And Now A Break From Your Regularly Scheduled Programming....

If there's one thing I enjoy more than the NFL it's college football, although that might have more to do with my rooting interests (Gators and Bucs) lately. The NCAA has an overwhelming rootability (might not be a real word) to it which the NFL lacks. Each game holds so much more importance and the players have so much more passion compared to the NFL. The NFL has become a collection of free-lancing assassains offering their services to the highest bidder. So with the NCAA kickoff weekend beginning tomorrow I present previews of the Sunshines State's college football programs....

University of Florida
Florida State University
University of Miami
University of South Florida

And for what it's worth I will have recap of last nite's game later, much later, like tomorrow.


Bucs Cut Players We've Never Heard Of

The Bucs released nine players yesterday which means they have to trim two more of the roster by today to get down to 75. And chances are the two other players cut are no names as well.

The final round of cuts comes Saturday, which promises to be much more interesting. Teams will have to reduce their rosters down to 53 by then, and Chris Simms' job hangs in the balance.


Exhibition Game 3: Recap

No question about it, Cato June made the play of the game stripping the ball from a Phins receiver and running it in for a touchdown. June's play was positively Derrick Brooks-esque. If June keeps playing at this level he will be THE steal of the NFL offseason.

I still don't see think Jeff Garcia is 100% comfortable with the offense, which is to be expected. While the interception wasn't completely his fault it was still a poor pass and Garcia has enough experience to know NOT to throw that pass. While the offense has plenty of potential it will take them a few more weeks to gel.

Speaking Brooks before he looks like he still has it. During a goal line stand Brooks did a nice job of getting into the backfield to hit Ronnie Brown. This defense badly needed playmakers, guys like Brooks who can make those special game changing plays, and the additions of June and Gaines Adams should get the Bucs closer to the level the defense was on just a few years ago.

For an exhibition game there were a good number of trick plays run. The Phins scored on a statue of liberty play, the Bucs ran a double reverse with David Boston, and the Bucs even faked a field goal and had Matt Bryant pooch punt the ball. My guess is the trick plays were more for the player's amusement than any greater analysis purpose.

Finally, we have a Michael Clayton signing. Clayton had two catches for 24 yards and played with some fire, fightin for yards after the catch. With Maurice Stovall's disappearing act Clayton looks like he locked up the second receiver battle.

The Bucs startinig defense struggled against Ronnie Brown but that is hardly new. The Bucs undersized defense has historically struggled against power running attacks. The Tampa Two defense is designed to stop the west coast passing offense and has limited success against running teams.

I'm starting to sound like a broken record but Garcia to Joey Galloway is going to be money this season. In a very similar play from last week's game Garcia's ability to scramble gave Galloway extra time to get open in the end zone. Last week it was Boston who made the catch but Galloway's speed and awareness will get him open consistently.

Finally, Chris Simms did not play. Simms has still not played a single play this exhibition season. My mistake, Simms did attempt one pass but it was incomplete.


The David Boston Video

So I just finished watching the video of Davis Boston's sobriety tests and there is a whole lot to digest. It seems pretty damn likely to me that Boston is inebriated some how, most likely on pain killers or grass, (as the kids call it). After all he was found asleep at the wheel of his car at an intersection with the motor running. Sure that happens all the time in Florida, but the drivers are typically about 60 years older than Boston and have hearing aids and pacemakers.

As was pointed out in the Swamp, the cop who administered the sobriety test was a bit of a dick. Despite constantly referring to Boston as a professional athlete and asking him about training camp at the end the cop says he wants to protect Boston's privacy. This after a series of smart ass questions formt he cop about if Boston went to college, as though it takes a college education to repeat the alphabet.

For the record Boston passed all the sobriety tests including the breathalyzer at the station. At no point did he test positive for alcohol, although I am assuming the cops drew blood and will test that for other substances.

It's amazing how quickly this video made it onto the internet. The arrest happend at about 8 pm Thursday and by Saturday morning it was on the internet. SportsCenter/OTL had a special this morning on how social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook have gotten college athletes in trouble for the kind of shenanigans we know go on (hazing, under age drinking) but when they come to the light of day the administration is forced to punish. It's kinda scary we are getting to the point as a society where everything we do is recorded and played back on the internet, and it is just magnified for someone already living in a fish bowl like Boston.


