Bucs Central
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All-round good guy and purveyor of Buccaneer thoughts, Gene Thomas, AKA “Superhvyweight”, of Buc What Ya Heard! was joined by the Michael Pless and Mark Ramirez, the patriarchs of RealBucsTalk. The trio break down the Buccaneers, upcoming game against the Atlanta Falcons. Discussing the strength of the team; offensive line and what they expect to transpire in the season opener. The threesome feel, the keys to victory revolve around the Bucs offensive line and their ability to create lanes in the running game.

In somewhat of an expected move, to bolster the teams’ depth, at receiver. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers and free agent receiver Cecil Shorts have agreed to terms on a contract. The addition of Shorts, gives the team an experienced veteran option, should newly anointed slot receiver, Adam Humphries not fulfill the hype. Terms on the contract are not yet known. The signing, reunites Shorts, with Dirk Koetter, his former offensive coordinator when Shorts was drafted by the Jacksonville Jaguars in the fourth round of the 2011 NFL Draft. Shorts, 28 played for the Houston Texans, in 2015, after inking a two-year $6 million dollar deal. Shorts has amassed 218 receptions on 425 targets, for 2,887 yards and 14 touchdowns. He has a career catch rate of  51%.

Shorts has battled injuries throughout his short career, but when healthy is a viable number three receiving option and spot starter.

Shorts’ familiarity with Koetter’s playbook, no doubt played a role in the team’s decision to sign him.  Shorts will undoubtedly have a minimal role through the first few weeks of the season as he digests the playbook and builds chemistry with Jameis Winston.

Shorts represents another solid signing by Jason Licht, on the eve of the regular season, last year Licht and company benefited from the addition of Joe Hawley and Gosder Cherilus, on the eve of the teams 2015 season opener.

Per multiple reports the Buccaneers are scheduled to work out two receivers, today at One Buc Place. One being recently released Houston Texan Cecil Shorts and the other being former Indianapolis Colts wide out Mekale McKay. It’s telling – as the front office continues to bring in additional candidates to kick the tires on potential practice squad and 53-man roster candidates, at the receiver position. That they are not as comfortable as they have led the media and fans to believe, they are with their current receiving corps, as they continue to look to bolster their depth, at the position.

Shorts, was originally drafted by the Jacksonville Jaguars, in the 4th round of the 2011 NFL Draft, during Dirk Koetter’s last season as the Jaguars Offensive Coordinator – Koetter has some familiarity with Shorts and vice versa, as Shorts has limited knowledge of Koetter’s playbook. Shorts who hauled in  42 receptions on 75 targets for 484 yard and 2 touchdowns with the Texans last season, became a cap casualty after agreeing to restructure his two-year $6 million dollar deal he signed with the Texans in 2015.

If your a fanatical fan, of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, I highly recommend you give Gene “Superhvyweight” Thomas a follow on youtube.com.  He’s a well reasoned voice, grounded in his football fandom, in a sea of whimsical fans.  Gene gives thorough breakdowns of the team – calls it like he sees it. In the video below Thomas, of Buc What Ya Heard!!!! and Michael Pless, of RealBucsTalk breakdown the Bucs. I highly recommend you giving both a follow.



Dirk Koetter was asked by the local pen and mic club about his confidence level heading in to the regular season opener, as a first time NFL head coach, Koetter responded with a candid, if not downright honest answer; one that will surely have fans, ears perk up – while noting this was a downfall of his predecessor and a point of contention amongst fans. It will surely induce vomiting by some and high pitched screams by others. Former Buccaneers head coach Lovie Smith was terrible at in-game situational football clock management, to the point it was a detriment to the team – players psyche.

“You can never really be ready for that clock management stuff that happens. When you get pressure involved with the clock and the crowd noise, mistakes are made. That’s probably the thing I’d be most nervous about, is just all the situations that come up at the end of the game when the money’s really on the line. But as far as how we prepare on offense, how we prepare on defense, putting in a game plan, I’m not nervous about that stuff at all.”

