Yardbarker Horiz

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Buccaneers On Course To Start Season With New Backfield

With the third preseason game in the books, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers appear to have settled on a completely new running back tandem to start 2011.

The 2010 season started with Cadillac Williams at tailback and Earnest Graham at fullback.  With Cadillac now with the Rams, the tailback job has fallen to 2010 undrafted free agent LeGarrette Blount.  And starting at fullback is the last player selected by the Buccaneers in the 2010 draft, Erik Lorig, a converted tight end.  In fact, Blount and Lorig were both inactive for the first game of 2010.

These are crazy days in Tampa.  With 75% of the roster having less than four years of experience, it just gets weird sometimes.

The writing was on the wall for Cadillac after Blount did not start the first three games of the season yet still managed to gather over 1,000 yards to lead all rookies last season.  Williams, who was also a dependable pass catcher, may have outlasted his value for the Buccaneers opting instead to sign a one-year contract with the Saint Louis Rams.

Lorig, on the other hand, has come out of nowhere to unseat the granddaddy of the Bucs backfield, the venerable Earnest Graham.  Graham will play, and play plenty, this season for Tampa Bay -- I do not doubt this for a moment.  But Lorig, who also spent practice time last season at tight end and defensive end, continues to impress with his 6'4", 275 lb frame (similar to 2011 2nd round pick DE Da'Quan Bowers).  This, in a nutshell, is the tradeoff the Buccaneers are making:  experience for power.

Cadillac Williams (5'11", 217 lbs) vs. LeGarette Blount (6'0", 247 lbs)
Earnest Graham (5'9", 225 lbs) vs. Erik Lorig (6'4", 275 lbs)

That's an increase of 80 pounds of running back, plus additional height at both positions (following a notable offensive trend of the past two years). GM Mark Dominik and Head Coach Raheem Morris have talked at great length about becoming a bigger, more powerful running team.

Apparently, the next step towards that goal has been taken.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Second Draft Just Two Games Away

The Second Draft is one week from Saturday.  It feels like 10 days until Christmas.

Tampa Bay's leadership group of GM Mark Dominik, Scouting Director Dennis Hickey, and Pro Personnel Director Shelton Quarles have given Buccaneers fans a second draft day each of the past two seasons.  When the other teams drop their roster count to 53 men, Dominik leads a feeding frenzy at One Buccaneer place, reeling in players like RB LeGarrette Blout and WR Desmon Briscoe.  Or OG Ted Larson and RB Kregg Lumpkin.  You get the picture.

Apparently nothing gets past One Buc place, or at least no player.  The rest of the NFL has taken notice as well.  The Buccaneers know for every good player which makes a roster, or every veteran who keeps his roster position, another player has to be let go.  

Tampa Bay keeps detailed notes on each NFL player.  Did they target them for the draft?  Was it a player who was graded to have the intangibles as well as the tangibles?  And they will move quickly on September 3rd to sweep up players not only for their practice squad (Ryan Purvis, Briscoe last year) but players for their regular season roster as well (Blount, Lumpkin, and Larson; all last year as well).

Will there be a similar haul this season?  Cetainly there will be talent out there, and Tampa Bay is certainly building a reputation for giving practice squad players playing time.  It was the quality on the practice squad which helped the team get to the end of the season with 10 wins while injuries piled up by the roadside.  Now those players are rising through the depth chart.  Wouldn't you call Tampa if you had a big, fat you-will-regret-cutting-me chip on your shoulder?

So, enjoy the last two preseason games.  And don't forget there is one more Buccaneer holiday before the season begins!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Talib To Meet With Goodell Tuesday

Buccaneers cornerback Aqib Talib will have a meeting with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell on Tuesday.

There is no way this ends well -- you remember those trips to the Principal's office, right?

Unfortunately, Talib and the commissioner are not strangers, a fact that can only play against Talib.  After an altercation with a cab driver (which was settled on a plea), Goodell held Talib out for a game last season.  This past summer, Talib was implicated in gunplay back in Texas.  And while the report of his impending release by the Buccaneers was wrong, General Manager Mark Dominik and Head Coach Raheem Morris have to be getting tired of these visits to New York.  Particularly during preseason, right after a game where the defense was roughed up a bit.  Clearly, Talib has proven beyond the shadow of a doubt that he will not (and can not) be a leader on a defense where personal accountability is so important.  It has to impact his value to the team.

Talib has not been found guilty at this point, and if Goodell has league resources looking into the situation in Texas he must be careful not to tip his hat.  The fear is that, having missed a game last season, Talib may be in for a much bigger smack to the wallet (i.e. longer suspension) this time around.

With an early season schedule packing some serious heat (DET, @MIN, ATL, IND), this no time to be one man down.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Buccaneers Pass on Three Defensive Starters

As the Buccaneers wound up the 2010 season, Tim Crowder was starting at left defensive end and Barret Ruud was the man in the middle of the Tampa2.  Stylez White, who started all but three games last year, was coming off the bench.  In 2011, none of them are with the team as training camp hits full speed.

Each man was a significant contributor last season:

  • Ruud started all 16 games in 2010 (as he did in 2009 and 2008) and contributed 85 tackles, 33 assists, 2 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, and an interception.
  • White started 13 games in 2010 and recorded 28 tackles, 8 assists, and led the team with 4.5 sacks last season.  He also forced two fumbles.
  • Crowder started 9 games in his second season with Tampa Bay since getting claimed from the waiver wire early in 2009.  He has appeared in every game since joining the team.  Last season, he recorded 22 tackles, 9 assists, 3 sacks and a forced fumble.
These men were the first, tenth, and thirteenth most productive tacklers last season, making Middle Linebacker and Defensive End (both left and right) positions to watch during the 2011 preseason.

DE White Will Not Return to Buccaneers

In a tweet left less than 60 minutes ago, Stylez G. White confirmed the Buccaneers are no longer interested in his services:

 Stylez G. White 

We all wish him well!