SR's Fab Five

August 29 - In this week's edition: Will Marcus Jones be able to win back the starting DE spot from Greg Spires once healthy, or are his days in Tampa numbered? ALSO: The Bucs get their first look at the 3-4 defense on Friday against Houston. QB Shaun King deserves to play with the starting unit against the Texans. It was "one drop and your gone" for WRs E.G. Green and Milton Wynn. And more on Bucs DE Ron Warner in this week's installment.

SR's Fab Five usually appears weekly on PewterReport.com
Copyright 2002 Pewter Report/PewterReport.com
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Before we get to this week's Fab Five, here's a quick update regarding an INSIDER story I did last week, titled "5 Buccaneers On The Bubble." As we correctly predicted, the Bucs cut WR Milton Wynn and OT Jerry Wunsch, which was first forecasted on PewterReport.com way back during the first week of August.

Defensive end Marcus Jones' injury actually bought some time for him, and his long-term status with the team is far from clear right now. Karl Williams is still locked in a battle with rookie punt returner Aaron Lockett, who showed signs of life last week with a 31-yard return. That return bought him another week. And finally, Todd Yoder obviously beat out Mike Roberg, but will have have to continue to prove his worth on special teams to beat out rookie Tracey Wistrom this week to secure the No. 3 tight end spot.

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

FAB 1. The meniscus injury to Buccaneers defensive end Marcus Jones' knee might doom his season in Tampa. The early prognosis is that he is expected to be sidelined four to six weeks following Monday's knee surgery. But his past performance indicates that Jones will likely not have much success when he does return to action later this year.

Jones was hampered by bone spurs in his ankles in the 1997 season and failed to register a sack while racking up just one tackle. Coming off ankle surgery during the offseason in 1998, Jones saw action in 15 games that year, but only had six tackles and again did not record a sack.

A healthy Jones put together two solid years starting at defensive end in 20 contests over a 32-game span, notching 20 sacks. But last year as the full-time starter at left end, Jones fought through a shoulder injury en route to a disappointing 39-tackle, three-sack performance in 2001. Again, not much production while playing injured.

Jones was in jeopardy of losing his starting left end position to newcomer Greg Spires during this preseason, and might have even been on the bubble due to a less than stellar training camp and preseason showing. Now that Spires wins the left end position by default with Jones' injury, he may not let the starting job go if he continues to perform as well as he did during the offseason.

With Spires looking to make his mark and earn a bigger payday down the road, and Jones' track record of not playing well while injured or coming off an injury, Jones' days in Tampa may be numbered. He's carrying a $3.75 million cap charge this season, which will ultimately lead to his dismissal if he doesn't return to his 2000 form, in which he recorded 13 sacks, once his rehab is completed. The team can't afford to have a backup making that much, either.

FAB 2. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers scheduled their preseason game with the Houston Texans long before Dom Capers had been hired as the team's head coach, but they are thrilled that Capers became the inaugural coach of the Texans and brought his 3-4 defensive scheme to Houston. The Bucs play Houston at the new Reliant Stadium on Friday.

With the Bucs' offense getting stifled against Pittsburgh in last year's 17-10 loss to the Steelers, the Bucs could use a tune up game against the 3-4 scheme because the Black and Gold return to Tampa again on December 23 for a clash on Monday Night Football.

The fact that new Atlanta defensive coordinator Wade Phillips is bringing the 3-4 defense to the Falcons this year, means that the Bucs will be seeing the 3-4 three times this season.

It will take Atlanta some time to incorporate the new defense, and they aren't even close to being as formidable as the Steelers' defense is yet. The good news for the Bucs is that they will gradually ramp up to the 3-4 defense, starting with the remedial version of the defense used by the expansion Texans. Then they will play the intermediate version exercised by the Falcons twice before facing the advanced version used by Pittsburgh, who has perfected the defense over the last decade under Bill Cowher.

If the Bucs don't have the right pass protection schemes and successful offensive plays down by the time the Steelers come to town, the blame must rest solely on Jon Gruden and his staff because they will have seen the 3-4 on three occasions prior to facing Pittsburgh.

FAB 3. It's time for third-string quarterback Shaun King to get some reps with the first-string offensive players. Rob Johnson has had significant playing time with the Bucs' starters and has produced mix results with an almost equal amount of scoring drives and sacks/turnovers. King hasn't exactly played lights out in the second half of each preseason game, but how much of it is him and how much of it is the second- and third-stringers that he's throwing to and relying on for pass protection? I don't know, and I'm sure the folks at One Buc Place don't have all the answers, either.

King has shown improvement during training camp, and with only one year left on his contract, it's important for the Bucs' front office to find out if he is worth re-signing as a backup or as a potential starter. With just one preseason game left, King deserves at least a quarter throwing the ball to Keenan McCardell, Ken Dilger and Keyshawn Johnson for a change.

It's not that I think Rob Johnson has regressed and deserves to be moved down to No. 3 on the depth chart for the 2002 season.I just think King should get the shot to earn the backup job behind Brad Johnson, and that can only come by having the same measuring stick as Rob Johnson has -- and that's playing with the Bucs' starters.

FAB 4. Was it any surprise that wide receivers E.G. Green and Milton Wynn got released? Not really. Both players were battling for roster spots on special teams more than anything else. Green regressed from his performances at mini-camp once the pads came on. He wasn't overly physical and just didn't have the separation speed required to excel in Jon Gruden's offense.

Wynn had just one strong performance with the Buccaneers, in last year's season finale where he had four catches for 69 yards, including a 36-yard catch-and-run. But that 36-yarder came against broken coverage and he didn't record a catch during this preseason. He didn't excel on special teams and clearly wasn't better than Frank Murphy or Marquise Walker, who are expected to assume the fourth and fifth wide receiver spots on this year's Bucs' roster.

Both Green and Wynn had catchable passes thrown to them during the preseason and came up with drops. Green had a pass bounce off his hands in the end zone against Miami. Despite good coverage, he could have made a big play.

Wynn dropped a pass that hit him right in the hands against Jacksonville. Neither player had a pass thrown to them after those drops.

In fact, both players were taken out of the game after their drops for a sideline conference with receivers coach Richard Mann. Ah, accountability is a wonderful thing for long-suffering Bucs fans who watched receivers drop pass after pass over the last couple of seasons without consequence.

FAB 5. If you read last week's Fab Five, you were told to keep an eye on Bucs defensive end Ron Warner, whom defensive line coach Rod Marinelli really likes, during the Washington game. Warner had a sensational outing against the Redskins, recording a team-leading five tackles and notching a sack, which earned him the Pewter Report player of the game award.

Warner, who figures to get significant playing time in Houston, can solidify his roster spot with another sack or two against the Texans. Warner also showed his versatility by switching from right end to left end against the Redskins. Being versatile is key when you're a backup in Tampa Bay.

We hope it's insights like the tidbit on Warner last week that lead you to continue to receive our Insider content on PewterReport.com. Here's another inside note to keep an eye on for the future.

The Houston Texans released pass rusher Greg White, a former standout defensive end at the University of Minnesota, in the first wave of cutdowns. He's in the Ron Warner, Steve White, Greg Spires mold at 6-foot-3, 263 pounds. Greg White got cut by Houston despite notching four sacks and two forced fumbles against New Orleans in the Saints' preseason opener this year.

There has to be something going on behind the scenes that led to White being released. With Houston looking for playmakers, you don't just cut a guy that had four sacks and two turnovers in one game. The Bucs are going to bring him in for a workout and investigate what led to his dismissal. It's this "dig deep" philosophy that led the team to procure players like Warner, Chartric Darby and Shelton Quarles.


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.

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