Hate to Say We Told You So

David Boston was arrested for a DUI last night. Raise your hand if you are surprised.

Nobody? Yeah. me neither.

That's what I thought.

cross posted at Draft Day Suit

So Much for the David Boston Reclamation Project

David Boston arrested early last night on DUI charges.

I gotta run but go check out BucStats for all the juicy details and dripping sarcasm. Even if he occasionally gets his facts a but confused.


Comparing Apples to Oranges

The Sticks of Fire (#1 blog in da TB hood G) is running a poll asking which team will be better this year, the Bucs or the USF Bulls. The results are not encouraging for our beloved Bucs, who are getting smoked. Ignoring that there is no reliable statistical measurement to compare the two teams (winning percentage does about the best job but is still shaky) I will instead use this space to praise The Juggernaut To Be That Is The USF Bulls.

The Bulls are poised to pull a Rutgers type run this year in the Big East. Jim Leavitt has done an absolutely amazing job building this team from literally nothing, as the Bulls football program did not even exist 12 years ago. The depth and quality of high school recruits coming out of the Sunshine State is outstanding, Florida is not only able to sustain three top tier football programs but has lifted both the USF and (oddly enough) Rutgers programs. If the Bulls can get past their early season game at Auburn, they will have a chance to run the table with WVU and Louisville coming to Tampa.

On a somewhat parallel note, I will be writing a good deal for the Stick this season. You will be able to find Bucs game previews in addition to posts on other goings ons, such as the Wide Web of (Tampa Bay) Sports.


Ruud Takes Vacation From Himself

If there have been any worries about Barrut Ruud assuming the Mike position full time, I can safely dismiss those worries after witnessing Ruud's mustache. In the grand ol' tradition of Tom Selleck, Teddy Roosevelt and Salvador Dali it appears Ruud sported the 'stache for much of training camp before finally bowing to the societal norms of lesser people. If I have one plea this season to Ruud hear me now, GROW IT OUT! LET YOUR LIP HAIR BE FREE!!!

(And one million Best Bucs points to Ruud for the obscure Seinfeld reference.)


Fantasy Take: Drafting a Buc

With the exception of a few of their receivers drafting a Buc the last few seasons has been a really bad idea. Chances are if you had Cadillac Williams last season he was nothing more than an anchor dragging your team down. But things appear to be different this season, Jeff Garcia has come to save the day and the offensive line should be the best of the Gruden era. Let's take a look at the Bucs players worth considering for your fantasy team (last season's stats are listed)....

Cadillac Williams - 798 rushing yards, 1 TD
ESPN.com has Williams going off the board on average somewhere in the middle of the fourth round (44th overall) which seems a bit late based on some of the drafts I've seen. After a stellar rookie season it appears a good number of people are backing off Cadillac following his sophomore slump. And with good reason, Cadillac has struggled with injuries (although which backs haven't?) and he is unlikely to supplant Michael Pittman as the team's third down back.

That being written, Cadillac has a good deal of value especially if you can get him in the late third or fourth round. I subscribe to the theory that says nothing is more valuable to a fantasy team than a good running back, and I believe we will see more of the rookie Cadillac than the sophomore Cadillac this season. While having a competent quarterback will certainly help, the upgraded line should do the most good for Cadillac (although the apparent loss of Arron Sears is a setback). Additionally, not having touchdown vulture Mike Alstott around should bump up Cadillac's touchdown numbers.

Joey Galloway - 1057 receiving yards, 7 TDs
Old Man Galloway has been the Bucs most successful fantasy contributor and should continue to be worth starting this season. The biggest knock on Galloway had been his age and people have backed off him despite back-to-back 1,000 yard seasons (71st overall pick). What most people don't know is that Galloway has a super duper secret off season workout program which has kept him in near mint condition.