Koetter who acknowledged the pressure involved with clock management – has seemingly taken steps to aid his transition from offensive coordinator to head coach in year one of his regime.

Koetter will remain the play caller, on games days, has enlisted the help of Andrew Weidinger, who is in his second year with the Bucs and fifth year overall with Koetter, as the two of them worked together with the Falcons from 20012-2014. Weidinger who was promoted this off-season from quality control coach to assistant wide receiver coach / game management will be responsible for clock management during games and will have a heavy hand in when the Bucs will challenge plays on the field, of course, with input from other coaches.

Around The NFL, editor, Gregg Rosenthal, of NFL.com has inked the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the future, of the NFC South. While proclaiming the Carolina Panthers are the present – rightfully so, in the case of the Panthers – until one of the other teams in the South dethrones the standard of the conference, in the Panthers, they are the standard-bearer by which other teams, in the conference should be chasing.  Rosenthal intuitively links both the Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints as the past in the conference.

Jameis Winston has shown traits in his second preseason that Newton took years to master. He goes through his progressions in the pocket. He looks off defenders. His default setting is downfield, just like coach Dirk Koetter wants.

If the Falcons and Saints are the NFC South Past and the Panthers are the NFC South Present, the Bucs look like the future. There is no better feeling as a fan than seeing a young franchise quarterback emerge because you know he’s not leaving for a decade. Like every team in this division, the Bucs should have playoff expectations. The top-level talent is undeniable: running back Doug Martin, wide receiver Mike Evans, linebacker Lavonte David, and defensive tackle Gerald McCoy can all be among the best at their positions. Defensive coordinator Mike Smith should upgrade Lovie Smith’s lackluster defense from a year ago.

Tampa’s offensive line finally appears settled, and the team should have its first legitimate pass rush in years. Rookie Noah Spence looks like a keeper, and veteran Robert Ayers adds much-needed production.

The Buccaneers playoff aspirations hinge on the maturation of Winston, there is no denying the fact.  The potential is there for a gargantuan leap, for Winston from his rookie season to his sophomoric season. Evident by Winston’s play during limited action this pre-season. It all boils down to his continued development and consistency from play-to-play and game-to-game.

Yet just as important as Winston’s maturation, will be the play of the defense.

A dreadful defensive display, masquerading as NFL caliber over the past two seasons  – it was down right putrid!

During the exhibition season under Mike Smith the defense has shown glimpses, of turning the corner – albeit in meaningless pre-season contest. Nevertheless it will be a combination of Winston’s development and a resurgence of defensive prowess, that was once synonymous when mentioning the glory teams of yesteryear for a once beleaguered franchise that fought their way out of the doldrums behind a suffocating defense.

The Chicago Sun-Times, is reporting the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have traded for former Wisconsin and Chicago Bear 2011 first-round selection (29th overall) T Gabe Carimi. The move effectively addresses, on paper, depth concerns on the offensive line for the Bucs. Adam Schefter of ESPN, via his Twitter feed is reporting the Bucs will send a sixth-round pick in 2014 to the Bears pending Carimi passing a physical. Carimi is reportedly en-route to Tampa to be checked out by the team’s medical staff.

The hope is that reuniting a healthy Garimi who has choose to train on his own with LeCharles Bentley, a two-time Pro Bowl offensive lineman, in Arizona and not attend the Bears’ organized team activities with his former college position coach, Bob Bostad, who did a phenomenal job of getting the most out of a patchwork Bucs offensive line in 2012, that was seemingly in constant flux shuffling players to plug holes due to injuries will get a once promising prospects career that was derailed by injuries on track.

According to the Sun-Times, Carimi who attended the Bears’ voluntary minicamp in April stated his main goal this offseason was getting healthy and back to 100 percent. Garimi who dislocated his right knee cap in Week 2 of the 2011 regular season, during his rookie year has required several surgeries to repair the damage. He has started 14 of the 16 games he has played in. 1 as a rookie and 10 games at right tackle and three at right guard last season.

