Bucs use draft to bolster NFL's worst defense
TAMPA, Fla. (AP)
Intent on overhauling the NFL's worst pass defense, general manager Mark Dominik and coach Greg Schiano used five of their first six picks in the draft to patch a leaky secondary, bolster a defensive line weakened by free agency and heighten expectations for the upcoming season.
Schiano noted Saturday that it's only April, so it's difficult to gauge how much better the Bucs are than they were at the end of last season.
The second-year coach is confident, though, that the building process is headed in the right direction.
''We're building it our way, we're building it with our kind of people. I'm excited,'' Schiano said. ''I believe we made ourselves better. I know we made ourselves better.''
An aggressive plan to remake the defense was launched with the signing of All-Pro safety Dashon Goldson in free agency. The effort really took off with the pre-draft trade that landed Revis, a three-time All-Pro cornerback looking for a big payday, from the New York Jets in exchange for Tampa Bay's first-round pick, No. 13 overall.
The Bucs selected Mississippi State cornerback Johnthan Banks in the second round, then turned their attention to the defensive line with a pair of fourth-round picks spent on Illinois tackle Akeem Spence and Michigan State end William Gholston, cousin of former Jets first-round pick Vernon Gholston.
The linemen were Tampa Bay's first two picks Saturday. Buffalo pass rusher Steven Means was added in the fifth round, and Miami running back Mike James - joining third-round quarterback Mike Glennon as the only offensive players selected by the Bucs - was the team's final pick in Round Six, No. 189 overall.
Meanwhile, the Bucs traded reserve running back LeGarrette Blount to the New England Patriots for a seventh-round pick and the rights to Olympic sprinter Jeff Demps, who was undrafted last year after telling teams he wanted to focus on his track career.
Dominik used the pick received the Patriots to move up seven spots in the sixth round to select James, who rushed for 1,386 yards and 17 touchdowns during his college career.
The GM said Demps, who signed with New England as a free agent last summer, was not the motivation for the deal.
The former Florida running back was a silver medalist as part of the 4x100 relay team that finished second to Jamaica at the 2012 London Games. He has not played in a regular season NFL game, and the Patriots were unable to get a commitment from him to give up track and devote himself full-time to football.
''We're just taking the rights to see what happens,'' Dominik said.
Blount, who entering the final year of his contract, was a 1,000-yard as a rookie with the Bucs after going undrafted in 2010. He led Tampa Bay in rushing again with 781 yards the following year, but lost his starting job after Doug Martin joined the team as a first-round draft pick in 2012.
''We felt like as an organization, this is in the best interest of the team,'' Dominik said of moving Blount, who didn't figure to play much with Martin coming off a Pro Bowl rookie season.
The Bucs moved up 12 spots Saturday to make Spence the 100th overall selection. In addition to swapping positions with Oakland in the fourth round, Tampa Bay sent one of its two sixth-round picks to the Raiders in exchange for the opportunity to grab the 6-foot-1, 307-pound tackle.
Adding Spence addressed a need created by the loss of Roy Miller to free agency. Gholston will compete for an opportunity to fill to contribute at a position weakened by the departure of Michael Bennett, who led the team in sacks last season.
''I heard Coach Schiano's voice on the phone and I about had a heart attack,'' an elated Spence said by telephone from his family's home in Fort Walton Beach, Fla.
Spence, who bypassed his final year of eligibility in college to enter the draft, had 17 1-2 tackles for loss, including 3 1/2 sacks, in three seasons at Illinois.
Gholston was a key member of one of the best defensives in the Big Ten, finishing with 30 career tackles for loss, including 10 sacks - good numbers, but not overwhelming.
The 6-foot-7, 278-pound end said he's working hard to dispel the notion that he was inconsistent with the Spartans.
''When a play was there to be made, I felt like I took advantage of the opportunity. But I also played within the scheme of the defense,'' Gholston added, noting Michigan State's ranked high statistically in the Big Ten, as well as nationally, in total defense that past few seasons.
''I feel like my numbers may not have been that high, but as a unit we worked efficiently,'' he said, ''and everything I did helped out my team.''