More importantly, the arrival of Jeff Garcia should be a huge boost for Galloway's numbers. Garcia's ability to buy time in the pocket should pair perfectly with the speed of a veteran receiver like Galloway. I lost count of the number of times Galloway was wide open last season only to be underthrown by Bruce Gradkowski. Galloway remains the number one receiver by a wide margin and Gruden's obsession with throwing the ball should guarantee Galloway touches the ball plenty no matter how many games the Bucs win (or lose).

Jeff Garcia - 1309 passing yards, 10 TDs, 2 INTs
It's kinda pathetic that Garcia is the best quarterback the Bucs have had since Steve Young left town. But on the bright side that means we can look forward to the best fantasy season from a Bucs quarterback in the history of fantasy football. Garcia is a perfect fit for Gruden's offense, a mobile experienced quarterback who is an accurate passer.

One of Gruden's greatest strengths as a coach is his ability to turn middling quarterbacks into very good quarterbacks (Exhibit A: Rich Gannon). One of the better offensive play callers in the NFL Gruden has invested a number of picks on the offense, most of them on the line. All these factors combined should create a perfect storm of sorts for Garcia, who is drafted on average at 154 over all, which makes him the 26th quarterback off the board. Draft Garcia higher than that and expect good results.

Alex Smith - 367 receiving yards, 2 TDs
Oddly enough, after the Bucs Top Three the next Tampa Bay player off the board is Jerremy Stevens at the average position of 185 overall. Which is insane since there has been little doubt the entire training camp that Alex Smith will be the Bucs starting tightend. I've been high on Smith since his first game when he caught two touchdowns but since then Smith has been handicapped by the offensive line's inability to pass block. Gruden has been forced to keep Smith on the line to help block as opposed to running routes. Which is a shame since Smith is the prototypical receiving tightend a la Antonio Gates and Tony Gonzalez. Unfortuantely I still don't see a huge improvement in Smith's stats until the line can prove it can pass block on a consistent basis but keep an eye on Smith for the future.

So yeah, stay away from Stevens.

Buccaneer Defense - 41 TDs allowed, 25 sacks, 3 INTs
Even when they where one of the top ranked defenses the Bucs did not have one of the better fantasy defenses. For the first time in eight years the Bucs dropped out of the top ten ranked defenses at the end of the season. While the Bucs have added a good deal of talent to the defense I would not recommend going anywhere near the defense come draft time.

Michael Pittman - 245 rushing yards, 1 TD
One of the more versatile backs in the league Pittman has pulled triple duties as the kick returner, third down back and part time fullback. But even with Alstott gone Pittman does not have much fantasy value unless Cadillac is unable to play.

Michael Clayton, Maurice Stovall, David Boston, Ike Hilliard
While the Bucs have a good deal of depth at the receiver position out of the above named group there are a lot of "buts". For the past two seasons Clayton has been tabbed as the second receiver but has failed to live up to expectations. Stovall looked good in his rookie season but it remains to be seen if he is anything more than a third receiver. Boston has excelled in the exhibition season but has yet to prove he carry that success into the regular season. And Hilliard is just really old.


Preseason Game 2: Recap

I've been noticably absent the last week (or judging by my hits no one noticed) but that should change over the next few weeks. With the first round of cuts approaching we could see a few well known names not making the team, especially with the influx of new players. Additionally, coming soon I will release my second fantasy football look at the Bucs.

Jeff Garcia is still not 100% comfortable with the offense. He had two fumbles which resulted from miscues with the center and with Michael Pittman. Garcia's struggles are to be expected, he is after all learning an entirely new offense in addition to working on his timing with new receivers. But at this rate Garcia will struggle going into the beginning of the regular season.

That being written Garcia did display some flashes of excellence which goes to show why Gruden wanted this guy so badly. Garcia's mobility gave the Jags top rated defense problems and Garcia's ability to buy time in the pocket allowed David Boston to get open in the end zone for the first touchdown of the game.

It is looking more and more likely we will see a considerable amount of the 3-4 formation out of the defense this season. The Bucs ran the formation successfully during yesterday's game, which produced at least one sack. The Bucs added some personnel (Patrick Chuckwara, Kevin Carter, Quincy Black) who are tweeners well suited to running the 3-4. In fact, considering both the 3-4 and Tampa Two defenses rely on speedy tweeners it makes a good deal of sense to run both defenses.

