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Fire the Cannons! | S.S. Mailbag

This week, Bucs fans have questions about Mike Evans, the slot corner competition and more


The other day I ran across a fun little story on called "Cups of Coffee," which detailed the very brief careers of seven players who appeared in exactly one NFL regular-season game. As I was skimming through the seven players interviewed for the piece – including one of Rob Gronkowski's brothers, Glenn – I immediately thought of Joe Hamilton.

Hamilton was an All-American quarterback at the University of Tennessee who lasted until the seventh round of the 2000 NFL draft because he lacked prototypical size for the position. He spent three seasons with the Buccaneers, the first two as the team's third quarterback and the third on injured reserve. The happy news is that he got a ring after the Buccaneers won Super Bowl XXXVII at the end of that third season.

In Week 10 of Hamilton's rookie season, the Buccaneers easily defeated the Atlanta Falcons, opening up a 27-7 lead by the fourth quarter. With three minutes left, the Bucs pulled starter Shaun King after a failed fourth-down attempt by Atlanta gave them the ball at the Falcons' 21. Not looking to run up the score, the Bucs had Hamilton hand off three times and then elected not to kick a field goal on fourth-and-eight. Hamilton, however, never got off an NFL pass as he was sacked on fourth down. He also kneeled once a few minutes later to run out the clock, resulting in a total of five snaps played.

As the ESPN article correctly notes, it is a rare accomplishment for anyone, even a successful college player, to make it to the NFL. Those guys who end up with "cups of coffee" would surely have preferred longer careers, but they can make a claim most can't, having played in the NFL, and Hamilton's run even came with the ultimate souvenir. Hamilton also played in the Arena league for awhile, and it was with the Frankfurt Galaxy of NFL Europe that he suffered the ACL injury that put him on IR for his last season with the Buccaneers.

So, as I said, Hamilton came immediately to mind when I was reading this article, but when I was done I needed to complete the exercise. I wanted to find a list of every person who played exactly one game in the NFL, and that game was with the Buccaneers. I excluded anyone who only played in one contest during the three replacement games in 1987 that arose out of the players' strike.

This took longer than I expected (good thing we're in the annual pre-camp lull), as there are 67 players who have appeared in exactly one game for the Buccaneers. That includes a safety named Javon Hagan whose only game played, for the Bucs and in the NFL, was during the 2020 postseason. He played 10 snaps in the NFC Championship game in Green Bay, all on special teams. The Bucs had multiple safeties injured for that game and Hagan had been elevated from the practice squad. He was one Mike Edwards hamstring tweak from being out there against Aaron Rodgers.

I found 29 "cup of coffee" Buccaneers, and I want to stress again that this is not meant to be derogatory in any way. I personally would be thrilled to be on this list; it would mean I was a far better athlete than I was in reality. All of these guys successfully made it to the NFL, and a good number were on the team for a longer time than their games-played total would indicate. A few of them still are and will probably remove themselves from this list in 2023. Anyway, here's the list, with a few notes to follow:

  • QB Rudy Carpenter, 2011
  • G Brandon Carter, 2010
  • K Brian Clark, 1982
  • WR David Douglas, 2012
  • WR Chris Ford, 1990
  • T Reid Fragel, 2015
  • WR/DB John Franklin, 2019
  • CB Don Gardner, 2022
  • RB Lionel Gates, 2007
  • WR Chas Gessner, 2007
  • G Shane Grice, 2001
  • S Javon Hagan, 2020 (postseason)
  • QB Joe Hamilton, 2000
  • S Dominique Harris, 2010
  • TE Todd Harrison, 1992
  • WR Derek Holloway, 1987
  • DT Larry Jameson, 1976
  • QB Scott Milanovich, 1996
  • G John Molchon, 2022
  • G Shawn Murphy, 2009
  • C Donovan Raiola, 2010
  • FB Rick Razzano, 2005
  • WR Spencer Schnell, 2019
  • RB Michael Smith, 2012
  • WR Evan Spencer, 2015
  • RB Travis Stephens, 2002
  • QB Kyle Trask, 2022
  • DT George Uko, 2014
  • K David Warnke, 1983

Obviously, Trask, Gardner and Molchon are the guys still on the 2023 roster who could double their games-played totals in a hot second. Trask, in fact, is competing with Baker Mayfield for the team's starting quarterback job, which means his participation profile could quickly go through the roof.

Franklin, like Hamilton, was in the right place at the right time to get a Super Bowl ring, as he was on injured reserve in 2020. He had gained some notoriety on the Netflix Show Last Chance U, and he came to the Bucs in 2019 as a defensive back before being switched to receiver. He got into one game in 2019 and took an end-around for 11 yards.

Hamilton may have only played five NFL snaps, but Carpenter's experience was even more brief. In a December 2011 game against Carolina that was unfortunately a blowout at the Bucs' expense, Carpenter came in for one snap to replace Josh Johnson, who had been shaken up. Johnson was only starting due to an injury to the usual starter, Josh Freeman.

