NFC South: Gaines Adams

CSNBayArea.com’s Matt Maiocco took a look at the last five years and ranked all 32 teams on how they’ve fared in the draft.

The NFC South did very well in this evaluation with three teams landing in the top 10. The New Orleans Saints were No. 2 (behind only Green Bay), the Atlanta Falcons were No. 5 and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers came in at No. 10.

The Carolina Panthers came in at No. 24 and I think things might have been skewed by last year’s 2-14 record. But we’ll come back to the Panthers in a bit.

Let’s start with the Saints and, by coincidence, this survey’s window opens with the 2006 draft. Say what you want about Reggie Bush, who was taken at No. 2 overall, but I don’t think it’s fair to label him a bust because the Saints are happy with what they’ve gotten out of him. They think they’ll still get more good things out of him and that’s why it looks like they’ll find a way to keep him. But 2006 also brought guard Jahri Evans and receiver Marques Colston in later rounds. Those two represent why New Orleans is near the top of this list. The Saints have been pretty good at hitting on first-round picks (Malcolm Jenkins and Sedrick Ellis pop to mind), but they’ve been great at finding impact players in the middle and late rounds.

Atlanta’s had 42 picks in the last five years and 26 of them are still with the team. That’s not a bad number, since general manager Thomas Dimitroff and coach Mike Smith have been responsible for only three of those drafts. They hit a home run when they got quarterback Matt Ryan in their first draft and most of the other picks from that draft have worked out nicely, although the jury is still out on left tackle Sam Baker. The thing that often gets overlooked is the Falcons also got defensive quarterback Curtis Lofton in that same 2008 draft and he’s been a very steady force at middle linebacker. The Falcons have landed some other solid picks like safeties Thomas DeCoud and William Moore outside of the first round. The jury still is out on defensive tackle Peria Jerry, the first-round pick in 2009 because his career was disrupted by a knee injury.

Tampa Bay’s five-year draft record is somewhat difficult to fully sort out because Raheem Morris and Mark Dominik took over for Jon Gruden and Bruce Allen in 2009. Gruden and Allen had some big hits with guys like Davin Joseph, but some extreme misses (Gaines Adams and Dexter Jackson). Things are still playing out for Dominik and Morris and their draft classes, but I’ve got no problem putting the Bucs in the top 10 and that comes for one simple reason. Tampa Bay landed its franchise quarterback in 2009 when the Bucs took Josh Freeman. There’s an old saying that you’ve won half the battle if you get a franchise quarterback. I think there’s some truth in that and the Bucs are going to win a lot of games, mainly because of Freeman, over the next decade or so.

Now, let’s go back to Carolina. I think the Panthers have drafted a lot better than people give them credit for over this five-year span. They got Pro Bowl center Ryan Kalil in the second round and have been solid with first-round picks like Jon Beason, DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart. Former coach John Fox was pouting last season and that may have held some of 2010’s rookies back. But I’ve got a hunch you’re going to see a lot more of guys like Armanti Edwards, Brandon LaFell and David Gettis going forward.

Draft Watch: NFC South

March, 17, 2011
3/17/11
12:00
PM ET
NFC Draft Watch: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Each Thursday leading up to the NFL draft (April 28-30), the ESPN.com NFL blog network will take a division-by-division look at key aspects of the draft. Today's topic: draft rewind -- examining the past five drafts.

Atlanta Falcons

Best choice: Taking Matt Ryan with the No. 3 overall pick in 2008. Yeah, he was the third pick and you should hit when you’re drafting in that territory. But look at how many quarterbacks, including some No. 1 overall picks, haven’t hit. The Falcons did their homework and were totally convinced Ryan was a franchise quarterback when they drafted him. He’s backed it up. You can still debate whether Ryan is an “elite quarterback,’’ whatever that means. But he came to a franchise that probably had hit a lower point than any franchise at any time in NFC South history and has produced nothing but winning seasons. Sure sounds like a franchise quarterback to me.

Worst choice: Jamaal Anderson. He has become a serviceable defensive tackle in the past year or so, but this guy was drafted as a defensive end in the top 10 in a draft where teams were reaching for pass-rushers (see Tampa Bay and Gaines Adams). This falls on a past regime and is part of the reason that regime failed. In four seasons, Anderson has produced 4.5 sacks and, as they head into the 2011 draft, the Falcons are, once again looking for a pass-rusher.

