Yardbarker Horiz

Friday, January 27, 2012

Dominik vs. The NFC Champions: Defense

General Manager Mark Dominik has stayed the path of building with youth and only adding the occasional free agent.  Let's see if this philosophy lines up with the NFC Champion New York Giants defense.

NY Giants Defense
The Defensive two-deep for the New York Giants:

DE Justin Tuck - Drafted (3rd Round, 2005); has only been a Giant
DE Dave Tollefson - Free Agent (Green Bay, 2007)
DE Osi Umenyiora - Drafted (2nd Round, 2003); has only been a Giant
DE Jason Pierre-Paul - Drafted (1st Round, 2010); has only been a Giant
DT Linval Joseph - Drafted (2nd Round, 2010); has only been a Giant
DT Rocky Bernard - Free Agent (Seattle, 2009)
DT Chris Canty - Free Agent (Dallas, 2009)
DT Jimmy Kennedy - Free Agent (Minnesota, 2011)
LB Michael Boley - Free Agent (Atlanta, 2009)
LB Jacquain Williams - Drafted (6th Round, 2011); has only been a Giant
LB Mathias Kiwanuka - Drafted (1st Round, 2006); has only been a Giant
LB Greg Jones - Drafted (6th Round, 2011); has only been a Giant
S Antrel Rolle - Free Agent (Arizona, 2010)
S Deon Grant - Free Agent (Seattle, 2010)
S Kenny Phillips - Drafted (1st Round, 2008); has only been a Giant
S Tyler Sash - Drafted (6th Round, 2011); has only been a Giant
CB Aaron Ross - Drafted (1st Round, 2007); has only been a Giant
CB Micheal Coe - Free Agent (Jacksonville, 2010)
CB Corey Webster - Drafted (2nd Round, 2005)
CB Brian Williams - Free Agent (Atlanta, 2011)

That is:
1 Undrafted Free Agent
9 Free Agents
11 Drafted

The drafted players breakdown like this:
4 First Rounders
2 Second Rounders
1 Third Rounder
3 Sixth Rounders

Again, there is more drafted talent than free agent talent in this group, but much closer to half and half.  There are more high-round draft picks on this side of the ball as well.  Two members of this unit were drafted in 2005, meaning it took seven years to get the right group together.

Clearly the New York Giants have leaned heavily on the draft to reach the SuperBowl in 2012.  Buccaneers General Manager Mark Dominik shares this philosophy, and it is a philosophy which should (accounting for coaching, retention, team chemistry, etc) allow the Buccaneers to compete with playoff teams in the near future.

Dominik vs. The NFC Champions: Offense

Congratulations to the New York Giants, NFC Champions for the 2011-2012 season!  I am very jealous, and want the George Halas Trophy in Tampa so badly.  Are the Buccaneers on track?

General Manager Mark Dominik has stayed the path of building with youth and only adding the occasional free agent.  Many fans have "Fantasy Football Syndrome", where free agents cost a few dollars, there is no salary cap, and statistics strictly determine the worth of a player.  This season, all Tampa Bay Buccaneer fans got a good look at another factor which Fantasy Football does not consider: team chemistry.

So, does real life NFL success match the philosophy of the Buccaneers GM?  Time to dissect the 2012 NFC Champion New York Giants and see what we can learn.

NY Giants Offense
The Offensive two-deep for the New York Giants:

QB Eli Manning - Draft Day Trade (2004); has only been a Giant
QB David Carr - Free Agent (from 49ers, 2010; 2nd stint with the Giants)
RB Brandon Jacobs - Drafted (4th Round, 2005); has only been a Giant
RB DJ Ware - Undrafted, 2010; has only been a Giant
FB Henry Hynoski - Undrafted, 2011; has only been a Giant
WR Mario Manningham - Drafted (3rd Round, 2008); has only been a Giant
WR Hakeem Nicks - Drafted (1st Round, 2009); has only been a Giant
WR Victor Cruz - Undrafted, 2010; has only been a Giant
WR Jerrel Jernigan - Drafted (3rd Round, 2011); has only been a Giant
TE Jake Ballard - Undrafted, 2010; has only been a Giant
TE Travis Beckum - Drafted (3rd Round, 2009); has only been a Giant
T Will Beatty - Drafted (2nd Round, 2009); has only been a Giant
T James Brewer - Drafted (4th Round, 2011); has only been a Giant
T Kareem McKenzie - Free Agent (from Jets, 2005)
T Stacy Andrews - Free Agent (from Seattle, 2010)
G Chris Snee - Drafted (2nd Round, 2004); has only been a Giant
G Mitch Petrus - Drafted (5th Round, 2010); has only been a Giant
G David Diehl - Drafted (5th Round, 2003); has only been a Giant
G Kevin Boothe - Free Agent (from Oakland, 2006)
C David Baas - Free Agent (from 49ers, 2010)

That is:
1 Trade
4 Undrafted (College) Free Agents
5 Free Agents
10 Drafted

Of the half the players on the New York Giants offensive 2-deep who were drafted, only Hakeem Nicks was a first round draft choice.  The draft choice breakdown is:
1 First Rounder
2 Second Rounders
3 Third Rounders
2 Fourth Rounders
2 Fifth Rounders

This is a unit built through the draft.  With only five free agents and one traded player out of 20 players.  Four of the five free agents are on the offensive line, while the fifth is the backup quarterback.

Half the drafted players were "middle round" picks, and all of the draft picks were selected in the fifth round or earlier.  None of the draft picks have more than eight years in the NFL; that is, this unit was eight years in the making.

The composition of this group does follow the philosophy of General Manager Mark Dominik, starting with drafting a quarterback to build around in Josh Freeman:  Eli Manning is the oldest draft pick on the Giant's two deep.  Building through the draft and going light on free agents can (and does) produce a championship squad. Clearly, the Buccaneers are on the correct path.  Sometimes this produces lightning in a bottle:  In 2007, the New York Giants won the SuperBowl with the lowest payroll in the NFL.

But this is only half the story.  Next up is a look at the defense.

Friday, January 20, 2012

New Year Brings New Buccaneers

In early January, the Buccaneers signed their 8-man practice squad to the offseason roster.  Among the group are three familiar names, two outside linebacker prospects, an experienced quarterback, and some bulk for the offensive line.  These men are under NFL Futures Contracts, meaning they do not actually take effect (or count against the roster) until the new league year begins in March.  They are (in alphabetical order):

Mike Balogun:  2nd year Linebacker from Oklahoma (6'0", 240 lbs).  Balogun appeared in two games for the Buffalo Bills in 2010.  Balogun spent time with the Cowboys in 2011 before arriving in Tampa.

Rennie Curran:  2nd year Linebacker from Georgia (5'11", 230 lbs).  Curran was drafted 97th overall (3rd round) by the Tennessee Titans in 2010 and was projected as one of the top outside linebackers in his class. He entered the draft after a junior year in which he led the SEC in tackles with 116.  He played in 9 games for the Titans in 2010, totaling 4 tackels and 3 assists.  He was released after the Titans training camp in 2011.

Colin Franklin: Rookie Tight End from Iowa State (6'6", 256 lbs).  Started 2011 season on the Buccaneers practice squad.  Was promoted to the active roster for two games before returning to the practice squad.  Franklin did not post any statistics while on the roster.

Ed Gant:  1st year Wide Receiver from North Alabama (6'3", 200 lbs; Fort Myers, FL). Gant started the 2011 preseason with Tampa Bay. In the fourth preseason game against the Redskins, Gant had 2 receptions for 121 yards and a touchdown (Buccaneer fans may remember the 96 yard catch and run for the touchdown).   Suspended first four weeks of 2010 season for violation of NFL policy on performance-enhancing substances (substance not named) while in the Cardinals training camp.