Based on grading on a play-by-play basis, in 2012, Pro Football Focus ranked Carimi 73rd among 80 qualifying offensive tackles, and 78th in pass protection. Carimi had a statistical grade of plus 10 overall for his run blocking prowess.

On October 24th, 1993, a 39-year-old Steve DeBerg became the oldest player in the history of the franchise.  On the other end of the timeline, can you name the youngest player ever deployed by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers?

In 1997, with hopes of energizing one of the league’s poorest offenses, head coach Tony Dungy drafted 20-year-old Gator Reidel Anthony midway through the first round.  The skinny receiver was college football’s most devastating deep threat in 1996; his 18 yards per reception and 18 touchdown catches carried the University of Florida to a National Championship and earned Anthony All-American honors as a junior, and Tampa Bay looked to use his speed to soften defenses for rookie runner Warrick Dunn.

The season kicked off against the San Francisco 49ers.  After six minutes and a blocked field goal, the Tampa Bay offense took over at the 41 yard line, and across from receiver Horace Copeland, the 20-year, 315-day-old Reidel Anthony succeeded 1987 running back Charles Gladman as the youngest Buccaneer to ever take the field.  Three weeks later, Anthony became the youngest player in NFL history to catch a touchdown (and the third-youngest to cross the goal line).

His career floundered after a promising sophomore campaign, and Tony Dungy never built the offense he envisioned.  Neither man was a Buccaneer after the 2001 season.  But Anthony’s early successes are almost unprecedented in professional football; he was the ninth-youngest player of the modern era.  None of the other eight, so far, have survived more than five seasons with the team that drafted them.

In 36 years, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have had 32 players selected to the Pro Bowl.  Two players earned the designation without starting a single game.  Who were they?

The first was tight end Dave Moore.  In 2006, he was the last addition to Sean Payton’s NFC all-star roster.  Moore had proven himself as one of the league’s most consistent long snappers — a position coach Payton needed to fill.  But more than that, Moore had been the model of longevity on the top shelf of professional sports, and his selection was as much a show of admiration as it was utility.  In 1992, as a seventh-round rookie, Moore had barely stumbled out of camp before he was cut by the Dolphins.  Sam Wyche and the Buccaneers nabbed him from the waiver wire, found a place for him, and watched him outlast most of his contemporaries.

There were only two men from the 1992 draft class to play longer than Dave Moore: kicker Jason Hanson, and quarterback Brad Johnson.  Only three tight ends in history — Trey Junkin, Tony Gonzalez, and Pete Metzelaars — have appeared in more games.  Moore’s hunger led to a productive 15-year career, and at age 37, that unrivaled experience earned him his only Pro Bowl appearance and a perfect punctuation point on an ample body of work.

Two years later, an undrafted unknown named Clifton Smith earned a camp invite in Tampa.  He failed to make any impact from scrimmage and wasn’t given a fair shake at the return duties — the Buccaneers decided to employ speedy second-round pick Dexter Jackson on special teams — and Smith was cut before the start of the season.  But weeks passed, and the Dexter Jackson experiment was failing.  The minute wide receiver from Appalachian State had the speed and shiftiness of a world-class return man, but Jackson had a bad habit of collapsing mid-stride before contacting the defense.  After nine weeks of mounting frustration, Jackson was demoted and Smith was promoted to Tampa’s active roster.

Clifton had a decent debut in Jackson’s stead, but the following week, Smith exploded into the national consciousness.  His 97-yard kickoff return touchdown — the second in Buccaneer history — sparked a three-touchdown comeback against Kansas City.  Two weeks later, a 70-yard punt return score versus Detroit helped stretch the lead against the Lions.

Despite missing the first seven games of 2008, Smith’s 1310 return yards ranked second in Buccaneer history, and proved enough to earn him a trip to the Pro Bowl.  He became the only undrafted rookie Pro Bowler of the 21st century, and the first non-kicker since Seattle’s Rufus Porter in 1988.

Neither Moore (a second-string tight end) nor Smith (the replacement return man) started a single game in their all-star seasons.

