Leo's Late Hits

August 10 - Pewter Report managing editor Leo Haggerty sat down for an exclusive interview with new Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receivers coach Richard Mann. The topics ranged from the "sneaky" moves of Keenan McCardell to the vertical passing game that everyone believes is non-existent with the Pewter Pirates to laying down the law the first practice of mini-camp.

Q: When you first came to Tampa Bay and looked at film from last year what was the first thing that caught your eye?

A: Basically, I knew Keyshawn, of course, and I knew what kind of player he is and what he has been. I had him earlier with the New York Jets so I knew that guy. The rest of the guys that have been here, a couple of guys I knew coming out of college. First of all I felt that you had to come in and learn the offense and then we'll take it from there. I think are guys fit in very nice to the offensive scheme. We added a couple guys and I think the two guys that we did add really made us a lot better and a lot strong plus a lot deeper.

Q: At the first mini-camp practice did you stop the first drill about a minute into it to lay down the law about work ethic at practice?

A: What I wanted to emphasize to them was that they needed to do it our way and we got a lot of guidance from Coach Gruden. I know what he wants and one thing I wanted to let my players know was that I was going to do what he wants. I going to do what I know and add what I know while staying within the system. At that time the guys weren't doing what we wanted them to do so we have to have a meeting right there on the field. What the meeting was about is that if it wasn't working then coach Gruden and the rest of the coaching staff would go back to the drawing board. First of all, you never know if something is going to work until you do it in practice and that's what we talked about at that time.

Q: Have you ever had a bigger group of wide receivers to work with in terms of height?

A: I've been around a long time and I've had some big wide receiver corps but this one rates right up there with any I've had in the past. We've got a lot of big receivers and I think we may still grow. Everybody works fine together. I know everyone has an ego but we only have one ball and that's what we stress. The key to it is that we have to learn the details and that's what we're doing at this point.

Q: Is there a better clutch receiver in the NFL than Keyshawn Johnson at this time?

A: I think since I've been here and looking at Keyshawn and knowing what he had when he first came into the league he's come a long way since I've been away from him for five or six years. He'll make even more plays now because the system that we have will allow him to do that. I think with us moving around and being multiple it's a great offense for a receiver. Any receiver would be chomping at the bit to be in this offense.

Q: Does the acquisition of Keenan McCardell take the double teams away from Keyshawn Johnson and make the defense play you honest especially in the secondary?

A: You're exactly right. I think that Keenan is an excellent, excellent possession guy. He's capable of getting deep with his sneaky moves and his speed plus other stuff. He's a guy, again, I had when he was young and now he's very polished. The key is to get him to do it our way and not take anything away from his game. That is the key.

Q: Is Joe Jurevicius as big a target on the field as he seems from the press box?

A: That's the third guy I was talking about. The three of those guys a blessing in disguise for a coach. He's still learning and he's still growing as a player but he's a good listener plus he's very quiet. What I really like is that he pays attention and he, along with the other two wide receivers I talked about earlier, will make me look like a good coach. I really like his intensity in listening and then going out to do what you asked him to do.

Q: Is Marquise Walker having to learn on the run being a rookie?

A: A little bit. He's still in the process of learning what to do and how to do it. It's his first year in the league and it's his first NFL camp. He's being saturated with information right now. I think it's our job, particularly my job as his position coach, to keep him on the right track and get him focused. Hopefully, then we'll get what we saw coming out of college.

Q: In what may be a first for Tampa Bay, are you going to have to cut some good wide receivers?

A: I told one of the coaches up in the office that we're going to have to make some tough decisions with the wide receivers. I think that if you have to make tough decisions because you don't know who to cut when this guy can play as well as these other guys that's a good situation to be in. That means that you are cutting somebody that you think can play.

Q: Does a guy like Aaron Locket have to make this team as a returner?

A: I think a guy like that has to be a mainstay on special teams for him to make it. Right now he can be nothing more, in my opinion, then a spot receiver in specific situations. He needs to be real, real focused and real, real dedicated to special teams and I now that's part of his forte.

Q: What has changed the most in coaching wide receivers since you started coaching in the NFL in 1982?

A: The offenses have gotten to the point where they are a little bit more multiple There's a lot more plays and you have to stay on top of those plays. The concepts are a lot more than they used to be. Back in the old days we used to work on a lot of technique and a lot of fundamentals. We still get those things in but we really have to be focused on the details like the shits and the formations.

Q: How big a thing is it that coaches aren't afraid to throw the ball anywhere on the field?

A: That's the one thing that I love, personally, about coach Gruden is that he's not afraid. He's very aggressive and I like guys that can make a decision. Coach Gruden has no problem making decisions.

Q: How important is it for a wide receiver to know how to escape press coverage?

A: We even talked about it again this morning. There are a lot of ways, like a swim or rip technique, and a lot of different tricks that you can use to get off the ball. We want to give them an arsenal or a repertoire that they can pull out when they need it. What we want to make sure is that they work on it and get confidence in it. When you don't work on it in practice you won't do it in the games. We create drills, as you've seen, to work on this and coach Gruden even gets involved. He's not afraid to get his hands dirty. We want to make them work on those techniques and make them work on the things that will make them better. That's what we're getting and we just have to keep pushing it during training camp. After a while it will just become natural and part of their game.

Q: Are there any pass patterns that doesn't include a crossing route by two receivers in the Bucs passing game?

A: I think it's more a matter of what we decide. It really depends on the coverage that we are getting. We have a lot of crossing routes and, as soon as they start hunching down on the crossing routes, we start the crossing routes but take it up the field vertically. The crossing routes are what everyone thinks we do but we're very capable of doing the vertical game if we choose to do it. We can run the dug and turn it up just as easily as continuing to cross.


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