Tampa Bay Bucs 2009 Quick Hits
Why the Bucs might finish with the worst record in the NFC.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
2008: 9-7 (3rd NFC South)
Head Coach: Raheem Morris (1st year)
Roster Quick View (*new veteran, **rookie)
Offense (coordinator: Jeff Jagodzinski)
QB: Byron Leftwich*
You could mow a small lawn in the amount of time it takes for him to wind up and release the football. Strictly a placeholder if he starts.
QB: Josh Freeman
When does the future begin? Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco were both 23-year-old rookies with senior season experience. This guy’s 21 and came out after his junior year.
RB: Earnest Graham
Consummate team player who can be great in a tandem backfield.
RB: Derrick Ward*
Very similar running style to Graham. Rushed for 1,025 yards as a backup with the Giants last season.
FB: B.J. Askew
Smart, dependable veteran who can stick his lead blocks and occasionally handle the ball.
WR: Antonio Bryant
Slapped with a $9 million franchise tag after posting career-highs in receptions (83), yards (1,248) and touchdowns (seven). Superb route-runner who can also go deep.
WR: Michael Clayton
It’s wishful thinking when the new staff claims that a change in systems can restore the sixth-year pro’s confidence.
WR: Sammie Stroughter**
Seventh-round rookie who turned heads during minicamps. Undersized but infuses the slot with speed.
TE: Kellen Winslow*
When healthy, an ultra-crisp route runner with soft hands. Hotheadedness didn’t discourage Bucs from guaranteeing him a TE-high $20 million.
TE: Jerramy Stevens
Low-character underachiever who sticks around because of first-rate raw tools.
LT: Donald Penn
Outplays his natural abilities. Does a good job of compensating for subpar recovery speed with strength and consistent technique.
LG: Jeremy Zuttah
Second-year pro flashes intriguing all-around skills when he’s able to dictate the action. No promises, but certainly worth developing.
C: Jeff Faine
Nasty fighter who does one heck of a job playing a “survivor’s” brand of football.
RG: Davin Joseph
Tremendous run-blocker in tight quarters. Pro Bowls await the 25-year-old.
RT: Jeremy Trueblood
Has drastically improved after learning to mask his limitations. Takes a shrewd approach to his one-on-one matchups.
6 OL: Arron Sears
Started his first two NFL seasons, but his career is now in question after reported battles with post-concussion syndrome.
Defense (coordinator: Jim Bates)
LDE: Jimmy Wilkerson
Seventh-year veteran who moves okay but is best served in the back end of a rotation.
DT: Chris Hovan
A nonstop motor can’t erase the fact that his style of play is ill-fitted for this blocker-occupying scheme.
DT: Ryan Sims
Wasn’t right for the Tampa Two system. Coaches hope that his 315-pound girth will make him a viable anchor against the run.
RDE: Gaines Adams
Very good all-around quickness, but he needs to develop a much larger repertoire of pass-rush moves.
3 DE: Kyle Moore**
Fourth-round pick who can play inside or outside.
3 DT: Roy Miller**
Squatty run-stuffing specialist who thought he should have been drafted higher than Round Three.
SLB: Quincy Black
Speedy 227-pounder who spent his first two seasons on special teams. If he doesn’t perform, Geno Hayes or Angelo Crowell will get a shot.
MLB: Barrett Ruud
Doesn’t play with elite speed but is a highly productive tackler nonetheless. Must adjust to a new system in his contract year.
WLB: Jermaine Phillips
Can be a playmaker when his forearms aren’t broken. Replaced iconic S John Lynch in ’04 and now takes over for legendary WLB Derrick Brooks in ’09.
4 LB: Angelo Crowell*
Spent part of the offseason rehabbing from the knee injury that wiped out his entire ’08 campaign. Can he regain his speed?
CB: Aqib Talib
A perfect fit for the new bump-and-run scheme. Coaches think the second-year gem can lead the league in interceptions.
CB: Ronde Barber
Thirty-four and no longer a zone defender? This could be the beginning of a very swift end.
NB: Torrie Cox
A symbol of this secondary’s lack of depth.
SS: Sabby Piscitelli
Needs to improve his awareness in order to play with more assertiveness. Skill set should be there––he wasn’t an ’07 second-round draft pick for nothing.
FS: Tanard Jackson
Fast, agile athlete who, under the right circumstances, can make plays anywhere on the field.
6 DB: Will Allen
Offers good starting experience but little playmaking prowess.
K: Matt Bryant
Booted three game-winners last season, but coaches are concerned about his kickoff power and 20 percent success rate from beyond 49 yards.
P: Josh Bidwell
One of the NFL’s best placement punters.
RS: Clifton Smith
Undrafted rookie last season who earned a well-deserved trip to Hawaii.
Offseason Quick Glance
RD PK (OVR) NAME POS SCHOOL
KEY PLAYERS ACQUIRED
LB Angelo Crowell: UFA Bills; $3M/1 yr.
LB Niko Koutouvides: FA Broncos; terms unknown.
QB Byron Leftwich: UFA Steelers; $7.5M/2 yrs; $3.5M RB 2010.
K Mike Nugent: UFA Jets; 1 yr, terms unknown.
RB Derrick Ward: UFA Giants; $14M/5 yrs, guarantees unknown.
TE Kellen Winslow (trade Browns).
KEY PLAYERS LOST
LB Derrick Brooks (released).
CB Phillip Buchanon: UFA Lions; $8.5M/2 yrs, guarantees unknown.
DE Kevin Carter
RB Warrick Dunn (released).
WR Joey Galloway (released).
QB Jeff Garcia: UFA Raiders; terms unknown.
QB Brian Griese (released).
DT Jovan Haye: UFA Titans; $16M/4 yrs, guarantees unknown.
WR Ike Hilliard (released).
LB Cato June (released).
TE Alex Smith (traded Patriots).
In case the release of veterans like Derrick Brooks, Joey Galloway, Warrick Dunn, Ike Hilliard, Brian Griese and Jeff Garcia didn’t tip you off, just know that the Bucs’ new regime––led by head coach Raheem Morris and first-year GM Mark Dominik––is aiming for a younger club and fresh approach.
The Bucs haven’t yet found all the right players for new schemes on both sides of the ball. Defensive coordinator Jim Bates’s system relies on big, meaty defensive tackles. The only man who fit this bill was Jovan Haye––and he signed with Tennessee. Thus, the development of 310-pound third-round rookie Roy Miller is of utmost importance.
Bates also relies on speedy linebackers. Newcomer Angelo Crowell fits the bill, but he must prove he can bounce back from a severe ’08 knee injury.
Offensively, Derrick Ward is an excellent addition to the rushing attack. Slapping the franchise tag on volatile yet dominant WR Antonio Bryant was brilliant, and trading a second-round pick for athletic Kellen Winslow gives Tampa Bay the major receiving TE that they had once hoped, vainly, that Alex Smith could be.
Most daunting of all is the quarterback situation. First-rounder Josh Freeman is a favorite of Raheem Morris. But most experts agree that Freeman will need a season or two of grooming. Byron Leftwich would be the likely interim answer. However, there’s a reason the slow-motioned veteran remained a free agent for as long as he did.
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