Friday, August 31, 2007

With the Time to Impress Over, My Thoughts on Who Makes the Squad

The game against Houston last night signaled the end if the preseason for the Buccaneer organization, and ended some players season. One of those players whose season ended last night was Paris Warren. Warren had done enough to make the team, but broke his leg in the fourth quarter with only 3 minutes left on the game winning touchdown catch. Warren was put on IR today, which was a shame because of how hard Warren played to make the team. While Warrens season ended due to injury, others ended because they did not play well enough and will be cut so the Bucs can get down to the 53 man roster.


The Bucs did not play many starters last night at all and gave the backups plenty of chances to make this team. Some players used the opportunity to shine and make the team and others fell on their face and will not be with the team come the end of this weekend. My Projections on the 53 man roster with the starters in bold:


QB: Jeff Garcia, Luke McCown, Bruce Gradkowski
RB: Cadillac Williams, Earnest Graham
FB: Michael Pittman, BJ Askew
WR: Joey Galloway, Ike Hilliard, David Boston, Michael Clayton, Maurice Stovall, Mark Jones
TE: Alex Smith, Anthony Becht, Jerramy Stevens
OL: Luke Petigout, Anthony Davis, John Wade, Davin Joseph, Jeremy Trueblood, Aaron Sears, Dan Buenning, Donald Penn, Matt Lehr

DL: Gaines Adams, Chris Hovan, Kevin Carter, Greg Spires, Patrick Chukwurah, Jovan Haye, Ellis Wyms, Greg Peterson, Greg White
LB: Derrick Brooks, Barrett Ruud, Cato June, Quincy Black, Ryan Nece, Jamie Winborn
DB: Ronde Barber, Brian Kelly, Will Allen, Jermaine Phillips, Sabby Piscitelli, Tanard Jackson, Phillip Buchanon, Kalvin Pearson, Alan Zematis, Donte Nicholson, Torrie Cox (suspend)

P: Josh Bidwell
K: Matt Bryant
LS: Andrew Economos

I would not start Adams, but the talk out of the Bucs is that he will be the starter. Jovan Haye looked good in training camp, but Carter played very well at the under tackle position. Cox will start the season on the suspended list, which gives Zemaitis 4 weeks to try and make the squad over someone else. Cox looked very good in his action and I think he will defiantly be on the team when he gets back. Buenning and Lehr are versatile and they have been decent during camp so they will make it. Warren's injury made it easy for the Bucs on who should be the wide outs. Mark Jones will be kept to return punts and kickoffs, while I think Hilliard will be the starter opposite of Joey Galloway because no one else really stood out all preseason. The quarterback situation will be interesting with Chris Simms. He came down with a mysterious hip injury, which could allow the Bucs to put him on IR.

Candidates for the practice squad are:

Chris Denman (T), Kenneth Darby (RB), Adam Heyward (LB)

Rays Earn First Road Sweep in 2 Years

The Rays road their hot bats to a sweep of the Orioles in Camden yards. This was the first time in over 2 years that the Rays swept someone on the road. The last time the Rays swept a series was against the Indians in August 2005. The Rays have not played well against the Orioles in the past, but they made up for that in this series. The series was a slug fest and the Rays ended up on top.

The Orioles have been in a long slump and the Rays took advantage of that especially the O's bullpen. In two of the three games in the series the Rays went into the 8th inning down in the game. For the first time all season the Rays were on the other end of a bullpen blowing leads during the series and they took advantage of it. On top of the Rays taking advantage of the O's pen, the Rays bullpen stepped up and halted the Orioles offense and late rallies. Grant Balfour had an outstanding two innings in Wednesdays game to earn the win, and others also chipped in to keep the game close. The Rays offense seemed to be effected by the change of momentum that was felt in the game and seemed to gain confidence with every out that the Rays bullpen got.

The top 5 of the Rays order was dominant during the series. Of the 28 runs the Rays scored, the top 5 in the order accounted for 18 of the runs while driving in 14 of the 28 runs. The top 5 also accounted for 3 home runs and had a .311 average during the series. I do not know what coach Henderson said to these guys, but what ever it was it has worked rather well. The Rays hitters seem more confident and relaxed at the plate and it looks like they believe they will win the game. Part of the confidence may have come from the talk Henderson gave, but I also think the fact that the bullpen is holding leads and not blowing them the Rays feel that if they do score and get a lead they will win the game and not lose in a heart breaker. The Rays are starting to make a nice run toward the end of the season. This is an important time to make a run and get some momentum going into next year. Lets hope the Rays can keep it up and get fan excitement around the team so that the Rays organization goes out and spends in the off season.

Next up for the Rays is a 3 game set against the Yankmes in New York. The Yankmes are coming off of a sweep of Boston so they have some momentum as well. Now is the time for the Rays to show the nation that they are for real.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Gators Lose Starting O-Lineman

Gator offensive lineman Phil Trauein went down in practice on Tuesday and the Gators found out his fate on Thursday, which was not good. Tests revealed that Trautwein has a stress fracture in his foot and he is out indefinitely, possibly the entire year. The O-line was supposed to be a strength for the Gators as they were returning 4 starters from the National Champion team, including Trautwein. The Gators do have some depth at the position, but they will be forced to start a freshman on the offensive line for the first time since 1992.

The injury to Trautwein will have the Gators shifting around a bit on the offensive line. Jason Watkins will now move from right tackle to left tackle, Carlton Medder will move from right guard to right tackle, and freshman Maurkice Pouncey will start at right gaurd. Medder played at right tackle last year so the switch should not effect him as much. The problem comes in because Trautwein was the backup for senior center Drew Miller. This is the third straight year that the Gators have had a senior at center and they would like that to continue through the year.

Pouncey enrolled early at Florida and was practicing with the team during spring drills. Pouncey played at Lakeland High School and was the 15th best offensive lineman in the country as ranked by Rivals.com. Maurkice's twin brother Maurice will slide in and be the back up center to Drew Miller. The Pouncey twins are big guys and have some skill. Maurkice will be asked to fill some big shoes on the offensive line, but he is ready and that's why he enrolled early so if he got this chance he could take it. Hopefully Trautwein will be able to come back later in the season, but if not the Gators will have to pull together and get a push on that line with out him.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Rays Bats Look to Stay Hot With Shields on the Mound

The Rays bats exploded last night in the 8th inning. Daniel Cabrera had held the Rays pretty silent through six, but after he came out the Rays made there move. The Rays scored 11 runs in the 8th inning off of 4 pitchers. The strange thing was that the Rays scored the 11 runs with only one extra base hit, a Gomes double. This was the first time all year that the Rays were in the opposite end of a bullpen explosion. It was important for the Rays to take game one of the three game series because they have James Shields and Scott Kazmir going in the next two games and it gives them a good shot of taking the series and possibly even sweeping it.

Tonight the Rays send Shields to the mound to face off against former Rays Steve Trachsel. Trachsel has lost 4 of his last 5 games, but he does have 4 quality outings in those 5 games. Shields on the other hand enters the game with a 2.77 ERA in his last 6 games and has a 5 game quality start streak going. Shields did lose his last game against the Orioles at home, when Aubrey Huff hit a 3 run blast off of him to get the Orioles ahead an they went on to win the game 3-1.

The offense will continue to blast away against Trachsel this evening. Ever since Rays coach Steve Henderson had a meeting with the Rays about how bad they were hitting they are 4-1, and have averaged 10 runs per game. Another reason for the possible turn around is the change in the lineup that Maddon implemented. Maddon moved Upton to the four hole behind Pena, which has allowed Pena to get some better pitches and BJ has felt more comfortable being the cleanup guy. One negative consequence maybe that BJ Upton runs even less than he has been. Delmon Young is behind BJ and he is not the most patient hitter, which will give BJ less opportunities to steal. As long as they keep scoring it doesn't matter, but for those of you who are into fantasy baseball may feel the effects.

Hopefully the Rays can keep it up tonight with one of their Aces on the mound and get a winning streak going into the Yankees series this weekend. For more on the Orioles check out our behind enemy lines affiliate The Loss Column.

Gradkowski Involved in Point Shaving?

Profootballtalk.com is reporting that Buccaneer quarterback Bruce Gradkowski's name has come up in a point shaving probe involving Toledo and the MAC Conference. The investigation is alleging that Gradkowski may have taken $10,000 to sit out certain games. Toledo running back Harvey "Scooter" McDougle Jr, who was going into his senior season, is cooperating with officials from the FBI who are investigating a point shaving that may have hap pend at Toledo in football and men's basketball.

