SR’s Fab 5 is a collection of inside scoop, analysis and insight from yours truly, Pewter Report publisher and Bucs beat writer Scott Reynolds. Here are a few things that caught my attention this week at One Buc Place:
FAB 1. WHAT DOES THE PROMOTION OF FRASER TO ASST. DC MEAN TO SHERIDAN?Some eyebrows were raised when Buccaneers linebackers coach Bob Fraser was promoted to the role of assistant defensive coordinator in the offseason. Is that a sign that defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan is on the hot seat?
There were some that called for the firing of Sheridan after Tampa Bay finished dead last in pass defense, surrendering 4,758 yards (297.4 yards per game). The Bucs were 39 yards shy of breaking the record for the most passing yards allowed in an NFL season.
But what ultimately allowed Sheridan to keep his job is the fact that it was the first time working with head coach Greg Schiano and it was his first time calling Schiano’s defense, in addition to the fact that Tampa Bay went from worst to first in run defense. The Bucs allowed just 82.5 rushing yards per game, and that was something Sheridan could hang his hat on.
According to NFL.com, only five defenses have finished first against the run and last against the pass since 1933: the 1939 Chicago Bears, the 1983 Washington Redskins, the Minnesota Vikings teams of 2006 and 2007 and the 2012 Buccaneers. Of those four teams, only the Redskins made the postseason, advancing to the Super Bowl before losing to the Los Angeles Raiders at Tampa Stadium, 38-9.
Sheridan remains the Bucs’ defensive play-caller, but he will get more assistance from Fraser, who served as Schiano’s right-hand man at Rutgers for several years. Fraser, who ceded the Bucs linebackers coaching position to former Rutgers defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Robb Smith. Fraser was the assistant to the head coach in 2006 before becoming the Scarlet Knights linebackers coach from 2007-08.
From 2009-10, Fraser became Schiano’s defensive coordinator in addition to coaching the linebackers. In 2011, Fraser remained as the Rutgers defensive coordinator, but moved to coaching the defensive line instead of the linebackers.
In 2011, the Scarlet Knights defense finished first in four defensive categories: total defense, scoring defense, pass defense and pass efficiency defense. Under Fraser’s watch, Rutgers ranked 14th in the nation in total defense, eighth in scoring defense, ninth in pass defense and fifth in pass efficiency defense. The Scarlet Knights also ranked 15th in sacks and eighth in tackles for loss nationally.
Fraser also achieved a great deal of success in his first season as defensive coordinator in 2009, helping Rutgers rank in the top 20 nationally in six categories, including leading the country in tackles for loss and ranking fourth in sacks. The Scarlet Knights were 15th in rushing defense, 16th in scoring defense and 18th in total defense.
While Fraser may not be a household name with Bucs fans or even in the NFL community, the guy can coach defense – especially Schiano’s defense as he now has seven years worth of experience.
“Bill is still the defensive coordinator,” Fraser said. “I think I’ll be able to help him with the front seven. He’ll be able to take care of the overall 11. I’ll be able to help focus on the front seven as I have coached the linebackers here. At Rutgers I coached the defensive line. I’ve got the background in the front seven the whole time in my career. I think I’ll be able to help him in some game plan stuff. I’ve done that before.”
Tampa Bay’s front seven played exceptionally well last year, especially against the run. Defensive tackle Gerald McCoy made his first Pro Bowl and rookie linebacker Lavonte David emerged as a force on defense as the team’s leading tackler with 139 stops, but defensive ends Adrian Clayborn and Da’Quan Bowers saw their productivity severely limited due to injury. Where the Bucs need to show improvement is in the pass-rushing department. Bowers and Clayborn, who was the leading sacker in 2011 as a rookie with 7.5, are now both healthy and should step up to help Tampa Bay record more than the 27 sacks the team notched in 2012.
While Fraser’s focus will be on the front seven as he helps scout opposing offenses and formulate the game plan, he won’t share joint play-calling duties with Sheridan.