On the bubble: Peria Jerry. The Falcons thought they had a solid pick when they took Jerry in the first round in the 2009 draft. Jerry injured his knee early in his rookie season. He came back last year, but wound up as a backup to 2010 third-round pick Corey Peters. The Falcons are saying they expect a fully healthy Jerry to emerge in 2011. If that happens, there will be vindication. If not, Jerry will go down as a bust.

Carolina Panthers

Best choice: Ryan Kalil. Center didn’t seem like a huge need when the Panthers used a second-round pick on Kalil in 2007, and he did very little as a rookie. But the guy has turned into a consistent Pro Bowler. We won’t weigh this down by going into the labor situation, although the Panthers placed a franchise tag on Kalil. They’re still looking for the first true franchise quarterback in their short history. But they’ve got a franchise center to snap the ball.

Worst choice: Dwayne Jarrett. We’re only going back five years, so Keary Colbert is not eligible and he at least had a few productive moments. But the Panthers compounded that mistake by taking another USC receiver in the second round in 2007. Colbert should have been a major warning sign.

On the bubble: We’ll go with a tie between quarterback Jimmy Clausen and receiver Armanti Edwards. It’s tough to call anyone a bust after just one year, but the production of Clausen and Edwards as rookies makes that very tempting. We’ll give them a pass for the moment because they were emblematic of former coach John Fox’s refusal to embrace a youth movement. They get a fresh start with new coach Ron Rivera, and we’ll see how that works out.

New Orleans Saints

Best choice: Marques Colston. Yep, we’ll go all the way back to the first draft class of coach Sean Payton and general manager Mickey Loomis as a team. They used the second of two seventh-round picks (No. 252) on the little-known receiver out of Hofstra. All they got was a guy who instantly became a very good No. 1 receiver. His numbers would be spectacular if Payton and quarterback Drew Brees weren’t so good at spreading the ball around. Colston is the definition of a value pick, and guys like guards Carl Nicks and Jahri Evans aren’t far off.

Worst choice: Al Woods. It’s hard to find any flaws in the way Payton and Loomis have drafted. They haven’t totally missed on any early picks. Woods was a fourth-round pick in 2010, but he ended up getting cut in the preseason. You generally expect a fourth-round pick to at least make the roster.

On the bubble: Reggie Bush. Yes, five drafts into this regime, you can still say the first pick Payton and Loomis made is on the bubble. Bush might stay there for his entire career because opinions are widely divided, and that’s understandable. He was the second overall pick in the 2006 draft. He never has produced the kind of numbers you would expect from a running back taken so early, and injuries have slowed him. But the flip side is that Bush is much more than a running back. He’s also a receiver and a return man. When you factor all that in and remember the role Bush played in the Saints' first Super Bowl title in franchise history, it’s tough to say categorically he’s been a bust.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Best choice: Josh Freeman in a landslide. He wasn’t a popular pick when the Bucs traded up to get him in the middle of the first round in 2009. That was only because the Tampa Bay fan base had been schooled from the beginning that defense is most important. But general manager Mark Dominik and coach Raheem Morris departed from that philosophy in their first draft. They landed a franchise quarterback who might not even be close to hitting his full potential.

Worst choice: Dexter Jackson. He was the modern-day Tampa Bay version of Booker Reese, which says a lot. But I’ll say even more and anoint Jackson as the worst draft pick any NFC South team has made in the past five years. In their last draft, former coach Jon Gruden and former general manager Bruce Allen used a second-round pick (No. 58) on the receiver/return man from Appalachian State. They made matters even worse moments after the pick by walking into the media room and saying they had found the second coming of Carolina receiver Steve Smith. It turned out the only things Smith and Jackson had in common were their size and the fact that both had spent some time in North Carolina. The Bucs quickly found out Jackson had no business being in the NFL. Maybe somebody should tell Jackson there's an opening in that flag-football league at the Siskey YMCA in Charlotte.

On the bubble: Gerald McCoy. Again, it’s tough to declare anything about a player after just one season. But McCoy was the No. 3 overall pick in last year’s draft. With a weak supporting cast, he got off to a slow start and probably didn’t do himself any favors by talking so much about it. McCoy started to come on as the season progressed but suffered a season-ending injury. Throw in the instant success of Detroit’s Ndamukong Suh and that places lots of pressure on McCoy to become a star in his second season.
It seems like every week in the NFL there are stories about players going against their former teams or coaches facing their former teams. But, when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers play the Washington Redskins on Sunday, the game presents more of a behind-the-scenes grudge match.

