. It appears it will still take him a while to get the jargon down to where he's not thinking about the plays, but he's on his way and should be the best QB we've fielded under Gruden. Gradkowski is looking like the number 2 guy right now. He's apparently much improved and is considered a better fit for the offense. Whether or not he'll ever be starting material...I'm not convinced. Simms is in the number 3 spot after being listed number 1 going into the off-season. Why? The mechanics (no, not the group). His throwing mechanics are still suffering from the surgery and the down time. He's going to have to fight hard to move back up over Bruce. If he gets the mechanics back in-line, I think he can beat Bruce out positionally, but we'll see.

The Offensive line is looking like it will field an upgrade at LT, a very solid RG and RT, and a very good LG, whether it be Sears or Davis. Center is still up in the air, but if Buenning is 100% by camp, you can mark me down for a guarantee that he'll be the starting Center. He's bigger, stronger, and more athletic than Wade is now. Wade has just been have all sorts of problems in the middle the last two years, and this upgrade is needed. My bet on the starting 5 is Petitgout, Sears, Buenning, Joseph, and Trueblood. We may even get a chance to see what it's like when our Tight Ends are freed up to run routes! Wow!

Speaking of Tight Ends, Smith and Becht are set. Stevens looks likely, unless TJ Williams heals up and gets out there. Running back is set with Caddy and Pittman, though the one thing clearly coming out of the camps is that Caddy is looking real good catching the ball now. Darby has a shot to unseat Graham, but we'll see. Alstott and Askew are set at FB, and Askew looks like a very capable guy to replace Alstott, though more so catching and blocking than running.

The real battle on offense is at the receiver position. There, after Galloway, an intense battle for number 2, followed by number 3, is ensuing. Clayton, Boston, and Stovall, are in a pretty tight and heated battle where any of the three can be the number 2 or the number 4 receiver. Pewter Report has reported a good bit on this battle, with some local paper coverage as well. Sufficed to say, Clayton looks quicker, is getting separation, and has apparently started catching the ball again. Boston is close to the old Boston. And Stovall looks like the rookie version or Clayton. Needless to say, the Bucs may be turning a so-so receiving corps into a top notch one. If these guys all go into this season playing at the top of their ability, with Clayton returning to rookie form, the Bucs could end up fielding one of the best top 4 receiver corps in the league. Not too mention the Bucs would likely still have Ike Hilliard on the squad. I think that might be one helluva set of targets for Garcia to hit. So I think it's safe to say that this position is looking quite good.

I'll address the defense in a separate post.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Moore Retires, Replaces Hardy

Well, after 15 years in the NFL, 13 of which were spent with the Bucs, TE/LS Dave Moore has officially retired. He leaves the game on a high note, having gone to his first Pro-Bowl this past February for his special teams play. He was a fan favorite due to his blue collar workman like effort and his ability to occasionally make a key play.

While he has retired from the NFL as a player, he's now beginning his career in radio by replacing the departed Hardy Nickerson (left to coach at Chicago). Dave will bring his own perspective to the booth as the color analyst with Gene Deckerhoff. It should be interesting to see how he does, as he's pretty good at dishing out insights into how things work in the game. Hardy was interesting in the analyst position, but he never seemed to get 100% comfortable with the role. Maybe Moore can bring some stability back to that radio spot.

In any case, Dave leaves the NFL as the longest tenured player in franchise history with his 13 years here. Brooks might have a shot at beating him out by making the roster in 2008, as this year will be Brooks' 13th with the team. Only Alstott is within striking distance, going into his 12th season, but he's likely to retire after this season. Can't wait to hear Dave on the radio. Why? Because it means the season is here! Just two more months until Pre-Season.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Colmer Released; Pearson Resigned

You had to wonder how long OT Chris Colmer would stick around. The disease that kept him out of his first two seasons finally cost him his roster spot, having failed his physical. Colmer was a pick that many, including me, thought was a risk, but possibly worth it if he got over his condition. Unfortunately, he never did, and he's now a 3rd round bust. Hopefully the Bucs have learned to stay away from the risk picks and go more for the type of players that are more likely to be productive and make the roster.

The release allowed the Bucs to resign Kalvin Pearson, who's coverage skills are lacking, but who's special teams skills are outstanding. He's been a very good ST player, and should bolster that unit, assuming he makes the 53 man roster, which is not a given at all.

It's been pretty bone dry on the news these past few weeks, and we have a couple more weeks to go before the pre-training camp talk gears up, then we'll hit TC and the news will start flowing again. I'm hoping to get out there this year and bring back photos and video segments (something I couldn't do on the Road Runner site in the past). If I do get out there, I'll finally be armed with a camera that can really capture close ups and get fast action shots with ease. Till then...