The report as of now does not say that Gradkowski definitely shaved points, nor does it say that he was involved in many games, but there are some interesting coincidences. There are a couple of games in which Gradkowski sat out in 2004 and 2005 that effected the outcomes of the game. One of the games that is being looked into is the 2004 Motor City Bowl in which the Rockets were favored by 3 and lost by 29. In that game Gradkowski was ineffective in the first half and sat out the second half.

The point shaving probe has been going on for some years now and they have wire tapping records dating back to 2005. Last season there were many people, including myself, that felt MAC games were being fixed. Some of the MAC games last year seemed to have strange out comes that effected the spread of the game and not the outcome. Gradkowski has not responded to the media besides to say, "I don't know what to say about that." Gradkowski may want to get an attorney and a better PR person to help him with his response next time. The timing of this probe could not be worse with all the problems the NBA has had recently with gambling. The last thing sports leagues want to happen is that fans believe that the product is fake and not being decided on the field. If this is true it would terrible for Gradkowski as a stigma like this will stay with you forever and anytime you do poorly someone will always wonder if you were throwing the game.

Bucs Looking to Trade Clayton??

Adam Schefter of NFL Network is reporting that there are many wide outs that can be had for peanuts, and one of them he included was Michael Clayton.

Adam Schefter of NFL Network reports that a trio of Florida receivers are
available to any interested takers.
Specifically Reggie Williams of the
Jaguars, Michael Clayton of the Bucs, and Chris Chambers of the Dolphins are on
the block.
But Schefter says that no serious talks have occurred regarding
any of the three, which means that all three of them are in danger of being
released on or before Saturday. Chambers, a second-round pick in 2001, has
been the best of the three. Clayton and Williams were first-round picks in
2004. Williams was the No. 9 overall pick; Clayton was No. 15.

While Schefter is reporting that Clayton is available, Profootballtalk.com has reported that the Buccaneers have said they are not looking to trade Clayton.
In response to a Tuesday report indicating that the Buccaneers have 2004
first-rounder Michael Clayton on the trading block, an industry source tells
us
that the team is denying that Clayton is being dangled.
We were
initially
inclined to conclude that the team is saying this merely to drive
up the price
that it would want for Clayton. Or, possibly, the team
already has
concluded that there is no market for Clayton, and that they
don't want him to
think that they were trying to trade him.
Regardless,
the fact that it was
reported by Adam Schefter of NFLN that Clayton is on
the block is enough to
prompt any potential takers to make a call to the Bucs. If the Bucs aren't interested in trading
Clayton, they can politely (or otherwise) say so, and then hang up.

Clayton, who had a great rookie season, has struggled the last two seasons and has found himself in Jon Gruden's dog house. With the emergence of Maurice Stovall and David Boston in training camp and the preseason, the Bucs are struggling to decide which wide receivers will make the team. There had been talk that Clayton may even be cut by the Bucs. I don't think that the Bucs will trade Clayton because they have so much invested in him. The Bucs drafted him 15th overall and passed up taking Steven Jackson to do so when they were in need of a running back. If the Bucs want to move him they should look at Miami who is shopping Chris Chambers. Chambers has fallen out of favor in Miami, but has talent. Chambers is a tall quick receiver who would be a nice fit opposite Joey Galloway. I don't think that the Bucs will move him, but if they do Chris Chambers is the only guy that would be worth Clayton.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Final Fantasy Draft Done, Bring on the Season

So last night was my final draft of the season, which brings the total to 6 on the year. I actually contracted a few this year and next year will most likely lose another one or two and get back to normalcy. This draft was my annual live draft with my Law School buddies. I had to create a draft board with crayons and some Kraft paper because I lost the cords to hook up my computer to my buddies TV. I brought the grub and ran the draft and my buddy supplied the house for us to do it at. I am pretty happy with this team although I did make some mistakes that could cost me. All and all it was a success and looking forward to strong competitive year.

Settings for the league are:
1 point per 25 yds passing, 6 pts per TD, -2 per INT.
1 point per 10 rush/rec, 6 pts per TD, -2 per FUM, 1 PPR
We had a 16 round snake draft in a 12 team league. Are rosters are: 1 QB, 2 RB, 3 WR, 1 TE, 1 K, 1 DEF/ST. I had the 3 pick in the draft, which creates some interesting decisions I would find out.

My Squad with round in parentheses:
QB- Jon Kitna (7), Matt Schaub (12)
RB- Brian Westbrook (1), Clinton Portis (3), Adrian Peterson (5), Julius Jones (8), Tatum Bell (10)
WR- Roy Williams (2), Randy Moss (4), Joey Galloway (6), Greg Jennings (9), Troy Williamson (11), Sydney Rice (13)
TE- Daniel Graham (14)
K- Robbie Gould (15)
DEF- Detroit (16)

I caught a lot of grief for taking Westy at number 3, but in a PPR I think that Westy is the best back at three. It was a bit of a risk pick since he has never played a full season since coming into the NFL, but I think my depth at running back will make up for that. I did not want to take Portis, but it seemed to be too much value in the third round not to. I was surprised to see AD fall to me in the 5th, in fact Chester Taylor actually went two picks before me in the 4th and that owner was looking to take AD on the way back. I think I got great value with Julius Jones and Tatum Bell late in the draft. Jones is seeing more playing time, and although Bell hobbled off the field earlier, he seems to be OK and he is the starter in Detroit.

My wides out are pretty solid I think. Smith, CJ, and Harrison were gone when I took Williams. I am higher on him than most, but I see a big year out of him with the addition of CJ 2 to take some of the double and triple teams away from Williams. Moss is a little risky because he has yet to play a game in the preseason and New England likes to spread the ball around, but he is still running well and I think he has the drive back to win. Galloway was a great value pick there as he has developed a great chemistry with Jeff Garcia and will get the majority of the balls thrown his way. I have no idea what i was thinking drafting 2 Minnesota receivers, I think it had to do with the alcohol I was drinking. I am mad at myself as I should have taken Randy McMichael or Alge Crumpler in the 13 instead of Rice, but I got Graham instead and hope he plays well for the Broncos. I drafted Detroit with my last pick because I plan on playing match ups with my defenses for the season and Detroit starts with Oakland.

All and all I was pretty happy with my team, except for the McMichael/Crumpler foul up. There are some good other teams and some teams I think are just terrible.


Some Picks I did not like:
Peyton (1.8) - I never like taking a QB in round one, especially in a PPR with 12 people
Brees (2.02) - Again a reach when there were good backs still left
Jacobs (2.05) - way to early for him
Holt (2.12) - His injury scares me and I have him farther down due to that
Hasselbeck (3.12) - Bulger still on the board and great wide outs available
C. Taylor (4.08) - I would have taken AD here, but i am glad b/c it allowed me to get AD
Bears D (5.02) - WAY to early for a defense, even the Bears
Shockey (5.08) - Too early for shockey, especially when he only had one wide out
Heat Miller (7.06) - A lot better TE still there
Chad Jackson (9.09) - He may not even make the team, i have not seen him drafted at all
Sydney Rice (13.03) - Yep my own pick. I hated I took him there and didn't get McMichael

Picks I Loved:
Maroney (1.12) and Bush (2.01) - Great value there and good start to his team
Wayne (3.08) - How did he make it this far in a PPR?
Bulger (5.07) - Great spot for him there. He had his 2 backs and 2 Wide outs.
McNabb (5.09) - If he is healthy this is a great pick (Hope he is for Westys sake)
V. Davis (5.11) - I am big on him, and he would not gotten back to him in the 7th round
DJ Hacket (8.09) - I think he will have a big year and he was by far the best WR there
Romo (8.10) - By far best QB left
VY (9.04) - Great value for Young
Roethlisberger (10.05) - Couldn't believe he was still there
C. Brown (15.07) - If he is the starter this was a great steal
A. Crumpler (13.09) - I know Joey is the QB, but come on, how did he fall that far
McMichael (13.10) - I screwed up and should have had him
Jenkins (13.12) - Starting wide out and Harrington will throw the ball

Rays Try to Rebound Against O's

The Rays were looking good after they took the last 3 out of 4 from the Athletics at home, but reverted to there early season form against the White Sox on Monday. Edwin Jackson pitched great until the 7th inning when he gave up back-to-back-to-back one run shots to let the Sox back into the game. Dan Wheeler came in the game and gave up a two run shot, which put the Sox up and they won 5-4. The Rays hitting stayed hit against the Sox and was led by Delmon Young who belted a home run early in the game.

