QB's B-
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Season Preview


QB’s B-

The overall depth that is currently at QB is pretty undeniable. With so many teams going with two QB’s on the 53 man roster, the Bucs stunned a lot of people and followed through on their threats to carry four. Garcia obviously brings a certain amount of leadership from the QB position that was lacking last year, expectedly so, with rookie Bruce Gradkowski. Luke McCown, if his preseason performances were any indication (Matt Schaub got 7 mil guaranteed of preseason performances), should be a solid backup who fits the mold of what Gruden is looking for. Gradkowski could follow Gruden around his whole coaching career, and has the potential to be a very Garciaesque player with enough coaching. Simms place not only on the depth chart but on the roster in general is a little perplexing to me. The most I can gather out of it, is in order to try and trade him within the next few weeks to a team who has an injury, we needed to keep him around. I’m not expecting Pro Bowl’s out of any of these players, but then again I wasn’t expecting Rich Gannon to ever be an MVP.


Personally, I love the backfield we are deploying this season. Due to injuries, lack of offensive line experience, and something that people always forget, WE HAD A ROOKIE 6TH ROUNDER STARTING AT QB, The ‘Lac had an off year. Couple those issues with the overwhelming statistical data that shows the drop off from 1st year players to 2nd year players at the RB position. With the placement of Mike Alstott on IR, we can give newcomer BJ Askew a lot more chances to block and catch the ball, both of which he excels at. The Rhino backfield of Michael Pittman and Cadillac Williams should provide matchup nightmares barring Caddy has improved his pass catching in the offseason. Gruden loves to create mismatches, and Pittman is one of the best receiving backs in the game. An injury could hurt this unit though.


To me, this unit has the potential to grade out at an A. That alone would be a freaking miracle to the fans here in Tampa. Even during our Super Bowl year, our Oline was adequate, and I personally always believe we won despite the lack of dominance there. Second year RG Davin Joseph is an All-Pro in waiting, and should challenge Eagles RG, and Redskins RG Randy Thomas for a Pro Bowl birth. Rookie LG Aaron Sears appears to be in the exact same mold as Joseph, and should prove to be a very steady reliable player. John Wade and Dan Buenning will continue to battle it out for the starting C spot, but both bring a little different type of game to the table. It will be interesting to see if Gruden ever uses them in different situations, although switching C’s is risky due to snap tendencies. Game by game though, we may see a different starting C. Second year man Jeremy Trueblood needs to learn to get a little lower to be able to stop some of the pass rushing LDE’s in the NFC South (Peppers, Grant). If newcomer Luke Petigout is healthy, he provides a serious upgrade over Anthony Davis, last years starting LT. The backups on the Oline are quite versatile. Davis has started at every position in his career except C, and Matt Lehr can play anywhere on the interior of the line. Camp standout Donald Penn hopefully won’t have to see the field much. This unit is a serious road grading, run blocking unit. Its’ issues could come on the pass protection end of the spectrum, but with Garcia at QB, I believe our offense will more resemble a Gruden type offense than any we have ever seen in Tampa.


I still do not know what to take from this unit. Joey Galloway has obviously revived his career under Gruden, and no longer is only a deep threat down the field, but a valuable route running WR. 2nd year man Maurice Stovall should progress significantly from last year, and has been receiving tons of reps with the first team during the preseason and camp. He will provide a big huge target for Garcia to find across the middle. The resurrection of David Boston is something I am still anxious and excited to see, but I am still very skeptical. He has not played in so long, that it is going to be tough to see him returning to his Pro Bowl Cardinals days. Ike Hilliard still provides a very solid 3rd down receiver, who has maybe the best hands on the team. The real wildcard on this unit is 4th year man Michael Clayton. Clayton’s rookie season seems so long ago. Injuries have certainly had an effect on his game, but his psyche maybe the problem at this point. I still have high hopes for Clayton though; player’s don’t have Rookie of the Year caliber seasons, and then just fade into nothingness.


3rd year man Alex Smith should continue to show steady improvement, and has the potential to be a great outlet for scrambling QB Jeff Garcia. If Jerramy Stevens can lay off the sauce, he has the potential to be a solid player in the NFL. He runs routes well, and blocks well, but has just shown a real lack of concentration since the Seahawks Super Bowl loss. Anthony Becht continues to be a solid blocking TE.

