How do you like your 2010 Bucs so far? Well they look a little better after the draft last week, but geez, this franchise smells like another 3-13 debacle, doesn't it?
Three things I liked about the Bucs' draft:
First, they wasted no time attacking key needs. Their first two picks were defensive tackles (Gerald McCoy and Brian Price), which means they were serious about attacking the putrid run defense last year. Then, with two of their next three picks, they took wide receiver Arrelious Benn and Mike Williams. The Bucs have now brought in four new targets in the draft and free agency to give second-year QB Josh Freeman new targets to choose from.
Second, it never hurts to go after a player with a NFL pedigree. That has to be part of the reason the Bucs took S Cody Grimm in the seventh round. Grimm is the son of future Hall of Fame offensive linemen Russ Grimm. How son didn't get dad's body is hard to figure.
Third, the Bucs didn't try to overthink things. They went into the draft content to build up talent through their dozen selections (which shrank to nine through trades), and they didn't attempt to make any serious moves that could have hamstrung their ability to add talent. They could have tried to press a move they didn't need to make. Some losing teams do that. The Bucs didn't.
Three things I didn't like about the Bucs' draft:
First, the Bucs failed to address the outside pass rush. Their only defensive end selection was a seventh-rounder, Erik Lorig, out of Stanford. The Bucs will start training camp with Stylez G. White and Jimmy Wilkerson on the outside. Instead of taking Price in the second, they could have had Sergio Kindle, Jason Worilds, Jermaine Cunningham or Carlos Dunlap. Kindle would have been an undersized end, but the other three might have been nice fits. That puts more pressure on Price than a second-rounder deserves.
Second, taking a punter in the sixth round was just foolish. I don't care how good you think he is there are punters just as good that could have been signed after the draft or as free agents. Taking a punter when you have the wealth of needs the Bucs do is just plain wrong. The Bucs could have taken a DE like Greg Hardy, an OT like Sam Young, a WR like South Florida's Carlton Mitchell, an RB like Jonathan Dwyer, or a C like Eric Olsen. All were taken after Virginia Tech's Brent Bowden, the punter the Bucs took in the sixth.
Third, the draft really petered out after the fourth round. None of the Bucs' final four selections are players that I feel has the necessary tools to make the team. Now, you say that late picks aren't expected to make the team? That may be the case on most teams, but since the Bucs roster is so young, there are plenty of roster spots available. That should have compelled the Bucs to take players that had a better shot at making the roster than these four. I would be surprised if one of them made the team.
I've always felt the Bucs' post-draft signings are afterthoughts. Not this year.
First, they snagged former Florida State WR Preston Parker, who in his short time in Tallahassee put up some impressive numbers. He caught more than 100 passes in three seasons. His time was cut short by his own doing after an incident at a fast-food restaurant. If he has his personal thing together, he becomes an instant contender for a training camp spot, thanks to his speed, versatility, and good hands.
Second, they grabbed Mississippi QB Jevan Snead. Now, Snead won't compete for a starting job for years. He probably should have stayed in school for his senior year. But he's a nice project for OC Greg Olson, and if the Bucs can stash him on the practice squad, who knows what can happen two or three years down the line.
Third, they signed Texas PK Hunter Lawrence. Don't be surprised if he's the opening day kicker. He has a great foot, solid accuracy, and a flair for dramatic kicks. His foot lifted Texas to the Big 12 Title and a trip to the BCS National Title game.
Not bad for an after-draft haul.
Hovan's release clears the path for the first and second round picks to start this year. Askew's release clears the path for Earnest Graham to be the full-time fullback. Sears won't be stalking Jeremy Zuttah at training camp.
This team just got a whole lot younger. Hovan was a stand-up guy and one who was willing to mentor younger players. It's a shame the Bucs didn't see their way clear to keep him.
Now I hear that WR Michael Clayton is on the trading block. With a $21 million contract that still has four years left? Good luck with that!
