SR's Fab Five

May 1 - Welcome to another edition of SR's Fab Five. This week we spend time focusing on the depth of the Buccaneers defensive line, linebacking corps and secondary. Find out who's looked good in mini-camp and what positions need to bolstered. We'll also preview the Bucs' preseason games and tell you why they're worth watching, especially the Redskins game.

SR's Fab Five appears each Tuesday on BucMag.com

Here's five things that caught my interest this week:

FAB 1. I really hate to waste one of my five topics on premium content stories on BucMag.com, but I will. Recently, the BucMag.com staff has been seeing its Club Insider premium content pop up all over various Buccaneer bulletin boards. Dozens of paid subscribers have alerted us to this fact and were naturally unhappy about this. Why pay for something when it's available for free, right?

We have taken steps to eliminate those posts through the admins or websites that contain the copyrighted material. One of the sites that had the Insider copyrighted material was the Buccaneers Den on EZ board. BucMag.com DID NOT ask for that board to be shut down. We simply notified our contact at TheInsiders.com (our web-hosting partner) and he notified EZ board.

When EZ board went to contact the Buccaneers Den about the copyright violation it was discovered that the contact person did not have a valid e-mail, which along with the copyright violation is also a violation of EZ board's terms and conditions. That's why the board was shut down. EZ board had planned to send a warning letter to the admins, letting them know about the copied copyrighted material and that it should simply be deleted, but couldn't e-mail them because of a bad e-mail address.

Again, BucMag.com DID NOT ask that Buccaneers Den be shut down. We know many of the posters over there and it's a very cool board. We're very glad to see it's back up and running.

But we cannot allow our premium content to be distributed and posted freely. If you try to park at Raymond James Stadium for free without a parking pass, they tow your car. It's the same concept. We have to protect our copyrighted material.

Half of our BucMag.com stories are free and those can be shared or posted all day long on any message board. We don't care. But we have to protect YOU, the Club Insider subscriber who has paid money to read these exclusive stories.

We also need YOUR help. If you see a premium content story posted elsewhere notify us by hitting the Contact Us link on the red left hand navigation bar. Better yet, reply to that poster and let them know that you are peeved to see something you paid for be distributed for free. YOU can help extinguish this copyright violation, especially by replying and notifying the person that what they are doing is wrong.

The reason we are so adamant about this is that the cheapskates who want premium content and don't want to pay for it don't realize that websites aren't free. They don't care about the fact that it takes REAL MONEY to host and run the BucMag.com site. With advertising being a relatively weak revenue stream across the Internet, we must look for other ways to fund the site and everything that goes with it: hosting fees, design fees, editorial budget, photography budget, chat rooms, etc. YOU do care about these real issues and want our Insider content, and we thank you for your support.

This isn't a fan site, it's a media site and above all else, it is a business. The goal of any business is to make a profit, but right now we're just trying to cover costs. That's where YOU, the Insider subscriber, come in. We need to get as many Insider subscribers as possible to help us cover costs before we can even think about making a profit. But when a handful of people want to be Robin Hood and share premium content they are generally hurting our efforts to attract new subscribers. The impression left on non-subscribers is "why should I subscribe when the content will eventually make it to a free message board?"

I am fully aware that Bucko40's intentions were good on the Buccaneers.com message board, and this is NOT directed at that particular Bucs fan. ALL of our Insiders can help us generate more subscribers by teasing the content on other boards or plugging the Club Insider service on other message boards. It's okay to generally talk about the topics in our Insider stories in your own words, and the story title and intro paragraph usually provide good detail. We just don't want to see our stories posted on other websites verbatim as it diminishes the need for other people to subscribe.

We're even setting up another premium message board on our site for our Insiders who want to talk about certain premium stories. So now our Insiders will have two boards, the Ask The Insiders board and the Pewter Board, which will be password protected for Insider subscribers only. This will also be a flame-free board.

Hopefully, this is the last time I have to address this topic and I hope you took this memo seriously. I had to include it in my column this week to make sure it was read. We love providing our Insider subscribers with our insight, scoop and extra observations, but we need YOUR help on several fronts to keep this good thing going. Now on to the good stuff.

