SR's Fab Five

July 5 - What will become of Tampa Bay QB Joe Hamilton now that he is out for the year? Will he go on IR? We have the answer in this week's SR's Fab Five. Also in this week's edition, we discuss the future of several Buccaneers radio shows, the prospects of the team signing LB Ed McDaniel, the inside scoop behind the signing of OT Roman Oben and a breakdown of the defenses of the Bucs' last five opponents in the 2002 season. Don't miss this INSIDER report!

SR's Fab Five appears weekly on PewterReport.com
Copyright 2002 Pewter Report/PewterReport.com
This story is intended to be read only by PewterReport.com Club Insiders only and TheInsiders.com. Sharing of the Club content with non-subscribers of this service can result in cancellation of your subscription to the service and/or further actions by the publishers.

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

FAB 1. So what will become of Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Joe Hamilton this year? His damaged anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) will definitely shelf him until the 2003 season, but will the Buccaneers release him or put him on injured reserve and eat his $358,000 base salary?

Well the Bucs do want to keep Hamilton around and they do plan on offering him a one-year contract next spring when he will be a restricted free agent. But Hamilton won't appear on the Bucs' injured reserve this year -- nor their 53-man roster. Because Hamilton's injury occurred during the summer in NFL Europe, the Bucs won't have to pay him or place him on their IR list.

Hamilton will be placed on the Bucs' non-football injury list (even though the injury is football-related), and will also be placed on NFL Europe's injured reserve list. NFL Europe, which mandates that NFL teams allocate players each spring to play overseas, will pay Hamilton his salary.

The same goes for linebacker Eugene McCaslin, who tore knee ligaments in NFL Europe's training camp and will also be out for the season. However, it is uncertain whether or not McCaslin even factored into the Bucs' plans for this year and beyond, or if he was just signed off the street and sent overseas because each NFL team has to allocate a certain number of players to NFL Europe each spring.

Although it's a tragic way of doing things, the Bucs will be overjoyed to keep Brad Johnson, Rob Johnson and Shaun King on the active roster without having to release Hamilton and expose him to the waiver wire in order to try to sneak him on to the practice squad. Hamilton appears to be in the Bucs' plans for the 2003 season as either King or Rob Johnson will be playing elsewhere next year. Both King and Johnson are in a contract year.

The fact that Hamilton got hurt and will not be participating in training camp is actually a benefit for King and Rob Johnson. Both quarterbacks need as many reps as they can get to impress the coaching staff and try to unseat Brad Johnson. The fact that the Bucs will not bring a fourth quarterback to replace Hamilton only gives King and Rob Johnson more opportunities.

It's a safe bet that new Bucs head coach Jon Gruden will draft a quarterback next year to groom for the future and compete against Hamilton for the third-string signal caller role, but in the meantime, little Joe Hamilton keeps on hanging around.

FAB 2. It had been reported that the Buccaneers had a players-only meeting to determine what would be done with the dozen or so radio shows that involve players. Head coach Jon Gruden has already stated his displeasure over so many players being occupied with radio gigs, especially a few players who aren't even starters or marquee players.

But Gruden can't technically forbid any player from getting a paid radio show because that interferes with the player's right to earn income through the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the NFL Players Association and the league.

The players-only meeting was reported, but here's the result of that meeting. The only players who will be allowed to have a radio show will be the team captains, who are expected to be QB Brad Johnson, C Jeff Christy and WR Keyshawn Johnson on offense and DT Warren Sapp, LB Derrick Brooks and SS John Lynch on defense -- pending a solidifying vote by the entire team during training camp.

Fullback Mike Alstott will likely be allowed to continue his talk show because he is a marquee, Pro Bowl player and his show may be the most popular next to Keyshawn Johnson's, and of course, the Buccaneer Blitz, hosted by yours truly and WDAE's Steve Duemig. Other established marquee players might be allowed to have a radio show as long as it is on a top station such as WDAE 620 AM or WQYK 1010 AM.

But players such as tight end Todd Yoder, right tackle Jerry Wunsch and left tackle Kenyatta Walker, who have had radio shows in the past, may be off the airwaves under Gruden's tenure.

