The NFL generates a massive amount of online media coverage, a share of which is devoted to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Even the most avid Buccaneer fans might not catch everything that's out there.
That is why, starting now in the final days before the start of training camp, we will be taking a weekly look around the web to gather some of the analysis you might have missed. We'll also provide our own take on a handful of those articles; we will "read and react," if you will.
The pieces that caught our interest this week include an evaluation of overrated and underrated players by NFL.com, a countdown of the NFC South's best players and another take on the Bucs' confidence in Josh Freeman.
1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: All-time underrated, overrated players, by Dan Rachal, NFL.com
This is actually part of a 32-part series NFL.com has been running since mid-June, with various writers seeking to identify the most underrated and overrated players in each team's history. The Bucs actually got their treatment on June 27, which was last week, but we're taking a little liberty with the format since this is the inaugural article in the series.
So, how did Dan Rachal, who created the Bucs' lists, fare in identifying the franchise's underrated and overrated players? In our humble opinion, the underrated selections are, collectively, a more direct hit than the overrated selections.
That's not us being overly sensitive about criticism of the Bucs who were tabbed as overrated, a list that includes Keyshawn Johnson, Alvin Harper and Bert Emanuel. Rather, the list simply strikes us as more of a collection of "busts" than overrated players.
Now, Johnson wasn't really a bust during his entire four years in Tampa. He did set the team's single-season record with 106 catches in 2001 (though, as Rachal accurately points out, there was only one touchdown scored in all of that) and he was a key part of the offense during the team's Super Bowl season in 2002. Still, when you trade two first-round picks for a player and then eventually tell him to go home for the last half of his last season in town, things didn't work out perfectly. Perhaps you could call Johnson "overrated" from the standpoint that he didn't return the value of two first-round picks, but it's hard to imagine too many Buccaneer fans giving him more credit than he deserves.
Emanuel and, especially, Harper represent two of the biggest free agency busts in team history. Perhaps the Bucs' talent evaluators originally overrated them when they went out to sign them, but neither received much positive press during their respective stints in Tampa. Rachal rounds out the list with LB Dwayne Rudd, another huge free agency miss in 2003, and S Dexter Jackson, the MVP of Super Bowl XXXVII.
It may be true that Jackson's reputation at one point exceeded his play because of the one big game he had on the biggest stage (call it the Larry Brown effect). But Jackson was a competent starter on one of the best defenses ever in 2002 and he had a pretty good six-year career for the Buccaneers. Again, this is a list of "overrated" players; do many Buccaneer fans remember Jackson as a more of a star than he actually was?
Of course, it's easy to pick nits without providing alternatives. If we're going to question whether or not those five players were actually "overrated," can we find some former Bucs who better fit the bill, at least by our definition? Yes, we probably should…but we're not going to. We're chickening out, preferring not to sling mud back into the Buccaneers' past. As such, Rachal's analysis will have to stand.
As for the underrated list, Rachal's best picks, in our opinion, were cornerback Donnie Abraham and kicker Connor Barth. These two truly fit the concept of being underrated – they were (or are) among the best in the league at their positions but have only rarely received credit for being so. Abraham is probably second only to Ronde Barber at the cornerback position in Buc history, and he somehow only went to one Pro Bowl. Barth has quietly been the most accurate kicker in team annals the past three years.
Now, we could offer a few extra choices for this list, one of which may surprise you. Mike Alstott was often called overrated during his career because he made so many Pro Bowls by putting up good tailback numbers at the fullback position, but with some distance now from his career one could argue he was underrated overall. As the Bucs' struggled in short-yardage rushing situations in recent seasons, it was easy to forget that they once had a runner who would often refuse to be denied in such situations. Alstott's numbers won't have the Hall of Fame voters swooning, but he was the architect of some of the most memorable plays in team history and he was always the ultimate team player.
If that one's too much of a stretch for you, how about Paul Gruber. Sure, he's beloved by Buc fans and the newest member of the Ring of Honor at Raymond James Stadium, but did he ever get his due outside of Tampa. Gruber never played in a Pro Bowl. Brad Johnson? An insanely good defense carried the Bucs to their Super Bowl championship in 2002, but would they have made it without "The Bull" guiding the offense?
Going back a bit further, how about the safety tandem of Cedric Brown and Mark Cotney. Lee Roy Selmon was the star of the first great Buccaneer defense, which emerged in the late '702, and that group always had high-profile linebackers. But Brown and Cotney were rocks for roughly eight years at the back of that defense, and Brown was the team's all-time interceptor before Abraham and Barber came along. The late David Logan was a quiet rock on that defense, too. Would you have guessed that Logan, from the defensive tackle position, had at least four sacks (and as many as 9.5) in every season from 1980-85. How many other players have produced at least four sacks in six consecutive seasons for Tampa Bay? Two – Hall of Famers Lee Roy Selmon and Warren Sapp.
