That is why I will be taking a weekly look around the web to gather some of the analysis you might have missed. I'll also provide my own take on those articles; I will "read and react," if you will. In some cases, these choices also serve as recommendations, alerting you to articles of particular interest about your Buccaneers.
The pieces that caught my attention this week included an analysis by draft expert Rob Rang on rookie running back Charles Sims and his potential role in the Bucs' offense. A poll of the top three plays in Buccaneer history sent me off on two separate tangents, including a list of the most memorable regular-season plays in team annals. And, yes, there was an NFL Supplemental Draft this week.
Keep in mind, the opinions stated below are my own and don't necessarily reflect Buccaneers management, coaches or ownership.
1. Finding the Fits: Don't overlook rookie Charles Sims in Tampa Bay, Rob Rang, CBSSports.com
Rob Rang is a draft specialist, so you probably saw more of his stuff before May 7 than since. However, since late in May he has been producing a series of articles for NFLDraftScout.com and CBSSports.com called "Finding the Fits," in which he seeks "to identify one relatively unheralded player per team who appears to be a good schematic fit and, therefore, more likely to be a surprise contributor early in his pro career."
This week he finally got around to the NFC South (c'mon, Rob, didn't I just explain that the NFC South is going to be the league's most compelling division this year?!), starting with the Falcons on Monday. It's worth checking on all four of this week's Finding the Fits articles to learn a little bit more about the less-heralded newcomers to the Bucs' division. For instance, I didn't really know too much about New Orleans' fourth-round pick, linebacker Khairi Fortt, but now I think he's someone to keep an eye on in the Saints' suddenly underrated defense.
When you get to the piece on the Bucs, published Thursday, you'll probably be quite a bit more familiar with the player, West Virginia running back Charles Sims, the team's third-round pick. Still, Rang does a nice job of filling in some of the particulars on why Sims is a good fit for what the Bucs plan to do on offense this year.
I chuckled after reading the first line, in which Rang says, "…the selection of Sims in the third round probably caught most Bucs' fans off guard." That would be something of an understatement. I personally ran away from Twitter for about an hour after passing along that pick. It wasn't pretty. While I'm sure there are some Buc fans who still think the Bucs were lunatics for using a third-round pick on a position at which the team already appeared to be loaded, the initial furor over that seems to have passed and there's plenty of optimism about what Sims can add to the attack.
According to Rang, that's plenty, and we may not have to wait long to see it. Lovie Smith has compared Sims – as a type of player – to the Bears' Matt Forte, and Rang makes the same link. The author praises Sims' "impressive burst," "hand-eye coordination," "body control" and "soft mitts" and says those traits fit in well with the system new Offensive Coordination Jeff Tedford is installing in Tampa. The reason that Rang believes Sims could contribute significantly early on isn't necessarily positive, but it's a fair point:
RB Charles Sims has a set of skills that could make him an instant contributor in the Bucs' offense
Like I said, that's fair. I think most analysts agree that the Bucs upgraded at left tackle and center, and right tackle is in good hands with
Rang would not be surprised if Sims, who was seen as something of a head-scratcher of a pick in early May, looks like a steal instead a month or two into the season.
Rang also gives his thoughts on four other 2014 Buc draftees (
2. Bucs' top plays: Jurevicius' catch, Pat Yasinskas, ESPN.com
Funny how everyone is filling their sites with lists at this time of the year (cough, cough)…we need some way to bridge the gap from mini-camp to training camp. Over at ESPN.com, the intrepid Pat Yasinskas is pulling double duty, counting down the "Top 15 Buccaneers" (spoiler,
Actually, what Yasinskas did was identify his three top selections and then SportsNation let the fans vote. The author's three picks were what most of us would probably expect, all from a two-week span in January of 2003: Joe Jurevicius' 71-yard catch-and-run in the NFC Championship Game, Ronde Barber's win-sealing 92-yard pick-six in the same game and Derrick Brooks' "dagger" of an interception return in the subsequent Super Bowl.
It's kind of strange to think that the three most memorable plays in team history all occurred in an eight-day span but, again, it's pretty hard to argue with those choices. I do have two reactions to this whole concept, however.
First, I have to take exception with the results of the poll. Brooks' play won the poll, and handily so. At the moment, at least 60% of the voters have chosen that play, with only 27% going to Barber's play and 13% to Jurevicius' play.
Seriously? I can't get on board with that. We're comparing plays here, not players, so I'm not worried at all about offending any of the people on the list. Brooks is a deserving Hall of Famer, Barber should join him in Canton when he's eligible and Jurevicius was a key member of that Super Bowl team and a very inspirational figure. So it should be no insult to Brooks or Jurevicius when I say that I think Barber's pick-six in Philadelphia is hands down the top play in franchise history.