In case you missed our announcement earlier this spring, the Buccaneer Blitz show will be back for another year as WDAE and Pewter Report have agreed to terms. The show will likely remain in its usual Wednesday afternoon slot from 5:00-6:00 p.m. and continue to lead into the Keyshawn Johnson Show. But stay tuned for details that will confirm the day and time later this summer. The 2002 debut of the Buccaneer Blitz will likely come the week prior to the Bucs' first preseason game.

FAB 3. There still appears to be a chance that the Bucs could sign veteran linebacker Ed McDaniel before training camp starts. The sides haven't come to terms although they have been in discussion for over two months now and there is interest on both sides.

Shelton Quarles, Derrick Brooks, Al Singleton and Nate Webster appear to be locks to make the team, which would likely leave two reserve linebackers open and up for competition.

McDaniel is capable of playing all three linebacker positions and is experienced in Monte Kiffin's style of defense. The Bucs don't view McDaniel as a starter, but he'll have a chance to win a starting spot. His knees have some mileage on them, but even if McDaniel would be used by the Bucs in games, he would only be used on first and second downs or third downs in short yardage.

The Bucs' nickel defense calls for one linebacker to be replaced by a cornerback to give the secondary five players on the field to match up with three or four wide receiver sets in passing situations. The Bucs' nickel linebackers have traditionally been Brooks and Quarles because of their speed and ability to cover running backs out of the backfield and tight ends.

As Pewter Report has stated before, the Bucs don't have any interest in free agent linebackers Keith Mitchell and Bernardo Harris. Neither linebacker is adept at dropping into coverage, which is mandatory in Tampa Bay's defense.

One more note on the linebacker situation. With Shelton Quarles and Al Singleton both in contract years and the Bucs having a hard time finding two quality reserve linebackers, help is on the way in the form of next year's draft, right? Wrong. According to one scouting source at One Buc Place, the linebacker crop is expected to be just about as thin as it was this year.

Also, despite advances from his agent, Jim Steiner, the Bucs have not gotten into serious negotiations regarding a contract extension with Quarles. The team wants to see how he handles his new assignment of playing middle linebacker during the preseason and a few games into the season before discussing an extension.

FAB 4. CNNSI's Pat Kirwan had a great article on how the teams switching to the 3-4 defense to mimic Pittsburgh will have a hard time adjusting their personnel to fit the scheme, especially this year. He also stole some of my thunder.

Kirwan aptly noted that the Bucs will have faced the 3-4 three times before Pittsburgh returns to Tampa Bay for a rematch on December 23. Atlanta, whom the Bucs will play twice, and Baltimore will be switching from a 4-3 scheme to a 3-4 alignment.

But I'll take Kirwan's analysis one step farther. There are roughly three prevalent trendy defenses which are being used in the NFL right now. Tampa Bay's one-gap, cover 2 defense; the old Baltimore 4-3 two-gap defense featuring two mammoth defensive tackles; and Pittsburgh's 3-4 defense which three teams will use as their main defense and several other teams will use sparingly to throw a change-up at offenses.

Over the last five games of the season, the Bucs will face the 3-4 defense twice and the old Baltimore defense three times. Against the 3-4 defense, which pressures the quarterback with blitzing outside linebackers and defensive backs, passing will be a challenge.

Last year against Pittsburgh, Bucs quarterback Brad Johnson attempted 40 passes and threw for 283 yards. But he had a rough time completing only 24 of his throws as he was sacked 10 times and threw one interception. The Bucs had difficulty scoring and only racked up 10 points that day. The Bucs will play the Falcons at home on December 8, followed by the Steelers at home on Monday Night Football on December 23.

The other three games feature teams who have adopted the Ravens' old 4-3 scheme. New Orleans (Dec. 1), Detroit (Dec. 15) and Chicago (Dec. 29) will all host the Bucs in the last month of the NFL season and present challenges for the Bucs' running game. In two games against the lowly Lions, who finished the season with only a 2-14 record, Tampa Bay could only muster up 99 yards rushing in their 20-17 win at Detroit and just 81 yards in their 15-12 home win over the Lions.

The Lions' defensive tackle tandem of Luther Elliss (6-foot-5, 310) and Shaun Rogers (6-foot-4, 331) gave undersized Bucs center Jeff Christy and the other interior linemen fits in both contests. Rogers is a rising star in the NFL and could be a future Pro Bowler.