Bruce Allen is Washington’s general manager. He held that job in Tampa Bay from 2004 until he (and coach Jon Gruden) got fired after the 2008 season. That made me wonder a bit about how much Allen’s drafting has contributed to Tampa Bay’s surprising turnaround.

[+] EnlargeBruce Allen
AP Photo/John RaouxFormer GM Bruce Allen made some high-profile draft mistakes while in Tampa.
The answer is easy: Not much at all. Go take a look at Tampa Bay’s roster and I’m talking only the current active roster. There are nine guys Allen drafted and you can’t exactly call them the core of Tampa Bay’s resurgence.

Allen did draft safety Tanard Jackson, who is suspended until at least next September for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy. He also drafted cornerback Aqib Talib and Davin Joseph, who currently are on injured reserve.

That leaves Allen’s draft haul as center Jeremy Zuttah, backup quarterback Josh Johnson, linebackers Quincy Black, Geno Hayes and Adam Hayward, tackle Jeremy Trueblood, receiver Maurice Stovall, running back Cadillac Williams and linebacker Barrett Ruud.

That’s a less-than-stellar cast. We’ll give Allen credit for drafting the starting linebacker corps, even though Ruud is probably on his way out of Tampa Bay. Trueblood was average for a few years, but he’s now playing behind James Lee. Zuttah’s a decent guy to have swinging between center and guard, but he’s nothing special. Williams had a nice rookie year and has made a couple of inspirational comebacks from major knee injuries, but he could be on the way out as the Bucs look for a younger pair of legs to go with LeGarrette Blount next year. It’s a minor miracle Stovall’s still on the roster and the Bucs would be in deep trouble if they ever had to start Johnson at quarterback.

Joseph’s a free agent next year and there’s no guarantee Jackson will be back. Talib’s a great natural talent, but he’s come with trouble.

Oh, and let’s talk about some of Allen’s other greatest hits. We’re going to leave tragic figures Gaines Adams and Arron Sears alone. But how about receiver Michael Clayton? The Bucs could have had St. Louis running back Steven Jackson or Atlanta receiver Michael Jenkins (a Tampa kid) or New Orleans defensive end Will Smith with that pick.

And who can remember Chris Colmer? Yeah, he’s the offensive tackle Allen drafted in the third round, despite a history of shoulder problems. The injury resurfaced as soon as Colmer joined the Bucs and he never played a down in the NFL.

At least with Clayton the Bucs got one productive season. But Allen’s history with other receivers was even worse. There was fifth-round choice Larry Brackens out of that football factory that sometimes is called Pearl River Community college and, then there was Allen’s all-time worst draft pick.

Yep, Allen saved it for his last draft. He and Gruden used a second-round pick on Dexter Jackson and walked into the media room a bit later and claimed he was going to be the second coming of Carolina’s Steve Smith. Turns out the only thing Jackson and Smith had in common was they were both short and since Jackson had gone to school at Appalachian State, he had spent some time in North Carolina.

But, hey, maybe Allen’s drafts did the current Bucs a favor, after all. If Allen hadn’t botched things at wide receiver the way he did, Mark Dominik never would have had to draft Mike Williams, Arrelious Benn and Sammie Stroughter.
When choosing the best draft class in the history of the NFC South (history starts in 2002, when the NFC South started), it was easy to pick the 2006 group brought in by the New Orleans Saints. Guys like Reggie Bush, Jahri Evans, Marques Colston and Roman Harper were big reasons why the Saints won the Super Bowl last season.

But 2007 also was a memorable draft for the Buccaneers and Falcons -- for all the wrong reasons. In fact, I had to have a lengthy debate with myself on if Atlanta or Tampa Bay had the worst class in division history that year.

1. 2007 by Tampa Bay. As I debated the demerits of what Atlanta and Tampa Bay did in this draft, it really came down to the fact that the Bucs hit the trifecta with their first three picks. They took Gaines Adams, Arron Sears and Sabby Piscitelli. You can’t really argue with that. Adams was a non-factor before the Bucs traded him to Chicago, Sears couldn’t play last year because of personal issues and Piscitelli showed last year that he can’t play. Safety Tanard Jackson, a fourth-round pick, has been a bright spot, but not enough to pull the Bucs out of the top spot.

