Pro Bowl Just the Beginning for McCoy

At the end of his third NFL season, and his first complete pro campaign, Gerald McCoy made the Pro Bowl.  In his mind, that is just the launching point of his career…and that isn’t a reference to any future Pro Bowls or other individual honors that may come along.

McCoy intends to be even better in 2014, but with a different sort of postseason action in mind. Continue reading

Wednesday Injury Report: Zuttah, Biggers Sit Out

Head Coach Greg Schiano said on Monday that he was hopeful that two of his starters, left guard Jeremy Zuttah and left cornerback E.J. Biggers, would be able to return from recent injuries to play in the season finale at Atlanta.  On Wednesday, neither player practiced.

Zuttah (ankle) and Biggers (hip) were among five players held out of the week-opening workout, but they are obviously the top concerns.  Tight ends Dallas Clark and Nate Byham both missed the practice due to illness and left tackle Donald Penn was out for a non-injury related reason, but they are not likely to be serious issues for Sunday.

The Falcons held out four players, as well, and considering the fact that they have already clinched the top seed in the NFC playoffs, one might expect them to play it cautiously with their banged-up starters.  Those who missed practice on Wednesday included starting safety William Moore (hamstring) and starting wide receiver Roddy White (knee).

Here are the full Wednesday injury reports for both teams:

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Player Injury Practice Status
G Roger Allen Groin Limited Participation
CB E.J. Biggers Hip Did Not Participate
DE Da’Quan Bowers Hamstring Full Participation
TE Nate Byham Illness Did Not Participate
TE Dallas Clark Illness Did Not Participate
CB LeQuan Lewis Knee Full Participation
T Donald Penn Not Injury Related Did Not Participate
G Jeremy Zuttah Ankle Did Not Participate


Atlanta Falcons

Player Injury Practice Status
DT Jonathan Babineaux Ribs Limited Participation
DE Cliff Matthews Hamstring Did Not Participate
S William Moore Hamstring Did Not Participate
CB Christopher Owens Hamstring Did Not Participate
DT Corey Peters Knee Limited Participation
WR Roddy White Knee Did Not Participate


Point/Counterpoint: Who are the Buccaneers’ offensive and defensive MVPs in 2012?

Well, we’re going to find out about the Pro Bowl later on Wednesday, and we all hope there are a couple Buccaneers in the mix.  After the season, we should see Doug Martin and Lavonte David at least in the running for Offensive and Defensive Rookie of the Year, respectively.  Hall of Fame voting will continue, too, and we’ll have our fingers crossed for John Lynch and Warren Sapp in the Class of 2013.

There is at least one honor that we know will go to a Buccaneer, however, and that would be the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ MVP for the 2012 season.  If you find that logic impressive, hang on, because we’re just getting started.

That’s because I propose this topic to be our weekly Point/Counterpoint dust-up, Andrew: Who is the team’s Most Valuable Player this year?  Actually, to make it a little more fun and give us a chance to involve a few more deserving players, let’s take a page from the rookie awards and name both an Offensive and a Defensive MVP? Continue reading

Who’s Hitting the Mark?

With only one game left in the season we no longer have to worry about paces and extrapolations when discussing certain Buccaneers and the milestones they could reach.  Now it’s simply a matter of “will they?” or “won’t they?”  Michael Bennett will be the team’s first 10-sack player since Simeon Rice if he gets at least one Sunday in Atlanta; if he doesn’t, he won’t.  Josh Freeman has one more game to hit 4,000 passing yards, Vincent Jackson one more to break the team’s single-season receiving record.

So…will they or won’t they?

Here’s our list of eight potential team records or significant milestones that Buccaneer players may reach on Sunday in the season finale, ranked in terms of how likely we believe they are to be fulfilled.  Watch the game Sunday and see if we’re right. Continue reading

Bucs Add Rookie Safety Saenz

On Wednesday morning, the Buccaneers announced the signing of S Nick Saenz to their practice squad.  The team had an open spot on that eight-man crew since promoting DE Markus White to the active roster last Saturday.

Saenz, who played his college ball at Houston, went north to make his initial entry into the NFL, signing as an undrafted free agent with the Bills in May.  He was released by Buffalo during the final roster cuts after recording 10 tackles and one forced fumble during the preseason, and later spent several weeks in October with the Omaha Nighthawks of the UFL.

The 6-1, 190-pound Saenz played in 52 games for the Cougars, racking up 248 tackles, five interceptions, 17 passes defensed and three forced fumbles.  He capped his collegiate career with a two-interception outing in the 2012 TicketCity Bowl, helping Houston defeat Penn State, 30-14.  Saenz then ran an impressive 4.46 in the 40-yard dash at the Cougars’ Pro Day in March, helping to earn him the tryout in Buffalo.

Though there is just one week – and three practices – left in the Buccaneers’ 2012 season, Saenz signing isn’t necessarily a brief commitment for the young player or the team.  All NFL practice squad players automatically become free agents as soon as their teams’ seasons are over, whether that be this coming Monday or later in the playoffs.  However, it is not uncommon for the specific players who end a season on a team’s practice squad to quickly re-sign with that same team for the next offseason, agreeing to what is commonly called a “futures” contract that takes effect in March.

For instance, early this past January the Buccaneers re-signed five players that had finished 2011 on their practice squad, including TE Collin Franklin and QB Brett Ratliff.  Days after the end of the 2010 season, all eight players that ended that campaign on the practice squad – including DE E.J. Wilson and WR Ed Gant – promptly re-signed with the Bucs.