“As we game plan for anybody, Bill and everybody on the staff has input,” Fraser said. “We all formulate it and Bill calls it on Sunday. The game is really called on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday in practice – and Coach Schiano has a real strong influence on everything. On Sundays, Bill is in charge of making the play calls, but every place I’ve been, the game is really played and called during the week with film study and practice. It’s just executed on Sunday. Look at the other team’s personnel, the down-and-distance … eeny, meeny, miney, mo – let’s pick that play.”
With the addition of Pro Bowl talent in cornerback Darrelle Revis and free safety Dashon Goldson, the secondary should be much improved over last year’s group, which allowed a league-high 65.4 percent completion percentage. The pressure is on Sheridan to master the play-calling this year and make the defense a playoff-caliber unit to match Tampa Bay’s prolific offense.
If significant strides aren’t made on defense this season, Schiano may turn to Fraser to replace Sheridan next year, or he may lean on special teams coordinator Dave Wannstedt or assistant to the head coach Butch Davis to fill that role as both men have won Super Bowl rings as defensive coordinators with the Dallas Cowboys. Heck, even Smith proved he could call plays at Rutgers as the team finished fourth in the nation in scoring defense, sixth against the run and 10th total defense last year as Fraser’s replacement as the Scarlet Knights finished the season 9-4.
FAB 2. WAS TAMPA BAY’S PASS DEFENSE AS BAD AS IT SEEMED IN 2012?While new Tampa Bay assistant defensive coordinator Bob Fraser knows the team’s pass defense, which ranked last in the NFL last year, needs to improve, he said that the statistics were skewed because of the dominant run defense. The Bucs ranked first against the run last year, allowing just 82.5 yards per game.
“We were new as a defense with what we did,” Fraser said. “The defensive front was able to play real well. When you defend the run as well as we did, that really says something. Even the secondary did a great job in defending the run.
“With what we’ve been able to do in the offseason with the players that Coach [Greg] Schiano and Mark Dominik were able to get, it’s only going to help us against the pass. I think everybody’s real excited about what is going on in practice and the attitude and how guys are working.”
The Bucs surrendered 4,758 passing yards last year, which was the second-most in NFL history behind Green Bay in 2011. However, the Packers happened to go 15-1 before losing in the playoffs to the eventual Super Bowl winning New York Giants, thanks to the prolific passing of quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
Even the 2011 New England Patriots team, which was previously the second-worst pass defense in history until the Bucs surpassed them last year, finished 13-3 that season behind the arm of legendary quarterback Tom Brady.
Here is where the Bucs’ pass defense ranks historically:
2011 Packers (15-1) – 4,796 pass yards, 29 pass TDs allowed, 31 INTs 2012 Bucs (7-9) – 4,758 pass yards, 30 pass TDs allowed, 18 INTs 2011 Patriots (13-3) – 4,703 pass yards, 26 pass TDs allowed, 23 INTs 2012 Saints (7-9) – 4,681 pass yards, 31 pass TDs allowed, 15 INTs
It should be noted that the Packers and Patriots had a much closer TD:INT ratio than the Bucs did. Tampa Bay allowed 30 passing touchdowns last year and recorded only 18 picks, which is a differential of 12.
It should be noted that the NFC South rival New Orleans Saints were nearly as bad as the Bucs were last year against the pass. New Orleans finished just 77 passing yards behind the Bucs last year, which made the Saints have the fourth-worst pass defense of all time. And the fact that the Saints allowed one more passing TD and had three fewer picks than the Bucs, in addition to giving up 7,042 total yards, which is the most in NFL history, is what prompted Sean Payton to fire Steve Spagnulo and hire Rob Ryan.