DL  A-

In my estimation, this is the strongest unit on the team.  First year RDE Gaines Adams should be able to help spark a pass rush that produced the fewest sacks in the last 10 years under defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin.  His run stopping skills are still very much in question, but he has shown flashes of athleticism at DE that are hard to find in the NFL.  NT Chris Hovan will continue to be an underrated and integral part of the Bucs D.  He is easily our best run stopping defensive lineman, and can provide a nice push in the pocket and pressure the QB when need be.  DT Jovan Haye was the story of camp.  He is a player the Bucs targeted coming out of the draft in 2005, but the Panthers snagged him up to play at DE.  As soon as he was released, the Bucs signed him, and immediately moved him to DT where they thought he could excel in a Warren Sapp like role.  Pressure from the middle is integral if the Cover 2 defense is going to be a success.  If Haye is not up to the task, I believe the stafff will have no hesitation putting in rookie Greg Peterson.  Peterson showed very Sappesque skills in the preseason, and is a player that the coaching staff loves.  Kevin Carter and Greg Spires are both solid NFL veterans who can provide both run support and pressure on the QB.  Both have the ability to play 3 positions on the line, and if the Bucs do show some 3-4 this season, something we have been working on extensively, they both are ideal ends.  Ryan Sims is also a good candidate to play in both the 3-4 and our standard Cover 2 d.  He is a very strong run stopper, and might have just needed a change of scenery from KC.  He was such a high pick, and expectations were very high on the type of player he would become.  Patrick Chukwurah is a nice situational player for the Bucs who can line up and provide pressure from the end spot with his hands on the ground, or can rush from the LB spot in the 3-4.  The overall depth we have at this position is ideal. 

LB  B+

Another unit where the additions in the offseason as well as the draft have provided us a much deeper corps than last season.  The Bucs are claiming Cato June is starting at the Sam linebacker position, but after re-watching the first 3 preseason games, it appeared that June was playing mostly Will linebacker, and Derrick Brooks was lining up at Sam.  In either instance, June brings another player with superior speed to our linebacking corp.  He has great ball instincts, but is not the strongest in run support.  Derrick Brooks has undoubtedly lost a step, but still brings leadership and savvy to the field.  He is a first ballot Hall of Famer and it is hard to replace the field generalship of a player like that, even with one who is a step faster.  Barrett Ruud will finally get a chance to start at the Mike linebacker position after the retirement of Shelton Quarrels.  Ruud has always looked solid in relief of Quarrels when he was hurt, but I am weary of his ability to cover the deep middle of the Cover 2.  I do believe though, that he is a natural Sam linebacker for us though, and in that case, DB can be moved to Mike linebacker.  Recent addition Jeremiah Trotter should provide a definite upgrade in run support, and be a great piece for the occasional 3-4 allignment.  He is not an ideal Cover 2 linebacker, and I do not expect him to play more than 20 plays a game.  He is another player though that will provide solid locker room and field leadership.  It is going to be hard to keep rookie Quincy Black off the field.  He appears to have the strength and speed to play any position in our standard cover 2, and would be an ideal 3-4 rush backer.  Black will see time on the field regardless though, as it is apparent the Bucs were intent on improving there depth and having the ability to cycle quality players in and out of the lineup.  Veteran Ryan Nece is another versatile backup who can come in and play the middle or strongside linebacker spot.  He is not the strongest or fastest guy on our team, but has plenty of starting experience, and is a very heady player on the field.  Rookie Adam Hayward has a future on this team, but should see the field sparingly in his first season.  No matter what formation we line up in (3-4 or Cover 2) we have the depth and the talent to be dominant. 

DB  B+

This position seems to make or break the Bucs seasons.  Injuries to this unit have led to our worst two seasons in the past 5 years, and Brian Kelly would seem to be the main piece of that injury puzzle.  He is so important to this unit as he is our strongest man cover corner.  We can not play Tampa 2 on every down, and when we have to match up in a 2 deep or a straight up man D with some pressure, Brian Kelly is gaurding the other teams’ premier receiver.  Ronde Barber will continue to provide the best run stopping and tackling from any DB in the game today.  He is a suspect man to man defender, and the Bucs will generally line him up in the slot in Nickel and Dime positions to be more of a roamer or LB or sorts.  Phillip Buchanon had a great end of the season for us last year, and continued to be an impressive man to man defender this preseason.  I read a stat last month, that PBuc had the 2nd lowest YPC against of any CB in the league once he came to the Bucs.  The safety position was a position that had to be addressed in the draft, and the front office felt the same way.  2nd round pick, SS Sabby Piscatelli will be a fan favorite here in Tampa in no time.  He is a head hunter in the mold of a John Lynch, and once he slows down and plays the game the way Raheem Morris teaches him, he should be a very good player for us for a long time.  4th round pick FS Tanard Jackson played corner his whole career at Syracuse, but during Senior Bowl practices, our scouts informed the staff that they felt Jackson would excel at FS in our D, and his apparent insertion into the opening game starting lineup would seem to agree.  He has great open field ball skills, and in my opinion is a serious upgrade over Will Allen.  Allen though, should be able to provide a solid spark off the bench, a role he exceled in before becoming a starter.  This unit will still be decimated if BKelly goes down, so let us hold our collective breaths.