Tampa Bay Buccaneers

One Buc Mailbag: Streaks and Solutions

This week, we discuss the possibility of one of the most impressive defensive streaks in team history being surpassed, plus consider some possible changes to NFL roster sizes.

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View which players had the most tackles in Buccaneers history.

Each week during the remainder of the offseason, Senior Writer/Editor Scott Smith will dip into the inbox to answer questions from Buccaneer fans. This week, one fan remembers Tampa Bay's incredible streak of games with at least one sack and wants to know if it will ever be surpassed. Another contributor has a number of ideas to infuse more talent in the league through changes to the draft, the practice squad and the 53-man roster.

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. Scott, I am aware the Buccaneers broke the record for consecutive games with at least one sack, but I can't cull the info anywhere online. Do you know the total number of games, year in which the record was achieved, and years of duration for said streak? Also, I wonder what the active streak is? Do you believe another team will take down our defensive record in the near future?

(Sent without identification via email totbbsocial@buccaneers.nfl.com.)

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That's a great question, or set of questions, and it's too bad there was no name on the email to which I can direct the credit. From the address, perhaps your name is Spenn? Or S. Penn. Hey, is this Sean Penn?! That would be cool.

Anyway, you're right about that first statement, though you've only got half of what has to be one of the most impressive feats of uninterrupted defensive production in league history. To answer your question directly, the Buccaneers' defense posted at least one sack in an NFL-record 69 consecutive games from October 10, 1999 through November 9, 2003. That run started with a five-sack outing against Brett Favre and the Packers (yes, noted Favre foil Warren Sapp had two of those five) and concluded with a two-sack effort at Carolina. The Packers came back to snap the streak the next week, on November 16, 2003, when they somehow managed to keep the Bucs swarm off Favre.

View the top 25 players listed on the NFL's Top 100 that the Buccaneers will face in 2016.

To be fair, we must remember that the sack was not considered an official statistic until 1982. It's not hard to review games from before that season to determine what would have been marked as a sack. That's why, for instance, Deacon Jones is "unofficially" considered to have racked up 173.5 career sacks (while also coining the term "sack"). According to Pro Football Reference, which has a wonderful tool under its Play Index tab for looking up team and individual streaks, the Detroit Lions had a streak of 76 straight games with at least one sack – unofficially – from October 23, 1960 through November 25, 1965.

Meanwhile, on October 29, 2000, Derrick Brooks had a 34-yard pick-six during a 41-13 rout of the Minnesota Vikings at Raymond James Stadium. That was part of a three-takeaway outing by the Bucs' defense, which also enjoyed a Donnie Abraham interception and a Marcus Jones fumble recovery. That game kicked off a streak in which Tampa Bay's defense would force at least one turnover in 54 straight contests, concluding with another three-takeaway performance at New Orleans on December 7, 2003. At the time, that streak was described as the second-longest of its kind in the past 20 years. I suppose I could look it up and find out what that longer streak is, but I don't think it's important enough to invest the time.

As you can see from the dates, those two streaks overlapped significantly. To be specific, from October 29, 2000 through November 9, 2003, the Buccaneer defense recorded at least one sack and at least one takeaway in an incredible 50 straight games. That particular feat was described as the longest streak of its kind since 1963. According to that same PFR tool, it's actually the longest ever; Detroit was the team with that streak ending in '63, and it was only 43 games long. We may have undersold it back then. I've always felt like that run didn't quite get the attention it deserved, so I'm glad you brought it up again, Spenn.

I mean, we knew about it at the time and kept track of it, but about a decade-and-a-half later, who really remembers it? I don't think we realize how good we had it at the time with that legendary defense. Since those streaks ended, the Bucs longest run of games with at least sack and games with at least one turnover are both 17. You might be surprised to know both of those streaks happened recently, the former stretching over the last 10 games of 2014 and the first seven of 2015, and the latter covering the last seven of 2014 and the first 10 of 2015. That means they overlapped for a total of 14 games, the longest streak of the Bucs' defense marking both categories since the aforementioned 50-game run.

So, which team owns the longest active streak of consecutive games with at least one sack? Well, it's not the Buccaneers, though their run is a decent eight games; Tampa Bay's defense actually had at least one sack in all but one game last year. The longest active streak currently belongs to the New England Patriots, who have had at least one sack in 29 games, dating back to September 29, 2014. Detroit is second with a current run of 21 games. Tampa Bay's active streak of eight is tied for the 15th longest.

You didn't ask, but the longest active streak of games with at least one turnover forced is 12, by both the Indianapolis Colts and the Kansas City Chiefs. The Bengals have an active streak of eight straight games with a mark in both categories – good luck getting to 50, guys.

So your last question is whether or not I think the Bucs' streak of 69 consecutive games with at least one sack will be topped "in the near future." Had you left off that final qualifier, I probably would have said yes, because I expect the NFL to go on for a long time and at some point almost every record will be broken. I mean, Johnny Unitas's record of 47 straight games with at least one touchdown pass stood for nearly 50 years, and then along came Drew Brees.