Despite the terrible statistics against the pass last year, Fraser feels the play of the defense wasn’t that bad. Because of the success of the Bucs rush defense – aided by 104 tackles for loss, which shattered the franchise record – Tampa Bay’s opponents simply chose to abandon the run in several games. The Bucs’ foes only ran the ball 377 times, but passed the ball 627 times, which skewed the statistics heavily in favor of the run defense and largely against the pass defense.
Fraser believes the Bucs made huge strides against the pass last year despite losing several key starters early on as defensive end Adrian Clayborn tore his ACL in Week 3 at Dallas, cornerback Aqib Talib was first suspended by the league for using the performance-enhancing drug Adderall and then traded, followed by fellow starting cornerback Eric Wright, who was suspended for four games for also using Adderall. The proof was in the fact that the fully-stocked defense surrendered 510 passing yards to Giants quarterback Eli Manning in a 41-34 loss at New York in Week 2, but improved by Week 17 to score a huge, 22-16 upset win at Atlanta (13-3), holding the Falcons to 278 yards and quarterback Matt Ryan to just 238 yards and one touchdown.
“We grew throughout the year and gained experience,” Fraser said. “The Giants game was one of those games where you just shake your head. You’re calling a blitz. You’re calling zone. Nothing was working in the second half. Up to that point, our defense was playing okay. Then you get to the end and we didn’t play real well. We’re excited about the guys we have now and the chemistry that is being developed this offseason. That will help us.
“We beat the Falcons without a lot of the starters we had for the Giants game. There’s no doubt. We won with guys like Leonard Johnson and Danny Gorrer starting and playing for us in the secondary. But most of our players got playing time throughout the whole season and they showed how much they improved in Atlanta. With experience and the work ethic our guys have shown and our new players – it’s going to help in all areas.”
Fraser was quick to point out that while newcomers like cornerbacks Darrelle Revis and Johnthan Banks and safety Dashon Goldson will make the Bucs secondary more talented, the experience gained from the team’s existing starters and reserves will prove to be just as significant in Year Two of the Schiano regime.
“Coach was at Rutgers for 12 years,” Fraser said. “A redshirt freshman had heard it all twice before he even got to play. A sophomore had heard it three times. Our guys have now heard it two or three times over two offseasons and the span of a long regular season, and we’re going to be better in all phases than we were a year ago.”
FAB 3. HOW MANY MORE COACHES DOES SCHIANO HAVE ON HIS STAFF THAN MORRIS DID?This offseason, Tampa Bay’s coaching staff has swollen to 24 members, including head coach Greg Schiano. There are actually 25 Bucs coaches when you factor in special assistant to the head coach Butch Davis, who does not coach on the field, but helps in film study and game preparation.
Those are six more assistants than the former Buccaneers regime had. In 2011, the last year in the Raheem Morris era, the Bucs had 19 men to coach offense (eight), defense (seven) and special teams (two), along with two strength and conditioning coaches.
Under Schiano, the offense has nine coaches in offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan, quarterbacks coach John McNulty, running backs coach Earnest Byner, wide receivers coach John Garrett, tight ends coach Brian Angelichio, offensive line coach Bob Bostad, assistant offensive line coach Steve Loney, senior offensive assistant Jimmy Raye and offensive assistant Ben McDaniels.
The defense actually boasts eight coaches in defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan, assistant defensive coordinator Bob Fraser, defensive line coach Randy Melvin, pass rush specialist Bryan Cox, linebackers coach Robb Smith, safeties coach Matt Hafley, cornerbacks coach Tony Oden, defensive assistant Tem Lukabu. Throw in Schiano, whose expertise is on defense, along with Davis, a former defensive coordinator and head coach in the NFL, and you could say the Bucs have 10 coaches to watch film and game plan with.
Expect new special teams coordinator Dave Wannstedt, a former head coach and defensive coordinator at both the pro and college level, to sit in on some defensive meetings from time to time, so there are actually 11 coaches that will have a hand in improving the defense. That’s four more defensive coaches than Morris had on his staff.