The Rays will try and put the game past them and rebound against Baltimore in a 3 game series. The Rays have not fared well against the Orioles in a while and it always seems that the O's have our number. Joe Maddon told the press that he believes it is because the Orioles have some great "professional" hitters and we have young pitching. Well, the Rays are sending there two aces to mound in the last two games of the series and that will be there best chance to take the series. The Rays also fell into luck and will not have to go up against Erik Bedard in this series. Bedard has owned the Rays, and the MLB for that matter, and missing him is a great thing for the Rays. On paper the pitching match ups in the last two games seem to favor the Rays, but that's why they play them on the field. The Rays send Jason Hammel, who has been horrible this year, to the mound tonight against Daniel Cabrera.

Camden Yard has always been dubbed a hitters park, so maybe the Rays can take advantage of that. The Rays hitters have been on fire since they had a meeting with Steve Henderson after losing the first game to the A's. If the Rays can continue to see the ball well and hit it they maybe able to take this series from the Orioles. While the Rays are not really playing for anything, it would be nice to see a good run to finish up the year and get the fans excited. Besides, Herman Edwards said it best, "You play to win the game."

For more info on the Orioles visit our behind enemy lines affiliate The Loss Column.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Moody Chooses UF, Jamere Holland Not Allowed to do the Same

Former Southern Cal running back Emmanuel Moody has decided on transferring to The University of Florida. Moody was a Parade All-American in his senior year in high school and was ranked as the 9th best running back in the country by Rivals.com. Moody said that his decision to leave was a "business decision", which is code for the fact that USC has 5 other Parade All-Americans in the backfield and I want out.

While the Gator offense is not focused on the run game in the traditional sense, it gets the ball in the hands of its play makers. Urban Meyer has said multiple times that he wants a featured back to emerge on the team and wishes he had a featured back. Moody complained about not being the feature back at USC and how he wants to be a feature back, so it seems like a good fit. Moody will have to sit out for a season before he can play for Florida, and when he does start next year the Gators will have a crowded backfield also. The Gators may not have 5 Parade All-Americans, but they do have a couple 4-Star recruits including Chris Rainey and Mon Williams that will be in the backfield next year. Moody should take the job from them and hopefully the competition will be good for everyone.

Moody ran for 459 yards and two touchdowns last year in a crowded backfield. He averaged a team high 5.8 yards per carry, which is almost a full yard better than DeShawn Wynn's 4.9 last season. Moody should finally give Urban that feature back that he has coveted. The addition of another weapon on offense will only make the Gators even more dangerous next year.

While Moody chose UF, his former teammate Jamere Holland was told he would not be let out of his scholarship if he chose to transfer to UF. Holland was dismissed from the team earlier this year and tried to transfer to Oregon, but USC said no because they were in the same conference. USC is now saying that Holland cannot transfer to UF because he former high school coach is now the Director of Football Operations. USC has said that the believe that they believe there may have been some early talking and they won't let him out of his scholarship to go to UF. It is interesting that Moody decided to transfer to UF and now they will not let Holland transfer to the same school. I think USC does not want to lose another good player to Florida.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Cuts Looming after 3rd Preseason Game

The third preseason game is usually a dress rehearsal for the regular season as the starters see the most time of the preseason, and most likely won't see any time in the last game. With cuts looming on Tuesday it puts a lot of pressure on the backups to make some plays and show the coaching staff that they belong on the roster. While the backups are trying to stay the starters are trying to showcase how good they will be in the upcoming season. The game had its ups and downs for the Bucs and while they won the game, there are still some things that they need to fix and do it quickly.

The starting offense has definitely made strides every week and is looking more impressive as the games go on, but who is going to be the number 2 wide out? Stovall had the job after camp, but lost it to David Boston without playing a snap in a game. After winning the number 2 job, Boston was pulled over for DUI and Ike Hilliard got the start as the number 2 wide out against Miami. Hilliard has had a good a camp and has always been a steady wide receiver in this league, but he lacks that breakout quality that you would want from your number 2 wide out. Clayton had a nice game against Miami, but he did have a key drop in one of the Bucs drives that led to a FG instead of a touchdown. Boston has looked the most impressive and with the Bucs needing to win this year to save Gruden's job, I think that Boston will be that number two wide out when the season starts.

The starting offensive line did a very good job of pass protecting and keeping a pocket open for Jeff Garcia. Garcia had all day at times to throw the ball and when he did have to tuck it and run it was due to the receivers being well covered and not a break down in the offensive line. The touchdown throw to Galloway in the second quarter was setup by great protection by the offensive line. The line gave Garcia all day to sit back and wait for Galloway to make something happen after the play broke down. The offensive line did do a nice job of opening holes for the running game as well as Cadillac Williams had his best preseason of his career. While the starters played well on the offensive line, the backups did have their struggles. Donald Penn who came in for Jeremy Trueblood got beat of the line the first play he was in and it led to the lineman picking off Jeff Garcia. Later the Dolphins lineman blew right past Penn again and sacked McCown. It looks like the Bucs starting line is going to be solid, but the depth on the line is simply not there.

The defense started the game out very strong with a great run stuff on the first play and than an interception that was returned for a TD by Cato June, after a great first drive the Bucs simply could not get off the field. The Buc defense had some great stops and good coverage, but the Dolphins seemed to make the plays on third and fourth down to keep the drive going. The Bucs got ran over on some runs plays right up the middle, and they still are not getting any sort of pass rush up the middle. Jovan Haye was basically non existent in the game and the Bucs should really look at moving Kevin Carter in to the under tackle position to get that pressure going. Gaines Adams was once again manhandled for most of the game. Adams did get some pressure on the outside, but more often than not the tackle would just use his power to move Adams back. Adams is not going to be ready to start any time soon and really needs to develop a power rush. Alan Zemaitis and Sammy Davis struggled in pass coverage and tackling while they were in the game. These guys are fighting for a backup spot in the secondary that is getting crowded and they did not do much to impress on Saturday night.

Chris Simms did finally get in the game and played a series. Simms handed the ball off 4 times and had two pass plays. He threw a good ball, but it was dropped and he had nice heads up play to Graham which was called back on an illegal forward pass call. With Bruce Gradkowski having another solid game and McCown still looking good it looks like Chris will end up being the odd man out. You feel for a guy like Chris who gave his all for the team, but it is pretty obvious he won't be on the team very longer.

The Bucs won the game and had some good things that happened, but they still need to shore up some things on the offensive and defensive sides of the ball. The run defense needs to get better and the Bucs still need to find someone to cause some havok on the pass rush. On offense they need to stay healthy on that offensive line and they need to figure out who the receivers will be come the start of the season. Don't expect much next week from the starters as its the last preseason game, so they will need to do the fixing in practice.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

If Kazmir Breaks a Record at The Trop, but No Ones There, Does It Count?

If you were at the Rays game tonight you knew after the first pitch that the game was over. Scott Kazmir brought it tonight and was almost unhittable. Kaz set a franchise record for most strikeouts in a game with 13 and the offense dominated the Oakland pitching staff for the second night in a row. It was a great night for the Rays on the field, but looking around the stadium you couldn't tell.

Let me start by saying that i understand that baseball teams plays 81 home games, which makes it hard for people to get to every game. Also, it is close to the end of the season and the Rays are once again not competing for a playoff spot, but the Rays are coming off of a 12-2 beat down of the A's and have their Ace on the mound. Rays fans can have disagreements with the ownership about how they are running the team, but supporting the players would be nice for once. All you hear is complaining about when the Rays lose, but the Rays had Kazmir on the mound, who has been nearly unhittable since the break, coming off of beating down the A's on a Saturday night, where was everyone?

The Rays players go out and give a great effort every night most times in front of a crowd that is pro who ever they are playing, even at home. These players are giving it there all and they deserved to be supported while they do it. Fans have commented on Carl Crawford's comments to the media earlier in the year, but how can you blame him when its true. Also, why would players want to stay in a place that the fans could care less about the team. When the Rays have Kazmir or Shields on the mound the chances are pretty good that they will get a win. It was a Saturday in Tampa Bay and football season has no started, so where was everyone. If you want the owners to start putting more money into the team, show up to the games that Rays have a shot at winning and show your support of the franchise.