2. 2007 by Atlanta. When the Bucs took Adams, they passed over Jamaal Anderson and the Falcons pounced on him with the No. 8 overall pick. If you don’t hit on a top-10 pick, you’ve got a problem. The Falcons have gotten nothing out of Anderson. They did get a solid starter in guard Justin Blalock in the second round and fourth-round pick Stephen Nicholas became a starter at linebacker last year. But Bobby Petrino and Rich McKay also gave the Falcons cornerback Chris Houston in the second round and receiver Laurent Robinson in the third. Houston started a lot of games for the Falcons, but the current Atlanta regime was thrilled to trade him to Detroit this year. Robinson never came close to being a factor.

3. 2003 by Tampa Bay. Speaking of Petrino, he played a major role in building what almost was the third-worst draft class in NFC South history. I gave very strong consideration to Carolina’s class of 2005. Louisville products Eric Shelton and Stefan LeFors were tremendous busts. Atiyyah Ellison and Jovan Haye showed they can play in the league, but only after they left the Panthers. But I couldn’t quite put Carolina in this slot because first-round pick Thomas Davis has worked out. If you want to see a class that truly flopped from top to bottom look back at the 2003 Bucs. They were without a first-round pick because it was used to help get coach Jon Gruden out of Oakland. But the Bucs jumped in after that and gave you this collection of draft picks -- Dewayne White, Chris Simms, Lance Nimmo, Austin King, Sean Mahan and Torrie Cox. Sad part is Cox, the last pick of the bunch, probably did the most of this group.
Quarterback hurries, pressures, hits or whatever you want to call them are not an official NFL statistic.

But I was browsing through the “season-in-review’’ packages of all four NFC South teams last night and noticed each team had something in, or close to, this category. Again, it’s not official and these numbers are calculated by assistant coaches after watching film.

Take the numbers for what they’re worth because, in my experience, they’re very subjective. I’ve seen some assistant coaches be very fair with this type of thing (tackle totals are done the same way) and I’ve also seen some inflate the numbers a bit to make themselves and their players look good.

With that disclaimer out of the way, let’s go through the four teams on this unique category.

Atlanta. The Falcons call them quarterback hurries. Although Atlanta had a disappointing 28 sacks, it doubled the number when it came to hurries. The Falcons had 56. According to Atlanta’s coaching staff, John Abraham led the team with 12 hurries. Jonathan Babineaux had 10, which is a nice number for a defensive tackle, especially when you combine it with his team-high six sacks. Defensive end Kroy Biermann was next with eight hurries. Stephen Nicholas led the linebackers with four hurries. The only other number that really jumped out at me was that defensive end/tackle Jamaal Anderson had four hurries. He didn’t have a sack. But, hey, he at least got close to the quarterback a few times.

Carolina. The Panthers go with the term “quarterback pressures’’ and their numbers are dramatically higher than Atlanta’s. Not sure if that’s a case of Carolina having a better pass rush or the coaches being more generous in their breakdowns. Whatever the case, former Carolina defensive end Julius Peppers was credited with a team-best 35 pressures. Former Carolina defensive tackle Damione Lewis was next with 21. Those guys are gone, but here’s something encouraging for those wondering about the future of Carolina’s defensive line: Defensive end Everette Brown had 16 pressures in a part-time role in his rookie season. Charles Johnson, another guy who now has a chance to be a starter, had 12 pressures in a part-time role. Tyler Brayton, who started last season and seems destined to end up elsewhere as a free agent, had 14 pressures.

New Orleans. The Saints call them quarterback hurries and their coaching staff tabulated 98 of them. Predictably, Will Smith led the Saints with 23. Bobby McCray, who was a backup, was second with 13. End/tackle Anthony Hargrove had 11. Starter Charles Grant had 10. But Grant has been released by the Saints. What stands out most about the Saints in this category is that, although only four guys reached double figures, they had a bunch of other players with a fair amount of hurries. That’s a symptom of the aggressive Gregg Williams defense. New Orleans can bring pressure from anywhere. Safety Roman Harper had eight hurries and middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma had seven.

Tampa Bay. Like the Panthers, the Bucs count quarterback pressures, and I think their coaching staff was more than a little generous. According to the coaches, the Bucs had 154 pressures -- that from a team that produced only 28 sacks. Stylez G. White was credited with a whopping 34 pressures. Jimmy Wilkerson, who currently is hanging out there as a free agent was next with 28. The Bucs also credited tackle Chris Hovan (18), end Tim Crowder (13) linebacker Geno Hayes (12), defensive tackle Ryan Sims (10) and the late Gaines Adams (10, before he was traded to Chicago) with double-digit pressures.

