Bucs Chat Wrap

Recently BucsBlitz.com publisher and Buccaneers expert Matthew Postins chatted with message board administrator ThePewterPirate in the first "Bucs Chat" session of the 2007 season on Thursday. Postins breaks down everything from position upgrades to which rookies could have an impact, besides Gaines Adams. How many games does Jon Gruden need to win to stay employed? Read on.

ThePewterPirate What position do you see as the biggest upgrade over last season?

Postins Overall, probably defensive line and quarterback. Kevin Carter will do great things wherever he plays on that line. Jeff Garcia is definitely an upgrade over Chris Simms in terms of experience and understanding the West Coast offense.

ThePewterPirate I envision the d-line being led by (Simeon) Rice, (Chris) Hovan, (Kevin) Carter and (Greg) Spires, how far into the season do we have to wait until Adams takes over for Spires?

Postins I think that depends on how quickly Adams completely grasps the right side of the line. After that, the Bucs say they'll cross-train him for the left side. Also understand that the Bucs like their left end to be bigger than Rice or Adams, so I'm not 100 percent sure we'll see Adams there as a starter at any point this season. But using Adams on the left and Rice on the right to create a speed-rushing tandem is a wrinkle I think Monte Kiffin will exploit this season.

ThePewterPirate Does we have the pieces needed for a top ten defense this year?

Postins I actually think so, but it's all dependent on the health of the six starters that are 30 years of age or older. If they play to the form they played in 2005, I think there's a good chance. But if the injury bug hits again, I don't see it happening.

ThePewterPirate We drafted cornerbacks, linebackers and safeties this year. If the starters do go down, how do our rookies look? Does anyone one of them stand out amongst the others?

Postins Good question. I think if there's any rookie that could step in and play immediately -- besides Adams -- it's Tanard Jackson. He's a pretty polished corner who can play both corner and safety, which is what impressed the Bucs at the Senior Bowl. I think they reached on (Sabby) Piscitelli, frankly. He made big plays in college but I've heard scouts be critical of his tackling. And Black and Peterson are strictly special teamers this year.

ThePewterPirate I agree with that. My biggest concern is our safeties. If Piscitelli and Jackson are OK, and we know that our current starters at safety are not up to the task, do you think we should let them play more than usual during preseason in order to challenge (Jermaine) Philips and (Will) Allen?

Postins (General manager) Bruce Allen made it clear that he thought the rookies could challenge Phillip and Allen. That's a big if, though. That, frankly, is the most dangerous position on the defense, in terms of thin or inexperienced depth if the starters falter. That could be a bad situation if the vets don't improve.

ThePewterPirate I don't think the rookies could do any worse than they did last year.

Postins But can they do better? That's what ultimately would trigger a chance in the starting lineup.

ThePewterPirate I'd like to see Piscitelli and Jackson take some plays against a first-string team in the preseason to see how they perform at the next level.

Postins On the safeties, I think they will. There's usually a lot of mixing and matching every preseason. They'll get their share of reps against vets, I assure you.

ThePewterPirate Do (Kenneth) Darby and (Zac) Taylor make the team?

Postins Darby has a chance because he really only has one player to beat out and that's Earnest Graham (Mr. August). I talked to Graham last year and he understands what preseason is all about for him. He'll be ready to fend off Darby. One thing Darby does have is pass-receiving skills, and Gruden was impressed in mini-camp.

Postins Taylor I don't think has a prayer. There are way too many quarterbacks on this roster. I think practice squad is a possibility though, because every team can sign one QB to their practice squad.

ThePewterPirate Graham averaged over 4 yards per carry last year, why don't the Bucs utilize him more?

Postins Graham is a small back and I think his durability concerns them. More importantly, he's not as quick as Caddy or Pittman. He's a valuable backup and special teams player, but he won't be much more than that. Cadillac (Williams) and (Michael) Pittman are just better backs, period.

ThePewterPirate A lot of other teams use a tandem back approach to their running game. Any chance that (Jon) Gruden will use this too? I should've said a more committed approach.

Postins His history actually proves that he's willing to do that, if he has the personnel. He does in Tampa, but he didn't utilize the run game last year because he lost confidence in his offensive line. He eventually wants Cadillac to be a three-down back, but it won't be this year. I think Pittman will get increased carries to keep Caddy healthy, certainly more than last year.

ThePewterPirate What record does Gruden need in order to return next year?

Postins That's the big question. I think it has to be at least .500. If it is, I don't think he gets a contract extension, but he will likely be back for '08. A winning record means a new contract extension. A losing record and I think he and Allen are gone.

ThePewterPirate Football analysts are all over the board when it comes to predicting our win/loss record next season. I've seen reports that we are a shoo-in for the playoffs if we can remain healthy, and some are the exact opposite saying that we are too old across the board to be a real threat. Which is closer to the truth?

Postins I think this team is closer to 8-8 or 7-9, to be honest. I think they'll be improved, certainly, but I don't think they did enough in free agency or the draft this year to put a band-aid over everything that went wrong last year. Of course, I said 8-8 in 2005 and look what happened. The NFL is pretty crazy in that way.

ThePewterPirate I have to bring up our division. We got beat up last year by everyone in the NFC South. Are we looking at another 0-6 run, even without Vick in Atlanta?

Postins No, I think the Bucs will win a few division games because none of those teams got markedly better than last year. Plus, I can't think of an NFL team that went winless in their division two years in a row. That just doesn't happen.

ThePewterPirate Oakland?

Postins Oakland did go winless in '05 and '06. I have to correct myself. I should have said it rarely happens.

Postins And the only way Vick doesn't play quarterback in Atlanta this season is if Arthur Blank releases him. The NFL, I don't think, will take action until his trial.

ThePewterPirate Pacman (Jones) was suspended and never convicted.

Postins Pacman also had a track record of bad behavior, as did (Cincinnati's) Chris Henry. Vick doesn't have their sort of track record.

ThePewterPirate What place can we expect to finish in our division?

Postins I think third is reasonable, potentially second if the Bucs get a few breaks. Atlanta's heading for the tank, frankly, and I think the Bucs will be very competitive with Carolina. This division is New Orleans', barring injury.

Postins And we have time for two more questions.

ThePewterPirate What's the thing we should be most concerned about heading into the season?

Postins The health of Jeff Garcia and Cadillac Williams. If the offense is going to improve this season, it falls on those two players. Garcia has a tendency to make his running backs better, so Cadillac might just benefit from him being back there. If they're healthy for the whole season and productive, I think the offense will be much better than 06. Without them, Gruden's looking for a job.

ThePewterPirate What numbers does (wide receiver Michael) Clayton need to get to remain with the Bucs next year?

Postins I think that if Stovall beats him out, then Clayton only needs to catch about 40-45 passes this season to stay on the roster. That's pretty good production for a third wide receiver. If Clayton wins the No. 2 job, though, he'll need to catch about 60 balls. Gruden wants to throw more, and Clayton's going to have to prove he can handle the workload again.

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