Tampa Bay Buccaneers

One Buc Mailbag: Plenty of Options

This week's mailbag draws from fan-submitted questions on such topics as the 2015 schedule, a newly-available pass-rusher and the versatility of Demar Dotson.

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  • Each week during the offseason, Senior Writer/Editor Scott Smith will dip into the inbox to answer questions from Buccaneer fans. This week, the discussion begins with one fan's idea for a perfect opening-day matchup at Raymond James Stadium, then moves into the realm of the NFL's ongoing free agency period. We also touch on Demar Dotson's 2014 season and what role he might play in 2015.

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.*...1. Hi Scott,This email is in response to the question with regards to the Bucs 2015 season opener. Assuming that the Bucs choose Winston with number 1 draft pick and Titans choose Mariota with number 2 draft pick do you think that the possibility of the top two picks in the 2015 draft facing off against each other would result in the NFL making the Titans v Bucs game the season opener at the Ray Jay?

I realise that the schedule will be set prior to the draft but do you think the above will be in the minds of the NFL schedulers. Appreciate the fact that the above is pure speculation and any views you have are your own and in no way reflect what the Bucs will do with the number 1 draft pick :0)Always enjoy the daily mail bag section. Thanks very much.Stuart Anderson, Bucs fan from Scotland

The easiest schedules in the league, listed in decreasing order.

Alright Stuart, you made it in the mailbag for two reasons, even though this will be, as you point out, pure speculation. One, I like your little dig at my repeated disclaimer about that very fact, complete with emoticon. And two, when I was 16 I worked at a Stuart Anderson's American Grill as a busboy. I really liked that job, so if you were the mastermind behind that chain, a belated thanks!

There's a lot of "ifs" there, Stu. Not only do you have to assume – as you point out, a couple weeks before the draft actually takes place – that Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota will go 1-2, but also that they will be starting for their respective teams on opening day. Plus, isn't it just as likely of a scenario that Winston and Mariota go 1-2, but it's a different team picking at #2? You've got to consider the chance that a team like the Jets or the Browns or the Rams will find a way to trade with the Titans in order to target one of those quarterbacks. That would kind of blow up your plan right there.

Who the Bucs will be playing in 2015.

I do think the creators of the NFL schedule put some thought into maximizing the ratings potentials of certain matchup when they put it together. I just don't think they can weigh such factors too heavily. First they have to work around wish lists from the league's network partners, requests by every team as to certain home dates to avoid, stadium availability and other conflicts. An opening day matchup of the top two picks in that year's draft, both quarterbacks, would be neat, but it's probably not important enough for the league to try too hard to force it.

Besides, if we are interested in seeing Winston and Mariota do battle on the same field, wouldn't it be wiser to schedule the meeting of their respective teams later in the season. Let's say those two passers do go 1-2 – SPECULATION! – to the Buccaneers and Titans. Maybe they're both starting on opening day, maybe not.  It seems to me there's a better chance later in the season that both rookies are in the lineup, and a better chance that they'll be playing with more confidence and more understanding of their respective offenses.

2. Scott,So Oakland released pass rusher Antonio Smith yesterday, do you think the Bucs will look at him if they can land him for the right price?  Also if the Bucs are not sold on Winston or Mariota do you think they should consider looking at Matt Schuab?  Best Regards,Tyler Whaley

Florida's Dante Fowler and Clemson's Vic Beasley lead a talented group of linebackers.

Tyler, I think the Bucs should and will look at every possible addition to their pass-rushing corps. Actually, I'm sure they already have. Like every NFL team, the Buccaneers have a cadre of pro scouts to go with their college scouts, and that former group spends its time keeping scouting reports up to date on every player in the league. The idea is to have a well-formed opinion on a player, any player, before he becomes available so that you can react quickly if it happens.