Months ago, when the Glazers chose coach Greg Schiano to inherit the ruins that Raheem Morris left behind, we assumed their selection was based on Schiano’s character and method — a roughshod drill sergeant who was, for all intents and purposes, the exact opposite of Morris.

We weren’t wrong in that assumption.  In fact, the opening day victory (the first by a rookie coach in Tampa Bay since 1992) showcased exactly how different Schiano and Morris are in their approaches to coaching.  Using roughly the same roster (plus and minus a few players here-and-there), Schiano and staff transformed the league’s worst run-stopping defense into a suffocating iron blanket.  He changed the offense — Greg Olson’s parade of disorganization — into an efficient, straightforward punch in the gut.  The entire team looked uniform.  Energetic.  Revitalized.  Professional.

Rookies Doug Martin and Mark Barron helped justify their draft statuses with some outstanding opening day performances.  Martin carried the ball 24 times and caught four Josh Freeman passes to help carry the offense.  His 28 touches are tied for the Week 1 lead league-wide.

When Barron wasn’t deflecting passes or locking down his deep half, he was laying some absolutely skull-shattering hits on his opponents.

Lavonte David finished the game with six tackles, and was part of a swarming hive of Tampa Bay defenders that held Carolina to a franchise-low 10 rushing yards.

It’s a stunning reversal from a season prior, and a wonderful illustration of the power of scheme and coaching.  If the Buccaneers build on their win over the Panthers — if they continue to improve on their precision and tenacity and aggressiveness — then we’re looking at the foundation of something big.  Something great.

Football’s fun again.  Rejoice.

Thank God the preseason doesn’t count, because the Buccaneers were just shellacked 30-3 by Washington’s second-stringers.  Tampa’s depth chart has all the depth of an inflatable kiddie pool.  Seriously, is there any position with adequate backup?  The Redskins’ second and third units absolutely wrecked Tampa Bay, and created some serious questions about the unified strength of the Buccaneer roster.

Third-string quarterback Brett Ratliff, a 27-year-old undrafted passer out of Utah, made up for a lack of experience with shoddy mechanics and slow downfield reads.  And the porous blocking didn’t help.  New England castoff Tiquan Underwood was Ratliff’s most reliable target, and may have solidified a roster spot with his solid contribution on Wednesday night.  And on the other side of the ball, outside of a pair of Sam Baker interceptions, most of the defense struggled against Mike Shanahan’s patented blend of off-tackle rushes and intermediate passes.

One bright spot from the Washington game (and a week earlier, against the Patriots) was kicker Kai Forbath.  Which is an unfortunate place for a quality backup, because if there’s a reliable starter anywhere on this team, it’s Connor Barth.  Forbath has, in my estimation, almost no shot at making the roster; Barth’s 2011 was the best kicking season in franchise history.  The quiet kicker nailed 26 of 28 field goal attempts (93%), and clunked one of his misses off the uprights early in the season.  He was perfect in the clutch, and showcased a leg fit for any situation.  It’s unlikely Forbath has a chance.

And that’s a shame.  Kickers don’t garner much trade value in the NFL.  Teams rarely keep two on a roster, and if a backup shows any sort of promise, the interested parties will take their chances with the waiver wire instead of committing draft picks or players.  This will likely be the case with Forbath, who might be the best backup on Tampa Bay’s roster.

A week ago, Forbath drilled a 51-yarder and a 55-yarder against the Patriots, with room to spare.  Against the Redskins, he fired a torpedo through the uprights from 43 yards out for Tampa’s only points.  Kai went 5-for-5 on kicks in the preseason — four of them from more than 40 yards out — and looks to be one of the few second-teamers on Tampa’s roster with any real promise.  And the Bucs won’t get an ounce of use out of him.


It’s been a year and a half since Josh Freeman looked comfortable throwing long routes.  The gargantuan passer showcased improved footwork and decent timing, but the nagging inaccuracy from a year ago still pulls his throws off course.  It’s preseason, and as fans, we’re privy only to the superficial workings of Mike Sullivan’s offense… but so far, despite long-ball promises from the coaching staff, Josh seems hesitant throwing down field.