I was at the game and Scotty was near unhittable. Kazmir used his fastball extremely effectively and had the Oakland team off balance all night. The Rays had and offensive flurry, which was started by Johnny Gomes home run in the second. The Rays offense continued after that and scored runs in the last 4 innings of the game. Whatever Steve Henderson told his batters the other night is working and this team is hitting on all cylinders right now. It was a great night for the Rays and the fans that were in attendance, its just too bad that wasn't many people.

Bucs Take on 'Fins in 3rd Preseason Game

The Bucs take on the Dolphins tonight in their third game of the preseason. The third game of the preseason is normally the game that the starters play the most time. Hopefully Jon Gruden will follow this formula and let the starters go into the third quarter so that we can see how the team is looking. This game should tell fans a lot about what type of team the Bucs will have this season and what improvements will still need to be made.

The Dolphins like to run the ball so the defense will need to be up to the task of stopping Ronnie Brown not only running, but catching out of the backfield. New coach Cam Cameron loves to use his running backs in multiple different ways and the Bucs will get a nice test tonight. The Bucs struggled against the run last year and also had a hard time against the Jaguars in the second half last week so a go effort against the Dolphins would be nice to see. Last week Brown gashed Kansas City's defense for big gains up the middle and to the outside while breaking a lot of tackles. The Bucs defense is going to get a test from Brown and it will be interesting to see how the linebackers and safeties handle it.

The Miami defense is getting up in age, but they are still a very talented group and the Bucs offense will need to be clicking to get the ball moving. The offensive line will be without Aaron Sears who is still sidelined with an ankle injury and Luke Petigout is not expected to play long either. The Bucs did not run the ball effectively last week so improved run blocking will be something to look for in this game. David Boston traveled with the team to Miami, but it is still not known if he will play due to his DUI incident on Thursday. Boston was starter opposite of Joey Galloway so Maurice Stovall may get the nod tonight and will have a chance to regain that starting job he lost with a some bad outings. Stovall has looked better recently so look for him to come through with some catches this evening.

The Bucs had trouble holding onto the ball last week against the Jaguars and Jon Gruden let his displeasure be known to everyone. It will be interesting to see if the Bucs shoot themselves in the foot on any drives against the Dolphins like they did with the Jags last week. John Wade will get the starting nod at center after Matt Lehr had multiple exchange problems last week when he got the start. The Bucs don't have much time left so it is important to get the work in now.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Bucs Bring in Trotter for Visit

The Bucs brought in Jeremiah Trotter to workout yesterday afternoon. The Bucs lost Antoine Cash last weekend against the Jaguars and are looking for another MLB to help fill out the depth. Trotter was a surprise release by the Eagles earlier this week and has worked out for a couple teams. There has not been any talks as of yet on how the workout went or if the Bucs offered him a deal.

As I said in an earlier post I think the Bucs need to make this happen. Trotter will provide a veteran presence up the middle and will address a need the Bucs have with run support. The Bucs struggled in stopping the run last year and have not shown signs that they have fixed it so far. The Bucs schedule is heavy on teams that run the ball and Trotter will help to be able to fill the void.

The Bucs also brought in former Buccaneer linebacker Al Singleton and traded for linebacker Jerry Mackey who the Bucs cut earlier this year. The best option for the Bucs is to go with Trotter and not spend time on the other guys. The Bucs have the cash and the room, they need to make the move.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Sears Carted Off Field with Ankle Injury

620 WDAE is reporting that Aaron Sears was carted off of the field earlier today with an ankle sprain. He was later seen walking with crutches by the field. Sears, a second round pick in this years draft, had been getting starting reps in training camp and has looked very good. Sears has been a nice surprise foe the Bucs at the guard spot and has shown an ability to get a great push off of the ball.

With Jeb Terry going down during the preseason game against the Jaguars the Bucs may have found themselves thin at a position that seemed to have a lot of depth. Anthony Davis will get the majority of the reps at right guard for Sears while he is out, but he is also the backup left tackle for Luke Petigout who has had injury concerns himself in the preseason.

The Bucs need good production out of the offensive line to be able to run Gruden's offense to the fullest. The Bucs have yet to have a decent offensive line since the Super Bowl year, but they had looked good so far. If the Bucs were to lose Sears and Terry it would be a huge blow to the offensive line. Hopefully Sears will come heal up and be ready for opening day.

Will Bucs Pursue Trotter?

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers put third year MLB Anotine Cash on IR Monday after learning he tore is ACL in Saturdays preseason game against the Jaguars. Losing Cash causes concerns for the Bucs at the MLB position. Shelton Quarles retired before the start of this season and Barrett Ruud was to be his heir apparent in the middle. While Ruud has looked good at times, he does not have much experience and Cash was to be his main backup. The Bucs moved Ryan Nece over to MLB during camp to add some depth to the position, but Nece was ineffective and looked real bad in the first preseason game. The MLB is a very important part of the Cover
2 defense and right now the Bucs have question marks. There really is no depth at the position right now and Ruud has already been banged up in camp.


In a surprise move the Eagles released Jeremiah Trotter on Tuesday, which coincides with the Bucs need for a LB. Trotter is a very physical linebacker who plays great against the run, but has not been great in coverage. He is not an ideal middle linebacker for the Bucs due to the fact that the Bucs ask the MLB to do a lot coverage. What makes Trotter intriguing for the Bucs is how good he is against the run. The Bucs have struggled greatly against the run last year and have still not returned to form in this preseason. Everyone knows if you cannot stop the run in the NFL you will not win many games and that was the case last season for the Bucs.

In the Tampa 2, the leading tackler is supposed to be the middle linebacker. The reason for this is because the line has there gaps to fill leaving the back one on one with the running back. The Bucs could use him sparingly in run situations though to make up for his lack of pass covering skills. The problem for the Bucs is that Trotter has been a starter for a long time and he could go to another team and most likely be the man. Also, the Tampa 2 is system that usually takes time for the players to learn and he would not have much time to learn before the start of the season. The Bucs do have the cap room so that is not a problem with getting him signed and on the team.

While Trotter is not the most ideal LB for the Tampa 2 defense, he would be a welcomed addition to the team. The Bucs should actively pursue him to provide depth and experience to the MLB position and help out its run defense. The Bucs are very thin at the LB position up the middle and if Ruud were to be ineffective or get hurt the Bucs would be in a world of hurt. The Bucs should at least bring him in and see if he is interested in joining the Bucs.

Rumored Rays Moves Puzzling

The Devil Rays are going to make some moves when the Rosters expand in September, but some of the moves they are discussing are puzzling to say the least. The Rays are talking about going to a 6 man rotation to shorten the amount of innings that Scott Kazmir and James Shields will pitch for the rest of the season. I actually like the 6 man rotation because not only will it help to lower the innings that the two Aces throw, but also to allow the Rays to look at some other pitchers that may help in the future. The problem I have is with the names that are being brought up as the possible 6th man.

On top of a 6th man being added to the rotation the Rays have said they are thinking of calling up more middle infield help. With The only Ray on the 40 man roster that plays middle infield that could be called up is Elliot Johnson, it is puzzling as to why they would want to call him up.

The names that are being thrown around as possible call ups for the 6th spot in the rotation are Jae Seo, Jae Kuk Ryu, and JP Howell. Why? Jae Seo was given every opportunity to stay in the rotation this year and he stunk up the joint. Ryu looked terrible in pretty much every outing he has been in as well and Howell keeps coming up having a good game or two and than struggling. We know what we have with this guys and outside of Howell they will not help this team going forward, so why are we wasting our time with them? The Rays future of the pitching rotation will include Jeff Niemann and Mitch Talbot, who have pitched reasonably well in Duram this year. Talbot started out slow this year, but has looked better as the season has gone on. Niemann has inconsistent at times in Durham, but when he is on he has dominated the opposition in AAA. Both of these guys have gone over the required 200 IP between AA and AAA that the Rays organization has set as a standard before being called up. The Rays should call at least one of them up, preferably Niemann, and get them some work in the bigs now so they will be ready to get into the rotation at the beginning of next year. The Rays need to let these guys get some work in now when it doesn't matter what happens than next year when they are trying to show fans they mean business. I don't see the point of allowing the garbage on this team pitch again.

