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News » Tampa Bay Buccaneers Strategy and Personnel 2009-01-30

Tampa Bay Buccaneers Strategy and Personnel 2009-01-30

Tampa Bay Buccaneers Strategy and Personnel 2009-01-30
The Bucs lost linebackers coach Gus Bradley, who was hired as defensive coordinator by the Seattle Seahawks. New coach Raheem Morris has a lot of holes to fill with six John Gruden assistants being let go Jan. 18.

The first major move came with the hiring of Jim Bates as the defensive coordinator. Bates is a 39-year coaching veteran, including eight years as a defensive coordinator with four different NFL teams. Jeff Jagodzinski was hired as the offensive coordinator.

Fired were offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Bill Muir, defensive quality control coaches Johnny Cox and Ejiro Evero, offensive assistant Jay Gruden, strength and conditioning coach Mike Morris and assistant offensive line coach George Yarno.


QUARTERBACK: Starter -- Jeff Garcia. Backups -- Brian Griese, Luke McCown, Josh Johnson.

Garcia, 38, proved again he is unable to go wire-to-wire as a starter. The offseason was a bad one considering the Bucs' flirtation with Brett Favre and a severe calf injury that prevented Garcia from participating in training camp and three preseason games. When his mobility was limited in the season-opening loss at New Orleans, he was benched for four weeks in favor of Griese. And not just benched - Garcia was dropped to No. 3 on the depth chart behind McCown.

Garcia can still win games, but he no longer has the confidence in his arm to make stick throws and missed a lot of opportunities with open receivers. That drove Gruden crazy. Garcia will be a free agent and whether he returns will be up to the new coach. The Bucs missed a golden chance to play McCown at Atlanta the last month of the season. But now he will test free agency. Only Griese and Johnson remain under contract.

RUNNING BACKS: Starters -- RB Earnest Graham, FB B.J. Askew. Backups -- RB Warrick Dunn, RB Cadillac Williams, RB Clifton Smith, FB Jameel Cook, FB Byron Storer.

Graham got off to a great start and was on pace for a 1,200-yard season, with three runs of more than 45 yards in the first four games. But a hamstring injury to Askew in Week 3, coupled with a torn ACL injury sustained by backup FB Storer, forced Graham to move to FB with Dunn starting at tailback. Graham and the Bucs running game never regained its form and Graham eventually landed on injured reserve with a high ankle sprain. Dunn had more than 1,100 yards rushing and receiving and was most effective while alternating with Graham. His 115 rushing yards against Carolina in October marked the last time the Bucs had a 100-yard rusher in a game. Williams made it back from a devastating torn patellar injury by mid-season. But just when he started to contribute and regain his form, he tore the patellar tendon in his other (left) knee. He won't be ready until mid-season in 2009, at the earliest.

TIGHT END: Starters -- Alex Smith. Backups -- Jerramy Stevens, John Gilmore.

Smith had 21 catches for 250 yards and was tied for third on the team with three touchdowns. But he eventually was replaced as the starter by Stevens, who led all Bucs tight ends with 36 receptions for 397 yards and two touchdowns. Gilmore was a good addition, particularly as a blocker. Stevens is a free agent, and after two years of playing for the veteran minimum, is looking to test the market.

WIDE RECEIVER: Starters -- Antonio Bryant, Michael Clayton. Backups -- Ike Hilliard, Joey Galloway, Maurice Stovall, Brian Clark, Dexter Jackson.

Bryant was taken off the scrap heap. He did not play in 2007 because of well-documented dustups with Bill Parcells in Dallas and Mike Nolan in San Francisco. But nobody ever doubted his talent, and he had a career year under Gruden's direction. Bryant led the Bucs with 83 catches for 1,248 yards and seven touchdowns. He could've had a monster year had the Bucs' quarterbacks connected with him every time he won off the line of scrimmage, but they missed a lot of big-play opportunities. Clayton rebounded from three down years and scored his first TD since 2006. He was primarily a blocker in the running game. Galloway missed all of training camp and preseason with a groin injury and then broke his foot. He landed in Gruden's doghouse and never really played again because Bryant had taken his split end position. Jackson, a rookie from Appalachian State, was a bust as a second-round pick and inactive most of the season.