Draft Watch: NFC South

March, 10, 2010
3/10/10
12:00
PM ET
NFC Recent History: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Draft Watch: Biggest needs (2/17) | Busts/gems (2/24) | Schemes, themes (3/3) | Recent history (3/10) | Needs revisited (3/17) | Under-the-radar needs (3/26) | History in that spot (3/31) | Draft approach (4/7) | Decision-makers (4/14) | Dream scenario/Plan B (4/21)

Each Wednesday leading up to the NFL draft (April 22-24), the ESPN.com blog network will take a division-by-division look at key aspects of the draft. Today's topic: Recent history.

Atlanta Falcons

In general manager Thomas Dimitroff’s first draft in 2008, the Falcons went almost exclusively with offense, mainly because they wanted to build around quarterback Matt Ryan and left tackle Sam Baker. That draft was a huge success and it helped the Falcons build a solid offensive core. Last year, Dimitroff switched over almost entirely to defense. The jury is still out on that class because defensive tackle Peria Jerry and safety William Moore missed almost all of their rookie seasons with injuries. But both will be back and will fill defensive needs. The products of the last two drafts mean the Falcons are now in a situation in which they can go any way they want. Dimitroff doesn’t mess around and talk about “the best player available." He admits the Falcons draft on need. They’ve narrowed their needs this year. Although defensive end and linebacker currently top that list, the Falcons no longer need to spend the whole draft on one side of the ball.

Carolina Panthers

In recent years, the Panthers have been very daring in the draft. Two years ago, they traded back up into the first round to get tackle Jeff Otah, after already landing running back Jonathan Stewart. That cost them a 2009 first-round pick, but they still traded up in last year’s second round to get defensive end Everette Brown. That cost them this year’s first-round pick and they won’t be picking until the second round -- at least as of now. The last couple of years have shown general manager Marty Hurney is willing to take big chances. After an offseason purge of veterans, the Panthers suddenly have a lot of needs all over the place. Hurney’s demonstrated a recent willingness to trade up and that certainly could come in handy this year. But the problem is the Panthers don’t have a lot of currency to move up.

New Orleans Saints

Mickey Loomis is another general manager who doesn’t try to make you believe he’s only looking for the best player available. Recent history has shown Loomis makes sure he gets what his team needs, even when it’s not always the most popular pick. Take last year’s trade up in the fifth round to get punter Thomas Morstead. Fans griped, right up until Morstead began having one of the best rookie years ever by a punter. The last two first-round picks, Sedrick Ellis and Malcolm Jenkins, were made based solely on need. Loomis had his hands tied last year with only four draft picks, mainly because of the trades he made for Jeremy Shockey and Jonathan Vilma and two draft choices were injured before the season ever started. Loomis has a pretty full complement of picks this year and, although the Saints are the champions, they still have needs. Nothing major, but last year showed the importance of depth and Loomis will make sure the Saints add depth in their areas of need.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

We’re talking about two different regimes here. Mark Dominik and Raheem Morris took over last year and Bruce Allen and Jon Gruden were calling the shots before that. These two regimes demonstrated two very different styles. Allen and Gruden were all about winning now and they did plenty of patchwork with veterans and didn’t have great drafts. Gaines Adams, the top pick in 2007, didn’t work out, but 2008 first-round choice Aqib Talib has shown promise. Allen and Gruden also left their successors with a bunch of young offensive linemen, although that group was a little disappointing. Dominik and Morris value the draft more highly than their predecessors and they’re proud of the fact they’ve accumulated 10 picks for this year. They believe in building through the draft and they started that process last year by getting Josh Freeman who they believe is a franchise quarterback. He’s in place and the challenge now is to build around him.

Draft Watch: NFC South

February, 24, 2010
2/24/10
2:00
PM ET
NFC Busts/Gems: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Draft Watch: Biggest needs (2/17) | Busts/gems (2/24) | Schemes, themes (3/3) | Recent history (3/10) | Needs revisited (3/17) | Under-the-radar needs (3/26) | History in that spot (3/31) | Draft approach (4/7) | Decision-makers (4/14) | Dream scenario/Plan B (4/21)

Each Wednesday leading up to the NFL draft (April 22-24), the ESPN.com blog network will take a division-by-division look at key aspects of the draft. Today’s topic: Busts and late-round gems.

Atlanta Falcons

Some people called Thomas Dimitroff a genius after his first draft. Some called him an idiot after his second. I still lean toward the genius tag because we truly haven’t seen enough of Peria Jerry and William Moore, who got hurt early last year. It’s way too early to call any pick Dimitroff has made a bust. To find a true bust, all you have to do is go back to the year before Dimitroff and Mike Smith took over. Bobby Petrino and Rich McKay were so locked in on getting a pass-rusher that they reached for Jamaal Anderson, who has become a mediocre defensive tackle after Smith moved him inside.