The Rays have also said that they want to call up some more middle infield help after September. To me this makes no sense. The Rays called up Joel Guzman, who they only control until 2009, and he has yet to play in the infield. The Rays have Josh Wilson and Brendan Harris to go with Joel Guzman to play the middle infield spots. The Rays need to let Guzman play everyday and see what they have with him. Guzman is a talented player that has been moved all around by the Rays and the Dodgers. Guzman's numbers were not great in AAA, but Rays fans may remember that when the Rays traded for Guzman the knock on him was that he was not giving good effort in the minors after the Dodgers demoted him. While people who do not play with great effort wherever they are irk me, he does have talent and the Rays could use his bat if he is giving max effort. The Rays should let Guzman play everyday and rotate Wilson and Harris in so that they can see which one will be the better utility infielder going forward. One other move the Rays could make that would involve the middle infield is to call up Evan Longoria from Durham and move Aki to 2b. Aki could move to second much easier than Longoira and if the Rays want Longoira to be the starter at 3B next year they should give him a look now.

The Rays have some decisions coming up when rosters expand and while they should call up a pitcher it should not be one of the recycled starters we have seen. They should continue to play there younger players to get them more work and should do the same with the pitchers.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Starters Show Promise in Bucs Loss

The Bucs starters started the same way they left off against the Patriots on Saturday night with a three and out series. The offense did not move the ball against a stout Jags defense and they were forced to punt, but pinned the Jags at the 1 yard line. The Bucs starting defense continued where it left off and was physical and flying around to the ball. The Bucs got the ball back after three plays and when the offense got on the field something started to click. Jeff Garcia made things happen with his legs, arm, and his head. The Bucs did not run the ball well, but they had some nice passes to Michael Pittman out of the backfield and also to the wide outs. Garcia led the team down and threw a touchdown to David Boston on a scrambling play inside the Jags 20.
After the Jags got the ball back the Bucs defense did not let up and kept after Leftwich and the
rest of the offense. Kevin Carter was a beast on the defensive line and gave the Bucs a great performance at under tackle and end. The rest of the Bucs defenders played just as well and flew around the ball.

While the starting offense and defense looked great in their action, the backups and younger players struggled. After looking good against New England, the young guys seemed to take a step back against the Jaguars. The struggles were across the board and included offense and defensive players.

Gaines Adams again had a couple of good plays, but that was overshadowed by the fact that he got man handled on all the other plays. Adams still has a lot to learn and really needs to get bigger and be more physical. You can see the talent is there, but he is just not using it all yet. Until Adams gets bigger or learns to be more physical he will struggle, especially against physical lineman. For now Adams will rotate in on obvious passing downs.

The Bucs let Matt Lehr start at center and the result was not too good. The Bucs had multiple problems with the quarterback and center exchange. Two miscues happened in the shotgun situation and Jon Gruden made sure to point out that they had the problems in the shotgun. It has always been obvious that Gruden does not want to use the shotgun and if the keep having problems with the exchange he may throw it out and use that as an excuse. While they did have problems with the shotgun, there were also a couple of miscues under the center. Lehr just did not look comfortable out there and expect John Wade to be the opening day center.

The Rays had trouble holding onto the ball all evening. Maurice Stovall fumbled the ball as he fought for yards after the catch as the Bucs were going into score. Ken Darby, who looked great against the Patriots, also had a fumble when the Bucs were trying to go into score. The Bucs had several drives that were destroyed or disrupted by not holding onto the ball. The Bucs simply cannot make these kinds of mistakes and hope to win the games.

The offensive line, which looked so good against the Patriots struggled at times, especially when the back ups came in the game. The holes were simply not there for the running backs and Jeff Garcia was running for his life a couple times and simply made plays on his own. Aaron Sears continued to look good and get a great push, and Luke Petigout played well in his limited action as well, but on the whole the line took a small step backwards.

The Bucs starters had some good drives, but when they came out the backups just could not get it done. The backups on offense could not run the ball and just did not seem to do much the Jags defense. On Defense the backups could not tackle anyone and seemed to get gashed every play. The Bucs will need more out of there young guys to get going this year, so while the starters were encouraging the backups step back was concerning.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Minor League Report

AAA Durham

Jeff Niemann threw in a simulated game on Wednesday and is slated to come off of the DL on Tuesday. Niemann has been sidelined for over 2 weeks with shoulder problems. He has been up and down on the season, but was on pace to get a September call up. Hopefully he will make some solid starts in the next two weeks and get called up when Rosters are expanded. He is 11-5 with a 3.90 ERA with a 108/45 K/BB ratio.


Evan Longoria has continued his hot hitting in the minors since being called up to Durham. At the beginning of the year it looked like he would be in the minors all year, but with the way he is hitting he may force the Rays to call him up in September to get him some experience. Evan will most likely be the everyday third baseman for the Rays next year with Aki sliding to second, so why not get him the experience now?

Joel Guzman has shown the power that he was predicted to have, but has not shown the plate discipline needed to make it in the big leagues. His .244 average and .284 OBP are not good and this is only AAA. Guzman was a candidate to come up in September, but it may not be the time for him right now. It looks like he is going to need some more time down in the minors before he comes up to the big club. The Rays also need to decide what position he will play and keep him there; all the moving around cannot be good for Guzman.

AA Montgomery

Chris Mason has been dominant all season for the biscuists and should start in Durham next year. Mason has a 118/35 strikeout to walk ratio and has a 2.50 ERA in 24 games this season. Mason who was a second round pick in 2005 and has looked great in his minor league career. He is just one of the many stable of arms the Rays have accumulated.

The Biscuits started the season with the best left side in the minors with Longoria and shortstop Reid Brignac. Brignac struggled after having a good start to the season, but has had a better season lately. He still has shown the power numbers that he is projected to posses, but his average and on base has struggled this year. Brignac has also still struggled in the field where he has committed 20 errors. He will most likely start the year in Durham next year and hope to get a September call-up. He will represent the Rays in the AFL with Evan Longoria and catcher John Jaso.

Bucs Camp Over

The Bucs ended training camp this morning and headed back over to Tampa. They have a game against the Jaguars on Saturday and after that the practices will be at One Buc Palace. Camp had a different feel to it this year than it did last year and years past. Last year seemed a bit quiet, but this year you had a lot of the coaches, especially Raheem Morris, yelling and getting loud with the players. While the camp had a louder feel this year it also seemed to be a bit softer than the past. The players had a lot of practices canceled or moved inside due to heat. It is hot out there and they do need days off, but it seemed to be a lot more this year than in years past.


The big positive for the Bucs this year was that they are coming out of camp almost perfectly healthy. Last year the Bucs had a bevy of injuries throughout camp to starters and backups that really hampered camp and the Bucs season. Cadillac Williams went through camp healthy this year and will start the season at full strength. With Luke Petigout back and playing it looks like the offensive line is healthy and due to Petigout's absence they may have found out that they have more depth than they thought. Aaron Sears filled in for Petigout nicely in the first preseason game and in camp. Sears drew rave reviews not only from the coaching staff, but also from the players themselves. The defense is healthy and ready to prove that they are better than they played last year.


The Bucs had some great battles in training camp at the wide receiver and all across the defense. Maurice Stovall has emerged as the second wide out after training camp and it looks as if David Boston played well enough to make this team. Boston had a good camp and looked healthy for the first time in a while. Stovall looked great in camp and is very dedicated, but he did not see much action in game one of the preseason, so I would like to see more of him in the next preseason games. Second year corner back Alan Zematis was in danger of not making the roster at the beginning of camp, but he used his chances wisely camp and showed great effort on defense and is the 4th corner on the roster as of now.


While the Bucs lost Mike Alstott for the year they may have found the replacement in Michael Pittman, which opens up a roster spot that may be used on rookie Kenneth Darby. Darby has looked great in camp and also looked good in his time in the first preseason game. He fell to the 7th round in the draft after a horrible senior season, but he has looked like the back he was his junior year and with Alstott gone he may get his chance to back up Cadillac and get in during the regular season.


A big disappointment from Bucs camp was first round pick Gaines Adams and former starting quarterback Chris Simms. Adams has looked bad in camp and definetly will need some work going forward. He looks like he needs to get into the gym and get some more strength because right now he is being manhandled by tight ends. Gruden and Kiffen both have said that he has a way to go in this league and don't be surprised when he is not starting at the beginning of the year. Simms has been even worse in camp, but his struggles have to do with coming off of an injury. He is learning to throw a football all over again and has looked horrible most of the camp and it looks like he will be cut by the Bucs before the preseason is over. It is sad to see Simms this way after he gave his all on the field for the Bucs, but it may be the best thing for him to take a year off and get throwing motion back under control.


