Bucs Nail Down O-Line

Members of an offensive line often talk about getting an opportunity to “jell” as a complete unit.  When the lineup remains the same for an extended period of time, blockers become familiar with the way the men next to them will respond to certain situations, and they are more confident in focusing on their own specific assignments.

The Buccaneers’ offensive line should have an excellent opportunity to jell in the years ahead.

Tampa Bay’s presumptive starting five heading into 2013 would be left tackle Donald Penn, left guard Carl Nicks, center Jeremy Zuttah, right guard Davin Joseph and right tackle Demar Dotson.  Every position is open to competition, of course, and versatile blockers Ted Larsen and Jamon Meredith started roughly a dozen games each last year in the wake of several injuries, but those first five should be expected to lead the way.

On Thursday, the Buccaneers signed Dotson to a new four-year deal that covers the 2013-16 seasons.  With that, the team has every member of that presumptive starting five under contract through at least the end of 2015, and not one of those players has had his 30th birthday yet.  Dotson is 27. Continue reading

Point/Counterpoint: What would be the best opening-game matchup for the Buccaneers this season?

Andrew, the NFL schedule is due to be released on April 16, less than three weeks from now.  When that happens, we’ll find out such things as when the bye week falls, how often the Bucs will play in prime time and how the intra-division games are distributed.  And the first thing everybody looks for, of course: Who’s the opponent on opening day?

That’s anybody’s guess.  There’s no real formula to it.  Here are the Bucs’ last 10 openers: Carolina, Detroit, Cleveland, Dallas, at New Orleans, at Seattle, Baltimore, at Minnesota, at Washington, at Philadelphia.  That’s a mix of AFC and NFC, in and out of the division, home and away.  The last time the Bucs’ opening game was somewhat easy to predict was 2003, when they were defending champs and a rematch against the Philadelphia Eagles, their NFC Championship Game foes, on a Monday night was too good to pass up.

So, rather than try to guess who might be on the Bucs’ schedule on Week One, let’s debate which game we would like to see in that spot.  Like every team in the league, Tampa Bay has known who all 16 of its opponents would be and where those games would be played since the last game of 2012 ended.  So, choosing from that list, pick the destination – or the home opponent – that would be the ideal way for the Bucs to begin the 2013 season. Continue reading

Fantasy Values Soar for Martin, Jackson

If you’re a multi-sport fantasy player, then you’re probably smack dab in the middle of baseball draft season right now.  Even so, it’s never too early to start thinking about fantasy football.

Fantasy football analysis won’t pick up in earnest until after the NFL Draft and the majority of the free agency period, when potential team rosters are more clear and fantasy baseball has settled into a groove.  Still, a variety of on-line experts have posted early editions of football player rankings for 2013, and this much is already clear: You’re going to have to pay more for your favorite Buccaneers this season. Continue reading

Joseph Ready for the Next Step in His Return

Perhaps one of the most unexpected aspects of Davin Joseph’s recent NFL-USO tour was how exhausting the trip was on a daily basis.  Long, unglamorous hours of travel were often followed by scheduled rest times, but those were usually preempted by a more important task: interacting with eager U.S. servicemen and women stationed in the Middle East.

Still, in one way, the eight-day USO trip served as a break for Joseph.  The Buccaneers’ two-time Pro Bowl guard had been pursuing his rehabilitation from knee surgery with a focused vigilance, so the week abroad allowed him a break from football before the team’s offseason program begins in April. Continue reading

The Perfect Buccaneer Final Four?

They’re a week away from establishing the Final Four in this year’s NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, but in the Buccaneers’ locker room it’s already been whittled down to the Final Six.

(Sweet Six?  Happy Half-Dozen?  Elite Almost-Eight?  Whatever.)

March is not the Bucs’ best time for One Buc Place trash talk, actually, as the players are still enjoying some down time before the offseason program begins in earnest.  If the tournament fell in, say, November, you can bet it would be the top locker room topic after every practice.

When the 2013 bracket was unveiled on March 17, a total of 18 current Buccaneers (not counting unsigned free agents) had reason to be proud of their former NCAA homes.  With at least one representative in each of the four regions, Tampa Bay players had a somewhat slimmed-down version of their own bracket ready to begin on Thursday.