Tampa Bay’s first-team defense creamed New England, but the 20-7 end result of the first-string scrimmage was a product of Mark BarronRonde Barber, Michael Bennett, and smothering, opportunistic defense.  The offense stumbled in both passing and running, and the struggles aren’t mutually exclusive.

If the Buccaneers expect the running game to flourish, then Freeman needs to throw deep.  It’s why they spent $55 million on Vincent Jackson.  Josh doesn’t need to complete deep passes, but the threat of a quick score synergizes wonderfully with the power running game; it softens safeties, imbalances the pass rush, and supercharges a rushing offense.  A strong ground game opens the play action attack, and the cycle restarts.  One thing leads into the next.  Doug Martin, LeGarrette Blount, and the Bucs have the talent to run for 2500 yards, and if the offense is built and conducted properly, Tampa Bay’s record should be directly attached to their rushing numbers.

But it starts with Freeman.

The defense looks to have found some footing.  Losing Gerald McCoy and Adrian Clayborn to injuries in the first quarter didn’t hinder the front seven, who, for the first time in a long while, brought the boom of a professional defense.  The sheer physicality of the defensive line — especially Bennett — shattered the Patriot pocket for most of the evening.

The Patriots (admittedly without Wes Welker) looked outmatched against the Tampa Bay defense.  Michael Smith looked like Maurice Jones-Drew on kick return duty.  Vincent Jackson’s single-drive appearance was brief but promising.  Doug Martin did his best Earnest Graham impression in the passing game.

It doesn’t pay to get excited over preseason action, but Friday’s game was a lot more comfortable than the 31-14 beatdown New England delivered a season ago.

Turnover rates are high in professional sports.  Coaches and players are fired and replaced weekly, and a plethora of fresh talent and innovative instruction is tossed into the machine, where it either succeeds or gets gnawed and digested to make room for the next man up.

It’s a nasty, unforgiving process.  But it’s also exciting.  The perpetual evolution of our favorite teams keep us addicted to sports, and few teams have suffered more change through the last couple years than the Buccaneers.  In four seasons, we’ve gone from Jim Bates, Byron Leftwich, Jeff Jagodzinski, and Cadillac Williams… through Raheem Morris, Josh Freeman, Greg Olson, and LeGarrette Blount… and we find ourselves smack dab in the molten nucleus of the newest era in Tampa Bay football.

And it didn’t look so good tonight.

But failure’s part of the process.  Don’t judge a team on their missteps; judge them on how quickly — and confidently — they regain their balance.  Greg Schiano’s attention to detail has been so thoroughly discussed in local media that it’s becoming part of the Buccaneer mythology — alongside Tony Dungy’s honest stoicism, Monte Kiffin’s excited rasps, and Jon Gruden’s inability to convert third downs.  Trust the detail-driven Schiano to right the mistakes, lest they catch fire and spread, and burn him like they did his predecessor.  The team isn’t great, but hey, Schiano didn’t inherit a great team.  He didn’t inherit a competent team.  If there are serious mistakes, thank the football gods that it’s preseason, and that the Bucs hired a coach who — superficially, at least — seems capable of scaring the hiccups out of his crew.

That being said, there were a few points of concern.

  • LeGarrette’s injury looked bad.  When John Lynch — the Grand Poobah of Pain Infliction — prays that your “leg is intact,” it adds an extra twist to the knot of guts in your stomach.  Thankfully, Blount was walking the sidelines in the second half, no ice and no brace strapped to his leg.  But losing the “one” out of a “one-two punch” spells trouble early for the Schiano era.
  • Freeman looked an awful lot like 2011’s lumbering, timid, slow-armed patsy.  Awful being the operative word.  He stared down receivers, threw into coverage, and seemed reluctant to scramble.  His only saving grace?  Dan Orlovsky looked even worse.
  • Quincy Black must have one hell of a handshake to still have a job in the NFL.  He impresses the coaching staff during every training camp, then deflates when the season rolls around.  He’s the Michael Clayton of linebackers, but without the exciting rookie year.

