New Foes in the South

The Buccaneers signed five new players on Tuesday and have been active throughout the first three weeks of free agency, beginning with the March 13 addition of All-Pro safety Dashon Goldson.  Of course, there were 524 players who became free agents on March 12, and not all of them were going to end up in Tampa, barring some pretty massive changes to roster limits/salary cap rules/reality as we know it.

A few of the more prominent players on that free agency list were bound to end up in the NFC South, signing with either the Falcons, Panthers and Saints.  And while the division hasn’t been ridiculously active on the open market as a whole, each of the Bucs’ three opponents has added a noteworthy player or two.  Let’s take a look at one new face on each of Tampa Bay’s three division foes and what it could mean for the Buccaneers. Continue reading

Super Bowl Reunion a Reminder for Gracious Reid

Andy Reid still remembers the name of the play, and he can spit it out at the speed of a quarterback in the huddle.  To the uninformed listener, about the only thing that’s easy to pick up is that it ends in the word, “Omaha.”

Buccaneer fans would certainly remember the way the actual play ended, however.  “Omaha” was apparently the last thing Donovan McNabb said to his fellow Eagles players in a hurried huddle before he threw the pass that Ronde Barber picked off and returned 92 yards to seal Tampa Bay’s win over Philadelphia in the 2002 NFC Championship Game.

A decade later, Reid can speak about the play with gracious humor, but there’s no doubt it was painful at the time.  Barber raced right past the Eagles bench on his way to the opposite end zone, and by the time he got there Veterans Stadium was eerily quiet. Continue reading

Bucs Draw Foles on Sunday

The last time the Eagles came to Tampa, the Raymond James Stadium crowd had barely finished watching a video reminder of Ronde Barber’s 92-yard pick-six off Donovan McNabb in the 2002 NFC Championship Game when Barber did it to McNabb again.  And again.  In a contest that would end with an historic 62-yard game-winning field goal by Matt Bryant, Barber made history too with a pair of interception return touchdowns in the same game, tying an NFL record.

McNabb is out of football now and his replacement, Michael Vick hasn’t played since November 11 due to a concussion.  It is Vick’s replacement, rookie Nick Foles, who will have to avoid a similar indoctrination from the Buccaneers’ ultra-experienced, 37-year-old safety. Continue reading

Chargers Backs Will Challenge Bucs in the Passing Game

The Buccaneers have the NFL’s top-ranked rush defense in 2012, and the Chargers’ ground game is tied for just 19th in the league so far.  From that standpoint, it would seem as if the home team will have a significant edge on Sunday at Raymond James Stadium when it comes to the San Diego running backs against the Tampa Bay defensive front.

However, San Diego has something of an equalizer in that battle, and it’s Philip Rivers’ right arm.  When it comes to stopping Ryan Mathews, Jackie Battle and Ronnie Brown this Sunday, the Buccaneers’ defense is going to have to do it on the perimeter and in the flat as much as between the tackles.

“I don’t know if we’re still first in the league but we complete more balls to the running back to anybody in the league,” said Rivers.  “So we really ask a lot of them in the passing game as receivers and as pass protectors.” Continue reading

Chargers Well Aware of Barber’s Presence

Michael Bennett leads the Buccaneers’ defense and is tied for 12th in the NFC with 6.0 sacks.  Defensive tackles Roy Miller and Gerald McCoy have been key interior forces in the Bucs’ dominance against the run.  Rookies Lavonte David and Mark Barron have made an instant impact on a defense that is playing with a noticeably higher level of aggression in 2012.

But ask San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers what player specifically jumps out at him on Tampa Bay’s videotape, and he skips over all those young up-and-comers to the very back of the Bucs’ defense, where the 37-year-old Ronde Barber resides. Continue reading

Carson Palmer vs. the Buccaneers

 

The Buccaneers haven’t played the Raiders since 2008, so they haven’t played Carson Palmer’s Raiders at all.  Oakland traded for their current starting quarterback midway through the 2011 season after he had spend eight-plus years with the Cincinnati Bengals.

The Buccaneers do have a history with Palmer, however, and it has gone well for Tampa Bay.

Palmer led the Bengals against the Bucs twice during his tenure in Cincinnati, and both games ended up as Tampa Bay wins, though it took a fourth-quarter comeback on each occasion.  The Bucs won 14-13 at Raymond James Stadium in 2006 when Bruce Gradkowski hooked up with Michael Clayton on an eight-yard touchdown pass with 35 seconds remaining.  Four years later, in Cincinnati, Connor Barth’s 31-yard field goal with 13-seconds left completed a 10-point rally in a 24-21 Bucs victory.