Carolina Panthers

The jury’s still out on defensive end Everette Brown, last year’s top pick. But the Panthers have pretty much nailed it on every top pick since John Fox and Marty Hurney have been in power. Problem is they haven’t hit on much beyond the first round. Remember Dwayne Jarrett, Rashad Butler, Keary Colbert and soon-to-be Hall of Famer Eric Shelton? But, hey, if Shelton hadn't been such a tremendous bust, the Panthers never would have drafted DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart.

New Orleans Saints

Jahri Evans, Marques Colston, Tracy Porter and Thomas Morstead have all been gems found beyond the first round. General manager Mickey Loomis hasn’t had anything approaching a bust since the days when Jim Haslett was coaching. There were a fair amount back then. But they’re gone now and that’s part of the reason the Saints won the Super Bowl.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Let’s be nice and start by giving the Bucs credit for finding a franchise quarterback in Josh Freeman last year. And for getting receiver Sammie Stroughter in the seventh round. Everybody likes to rip general manager Mark Dominik and coach Raheem Morris. But part of the reason the Bucs are in the shape they’re in is because Jon Gruden and Bruce Allen were busy using early picks on guys like Gaines Adams and Dexter Jackson. They somehow thought Jackson could be the second coming of Carolina’s Steve Smith.
METAIRIE, La. – As we prepare for Sunday’s NFC Championship Game, there are some other things going on around the NFC South. Time for an evening trip through the headlines.
  • The Bucs will charter a plane for players and others who work for the team to attend the funeral of Chicago defensive end Gaines Adams on Friday. Adams was drafted by the Bucs in 2007 and traded to the Bears in October.
  • Defensive tackle Marlon Favorite, who had a stint with the Panthers, has been added to the New Orleans practice squad. It’s a homecoming for the former LSU player.
The Buccaneers just sent out some quotes about Gaines Adams, the Chicago Bears defensive end who died Sunday and began his career with the Buccaneers.

Adams
Adams, the fourth overall pick by Tampa Bay in the 2007 draft, was traded to Chicago in October.

"Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family of Gaines Adams during this sad day," Bucs co-chairman Joel Glazer said. “It is a tragedy to lose someone at such a young age and our entire organization is deeply saddened by this news."

"Gaines was a part of the Buccaneer family and this is a tragic loss," general manager Mark Dominik said. “Everyone who met Gaines came away knowing what a great young man that he was."

Adams, who never quite reached his potential as a player, was frequently challenged and criticized by coach Raheem Morris before the trade. But Morris had strong praise for Adams.

"Gaines will be missed by all of us, especially by his teammates in our locker room," Morris said. “He was a true team player and a positive influence to everyone he met. My prayers go out to his family."

Veteran cornerback Ronde Barber might have had the strongest words of all.

“Gaines was a quiet, humble kid and is far too young to be gone," Barber said. “He had so much potential that had yet to be achieved and I am very sad that the full extent of his life won’t be realized.”

Remembering former Bucs DE Adams

January, 17, 2010
1/17/10
12:16
PM ET
Just heard some very sad news as I drove home from the airport. Chicago Bears defensive end Gaines Adams has died.

Adams
I don’t know many details. Adams was drafted with the fourth overall pick in 2007 by the Bucs and expectations were high because this was a very talented kid. But Adams never really prospered with the Bucs, and they gave up on him October, when they traded him to the Bears.

I thought Adams might be ready to turn the corner when I sat down with him for this column in May. At that point, Adams was talking about how he had gotten stronger and had been working on pass-rush moves. He also was excited about Tampa Bay’s changes on the coaching staff and was very optimistic.

I won’t claim that I really knew Adams, but he seemed like a nice, respectful person when I did that interview. It’s sad that his life ended too soon.

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Midseason Report: Buccaneers

November, 11, 2009
11/11/09
12:00
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com’s Pat Yasinskas

Power Rankings: Preseason: 26. This week: 31.