FAB 2. Let's talk about depth on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. First up is the defensive line. The loss of defensive end Steve White and nose tackle James Cannida in free agency stung a bit. But after talking to defensive line coach Rod Marinelli during mini-camp, he told me that their replacements -- DT Buck Gurley and DE Greg Spires -- were perfect replacements in terms of body size, talent and hustling. Marinelli was encouraged by the fact that these players were catching on so quickly and that they could be just as good as their predecessors with more experience in the system.

I'll also add that under tackle Chartric Darby, Warren Sapp's backup, has really made some strides. He is extremely quick off the ball and really penetrates the backfield. He's extremely undersized at 6-foot, 270 pounds, but he has that high motor that Marinelli likes. Darby racked up eight tackles and two sacks in limited duty last year. With a bit more playing time he could be a 25-tackle, five-sack contributor.

Another guy who has been somewhat impressive is blue collar defensive tackle Mike Mackenzie. He can play nose or under tackle, and like Darby, he's undersized at 6-foot-2, 269 pounds. He'll remind you of Brad Culpepper with a good mix of power and quickness. In fact, he seems much more powerful this spring than he did last year coming out of Colorado State as an undrafted free agent. He's still a long shot, but the coaches have to be taking notice of his high effort level.

The team still has high hopes for Ellis Wyms, last year's sixth-round pick. He can play defensive end and tackle, but needs to get in a little better shape. He was very fatigued during Friday's mini-camp practice, which caused his concentration to drift. He jumped offsides and drew the wrath of Marinelli, who promptly replaced him in the lineup. Wyms can be a key piece to the defensive line due to his Tyoka Jackson-like versatility.

FAB 3. The team is still not happy with their depth at the linebacker position after losing Jamie Duncan and Jeff Gooch in free agency. The team might make a run at linebacker Marq Cerqua, who was in Bucs camp last year. He was recently cut by the Dallas Cowboys. Andre Offing was cut by Tampa Bay after the first mini-camp, and former New York Giant Jack Golden hasn't been too impressive at linebacker. He is expected to shine on special teams, though. Chris Jones has been starting on the weakside in place of Derrick Brooks in the mini-camp and is doing some good things, but he's got a long ways to go. His play doesn't jump out at you enough yet.

Look for the Bucs to continue to find good linebackers in free agency. With Shelton Quarles moving to the middle linebacker spot, Al Singleton, once a key reserve, now gets the chance to start on the strong side.

There are some questions as to whether Quarles and Nate Webster can get the job done in the middle, not necessarily by the coaching staff yet, but by myself and others in the media. My biggest concern is how will the 225-pound Quarles and the 220-pound Webster shed the 320-pound guards that will shoot out and try to trap them. Quarles was taking on 250-pound tight ends and fullbacks at strongside linebacker. Taking on 320-pound centers and guards is something else. Webster hasn't mastered shedding offensive linemen yet, which is one of the reasons why they didn't automatically promote him to the starting spot upon Duncan's departure.

Hardy Nickerson's name has been mentioned -- and I'll repeat -- mentioned at One Buc Place, but that's no guarantee that they'll pursue him if he's cut by Jacksonville after June 1 as expected.

FAB 4. In the secondary, the safety position has been fortified with the addition of fifth-round draft pick Jermaine Phillips. Phillips will play both free and strong during the camp. He's got the physical capabilities and size to play near the line of scrimmage in the strong safety role, as well as the speed, athletic ability and range to play free safety.

Undrafted free agent Glenn Sumter also made a good impression at the mini-camp. He's very instinctive and made a ton of plays at Memphis. Scouts told me he didn't run real well in the post-season and he was also a late entry into the draft, which hurt his stock. Keep on eye on Sumter during training camp.

