From Youngery to Chopping Wood

By on March 16, 2012

In training camp this year Raheem Morris boasted about his youngest team in the league, all seems like long ago. (photo by US Presswire/Kim Klement)

It’s about time I managed to get an article in about OUR Tampa Bay Buccaneers. It’s made some huge headlines by taking some big, but necessary, risks. The “youngery” regime implemented by Raheem Morris is no more and Greg Schiano has the Bucs ready to “chop the wood”.

Morris was the secondary coach of the Bucs for the 2007 and 2008 seasons when the secondary was one of the best in the league. In the 2009 offseason Morris was promoted to defensive coordinator to replace the legendary Monte Kiffin. But when Jon Gruden was fired the same offseason, Morris was promoted to head coach virtually overnight. Morris finished his Buccaneer career 17-31, with a 10-6 2010 season narrowly missing the playoffs as the lone moment of hope in Tampa.

This offseason Morris was replaced with the gritty Greg Schiano. With a gap in his teeth and his phrase “chop the wood” becoming the motto of Rutgers football (where he took football from a joke to relevant) Schiano resembles a lumberjack more so than a football coach. Exactly what the Bucs need. He’s coming in with a chip on his shoulder, so I know Schiano will certainly have the team ready to lay the wood and compete right away.

The big annoyance through the Bucs’ struggles the past few years was the lack of commitment by management to proven players through free agency and trades. This stay young stuff was getting Tampa Bay nowhere fast.

This year changed things.

The Bucs spent big money (which they had stockpiled for a long time, more $40 million in free cap space coming into this year) for the first time seemingly ever. The Bucs signed free agents Eric Wright (corner, formerly Detroit), Carl Nicks (left guard, formerly New Orleans) and Vincent Jackson (wide receiver, formerly San Diego). Each of these free agents brings exactly what the Bucs need.

Eric Wright, who will be in his sixth year in the league, brings a cornerback that actually makes tackles. The Bucs gave up too many big plays last year, many due to poor tackling. Wright is a solid tackler, had 71 solo tackles his rookie season back in 2007. He is not a huge defensive playmaker, with only 4 interceptions last year (although he had a 94 yard pick-6 in 2008), but he’s a capable corner and can shut down top receivers. If for nothing else he’s without the legal drama that has defined Aquib Talib’s life off the field. Also, he will make it easier for Tampa to move on once Josh Freeman retires.

Carl Nicks is a sizable man now with a sizable contract, which makes him the highest paid guard in the NFL. He was the anchor of the New Orleans Saints’ offensive line last year. Nicks provides veteran leadership and true grit to an offensive line that watched quarterback Josh Freeman get knocked around last season. Nicks will be huge in protecting Freeman as well as creating running lanes for the Buccaneer run game next year. Nicks was so important to the Saints’ the last few seasons that when Drew Brees was franchise tagged this offseason, he was upset New Orleans didn’t use the tag to keep Nicks. New Orleans’ loss is Buccaneer treasure.

Vincent Jackson will be, as Reggie Jackson once referred to himself, “the straw that stirs the drink”. Jackson was the big play receiver Phillip Rivers heavily relied on the past several seasons in San Diego. Jackson is a big play threat like the Bucs have never seen. He’s also a big target at around 6’ 5” and can help the Bucs’ redzone play, which was near the bottom of the league last season. Jackson will be worth every penny of the $55,555,555 contract he signed with the Bucs.

These moves have not only given me something to write about, but legitimately make the Bucs a contender this year. Knocking off the Saints and Falcons, and even staying ahead of the Panthers, will be no easy task. However, these moves provide much needed upgrades to the Bucs and excitement and rejuvenation at One Buc Place.

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