You can learn a lot about the Bucs self-evaluation by examining their draft.
Four of their first five selections were defensive players, no surprise considering Tampa Bay gave up a franchise-worst 494 points, was last in rushing defense and allowed 30 touchdown passes last season.
"We wanted to become a much more physical football team with this draft - that was the main concern, and I think we did that,'' general manager Mark Dominik said. "We also wanted to become a smarter football team with this draft, and I think we did that. And we wanted to create a lot of competition with this draft and I think we did that.''
Let's focus on the competition that was created by this draft. For each of the seven players selected by the Bucs, there is at least one existing player who potentially will be affected by that choice.
Round 1/7 Mark Barron, S, Alabama: Ronde Barber. …
The Bucs, by just about every account, had a splendid draft, with general manager Mark Dominik wheeling and dealing both up and down and coach Greg Schiano using his experience in the college ranks as a key advantage.
Many of the team's draft choices have a chance for immediate impact, something that further suggests the Bucs did a solid job.
But if we had to nitpick, it's fair to wonder why the Bucs didn't address cornerback in a more substantial fashion. The Bucs took West Virginia's Keith Tandy in the sixth round, but there's some thought inside One Buc Place that he could ultimately become a safety.
"We’re going to give him a shot at corner and see how he does, because that’s what he did at West Virginia," Dominik said. Either way, we can't consider Tandy a sure thing as a sixth-round pick.
While the situation at cornerback is not currently a crisis, it will become one in the very near future. Here's why not drafting a cornerback earlier in the draft will become problematic: …
The Bucs thought they had a deal with undrafted Toledo receiver Eric Page on Saturday night, with the player going as far as announcing the news via Twitter.
But only hours later, Page had changed his mind, declining to sign the deal after agreeing to join the Broncos and quarterback Peyton Manning instead. Denver announced Page among its rookie free agent signings early this morning.
Page, who left after his junior season, caught 125 passes last season for 1,182 yards and 10 touchdowns. He was considered likely to be drafted, some projecting him as a middle-round choice.
The Bucs on Saturday evening began signing a group of undrafted free agents, including Toledo receiver Eric Page, a projected mid- to late-round pick. Page, who left school after his junior season, had 1,182 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2011, but was not among the 33 receivers drafted. Page caught an astounding 125 passes last season.
Also headed to Tampa Bay, USF guard-center Chaz Hine and another Toledo prospect, tackle Mike Van Der Meulen. General manager Mark Dominik said the team could sign up to 15 undrafted players before the night's end, though the full list might not be available until Sunday.
The team is better able to accommodate a higher number of signings because the NFL last week raised offseason roster limits to 90 players from 80.
UPDATE, 11:13 p.m.: The Bucs have added another signing, this one a local. Former Largo High star Leonard Johnson, a four-year starting cornerback at Iowa State, has joined Tampa Bay, his agent confirmed.
Johnson, 5-10 and 196 pounds, is a second-team All-Big 12 selection who ended his career with a streak of 39 consecutive starts. …
With the Bucs' tight end situation needing to be solidified, the Bucs finished their draft by selecting Northwestern tight end Drake Dunsmore with the second of two seventh-round picks.
Dunsmore, 6-3 and 235 pounds, is considered a potential H-back type of player, one who can play in both the backfield and as a tight end. He is a reliable and productive receiver, catching 143 passes in his career, including 45 as a senior in 2011.
A native of Lenexa, Kan., Dunsmore played in 50 career games, starting 29.
The Bucs acquired their second running back in the draft today when they selected Utah State's Michael Smith with the first of two seventh-round picks, giving Tampa Bay a potential change-of-pace back who has top-end, game-changing speed.
Smith, a backup to fourth-round pick Robert Turbin at Utah State, took advantage of his limited opportunities, rushing for 870 yards and nine touchdowns, averaging 7.6 yards per carry.
Maybe the most intriguing aspect of his game is Smith's speed, of which he has a lot. Smith said he was clocked at 4.26 seconds in the 40-yard dash during his pre-draft training, while running 4.32 seconds at his campus pro day. He provides a much different style of running than first-round pick Doug Martin and last year's starter, LeGarrette Blount.
But Smith likes to emphasize a different quality.
"They (talk about) my speed," he said. "Yeah, I’m fast, but I feel like my mental toughness (is greater). Like I said, I wasn’t the starter at Utah State. I had Robert Turbin in front of me. He’s a great running back, so I had to seize the opportunity when I got it. So, I believe (I have) mental toughness and not getting down on yourself when things don’t go your way." …
The Bucs have added another defensive piece, drafting West Virginia cornerback Keith Tandy, who had 10 interceptions in his final two seasons with the Moutaineers.
The 5-10, 200-pound Tandy has played right and left cornerback and was the team's sixth-leading tackler in 2011, with 64. Tandy also led the team with nine pass breakups and four interceptions last season.
Tandy is not the fastest cornerback, but is seen as a player capable of supporting the run and tackling well. In a game this season against Maryland, he registered 10 total tacklers, including eight solo.