Camp gave the Bucs a good chance to see what they have for the season and get the new guys accustomed to how the Bucs want to play on offense and defense. While camp is supposed to bring optimism, and the Bucs did show some good things, i cannot see this team being over .500. Watching camp you can tell that not enough has changed for the better from last years 4-12 team that will make them significantly better. I hope I am wrong, but I think the Bucs are in for another long season.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Rays Get Price Signed

The Rays finally came to terms with number 1 overall pick David Price today. The contract is a 6 year deal worth 8.5 million with 5.6 million of it in a signing bonus. The contract could be worth up to 11.25 million if he stays on the major league ball club for the duration of the contract. It looks like the Rays will make room for him on the 40 man roster with this contract. To add Price they will need to get rid of someone and the talk is to either put Durham catcher Sean Riggans on the 60 day DL or they could cut someone like Tim Corcoran from the roster.

The Rays went above the slotted amount of 4 million by the MLB to get this done. After the Tigers signed their first rounder, Rick Porcello, to over a 7 million dollar deal earlier this week it made it nearly impossible for the Rays to go below that number for Price who had been picked much higher. Rays fans should take a look at what the Rays did here and stop complaining about the Rays not spending money. The organization has said they will spend the money when they feel it is for the right talent and signing Price was just the occasion. Had the organization not signed Price over the money than fans would be right in complaining, but now they need to stop complaining and see that the Rays are moving in the right direction.

The Rays have loaded their farm system with arms, but Price is definitely the best one yet. He is a polished power left hander who may see time in the Majors as early as September of this year. He was dominant at Vanderbilt and for the US National team last summer and has all the tools needed to be a top of the rotation starter in the majors. By next year former first round pick, Jeff Niemann, should also be up in the rotation with Price. The Rays have a stable of great young arms and when you add Price to a rotation with Scott Kazmir, James Shields, and Jeff Niemann you have a staff that can win any game they pitch in. With all the young talented arms the Rays will be able to move some of the other young arms such as Andy Sonnanstine and Jason Hammel to the bullpen to help out the end of games.

Getting Price's contract done and not complaining about the money was the best thing the Rays organization could have done. The Rays added another great piece to what was already the best farm team in the MLB. The organization showed fans that they are committed to getting players of talent into the organization and are willing to pay for it. Thank you Stu, Andy, and Matt for getting David Price into the organization.

Rays Have Til Midnight to Sign Price

Tonight is the deadline for major league teams to sign their draft picks and many first rounders remain unsigned, including the number one overall pick by the Rays, David Price. Price was the consensus number one overall pick and the Rays took him with that pick. The Rays have been talking to him since they drafted him on June 7th, but he had not signed as of yet. With the midnight deadline looming the Rays don't have much time left to get him signed.

Price, the consensus number one pick, was not only dominant at Vanderbilt, but was also great for the US National Team. He is a very polished pitcher who could be in the big leagues soon after he signs his contract much like Andrew Miller was last year for the Tigers. Price has told the media that he is not demanding to be in the majors immediately and is willing to pay his dues in the minors, but it looks like he wants to be paid well for that time. The reported numbers he is asking for is in between 7 and 10 million dollars, but the MLB has slotted 4 million for the number one pick. It looks like if the Rays want to get Price signed they will need to go over the slot number to get it done.

The deadline to get these guys signed is new this year to try and prevent agents like Scott Boras from trying to stretch it out until next year and have them go back to school. Price does have the option to go back to school, and in fact has enrolled in Vanderbilt for the Fall just in case. While he has enrolled in school his coach seems to think he will sign with the Rays. When asked by the media if he thinks Price will be back next season he told them that there was a better chance of the Beatles reuniting than Price returning to Vanderbilt. Does he know something that others around the media and baseball do not? I have heard rumors that Price has been signed, but due to the fact that it is so much over the slot contract they have waited to announce it. I hope this is true, but I remain skeptical as I have not heard that from anyone around the organization.

If the Rays are unable to sign Price by midnight they will be awarded the 2nd pick in next years draft as compensation. If the Rays continue on the pace they have been they will get have the number 1 overall again next year and would also get the number 2 as compensation. Now some may say that the Rays could just redraft Price if they wanted, but Price has to agree to allow the Rays to draft him again next year. Also, if the Rays aren't willing to spend the money on him now, what makes anyone think they will spend the money on the number 1 and number 2 picks next year to get them signed. The Rays have always got there first round pick signed so I have faith in them that they will get it done today. With fans already complaining about the lack of money being spent the worst thing the Rays could do is not sign Price and have it come out it was due to money. Price has the goods to be a great MLB pitcher and will be a great addition to the staff. The Rays need to get Price signed and show the fans that they are willing to spend the money necessary to make the team better.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Pittman to take over for injured Alsott?

When Mike Alstott went on IR with an injured neck last week most thought that free agent signee BJ Askew would take over at full back, but it was Michael Pittman who started at FB in the first preseason game. Pittman is a little smaller than the average NFL fullback, but what he lacks in size he makes up for in ability and technique. Pittman has always been a good pass blocking back and has been in the backfield at the same time with Cadillac Williams before. Pittman has been around the NFL for a while and knows how to play the fullback position. Pittman also is very strong and has a solid compact build that could be very effective as a blocker.

Pittman and the coaching staff have been looking for a way to get onto the field more often ever since they drafted Cadillac to replace him at running back. Pittman has been the third down back for the Bucs since Cadillac was drafted because he has much better hands than Caddy and also is the better blocker of the two. Pittman wants to be on the field helping the team anyway he can and has been a great mentor for Cadillac. The Bucs have tried Pittman out as a kick returner to get him more involved in the game, but playing full back maybe the best thing yet for Pittman.

Pittman has been a running back for his career, but he is better suited for the fullback position. He is powerful and has the explosiveness needed at the line to hit the hole and be effective on short yardage situations. He is also a great pass catcher out of the backfield, which is something that Alstott had done very effectively for the Bucs throughout his career at fullback and running back. Pittman's running style is better suited for a getting the ball a few times a game rather than the full load that he would have to shoulder as the starting running back. He has all the tools to be a good fullback and this maybe the opportunity the Bucs were looking for to get him on the field.

The Bucs have other options at full back, like BJ Askew and newly signed Zach Tuiasosopo, but Pittman is more explosive than both of them and he is a better pass catcher. Askew is taller than Pittman, but weighs the same and Tuiasosopo has not been in the Gruden offense before and it takes a while to get the terminology down. Pittman is the best option for the Bucs right now at the full back position and they should give him the chance to be the every down fullback.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Bucs Take First Preseason Game 13-10


The Bucs won their opening preseason game in front of an excited big home crowd. The fans were charged up for football season and having Alstott run out of the tunnel in his jersey and jeans on seemed to pump everyone up from the get go. Although the Bucs got a win, there are still big questions that need to be answered before the start of the season if the Bucs hope to contend.

Offense

The Bucs starting offense only got to play six plays in the game. They had two drives of three and out and Jeff Garcia went 1-4 for 7 yards. I understand that Garcia is a veteran and the Bucs don't want to get him injured, but they need to let them play longer than 6 plays to get in rhythm. Gruden's offense is predicated on timing and without reps together it will be hard for the starters to develop that timing together. Gruden should take a look back to last season and watch what happened after keeping his starters out for most of the preseason. Now the Bucs could have had at least one first down had Galloway held onto a ball that hit his hands, but he dropped it and brought up fourth down. Dropped passes were a problem last year and have been something of a problem in camp.

The offensive line looked great for most of the game, which was a big question mark coming into the game. The Patriots first string defense was in the game almost until half time and the Bucs offensive line was getting a great push off the line and had great protection for Garcia and Luke McCown. Rookie second rounder Aaron Sears was very impressive starting at left guard and it looked like he never got pushed backwards. Anthony Davis, who was starting for Luke Petigout, looked much better than he did last year making plays down field as well as getting a great push. The right side looked solid with Davin Joeseph and Jeremy Trueblood continuing their development. They had one hiccup when McCown was sacked, but other than that they also had a solid game. The Bucs offensive line has been a huge problem since the Super Bowl run and has been addressed by every way imaginable, but just never seemed to get better. Although it was the first game the solid play of the O-Line was very encouraging for Bucs fans to see.

