Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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Let the Games Begin | S.S. Mailbag

In a supersized mailbag this week, Bucs fans have questions about the Hall of Fame, receiver depth, mascot battle royales and much more

8_11 ss mailbag

I got a ton of questions this past week, both through Instagram and email, so I'm going to eschew the long-winded intro in order to spend more time on those submissions. I'll just put one brief note here at the top and make it about Tom Brady so, you know, this article gets more clicks. Specifically, Brady has three-quarters of a mile to go.

What do I mean by that. Well, I heard during the Hall of Fame enshrinement ceremony on Sunday night that new inductee Peyton Manning had thrown for over 40 miles in his (regular season) career, which is a neat little note. I did the math and to be more exact it's 40.88 miles. Meanwhile, Brady has thrown for 45.00 regular-season miles, which is even more! It's not number one in league history, though. Drew Brees, who retired back in March, threw for a whopping 45.76 miles in his illustrious career.

That number will stay the same but Brady will soon start adding to his total. He comes into the season just 1,334 yards behind Brees for the top spot, which based on last year's performance might only take about four games in 2021. A mile is 1,760 yards. Brady has less than a mile to go!

And now on to your questions.

A reminder that you can send questions to me anytime you want on Twitter (@ScottSBucs) and they're easier to find if you include the hashtag #SSMailbagBucs. We are also now soliciting questions each week on our Instagram page; look for that story on Wednesdays. As always, if you want to get a longer question into the mailbag and would prefer to email your question, you can do so to tbbsocial@buccaneers.nfl.com.

Why do reporters, players, and even coaches, college and pro, constantly refer to training camp as "Fall Camp?" Heck the season even starts in Summer, so there isn't a single thing about training camp that even remotely resembles Fall! We used to call it Summer Camp, which is what it is, but somehow this Fall Camp disease seems to have spread into the football lexicon and shows no signs of going away soon. Besides being a misnomer, it's downright annoying....end: rant of the day! ;-)

- Greg Allen (via email to*tbbsocial@buccaneers.nfl.com*)

I started with an easy one because I very much am not one of the culprits here. I do enjoy a good rant about a relatively frivolous topic, though, and I think the winking smiley face indicates that Allen's anger here is somewhat tongue-in-cheek.

So, this is really a thing? After a short Google search I see that, yes it is. I have never once in my life referred to training camp as "fall camp," probably for some of the very reasons Greg enumerates above. I am guessing that Greg is a much bigger college football fan than I am because this seems to be very much a college phenomenon.

I Googled college "football fall camp" and got pages and pages of links that use the word "fall camp" in the title. Here's one about Oklahoma's fall camp schedule, and here's one about a bunch of schools. That does indeed appear to be an accepted term for what we would call training camp in the NFL.

Now, when I Googled "NFL fall camp" it took me to a page full of links with the words "training camp," not "fall camp" in the titles. I got six pages into that search before I saw the words "fall camp" in a title…and that one was about BYU, not an NFL team! Just in case I had too limited a perspective here, I asked Greg Auman, who covers the Buccaneers for The Athletic, and he has also never used that term nor heard it applied to the NFL.

Now why is this a thing in college ball. You'd probably have to ask somebody who knows a bit more about that sport to get a definitive answer. I could guess that it's a way to differentiate the camp right before the preseason from what those college teams do in the spring. That appears to be commonly referred to as "spring practice." Still, Greg has a point: You could just as easily differentiate it by calling it "summer camp." Perhaps they don't use that term because "summer camp" is already a commonly-used term that has connotations of kids going off to various sorts of camps during their summer break. Or maybe they want to say "fall camp" because they're connecting it with the fall season. It's the camp that rolls into the fall season?

I don't know. I'm grasping at straws here. But the most important takeaway, Greg, is that you can't point your annoyance at me. I am not guilty of this crime!

Now, if you really want to hear a rant, write a question to me with the (nonexistent) word "Superbowl" in it. I'm gritting my teeth right now just looking at that word I typed.

View some of the photos from Buccaneers Training Camp practice at the AdventHealth Training Center.

What are the chances we see Ronde Barber in the Hall of Fame?

- @itsdarth_vader (via Instagram)

This is a question that haunts me at night.

On the one hand, I'm confident. To me, it's a no-brainer based on his resume. On the other hand, I worry, and for one specific reason. Now that John Lynch has joined Derrick Brooks and Warren Sapp, I worry that some voters and influencers will lean to heavily on this argument: "Is four players from one defense too many to have in the Hall?"