However, I think it is very unlikely that the Bucs' mark will be topped in the near future. I mean, just be definition, it would take the Patriots two-and-a-half more years to catch up if they continue on their current run. If they stumble just once, their counter goes back to zero, and the next team behind them is a full eight games back. I also don't know if the two teams in question – New England and Detroit – necessarily have a pair of pass-rushers as transcendent as Warren Sapp and Simeon Rice.

Anyway, thanks for the trip down memory lane, Spenn. May that great Buccaneer streak eventually be broken…by another great Buccaneer defense!

**2. Hello Mr. Smith, First let me thank you for having a forum that fans, such as myself, can ask in depth questions and recieve well thought out responses from someone in the know. Admittedly I'm into the Bucs to deep. When I ask my friends "Whom do you think the 7-9 OLinemen will be on the roster this year?" and they reply. "Isn't that Chuckie guy still the coach?" "No, he went back to making horror movies." So you see what I'm up against. Once again THANK YOU. This question pertains to the NFL as a whole not just the Bucs and has been eating at me for about a year. IMO the NFL is headed for a decline in on field talent due to the early retirement of its players. Superstars like Calvin Johnson, Marshawn Lynch, and Patrick Willis. Lesser known vetrans Husain Abdullah and one year and done players such as Chris Borland and A.J. Tarpley are all calling it quits before the age of 30. Looking at the Bucs roster, they are thin at a few positions as every team is. Given this recent trend, that will become more and more the norm, thinning out the talent pool. What can the NFL do to combat this eventual drop in play? I have four ideas myself. I'd like to run them by you and get your opinion. Three are easy fixes and create a domino like affect one directly relating to the next. The last one is off the wall bonkers and of course, my favorite! I'm going to lump the first three together since, as stated above, they directly correlate to one another. Extend the draft back to 12 rounds, exspand the roster to 60 players and lenghten the practice squad to 10. With the top 5 designated by the team,  protected from being picked up by another franchise. Yes I understand this will cost the owners money and it's easy for me to spend their capital. Let's just pretend money isn't an issue and the merit of the proposed idea is. By extending the draft 5 rounds teams CAN draft for need. Take the Bucs for example. IMO with the extra picks the Bucs might of drafted a DT, S, WR or LB all of which is where the Bucs need depth IMO. Plus rookie contracts are the most salary cap friendly. Which in turn gives you more players to develop. The late round picks will never make the team. There is just no room.

View some select shots of the Buccaneer's offensive line.

Expanding the roster from 53 to 60 not only helps with player development but also, if a team chooses, enables them to keep good players they would otherwise have to cut. Example: IMO the Bucs starting OL goes as follows. Dotson, Sweezy, Hawley, Marpet and D.Smith. Most teams keep 9 OL. Last four Pamphile, Benenoch, Wester and ?. Do the Bucs keep Cherilus, a veteran RT that started most of your games last year or E.Smith a one time starter and the only other true C on the team. The 60 man roster lets a team keep veterans they need and develop players they will need. Development. That's what the practice squad is for. True, but lengthening the squad to 10 and protecting 5 is a sound idea. Die hard Buc fans know the story of Adam Humphries. UDFA, made the practice squad, moved up to the 53 man roster during the season, played significant game day minutes, even scored a TD. Now he is the odds on favorite, with K.Bell, to win the 3rd or slot WR position.  What if the, let's say, the Cowboys plucked Humphries from the Bucs practice squad after Dez Bryant went down in week 2. Didn't happen but could of. Now the Bucs were more likely to draft a WR given their lack of depth. So hypothetically the Bucs don't get to draft D.Vitale. They pick up a UDFA FB to fill a roster need. FB doesn't make the team do to lack of versatility and only have 53 spots available, see last years 7th round pick. Doesn't get a practice squad spot because there is no one on the team for him to replace. 12 rounds lets a team draft for need and development. 60 man roster ensures veteran backups and development. 5 protected practice squad members gives teams players who know their system and will be there when multiple injuries come a calling. The last five unportected players are for teams in need. Bad draft, bad FA signing, injury bug, or someone a team likes and wants to develop in their system. Don't be fooled there is enough talent to go around. HC Koetter said so himself. He's always surprised by the amount of talent out there. This coming from and interview after a rookie camp practice. Jude Adjei-Barimah was a preminicamp pickup. Luke Rhodes is a UDFA and is running with the 2's at MLB. Tevin Westbrook is a great example. 6'5"  and athletic but he plays TE. 5th on the depth cart. Maybe he makes the 60 man roster but definitely makes the practice squad. In a year or two when he's ready, he knows the teams system and you can plug him in. These "simple" tweaks can greatly help the NFL with filling out their rosters without decline in play on the field. Thankfully I'm not going to go into my crazy idea. This e-mail has gone on long enough. So what do you think? Some good ideas? Have any of your own? Do even you see it as an eventual problem? I'm I just a weirdo that started naming his socks because of lack of solid Bucs coverage the last 2 weeks? Once again thank you for your time and outlet.**

P.S. If you agree this is something the NFL should look at. I'll send you my big idea. It's sound it'll just never happen.

