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One Buc Mailbag: Pro Bowl Odds

Posted Jun 18, 2014

The mailbag returns to lay some odds on which Buccaneers could find themselves in the all-star game next winter, and to weigh in on the Gerald McCoy contract talks and training camp practice times

  • The Bucs have plenty of potential Pro Bowlers on the roster, but some have better odds than others
  • Gerald McCoy and the Buccaneers are likely to come together on a long-term contract solution
  • Game simulation and fan convenience are two reasons the Bucs will hold late-afternoon camp practices
Each week, Senior Writer/Editor Scott Smith will dip into the inbox to answer questions from  Buccaneer fans.  This week, we get a possibly sarcastic question about Buccaneer Pro Bowl odds as well as inquiries into the timing of two things: Pro Bowl DT Gerald McCoy’s contract negotiations and training camp practice times .

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.

I love how optimistic everybody is this time of year!! Lol! Your pointing out articles about Josh McCown throwing for 4,000 yards and telling us we’ve got more receivers than we know what to do with when it’s time for cuts, even though we’ve got like one guy with a history of doing anything. It’s okay, I get it.. I know it’s like that everywhere right now, even in Cleveland (zing!). And its fine with me. Lets ride the good times right now. So I’m here to give you a chance to spread even more sunshine and happiness…tell me which Bucs are going to make the Pro Bowl this year. How about top five possibilities, and give me the odds on each.
- Todd Walters, via email to tbbsocial@buccaneers.nfl.com

Man, I was torn on including this one.  I can’t tell if I’m being clowned here, or if Todd’s just having some good-natured fun.  In the end, I went with the latter because that’s actually a decent Browns joke, and the way he used “we” makes me think we’re talking about a true Bucs fan here.  I hope I’m not giving him too much credit.

Plus, it’s a good set-up.  I’m not going overboard by suggesting five potential Buc Pro Bowlers (and a handful of “honorable mentions”), because that’s exactly what Todd asked for.  I know I’m adding to the “sunshine and happiness” vibe of this time of year – and, yes, it’s true that right now there are probably 20 fanbases that think their teams are going 10-6 in 2014 – but what’s wrong with a little sunshine and happiness?  Can we work puppies and ice cream into this discussion, too?

Alright, Todd, if you were setting me up for another overly optimistic article, you’ve succeeded, because I am now going to respond to your question with five possible 2014-15 Buccaneer Pro Bowlers, in order of likelihood.  You want odds?  You’ll get odds.

(1) DT Gerald McCoy (80%)…Yeah, I know, tough choice.  But he checks all the boxes.  The best indicator of whether a player has a chance to go to the Pro Bowl is if he’s gone to the Pro Bowl before, and McCoy is coming off two straight trips.  He’s young, he’s dominant, he’s considered possibly the best in the league at his position, he’s stepping into a defense that appears to be perfect for him, he’s charismatic and he now has a household name among NFL fans and his peers.  Really, I’d like to put him even higher than 80%, but the NFL is too fickle for that.  Injuries or a bad Buccaneer season or a sudden burst of production from three or four other defensive tackles could throw a wrench into the gears.  Beyond maybe Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, J.J. Watt, Calvin Johnson and Adrian Peterson – they’re going to get bushels of votes whether they’re healthy or not – I don’t think anybody is a 90% lock for the Pro Bowl.

(2) LB Lavonte David (65%)…That might seem way high, percentage-wise, for a third-year player who has never been to the all-star game, but hear me out.  Last year, David was a somewhat surprising Pro Bowl snub, given that he had just become the second player in NFL history to have 100+ tackles, five interceptions and six sacks in the same season, but the correction came immediately.  There can’t be too many instances of a player being passed over for the Pro Bowl and then just a few weeks later being handed first-team Associated Press All-Pro honors.  The latter is far more exclusive than the former.  Yes, the Pro Bowl is chosen by votes from fans, players and coaches while the All-Pro team is a media selection, but I still think the discrepancy between the two results drew a lot of attention last January.  In fact, I think the backlash did a lot to get David more league-wide name recognition, and if he can perform similarly in 2014 he’s going to ride that wave into the Pro Bowl.  And, oh yeah, Lavonte David is going to do it again in 2014.