I hate that argument. It's completely unfair to Barber, of course, because it basically just comes down to the order that guys hung up their cleats. If you're main reason for not voting for Barber is that you don't want a fourth player from that defense in the hall, then you're saying that you would have voted for him if he had come before Lynch, Brooks and Sapp. If his body of work is good enough for induction, than he should be in, period.

Still, I have heard that argument and I worry that will have an effect.

And don't get me started on the "product of the system" argument. There are those who seem to believe that Barber only excelled (for an extremely long period) because Monte Kiffin's defense put him in a position to succeed and that he would not have produced the same in a defense that, say, only played him at outside cornerback. Even if that's true, so what? Coaches are lauded every day for finding their players' strengths and putting them in a position to utilize them. Kudos to Kiffin for doing that and kudos to Barber for taking advantage of it better than most other players could have or would have.

Even so, it's another specious argument. Barber did play outside cornerback in base defenses and then kicked inside to the slot position in sub packages. In fact, I would argue (as others have done before me) that Barber helped develop the nickel corner position into what it is today, which is a much more important position that it was 20 or 25 years ago. Nowadays, a corner who can cover in the slot but also provide run defense where it matters and blitz the passer is a great weapon any defensive coordinator would want. Barber pioneered that role.

If you can get past those two things, how can you say no based on the numbers? His 47 interceptions and 28 sacks make him the ONLY player in NFL history with at least 40 picks and at least 25 sacks. He never missed a game due to injury and finished with 232 career starts, more than every other defensive back in NFL history except Darrell Green and Charles Woodson. I assume you noticed Woodson getting his gold jacket and bronze bust in Canton this weekend. Barber made 200 consecutive starts at cornerback, a record for the position.

He also scored 14 non-offensive touchdowns in his career, which is a mind-blowing stat and which trails only Devin Hester, Deion Sanders and Rod Woodson in league annals. He was one of the best tackling cornerbacks in the league, finishing with 1,231 stops, the most by any cornerback according to Pro Football Focus. He made five Pro Bowls and was a five-time AP all-pro, including three first-team selections. And he won a Super Bowl.

I know you didn't ask me if Barber should be in the Hall of Fame but rather if I thought he would make it. But I ran through all his accomplishments because those will be communicated to Selection Committee members every year that his candidacy is discussed. I feel like, in the long run, they will just be too convincing and he will eventually get the call. It is a VERY good sign that he was named a finalist this year; that's a step he needed to make. It took John Lynch eight years to get in, but the fact that they kept making him a finalist year after year made it clear that he was viewed as being worthy of the Hall. If Barber continues to make it to that level, it's probably just a matter of time before he takes the final step.

Do you think Shaq has a chance to win DPOY this season?

- @alexiswibrkul (via Instagram)

Sure. And you know what? If you could have combined his 19.5 sacks from 2019 with the Buccaneers making their 2020 run to the Super Bowl, he might already have one of those awards.

Obviously, Defensive Player of the Year voters love defenders who put up big sack totals. Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore won the award in 2019 but eight of the other nine winners in the past decade were ferocious pass-rushers. (It helps that Aaron Donald and J.J. Watt won it three times each, but Terrell Suggs and Khalil Mack are on that list, too. The other exception was Carolina linebacker Luke Kuechly in 2013.)

Barrett did get two DPOTY votes after leading the league in 2019 with those 19.5 sacks, but he was one of seven different players who split up the ballots. Often one player dominates with 45 or so of the 50 votes, but Gilmore won it that year with just 21, which is obviously not even a majority. But he was very, very good, with six interceptions and a league-high 20 passes defensed for the NFL's top-ranked scoring defense, and he had one more thing in his corner. The 2019 Patriots went 12-4 and made it to the playoffs.

I'm willing to bet that had the 19.5-sack Barrett played on a team much more successful than the 7-9 Buccaneers of 2019, he would have been much higher on the list, perhaps even ahead of Gilmore. Barrett was very good again last year but he didn't have the double-digit sack totals, and if voters were looking for a way to award the Super Bowl defense they might have had a tough time deciding who the best player on that crew even was in 2020.

