Saturday, January 20, 2018
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Needy Bucs will evaluate talent at NFL scouting combine

TAMPA

The Bucs went to the NFL scouting combine the past two years looking to collect pass rushers on the defensive line and invested heavily in Gerald McCoy, Brian Price, Adrian Clayborn and Da'Quan Bowers.

It hasn't exactly produced the sack attack they hoped for. But if the Bucs can't pressure the opposing quarterback, they might want to surround their own with more weapons.

Josh Freeman could use another receiver, an every-down tailback or a tight end. That's not to say there aren't just as many needs on a defense that gave up 494 points, second-most in team history.

The Bucs own the No. 5 overall pick in the draft. Here's where coach Greg Schiano and his staff will focus a lot of their attention this week in Indianapolis.

Cornerback

Ronde Barber is 36, has no contract and could retire, depending upon his desire to return for a 16th season and the Bucs' level of interest, contractually, to have him back.

But regardless of whether Barber, below, plays another snap, the Bucs' biggest holes may be in the secondary.

Cornerback Aqib Talib is facing a trial in March on assault with a deadly weapon charges in Texas, and if found guilty, a likely suspension from the NFL. What coach Greg Schiano and defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan already have discovered in watching film of the 2011 debacle on defense is the cupboard is bare in the secondary.

"One of a few things that really stand out is the volume of big plays that they gave up here a year ago," Sheridan said. The Bucs will learn more about LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne, whom most draft analysts believe is a top-five talent. North Alabama's Janoris Jenkins, a former Gator, is an interesting talent in later rounds.

Running back

There's a place for LeGarrette Blount in the Bucs offense, but it might not be in the starting lineup.

After rushing for 1,007 yards as a rookie, Blount showed limitations last season. He is not fast enough to get around the edge, he is not skilled enough as a route runner or pass protector for coaches to trust him on passing downs. His best ability is to bludgeon defenses late in games if the team has a lead and is milking the clock.

Earnest Graham , who has had two surgical procedures to a torn right Achilles' tendon, is a free a gent. The Bucs are well-positioned to select the best running back in the draft — Alabama's Trent Richardson. (Late Wednesday, the NFL Network reported he will not participate in on-field drills at this week's NFL combine due to "minor" arthroscopic knee surgery.)

"I think the last guy where you bang the table this hard was (Adrian ) Peterson when he came out of Oklahoma and was the seventh pick of Minnesota (in 2007)," NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock said. "So, yeah, I think his height, width, speed, toughness all constitutes a pretty solid pick."

The Bucs also will take a close look at Oregon RB LaMichael James .

Receiver

Mike Williams suffered through a sophomore slump and Arrelious Benn never hit his stride coming off ACL surgery. QB Josh Freeman needs more targets, so Oklahoma State's Justin Blackmon will be on the Bucs' radar.

"I mean, look at the Buccaneers," Mayock said. "The Buccaneers really probably need a speed guy, because they've got a couple good, solid, young, possession receivers.

"As far as Blackmon … I think you have to look at him like Larry Fitzgerald, which is I don't think he's going to run a great 40. I think he's going to run a 4.5 or a 4.52 … and I think you have to say that's okay. He's big, he's physical, he's got tremendous body control and tremendous ball skills."

Baylor's Kendall Wright, Notre Dame's Michael Floyd and LSU's Rueben Randle are top WRs.

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