Hungry Buccaneers eager to begin Schiano era
A lucrative five-year, $47.5 million contract was just one of
the reasons Carl Nicks found the Tampa Bay Buccaneers attractive in
The All-Pro left guard spent the past four seasons in New
Orleans as a key blocker for Drew Brees on the Saints’
record-setting offense. He believes his new team also has the
talent to put up impressive numbers, climb out of the NFC South
cellar and become a Super Bowl contender.
The Bucs were 27th in the NFL in scoring and also had one of the
league’s least productive running games last year. But they’ve got
a rising young quarterback in Josh Freeman, and Nicks and receiver
Vincent Jackson were part of a one-day free agent haul that new
coach Greg Schiano is counting on to make a difference.
Tampa Bay finished 4-12 in 2011, including 10 consecutive losses
to end the season.
Nicks, Jackson and cornerback Eric Wright signed deals worth a
combined $140.55 million on the first day of free agency, each
believing they were joining a talented young team that – despite
its struggles under fired coach Raheem Morris – was headed in the
”It’s not a rebuilding year. We’re trying to win,” Nicks said.
”We’re trying to shock teams kind of like Detroit did after their
few years of not doing so good and how San Francisco shocked the
world last season. We’re trying to do something like that, bringing
in veteran guys, skill guys, Pro Bowlers. It’s going to be fun to
see what we do out there.”
Freeman shed 20 pounds during offseason and also reported to
training camp sporting a stylish new haircut, eager to put a
disappointing season behind him.
A year after having one of the league’s best
touchdowns-to-interceptions ratios with 25 TDs and only six picks
while nearly leading the Bucs to a playoff berth, the 6-foot-6,
240-pound quarterback threw for 16 touchdowns and 22
Tampa Bay’s defense also shouldered part of the responsibility
for the club’s collapse following a 4-2 start. The Bucs yielded an
NFL-worst and franchise-record 494 points, while also finishing
30th among 32 teams in yards allowed and last in rushing defense,
sacks and turnover margin.
”Reality is a beast, and last year was reality,” two-time Pro
Bowl right guard Davin Joseph said, noting players reported this
summer with a renewed determination to do whatever’s necessary to
”If you don’t commit to the offseason, if you don’t have
structure, you don’t have discipline, you’re not going to be very
good,” the seventh-year pro added. ”I think reality hit a lot of
guys last year on potentially how short your career can be without
wins and potentially how miserable football can be without wins. A
lot of guys are committed to putting football first now. That’s
exactly what we need.”
Joseph suffered a season-ending right knee injury in the third
preseason game, an injury that strips the club of some veteran
leadership and also figures to make narrowing the gap on the rest
of the quarterback-driven NFC South more difficult.
But Schiano remains confident the Bucs can get the job done.
In addition to bringing in Jackson, who had 37 touchdown catches
in seven seasons with the Chargers, the former Rutgers coach signed
tight end Dallas Clark. Then he drafted running back Doug Martin
late in the first round in hopes of taking some of the burden off
Freeman with a consistent ground game.
Rookies are also being counted on to make an impact on
Safety Mark Barron was the seventh overall pick, and
second-round selection Lavonte David has played his way into the
lineup at linebacker. With five-time Pro Bowl cornerback Ronde
Barber shifting to free safety, the Bucs technically will open the
season with new starters in three of four spots in the secondary.
Barron was a playmaker at Alabama, helping the Crimson Tide win
national titles two of the past three years. He’s already made an
impression on veterans such as Barber and cornerback Aqib
”He’s an NFL-ready dude,” Talib said. ”Some people grow up
faster than other people. That boy, he’s grown. He’s ready.”
With David playing well in the preseason, and returning starters
Quincy Black and Mason Foster progressing in the system, Schiano
feels linebacker could emerge as a strength, too, especially if
third-year tackle Gerald McCoy can remain healthy and elevate play
on the defensive line.
”The whole thing is, doing your job,” Schiano said. ”One of
the things you can’t do as a defensive player is try to do too
much, because what happens then is you try to do too much and
something opens up, you have a big play and then guys start to lose
confidence in what they’re doing. So we’ve just got to do our job
and do it consistently..”
That also applies to Freeman.
Schiano brought in former New York Giants quarterbacks coach
Mike Sullivan as his offensive coordinator. New quarterbacks coach
Ron Turner has worked with the fourth-year pro on his footwork in
the offseason, while Sullivan focused on the 24-year-old’s
decision-making in the pocket.
”I think just like the whole team, he’s improving every day.
And part of that is decision-making,” Schiano said.
”It’s very much like a fighter pilot. They’re making
split-second or high-speed decisions … and then you have to
execute once you make those decisions,” the coach added.
”Defensively, we’re trying to show him looks and take them away so
he’s got to really figure it out, and I think he’s doing better
every single day. That’s what we have to do at every position, but
we all know how important the quarterback position is.”
Online: http://bigstory.ap.org/NFL-Pro32 and