OFFENSIVE LINE: Starters -- LT Donald Penn, LG Arron Sears, C Jeff Faine, RG Davin Joseph, RT Jeremy Trueblood. Backups -- G/C Sean Mahan, G Jeremy Zuttah, G Sean Lee.

The Bucs' offensive line is the strength of their team, which has invested many top draft picks in the unit. Joseph was named to his first Pro Bowl, but missed three games with a broken foot. Trueblood led the team in penalties and fines, but he has a nasty streak that the Bucs like. Faine, the Bucs' biggest free agent acquisition, proved to be a huge addition. Penn has been a real surprise at left tackle and is a restricted free agent. Zuttah, a rookie, started five games filling in at both guard positions. Still, the Bucs had the second-youngest offensive line in the NFL and this unit will get better.

DEFENSIVE LINE: Starters -- LDE Kevin Carter, NT Chris Hovan, UT Jovan Haye, RDE Gaines Adams. Backups -- DE Greg White, DE/DT Jimmy Wilkerson, DT Greg Peterson, NT Ryan Sims.

The Bucs failed to get any pressure on the quarterback. Carter and Hovan are past their prime. Haye had a huge drop off because of a series of knee injuries. Adams, a first-round pick in 2007, failed to make a big leap from his rookie season. He led the Bucs with 5.5 sacks, which says more about what's wrong with the Bucs defensive line than what's right about Adams. Wilkerson was a good addition and very versatile. The Bucs DL wore down as the season wore on.

LINEBACKERS: Starters -- SLB Cato June, MLB Barrett Ruud, WLB Derrick Brooks. Backups -- Quincy Black, Adam Hayward, Geno Hayes, Matt McCoy.

On paper, the Bucs have a good group at linebacker. Ruud is the best of the bunch, the team's leading tackler and quarterback of the defense. He doesn't get much recognition because he plays next to Brooks, an 11-time Pro Bowler. Brooks no longer plays in nickel situations, but he has made more splash plays as a result. Even so, he no longer can stay healthy for 16 games, even though he has never missed one in his NFL career. The last month of the season, Brooks was injured, and he hurt his team by staying on the field in the season-finale against Oakland. June disappeared this season and did not make nearly as many plays as he did his first year with the Bucs. He probably needs to shift to the weakside linebacker spot.

DEFENSIVE BACKS: Starters -- LCB Phillip Buchanon, RCB Ronde Barber, SS Jermaine Phillips, FS Tanard Jackson. Backups - S Sabby Piscitelli, S Will Allen, CB Elbert Mack, S Donte Nicholson.

The strength of the Bucs' defense was their secondary. Phillips was a potent run-stopper until he broke each forearm in the same season. Barber struggled for the first half of the season, giving up three long touchdown passes. But he battled back to lead the team with four interceptions and earned a trip to the Pro Bowl. Still, it's time for Barber to consider just playing nickel corner. Buchanon was picked apart the final month of the season, but he played well overall. He will be a free agent and will test the market. Jackson had a great rookie year but seemed to hit a sophomore slump. Piscitelli is still very raw. He can cover a lot of grass but takes bad angles and is not a good run stuffer.

SPECIAL TEAMS: PK Matt Bryant, P Josh Bidwell, LS Andrew Economos, KR
Clifton Smith.

The best story of the year for the Bucs was Smith, who came off the practice squad to earn a trip to the Pro Bowl. In four games, he became the first player in team history to return a kickoff and punt for a touchdown in the same season. The Bucs don't have a very good history in the kicking game, to say the least, and Smith led comebacks at Kansas City and Detroit. Bryant had a Pro Bowl season, which was remarkable considering his infant son, Tryson, suddenly died in September. He scored a club record and career high 131 points and made three game-winning field goals. For the season, he was 32-of-38. Bryant continues to struggle, however, on attempts from 50-yards or longer. Bidwell averaged 44.1 yards per punt and ranked fifth in the NFL with 27 punts inside the 20.

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: January 30, 2009

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