More importantly, six of the defensive staffers have coordinator experience at either the NFL or college level, including Schiano, Sheridan, Wannstedt, Davis, Fraser and Smith. Contrast that with Morris’ staff in 2011, in which only he had play-calling experience (and it was limited), and it’s no wonder the Bucs defense struggled against both the pass and the run.
The Bucs currently have the same amount of special teams coaches (two) as they did under Morris, but the team has increased its strength and conditioning staff from two in the Morris regime to three under Schiano.
FAB 4. IS RUTGERS’ STAR WR COLEMAN THE NEXT VJAX?Tampa Bay’s receiving corps might be the biggest in team history, highlighted by Pro Bowler Vincent Jackson, who stands 6-foot-5 and weighs a chiseled 230 pounds. Newcomers Carlton Mitchell and Jerry Johnson are each 6-foot-3, and weigh 215 and 211 pounds, respectively, while Terriun Crump is a physical specimen at 6-foot-2, 223 pounds and Derek Hagan is 6-foot-2, 210 pounds.
Starting flanker Mike Williams is a physical, 6-foot-1, 212-pounder, and Kevin Olgetree and Tiquan Underwood, who are vying for the third receiver spot, are both 6-foot-1. At 198 pounds, Olgetree is slightly bigger than Underwood, who weighs 183.
Reserves David Douglas and Chris Owusu, who were on the roster last year, stand 6-foot-1, 205 pounds and 6-foot, 196 pounds, respectively. The Bucs have just one receiver that is under 6-feet tall, and that is 5-foot-10, 180-pound Eric Page.
To say that Bucs head coach Greg Schiano likes big wide receivers for his offense, which features a vertical passing game, is an understatement, and that’s why Tampa Bay fans should know about Rutgers junior wide receiver Brandon Coleman, who is a player Schiano recruited to Piscataway, N.J. The appealing traits about Coleman’s game is his towering size (6-foot-6, 225 pounds) and his penchant for making big plays. Check out his amazing highlight reel by clicking here.
The huge target has an intriguing mix of size, speed, leaping ability and physicality that could make him a first-round pick in the 2014 NFL Draft should he leave Rutgers after his junior season. Coleman’s game closely resembles that of Jackson’s, and with Mike Williams not yet receiving a contract extension, and Tampa Bay still leery about the production at slot receiver where Underwood and Olgetree will battle, the Buccaneers could be in the market for another starting-caliber receiver in 2014.
Coleman has had to wait his turned to become the Scarlet Knights’ featured receiver after Mohammed Sanu and Mark Harrison occupied that role in each of the last two seasons. Although Harrison led Rutgers with a team-high 44 catches for 583 yards (13.3 avg.) and six touchdowns last year, Coleman had 43 catches and he led the team with a career-high 718 yards and 10 scores. His six-catch, 89-yard, two-touchdown performance in a 35-26 upset win over Arkansas was noteworthy, as was his six-catch, 104-yard effort in a 23-15 win over Syracuse.
Coleman averaged 32.5 yards per catch in 2011 during a breakthrough redshirt freshman campaign with 17 catches for 552 yards and six touchdowns. His first collegiate catch was a 44-yard touchdown in a 48-0 win over North Carolina Central. Weeks after catching three passes for 75 yards, including a decisive touchdown in 1 20-17 win against South Florida, he posted his first big game against UConn in a 40-22 defeat, catching six passes for 223 yards and two touchdowns.
One of Coleman’s goals is to join the 1,000-yard club at Rutgers, which has an exclusive membership consisting of only Sanu, Tim Brown, Tres Moses, Kenny Britt and the Bucs’ Underwood.
“My goal is to break 1,000,” Coleman told NJ.com this summer as he rehabs from minor offseason knee surgery.
Coleman also wants to become the school’s all-time touchdown leader, which he can accomplish with five more receiving touchdowns to reach 20. The Maryland native currently has 16 in his two seasons as a Scarlet Knight.