Milanovich actually got to throw a few passes in his lone NFL appearance. He stuck around for most of four seasons but the only time he got into a game was in a Week Two loss at Detroit in 1996 when both Trent Dilfer and Casey Weldon got hurt. Milanovich completed two of three passes for nine yards.

Stephens was a miss as a fourth-round pick in 2002. The Bucs didn't have their first or second-round picks that season due to the trade with Oakland for the rights to Jon Gruden, and they whiffed badly in the third round on Michigan wide receiver Marquise Walker. Walker actually never played in an NFL game (though the Bucs were impressively able to flip him to Arizona for running back Thomas Jones), but Stephens got into one. He caught one pass for six yards.

There's two kickers on the list. The first was one of two Brian Clarks to play for the Buccaneers, the other being a wide receiver who got into 24 games from 2007-09. The kicking Clark got into a late-December game against Detroit in 1982 but only kicked off while Bill Capece handled the placekicking. A year later, Dave Warnke, a bare-footed kicker (where have they gone?) got a shot in one game after Capece was cut and made one of his two extra point tries while missing his only field goal attempt. Warnke is one of four players in franchise history to score exactly one point; one of the other four is offensive lineman George Yarno, who was sent out instead of Warnke for the last PAT of that contest.

That's probably enough. It's time to talk about current Bucs, I think. On to your questions.

A reminder that you can send questions to me any time 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

View pictures from Tampa Bay Buccaneers Training Camp practice on 7/26/23

Why is there not a bigger concern on depth at DB/ nickel position?

- @big_dre90 (via Instagram)

Well, I think I would begin by noting that coaches and team architects don't generally talk about roster or depth chart issues in that way, at least not publicly. You don't often hear a coach say, "We're freaking out because we don't know who's going to play that position," or, "Dude, we have no idea at this point if we have a good answer at that position." Who knows what is said in private, but when discussing any particular job or competition for a job, they tend to lay out some of the options on hand and speak confidently about finding a solution out of them. For instance, here's what Head Coach Todd Bowles said about that very slot corner position on Tuesday:

"We haven't ruled anybody out at the nickel spot. We don't have a starting nickel at this point in time. We think we have one in house, but if we do not, we will go out and get one. For right now, I think there are about four or five guys battling for that spot, whether it's Zyon [McCollum], [Dee] Delaney, [Christian] Izien, [Josh] Hayes, or [Anthony] Chesley. We've got a bunch of guys who can play that position."

So, if 'concern' isn't necessarily the right word, I can assure you that there is plenty of focus on figuring out the answer at that position. And note that Bowles kept open the possibility of making another addition to the roster if none of the options on hand seem to be panning out as well as needed. Bowles and every other coach in this league knows that the slot corner position is becoming more and more important with each passing NFL season. It's already considered a starting position even if it isn't always listed as such on the depth chart.

The truth is, every NFL team goes into every training camp with some questions on the depth chart that need to be ironed out. Obviously, the number of those questions can vary from team to team; I think most football analysts this summer would point to the Eagles as a team with very few roster holes while noting, say, the Cardinals and Rams as teams with a higher number of positions in flux. The Bucs are probably somewhere in between, and nickel corner isn't the only spot at which answers will be sought over the next six weeks. Can Luke Goedeke prove himself to be an NFL-caliber right tackle and will Tristan Wirfs successfully make the move to the left side? Who is going to provide the necessary depth at safety? Who's the fourth receiver? How well will Rachaad White and Ke'Shawn Vaughn handle larger roles? And so on.

I think part of the reason you're seeing no visible concerns from the Bucs' coaching staff on the slot corner issue and other depth chart questions is, in a way, there's still a long way to go. The Bucs don't play a game that counts for another six-plus weeks. This is what training camp is for. Now, if we get to late August and no one has emerged as a viable slot candidate, then you might see some actual concern.

How many times has the cannon gone off since they built the boat in the stadium?

- @octaviovillatoro (via Instagram)

Let me tell you, you do not want to know how much time I spent on this answer. I mean, training camp has just started, there's a million possible stories floating around in the sticky troposphere at the AdventHealth Training Center and here I am poring over a variety of not-totally-quantifiable numbers from the last 25 years of football at Raymond James Stadium.

Just in case anyone reading this is unaware, the most famous aspect of Raymond James Stadium, and really one of the most iconic stadium features in the world, is the pirate ship that is "docked" on the platform above the north end zone. The ship is complete with cannons that are "fired" (using noise and smoke effects) to punctuate a handful of special events before and during a game. For the purposes of this question, I'm going to only include Buccaneers games; I do not know how or if the cannons are used for USF games and other events, like concerts and monster truck rallies.

Now, I'll be upfront about this: There is no possible way I got the number exactly right. There are some variables I just couldn't account for and others that I have no way of thoroughly researching. What I'm going to do is show you my work in getting to the final number and semi-confidently declare that I at least got in the vicinity of the truth.