Those are, of course, three pessimistic notes from a night rife with positivity.  For the second consecutive week, Doug Martin and Lavonte David showed the athleticism and instincts required to excel in the NFL.  Ahmad Black and his 4.7 40-yard dash were all over the Titans’ starting offense and special teams; the diminutive safety returned an interception to the two-yard line (setting up Tampa’s only touchdown), then saved a touchdown by snagging Tennessee’s Darius Reynaud from behind on a long punt return.  Situational pass-rusher Dekoda Watson and his explosive speed proved a handful for Tennessee’s blockers, and despite only one career sack, has been one of the few Buccaneers to produce consistent pressure on opposing passers since 2010.

Sometimes the bad outweighs the good — as was the case against the Titans.  But half the fun of a new era is watching the team rebound from adversity.

Six days to kickoff.  We await their rebuttal.

There’s never much to glean from the first preseason game.  In four weeks, after cuts and injuries whittle down the roster, we’ll be analyzing a different team with different goals and different setbacks.  But despite the turnover, every team displays subtle tendencies in the preseason — like tells at the poker table — that forecast the coming year.  These indicators shine under the scope of retrospection: Sabby Piscatelli being burned to a crisp in 2009, the Mike Williams jump ball in 2010, and Josh Freeman’s odd obsession with checkdowns in 2011.

Unfortunately, until the season reveals its high and low points, there’s no real way to discern the difference between a prophetic preseason tendency and a string of flukes born of early-season inexperience and abbreviated game plans.  But a few things caught my attention regardless.

  • Lavonte David looked especially comfortable on the weak side.  The rookie linebacker made some outstanding plays from scrimmage, and a great one-on-one tackle on a punt return.  And on a slippery field, no less.  His superior instincts create little wasted movement, and that physical efficiency combined with his on-field awareness makes him fast.  Faster than advertised.

  • Tiquan Underwood plays with a savvy that betrays his late draft status and career numbers.  The stringy speedster has been one of the hits of camp, perfectly embodying what head coach Greg Schiano wants in a football player.  He hauled  in three passes (all for first downs), including a 44-yard stunner between two Dolphin defenders.  If he can play with consistency and confidence, he’ll lock down the slot receiver position and help lift Tampa Bay’s offense to heights higher than his haircut.
  • Stay onside, defense.  For the love of all that is good, stay onside.
  • Much maligned Myron Lewis experienced a resurrection of spirit in training camp, but still hasn’t shaken his hesitance in coverage.  We’ve been fed stories about his resurgent run defense and fundamental coverage game, but Myron looked the same to me.  Cut his dreadlocks and scramble the jersey numbers, and we still could’ve picked him out of the defensive backfield.  Yeah him.  The guy giving up all the first downs.
  • It’s early, of course, but Doug Martin seems to have that knack — that ball carrier’s intuition — to squeeze through a hole, absorb hits, and fall forward into the pile.  It’s that Warrick Dunn run-and-cut.  The Emmitt Smith shimmy-and-drive.  It’s plausible (and hilariously ironic) that the 5-9 215-pound runner acts as the ox in Mike Sullivan’s offense, and the 250-pound juggernaut makes his bread as the breakaway threat.  A total reversal of archetypes.  Interesting.
  • And speaking of running backs, who else was excited to see four consecutive runs inside the five yard line?  Maybe it’s three years of conditioning via Greg Olson, but I would’ve bet money on a shotgun fade or a tight end in-route through traffic on third-and-goal.  How refreshing.  LeGarrette Blount’s goal line plunge in the first quarter expunged three seasons of shoddy offense.  And it was liberating.

Who knows what’ll stick?  Most of the conjecture spewed over the next few weeks will fall away as the year progresses.  But a few things — little tendencies here and there — will define this team down the road, because the seeds of the coming season are sewn in exhibition.