Conor Philpot (@cphilpott95) takes a look at the key battles facing players entering Tampa Bay Buccaneers camp this week.
The Buccaneers had a short camp for their rookies last weekend but the main action begins this Thursday as the Buccaneers enter their first season under new head coach Greg Schiano. On the back of some nice moves in the off-season, Vincent Jackson, the former San Diego Charger ,to paraphrase LeBron James, took his talents to St.Pete Beach. He was followed by Carl Nicks ,formerly of the New Orleans Saints, Nicks is a 2 time All-Pro and 2 time Pro Bowler. The Buccaneers offensive line has been pretty poor during my time following the team (since 2009) , Josh Freeman is one of the more pressured QBs in the NFL, 5th last season if you go by the stats. He can avoid some of that due to having reasonable speed and very good scrambling ability. Jeff Faine was released in the off-season and he will be replaced by Jeremy Zuttah, a former player of Schiano’s at Rutgers. Will Zuttah improve the line? Maybe a bit, our friends at Pro Football Focus also looked at how Quarterbacks fared when faced with pressure. Freeman was in 27th place. The man Nicks protected? First, now obviously it’s foolish to say Nicks will be that much of a game changer but he will certainly help. If Donald Penn and Davin Joseph can develop greater consistency and Jeremy Trueblood (who has excelled in run blocking) can develop some good pass blocking skills, then perhaps the Bucs could have a successful offence going forward. On the defensive side of the ball, things have been a bit quieter but still some decent moves were made.
Mark Barron was drafted 7th overall in the 2012 Draft, he seems like a solid player, a hard hitter and a guy who can go up against Tight Ends. Crucial in a division with Tony Gonzalez and Jimmy Graham, as well as guys like Cam Newton. They need to be put down and put down early! In the draft, the Buccaneers also ended up with Lavonte David, who was deemed an undersized linebacker out of Nebraska but a guy who is quick, has great instincts and is a solid tackler. If he is half as good as the last undersized linebacker the Buccaneers drafted they will be doing alright! Amobi Okoye was picked up in free agency on the defensive line as was Gary Gibson and Okoye is a very good backup for either Gerald McCoy or Brian Price. Both have had fitness issues in the past but Okoye is a capable backup to fill in for either of them. Eric Wright was picked up in Free Agency in the cornerback position and while he is horrendously overpriced, the Bucs needed to make a move in the position and Wright is an okay guy to have. The news that Aqib Talib won’t be going to jail and will more than likely avoid NFL suspension is also great news as it strengthens a cornerback group that looks suspect at best.
On to the battles, I previously talked about the battle between LeGarette Blount and Doug Martin for the starting running back position. See here: http://nfl-ireland.com/2012/
Prediction: Buccaneer fans will be learning “the Dougie” by week 2 of the season. Martin wins out.
I’ve dealt with the Buccaneers wide receivers before too (http://nfl-ireland.com/2012/
Prediction: Benn takes the slot spot, but he will have to work for it. This is really a toss up.
Now onto a completely new issue. The Quincy Black conundrum. Black looks like a football player and has all the measurables, he is an example of why you don’t draft just on that basis (Kansas City Chiefs fans may learn about that with Dontari Poe) because on the field he is simply pretty rubbish. He is a poor tackler and his instincts are quite awful. He doesn’t have big playmaking ability and often has poor timing and gets taken out of the play. His backup Dekoda Watson looks to be a very solid player. He is adept at pass rushing, a decent hitter and showed a lot more than Black did last year. Black will start more than likely. 2 seasons ago, he was paid a contract that was quite frankly a joke. I think Dominick will almost demand Black starts as some form of justification for the pay. It will prove once and for all though that Black is simply not a starting linebacker in the NFL, a special teamer maybe but unless he improves dramatically there is no way he should start for the Buccaneers. Given that he has been there since 2008 I wouldn’t count on an improvement happening anytime soon.
Prediction: Black starts due to his fat contract
The Tight End battle: Most Buccaneer fans weren’t exactly crushed when Kellen Winslow Junior was traded to Seattle in the off-season. His attitude stunk last season, he berated Freeman far too often, gave away a high amount of personal foul penalties, struggled to get separation and as usual was poor blocking. Other than that he had a pretty great year! In comes Dallas Clark, a veteran free agent formerly of the Indianapolis Colts. Clark has struggled with injury the last 2 seasons, appearing in only 16 games and only grabbing 5 scores. He is a pretty solid run blocker though and he will be a good veteran red zone target for Freeman. In the other corner is Luke Stocker. Stocker was drafted in the 4th round of the 2011 draft but struggled last season, he had 12 catches all season and with Winslow in his way he didn’t see too much time on the field. The Bucs traded their 4th round 2012 selection to move up and get Stocker and he certainly could be a decent player for the Bucs. He just needs to show more in the passing department as he was reasonably solid in the running game last year.
Prediction: Clark’s experience wins out.