Sunday, December 17, 2017
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs' poor finish hides individual success

Face it. The first season under Greg Schiano was partly cloudy, but there is time to search for silver linings.

While the 6-9 record might not be enough to get you through the long offseason, there are a few individual performances that shattered club marks, and more records could fall today.

Start with QB Josh Freeman. Last week, he broke the record for passing yards (3,843) and tied the record for touchdowns (26). He needs only 157 yards to reach 4,000.

Vincent Jackson (69 catches, 1,334 yards, eight touchdowns) needs 89 yards to break Mark Carrier's record set in 1989. His 19.3-yard average leads the NFL.

Mike Williams needs 69 receiving yards to reach 1,000 for the first time in his three-year career. It would give the Bucs two 1,000-yard receivers in a season for the first time.

Doug Martin set the rookie rushing record with 1,312 yards. (He is sitting 232 behind James Wilder's overall record of 1,544 set in 1984.)

"I think it's very impressive," Schiano said. "You go right down the list, starting with … Jackson; exactly what we thought we were going to get. And what's not in those numbers is his leadership, his work ethic, the example he sets.

"You go to a guy like (LB) Lavonte David. He's put up tremendous numbers and doing everything that he does. So I'm just excited about him. And with Doug Martin, it's the same thing. He's third in the NFL in total yards from scrimmage. So you look at a rookie to do that — anybody to do that — but a rookie especially.

"So there are a lot of things that I know I lose sight of because the only thing that's really important to me is winning these games. But when I do step away and look at some of the individual efforts, it's encouraging, to say the least."

WRIGHT OR WRONG? The four-game suspension of CB Eric Wright voided $7.5 million in guarantees he had for 2013. It's a virtual get-out-of-jail-free card for the Bucs and GM Mark Dominik, who made an above-market deal for a below-spectacular defensive back last offseason.

Wright returned to practice Wednesday, but Schiano has been cagey about whether he will play in today's game at Atlanta. Here's one theory: Wright missed the Falcons game Nov. 25 with a recurring Achilles injury. If he were to play, become injured and not be able to pass a physical, the collective bargaining agreement could provide injury protection of 50 percent of a player's base salary, up to $1.5 million.

Would the Bucs play Wright, if they intend to release him, and risk an injury and payout? Seems unlikely.

BENNETT BROTHERS: Giants TE Martellus Bennett and his brother, Bucs DE Michael Bennett, can become free agents after this season.

Martellus has suggested Michael should sign with the Giants. But is there any reason why the Bucs couldn't use a dominant, complete tight end such as Martellus?

"The Bucs made me who I am as far as being a player and took a lot of time developing me," said Michael Bennett, claimed off waivers in October 2009.

"Most of these guys are my family because my family is far away. It's definitely going to be hurtful if this is my last game with the Bucs. But this is a business, and those things happen. So I just look forward to playing this last game and seeing what happens."

LAST WORD: From DT Roy Mil­ler on DT Gerald McCoy being named to the Pro Bowl:

"I'm just glad he was able to finish the season and be recognized for the talent he has. That man has been called every name from everybody; from bust to whatever. And now he's in the Pro Bowl. I'm excited for him. He came here as a rookie, and I got to see him progress. And I'm just happy for him. He continued to be resilient, and to see his name on that list did my heart good."

Rick Stroud can be reached at stroud @tampabay.com and heard from 6 to 9 a.m. weekdays on WDAE-620.

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