Raheem Morris says that if Gaines Adams doesn't get double-digit sacks this year, he's a bust? Man, when Raheem calls somebody out, he calls somebody out.
Sure, Adams should be considered an underachiever so far in his career. When you're taken where he's taken, a six-sack season in 2007, his rookie year, is acceptable. I wrote as much before he even started his career, based on research I had done on Top 10 defensive ends selected from 1992-06. The average production was six sacks. Adams nailed it.
But improving by .5 sacks his sophomore season was unacceptable, especially for someone who was basically handed the No. 1 job after the release of Simeon Rice and the reduced playing time for Kevin Carter. And now, Morris is daring to call his supposed top pass rusher a bust? And he's questioning the DE's effort compared to last year's?
It's a gamble, and it's the first big gamble of Morris' short career. This will either motivate Adams to get it in gear or put him sulking around the clubhouse. Morris made it clear the Bucs are assessing their options, so Adams' job is on the line. If it does motivate Adams, then this pass rush becomes clearly better. If it doesn't, this pass rush could be worse than the 2006 pass rush and it could prematurely end Adams' career in Tampa Bay. Would you want to play for a coach that thinks you're a bust?
Honestly, I'm not sure which way Adams will go. I've dealt with him since his rookie season and he's always seemed a bit too laid back for my taste. We'll see, but the Giants present a huge challenge for Adams, and the rest of the Bucs defense, this Sunday.
By the way, before you start thinking that I'm being too hard on Adams, listen to this. After two games, the Bucs' defense is ranked 31st in the NFL, allowing 450 yards per game and are last in yards per play at 7.5. And Morris said he counted 24 missed tackles vs. Buffalo.
I mention this to point out that it's not just Adams. It's everyone, including the adjustment to the new scheme of defensive coordinator Jim Bates. To be blunt, I predicted this, especially the pass defense that leaks like a sieve. When you turn over a third of the roster, change defenses and fire your offensive coordinator 10 days before the start of the season, do you expect them to win their first two games? No, but you expect them to look a little better doing it.
S Jermaine Phillips is gone for the season. So the experiment at weak side linebacker is over, probably for good. I don't see the Bucs attempting this again next season, which means Phillips will be back to being an all-hit, no-cover safety in 2010 – if he's still in Tampa Bay. Don't be surprised if the Bucs part ways with him. They have plenty of cap space to absorb his release.
I'm less surprised that New England is interested in Derrick Brooks than the fact that Brooks is still a free agent. This guy can still play. Granted, he's not an every-down linebacker anymore. But put him in the right scheme and let him play two downs a series, 25-30 plays a game, and he'll make an impact. Don't forget to catch Brooks on ESPN starting this week. I'm interested to see if Brooks will do better than last year's failed experiment, Emmitt Smith. Emmitt, I love you, but it's just not your bag, baby.
Byron Leftwich is in the Top 5 in touchdown passes after two weeks with four. Don't expect it to last. I wish it would, though. With Matt Hasselbeck hurt and probably out on Sunday, I need an emergency starter. Frankly, I could have used the Bucs playing the Bills this week, not last week. Oh, and would someone please consider blocking a bit better for Byron. Geez, how many times does he have to get hit before someone says something?
Barrett Ruud had 22 tackles last week. Understand that's the Bucs' numbers, not the NFL's. But two things are clear. First, the Bucs are going to be bad enough to where Ruud is going to get plenty of chances to threaten 200 tackles this season. Second, there's at least one player on the team with which Bates' defensive scheme agrees. Ruud is going to do more than enough to force the Bucs to pay him big money in the offseason. They could have saved some cash if they had just given Ruud an extension this summer like he wanted. It could cost the Bucs $10 million over the life of the contract.
Carnell Williams, Comeback Player of the Year>? Don't laugh. Last week's receiving touchdown was the first of his career. Can you think of another player after two games to which the "comeback" term applies? I can't at the moment. Heck, I picked up Williams as a free agent in my fantasy league this week. If the Bucs are smart, they'll run on a shaky Giants run defense and put Williams at the center of the game plan.
Doesn't anyone else want to ask Derrick Ward about his decision to come to Tampa Bay? He faced a classic pro athlete decision this spring – play a supporting role on a team that is a Super Bowl contender, or get paid by a team that isn't . He took the money. I hope that Super Bowl ring from two years ago keeps him warm at night, because he's not going to sniff a winning season for at least two seasons, and if Williams keeps playing the way he's playing, Ward won't sniff the starting job he coveted, either. Plus, right now it's neck and neck between the Giants and the Falcons for best NFC team, in my opinion. Maybe I'm just weird, but I like winning, even if I'm holding the QB's jock.
I predicted a 23-20 Bills win. I wasn't that close this time around. The Bills have exposed the Bucs as a bad team, pure and simple. The Giants aren't going to do anything to demystify that assumption on Sunday. I can't decide what the Giants will do more of – run Brandon Jacobs down the Bucs' throats or let Eli Manning pick them apart. Frankly, either strategy will work. This one has the potential to get ugly in a hurry. Giants 37, Bucs 10.