2009 Schedule/Results

Fernando Medina/US Presswire
Tampa Bay quarterback Josh Freeman gives the Bucs hope for the future.
Where they stand: In the offseason, the Bucs (1-7) began a major rebuilding process that many of their fans couldn’t grasp. That’s understandable because there have been plenty of moves that have caused head-scratching. But the bottom line is the organization didn’t have high expectations for this year. The Bucs got rid of coach Jon Gruden because they were tired of patchwork and mediocrity every year. They wanted a plan for the long term and that came with the departures of veterans like Derrick Brooks, Joey Galloway and Warrick Dunn. The Bucs fully realized they had to take two steps back to move forward with new coach Raheem Morris. The problem is it’s looked like the Bucs have taken about 50 steps back without really showing any hope for the future. But that might be changing now that rookie quarterback Josh Freeman is playing.

Disappointments: I’m supposed to limit this to 100 words, which won’t be easy. Start with the team releasing offensive coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski right before the start of the season. Imagine where the Bucs would be right now if Jagodzinski had stayed and his playbook was as bad as the Bucs described it. Byron Leftwich was supposed to be a bridge to Freeman. He turned out to be a statue. Defensive backs Tanard Jackson and Aqib Talib let the team down with off-field actions. Defensive end Gaines Adams wasn’t having anything close to the breakout year the Bucs wanted and that got him traded to Chicago. Receivers Antonio Bryant and Michael Clayton simply haven’t produced. Running back Derrick Ward has been a complete bust and the kicking situation has been an utter mess. I could go on and on, but I’ve hit my word count.

Surprises: You have to look long and hard to find any positives for the Bucs. But wide receiver Sammie Stroughter has been one. He was a seventh-round draft pick, but he’s probably been the most productive rookie in the NFC South to the midway point. Defensive tackle Roy Miller also has shown some promise. Other than that …well, let’s just move to the next category.

Outlook: If you’re a Tampa Bay fan, do yourself a favor and just erase your memory of the first seven games. That actually makes sense because Freeman started the eighth game and that started a whole new era for the Bucs. Don’t get carried away with Freeman’s 1-0 record because there are likely to be a lot of rookie mistakes. But Freeman also has the physical talent to make some highlight plays. The rest of the season isn’t about climbing back into the playoff picture because that’s impossible. The rest of the season is about next season. It’s about seeing steady improvement from Freeman and finding some guys worthy of staying on this roster.

Mailbag: Tampa Bay Buccaneers edition

October, 17, 2009
10/17/09
10:15
AM ET
Posted by ESPN.com’s Pat Yasinskas

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are the final stop in our series of team-by-team mailbags.

JRozz in Tampa writes: Josh Johnson is the real deal if you look at the game and how many drops Clayton and Bryant had he would of had an even better one he stayed in the pocket as long as he could to find open guys and scrambled when he needed to. Please don’t give us the same story about Dungy years and give Morris and Dominick time. They blew by reaching in the first round for Freeman when no one in the NFL had him rated that high. Call them out on their mistakes instead of the oh give them time story. This is the NFL people pay money lots of it to go to the game not to hear reasons why their team can’t make smart football decisions.

Pat Yasinskas: Hey, I also like some of the things I’ve seen out of Josh Johnson. But, seriously, what have you truly seen out of him to make you think he’s the starter for this team for the next decade? I think he’s shown he can be a very nice backup quarterback and he may even develop into a quality starter down the road – somewhere else. How can you judge Josh Freeman before he’s ever taken a snap? And I strongly disagree with you that no one else in the NFL had Freeman rated that highly. I know one general manager told me his team had Freeman rated ahead of Mark Sanchez and Matthew Stafford. The Bucs have been very upfront about Freeman from the moment they drafted him. They said they didn’t want to play him right away and they’ve held true to that, but I think his debut is coming pretty soon. I’ve criticized the Bucs plenty, but I’m not going to hop on the bandwagon that’s saying Raheem Morris and Mark Dominik should be fired right now. Maybe they’ll end up being a total disaster and maybe they will be fired some day. But I think you’ve totally missed the big picture. This is the NFL and the Glazers are paying Jon Gruden and Bruce Allen a ton of money to not run the team this year because they wanted to get younger and actually have a long-term plan. Anybody that realizes that getting younger was the decision this franchise made, realizes the Bucs had to take a step or two back before they move forward.




Diego in Sarasota writes: Pat, Do you think the bucs will ever give Stroughter an opportunity to be a starter ? this season perhaps ? Unlike Bryant and Clayton he hasn’t dropped many passes and he’s made a couple of good catches.

Pat Yasinskas: Yes, Sammie Stroughter could be a starter before too long if Antonio Bryant and Michael Clayton continue to struggle. It’s already a good story that he’s contributing this quickly as a seventh-round pick. The Bucs are high on him. He’s been one of the few bright spots so far.