Was that really Luke McCown who caught Jags safety Jamal Fudge from behind? For those who missed the play Fudge recovered a fumble in the middle of the field and looked like he a clear lane to the endzone before McCown caught up with Fudge. He's no Vince Young but McCown has some wheels as evidenced by his team leading 37 rushing yards yesterday. Speaking of fast white guys.....

Just when Sabby Piscistelli seems like the next great Bucs safety he goes and makes a boneheaded play. Sabby did a good job of putting himself in position to makes plays and clearly has some speed, but he also missed at least one tackle in the open field and dropped an easy interception. Sabby is competing with Jermaine Phillips for the starting spot, and Sabby would be the clear favorite is he was just a bit more consistent.

B.J. Askew appears to be the favorite to win the starting fullback spot, although to be honest I don't know for sure who the Bucs starting fullback was. I watched a replay of the game on the NFL Network which showed the local Jacksonville broadcast of the game for the first half. No surprise but the local Jacksonville guys didn't even bother mentioning who was starting for the Bucs and rarely announced position changes.

Tackling, which was one of the Bucs weaknesses last season, was problematic again last night. It wasn't just the backups who missed tackles, Ronde Barber struggled against guys in the open field for the second straight exhibition game. One of the Bucs hallmarks during the zenith of their defense was their sure tackling, once they wrapped somebody up that person rarely escaped.

Finally, for the second straight game Chris Simms did not play. It it looking very likely Simms will be cut from the team.


Exhibition Game 1: Recap

Last night's game is a prime example of how misleading both final stats and final scores can be in exhibition games. Despite winning the game and outrushing the Pats 169 to 89 it's clear that the Pats starting offense is better than the Bucs starting offense. Jeff Garcia and the rest of the offense looked out of synch, and the line was clearly not up to pass blocking. Granted it was only the first game of the exhibition season and the Bucs were missing several starters on offense.

Interesting enough Michael Pittman pulled double duties last night as both Mike Alstott's replacement at fullback and the third down back. Pittman has excelled as the third down back, in fact he is one of the best receivers on the team. I don't know how good of a blocker he can be on a consistent basis though, so it remains to be seen if he could potentially be the full time fullback.

Speaking of backs, Earnest Graham has a new competitor for the title of Mr. August. Kenneth Darby looked damn good, and even broke off a run of 21 yards to go with 84 total yards in rushing. Both Graham and Darby will have a tough time making the roster, so the competition between the two should get interesting.

Gaines Adams looked good in limited play, although he still has some work to do in playing against the run. He was a bit overeager to rush the passer, and took himself out of the play a few times. He did look good against the pass, and even gave the Pats starting left tackle fits.


Exhibition Game 1: What to Watch For

I can't stand the hyping of exhibition games, for the most part they are meaningless and are boring to watch. It's criminal that teams charge fans full regular season price for preseason game tickets. Even the term "preseason" is misleading since it implies these games have some value approaching that of a regular season or even postseason game.

That being written, there are some things to watch for tonight. It is always interesting to see how rookies will do during a full game speed situation. Additionally, these preseason games decide closely fought position battles. So here's what to watch for....

  • Rookies: The Bucs have a number of rookies to watch on the defense but the only rookie who will be starting tonight will be playing offense. Guard Aaron Sears is the latest addition in Gruden and company's attempts to rebuild the line, and it will be interesting to see how Sears plays with left tackle Anthony Davis.
  • Other Rookies: Highly touted defensive end Gaines Adams is supposed to be the savior for the franchise but even with Simeon Rice cut from the team Adams is second on the depth chart behind Patrick Chuckwurah. Which means Adams will likely be playing against the Pat's second stringers, so take any plays he makes with a grain of salt.
  • More Other Rookies: Rookie safeties Sabby Piscitelli and Tanard Jackson both have a realisitc shot at ursurping Jermaine Phillips and Will Allen. Allen was shaky at times last season and Phillips was downright pitiful to watch. Despite battling injuries Sabby has played well during training camp and if he plays well in the exhibition games will likely surpass Phillips on the deoth chart.
  • Position Battles: Despite what the analysts on SportsCenter are declaring at this very moment Jeff Garcia has a stranglehold on the starting quarterback position. His only realistic competition, Chris Simms, has struggled in training camp. Instead the position battle to watch is for the flanker receiver spot between Michael Clayton and Maurice Stovall. Despite playing in just his second year Stovall has surpassed Clayton on the depth chart. Considering how depleted the Pats secondary is at the moment we could see some fireworks from the receivers as they attempt to outdo each other.

