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One Buc Mailbag: All Over the Map

Posted Jun 15, 2017

Buc fans had a diverse array of questions for the mailbag this week, from players with Bahamian roots to franchise record-chasers to the need for bigger cornerbacks.

Each week during the offseason, Senior Writer/Editor Scott Smith will dip into the inbox to answer questions from  Buccaneer fans. This week, we start with what is more of a quiz than a question regarding a current player with roots in the Bahamas. We also look at players on the 2017 roster who could soon become all-time franchise leaders in specific stat categories, then close out with a question about getting more size at the cornerback position.

Fans can submit questions for upcoming mailbags via Twitter to @ScottSBucs (#BucsMailbag), through a message on the Buccaneers Official Facebook Page or via email at tbbsocial@buccaneers.nfl.com.  The One Buc Mailbag runs every Thursday and is not necessarily meant to reflect the opinions of the team's management or coaching staff.

1. Bahamian Bucs?

Hi Mr. Smith,

I am a DIE HARD Bucs fan from the lovely Island of Grand Bahama, in The Bahamas. I have been a fan from the mid 90’s and every chance I get, I go to Tampa to watch my beloved Bucs play live in person (I plan to watch us BEAT the Patriots this year).

The team currently has a player on the roster that has very strong Bahamian ties. Actually, his father’s family is from the Bahamas.
My questions to you:

  1. Do you know who this player is?
  2. How many players have we had on the roster with Bahamian heritage?
 
Thank you.

Bahamian: Buc Fan

I can do you one better, Mr. Bahamian Buc Fan – I can name both a player and a staff member who fits that bill.

First, I believe the player to which you are referring is rookie cornerback Jonathan Moxey, an undrafted free agent out of Boise State. Moxey grew up in South Florida but has family in the Bahamas, which I just verified with him via text. I had to go that route because I neglected to ask before Thursday's practice, and after that workout the players scattered from One Buccaneer Place in about two seconds flat. Can't blame them.

By the way, Jonathan Moxey appears to be a name with very deep Bahamian roots. Simply by chance, while trying to look a little deeper into this question, I found a link to a book about early settlers of the Bahamas. One of the names was Jonathan Moxey. I also found a boxer in California named Jonathan Moxey who has Bahamian ties. Chances are, the Jonathan Moxey on the Bucs' roster already knows all about this. I'll ask him more about it when the players return; I sure don't want to bother him on his last vacation before camp!

Okay, that part was clearly a quiz for me, not a question, and I hope I passed. Now for the part where I give you more than you asked for. Did you know that the father of Alex Smith, former Tampa Bay tight end and current Buccaneers pro scout, is also from the Bahamas? Yep. Not only that, but he played in the NFL, just like his son. Edwin Alexander Smith, from Nassau, was drafted by the Denver Broncos in the 13th round in 1973 out of Colorado College. He played two seasons for the Broncos as a defensive end and then obviously settled down in Colorado, because that's where Alex was born. The Buccaneers drafted Alex Smith in the third round in 2005 and he wore the pewter and red for four seasons before subsequently playing one season in Philadelphia, four in Cleveland, two in Cincinnati and one in Washington. After wrapping up his playing career in 2015, Smith rejoined the Buccaneers in the front office.

I'm going to have to cry partial ignorance on your second question, however. Beyond Smith, I'm not sure if the Buccaneers have had any other players with Bahamian heritage. I do know that Pro Football Reference lists three NFL players who were born in the Bahamas: wide receiver Devard Darling (2004-08, mostly with Baltimore), defensive back Jocelyn Borgella (1994-96, Detroit) and the aforementioned Ed Smith. Former Washington defensive end Dexter Nottage, who played for the team in mid-'90s, reportedly has Bahamian roots. None of those guys played for the Buccaneers.

All told, I'd say I knocked question #1 out of the park and came up a little short on question #2. Not too bad overall, I hope.

2. Rising Up the Charts
Casey Phillips and I actually talked about this one a bit on Bucs Live on Wednesday, but I was mostly winging it there. I wanted a chance to address this question with actual, specific numbers. So here goes.

On the one hand, you wouldn't expect there to be a lot of current players challenging the Bucs' all-time career records in various stat categories, as the core of the team is pretty young. For instance, Jameis Winston would be a reasonable bet to eventually break all the team's career passing records, but he's not all that close to any of them yet. (Actually, that's not completely true; more on that later.)

