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On Day 2 of NFL draft, Tampa Bay Buccaneers focus on defense

TAMPA — Take a deep breath, Tampa Bay Buccaneers fans.

Or a chill pill. Anything to relax. Mark Dominik and Raheem Morris know you were a little worried that with all this quarterback talk, they might neglect the defense.

But Sunday, the second day of the draft, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' general manager and coach devoted three of their five picks to your favorite side of the football.

One day after shivering the timbers of some nostalgic fans by using the 17th overall pick on Kansas State quarterback Josh Freeman, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers selected two defensive linemen and a cornerback.

"I was very aware," Mark Dominik said. "I've been part of this organization for 14 years, and I got to start with it when (Derrick) Brooks and (Warren) Sapp stepped in the door. So I understand this town and how important defense is to it.

"And the year before I got here is the last time we took a quarterback in the first round (Trent Dilfer in 1994). So I knew that there was going to be some reservations about that considering what this town is so used to. But I'm excited about what we did (Saturday) in terms of the direction and long-term plan for this franchise."

More of that plan was revealed Sunday. The Bucs began by adding two pieces to the defensive line, Texas tackle Roy Miller (third round, 81st overall) and USC end Kyle Moore (fourth round, 117th overall). Both were voted captains by their teammates and provide versatility against the run and pass.

The 6-foot-1, 315-pound Miller bench-presses 500 pounds and is primarily a run-stuffer who will be part of a rotation with Chris Hovan and Ryan Sims.

Moore (6-5, 272), for whom the Bucs traded a seventh-round pick to the Cowboys to move up three spots and draft, has a long wingspan and can play left end and move inside to tackle on passing downs.

In the fifth round, the Bucs took Illinois left tackle Xavier Fulton, who they hope can back up on both sides. Having dealt their sixth-round choice to Cleveland to jump up two spots for Freeman, the Bucs concluded by selecting Western Michigan cornerback E.J. Biggers and Oregon State receiver Sammie Stroughter in the seventh round.

The Bucs believe the 6-foot, 180-pound Biggers is physical enough to play bump-and-run and his 4.34 40-yard speed will allow him to cover the field.

Stroughter (5-9, 185) caught 70 passes for 1,040 yards and seven touchdowns last season and will provide a slot receiver.

No matter what becomes of those players, this draft will be judged solely by the decision to draft Freeman. Morris, a defensive coordinator at Kansas State for one season, drove the bus on this one. But Dominik insisted he, the scouts and assistants didn't just come along for the ride.

Dominik said he got to see Freeman up close at the Kansas State-Kansas game last season.

"I walked up on the pregame on the field, and I was amazed at his size, his delivery, his arm strength," Dominik said. "You're sitting there going, 'Wow, this guy has got a lot of talent.'

"There were certain questions you just couldn't answer. And as we have walked him through from the start of draft preparation to taking him with our first pick this year, he continued to check the boxes of the things that were important to us."

Dominik says the Bucs don't plan to rush Freeman into the lineup.

"I understand he's 21, and I've seen it where it helps for them to sit," Dominik said. "But I've seen it last year where the guys played themselves onto the football field (Atlanta's Matt Ryan and Baltimore's Joe Flacco).

"But I do realize he's a young quarterback, and ideally, you'd like those guys to at least learn a little about how to prepare and get caught up to the game. We'll see how the preseason goes."

So while the debate on the direction of the Bucs rages outside One Buc Place, inside, it was quiet as a lagoon.

"It's funny. They call upstairs the war room," Dominik said. "I've been part of some fun ones before. But it wasn't a war room up there. We had a good time. It was loose. It was comfortable. We had good dialogue, good discussions. We felt like it was a very productive draft for us."

Bucs picks

Rd.PlayerPos.

1Josh FreemanQB

3Roy MillerDT

4Kyle MooreDE

5Xavier FultonOT

7E.J. BiggersCB

7Sammie StroughterWR

A look at Day 2's picks, 6C

Murphy's taken

Gators receiver Louis Murphy joins the Raiders and a familiar foe in Round 4. 7C

On Day 2 of NFL draft, Tampa Bay Buccaneers focus on defense 04/26/09 [Last modified: Monday, April 27, 2009 7:23am]

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