It’s time to turn to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in today’s series of team-by-team mailbags.
William in Newport Beach, Calif., writes: Do you think the Buccaneers will take a flyer on pass-rush OLB Shawne Merriman? I personally think if the Bucs put him at DE he would be killer in their 4-3 scheme. What are your thoughts?
Pat Yasinskas: Absolutely not. There was a time when the Bucs might have been all over a player like Merriman. But those days are over. It’s pretty obvious the Bucs are committed to building with youth. That’s starting to show some signs of being a wise idea. Yes, the Bucs definitely could use help in the pass rush, but they aren’t in a mode where they’re looking for short-term fixes these days.
Josh in Toronto writes: Hey Pat, great job on the blog. I love reading about how the Bucs are growing up quickly and the potential Josh Freeman and the team has, having built a solid foundation. Can you see the Bucs being a perennial playoff team in the near future and possibly winning a Super Bowl in the next five years?
Pat Yasinskas: I don’t want to get too far ahead of the game. But what we’ve seen out of the Bucs this year has been very encouraging. It’s becoming obvious Freeman has the potential to be a top-notch quarterback, and that’s a great start. There are some other young guys who are looking like they can be core players. If the Bucs can continue to add to that core, anything is possible. Like I said, with Freeman on board, they already have the most important piece.
Grant in Palm Harbor, Fla., writes: What do you think is the Buc's greatest weakness right now? And do you think the Bucs will do anything about the weakness this season (sign a free agent, trade, etc.), or do you think they'll wait until this years' draft to find a solution?
Pat Yasinskas: We touched on the pass rush above and that is a weakness. But for the sake of variety, I’ll say the running game. Freeman is having a lot of success and he’s doing it without a consistent running game. I’m not ready to write off Cadillac Williams, and I don’t think his light production this season is totally his fault. I think the Bucs need to improve their run blocking. Again, I don’t see any short-term fixes coming this season. You might see a bit more of Kareem Huggins and LeGarrette Blount going forward. Maybe they’ll ignite the running game or maybe Williams will bounce back. If not, then I think you can expect the Bucs to draft a running back pretty early next year.
Matt in Streator, Ill., writes: Why is it that no one else will give the Bucs credit for the comeback win over the Bengals? All I've heard is the Bengals collapsed and lost the game. The Bucs came back and took that game with timely defensive plays, a rookie WR making highlight catches, and a 2nd year QB playing like a 10-year vet in a high-pressure situation. In the past they have never had enough talent on offense to make that kind of comeback even with great defensive play. It's time to give credit where credit is due.
Pat Yasinskas: Not sure who it is that you think is selling the Bucs short. But I salute Tampa Bay for winning against Cincinnati. Yeah, the Bengals aren’t the greatest team in the world. But this is the NFL. When you go on the road, fall behind and come back and win, that’s a major accomplishment. And I agree with what you’re saying about how the Bucs won that game. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, it’s looking like Freeman gives the Bucs the first quarterback in franchise history who truly can go out and win a game.