Luke McCown looked very good in his first game action since going down with a knee injury in OTA's last season. He has looked great in camp and has drawn rave reviews from the coaching staff including Jon Gruden who said after the game that McCown was the best athlete on the team. McCown was 7-7 including a touchdown pass to Paris Warren in the second quarter. He was able to move around in the pocket and make some runs when he had to, which showed his knee is fully healed. McCown showed good decision making and his arm off at times. While McCown had a good game, it was against corners who were playing off of the wide outs for most of the time he was in there.

Kenneth Darby had a great game running the football and is making a bid for more playing time in the future. Darby was drafted in the last round of the draft after having a horrible senior year at Alabama and running a slow speed at one of the combines. Darby, the second leading rusher in Alabama history, had a great Junior season, but after his father went ill before his senior year he struggled and just could get it going. Gruden talked with many of the SEC coaches and all told him that Darby is a guy you want on your team. Darby has looked good in camp and if he keeps it up in the preseason he may get some reps during the regular season. He showed great vision for a rookie running back and hit the hole with authority, which was something he failed to do his senior season.

Outside of Paris Warren, the receiving core did not look good. David Boston started over second year man Maurice Stovall, but neither one looked impressive in the game. Stovall and Boston have looked good in camp, but neither did anything to stand out in the game agains the Pats. For the Bucs to be successful they will need to get better production out of their receivers than they did last year.

Defense

The starters played most of the first half and looked good in the first two drives against the Patriots starters, but gave up a long eight minute drive to the Pats after Brady was removed from the game. The Bucs did not get much penetration all night from the front four and only got one sack. Fourth overall pick Gaines Adams saw little time with the starters, but did get a pass break up that got everyone excited. After the first team was removed from the game Adams played almost the rest of the game, but was manhandled pretty well by the Patriots offensive line. Adams has a lot of learning to do and will need more reps going forward if the Bucs want him to be effective this year.

Ryan Nece and Antoine Cash did not have a good game at middle linebacker and were getting run over. Barrett Ruud missed the game with a knee bruise and it is imperative that the Bucs get him back to see if he can take over for Quarles in the middle. Right now if Ruud can't get it done the Bucs may be in for a long season in the middle. The Bucs were horrible against the run last year and in this game they were susceptible to the power run up the middle just like last season. If the Bucs do not get the tackling they need from the linebackers and safeties it will be another bad year for the defense.

Second year corner Alan Zemaitis looked outstanding last night in coverage and in run help. He offers up some physicality from the corner position and is a solid tackler. Zemaitis was inactive all of last year for the Bucs, but has looked better and better in camp and showed some great stuff out there last night. With Phillip Buchanon firmly entrenched in the nickle corner spot, Zemaitis is fighting for the fourth corner spot with Torrie Cox, who will miss the first four games of the season four violating the leagues substance abuse policy. Cox may have given Zemaitis the time he needs to show what he can do and overtake Cox for that final spot. Rookie safety Tanard Jackson also made some great plays not only in the secondary, but also on special teams. Jackson who can play corner or safety is a great tackler and showed some intensity out there that had been missing on the defense.

Overall the game was a success because of the win, but I am not ready to dub them playoff contenders yet like many others have. The Bucs still have some things to work on in camp and Gruden should learn to let his starters stay in the game longer. It was impressive to see the offensive line dominate like they did and hopefully that will continue into the year.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Bucs Open Preseason Against Pats Tonight

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers open the preseason tonight against the Patriots at Raymond James Stadium. This is the first time that many people will get to see the Bucs since they lost there last game of the season to the Seahawks to cap a putrid 4-12 season. The Bucs have made some changes and look different from last year, but fans want to know if different mean better. The starters are not scheduled to play much tonight, which may be a mistake for Gruden who did not play his starters a lot in the preseason last year and the team never seemed to be in sync for the rest of the season. While fans may not get to see what the starting team will look like, there are some players and situations that are worthy of watching to see development.

1. Back-Up Quarterbacks - Luke McCown is coming off of knee surgery last year, but has looked very good in camp and has earned the praises of anyone watching. Garcia won't play much so McCown should see some good time. Bruce Gradkowski will also get to play as Simms will not be active for the game. Bruce has not looked good in camp with under thrown balls and interceptions. Bruce had a great preseason last year, but we all know what happened during the regular season when he went in.
2. Maurice Stovall and David Boston - Right now Stovall is the second wide out on the depth chart and Boston is the fourth. Stovall should see decent time tonight especially with Michael Clayton expected not to play with a tweaked hamstring. Stovall can further cement himself in that two spot with a good game and continuing improvement. Boston was cut last year after the preseason, but he is back and has looked better than last year. Boston is going out to try and make this team and is working very hard to do so. He will get his opportunities to show that he is the Boston that played for the Cardinals and not the one the Bucs cut last year.

3. Offensive Line - Petigout will not be playing tonight and many, including me, believe he will not play for the Bucs this season, so this may be your starting offensive line come week one. Aaron Sears will start at LG and it will be interesting to see how the rookie plays in the preseason. The offensive line has been a trouble spot for the Bucs since Jon Gruden has been head coach and they still have question marks going into the season. The main thing for the Bucs will be to keep these starters healthy and hope they don't lose one to injury in the preseason.

4. Gaines Adams - The Bucs first round pick has looked horrible in training camp and has been thrown around by tight ends and offensive lineman. Gaines needs a lot of reps in the preseason and hopefully a game situation will get him going and on track. Gruden needs to let Adams play as much as possible to get reps in against NFL talent that is not on his team.

5. Line Backers - Barrett Ruud has to step in for Shelton Quarles in the middle, but he has been slowed by a bruised knee in camp. Ryan Nece and Antoine Cash have impressed at camp and should get some time in the middle after Ruud comes out. Cato June will be starting in a new position and was on of the Bucs big off season acquisitions. Quincy Black should see time after June comes out on the strong side. Black has been impressive thus far and is one of the best athletes on the team.

6. Secondary - Buchanon has had a great camp and is entrenched as the 3rd corner in the Buc defense. There is talk that Buchanon may see some time on offense so it will be interesting to see if he gets some looks. Zemaitis was the Bucs 4th round pick last year and started off very slow in camp, but has turned it on lately. He has looked very good in camp recently and with Torrie Cox out with a suspension he will get a chance in the preseason and first 4 games to keep the fourth corner spot. The safeties will be interesting to watch in the preseason. They were a huge weakness of the Bus last year and the Bucs drafted Sabby Piscitelli and Tanard Jackson early to help out that position. The Bucs also brought secondary coach Raheem Morris back from Kansas State to help address the secondary. The safeties and corners have looked good in camp and it will be interesting to see if they can keep it up.

7. The Shotgun - Will we finally see it? We have seen some of it in training camp, but will Gruden finally install it in a game? I hope to see a little bit of it at least.

Although it is preseason you can see there is a lot to watch out for. When a team is coming off of a 4-12 season no job is safe and there have been a lot of changes made. Its good to talk football again and I can't wait to get it started. For info on the Patriots check out our Behind Enemy Lines Affiliate bostonsportz.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Bucs Alstott Placed on IR, Season and Career Maybe Over

With tears in his eyes, an emotional Mike Alstott announced to fans that he had sustained another injury to his neck, and was being placed on IR. The injury is not the same one that he sustained in 2003 when he had to have his neck fused, but it has to deal with pressure on top of the fusion. Mike went on to say, "As a professional football player, you just can't grasp the situation of not being able to put the helmet on, put a jersey on, and go out there and participate with your teammates."

Mike had sat out the last 3 days from training camp, but the Bucs had been quiet about what happened with Alstott. He said that it was not one individual hit in camp, but was from the banging around in the first 10 days. Alstott went on to say that he was ready to play football this year and camp was going great until his neck was sore. Mike was checked by the Bucs doctors and also by his personal surgeon in Pittsburgh who did his previous surgery. After consulting everyone and his family, he made the decision that it was in his best interest to sit out the rest of the year. He will not have to undergo anymore surgery, which is good, but it is another injury to his neck.

When asked if he was retiring, Mike told reporters that the future was in the future and he would address that later and to please respect his wishes. It was a very emotional announcement for everyone watching and involved. Bruce Allen was visually upset and this was the most upset I have seen him in a press conference. While Mike has not said he is retiring, you got the felling that this was it for the A-Train. He will be around the rest of the year as a leader and will be there for his teammates. Every time reporters asked Mike about his future he kept referring to the team and his teammates. It doesn't surprise me that he wanted to focus on the team as that is how he played the game, a consummate team player.