"I think one of my main things is reading the quarterback, playing off (receivers) and (playing) zone," Tandy said by phone. "I’m real physical with the receiver. I’m more of a bigger cornerback. I try to use that to my advantage."
After this selection, the Bucs have made five selections, four of which are defensive players.
Tandy revealed after his selection that he was roommates at West Virginia with Bucs fifth-round pick Najee Goode. Saturday was an emotional day for both. …
The Bucs went back-to-back at linebacker in the NFL draft, using their fifth round pick on West Virginia's Najee Goode, 140th overall.
The 6-foot-1, 241-pound Goode arrived to the Mountaineers program as a walk-on and wound up starting the past two seasons at inside linebacker.
Tampa Bay traded up with the Houston Texans and moved into the second round Friday to select Nebraska linebacker Lavonte David with the 58th overall pick. As a result, the Bucs did not have a third round choice when the draft resumed Saturday.
Goode started 24 games in his last two seasons at West Virginia and finished with 157 career tackles, 22.5 tackles for loss, eight sacks and two interceptions. He is no stranger to Bucs coach Greg Schiano, whose Rutgers teams never beat the Mountaineers.
"We always played them in tough games in crazy weather,'' Goode said. "They had good athletes and against them, I did have some great games. I'm glad he got a chance to see me before he looked at me NFL-wise. I was actually pretty good against them and made some plays. …
While we can only offer an educated guess on where second-round pick Lavonte David will play, we now can pretty much write in stone that Mason Foster will be the Bucs' middle linebacker.
That's one thing that's been clarified in this draft. The Bucs ended last week's voluntary veteran minicamp leaning toward keeping Foster as their middle linebacker, but they stopped well short of committing. But after selecting David, coach Greg Schiano said he will be an outside linebacker -- either weak-side or strong-side. Quincy Black is likely to play opposite David.
While the Bucs don't feel any pressure to publicly commit to linebacker roles for a while, according to Schiano, this move does bring some closure to Foster's situation and allows him to concentrate on where he'll play in 2012.
The Bucs' many moves this offseason have had a major impact on the team's starting lineup. Here's a quick effort at our best guesses of what that lineup looks like after the first two days of the NFL Draft.
Before I continue, a couple of points: I am not taking into consideration Aqib Talib's legal situation because we're only basing this on current situations. Also, though Ronde Barber is listed over Eric Wright, those two are likely to compete for the job and both are expected to play significantly under any scenario.
QB: Josh Freeman
RB: Doug Martin*
FB: Erik Lorig
TE: Kellen Winslow
WR: Vincent Jackson*
LT: Donald Penn
LG: Carl Nicks*
C: Jeremy Zuttah
RG: Davin Joseph
RT: Jeremy Trueblood
WR: Mike Williams
LDE: Da’Quan Bowers
DT: Brian Price
DT: Gerald McCoy
RDE: Adrian Clayborn
OLB: Lavonte David*
MLB: Mason Foster
OLB: Quincy Black
LCB: Aqib Talib
SS: Mark Barron*
FS: Cody Grimm
RCB: Ronde Barber
P: Michael Koenen
K: Connor Barth**
**-Designated franchise player ; hasn’t signed tender
Say this for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, they are not willing to be landlocked in the staid waters of two losing seasons in the past three years.
That became abundantly clear in the first couple days of the NFL draft in which the Bucs rode a wave of three trades by general manager Mark Domink and coach Greg Schiano to fill gaping holes on their team.
The wheeling and dealing continued Friday when the Bucs traded up into the second-round with the Houston Texans to select Nebraska linebacker Lavonte David with the 58th overall pick.
"I think we got better in the last 24 hours,'' Schiano said. "We really got better.''
It all began Thursday when the Bucs moved down to spots from No. 5 overall to No. 7 with Jacksonville to select Alabama safety Mark Barron. In the process, the Bucs picked up the Jags' fourth-round pick (101 overall).
Then just when it appeared the Bucs might call it a night, they traded their second-round pick and swapped fourth rounders with the Denver Broncos to take Boise State running back Doug Martin. …
Two men for whom lifelong dreams came true on Thursday night took their next steps today when Bucs first-round picks Mark Barron and Doug Martin were introduced at One Buc Place.
With smiles all around, coach Greg Schiano welcomed the pair of picks, saying, “I think I speak for all the coaches and everybody whose had a chance to be around these guys when I say we cannot wait to work with you guys.”
For Barron and Martin, both low-key, businesslike young men, they spoke not of their elation over being drafted but, rather, about their plans to get started with helping the Bucs bounce back from a 4-12 season.
Barron knows what it’s like to be a champion – times two – having won a pair of BCS Championships at Alabama. He doesn’t plan to settle for less in Tampa Bay.
“Coming from the program that I come from, it’s kind of just the mindset that I have,” Barron said. “You want to be the best at everything we do. Every day we go out to practice (at Alabama), we’re just working at being the best. …
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