Now?  Well, a Final Four with Buccaneer rooting interests in every team is still possible, but just barely.  Only six Bucs can still claim a team in the running now that the field has been slimmed down to 16, and two of those six are rooting for the same school.  Here’s a rundown of how the 17 tournament teams with Buccaneer locker room ties have fared so far:

Lost in the Play-In Round (Technically, Round One):

  • Boise State (RB Doug Martin)…Martin’s tournament fun was over almost before it started, as his team lost the West Region 13-seed play-in game to LaSalle, which has gone on to challenge Florida Gulf Coast University for the title of this tournament’s darling.

Lost in Round Two (Thursday/Friday):

  • Pittsburgh (TE Nate Byham)…Went down meekly, 73-55, to one of the team’s early Cinderallas, Wichita State.
  • Wisconsin (LB Jonathan Casillas)…Victim of a bracket-busting upset for some pool players, as the fifth-seeded Badgers lost to 12-seed Ole Miss.
  • Kansas State (QB Josh Freeman)…Another victim of upstart LaSalle, meaning the core of the Buccaneers’ offense isn’t too fond of the Explorers right now.
  • Oklahoma (G Davin Joseph, DT Gerald McCoy)…Lost the 7-10 game in the South Region to San Diego State, 70-55.
  • North Carolina State (C Ted Larsen)…Missed the chance to take on #1 seed Indiana by losing a close one to Temple.

Lost in Round Three (Saturday/Sunday):

  • Iowa State (CB Leonard Johnson)…Johnson, who beat the odds to make an NFL roster as an undrafted free agent last summer, nearly saw his team overcome underdog status and make the Sweet 16.  The Cyclones upset 7-seed Notre Dame in their opener but lost to Ohio State on a last-second three-pointer Sunday.
  • North Carolina (K Connor Barth)…Lost a matchup of traditional powerhouses on Sunday, giving up a 30-21 halftime lead in a 70-58 decision against #1 seed Kansas.
  • Minnesota (QB Adam Weber)…In one of only two matchups so far between Buccaneer teammates, the Gophers fell to Florida, 78-64, as the Gators advanced to the Sweet 16.
  • California (DE Ernest Owusu)…The Golden Bears lost in what was the other matchup pitting Buc teammates against each other, falling to Syracuse, 66-60, on Saturday night.

On to the Sweet 16!:

  • Oregon (RB LeGarrette Blount)…The Ducks took down fifth-seeded Oklahoma State and fourth-seeded St. Louis en route to a Sweet 16 matchup with #1 seed Louisville this coming Friday.  Blount is the lone remaining Buc in the Midwest Region.
  • Arizona (WR David Douglas)…The Wildcats have drawn #11 seed Belmont and #15 seed Harvard so far and have handled both easily.  Next up for Douglas’ team is #2 seed Ohio State on Thursday.  Douglas is the last Buc alive in the West Region.
  • Michigan (CB James Rogers)…The Wolverines have won their two games, over #13 seed South Dakota State and #4 seed Virginia Commonwealth, by an average of 20 points.  It’s likely a tougher task ahead for Rogers’ team as they play #1 seed Kansas on Friday.
  • Florida (S Ahmad Black, P Chas Henry)…The Gators have a very interesting matchup on Friday against the first #15 seed ever to make the Sweet 16, Florida Gulf Coast.  UF has so far dispatched of Northwestern State and Minnesota.  The two former Gators and Michigan’s Rogers could meet in the Elite Eight later in the weekend.
  • Syracuse (WR Mike Williams)…’Cuse gets a crack at #1 Indy in the East Region on Thursday after dismantling Montana, 81-34 and getting past Owusu’s Cal crew, 66-60.

Many Buccaneer players will be back to work at team headquarters by the beginning of April, which means the potential for tournament trash-talking still exists if the Final Four falls right.  The nuclear scenario: A Final Four of Oregon in the Midwest, Arizona in the West, Florida in the South (since there are two former Gators on the roster) and Syracuse in the East.

Chances are, there aren’t too many brackets with an Oregon-Arizona-Florida-Syracuse Final Four.  But you never know!

Mock Drafts Continue to Evolve

It’s been more than a month since we’ve checked in on the various NFL mock drafts dotting the web and, as is the case every spring, they rarely stay static.