David a Top Contender for Defensive ROTY

Since 1987, 19 of the 25 NFL Most Valuable Players (or co-MVPs), as awarded by the Associated Press have been quarterbacks.  The other six years?  Running backs.  One year – 1997 – the award was split between a quarterback (Brett Favre) and a running back (Barry Sanders).  The last player who wasn’t a quarterback or a running back to win the league’s MVP award was Giants LB Lawrence Taylor in 1986.

So, yeah, say hello to your 2012 NFL MVP – almost certainly Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Adrian Peterson or Arian Foster.

The QB-RB MVP bias is what it is.  Fortunately, NFL rookies enjoy a more open playing field when it comes to their big awards, because the AP awards both an Offensive and Defensive Rookie of the Year award.  That’s good news for Buccaneers LB Lavonte David. Continue reading

Quite a Pair

In Sunday’s loss to the St. Louis Rams, Buccaneers WRs Mike Williams and Vincent Jackson caught seven passes each, Williams for 132 yards and Jackson for 108.  The duo had pulled off a similar feat in Week Four against Washington, with Jackson nabbing six passes for 100 yards and Williams adding four catches for 115.

Those performances made Jackson and Williams the first Buccaneer receivers to pull off that dual feat twice in the same season since Mark Carrier and Bruce Hill did so in 1989.  On the face of it, that’s more of a statistical oddity than a hugely meaningful achievement, but it does underscore the idea that Jackson and Williams may very well be the best WR tandem the franchise has ever had. Continue reading

Uncharacteristic Red Zone Woes Doom Bucs

Heading into Week 16 of the 2012 NFL season, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had fielded the third most efficient red zone offense in the entire NFL, trailing only the vaunted attacks in New England and New Orleans.  Red zone efficiency is measured by touchdown percentage – that is, when a team penetrates the opposing 20-yard line, how frequently does it then take it all the way in for six points?

Again, this has been a strength for the ’12 Buccaneers, who had a 65.9% TD rate in the red zone through their first 14 games.  The Patriots stood at 68.8%, the Saints at 68.1%.  Only five NFL teams even hit the 60.0% plateau.  Unfortunately, Tampa Bay’s inside-the-20 numbers took a hit on Sunday against the St. Louis Rams, and the direct result was a 15-point loss. Continue reading

Jackson a Focal Point in First Half

The Buccaneers seemed determined to establish Doug Martin and the running attack at the beginning of Sunday’s game against the Rams but, as that had mixed results, ended up dropping back to throw the ball on 20 of their 33 first-half plays.  And when Josh Freeman did drop back to throw, he was looking for Vincent Jackson more often than not.

The Bucs’ top receiver was targeted on seven of Freeman’s 17 throws before the break (three of the 20 passing plays resulted in sacks), leading to four receptions for 45 yards.  Jackson made several impressive grabs, including a 19-yarder over the middle that converted a third-down try on the game’s opening possession, putting the ball into St. Louis territory and leading to a Connor Barth field goal.  He also held on to a 10-yard catch despite taking a huge at the Rams’ seven-yard line, setting up a first-and-goal that the Bucs were unable to convert into a touchdown thanks largely to a false start on the next play.

In the process of making those four receptions, Jackson pushed his career total to 6,025 receiving yards.  He is now one of just 20 active players in the NFL with at least 6,000 receiving yards, ranking just behind Deion Branch and Greg Jennings.

Jackson’s 45 receiving yards in the first half gave him 1,271 on the season, and that is already the third-highest total in franchise history.  Jackson started the game fifth on that chart but passed Antonio Bryant’s 1,248 in 2008 and Keyshawn Johnson’s 1,266 in 2001.

Encouraging Week Leads Up to Rams Game

The Buccaneers had a bad game last Sunday in New Orleans.  They followed that with a strong week of practice, according to Head Coach Greg Schiano.  Whether or not that translates into an improved game day remains to be seen, but Schiano is optimistic, given what he saw Wednesday through Friday.

“We had a really good week of practice, and now I’m anxious to see us play,” he said.  “I think we’ll play well, but as a coach you never really know.  Anybody who tells you they do is guessing.  But I have a good feeling about the way our guys will play today, and they just have to go out and do it now.”

Schiano actually started the week by giving his team a little extra time off, letting the players rest on both Monday and Tuesday.  That kind of schedule is usually reserved for weeks following victories, as a reward, but Schiano thought his players needed the time to clear their minds after their first lopsided loss of the entire fall.

“It’s been a long season,” he said.  “We gave them a chance to kind of take a breath.  Certainly after last week there are a lot of ways you could have approached it, but I thought this was the best way.”

The Bucs have dropped four games in a row, after a four-game winning streak that had put them into the playoffs, but the game at New Orleans was the only one that wasn’t still in doubt in the fourth quarter.  A fast-starting team for most of the year, the Bucs were shut out in the first half for the second straight game, but unlike the Week 14 Philly contest, weren’t able to rally after halftime.

Schiano obviously would like to see his team return to starting fast, but he didn’t alter his approach during that nice week of practice.

“We do the same thing,” he said.  “Our preparation’s the same, our openers, we walk through them in the same way.  Sometimes your opponent has something to do with it.  Maybe they had a little bit better of a plan at the beginning of the game than we did.  Maybe it was just unfortunate timing with the call against their call.  There are a lot of things that go into a successful play.  One is the call, then there’s the other guy’s call.  Number two, do we execute the call?  Then number three, a little bit of luck, a wind gust, all of those things.  You tell me how you factor in all of those things, and that’s why you practice.  You keep doing it over and over again, repetition, and repetition kind of cuts those variables out, little by little.”

Schiano thinks all those repetitions could pay off on Sunday once the whistle blows.