Mike Ingersoll:  Undrafted rookie Tackle from North Carolina (6'5", 300 lbs)

Brett Ratliff:  3rd year Quarterback out of Utah (6'4", 224 lbs).  Originally an undrafted free agent signed by the Jets, has spent time in Jacksonville, New England, and Tennessee; most recently with the Cleveland Browns.  Notably, he was one component of the Jets/Cleveland trade which landed Mark Sanchez with the Jets.

Chris Riley:  Undrafted rookie Guard from Illinois State (6'5", 305 lbs).  Most recently a Cincinnati Bengal.  Projected as an offensive tackle at the combine.

Jacob Rogers:  Undrafted rookie kicker from Cincinnati (6'4", 217 lbs). Was in camp for Buccaneers 2011 preseason (six punts versus Washington in preseason game #4) but did not make 53-man roster.  Rated #5 in his class by NFL Draft Scout.  Most recently was waived by the New Orleans Saints.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Senior Bowl Is Not A Deadline

The next big front office milestone for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers is rapidly approaching.

The senior bowl is an important chance for front office personnel to get their first good look at the talent which will be available in the 2012 NFL draft. It is also a place teeming with NFL coaching talent, and a great place for a new head coach to round out their staff.

Tampa Bay is running short on time to have a coach in place for this off-season milestone. But is it critical to wrap up the search for a head coach by then?

General manager Mark Dominik has come up on a bit of a fork in the road: you can either spend the Senior bowl week observing young talent to use on his upcoming fifth pick in the NFL draft, or he can spend a week interviewing a long line of possible coordinators and assistant coaches with his new head coach.

It is no secret that Dominik believes that building through the draft is the correct way to get Tampa Bay to the Super Bowl. So I suspect this deadline is artificial to the Bucs coaching search. If all the potential candidates have been interviewed and the right decision can be made before the senior bowl, that makes sense. However, if there are candidates on the remaining 4 NFL teams still playing in the playoffs or if the list is simply too long to get through before the Senior bowl week, it may make sense for Dominik to just go ahead and proceed as normal for the next week or so. The coaching search can resume after the senior bowl.

 So while some may think that the deadline is important, the countdown timer on the Senior Bowl homepage is not nearly as important as continuing to add talant to a roster where 7th round draft picks have been able to reach the 53 man roster each of the last 3 years.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Rule #1: Never Embarrass Your GM

The 2011 Buccaneers entered their bye week at 4-3.  They did not win another football game.  However, it's not about the fact they lost, but how they lost which will shape the offseason.

In short, the team forced the hand of General Manager Mark Dominik, not because he was disappointed, but because it was embarrassing.  Horribly embarrassing.  And the closer the team got to the end of the season, the more embarrassing the performances on the field.

Never, ever embarrass your boss.  Never.

Dominik moved swiftly less than 24 hours after the end of the last game of the season, promptly sweeping the entire coaching staff away.  And I mean every coach, right down and through to strength coaches and assistant coaches.  And ownership stood with him in approval of the move.  Gone are the last remnants of Jon Gruden's coaching staff (most prominently in the person of Greg Olson).  The search for a replacement started quickly with coaches known for playoff appearances, discipline, and experience.  The interview list hints at what Dominik perceives to be the problem:  lack of discipline, toughness, and power.  The team lacks a fine, steel edge and the Buccaneers are looking for someone with a grindstone.

But there is another component of this housecleaning still looming over One Buccaneer Place like an approaching thunderhead:  which players will also go?  Which players embarrassed their boss on the field?  Who fell apart in the locker room?  Who was mentally unable to compete for 16 weeks come anything or high water?

The molding of this, the youngest roster in the NFL, has taken a new turn.  No longer is talent level the issue (10 wins in 2010 left no doubt).  Now it's a matter of youth growing up and veterans standing up.  Those who couldn't (it's far too late for can't) will stand out easily to an experienced, winning coach.  They too will be swiftly cut away.  The only mystery is how many and which ones.

It's going to be one of the most intriguing off seasons in many years for the Buccaneers.