Alstott in the Hall of Fame?

I have little to add to Mike Alstott's retirement beyond what has already been written. In his eleven years in Tampa Bay Mike has become THE fan favorite. The A-Train's legacy with Tampa Bay rivals every Buc but Lee Roy Selmon. But does Alstott deserve to be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame?

The trickiest thing with Alstott is figuring out which position he played. Alstott carried the ball more than other fullbacks in the modern era. Six times Alstott made the Pro Bowl as a fullback even though he received ten or twelve carries a game. So is Alstott a fullback, a halfback or a hybrid?

If we compare Alstott to other halfbacks he does not stand a chance at getting into Canton. Let's do a quick comparison of Alstott with some other halfbacks in the HoF...

Mike Alstott 5088 3.7 58 2284 7.5 13
Franco Harris 12120 4.1 91 2287 7.4 9
John Riggins 11352 3.9 104 2090 8.4 12
Jerome Bettis 13662 3.9 91 1449 7.2 3

For comparisons purposes I tried to select halfbacks with a similar style to Alstott, i.e. power runners. I threw in Jerome Bettis as well, who is not in the HoF but is a lock to get in when he is eligible. The first thing that jumps out at you is how many more yards everyone else has compared to Alstott. John Riggins, who is probably the most similar back to Alstott, has more than twice as many rushing yards as the A-Train. To Alstott's credit he has compiled a considerable amount of receiving yards, more than most other power backs. Alstott's receiving skills have been the most underrated part of his game. But if you consider Alstott to be a halfback then there's no way you can vote him into the HoF.

Now let's compare Alstott to fullbacks in the HoF....

Mike Alstott 5088 3.7 58 2284 7.5 13
Larry Csonka 8081 4.3 64 820 7.7 4
John Henry Johnson 6803 4.3 48 1478 7.9 7
Jim Taylor 8597 4.4 83 1756 7.8 10

Even when you factor in receiving yards Alstott still falls short of what other fullbacks have accomplished. More importantly Alstott was never the devastating blocker that a guy like John Henry Johnson was. So even when compared to fullbacks Alstott does not have the stats OR blocking ability to get into the HoF.

Alstott is a throwback to an earlier era, an era before Bill Walsh made the west coast offense the style du jour. He's one of the few players from the present day game that would have been more comfortable playing fifty or sixty years ago. In fact, Buccaneer fans will remember the days when Mike Shula did his best to recreate a throwback offense, which was remarkable only in how predictable it was. "First Down: Alstott up the middle. Second Down: Alstott to the right. Third Down: Incomplete pass. Fourth Down: Punt."

In the end, I don't think you can make a rational argument for Alstott to get into the HoF. Sure he deserves to be in the still mythical Buccaneer Hall of Fame, and there's something to be said for a guy like Alstott who brought a lunch pail mentality to the field. But the A-Train has not accumulated the kind of stats necessary to get into the HoF.

On a side note, despite playing only five seasons together, Alstott will always be linked with Warrick Dunn. It's no coincidence that Alstott had the best years of his career while he played with Dunn. The highly acclaimed Thunder and Lightning combo comlimented each other perfectly. Dunn kept opponents guessing where he would go and what he would do. And when Dunn had defenders on their heels, Alstott ran guys over straight up the middle. During their five years together in Tampa the duo averaged 1561 rushing yards a season. If there was some way you could roll Dunn and Alstott into one player that player would be voted in the HoF.

But while Alstott may not get into the Pro HoF he has earned his way into the Fantasy HoF....


Son of a...

