SR's Fab Five

August 22 - In this week's edition of SR's Fab Five: The impressive play of rookie Jermaine Phillips may force the Bucs to keep 5 safeties and only 4 corners; the inside scoop behind the addition of OL Cornell Green; trying to figure out OL Todd Washington; why DE Ron Warner is worth keeping an eye on; and the Buccaneers are itching to outscore and shutdown the Redskins' vaunted offense. Don't miss this week's inside information!

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Copyright 2002 Pewter Report/
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Here's five things that caught my interest this week:

FAB 1. Don't be surprised to see the Tampa Bay Buccaneers keep five safeties again when mandatory roster cuts come and go. John Lynch is the starter at strong safety and Dexter Jackson will start at free safety. The team has been pleased with the play of backup strong safety David Gibson and reserve free safety John Howell. In addition to playing well on defense, both Gibson and Howell have showed well on special teams, too.

But the team has also loved the athletic play and aggressiveness of rookie safety Jermaine Phillips. Phillips has been dynamite playing near the line of scrimmage due to his ability to quickly diagnose a play and react, as well as dropping back in coverage. He has a huge upside that the Bucs would like to explore. He needs some work on special teams, especially stopping gunners on punt returns, but that will come with experience. I think Phillips makes the team as the fifth safety. He's looked just as good in practice as he has in games.

If the Bucs keep five safeties that means that they will likely only keep four corners. Ronde Barber and Brian Kelly are the starters with Terrell Buckley and Dwight Smith as the nickel and dime backs. Tampa Bay went into camp hoping to keep five cornerbacks to match up with teams like the St. Louis Rams, but the fact that Jackson is fast and agile and can also play corner, allows them to keep only four true corners on their 53-man roster. If the Bucs want to use five corners to match up against St. Louis' five wide receiver sets, Jackson could move to corner and be replaced at free safety by either Howell or Phillips.

Corey Chamblin is battling Corey Ivy for the right to be the Bucs' fifth corner. Even though either one of those players may not make the roster, there is a strong chance that one of them could wind up on Tampa Bay's practice squad.

FAB 2. The addition of offensive lineman Cornell Green via a trade for Miami likely signals the end of the road for Jerry Wunsch in a Bucs' uniform. Green is an athletic player with great size and good strength and has some consistency to his game. He's moved up from the "project" level to the "prospect" level in terms of his development, and the coaches like the fact that he can play guard or tackle. Tampa Bay originally only had one player who could play inside or outside and that was Kendall Mack, who was injury-prone and recently waived.

The fact that the Bucs gave up a seventh-round pick for Green likely means he'll stick on the team's 53-man roster. That would mean Tampa Bay's opening day tackles would be Roman Oben and Lomas Brown on the left side, and Kenyatta Walker and Green on the right. There is an outside chance that Pete Pierson would stick either in place of -- or in addition to -- Brown. Pierson can play either left or right tackle.

FAB 3. The Bucs are having a hard time evaluating reserve center/guard Todd Washington. He hasn't played very well in either of the Bucs' first two preseason games, and the team isn't quite sure how much of it is his knee, which is swollen due to offseason surgery, or how much of it is just Washington himself in terms of technique and ability.

Washington couldn't unseat center Jeff Christy during camp, and has tried to crack the starting lineup at guard. The problem there has been that Kerry Jenkins is an established veteran on the left side, and Cosey Coleman has shown much improvement at right guard. But when Coleman was lost for a month with a torn meniscus, opportunity knocked for Washington, who assumed the starting role at right guard for the preseason.

But Washington hasn't been able to take full advantage of the chance to play with the starters due to his troublesome knee, although he does have two more chances against Washington and Houston. However, the Bucs would like to rest him and his aching knee against the Texans because they'll need him when they face the New Orleans Saints on opening day. There is a chance that Coleman could be ready to return by September 8, but how effective would he be, and would he be in shape?

Washington signed a lucrative extension this season, but the team still doesn't know if they inked a future starter to an extended contract or just a career backup. Can Washington ever be one of the top five linemen or will he always be the sixth best? With two preseason games left, the Bucs are still searching for those answers.

FAB 4. One player to keep your eye on during the Bucs-Redskins game is Ron Warner. Warner, a second-year defensive end who played rush linebacker at the University of Kansas, has put together a nice training camp on the heels of a super stint in NFL Europe where he led the league in sacks with six.

Warner notched his first sack of the preseason against Jacksonville last Friday and has the motor and pass rushing skills to play in the NFL. If Ellis Wyms couldn't also play nose tackle, Warner would stand a slim chance of making the team. The Bucs will keep Simeon Rice, Greg Spires and probably Marcus Jones at defensive end. But the fact that Wyms is currently Anthony McFarland's backup at nose tackle helps because he won't be counted as an end when Tampa Bay only keeps eight defensive linemen on its roster.

The Bucs like to keep four ends and four tackles -- and it will likely come down to whether the team wants to keep Warner or nose tackle Buck Gurley on the final cut. Gurley had an impressive debut against Miami, registering four tackles, but sprained his ankle against Jacksonville and may not play against Washington. Warner has the chance to build on a strong showing last week and possibly secure a roster spot.

Warner has good pass rush instincts and the high-motor that defensive line coach Rod Marinelli craves. At 6-foot-2, 265 pounds he has a build similar to Spires and Steve White. Marinelli is bringing him along slowly and concentrating on playing the right defensive end spot before trying him on the left side.

If he continues to find a rhythm rushing the passer, Marinelli and head coach Jon Gruden may decide against giving the expensive Jones a fourth opportunity to prove himself and go with a player with more upside like Warner.

FAB 5. Through two preseason games, the Buccaneers' starting defense has yet to give up any points and the defense as a whole has only surrendered 10 -- all of which came against the Miami Dolphins. Tampa Bay's defense will face a tough test against Steve Spurrier's Fun-N-Gun offense when Washington comes to town on Saturday.

The Redskins have scored 38, 37 and 35 points in their first three preseason games. Not only do the Bucs want to severely stifle the Redskins' offense, they want to pile up the points, too. Head coach Jon Gruden has an ego, although it is usually kept in check a bit better than Spurrier's. He knows that Spurrier's offense is the one being hailed during the preseason and he would like to see the Bucs offense light it up in this marquee matchup.

Expect Redskins defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis, who was jilted by the Glazers when he was on the verge of becoming the Bucs' next head coach, to blitz Gruden's offense like crazy to take advantage of Tampa Bay's offensive line, which is still a work in progress. Lewis is also ticked off because Pittsburgh scored 34 points against his squad last week.

After not really challenging Miami's cornerbacks in the Bucs' 14-10 win in which they only netted 63 yards passing, Tampa Bay lit up Jacksonville's rag-tag secondary for 254 yards passing. Washington's cornerbacks Champ Bailey, Fred Smoot and Darrell Green will give the Bucs' receivers a real test.

SR's Fab Five usually appears weekly on
Copyright 2002 Pewter Report/
This story is intended to be read only by Club Insiders only and 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.

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