Our earliest review of the mocks, way back in January when the online experts were just starting to get warmed up, saw a nearly unanimous belief that the Bucs would take a cornerback, generally either Alabama’s Dee Milliner, Florida State’s Xavier Rhodes or Mississippi State’s Johnathan Banks.  A few weeks later, we saw some more variety start to creep into the process, partly because Milliner’s “stock” had risen and put him out of reach at #13.

That was in early February.  Now it’s late March, and in addition to the inevitable evolution of thinking that takes place over the pre-draft weeks there was also one very significant event that took place in between.  The NFL Scouting Combine at the end of last month definitely affected the experts’ mock drafts, so it makes sense to take another look at where they stand with just over a month to go until the real thing. Continue reading

Separate Hall Ballots Could Be Better for Brooks, Sapp

Late in the afternoon on February 2, Derrick Brooks was in New Orleans, in the middle of all the pre-Super Bowl XLVII activities.  As Brooks made an appearance at an NFL event downtown, his good friend Warren Sapp was about a mile away, in the final stages of an agonizing wait.

Sapp, Brooks’ long-time teammate with the Buccaneers, was one of 15 modern-era finalists waiting to find out if they had nabbed one of, at most, five spots in the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Class of 2013.  The field of finalists was so deep and accomplished that neither Sapp nor Brooks could predict with much certainty if the game-changing defensive tackle would get the Hall’s call on his first try.

That’s why Brooks was a mile away, taking part in the NFL event but keeping one eye on a nearby TV monitor. Continue reading

Polling the Krewe: Which Proposed Rule Change Do You Support?

This week, we saw six proposed rule changes brought up and voted on by the NFL Competition Committee. While some have been approved, others are still waiting on discussion.

In our Point/Counterpoint article this week, we discussed some of the rules and debated which one we stood behind the most. Check out what we had to say and read more about the rule discussions here. And now we’re asking you! Let us know your pick and discuss your reasoning in the comments below.

Which of the NFL's proposed (or recently accepted) rule changes are you most in favor of?

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Point/Counterpoint: Do You Like Any of the Proposed NFL Rule Changes Being Considered by the Competition Committee?

Every offseason, amid the free agent acquisitions and mock drafts, in some corners of the NFL it is time to get down to a different kind of business. The NFL is always searching for ways to make the league more entertaining and, especially, safer for all of the players, as is illustrated so beautifully in one of my favorite commercials.

On tap this season, we see six proposed rule changes that the NFL’s Competition Committee have either already voted on or will likely do so at some point. Some have already been past in the last 24 hours.

  1. The Jim Schwartz Rule. Basically, if a play is supposed to be automatically reviewed, it will still be reviewed even if the coach illegally tosses his red flag. This was not the case last year, which baffled some Thanksgiving football viewers. The coach will, however, be either charged a timeout or penalized 15 yards.
  2. On field goals and extra points, no more than six defensive players can be lined up to either side of the snapper. (This one has already passed.)
  3. Get rid of the tuck rule. Long time coming, Raider Nation.  (Also passed already.)
  4. Allow tight ends and H-backs to wear numbers 40-49. (Goodness, it’s about time, don’t you think?!)
  5. Offense not allowed to block low when going toward their own end lines in the tackle box. Can’t go low when peeling back. (Also passed already.)
  6. The one you’ve likely been hearing about all week: Runners may not initiate contact with the crown of their helmet when outside the tackle box. (Passed)

If you’d like to get more in-depth descriptions, or really want to nerd out and read the proposed bylaw changes and emphasis points, you can check it out here on NBCSports.com’s Pro Football Talk. But for this exercise, I think I did a decent job summing things up.

So, Scott, I’ll let you be the first to take a crack at the proposed rule changes. The question is a simple one: Do you like any of the proposed (or already accepted) rule changes being considered by the Competition Committee?

Have at it. Continue reading

No Comps, But Clarity

File this under “Least Surprising Buc News of the New League Year:” The NFL announced its 2013 compensatory draft picks on Monday, and Tampa Bay was not on the list.

That’s a direct result of last year’s bold free agency attack, particularly the signings of WR Vincent Jackson and G Carl Nicks.  Each year, the NFL distributes a total of 32 compensatory picks based on net gains and losses in the previous year’s free agency period.  The formula the NFL Management Council uses to determine who gets picks is actually quite complicated – taking into account salary, playing time, postseason honors, Twitter followers and end zone dances, or something like that – but you didn’t need all that data to know the Bucs would be sans comp picks this year. Continue reading