Brooks play gets bumped up, and deservedly so, by two things: It was the Super Bowl, so it's the biggest win in franchise history, and it's Derrick Brooks. That his big play on defense, at the end of an incredible season in which he routinely found the end zone, was the game-sealer (Gene Deckerhoff famously cried, "There's the dagger!" while doing play-by-play) is a resonant storyline. Who wasn't thrilled that it was Derrick Brooks, specifically, who put the game away for good and then held onto the football on the sideline, sobbing with joy? I get it.
But it's worth remembering that the Bucs were winning by 13 points at the time, with the ball at Oakland's 29 and the two-minute warning just having passed. Brooks' pick-six definitely put the game away, but were any Buc fans really all that worried that the game was going to slip away. I was there; I wasn't that worried.
Contrast that with Philadelphia, in which the Bucs had seen Donovan McNabb make one incredible escape-artist play after another to get the ball down to Tampa Bay's 10-yard line. The score was 20-10 at the time and there was 3:27 left on the clock. Philadelphia could have conceivably scored on the next play and had more than three minutes to get the ball back and score again. I was at that game, too, and I could tell you that it was definitely scary. You could at least picture things turning suddenly bad on what had seemed like a glorious night for most of the game.
That's why Barber shooting out of nowhere to intercept a short pass, and then suddenly running all alone on the sideline, was the most shocking and wonderful moment I've ever had as a Buccaneers fan. It changed everything, instantly. Building dread turned to pure joy in milliseconds. I'll never forget it.
Anyway, I guess that's splitting hairs. Three-fifths of the voters on ESPN.com would go with Brooks pick at #1, and I guess that's fine. I just reserve the right to disagree.
I sort of alluded to what my second reaction to this piece is: All of these plays happened in not only the same season but practically the same week. I guess we need another Super Bowl win or two to spread them out. But this got me thinking: What if we only considered the regular season? Below are about 15 plays that quickly come to mind for me as possible options if we were to do a similar poll without postseason eligibility. I had personally seen very few Buccaneer games before 1992, so my list is going to be weighted heavily towards the last two decades. I do know, however, some of the moments considered most important in the franchise's earlier history.
- Danny Reece's 44-yard fumble return for a touchdown in Baltimore on Oct. 3, 1976…It's the first touchdown in franchise history (in the fourth game, unfortunately), and that's pretty self-explanatory.
- Mike Washington's 45-yard interception return for a touchdown in New Orleans on Dec. 11, 1977…That was one of three pick-sixes for the Buccaneers' defense that day, a feat that has since only been matched in the Super Bowl win. It was the first of the three, setting the Bucs off towards a 33-14 victory that would stand as the first win in franchise history.
- Neil O'Donoghue's 19-yard field goal against Kansas City on Dec. 16, 1979…Those proved to be the only three points in the lowest-scoring game in franchise annals. The Bucs needed the win to clinch their first-ever division title and playoff berth, but both teams found it nearly impossible to move the football in the midst of a torrential downpour.
- David Logan's 21-yard fumble return for a touchdown in Detroit, Dec. 20, 1981…In a winner-take-all game for the NFC Central title and just one playoff berth, Logan sealed it with his defensive touchdown with less than two minutes to play. That improved the Bucs' lead to 20-10 and they just held on for the 20-17 victory. What made it better was that it was a huge hit by Lee Roy Selmon on Eric Hipple that caused the fumble, so this play was a combo effort by two of the most beloved Bucs of that era.
- James Wilder's 407th carry of the season, his 31st tote of the game against the New York Jets on Dec. 16, 1984…That set a single-season NFL record that stood for about a decade. It also seriously angered the Jets, as the Bucs appeared to let them score with about a minute left in the game so they would have time to hand it to Wilder a few more times. The Jets rather pointedly got their revenge a year later in a 62-28 demolition, the most points Tampa Bay has ever surrendered in a game.
- Vernon Turner's 80-yard punt return for a touchdown against Detroit on Oct. 2, 1994…It was the first punt or kickoff return for a score in franchise history, breaking a drought of nearly two decades.
- Mike Alstott's one-yard run for a touchdown in Minnesota on Sept. 14, 1997…The A-Train gave Buc fans many, many memorable moments (including two more on this list), but this was one of the first and still one of the best. It was a classic third-effort score for Alstott, who first tried diving over the pile in the middle, then landed and ran to his left, eventually getting turned around and simply bulling his way into the end zone backwards.