The Bucs have surprisingly passed on drafting any Rutgers players over the past two years despite having Schiano at the helm and a slew of former Scarlet Knights assistants on Tampa Bay’s staff. If the Bucs find that they have a need at receiver heading into the 2014 NFL Draft and Coleman makes himself available by leaving Rutgers a year early that could change.
FAB 5. Here are a few things to hold you over until the next edition of SR’s Fab 5:
• The rave reviews for Tampa Bay rookie cornerback Johnthan Banks keep coming. The Bucs’ second-round draft pick impressed the veterans by stepping into the starting lineup in the absence of Pro Bowler Darrelle Revis. Not only did Banks make very few mistakes, he also made a few plays.
“Banks is definitely coming along,” said second-year safety Keith Tandy. “You can see the good things he’s doing out there in the field. He has some small things he has to work on, but he’s definitely going to help us out this year.”
• The Bucs are expecting running back and return specialist Jeff Demps to join the team in mid-August once track and field season is over. The hope is that Demps, who was acquired from New England in a trade in the 2013 NFL Draft, can suit up for the final two preseason games and show enough playmaking ability to make the 53-man roster as a return specialist and a reserve runner.
If Demps can’t make the 53-man roster, the team sees plenty of value in the speedster from Florida to use his talents on the practice squad. The Bucs will face several mobile quarterbacks in 2013, including Philadelphia’s Michael Vick, Carolina’s Cam Newton, Seattle’s Russell Wilson and San Francisco’s Colin Kaepernick and the coaches have discussed Tampa Bay using Demps at quarterback to simulate those fast players in practice, especially with the rise of the read-option offense at the NFL level.
• Tampa Bay may have as many as four home sellouts prior to the start of the 2013 season if individual ticket sales remain strong throughout July and August. The Miami contest, which is a Monday Night Football game that will feature Warren Sapp being inducted into the Bucs’ Ring of Honor, is drawing a lot of interest, as well as the home opener against New Orleans in Week 2, and contests against Philadelphia and San Francisco.
The Tampa Bay area has a lot of transplants from Philly, which means there could be a good deal of Eagles fans attending that particular game. San Francisco, which was the NFC champion and the conference’s Super Bowl representative, is an exciting team featuring the dynamic talents of Colin Kaepernick.
The other game that could have a chance at selling out after the season begins is the Thursday night game against Carolina. That game primetime will be televised on NFL Network.
• And finally, the Pewter Reporters are set to return to the radio airwaves next week as Buccaneers training camp starts. PewterReport.com is entering an exclusive partnership with Tampa Bay’s first FM sports talk radio station 98.7 FM The Fan. A formal press release will be issued next week, but here is the important information.
Scott Reynolds and Mark Cook will make regularly scheduled appearances called PewterReport.com Radio on all of the locally produced 98.7 The Fan radio shows each week. Here is a list of those appearances that will begin in one week:
Monday – PewterReport.com With Scott Reynolds on Booger & Rich – 4:00 p.m. ETMonday – PewterReport.com With Mark Cook on The Fabulous Sports Babe – 9:20 p.m. ET
Wednesday – PewterReport.com With Mark Cook on Fan Interference (with Justin Pawlawski, Jim Lighthall and Jeff “Pants” Pantridge) – 10:00 a.m. ET
Thursday – PewterReport.com With Scott Reynolds on Kirk & Dinger – 8:00 a.m. ET
Friday – PewterReport.com With Scott Reynolds on Booger & Rich – 4:00 p.m. ET
Podcasts of these PewterReport.com Radio appearances on 98.7 The Fan will be made available that same day and accessible to all PewterReport.com visitors. In addition to the regularly scheduled appearances, Reynolds and Cook will also be doing periodic call-ins to all of the local 98.7 The Fan shows with Bucs training camp updates.
Scott Reynolds is in his 23rd year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds enjoys giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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