I have a problem. Behold my football jerseys:

Joe Jurevicius
WR Tampa Bay Buccaneers 2002 - 2004

Martin Gramatica
K Tampa Bay Buccaneers 1999 - 2003

Warren Sapp
DT Tampa Bay Buccaneers 1995 - 2003

John Lynch
FS Tampa Bay Buccaneers 1993 - 2003

Simeon Rice
DE Tampa Bay Buccaneers 2001- 2006

Mike Alstott
FB Tampa Bay Buccaneers
1996 - Not looking good

I'm starting to feel responsible. I should have purchased a Kenyatta Walker jersey years ago.

I still have this:

But there is a small problem:

At least my kids are current.

Cross posted at Draft Day Suit


1st Depth Chart Released

You can find the entire thing here.

No huge surprises, especially since it is so early. Worth noting is that Maurice Stovall has surpassed Michael Clayton as the number two receiver, although I am willing to bet both receivers will see an about equal amount of playing time (barring injury) by the end of the season.

The left side of the line is still in a state of flux. Rookie Arron Sears is listed as the starting left guard even though Anthony Davis initially worked with the first team at the position. Projected starting left tackle Luke Petitgout's nagging injuries make it look likely Davis will receive a majority of the starts at left tackle this season. Which is troubling since Davis' struggles in pass blocking required Gruden to take a receiver off the field the last two seasons to be replaced by an extra blocker, typically a tightend.


Times Continues to Beat Dead Horse

Never mind that both the Tribune and Pewter Report have reported that Chris Simms' velocity and accuracy have returned, the St Pete Times continues to stick to its claim that Simms is suffering from proprioception.

Chris Simms' arm isn't reacting as quickly to his mind and he indicated his struggles are related to surgery to remove his spleen last September. Simms has been struggling with symptoms of irregular proprioception, a sixth sense that allows a person to know the relationship of their arms and legs to their body.

Despite repeated assurances to the contrary by Bruce Allen, Gruden and Simms the Times has stuck to their proprioception story. There are numerous others reasons why Simms has struggled; confidence, conditioning, and time spent away from the field. The Times has conveniently ignored all these simple explanations to instead follow the best tactics of yellow journalism, create an absurdly believable story and then attack those who question your credibility. BucStats touched on just this with Shelton's unprovoked attack on Gruden.

I've always believed that sports reporters are just journalist who weren't smart enough to cover real news and this just confirms my belief. Let's keep things in perspective, we're talking about the health of a backup quarterback of a sports team not a White House coverup.

In other news, Cadillac Williams appears to be having a great camp and could be in line for a outstanding season. Having Jeff Garcia under center should help a good deal since opponents weren't exactly losing sleep thinking about the Bucs passing attack last season. This should sound familiar but Cadillac's success will come down to two things: health and the offensive line. Which leads me to the next bit of news.....

Luke Petitgout was supposed to be the answer at left tackle for the Bucs but his health has raised some troubling question marks. Petitgout has missed most of training camp so far, which is troubling because Petitgout's back problems were the reason the Giants were so quick to get rid of the left tackle. The left side of the line, Garcia's blind side, appears to unstable at the moment. All we know for sure is that Anthony Davis will start some where on the left side, either at guard or tackle.

For all the criticism recently of Gruden and company they should be congratulated for their midseason signing last year of Phillip Buchanon, who has been one of the stars of camp. A former first round draft pick Buchanon has played for three teams in five years, and was released in the middle of last season by the Texans. Since then Buchanon has secured a spot as the team's nickelback and could become the team's punt returner. It appears that Buchanon, who is still an outstanding athlete, just needed the right coaches.


But Did They Test Rice for Proprioception?

The Times is reporting Simeon Rice has been cleared to play by an orthopedist in Pensacola, which of course raises questions about what series of tests the Bucs put Rice through at the beginning of traing camp.

"It was all 100 percent," Rice said. "Dr. Andrews said, 'What kind of physical did you take down there?' I told him they just checked for my mobility in the shoulder and said I failed. He said, 'They didn't even test you for any kind of structure in the shoulder?'"

This is more stating what is widely believed, that Rice was released for salary cap and personal reason. Rice was scheduled to make $7.5 million this season, but Bruce Allen attempted to renegotiate Rice's contract to $5 million for the third straight offseason.