- Douglas O'Connor (via email totbbsocial@buccaneers.nfl.com)

The Buccaneers' 53-Man roster.

Whoa. I should tell you that Douglas used Twitter to ask me first if I was interested in fielding questions that were more NFL-related than Buc-specific. I said yes, please (actually, I think my verbatim response was, "PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE Send"), and then, hoo boy, did Douglas fire away.

If you tl;dr-ed all of that, let me summarize. Mr. O'Connor is worried about an NFL talent drain due to early player retirements and proposes several measures to help teams overcome this. Because his friends are apparently not as into the Bucs or the NFL as he is – confusing a former Tampa Bay coach with a certain horror-movie puppet – he turned to me as a sounding board. Nine hundred and 87 words later, it's my turn to respond.

Doug wants to take the draft back to its 12-round roots, expand rosters to 60 players and make a couple practice-squad tweaks, including one that would allow teams to protect some of those players from being signed by other teams. You can read his treatise if you want to know more about his rationale. I'll just give my responses here.

Expand the draft to 12 rounds.

This is completely unnecessary, which is why the NFL reduced this formerly endless process to eight rounds in 1993 and then its current seven-round format in 1994. You say extending the draft allows teams to pick players more based on need, and specifically say with 12 rounds the Bucs could have addressed such needs as defensive tackle, safety, wide receiver and linebacker. But the Bucs did do most of that in the post-draft rookie free agent signing hours. Later on, you yourself mention linebacker Luke Rhodes, who was running with the second team in mini-camp. Other rookies signed by Tampa Bay just after the draft included linebacker Cassanova McKinzy, defensive tackles DaVonte Lambert and Travis Britz and safeties Isaiah Johnson and Elijah Shumate.

These are all players who would have been drafted if we had 12 rounds. The point is, any players who have a shot at making it are going to end up on a team, whether it's via a draft pick or being signed after the seventh round. One could argue that the current system is better at allowing teams to address specific needs. Let's say Rhodes was the team's number-one rookie free agent priority and a player they would have targeted in the eighth round. Well, Rhodes might not have lasted to Tampa Bay's next pick, but the free agency system gave the Bucs just as much of a chance to get him as any other team.

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Expand rosters to 60 players.**

I'm not dramatically opposed to such a thing, and if you didn't read all of Douglas's argument, be aware that we agreed not to consider the monetary side of this. I think, as does Douglas, that such concerns would be a huge part of getting something like this passed.

Without worrying about that side of things, I'm still not completely convinced this solves the problem you're worrying about Douglas. You start off by fearing that the quality of play in the NFL will decline due to a talent drain, but in support of this part of your proposal say, "Don't be fooled there is enough talent to go around. HC Koetter said so himself. He's always surprised by the amount of talent out there." So what problem are we actually trying to fix here, the amount of overall talent available to the NFL, or the way in which it is distributed. You speak of the Bucs and other teams having certain thin spots on their depth chart; are you trying to eliminate that possibility. Isn't the amount to which a team is successful in acquiring and developing talent at as many positions as possible part of the game? If you're better at doing that, you will win more games. In recent years, as an obvious example, the Patriots have been better at that than most teams.

"Lengthen" the practice squad to 10 players and allow teams to designate five of those 10 that cannot be signed away by other teams.

Well, the first part of this proposal has already happened. Prior to the 2014 season, the NFL and the NFLPA agreed to expand practice squads from eight to 10 players, and to allow two of those spots to be used on players who had already accrued up to two seasons of experience (in other words, it made more players eligible for practice squads). That was actually considered a two-year trial at the time, but the two sides just recently agreed to extend the agreement into 2016, and allow four exemptions for more tenured players instead of two.

So, hey! There you go. One of your proposals is already in place. We're making progress. As to the second half of your idea for practice squads, I vehemently disagree with it. Or, as Lieutenant Commander Jo Galloway would say, I strenuously object.

View some select shots of the Buccaneer's wide receivers.

You absolutely have to allow players on practice squad the freedom to grab a better opportunity. If you're going to protect them, then they have to be compensated like a player on the active roster. The idea of the practice squad is it allows for development of players and also helps a team practice by filling out the scout teams. But let's take your example of Adam Humphries and the Cowboys. When the Buccaneers released Humphries in early October last year they obviously wanted to keep him around because they signed him back to the practice squad the very next day. It all worked out when the Bucs elevated him back to the active roster at the end of the month and he ended up playing extensively.

But what if Humphries knew that by signing to the Bucs' practice squad he would be stuck there until the team chose to promote or release him? He would have to weigh that opportunity against the possibility that a team like the Cowboys, with a need on their active roster, would come calling. Personally, if I'm him, I think I have to take my chances remaining a free agent. At the very least it would be a difficult decision.

All in all, Douglas, I'm sorry to say I can't really agree with most of what your proposing, or even if it directly addresses the very problem that worries you. However, I would love to see "the big idea," even if you think it could never happen. Thanks for all the time you took in crafting a very deep and reasoned argument. Whether or not we agree, I think it's clear we both care about the future of the game.

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