1. Did the Ryan Leaf dismissal catch me off guard yesterday? Yes, especially after I had talked with one of my higher-up contacts earlier in the morning who told me that the Bucs feel committed to keep four quarterbacks on the 53-man roster this year. So imagine my surprise when after we finished publishing the latest edition of Buccaneer Magazine yesterday afternoon and we found out Leaf was cut. My source apologized, and said that during Bucs brass meetings on Monday afternoon, they re-considered their plan to keep four QBs and waived Leaf.
How quickly did the Bucs' decision turn? When they saw St. Louis rookie wide receiver Milton Wynn on the waiver wire, they made the decision to acquire Wynn and dump Leaf. The reasons are laid out in an article on BucMag.com called "Why Leaf Was Cut And The Salary Cap Ramifications." I won't waste space in this column by being redundant. Instead, I'll add some insight about Wynn in the next Fab Five segment below.
The whole Leaf experiment wasn't a wash. Sure the Bucs are out $600,100, which is the cost of his signing bonus plus the $100 waiver wire fee it cost to acquire him from San Diego. But it was worth the risk to see if the Bucs, for a change, could take somebody else's castoff quarterback and develop him, instead of the other way around. Let's give the front office some credit.
The Bucs also feel that the addition of Leaf spurred Shaun King's performance in training camp and the preseason. They also saw enough improvement from Joe Hamilton to elevate him past Leaf and into the No. 3 quarterback spot again. Leaf entered camp as the No. 3 quarterback behind starter Brad Johnson and backup Shaun King.
As for Leaf, he was a model citizen and took some steps to rehabilitate his off-field image. Now Leaf has to continue his maturity, get his wrist healthy and rehabilitate his on-field quarterback image. Good luck, Ryan.
2. The Bucs were close to acquiring Washington State junior wide receiver Milton Wynn on draft day. Tampa Bay was poised to take Wynn in the fourth round, but St. Louis selected him one spot before the Bucs' pick. That sent the Bucs scrambling on draft day to find a player in only five minutes. They settled on Colorado State free safety John Howell, a favorite of defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin. Howell, whom the Bucs planned to take in the next round, was a fifth-round draft pick on most team's boards, not a fourth.
As Buccaneer Magazine subscribers found out after the draft and as early as last week, the Bucs were planning on obtaining him if he was waived by St. Louis and that's exactly what happened. Wynn didn't fit the Rams' mold at receiver and he was labeled lazy by Rams head coach Mike Martz. Wynn will get a second chance in Tampa Bay because of his size (6-foot-2, 207), speed and hands.
Tampa Bay only has two receivers under contract for the 2002 season, and that's Keyshawn Johnson and unproven Frank Murphy. After spending a lot of money on QB Brad Johnson and Keyshawn, it would be a shame if they didn't have any proven receivers other KJ for Brad to throw to next year if neither Jacquez Green, Reidel Anthony nor Karl Williams returned. The Bucs hope that a redshirt year for Wynn will make him a factor at wide receiver next year.
3. Remember the old Chicago Bears' 46 defense? The defense created by Buddy Ryan that helped the Chicago Bears win the Super Bowl in the 1980s? Bucs defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin has been tinkering with it in the preseason. He used it sparingly in the Cleveland game and sprinkled in the formation against the New England Patriots when they went to five wide receivers and an empty backfield.
Not familiar with the 46 defense? The 46 calls for stacking the line of scrimmage with 10 players - that's right - 10 players. The Bucs usually have six players on or near the line of scrimmage in their 4-3 defense with two corners and four defensive linemen, but they bring up all of the linebackers and a safety in the 46. The 46 gets its name because of the four linemen and the six linebackers/defensive backs.
Against the Patriots, the Bucs brought everyone to the line to play man coverage and kept strong safety John Lynch deep as the free safety. It's a radical departure from their 4-3 cover 2 zone scheme, and a nice change up to throw at a team like the Dallas Cowboys, who have a young quarterback, or the Philadelphia Eagles, who have a corps of young receivers. The defense is very aggressive, and offers a heavy pressure approach that forces receivers and quarterbacks to be on the same page to counter it with hot routes and other passing game audibles. If a receiver runs a wrong route, the result could be an interception or an easy sack if the QB has to hold on to the ball.
4. We'll help you keep posted about the progress of tight end Mike Roberg, who was claimed off the waiver wire from Carolina, was cut and then placed on the Tampa Bay practice squad. The Bucs only have two tight ends on the roster and none that has Pro Bowl potential.
Roberg (6-4, 263) was a seventh round draft choice by the Panthers after being a three-year starter at Idaho, where he caught 64 passes for 722 yards and 10 touchdowns. He's the biggest tight end on the team and has good hands. He's still learning how to in-line block and pass protect, but the Bucs are hopeful that he can make the same jump to the active roster that players like WR Frank Murphy and DT Chartric Darby have.
5. One final Leaf note, a lot of fans may worry if the Cowboys or one of the Bucs' other opponents pick up. The Bucs don't do any of their game-planning for an upcoming opponent until Wednesday, so Leaf can't help the Cowboys or any other team out with too much knowledge.
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