- NFC South Top 25, Pat Yasinskas, NFL.com
Well, the obvious reaction to this piece – which actually has only been 60% revealed so far – is that the Buccaneers' roster obviously looks a lot more interesting now than it did 12 months ago.
Yasinskas did a similar top 25 for the division last year, and the Bucs had only three players on the list, two of which had yet to play a down in a Tampa Bay uniform. G Carl Nicks was third, WR Vincent Jackson was 16th and QB Josh Freeman was 22nd. Things have changed quite a bit in one year.
Yasinskas has unveiled picks 11-25 so far, just naming Panthers C Ryan Kalil his #11 selection on Friday morning. With 10 picks still to go, the Buccaneers already have seven players on the list. That's already more than twice the team's total from last year, and the list could grow. If the top 25 players in the division happened to be divided (almost) evenly among the four teams, the Bucs would have had six or seven, so three was not an impressive number. Now it looks like they might end up with more than their share. Here's which picks among Yasinskas' top 25 have been Bucs so far (last year's ranks in parentheses):
12 – Carl Nicks (2)
15 – Gerald McCoy (NR)
16 – Vincent Jackson (16)
18 – Dashon Goldson (NR)
20 – Lavonte David (NR)
23 – Josh Freeman (22)
25 – Da'Quan Bowers (NR)
Quite conspicuously not on that list are RB Doug Martin and CB Darrelle Revis. Would it be surprising to find those two players among the top 10? If Martin and Revis are still to be revealed, the Bucs could end up with more than a third of the players on the list. That's quite encouraging.
- Finally, consistency from Greg Schiano on Bucs QB Josh Freeman, Stephen Holder, TampaBay.com
Essentially, the notion here is that Schiano has made conflicting statements about Freeman – either regarding his confidence in the young quarterback or the amount of competition he would face to retain his starting job – since the end of the 2012 season. Whether or not you agree with Holder's assertion in that regard, the gist of this latest article is that Schiano has recently been much clearer on the topic.
The quotes come from Schiano's recent appearance on NFL Network, during which he said, in part: "He had a real good spring. I think it's really coming together, being in this system for the second year now and hearing the (terminology) over again after being able to study it. I'm really encouraged. I know Mike Sullivan, our offensive coordinator who does a great job, he's encouraged. We're looking forward to big things. Josh is going to have a big year."
To which Holder reacts: "Well then. No wavering there.
"This is only news because Schiano has so often left things open to interpretation when speaking about his quarterback situation. Although most astute NFL observers would agree Glennon is no immediate threat to Freeman, a four-year veteran, Schiano's open-ended statements raised questions."
Of course, in the sidebar to this column, there are five links, which lead to the following stories previously posted on TampaBay.com:
- (May 20) "[C]oach Greg Schiano proclaimed – again – that Josh Freeman is the team's unquestioned starting quarterback."
- (May 8) "Bucs draft pick Mike Glennon isn't a threat to incumbent starting quarterback Josh Freeman, according to general manager Mark Dominik and coach Greg Schiano. Freeman apparently sees things that way, too."
- (April 9) "The Bucs, as an organization, aren't all that concerned about the record-breaking Freeman and the quarterback position."
- (April 26) "The Bucs have considered bringing in competition for quarterback Josh Freeman, whose uneven play has frustrated coaches at times. Whether or not Mike Glennon qualifies remains to be seen, but the Bucs must have some conviction about him after selecting him in the third round of the NFL draft tonight."
- (April 26) "I think that's hard with any rookie quarterback. It's going to be a matter of how quickly he grasps our system. The fact is we have a starting quarterback in Josh Freeman." – Schiano
That third story does contend that Schiano, alone in the organization, wasn't sold on Freeman, though not by way of a quote from the coach. If there have been quotes along the way that have fueled such speculation, there have also been repeated moments in which Schiano and others have very plainly stated that Freeman is the starter for 2013.
It is a reasonable interpretation that some of Schiano's statements have led to outside speculation about Freeman's job security – the coach himself believes that some of his comments right after the 2012 season were unfortunately misleading in terms of competition at the position – but Holder's most recent post this week certainly present a coach who is fully confident in his starter. Whether or not there has been any inconsistency in Schiano's statements – reasonable folks could disagree on that point – there's nothing vague about his most recent comments.
A few other recent links for Buc fans:
- On Bucsnation.com, JC DeLaTorre says the Bucs have to do better to defend their home field if they are going to return to the playoffs.
- One more from Bucsnation.com, where Sander Philipse makes some very strong arguments (and provides one impressive gif) that the Bucs are right to be expecting good things from Da'Quan Bowers.
- If you enjoy stat tables and new metrics, check out this recent post on FootballOutsiders.com which seeks to identify the best defensive players at preventing good offensive plays from getting even worse. Lavonte David is prominently featured.
- On NFL.com, Bucky Brooks suggest that Luke Stocker is one of the strongest breakout candidates at the tight end position this year.