Against Chicago, which mimicked Baltimore's defensive tackle duo of Tony Siragusa and Sam Adams (each weighing 350-plus) by adding 360-pound Ted Washington and 330-pound Keith Traylor last spring, the Bucs' running game fared even worse. Tampa Bay gained just 19 yards on the ground on 15 carries in a 27-24 home loss. Then the Bucs could only rush for 61 yards on 18 carries in a 27-3 debacle in Chicago. Any yardage gained against Chicago hardly came up the middle against Traylor and Washington, that's for sure.

After getting thrashed by the Bucs 48-21 last year, the Saints saw how the Bears shut down the Bucs' running game last year and hope to follow suit. Tampa Bay rushed for a season-high 157 yards against New Orleans last year with run-stuffer Norman Hand missing from the lineup. Hand, a defensive tackle weighing about 325 pounds, will team with former Oakland Raider Grady Jackson, who typically weighs 350 pounds during the season, to form an impenetrable wall in the interior of the Saints defense. At least that's what they are hoping for.

The good news is that the Bucs have a brand new offense with a new playcaller and new players. The team hopes to be able to effectively pass against Pittsburgh and Atlanta and run against New Orleans, Chicago and Detroit. The fact that they will be playing teams with similar defenses down the stretch could aid the Bucs if they have initial success or hurt the team if they can't get a handle on these defenses.

FAB 5. Here's a few quick hits to keep you going until next week:

- The Bucs are happy with the performance of long snapper Mike Solwold. After bringing in several undersized long snappers during the spring, the team likes Solwold's 6-foot-6, 240-pound frame. Although the Houston Texans recently cut former Buccaneer long snapper Mitch Palmer, the Bucs will wait until camp to see how Solwold is performing before exploring the option of re-opening the competition and re-signing Palmer. Palmer was beaten out by another former Tampa Bay long snapper, Sean McDermott, who was acquired by Houston in the expansion draft.

- For the first time in a long time in Tampa Bay, the Bucs plan on featuring some split-back sets out of their pro formation. Under Mike Shula, Les Steckel and Clyde Christensen, the Bucs were primarily an I-formation team and would vary that with an offset I or single back formation. The Bucs will also use plenty of two-tight end sets featuring Marco Battaglia and Ken Dilger and lots of sets with three wide receivers.

- When the Bucs want to make Keyshawn Johnson or Keenan McCardell the "move" receiver and create matchups on the fly, the team will use "Trojan" receiver formations for Johnson, and "Vegas" formations for McCardell. Johnson was a Trojan at the University of Southern California, and McCardell went to the University of Nevada-Las Vegas.

- The Bucs signed veteran offensive tackle Roman Oben even though he wasn't totally healthy. Team officials won't comment as to whether he actually passed the team's physical or not, but his knee wasn't 100 percent when he signed his one-year contract. If the knee keeps giving Oben problems, the team isn't in any salary cap trouble if they have to cut him because his one-year deal included a nominal signing bonus. But Tampa Bay had to act quickly in free agency and land Oben, who was being heavily courted by Baltimore. The Ravens were prepared to sign him "as is" too. But the good news is that Oben participated in the team's last two mini-camps to get acclimated to the offense and played through the pain. His knee is improving and will be at or real close to 100 percent at training camp.

- One last item. A year or two ago, NFL teams came out with their own websites that reported "the news", but really its their own version of it spun by the public relations department. There was no mention of Ray Lewis' arrest and murder trial on NFL.com or the Ravens team website. It's like the trial didn't even take place. Last year when there was speculation that Tony Dungy would be fired for weeks leading up to the Wild Card playoff game in Philadelphia from all local Tampa Bay and national forms of media. But there wasn't even a hint of that on the Bucs website. The first mention that Dungy's job was even in jeopardy was when the website reported he was fired. If a fan were to rely on that particular site only for news, Dungy's firing would have come as quite a shock. The team's website also twisted a headline this week when it borrowed a story on QB Shaun King from Andrew Mason on NFL.com. On NFL.com the headline was "A King without a throne?" But on the Bucs website, it was changed to the more positive, fluffy headline "A King in waiting".


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Copyright 2002 Pewter Report/PewterReport.com

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