In his two games against the Buccaneers, Palmer has thrown for a good amount of yards but has needed a lot of passes to do it and has been picked off three times.  Overall, he’s 45 of 73 (61.6%) for 470 yards, three touchdowns, three interceptions and an unremarkable 76.9 passer rating.  His average of 6.44 yards per pass attempt against Tampa Bay is well below his career mark of 7.18.

One of those three picks Palmer has thrown against the Buccaneers ranks as one of the team’s most memorable defensive plays of the last few years, and it’s certainly a career highlight for now-third-year safety Cody Grimm.

Early in the second quarter of just his second career start, Grimm intercepted Palmer’s attempt to throw a quick pass out in the left flat to wide receiver Terrell Owens.  The then-rookie safety caught the ball on the run and easily returned it 11 yards to tie the game at 7-7.  Grimm did a perfect job of executing a specific play the team had put in just for that game, as he feigned walking down “into the box” for run support, then sprinted out to the sideline as soon as the ball was snapped.  The play essentially inverted the safety and the cornerback (Aqib Talib) in the Bucs’ classic Cover Two defense, in the process leading Palmer and Owens to believe they had an easy “pitch-and-catch” option underneath Talib.  (You can watch a video of Grimm’s big moment here.)

Chiefs Proceeding with Quinn, Waiting on Cassel Diagnosis

As the week progresses, it is looking more and more likely that the Buccaneers will be facing Brady Quinn on Sunday at Raymond James Stadium.

Quinn, the reserve Chiefs quarterback who hasn’t started an NFL game since 2009, is expected to step into the starting lineup if Matt Cassel’s concussion prevents him from playing…and, some suspect, even if Cassel is cleared.  The Chiefs have the league’s second-ranked rushing attack and generally solid defensive numbers but are 1-4 largely due to a league-leading 19 turnovers, many of them beginning with Cassel.

On Wednesday, Chiefs Head Coach Romeo Crennel updated the Bay area media on his quarterback depth chart. Continue reading

NFL.com Experts Call for Quinn

A collection of analysts on NFL.com believe there are at least five teams in that league that should strongly consider a change at quarterback.  The Buccaneers’ upcoming opponent is on their list.

The Chiefs may have no choice but to go with Brady Quinn under center if incumbent starter Matt Cassel is unavailable due to the head injury he suffered on Sunday against Baltimore.  On Monday, Kansas City Head Coach Romeo Crennel confirmed that Cassel has a concussion but said tests are ongoing and that Cassel has not yet been ruled out of this Sunday’s game in Tampa.  In a transcript of his Q&A on the Chiefs’ own web site, Crennel says that Quinn “needs to get ready to play.”

The “Instant Debate” on potential QB changes on NFL.com brings in Ian Rapoport, Gregg Rosenthal, Chad Reuter, Charley Casserly, Adam Rank and Jason Smith and asks them to identify which teams should make a switch right now.  Both Rapoport and Casserly tab the Chiefs.

Rapoport says that Cassel is not the long-term answer in Kansas City, and Casserly says there is momentum right now for the switch to be made.  Check out the debate here and see what other teams the NFL.com analysts are urging to make that most dramatic of depth chart maneuvers.

Bucs Could Face Quinn

 

QB Brady Quinn hasn’t started an NFL game since 2009, and he’s never played against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but both of those things could change on Sunday.

Chiefs starter Matt Cassel was knocked out of Sunday’s game against Baltimore at Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday with a head injury midway through the fourth quarter.  Quinn finished a field goal drive started by Cassel and had a potential go-ahead touchdown pass to Dwayne Bowe erased by offensive pass interference.  The Chiefs never got the ball back again as Baltimore drained the final four minutes off the clock on their next possession.  Quinn completed all three of his passes for 32 yards; Cassel had been nine of 15 for 92 yards and two interceptions.

Obviously, it may take a few days to determine if Cassel’s injury will keep him out of next Sunday’s game in Tampa.  Given Cassel’s 66.2 passer rating thus far, however, Kansas City media questioned Head Coach Romeo Crennel after Sunday’s game regarding the possibility of Quinn taking over even if Cassel was cleared.

Continue reading