(3) WR Vincent Jackson (35%)…Listen, that’s not faint praise.  A 35% chance of making the Pro Bowl is a real vote of confidence for a player who was not in Hawaii last winter and who plays the position which might be the hardest to gather all-star votes given how much attention big-number receivers get.  Here were the eight receivers who played in the game last year: Larry Fitzgerald, Josh Gordon, Alshon Jeffery, Brandon Marshall, Antonio Brown, Dez Bryant, A.J. Green and DeSean Jackson.  That was after Calvin Johnson, Andre Johnson and Demaryius Thomas all pulled out after being selected.  Yes, Gordon has suspension issues and Jackson is with a new team, but even if you posit them dropping out, you’ve still got Thomas and the two Johnsons ready to step in.  Or Eric Decker.  Or Jordy Nelson.  Or Pierre Garcon.  Or Keenan Allen.  Or…you get the point.  It’s a crowded field, so going 35% on VJax is actually a pretty strong bet.  But my thought is this: Jackson was in the Pro Bowl after the 2012 season in which he caught 72 passes for 1,384 yards and eight touchdowns on a team that was thought to have some promise. Last year, he caught 78 passes for 1,224 yards and seven touchdowns on one of the NFL’s worst offenses, and did not make the Pro Bowl.  The difference was context, and if the Bucs are significantly improved in 2014 (there’s that optimism again, right Todd?) and Jackson is in the same statistical vicinity, then why not? He did make it to Hawaii in three of the previous four seasons before 2013, so the pedigree is there.

(4) DE Michael Johnson (20%)…It’s a little weird to realize that Johnson hasn’t been in the Pro Bowl yet, and that’s also the main reason why it’s hard to give him a higher percentage.  Johnson had 11.5 sacks in 2012, which was tied for ninth in the league that year, and tied for fifth among defensive ends.  It’s a shame he didn’t get the Honolulu invite that year, but it was the kind of season that builds buzz and sets a player up to make his Pro Bowl debut the next year.  Unfortunately, even though he played just as well in 2013, his sack total dropped to 3.5, and you won’t see too many D-ends make the all-star game with 3.5 sacks.  That said, Johnson’s reputation as a rising star in the league remains strong, and was only bolstered by the Bucs making him one of the first targets, league-wide, in free agency this spring.  If he can crack double digits again, a prospect that seems promising on the same line as Gerald McCoy, Johnson has a good chance of making it to Hawaii.  In fact, he and McCoy could form the sort of perennial Pro Bowl duo the Bucs’ line used to enjoy from Warren Sapp and Simeon Rice.

(5) RB Doug Martin (15%)…The Dougernaut has been to the Pro Bowl before, after his amazing 2012 rookie season, and that helps a lot.  He plays running back, and that doesn’t help at all because it’s hard to crack through the royalty that is Adrian Peterson, LeSean McCoy, Matt Forte, Jamaal Charles and Marshawn Lynch.  Then you have young runners DeMarco Murray and Alfred Morris, who broke through last year and will be tough to unseat.  And, who knows, maybe Chris Johnson rediscovers his CJ2K magic in New York.  The other issue is that we don’t yet know how big Martin’s workload will be in 2014 under the new coaching staff.  Lovie Smith’s crew is committed to Martin as their lead back, but they have made it clear that they want to lighten his burden a little bit to keep him effective longer.  It could be tough for Martin to get enough touches to get close to his 1,926-total-yards season in 2012.  That said, Martin clearly possesses Pro Bowl-caliber talent, and if the Bucs’ offensive season breaks right he might glide right back into the all-star game more easily than Johnson, Jackson or even David.

(Others considered) Dashon Goldson’s first year in Buccaneer red didn’t go quite as planned, but he was a Pro Bowler in the previous two years and the safety position seems a lot more fluid, in terms of all-star votes, than wide receiver or quarterback…No, Josh McCown doesn’t seem like a wise Pro Bowl bet, but if that 4,000-yard, 30-touchdown thing that raised Todd’s hackles comes true, you never know…We’re not short-changing Alterraun Verner, who was a Pro Bowler last year and was one of the Bucs’ most important acquisitions of 2014.  He could easily have been on the top five list above, and is likely to deliver an all-star-worthy season, but cornerback Pro Bowl votes are too dependent on interception totals, and even the best corners sometimes end up with just a few picks.  Verner’s one Pro Bowl selection helps, but is it enough traction to get him back, even if he has a great season that includes just a couple interceptions, after switching teams in the offseason?...New Bucs left tackle Anthony Collins is a stud, but he’ll probably have to put together a couple great seasons as a full-time starter to join the Joe Thomas/Joe Staley/Tyron Smith bunch.  Look for Collins to make his breakthrough after the 2015 season.