- Mike Alstott's 33-yard run for a touchdown against Detroit on Dec. 28, 1997…This one put away the Buccaneers' first playoff victory in 18 years.
- Warrick Dunn and Shaun King's improvised pitch play against St. Louis on Dec. 18, 2000…In what is widely regarded as the most exciting regular-season game in franchise history, the Bucs got some Monday Night Football revenge for their 1999 NFC Championship Game loss by downing St. Louis, 38-35 in a crazy shootout. The Bucs' game-winning drive late in the fourth quarter almost certainly stalls if Dunn, in the clutches of Kevin Carter deep into the backfield, doesn't get off a shovel pass back to the quarterback, who eludes tacklers and picks up a penalty at the end to get a first down in Rams territory.
- Shelton Quarles' 98-yard interception return for a touchdown against Green Bay on Oct. 7, 2001…The Bucs beat their arch-nemesis, the Packers, but only 14-10, and it probably wouldn't have gone their way with Quarles cutting in front of tight end Bubba Franks near the goal line on the first play of the second quarter and running almost the length of the field for the longest play of any kind in franchise history. Still.
- Derrick Brooks' 39-yard interception return for a touchdown against St. Louis on September 23, 2002…This just happens to be a personal favorite. Brooks was on the sideline with a hamstring injury but he checked himself back into the game without asking the coaches after Shelton Quarles also got knocked out. He then immediately sealed the win with his pick-six, simply running through the end zone and the tunnel and straight to the locker room to get treatment.
- Mike Alstott's two-point conversion run against Washington on Nov. 13, 2005…The Bucs appeared to have tied the game near the end of regulation with a Chris Simms-Edell Shepherd bomb, but the Redskins were so eager to block the extra point and win the game that they committed two penalties. After the second one moved the ball a bit closer to the goal line, Head Coach Jon Gruden said enough was enough and sent out his offense to go for two. Alstott got the ball to no one's surprise and managed to power his way through the defense for just enough to win the game.
- Dewayne White's field goal block against Atlanta on Dec. 24, 2005…The Bucs had several squeakers on the way to the division title in 2005, and they probably should have lost this one after Shepherd fumbled away the opening kickoff in overtime. Instead, White somehow managed to block Atlanta's 28-yard field goal try and the Bucs went on to win the closing seconds of the extra period.
- Matt Bryant's 62-yard field goal against Philadelphia on Oct. 22, 2006…This game also featured two Ronde Barber pick-sixes as he continued to persecute the Eagles. Still, Philly came back to take the lead late and all the Bucs had time to do was get the ball to the 44 to try a desperation three-pointer. Bryant blasted it through for the longest field goal in team history and what is still the sixth-longest in NFL annals.
- Micheal Spurlock's 90-yard kickoff return for a touchdown against Atlanta on Nov. 18, 2007…In just his second game as a Buccaneer, Spurlock produced the bookend to Vernon Turner's 1994 punt return TD by breaking the franchise's 32-season kickoff return touchdown drought.
So if I have to choose three from that list for a poll, I'd probably go with the King-Dunn pitch play, the Bryant 62-yarder and Alstott's two-point run. Those were the three most thrilling moments on the list, of the ones I saw personally. Of course, I probably forgot a few gems; feel free to add them in the comments below.
3. No players selected in 2014 NFL Supplemental Draft, Mike Huguenin, NFL.com
So, yeah, that happened.
Okay, yes, I'm giving myself a break after going so long with the first two questions. I just wanted to make sure you didn't miss this bit of news. The NFL's Supplemental Draft gets very little attention…and by that I mean from the NFL's 32 teams. This annual summer exercise, made up of players who became eligible to be drafted subsequent to the main draft, is conducted by email, and most of the emails just say, "Pass." Nowadays, nothing in the NFL goes un-reported, but not too long ago, if no players were selected in this draft you wouldn't even hear about it.
No players were selected in this year's Supplemental Draft, same as last year, and that was expected. The four players who were eligible are now free agents who can sign with any team, so I'll list them here just in case the Bucs choose to give one of them a shot (there are two open spots on the 90-man roster, after all): New Mexico wide receiver Chase Clayton, North Carolina linebacker Darius Lipford, Virginia-Lynchburg defensive tackle LaKendrick Ross and SMU
The Bucs actually have a Virginia-Lynchburg player on the roster. That would be
Tampa Bay has only selected a player in the Supplemental Draft once in team history, and it was not an experience worth repeating. In the summer of 1987, they gave up a third-round pick in the 1988 draft (that's how the Supplemental Draft works) to get Miami nose tackle Dan Sileo. Sileo's NFL career consisted of 10 games played and no starts, all during the 1987 season.