In this case, I'd imagine what the Buccaneers did was pull that scouting report when Smith was released, then task someone on the staff with poring over his 2014 game tape. In doing so, they might have found the 12th-year veteran to be a bit of a puzzle. He was signed by the Raiders to a two-year $9 million contract last year, and proceeded to start all 16 games and collect just three sacks. Given that the Raiders are not hurting for cap space, it can be rationally surmised that his release was an indication that the team did not feel like Smith's performance matched the investment.

But, like I said, it's a weird case, at least if you believe the evaluators at Pro Football Focus. Smith was classified as a 3-4 DT by PFF, so you have to look at that list to find his grade. And among that group he ranked 57th with an overall mark of -3.9. However, he actually had a very positive pass-rush grade (18.3, third in that group). His grade was dragged down by an absolutely abysmal mark against the run (-20.0, worst in the league).

A countdown of the top 50 overall players in the 2015 NFL Draft as ranked by NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah.(Note: this list has been updated to reflect Jeremiah's most recent rankings.)

Now, the Buccaneers will believe their own scouting eyes and won't be referring to PFF's numbers, but if those numbers are at least close to indicative of Smith's performance, that's a lot to think about. They suggest that a team would probably be bringing him in to work as a situational pass-rusher, a third-down type of guy. Also, it may be a moot point if Smith takes the opportunity to go back to Houston, where he played from 2009-13.

As for Schaub, between you're sending if that email and my reading it, that definitely became a moot point. Schaub, another former standout in Houston who didn't have much impact in Oakland last year, signed with the Baltimore Ravens on Wednesday to serve as a backup behind Joe Flacco. Anyway, you're question seemed to be posed as bringing in Schaub to start, instead of drafting a quarterback with the first overall pick. Schaub has started eight games over the past two seasons, all at the tail end of his time in Houston, and seems to be settling into a reserve role at this point in his career.

3. Dotson Staying at LT?

@caseyreporting is Demar Dotson the answer at Left Tackle? He's 1 of my fav #BUCS but I noticed he struggled last season at LT #BUCSmailbag

— Guillermo Cebreros (@CebrerosBUCS) March 30, 2015


Can I go with a really solid…*maybe? *If that sounds like I'm being wishy-washy on the subject, please let me explain.

First of all, I'm glad that you've identified Dotson as one of your favorite Bucs, Guillermo. He's probably been our most underrated performer over the past two seasons. He had a really strong year at right tackle in 2013, then was probably the bright spot on a front line that really struggled in 2014. As you mention, Dotson got some time at left tackle late in the year after the Buccaneers decided there wasn't much point in sticking with the (since-departed) Anthony Collins any longer.

The best photos of offensive tackle Demar Dotson from the 2014 season.

So, what happened? Well, that's where my "maybe" comes in. Dotson played the first 13 games on the right and the last three on the left and I'd say the results were inconclusive. He neither bombed on the blindside nor set the world on fire. Not to lean too heavily on PFF grades again, but if you look at their game-by-game analysis of Dotson's performance at LT, they were all pretty much just average. One was a little above average, one was a little below average. He got better in his second start there and then better again in his third. That's promising.

Dotson's  four best games of 2013 were all at right tackle, but so were his three least successful games. We have a lot more information on which to judge him at RT; I've got to believe the jury is still out at LT. But let's think of that as an opportunity. The Buccaneers are going to have one new starter at the two tackle spots in 2015, right? It could be 2014 rookie Kevin Pamphile, though he has very little experience so far. It could be a high draft pick, or a yet-to-be identified veteran found through free agency or the trade.

And it could be a player who is a particularly good fit at either right or left tackle. If you believe that Dotson is a known commodity on the right side and a possible solution on the left side, that gives you some flexibility in the players that you target. Given that Dotson was particularly effective as a pass-blocker last year, and that he has a good build for the left tackle spot, I'd personally like to see him get a more extended audition there. But I think the final solution for the Bucs' front five in 2015 is going to involve some moving parts between now and September, and Dotson could end up moving with them.

> READ LAST WEEK'S MAILBAG: NEW FACES, NEW RULES

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