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 firstname.lastname@example.org. The One Buc Mailbag runs every Thursday and is not necessarily meant to reflect the opinions of the team's management or coaching staff.
Scott, you said that
- Sean Casey, via email to email@example.com
No, Sean didn't send his question in with an embedded link. I added that (even though I don't normally edit your questions) in case readers didn't know the article to which he was referring. The David Gettis thing was in an article posted on Monday called, "Five Potential Training Camp Surprises." Allow me to quote a few lines from that piece:
"These aren’t things I am certain will happen during the six weeks that commence on July 25, but they are six things that if they transpired wouldn’t totally surprise me…"
"…I can’t help thinking that if nobody really blows the doors off this thing, Gettis will have a chance to sneak in. Remember, we’re talking 'surprises' here, not likelihoods."
The point of the article was to stretch the boundaries a little bit. There's probably going to be a pretty good battle for the slot receiver job, for instance, but I don't think anyone will be terribly surprised if the winner is
As for your question, Sean, I'm going to assume you're not talking just about receivers. Even if I'm wrong about that assumption that's the question I'm going to answer, because we've already gone pretty deep into that position. So let's throw out a couple names from around the 88-man roster that could surprise us by still being around when it becomes a 53-man roster.
Well, I already threw out the name of Boston College rookie tackle
In that same article, I picked Patchan over linebacker Nate Askew, another undrafted rookie, right at the end. I think Askew's a nice surprise pick, too, because I'm sure the Bucs will keep at least five linebackers and maybe more if they can contribute on special teams. Behind the clear top four of
As a former wide receiver at Texas A&M, rookie LB Nate Askew probably has some of the better hands in his group
Would the Bucs keep three quarterbacks? That seems unlikely, as Head Coach Lovie Smith has hinted broadly that his team is more likely to stick with two, the more common approach for teams since the "ineligible third quarterback" option on game day was removed. Still, I think Smith and his staff like
Please remember that Sean asked for "surprises." I don't want to be quoted from this article when the Bucs stick with two quarterbacks and try to put Patchan and Askew on the practice squad to start the year. If you want me to play it safe I could go with
Finally, does a long-snapper count?
Bet you didn't think you were getting long-snapper analysis today, Sean. It's your lucky day!
What are the players and coaches looking forward to the most this season, Thomas? That's easy: Winning. Or, as Lovie Smith put it in his introductory press conference, being "relevant" again. There's not a single player on the Bucs' current roster who was on the team the last time it was in the playoffs (2007). There are some signees from the last couple years, like
That seems like a terribly obvious answer to your question, Thomas, I know. Everyone wants to win. But I guess my point is that the arrival of Lovie Smith and the aggressive roster additions of the offseason have a lot of players around here really believing that their time has come. If the wins start adding up early in the season, I think these guys are going to enjoy being relevant in the NFL (many of them for the first time) so much that they will feed off of that and play even harder.
I know every team is optimistic at this time of the year. I get that. Even factoring that in, however, I get a greater sense this summer than I have in some time that this team believes it is a real contender. This team thinks it deserves to be relevant in the NFL, and I think the players and coaches are most looking forward to proving they are right.
As for the specific game to which the players and coaches are most looking forward, I think that one's easy, too: the home game against the Carolina Panthers.
After the touchy-feely answer I gave you above, Thomas, you probably don't want to hear any clichés, but there's a lot of truth to this one: "We take it one game at a time." And this one: "The most important game is the next game." The Panthers are the Buccaneers' next game.
Every Buccaneers coach I've known has harped on that point to his team, and it's easy to understand why. So much goes into preparing for a game that you really can't afford to have your focus divided. And if you do give the upcoming game less attention than it deserves, you take a big risk of losing it, no matter where the opponent is in the standings. There are no true pushovers in the NFL, no teams you can beat without taking them seriously.
The Buccaneers know this: Ever since the 2014 schedule came out, the Panthers have been preparing for them. They have to at least match the Panthers' level of preparation and focus to have a chance, so I think Tampa Bay's players and coaches are thinking a lot more about the Panthers than any other team on the schedule.
In this case, however, it happens to all come together nicely, much better than if the season opener was, say, at Cleveland (which was a possibility). For one, the Panthers are the defending division champions and thus a perfect opening-game measuring stick for the new-look Buccaneers. Lovie Smith thinks of the Panthers as more of a physical, hard-nosed team than a finesse team, and I think he wants his team to have the same DNA. Just like he started his tenure in Chicago by specifically saying he wanted the Bears to learn how to beat the Packers, I think he wants his Bucs to measure up to Carolina as much as any team on the schedule.
In addition, it happens to be a home opener. Another thing Smith has specifically emphasized is the need for the Buccaneers to rebuild the home-field advantage they enjoyed in the late '90s and early '00s. Defeating the defending NFC South champs at Raymond James Stadium to start the season would go a long way towards packing that house for the rest of the year and rekindling that suffocating atmosphere for opponents.
That's not to say Vincent Jackson will be less productive in 2014. In fact, given that he caught 78 passes for 1,224 yards and seven touchdowns (and was only held below 50 yards in five of 16 games) while playing three games with a badly struggling quarterback and the other 13 with a rookie passer, there's every reason to believe he'll approach those numbers again.
I just think (or perhaps hope) that the Buccaneers' passing attack will be quite a bit more varied in 2014 than it was in 2013, when it was hard to find any other consistent weapon beyond Jackson.
And, yes, there are more of those backs that will be involved this year. Whether it was Martin, Mike James or Bobby Rainey, the Bucs mostly relied on one ballcarrier at a time last year. That's apparently not going to be the case under Lovie Smith and Jeff Tedford. Still, Smith has said repeatedly that Martin will remain the "bell cow" back in the Bucs' offense, so he shouldn't have any problem racking up 250 carries or so. That's what Matt Forte had in Chicago in 2012, Smith's last year at the helm, even though Michael Bush, Kahlil Bell and Armando Allen were combining to take about 10 handoffs a game. Forte is considered a more accomplished pass-catcher than Martin, but he had a total of 44 receptions in 2012 (to be fair, that's his career low). Martin had 49 receptions as a rookie in 2012 on the way to 1,926 yards from scrimmage. I know that rookie
Martin ranked third in the NFL in yards from scrimmage in 2012, and second among running backs because that was the year that Detroit wide receiver Calvin Johnson fully turned into a cyborg. Forte did the same thing last year in a new offense in Chicago, ranking third with 1,933 yards. Meanwhile, Seattle's Marshawn Lynch, who could certainly be described as an "offensive powerhouse" was sixth in the NFL and fifth among back with 1,573 yards from scrimmage. That's about 80% of what Martin produced in 2012. I think Martin can get to at least 80% of his 2012 production, even if he's ceding some of the carries and catches he would have had that year to other strong options in the Bucs' offense, and that would once again make him a powerhouse. The powerhouse in Tampa Bay's offense.