The guy to
watch is Davin Joseph. This guy has Pro Bowl caliber talent and he could make
a challenge for a spot in Hawaii this year. He’s quick, he’s a load
and he’s eager to start knocking some people around. As I said earlier,
this line has four new starters — Joseph (started last season injured),
right tackle Jeremy Trueblood (started the second game after Kenyatta Walker’s
injury), left guard Arron Sears (who is questionable for Sunday) and Petitgout
at left tackle. Wade at center is the only holdover. I think this line has a
big learning curve with three players that have a year of NFL experience or
less. This line is very average, so Joseph will stick out.
DF: There have been serious changes on the defensive line. Simeon Rice and Booger McFarland are gone, and Clemson rookie Combine stud Gaines Adams is the future. How will this line hold up in 2007?
MP: Letting Rice go was a mistake. The Bucs asked him to take a $2.5 million pay cut, even though they were under the cap, could have put him on PUP and he was in the last year of his contract. He’ll be a beast in Denver. This defensive line had eight sacks in the preseason, two fewer than last year. Unfortunately, only one of those was by projected starters (Kevin Carter). Good news for Adams is that he had two preseason sacks, and he’ll start on Sunday. Bad news is he has to go up against Walter Jones.
I’m skeptical that
this line will get the push necessary to pressure quarterbacks early in the
season. They’re putting too much reliance on Adams, who really could have
used a year playing behind Rice. Right now, I don’t see them being better
than last year’s total of 25 sacks.
DF: The Bucs acquired Cato June and Jeremiah Trotter in the offseason to help overhaul a linebacker corps that had been wearing down for a while. What do you see from the new guys, and how much does Derrick Brooks have left in the tank?
MP: Trotter just got here, and he’ll be Barrett Ruud’s primary backup at middle linebacker. He gives the coaching staff peace of mind, because Ruud only has four NFL starts in two seasons. June is fitting in fine at strong side linebacker. He said the position is the same he played at Indianapolis, so the transition has been smooth.
Brooks, even at age 34,
can still play at a high level. He had eight tackles in preseason and he basically
played seven possessions. That’s a solid average. He has lost a step,
but he more than makes up for it with his football smarts. He’s rarely
out of position.
DF: The secondary seems to be a real problem. What has the front office done to improve a defensive backfield that allowed big games and big plays seemingly all of last season?
I think the front office did a terrible job of addressing their issues at safety.
They should have brought in a veteran safety to challenge Jermaine Phillips
and Will Allen. Instead, they chose to use rookies Tanard Jackson and Sabby Piscitelli to do so. Both have played all right, but not at a level where they
were able to unseat the starters for the opener. Jackson will play some. The
coaching staff likes him. Piscitelli has a little ways to go. At cornerback,
the Bucs will benefit from a healthy Brian Kelly. For some reason this team
wins games when Kelly starts. Phillip Buchanon is now the nickel corner. Pound
for pound, I’d say the corners make up one of the league’s better
DF: Since winning a Super Bowl in early 2003 with a team he primarily inherited, coach Jon Gruden has amassed a 27-37 record. How would you rate his post-championship tenure in Tampa Bay, and is he on the hook if the team doesn’t improve significantly in 2007?
MP: Gruden, to me, has one big flaw. He’s a “now” coach, meaning he wants to win now, not in three years. He’ll grouse that it’s not true, but it’s a fact that we don’t have enough time to back up properly. If you look at their free agent moves this season, it’s easy to tell what they were doing. Garcia, Carter, June — they went after veteran guys. You can make a case that Gruden hasn’t developed a single young player in Tampa Bay. He’s impatient. He wants to win now. He has no use for the future. That’s may be part of the reason Rice and linebacker Shelton Quarles aren’t here. They couldn’t help him right then and there, so the Bucs released them.
Gruden is a flavor-of-the-month
coach, and once he loses the taste you’re done for. He’s on a big
hook right now. The Glazers value championships the most, but they also value
consistency and Gruden hasn’t given it to them. If the Bucs have another
horrid season, expect Gruden and general manager Bruce Allen to be looking for
Matthew Postins covers the Buccaneers for BucsBlitz.com and the Charlotte Sun-Herald in Port Charlotte, Fla. He is a member of the Pro Football Writers Association and has won national awards for his Buccaneers coverage from the PFWA, the National Newspaper Association and the Associated Press Sports Editors. He is also a contributor to the Scot Brantley Show from 4-7 p.m. weekdays on WHBO 1490-AM in Tampa-Clearwater.
Doug Farrar is the Editor-in-Chief of Seahawks.NET, a staff writer for Football Outsiders, and a contributing author to Pro Football Prospectus 2007.