Ken Palmer: How has Derrick Ward looked since signing with Tampa Bay? Is he the true feature back that he had hoped to be?
Tyler Frazier: Ward has definitely made an impact on the field and in the locker room since arriving in Tampa. He impressed fans and coaches during training camp by showcasing his power while running the ball. Due to Cadillac Williams becoming the first player in league history to overcome torn patellar tendons in both knees to start an NFL game, Ward once again finds himself in a crowded backfield. In two games, Ward has 21 carries for 94 yards and 1 TD, while Williams has 20 carries for 106 yards and 1 TD. Ward can continue to expect to rotate every few series throughout the game. He will get his opportunity to show that he deserves the role as feature back, but seems to have no problem sharing the workload with the other backs. He even joked with the media that he has come up with a new nickname for the backfield, but would not reveal the name yet. He has quickly become a favorite of fans all over Tampa.
Tyler Frazier: Byron Leftwich deserves to be the starter on the Buccaneers. He gives the team the best chance to win in the immediate future. Although the team has had many problems so far, Leftwich is not at the top of the list. In fact, Leftwich is currently the seventh-ranked QB in the NFL. The Bucs know that Leftwich will most likely not be around for more than one season, so this is the perfect time for the coaching staff to groom Freeman. Throwing Freeman immediately into the mix could shatter the young quarterback's confidence. You can expect to see Freeman play this season, most likely starting around midseason, if the team continues to struggle. During preseason, Freeman showed that he still had a lot to learn. Mainly, he needs get used to the game speed and how fast a defensive back can close in on a receiver.
Ken Palmer: Tiki Barber recently told me that this is going to be Ronde's final season. What are your thoughts on that and his career in Tampa?
Tyler Frazier: Ronde Barber represents pure class and is the perfect leader in a young locker room. He is the one other players look to when it comes to being a true professional. Defensive backs Tanard Jackson and Aqib Talib need to make an effort to become the type of player that Ronde Barber is. He is one of the last remaining pieces from the Buccaneers 2002 Super Bowl winning team. He grew frustrated with and refused to speak with some members of the media this offseason for claiming that Barber needed to hang up his cleats. Through two games, Barber has shown why he is still here, whether he is blitzing the quarterback or lighting up a running back while forcing a fumble in the process. When Barber does leave, it will signify the end of an era for the Tampa Bay defense.
Matthew Postins, Bucsblitz.com contributor: I'd like to add that earlier this season I made the prediction that Barber would not be in a Tampa Bay uniform next year, though I made the assertion that it would be based on team needs, not Barber's choice. This was not based on anything I heard from Barber, or that he told me. That's just my gut talking. In the long term, Barber doesn't fit into this defensive system, and I see the Bucs investing a first- or second-round pick, plus some free agent money, next season into corners that play defensive coordinator Jim Bates' style of defense. That will likely signal the end of Barber's time in Tampa Bay. Barber is the consummate professional and a borderline Hall of Fame candidate. I think he has gas in the tank beyond 2009, I'm just not sure he'll be in Tampa Bay.
Ken Palmer: What have been your early thoughts on new coach Raheem Morris? Do you think he has what it takes to win in the NFL?
Tyler Frazier: Morris has what it takes to win in the NFL, but what he does need is the right athletes. This is a big year for Tampa Bay because this is make or break time for a lot of draft picks from the previous regime. It is time to see whether guys like Sabby Piscitelli, Adam Hayward, Geno Hayes, Quincy Black, Gaines Adams, and Aqib Talib can actually play. If not, the Bucs need to give Morris a chance to bring in his own athletes. The players respect him and are behind him 100 percent, but if the talent isn't there, it doesn't matter who the head coach is. Morris could be the perfect person to turn this team around, but his first season will most likely be his longest as a head coach.
Matthew Postins, Bucsblitz.com contributor: It's been said that you have to give a college coach at least three years to install their program, get their recruits and starting building toward success. Morris will need at least that long. I don't expect the Bucs to be a winner again until at least 2011. I'm not sure Morris is the right guy, but it's been two games, so who really knows?
Ken Palmer: With so little optimism coming out of Tampa these days, what are you most optimistic about regarding this club?
Tyler Frazier: While there is usually nothing to be excited about after opening the season 0-2, there are a few reasons why Bucs fans can be optimistic about. The team is filled with young talent, many of which who are seeing the field for the first time either in their careers or with the Buccaneers.. Players such as Geno Hayes, Roy Miller, Kellen Winslow, Derrick Ward, Aqib Talib and Tanard Jackson give fans a reason to be excited about the future of this team. Fans should hope that the team re-signs MLB Barrett Ruud because he is a franchise player that can lead this defense. Add to the fact that the team has one of the better offensive lines in the league and a crowded backfield filled with talent, the Bucs offense should be able to move the ball. The key to all of this though is rookie quarterback Josh Freeman. If he succeeds and becomes the franchise player the Bucs believe they drafted, this team could find its way back to the top in a few years. If not, Raheem Morris and GM Mark Dominik as well as the Buccaneers will be in serious trouble for years to come. Either way, the fans should enjoy the ride and remain optimistic that Freeman is the future.
Matthew Postins, Bucsblitz.com contributor: I'm not 100 percent convinced that Freeman will be the guy that leads the Bucs out of this mess. But I am convinced that Morris' long-term employment will hinge on Freeman's development. I'll give Morris this – at least he had the guts to draft a QB early and commit to him as his QB of the future. That's something Jon Gruden refused to do throughout his tenure in Tampa Bay, and is part of the reason the franchise was so inconsistent during his tenure. He insisted in riding the hot hand or signing an aging veteran. Morris does at least appear to understand that you need a consistent approach to building a team. I would, however, say that re-signing Ruud, at least in the short term, is more important. I'm not sure what the Bucs are waiting on. A Pro Bowl year by Ruud – which I'm convinced he'll have in 2009 – is just going to cost them more money.