The good news is that this is not a far-fetched scenario. Okay, so it's asking a bit much for Barrett to get to 19.5 sacks again in 2021, but even 14 or 15 would probably put him in the conversation. And I am of the opinion – which I have stated on the record several times – that I think Barrett is poised for a monster year. As 2020 went on, he learned how to make an impact on a weekly basis despite getting much, much more attention from opposing blocking schemes than the year before. The Barrett that we saw in the playoffs is what he can be, and if he can do it for 17 games I don't see how he doesn't get into double-digit sacks. I believe Barrett, who finally got the big long-term contract he had been striving for this offseason, is over-the-top motivated. When he talks about his goals for 2020, he definitely mentions DPOTY.

The other half of the equation is the Bucs being a prime contender in 2021. I don't really have to run down the reasons why that is very feasible, do I? If Barrett has a big year and the Bucs are once again chasing a Lombardi Trophy, he would almost certainly be one of the top DPOTY candidates. The unknown factor, of course, is how much of a challenge he would get from perennially great players like Donald.

Should we be concerned about the kicking situation in camp? Is Succop going to keep his spot?

- @enzorose17 (via Instagram)

Personally, I tend to be about as concerned about any given position or situation in training camp as Bruce Arians is, and I don't think Arians is particularly concerned by this one. I'm still pretty chill on Ryan Succop right now.

It's a fair question on your part, though. Arians did acknowledge about a week ago that the veteran kicker had been having "an up-and-down [camp], to put it mildly." However, Arians' argument was that Succop was still working to get his timing back and to "speed up his operation just like he did last year." Arians seemed to have little doubt that Succop would iron out his form and be as good as ever by the time the games started to count.

And Arians got some evidence that he was right about four days later when Succop had a very nice day, making seven of eight with the only miss being a block, including several during "live" move-the-ball periods. Arians felt as if Succop found his groove when put into more of a game-like situation. That's definitely promising.

I also understand why it's easy for a Buccaneer fan to let this worry creep into his or her mind. The team's persistent struggles to find a reliable kicker had spanned nearly a decade before Succop's 11th-hour arrival last year. The team was so happy to find that reliable kicker – Succop made 37 of 40 field goals, including the postseason – that they locked him up with a new lucrative contract this offseason. But if he does hold onto the job to start 2021 it will mark the first time since 2011 that the Bucs had the same kicker on opening day as the year before.

So, you're probably going to worry anyway, since we've been conditioned to do so about that position. Personally, though, I'd file this more under "something to keep an eye on" but expect to have my fears eased over the next couple weeks. Maybe we can revisit this question after a couple of preseason games for evidence.

How many receivers do you think we could carry this season?

- @tuckergoss194 (via Instagram)

That's a good question, Tucker, with a lot of nuances, and it's something we've been mulling over a lot on the training camp sidelines.

The most typical number would be six and that's how I think the team's decision-makers would draw it up in a void, without knowing the strengths and weaknesses of each position. This is a good blueprint for how the Buccaneers would distribute their 53 regular-season spots in that void: QB (3), RB (4), WR (6), TE (4), OL (8), DL (6), OLB (5), ILB (5), CB (5), S (4), Specialists (3).

So if we're shooting for six, who do we keep? Well, Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Antonio Brown and Scotty Miller seem like near-locks, so we'll start there. I don't think the Bucs want to risk second-year player Tyler Johnson to the waiver wire and Arians said on Wednesday that he has been stringing together a lot of very good days after a slow start to camp. And the team will probably keep either rookie Jaelon Darden or incumbent Jaydon Mickens as their primary return man.

And, just like that, we're already at six. The problem is, that still leaves some pretty intriguing players out of the picture. What if Mickens is still your best return man? Do you let Darden, a fourth-round pick, hit the wire and risk losing him before you can get him on the practice squad. Travis Jonsen and Josh Pearson, a couple of young and somewhat raw guys who have been around for a year on the practice squad have drawn plenty of praise during camp, too. Yes, the Bucs are likely to keep at least two receivers on the practice squad, but one of these players might be viewed as valuable enough to keep on the active roster.

So could the Bucs keep seven receivers? Yes, of course they could, and they've done it before for portions of a season. But that means trimming your available spots from some other position. Looking at the target numbers I noted above, where does that spot come from. Could the Bucs just go with three tight ends if neither Codey McElroy nor Tanner Hudson does enough to warrant a spot. They're not likely to go lower than eight linemen, and they can't keep fewer than three quarterbacks unless they're willing to lose Kyle Trask or Blaine Gabbert. Can't see that. I think the top four running backs are safe, too.

