The team grew by eight draft picks and a crop of undrafted free agents this past week. We’ve covered that extensively and I’ll be breaking down each draft pick individually in advance of rookie minicamp next weekend. But in case you were living under a rock, here’s how the Bucs fared in the draft.
Round 1: LB Devin White, LSU
Round 2: CB Sean Murphy-Bunting, Central Michigan
Round 3: CB Jamel Dean, Auburn, S Mike Edwards, Kentucky
Round 4: DE Anthony Nelson, Iowa
Round 5: K Matt Gay, Utah
Round 6: WR Scotty Miller, Bowling Green
Round 7: DT Terry Beckner Jr., Missouri
-If you want to know how our division opponents did, I’ve got something for you here, too. It’s also worth noting that Pro Football Focus called the Buccaneers the most improved team in the division after the draft. I’ll take it.
-I’m just glad all the speculation is over. Scott Smith and I put together dueling mock drafts ahead of the first round of the NFL Draft last Thursday. If you want to see how (pretty horribly) we did, here you go. All you really need to know is that I got more right than Scott did and if we’re being honest, that’s all that really matters.
There aren’t a lot of times I get to beat him in anything Bucs-related so I’m relishing. Leave me be.
-We got to talk to a majority of Bruce Arians’ assistants this week as each assistant coach from both sides of the ball (as well as special teams and strength staff) were brought into the media studio to meet with reporters. There were plenty of fun stories that came out and we’ll get to those later. One thing I thought was extremely interesting was something safeties coach Nick Rapone said. He was asked about what the safety position has evolved into in the modern NFL and why we don’t exactly see bigger safeties along the lines of what Buccaneer-great John Lynch was. He ended up likening the so-called demise of the big safety to the demise of the big man in the NBA, which when you hear his logic is a kind of perfect parallel.
“[Not seeing big safeties anymore] is not because of the NFL,” Rapone said. “That’s because of college football. In college football, everything is spread out so all of these safeties that we eventually get, college football is recruiting more athletic safeties so you’re looking at the 5-10, 5-11, 6-0 athletic safeties. It’s just like in basketball. The big man is no longer important because of what? The three-point play. The big man is gone. In football, if you’re not athletic at safety, there are few big guys that are big and athletic at the safety position.”
He trailed off before finishing his thought but if you’re not athletic at safety these days with how many wide receivers offenses are putting on the field, you're kind of screwed. The rise of 11-personnel plus the evolution of the NFL tight end into more of a receiver than anything contributes heavily to that. It’s a big reason why the nickel position, which was once a defensive wrinkle, has now become a necessity. It starts to beg the question of how NFL offenses are shaping NFL defenses. The offense will take what the defense gives it, yes, but as a defense facing four wideouts with a pass-catching tight end and often, a pass-catching running back, if you try to defend that in a base defense using four players in coverage, you’re going to give that offense a lot.
What has stemmed from college football has now created a shift at the NFL level in defenses needing to be faster, which Defensive Coordinator Todd Bowles understands fully.
“I think it’s the offensive schemes of the game,” Bowles said. “The game has gotten a lot faster, especially out on the perimeter and the edge where you don’t see as much power running. So, there’s a lot of things out on the perimeter where you need a lot of faster guys.”
With the crop of rookies they’ll have this year, it’s clear that the Bucs’ defense is prioritizing speed to continue to adapt to the offenses they’ll face. Just some food for thought, there. Feel free to throw out your comments to me on Twitter. I love talking about this stuff.
-I promised we’d get to some of the fun little anecdotes that came out of the week later so here it is! Story time with BA’s assistants:
Defensive assistant Cody Grimm on playing with Ronde Barber here in Tampa Bay:
“That’s what was good about Ronde [Barber]. Ronde understood the game. Ronde, I remember, it was against Carolina and I was supposed to cover Ronde’s man and he was supposed to blitz and he was like, ‘Nah, you go.’ I was like, ‘Yeah, that’s Steve Smith in the slot, that’s a good idea, I don’t want to cover him,’ [laughs].”
On just how impressed Assistant Head Coach Harold Goodwin is with Bucs QB Jameis Winston’s leadership:
“Good leader. Very bossy leader. We had a deal last week where he basically let everyone in the huddle know, ‘I’m in charge.’ He came to me after practice and apologized and I was like, “Bro, I thoroughly enjoyed watching that.’ He told the guys, ‘This is my huddle, everybody shut the hell up. Listen to what I say.’ I was like okay, I like that. We’re going to be alright with him, you guys don’t worry about him.”
What defensive line coach Kacy Rodgers learned from working under coaching great Bill Parcells:
“One, he gave me my first NFL job and the reason I’m still in the NFL is probably because of things he instilled in me. First thing he instilled in me is that you better have thick skin, because he didn’t mind telling you how he felt about certain things. Next thing he taught me, I walked in and the first thing he told our guys was to get your expectations up. Get your expectations up and we’ll go from there.”
Offensive Coordinator Byron Leftwich on BA cleaning up his language:
“He actually cusses less now than he ever did back then. You had to hear it back then, back then it was crazy. There was no governor on B.A. back then. He really said whatever, but now he’s a head coach now so he knows how to stand in front of you guys. As you could see last year, I think he got reprimanded or something for cussing on TV. I don’t know how they thought that was going to go 16 weeks without having it.”
Offensive assistant Antwaan Randle El playing for basketball coach Bobby Knight:
“He was always prepared. When it was time to start, let’s get our work done. When you stepped on that court and when he came out of the locker room, you better have a sweat going, your shoes laced up and ready to go. That’s what I expect out of our wide receivers.”
Inside linebackers coach Mike Caldwell on getting approval from his niece, LSU women’s basketball Head Coach Nikki Fargas, on the Bucs’ first-round pick out of LSU, Devin White:
“I watched the film and then when I went down to visit, I stayed with her. That’s my niece, that’s family. What I wanted out of the true answers, I was able to get there. Coaches, you get the answers because they know him as a football player. She was able to talk to me about him off the field, what she’s seen down there. Once I got her ok, from there it was just me selling it to everybody else. He would come out with women’s basketball. I’m a big women’s basketball fan. I have two daughters so I’m a huge women’s basketball fan. But understand, not everyone is like that. For him to be able to do what he did down there as far as helping the women’s program out was just huge and shows what type of player and what type of person we’re getting.”
-Last, but very much not least, the Buccaneers released a new episode of In the Current surrounding the draft and a very special dream come true for Make-A-Wish Kid Kacey Reynolds. I'm not crying, you are.