I would be enormously surprised if Gerald McCoy is not a Buccaneer well past the 2014 season.  Surprised, shocked and appalled, actually.  Stunned.  I can’t see it happening.

That said, I can’t say I’d be overly surprised if a new deal wasn’t in place by Week One of the regular season.  It just seems like an artificial deadline to me.  McCoy has already made it clear that he will not hold out from training camp over this issue, and Lovie Smith has been saying since March that a new deal for his prized three-technique tackle is a huge priority.  Gerald McCoy is not the type of player to let something like that lessen his focus on football, if for some reason the process bleeds into the regular season.  I’ve never seen him fazed by a pack of cameras.  He would handle it just fine.

I just don’t see the obstacles to getting this done (says some guy who doesn’t have to fork over a single dollar or battle to make all that he is worth, but still.).  Where are the red flags?  McCoy seems to love being the Buccaneers’ number-one leader, and the Bucs obviously love him back.  He’s not only a great player, still entering his prime, but he’s as solid of a citizen as there is.  Even the salary issue doesn’t seem like it could turn into anything insurmountable, as McCoy has already been among the highest-paid players at his position in the league.

Have you liked what Lovie Smith and Jason Licht have done since arriving last January?  I have.  Can you imagine them taking all of that and then stunting it by losing a young Pro Bowl player at the most important position on their defense?  I can’t.  No, I wouldn’t be surprised by what you propose, but neither would I be worried by it.

Why the late-afternoon practices during training camp? Uh…rain?
Mike D., via email to tbbsocial@buccaneers.nfl.com

I know I’m a child of the ‘80s because there are probably five million people out there who can abbreviate their names as “Mike D.” and I still started singing “Paul Revere” as soon as I read his signature.  (And, yes, I chose this one over a number of other emails asking about the same issue for that very reason.)

Which is neither here nor there.  Apparently, Mike here is worried that the Tampa weather will “sabotage” (couldn’t help myself) this year’s camp because a good number of practices are going to start at 4:30 in the afternoon.  Yes, there are many days when it rains at 4:30 in the afternoon in Tampa in July and August.

Lest we forget, Lovie Smith has been to training camp in Tampa before.  Furthermore, he is capable of reading weather reports.  And, let me tell you, he and his staff are meticulous planners, the kind who had a mid-June practiced scheduled out to the minute during a meeting in February.  My point is, Smith and his staff are just as aware of the potential weather issues as you and I.  Even so, they think late-afternoon practices are the way to go, and Smith gave two reasons during one of his mini-camp press conferences.

One, the Buccaneers will be playing their first two games of the season at about that same time of the day.  That might seem oddly specific to plan for that, but why not?  They can’t really simulate playing a night game in a dome, which is what they will do in Week Three, and their next two games after that are also on the road.  The Bucs won’t play a 1:00 p.m. game at Raymond James Stadium until October 12, and they won’t play their second one until five days before Halloween.  I’ll admit that I found this explanation a bit odd when I first heard it, but it makes more sense after taking a closer look at the schedule.

Two, Smith really does want to make training camp more accessible to a greater portion of the fan base.  If you can get out of work a little early to see a Yankees spring training game in March, you might be able to do the same to get you and your kids to a Bucs’ training camp practice.  The Night Practice at Raymond James Stadium (this year scheduled for Friday, August 1) is always the most heavily-attended camp workout; holding more practices that fall in the early-evening hours could offer those fans more opportunities to see their team being shaped for the regular season.

The Bucs won’t escape the rain every day for the three weeks of training camp, and they might have a few more drops to dodge by holding a series of late-afternoon practices.  But rainouts have been a part of the team’s camp experience every year, whether at Disney, UT or a cramped hotel by old One Buc. The team will deal with it, and hopefully end up giving its fans a better camp experience.