The NFL Draft is going to continue in prime time. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell all but said that to the Dallas Morning News' Rick Gosselin after the draft.
The ratings were some of the best in the draft's history, especially in markets where top players selected were from, such as Jacksonville, Fla., Austin, Texas, and Oklahoma City. You have to figure there will more tweaks to the clock in terms of selection time, and Goodell alluded to that as well.
The three-day draft – with two days in prime time – appears to be here to stay.
The Glazers have been lowering expectations all offseason. They're on record as saying the reason the Bucs have one of the NFL's lowest payrolls is because of the team's poor drafts. That's their way of saying, "Don't blame Raheem; Blame Chucky and Bruce (Jon Gruden and Allen, respectively).
Now, I'm not saying the Bucs did a great job of drafting the past five years. From those drafts (2004-08), the Bucs netted eight starters, which isn't too bad. But those drafts netted very little in the way of backups, especially in the later rounds. Those are the rounds in which teams that are very good to great build themselves into contenders. And that inability to mine gold in the late rounds is part of the reason this franchise annually suffers depth problems.
That's why you shouldn't expect much with Allen taking over in Washington. The guy has never been a successful GM. Period. But shouldn't we put some of this at the feet of director of college scouting Dennis Hickey and current GM Mark Dominik? Gruden and Allen may have made the choices, but these guys were the point men in assimilating the information they used to make these selections. It's rare you see the head cut off the snake and the body survive the way these two guys have.
So the Bucs' marketing slogan this year? "Don't blame our guy." Fine, we won't. Until that inevitable day when the Glazers start blame him.
The Bucs appear to be struggling at the ticket window, too (another case of lowering expectations). Despite the fact that the team had the good sense to reduce ticket costs (you can now claim a seat for as little as $35), the Glazers reported recently that their season ticket pool is in the 40,000s, meaning that around 20,000 individual seats are left. The Glazers avoided blackouts last year, despite sluggish ticket sales, by distributing remaining tickets to sponsors. That doesn't look at likely this year.
They're trying everything. I went to the Bucs' Web site last week and found an advertisement for youth tickets for $25. NFL teams almost never advertise youth tickets, even though they have them.
Nothing is moving the needle right now. Plus, a still-sluggish economy and the Bucs' putrid record a year ago aren't helping matters. There's just not much to get excited about.
The Glazers have made it clear they're going to stick with Morris and Dominik, even at the expense of the bottom line. At least for now.
Yet another reason why the Bucs have spent little during the offseason. They know staying the course will cost them at the gate, and they must find a way to make up the difference.
In fact, I wonder where the Bucs will be in worse shape at the end of the season – by record or by NFL salary ranking? My money's on the latter.
I'm so tired of hearing how much better QB Donovan McNabb is going to make the Washington Redskins. The offensive line is leaky, they have three over-30 backs and that defense is no better off than it was a year ago. Plus, they now have an unhappy Albert Haynesworth. On a less volatile team, McNabb would probably thrive. But I'd be surprised if the Redskins were 8-8 and if McNabb made it through the whole schedule.
And they won't beat the Eagles either time. Why? Andy Reid. No coach knows McNabb's strengths – and weaknesses – better.
Oh, and you can partially blame Brett Favre for this one. Seriously. The Vikings have wanted him bad for a while, and McNabb wanted them. But without an answer from Favre about his future, they had to stay out of it. Had Favre finally retired, I guarantee you the Vikes would have made a deal. Maybe the Vikes should have done it anyway. Favre only has one more year left on his deal.
The rookies will be town this week. I'm most interested to see second-round pick CB Myron Lewis of Vanderbilt. At 6-foor-2, 205 pounds, you have to love his size in the Cover 2. He has the perfect mentor in Ronde Barber, a corner of similar build. And, the Bucs can give him playing time as the third corner right away. In terms of value, I'm not sure the Bucs had a better pick in the draft.