There is hefty competition at almost every position on defense, too, and I would think it's much more likely that a team would steal a spot from one defensive spot to feed another one than to go heavier on offense. So, to me, it's probably six receivers unless the Bucs view their seventh wideout as more valuable and more useful to have around than their fourth tight end.

I grew up in Toledo, as a Michigan fan. I chose the Bears as my NFL team due to Payton & McMahon during the Super Bowl shuffle years. So, my life from the beginning has been hard. I did however get to cheer for #10 Brady as I grew up, then of course #12 Brady in NE, and now #12 Brady in TB. Bears have always been #1, but I've always rooted for Brady. With NE in the AFC it was easy. TB being in the NFC has made for some sleepless nights, especially when my Bears physically hurt TB players. Not to mention the Bears mostly suck, so oh well. I have to assume there are many fans rooting for TB as their second-team due to TB12, just like me. Would a Bear beat a Buccaneer or vice versa?

Hence my question.

Have you ever given any thought to who would win in a fight between mascots? Given lots of us these days have two teams we pull for. (spoiler, a Packer loses to everything, as what mascot would get tricked to crawl into a box??) In my mind we'd have to stay honest and only give the mascot what the true-to-form mascot has at their disposal. So, a Seahawk cannot magically drop napalm from their claws during battle for example. Raider/Buccaneer are busts only, but certainly they'd be carrying a pistol of some sort? Viking while also bust only, if staying true to period, so I figure an ax. WFT...well they get the entire team I suppose, so can 22 suited up guys take down a Bengal with their bare hands? Saints at a serious disadvantage in all ways- The mind can go on & on with this serious of a ponder.

So I ask: If we set up a mascot battle based upon 2021 schedule, who wins?

- Nich (via email to tbbsocial@buccaneers.nfl.com)

Ah, the old "Battle of the Mascots" debate. An oldie but a goodie.

To clarify, I think you're asking me about each team's nickname character. From your question, it doesn't sound like you're asking me to pit Buccaneers mascot Captain Fear against Carolina's Sir Purr or something like that. I'm going to assume I'm right and that you're actually asking me if a pirate would beat a panther in a fight.

In that framework, it definitely helps that you're allowing me to give those characters the actual tools of their trade, as an unarmed pirate would probably struggle mightily against a Panther. I don't understand your references to the Raiders, Bucs and Vikings as "busts only?" Does that mean from the neck up or something? I don't get it so I'm going to choose to ignore it and assume I can have a fully functional pirate or Viking with all their accoutrements.

With that in mind, I'm going to have to put all the human-based mascots at the top. It's pretty obvious from, oh I don't know, the world that humans can dominate the rest of the animal kingdom with access to their technology and weaponry. I'm assuming that any of these mascots are good with their weapons and thus would be able to defeat, say, a charging bear.

These are the creatures on the Bucs' schedule this year, which is what I understand to be your field of competitors, Nich:

Humans: Saints, Cowboys, Patriots, Giants and Football Team.

Animals: Falcons, Panthers, Rams, Dolphins, Eagles, Bears, Colts, Bills (assuming we're treating this as a buffalo, right?)

As for the animals, since this fight is going to take place on land, the awesome dolphin stands no chance. Pity. The Falcons and Eagles could be tough to catch but assuming they are forced to fight would be a nuisance but no match for a Panther, Ram, Bear, Colt or Buffalo. From that group, I think the Bear comes out on top, though it might have a hard time overcoming a buffalo. And then the Saint would promptly get eaten by the bear.

But the Cowboys, Patriots and Buccaneers would all probably just shoot the bear and the Giant would stomp it. But wait…the Football Team? That means I get the whole team? Fifty-three men? A giant versus a 53-man army sounds an awful lot like a scene from Game of Thrones, and I don't remember the giants faring all that well in the long run. I'd go with strength of numbers here and expect the team to overwhelm the Giant, while taking some losses.

For the Cowboys, Patriots or Buccaneers to have a chance, I think the Giant is going to have to deal the Football Team overwhelming losses before it then has to take on one of those other three. I suppose those three would be battling it out in the meantime and I'd give the edge to the Cowboys based on most advanced technology. See, there are still plenty of cowboys around and they have access to better guns than did the soldiers from the Revolutionary War or the old pirates of the Gulf of Mexico. If the Cowboy is a real sharp-shooter, maybe he can take out the remainder of the Football Team, but I'm guess numbers win out in the end.

And that's a half-hour I'm never going to get back.

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