Bucs hope to build on recent draft success
Tampa Bay needs a pass rusher.
Statistics suggest it, NFL draft analysts believe it, and even
Buccaneers general manager Mark Dominik concedes it. Yes, a
defensive end with the ability to put heat on quarterbacks is the
most pressing need for a team that won 10 games and narrowly missed
making the playoffs last season.
”I would say I don’t disagree with that, but again it doesn’t
mean that’s what our first pick is going to be,” Dominik said,
careful to not provide the slightest hint of what the Bucs feel
they could – or should – do with the 20th selection of the first
round. ”If our first pick isn’t defensive end, it doesn’t mean
that we can’t get to the quarterback ever again.”
But playing in the NFC South, where the New Orleans Saints have
Drew Brees, the Atlanta Falcons feature Matt Ryan and the Carolina
Panthers may be considering drafting Auburn quarterback Cam Newton
first overall, its seems imperative that Dominik and coach Raheem
Morris address the weakness sooner rather than later.
Tampa Bay ranked 30th among 32 teams in sacks with 26 a year
ago, despite using their first two picks in the 2010 draft on a
pair of defensive tackles who arrived with strong pass rushing
resumes from college.
Gerald McCoy, the third overall pick behind Sam Bradford and
Ndamukong Suh, got off to a slow start in an injury-shortened
rookie season and finished with three sacks in 13 games.
Second-round selection Brian Price played sparingly in five games
before spending the second half of the season on injured
The Bucs have not drafted a defensive end that’s developed into
a dominant player since taking Hall of Famer Lee Roy Selmon with
the franchise’s first ever pick in 1976.
The pass rush has been in decline since free agent acquisition
Simeon Rice had 14 sacks in 2005, ending a stretch of five
consecutive seasons in which he had at least 11.
Morris serves as his own defensive coordinator, however he’s
already shown he understands the team has multiple needs on draft
”When we had pick No. 20 before, the whole town wanted a
defensive player and we took Josh Freeman,” Morris said, referring
to Tampa Bay moving up xxx spots to select the Kansas State
quarterback two years ago.
”It was an unpopular choice and now people get it. It’s hard to
question what our guys have done the last couple of years in the
draft, plus bringing in guys from practice squads off other teams.
You follow your board. We have a belief in each other to get a
successful player that can help you.”
With the team’s best defensive player, Aqib Talib, facing legal
problems and a potential league suspension stemming from a shooting
incident in Texas this offseason, cornerback could be a priority,
Dominik said he’s encouraged by the development of several young
cornerbacks, including E.J. Biggers and 2010 draft pick Myron
Lewis, yet stressed that that’s position that always receives his
attention at this time of the year.
”I don’t think you can ever have enough cornerbacks. … That’s
a position I’m always going to put high on my priority list,”
Dominik said, adding that his stance has not been influenced by
uncertainty surrounding Talib’s situation.
”It doesn’t really affect me other than it just reinforces my
opinion that you can never have enough cornerbacks in the National
Football League,” Dominik said. ”We have, right now, eight
selections, and who knows where we’re going to use them and at what
Talib led the Bucs with six interceptions in 2010, despite
missing one game while serving a suspension for violating the NFL’s
personal conduct policy and four others after suffering a
season-ending hip injury. He was tied for second in the league in
interceptions when he was injured and has 15 since joining as a
first-round draft pick in 2008.
Although Dominik did not specifically say the Bucs might
consider selecting a cornerback early, he also didn’t rule out that
”You have to take the draft as it comes to you, and take
advantage of the player that you think can best help your football
team short term and long term,” the general manager said.
The Bucs went from winning three games in 2009 – their first
season under Morris – to 10 wins last year, thanks in part to
having solid drafts the past two springs.
Dominik, promoted GM as the same time Morris replaced former
coach Jon Gruden, said another productive class will be essential
to continued growth.
”We’re at the beginning of this process with this football
team. I like the success we had last year. But we didn’t make the
playoff, we didn’t win a playoff game. We really haven’t
accomplished much. We’re just getting out of the starting gates,”
the general manager said.
”Certainly you’re not going to hit on every player … but over
the last couple of years, I think we’re really hitting our stride.
But we’re continuing to push our scouting department, and make them
think in different ways to continue to keep them fresh and make
sure we don’t get complacent.”