On the other hand, some of those young players – Mike Evans, Jameis Winston, the young-ish Doug Martin – have piled up numbers pretty quickly. You might be surprised to learn how close some current Bucs are to rising to the top of the franchise charts at their respective positions.

Most notably, Martin enters the 2017 season with a (very) outside shot at ending it as Tampa Bay's all-time leading rusher. I know hopes are high for Martin to have the kind of season he did in 2012 and 2015, but he would need 1,731 rushing yards in 2017 to pass James Wilder, and that seems extremely unlikely. In fact, given that he won't be able to play during the first three weeks of the season, I think that one is pretty much off the table. However, Martin would pass both Warrick Dunn and Mike Alstott and move into second if he rushed for 862 yards this year.

Similarly, a 1,441-yard season from Evans would make him the franchise's all-time leading receiver (in terms of yardage). He had 1,321 yards last year and has increased his yardage total each season, so that's obviously not out of the question. However, with the additions of DeSean Jackson, O.J. Howard and Chris Godwin, there might actually be fewer targets for Mike this fall. We'll see.

You know what? Let's throw a table at this. I love stat tables. Below are a bunch of statistical categories with the Buccaneers' all-time leaders and current leaders listed next to them. Keep in mind that these are only statistics accrued while the players were Buccaneers, which is why you don't see somebody like Nick Folk in the table. The final column, "Rank," indicates where that player currently ranks in that category in franchise history.

As I mentioned, Winston is still a few years away from seriously challenging most of the career passing records for the franchise…except one. After two seasons, he already has 50 touchdown passes, including a team single-season record 28 last year. That puts him 30 behind Josh Freeman for the all-time record, and would it really be a surprise to see Winston connect on 30 TD passes this year? Given those 28 he had last year, his own expected development and the additions of Jackson and Howard, it's actually a pretty reasonable bet.

Elsewhere, it will be a while before any new Buccaneers threaten the all-time franchise marks for interceptions, field goals, total touchdowns or total points. And I included the punt and kickoff return yards categories mostly as a joke. There's nobody within miles of Karl Williams or Aaron Stecker in those categories. Really, the Buccaneers haven't had a single player hold onto either of those jobs for a long stretch of time since the days of Williams and Stecker.

The record on that list most likely to fall this year: touchdown receptions. The great Mike Evans already has 27 of them through three seasons, or an average of nine per year. He's such a ridiculously good red zone weapon that you can see him hitting that average even with Jackson and Howard now sharing the field. If he does, he'll most past Jimmie Giles as the top passing-game scorer in team annals.

3. Bigger Corners?

Well, Neal, if you happened to catch any of the Buccaneers Insider Live shows we did leading up to the draft, or read a variety of things I wrote in pre-draft mailbags, you'll know that I was definitely onboard with the idea of drafting a cornerback. Even in the first round. Embarrassingly so. I'd try to hide from it, but it's right there in the archives. As it turned out, the Bucs didn't draft a single cornerback, in the first round or in any round.

That said, my point was never that it was an extremely pressing need right now, or that the Bucs' cupboard was bare at that position. My point was simply that it's very hard to build quality depth at cornerback, and this year's draft was very deep in that position. I though the draft might fall right, to the point where a cornerback was the best value at #19.

Now we know it's a moot point because O.J. Howard surprisingly fell to the 19th pick and that was a no-brainer for the Buccaneers. In the second round, with a couple well-regarded cornerbacks still available, the Bucs took safety Justin Evans. That's a clear indication that Jason Licht and Dirk Koetter (who obviously know a lot more about this than I do) thought safety was a more pressing need for the team than cornerback. Fair enough.

The specific difference here is that you seem to feel as if the Bucs need a BIG cornerback. I see your point. There are a lot of big, dynamic receivers in the league, and Tampa Bay's front-line corners don't have the height to match. But here's the thing: You can't always get everything you want.

Would the Buccaneers like to have a 6-foot-2 cornerback who also has the footwork, leaping ability, ball skills and instincts of a Brent Grimes or a Vernon Hargreaves? Sure! Is that kind of player readily available? Not often. Grimes and Hargreaves are two very good cornerbacks who both happen to be 5-10. They succeed despite not having elite height, but the point is that they do succeed. I don't think you draft a cornerback just because he's tall; if he's tall and he has the ability of a Vernon Hargreaves, well that's a bonus.

You asked me if I thought a big cornerback was a "need." I would say it would be a nice thing to have, but it's not specifically a need because the Buccaneers already have two starting cornerbacks they believe in, tall or not.