The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have a bright future. Nobody’s disputing that. But there are still a lot of questions marks on defence, especially considering the legal troubles that continue to plague top corner Aqib Talib. I get Patrik Nohe of The Pewter Plank to elaborate…
1. Naturally, everyone’s wondering what this Aqib Talib mess does to the Bucs’ draft plans. Does his recent arrest change things?
I can’t see it changing the thinking too much at the top of the draft. Aside from Jerramy Stevens the Bucs don’t exactly take a hardline approach to player discipline. Of course it’s also a little easier to look the other way if the player in question is a shutdown corner. A lot of people think the Bucs will just outright cut Talib when NFL business resumes. I really doubt that happens. If they do make a move at corner, chances are it will be through free agency with a second-tier corner (not the 30 year-old Nnamdi Asomugha). If a talented corner falls to the Bucs at 20 then I could see them pulling the trigger, but I doubt they’ll go out of their way to acquire one via the draft. And I wouldn’t count on them taking Jimmy Smith if he’s there either, because consensus says he’s a bit of a head-case … which the Bucs already have in Talib.
2. Am I right to assume the focus of this draft for Tampa will be the defense? And particularly the front seven?
I would say that’s dead on. One of the reasons Bucs fans shouldn’t be so quick to jettison Aqib Talib is that he bailed out the defense most of last season. The Buccaneers were beyond awful rushing the passer ranking 30th in the NFL in sacks, they got no pressure and most quarterbacks had days to sit back and size up the defense. Combine that with being ranked 28th in the league at stopping the rush and it paints a pretty good picture of how bad the front seven was in Tampa last season. When Ronde Barber is arguably the best player on the team at both rushing the quarterback and setting the edge on run plays, you have issues.
3. What’s the team’s top need?
Of the team’s defensive needs I’d say the biggest is a 4-3 rush end. There seem to be a number of good candidates to fill that role for the Bucs in this year’s draft, but they need a consistent pass rush off the edge and none of the ends on their roster are capable of that right now. The team already invested heavily in the middle of the line with their first two picks last season (Gerald McCoy, Brian Price) so they may end up doubling down on ends this year. I’d also like to see them grab a middle linebacker, but that all depends on what they choose to do with Barrett Ruud.
4. Is there a particular player you’re hoping they take?
Honestly, no. The fun players are all at positions the Bucs don’t have a need at. I trust Mark Dominik though. He’s been phenomenal the past few seasons and I have no reason to doubt him this year. Especially when he’s not distracted with free agency and other NFL business.