Mailbag: Tampa Bay Buccaneers edition
Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas
Time for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in our series of team-by-team mailbags. Side note to Atlanta fans: The Falcons will be next and thanks for answering my plea to freshen up your questions in light of the Roddy White contract. You've given me more than enough new questions to work with, but you're welcome to keep sending.
Anyway, let's move on and talk about the Bucs.
Chris in Harrisburg, Pa., writes: Pat, how is Josh Freeman coming along? Is there any chance of seeing him starting on opening day? If not, who do you see opening up as the starter?
Pat Yasinskas: Freeman is coming along just about the way the Bucs expected. He's playing like a rookie, which means he's doing some things extremely well, but he's also making some mistakes. The only way he'll win the job for opening day is if he suddenly starts lighting it up in practices and preseason games, but the Bucs are content to go slowly with Freeman. That's been the plan all along. Right now, it's truly a battle between Luke McCown and Byron Leftwich for the starting job. Both have done some good things in camp, but there's not a clear-cut winner yet. The plan is to start McCown in the first preseason game and Leftwich in the second. Either one of those guys can win the job with a strong showing in the preseason games.
Ed in Cape Coral, Fla., writes: Pat - I like the Bucs new offense, I don't care who is under center, I think it will be pretty good and for once I am excited to see them on the field. Also for once I am afraid to see what will be of their defense. Bates has a great history, but what do you see of their starters, can they do what the coaches think they can?
Pat Yasinskas: I'm with you on the offense, Ed. Tampa Bay has a very good offensive line. I also like their running backs. Derrick Ward and Earnest Graham (and maybe even Cadillac Williams) can form a nice combination at tailback and B.J. Askew is a solid fullback. With all that, the Bucs should be able to run the ball and that's going to take pressure off whoever ends up at quarterback. There also are some weapons in the passing game with Antonio Bryant and Kellen Winslow. This is going to give whoever plays quarterback a decent chance to succeed. As far as the defense, well, it's a work in progress. Aside from linebacker Barrett Ruud, the Bucs don't have another true starter on defense. They've got some nice parts in place and Jim Bates is a good coach. But I think there will be some growing pains for the defense early on.
Mobycack in Greeley, Colo., writes: Say Plaxico Burress is allowed to play this season, and isn't in prison, what are the chances that the Bucs would bring him in?
Pat Yasinskas: Let's not rule that one out. The Bucs have been sniffing around wide receivers all offseason and they've been keeping an eye on the Burress situation. They have the salary-cap money to do something if they want. Aside from Bryant, they don't have much in the receiving corps and Burress could solve that. Michael Clayton appears ticketed to be the No. 2 receiver right now, but there's still time for that to change.
Freeman in Pittsburgh, Pa., writes: Tampa Bay is flying under the radar. The defense may have a new scheme and we may have purged a little (lol), but with the young talent that we already had along with the acquired talent, we will surprise a lot of teams. Along with the added weapons to the offense, I can see the Bucs going well into the playoffs. What do you think?
Pat Yasinskas: Living in Tampa, I hear from a lot of people that they fear the Bucs are going to be really bad. I don't buy into that at all. When I hear that stuff, I usually point to the Atlanta Falcons of last year. There were a lot of people who had them No. 32 in the league or said they'd win only a few games at this exact time last year. I was one of those people. But the Falcons came out, won 11 games and made the playoffs. In some areas, the Bucs are better off than the Falcons of a year ago. I'm not saying the Bucs will make the playoffs, but I will say it's possible.
Chris in Virginia writes: Hey Pat, everyone is talking about McCown, Leftwich, and Freeman but I haven't forgotten about the speedy little 5th round pick from last year. How does Morris feel about the wildcat and is there any chance of him implementing it in the bucs offense?
Pat Yasinskas: I assume you're talking about quarterback Josh Johnson. Well, don't get too fired up about that one. Fact is, he's a long shot to even make the team right now. The Bucs almost certainly will carry only three quarterbacks. McCown, Leftwich and Freeman almost certainly will be those three. Johnson could end up on the practice squad or somewhere else. I think coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski will stick with the basics on offense. Installing a new system with a new quarterback is enough of a challenge. Part of the reason Jon Gruden's not in Tampa Bay is because his offense was too complicated. The Bucs are going with an anti-Gruden system in a lot of ways and they want to keep things simple.