So what you need to know is that the cannons are fired when the following things occur:

  • Once for every point the Bucs score
  • Once each team the offense penetrates the opponent's red zone
  • Six times in synch with the "ship battle" that plays on the videoboards before the game
  • During pregame player introductions

The cannon are also test-fired a couple time hours before the game, but I didn't include that in the equation because it's before fans come into the stadium. It's also a sore point for a lot of us because, after 25 years they STILL NEVER WARN YOU with a "fire in the hole" announcement before shooting them off, and it still makes me jump every time.

As for the points scored, I do mean one shot for each point. So after a Bucs touchdown they go off six times, then are shot once more after the extra point (or twice if it's a two-point conversion). Three for a field goal, etc. This part was pretty easy: I used the excellent Stathead site, an offshoot of, to determine that the Bucs scored 4,473 points in home games during the regular season and postseason from 1998, the year RJS opened, through 2022. That does NOT include Super Bowl LV because even though it was played on the Bucs' home field the in-game entertainment was run by the NFL and the cannons were not used.

I had to do the preseason point totals by hand because those are harder to find online but that yielded another 816 points. So that's a total of 5,289 cannon blasts due to points being scored.

I have season-by-season red zone breakdowns going back through 1998, so was able to add those up, as well. That came to another 730 cannon blasts. If the Bucs get inside the opposing 20, then back out and subsequently get into the red zone again, they do fire the cannons both times, but I'm assuming that's a negligible number of occasions.

The Bucs have done the ship battle videos before games throughout their history at Raymond James Stadium, although there was one season early last decade in which they were not used. I came up with 235 games at which those videos were played, and at six blasts each that comes out to 1,410.

As for the introductions, sometimes the Bucs have introduced the offense or defensive starting lineups, and each player got a cannon shot, so that would be 11 in those games. In other games, the Bucs have come out as a team and were generally accompanied by a volley of six cannon blasts. I have absolutely no idea how many games fell into each category, so I just split them in half, giving me another 750 blasts for full-team introductions and 1,386 for player-by-player intros.

Add it all up: 5,289 for points, 730 for red zone incursions, 1,410 for the ship battles and 2,136 for the introductions and you get a grand total of 9,565 instances of the cannons going off at Buccaneers games. Again, there's absolutely no way that number is completely accurate, but I think it puts us in the vicinity of what is not a completely knowable answer. I'd probably just say, "Close to 10,000 times…so far."

Do u think mike evans is the most underrated wide receiver

- @8453jayden (via Instagram)

There have probably been times in Evans' career in which that was true, and I'm not sure the average fan would know that he is already the 45th-leading receiver in league history, with a reasonable chance to rise to as high as 33nd or 34th this year. There is just so much incredible talent at the receiver position in the NFL these days that it's sometimes hard to give every one his due year after year.

For instance, did its annual summer exercise of polling NFL executives, coaches, scouts and players to determine a list of the top 10 players at each position heading into this season. Evans wasn't in that top 10, but he was second on a list of five honorable mentions, and it's noted that he was in the top 10 every year from 2020-22. His minor slip from top 10 to about 12 in this exercise probably is a function of the fact that he's going into his 10th season and analysts tend to think about the possibility of every player's eventual decline due to age. I don't expect any of that for Mike in 2023, but I at least get the train of though. That story is behind a paywall so I won't link to it here but I'll tell you that his writeup begins with, "One of the game's most underrated receivers…" I mean, maybe there's your answer right there.

The top 10 on that list, in order, are Justin Jefferson, Davante Adams, Ja'Marr Chase, Tyreek Hill, Cooper Kupp, Stefon Diggs, A.J. Brown, DK Metcalf, Terry McLaurin and CeeDee Lamb. Deebo Samuel is the one honorable mention listed before Mike. Not many of those receivers yet has the full career accomplishments that Mike has, but as for 2023 it's hard to argue against any of those guys being considered top-10 receivers. I think I would quibble a little and move 2023 Mike Evans somewhere up to seventh or so on that list, but I'm probably a bit biased. Either way, I think there is plenty of healthy respect for the Bucs' superstar pass-catcher around the league.

Evans has been to four Pro Bowls, most recently in 2021; he probably deserved another invite or two, but four is nothing to sneeze at. He was named a second-team Associated Press All-Pro once, which also seems a little low in that category but, again, there are always at least five or six receivers who go absolutely supernova every year, so that's a tough honor to grab.

So, yes, Mike Evans is probably somewhat underrated at this point in his career, but I think when it's all said and done he's going to fully get the recognition he deserves, quite possibly with a bronze bust in Canton. A few more seasons at the level of production he is used to delivering and the numbers are going to be undeniable, particularly if he makes it to 100 touchdowns.

Is Evans the most underrated receiver in the NFL right now? Probably not, because he's been doing it so well for so long that he's got the respect of his peers. I'd love to hear Mike's answer to who is the most underrated receiver in the game in 2023. I'll throw out a name: DeVonta Smith. The A.J. Brown trade last year gave Philadelphia a new number-one receiver, but I believe Smith has the talents to be a number-one as well. If the Eagles throw it a little more this year, maybe we'll see a big breakout season for their 1A option.

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