Local St. Petersburg product Markese Fitzgerald, a former nickel back at Miami (FL), got a lot of media attention during the mini-camp, but the guy who stole the show in addition to veterans Dwight Smith and Ronde Barber was Corey Chamblin. Chamblin made several big plays when he was promoted to the starting corner spot opposite Barber on Friday afternoon's mini-camp practice when injuries sidelined Brian Kelly (broken hand) and Smith (cramping). Chamblin showed a good feel for blitzing out of the nickel defense too, a la Barber. The surprising thing about Chamblin was how comfortable and confident he looked in mini-camp playing corner in the Bucs defense even though he's new to the team this spring.

He's moved ahead of other corners such Anthony Midget, who has been around the Bucs defense for three camps now. It will be interesting to see how the cornerback positions shuffle out in training camp. Kelly, Barber and Smith are locks with Chamblin, Fitzgerald, Midget, Corey Ivy, Bennie Alexander and seventh-round pick Tim Wansley fighting for two more spots. As usual, it will come down to special teams, too.

Corey Ivy has played well over in NFL Europe and is probably the top guy gunning for the fourth cornerback spot. Of course he's gunning for Smith's job in the nickel defense, but Smith has a stranglehold on that spot right now.

Next week I'll address Tampa Bay's depth on the offensive side of the ball.

FAB 5. There are a lot of games to get excited over about this year as the Bucs join the new NFC South division, but the preseason games will definitely be worth watching this year, too. Aside from just scouting out the team's rookies, newcomers and younger players, there are a lot of reasons for fans to look forward to August -- not just September.

MIAMI - Of course the preseason opener will be on ESPN against the Dolphins. These two teams always play each other in the preseason and it makes for good football as there is a grudge match between the two teams. The Dolphins got a lot better with the addition of RB Ricky Williams and it will be interesting to see how offensive coordinator Norv Turner, who was a candidate for the Bucs' head coaching job, uses him.

Although Brad Johnson likely won't see much time, Shaun King and Rob Johnson will, which should be entertaining. It's better than watching some rookie quarterback in the second half. At least these guys have proven they can play on an NFL level. It will also be interesting to see Gruden pumping on the fans in his home debut as Tampa Bay's new coach. If the game gets boring, as some preseason games tend to, just watch Gruden.

Tampa Bay and Miami talk radio should be buzzing before and after this one.

AT JACKSONVILLE - Like the Miami game, it's great for the state of Florida that these teams play each other. The last time the Bucs played in Jacksonville (1998) they lost during the regular season. Out of the four preseason games, this one may be the least interesting except for the fact that the team's starters will likely play more than a quarter. Fans will really be able to gauge how effective the new offense is with the starters running it for their first extended period of time.

WASHINGTON - Steve Spurrier's return to Florida. This is a game I can't wait to see. Call it Visor Bowl. How will throw their visor first, Spurrier or Gruden?

It's also the return of former Bucs receivers Jacquez Green and Reidel Anthony to Tampa. Ronde Barber, Brian Kelly and Dwight Smith gave them fits in practice, so we'll see how they fare in a game situation. Will they shine, as Alvin Harper did in a preseason game playing for Washington against Tampa Bay back in the late 1990s, or will they flop?

More importantly, I want to see if Spurrier's offense is for real and can be successfully implemented in the pros. Green has done a lot of talking in Washington saying that if the Bucs had used some of Spurrier's plays when he was playing receiver in Tampa Bay that the offense could have easily beaten some of the Bucs' Cover 2 scheme.

Typically, the first-teamers usually get the most action in this game, which will make it more exciting. Sports talk radio in Tampa Bay will be going nuts with the Gator lovers' allegiances being torn between the Bucs and Spurrier on this one. This game should have a December feel to it in terms of intensity. Plus, players like Derrick Brooks and Dexter Jackson, former Florida State Seminoles, getting another shot at a Spurrier-coached team.

AT HOUSTON - The first-teamers won't play much in this contest. Still, it will be neat to see the NFL's newest team, the Texans. The Bucs will want to win this game to get some momentum heading into the season opener, and they also won't want to lose to an expansion team.

It will be interesting to see just how good or bad this expansion team will be. Their defense should be rock solid thanks to the additions in free agency and through the expansion draft. The Houston offense has some question marks surrounding it, however.

Copyright 2002 Buccaneer Magazine/BucMag.com

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