Neck injuries are not something to mess with and Mike is making the best decision to shut it down. As a fan it hurts to not see Mike out there, but it is the best thing for Mike and his future. While not official, all bets are that he will be retiring later on this year. This is a very sad in day in Tampa Bay. The press conference brought many to tears and seemed surreal for those who are Bucs and Alstott fans. We will miss you Mike and like you said, You are a Buc and you will always be a Buc.

Alstott to Announce Retirement at 2:00 PM???

620 WDAE is reporting that Mike Alstott will retire at a 2 pm press conference today. Mike has missed the last 3 days of training camp and many have wondered why he was gone. The Coaches have said he had a sore body and that's why he has not been out there. Alstott has been used less and less during camp as the coaching staff has tried to get BJ Askew more involved in the offense.

This is a sad sad day for Bucs fans if this is true. Alstott is a fan favorite of the Buccaneers and great leader for this team. This is good news for Jon Gruden who had a visible hatred for Alstott and now he won't have to explain why he did not use him more in the games. This must have been a hard decision for Alstott who said that he was ready to go before camp. We will be monitoring the developments and the press conference and give an update later today.

This is a sad day in Tampa for Bucs fan, we will miss you Mike.

Mike Alstott Tribute Video

Rays Need to Learn How to Win When Kaz and Shields Not on the Mound

The Rays sent James Shields to the mound last night in a familiar spot, asking him to get a win to stop a losing streak. The Rays went into the game with a three game losing streak, the last win coming against the Orioles at home with Scott Kazmir on the mound. Shields responded to the call and got the Rays the win with a seven inning gem. Shields struck out nine, including the side in the 5th inning after allow lead of single to start the inning. Shields says he relishes the role of slump buster and knows what he needs to do.

The spot that Shields was in was all to familiar to him and Rays fans for the year, especially in the second half. Since the All-Star break the Rays have won 9 games, 6 of those were games in which Shields or Kazmir was the starter. While Shields has struggled at times in the second half he has come through when the Rays have needed him most. Kazmir on the other hand has been unhittable since the break, allowing 5 earned runs in 5 games. The Rays have won 4 of Kazmir's 5 starts since the second half and 2 of Shields 6. In the 5 losses the two have combined to give up 24 earned runs, but that includes a 10 run effort by Shields against the Yanks. If you pull the Yanks game out, they have given up 14 runs in 4 losses, but have gotten only gotten 10 runs of support.

The three Rays wins that were not started by Kaz or Shields were a gem by Jackson, an 11 inning effort by the team, and a 6 inning scoreless effort by the bullpen. So only 1 of the 9 wins that the Rays have had since the break have been because of a good outing by a starter not named Kazmir or Shields. Now there have been some good outings by Jackson mixed in that were lost by the bullpen, but the other starters have been awful. In the 15 games not started by the duo the Rays have been outscored 65-101.

When Shields is on the mound they have been outscored 29-47, but 23 of those runs were not earned by Shields. The numbers when Kazmir pitches are unbelievable, as the Rays have outscored the opponents 27-13, with 8 of those runs being attributed to the bullpen. Kazmir's only loss came in Baltimore when he got no runs from the Rays, and only gave up 3 runs.
The effort of the duo must be contagious to the hitters because the Rays score more runs per game when they are on the mound. In the 15 games that were not started by Kaz and Shields the Rays averaged 4.3 runs per game, but score 4.8 when Shields is on the mound and 5.3 when Kaz is on the mound. The Rays just seem to be more confident as a whole when these guys are on the mound and feel like they are going to win.

While the Rays score more when the duo is on the mound, the 4.3 runs per game they scored in the other 15 games is nothing to laugh at. Many pitchers across the league would love 4.3 runs a game in support of their outings. The Rays are getting the runs, but not getting the pitching they need from anyone, not named Kazmir or Shields. The Rays need to learn how to win when someone else is on the mound to start a winning streak. The Rays finish off a 4 game set in Detroit today and Kazmir is on the mound, which means the Rays have a good chance at a win. Rays fans need to enjoy the outing because the odds are it will be three more games before they get a shot at a win.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Tampa Bay Lightning Sold

Members of the Tampa Bay Lightning organization got a text message yesterday morning that they needed to be at a surprise meeting at 9am. They found out as did the fans that the meeting was to tell them that the Lightning had been sold. The sale caught everyone, even comishioner Gary Bettman, off guard because no one knew it was close, but everyone knew that Bill Davidson was looking to move the team. Davidson has been complaining that he has been losing money on the team and last year hired some business analysts to find the value of the team and get it going on a sale.
Davidson was a great owner for the Lightning and brought a Stanley Cup to Tampa, but he wanted out and he found owners that wanted in. The group that bought the team, Absolute Hockey Enterprises, is headed by Doug MacClean, Jeff Sherrin, and Oren Kowles. Hockey fans know MacClean who is a former coach, GM, and owner in the NHL. Sherrin is into real estate and Koules is a Hollywood producer. The best news that the new group gave was that there is a 0% chance that this team will be moved from Tampa Bay. All three owners either live in Tampa or will be moving to Tampa and intend on being heavily involved in the organization. The owners also said that Jay Feester and John Torterella will be retained as GM and coach, which is a great sign for Lightning fans.

Kowles is the producer behind the Saw series and has been a hockey fan his whole life. Kowles has said that he has some great ideas for better marketing and helping to get the Lightning out there more. The owners also talked about developing the land that surrounds the St. Pete Times forum, which should have been done a while ago. These owners seem excited and ready to get down to business. Its pretty easy to see why they wanted to buy this team as it the third best team in the league for attendance and the Tampa Bay area has embraced this team and created rabid fans. These owners are passionate about hockey just like the Lightning fans and they will connect better with fans and be more involved in day to day business.

Bill Davidson was a great owner for the Lightning and brought this town a Stanley Cup and for that fans will forever be grateful. That being said, Davidson was not a hands on guy and just never related to the fans. This group seems like they will relate better and fans should be excited by these new owners.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

USC Number 1 in Preseason Coaches Top 25

1. USC (45) 0-0 1,481
2. LSU (4) 0-0 1,372
3. Florida (9) 0-0 1,278
4. Texas 0-0 1,231
5. Michigan (2) 0-0 1,218
6. West Virginia 0-0 1,205
7. Wisconsin 0-0 1,114
8. Oklahoma 0-0 1,026
9. Virginia Tech 0-0 1,005
10. Ohio State 0-0 919
11. Louisville 0-0 836
12. California 0-0 763
13. Georgia 0-0 604
14. Auburn 0-0 595
15. Tennessee 0-0 583
16. Rutgers 0-0 466
17. UCLA 0-0 454
18. Penn State 0-0 440
19. Nebraska 0-0 388
20. Arkansas 0-0 360
21. Florida State 0-0 301
22. TCU 0-0 233
23. Boise State 0-0 222
24. Hawaii 0-0 214
25. Texas A&M 0-0 209
While I think that preseason polls are stupid, it does not surprise me to see USC on top of the preseason poll. The problem I have with preseason polls is that it makes it hard for people not in the top 25 or low in the top 25 to gain steam and get to the top. The first poll should be released in week 8 when the BCS poll comes out, but there is nothing I can do about that.
I agree that USC and LSU should be at the top of the list, but how is Florida number 3. You will not find a bigger Gator honk than me and I will tell you that the Gators at number three is absolutely ridiculous. While the Gators offense will be great, they lost nine of eleven starters on defense and they play in the SEC. The Gators should not be in the top five until they show that they can stop someone and won't have to play shoot outs. Oklahoma at number 8 is a little high for a team that doesn't know who there starting quarterback is going to be. Virgina Tech is a sleeper team in that Top 10 that I believe will win the ACC. VT has a strong team returning and they outside of a trip to LSU in the second week, there schedule sets up nicely with Miami and FSU having to come into Blacksburg.
Tennessee is too low and Auburn is too high. Auburn lost a lot of there team last year and they have some tough games this year in the SEC including a visit to the swamp. Tennessee will find out its fate very early in the season as they open at Cal and than visit the swamp in game 3. It was good to see that the voters finally did not put Notre Dame in the top 25 just because they are Notre Dame, but it was equally disturbing to see Miami not in the top 25. The only reason i can see Miami out of the top 25 is that the voters are not voting on talent of the football team, but how they feel about a program. Miami returns one of the best defenses in the country and have game changing running back in Moss. There quarterback may be up in the air, but so is FSU and they are in the top 25. I think someone was trying to make a point and it is pretty sad.