Ranjeet in Tampa writes: Hey Pat! First of all, love your stuff, keep it going man.But my question is, what do you think is the bigger need for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers? A defensive lineman (tackle or end) or a defensive back?

Pat Yasinskas: If you’re talking about next year’s draft, a lot depends on where they pick. If there’s a top five cornerback, they’d almost have to take him over a defensive tackle. But I think the need is big at defensive tackle as well. Although I just sort of defended Josh Freeman, I thought the Bucs should have drafted defensive tackle Peria Jerry this year.




Danny in Tampa writes: Pat, first off, great job with the blog! I follow it religiously! Anyway, the Bucs are playing awful and it looks like we may end up with a top 3 draft pick this year. I know we drafted Freeman but, PLEASE tell me that if we have a shot at McCoy, or Bradford that the Bucs brass will have the sense to draft one of them. Moving Freeman won't be that difficult and this team stinks like garbage, so doesn't it make sense to draft the best player available instead of drafting to fill a need? A big DT won't change this franchise. We already passed on Adrian Peterson for Gaines Adams. PLEASE tell me that won't happen again?!?!?!?

Pat Yasinskas: I’m not convinced Josh Freeman is the answer either. But, slow down. The Bucs invested a first-round pick in him. They’ve got to at least see what they’ve got in him and they’re probably going to give him a few years. They’re not going to trade Freeman before next season and they’re not going to draft a quarterback next year. Let’s say they get a top-five pick, and the odds of that seem, pretty good. Why not trade that to a team that wants a quarterback? The Bucs could get a couple picks for that choice. Wouldn’t it be nice to maybe get a defensive tackle and a cornerback? I think those needs are pretty glaring.

Analyzing the Bucs' trade of Adams

October, 16, 2009
10/16/09
9:05
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com’s Pat Yasinskas

All right, I’m back after writing the story for our news side on the Bucs trading defensive end Gaines Adams to Chicago for a second-round pick in 2010.

Time to analyze the deal: Can’t say I’m surprised, because Adams hasn’t been all that productive. He has just one sack and 10 tackles this season, but I thought Tampa Bay’s new regime would give a little more time to a player who was the fourth overall pick in the 2007 draft.

New coach Raheem Morris and defensive coordinator Jim Bates spent a lot of the offseason talking about how they thought this would be the year Adams would start playing up to his potential. Bates spent much of the offseason working on pass-rush moves with Adams because he had relied solely on speed in his first two seasons.

But the Bucs apparently decided that Adams hadn’t progressed from all that work and wasn’t going to develop any more. They’ll likely fall back on Stylez G. White, who has been a starter before, to take Adams’ place in the lineup. Tim Crowder also is likely to be in the rotation.

The Bucs also have rookie Kyle Moore, but he’s been sidelined by a knee injury. Moore returned to practice this week. The original plan was to have him make his debut next week, but this deal could move his timetable up.

Wrap-up: Redskins 16, Bucs 13

October, 4, 2009
10/04/09
5:18
PM ET

Posted by Scouts Inc.’s Matt Williamson


Yes, the Buccaneers held a 10-point lead Sunday and lost by only three points on the road, but this team still has a lot of issues.

Early on, quarterback Josh Johnson showed the efficiency and valuing of the football that his counterpart, Jason Campbell, severely lacked. He did have some first-game moments, however, and the overall speed of the game was a lot for the youngster. Also, Johnson simply has to take more chances downfield. It will be a process for him, but there is a lot to work with in this second-year quarterback.

Wide receiver Antonio Bryant scored the Bucs' touchdown and appears to be healthier than he has been to date this season -- but that isn't saying much. If Bryant can be nearly the force he was in 2008, Tampa Bay would have a respectable group of pass-catchers, including Kellen Winslow, who can consistently pose matchup problems, and rookie Sammie Stroughter. Stroughter has excellent slot receiver skills. But there is a lot of work to be done to improve this passing attack.

The defense held Campbell to only 60 passing yards in the first half. It would be great to give the Bucs' defense the majority of credit for those paltry results, but the fact is that Campbell played horribly and forced the ball into coverage. He did make a few big throws, but for the most part, his play was inexcusable.

The Bucs’ cornerbacks deserve quite a bit of credit for their efforts, especially in the first half, but tight end Chris Cooley presented problems with his craftiness and after-the-catch abilities. Washington's wide receivers managed only two catches, but the 59-yard touchdown by Santana Moss was just him running past Aqib Talib, who otherwise made a ton of plays, including three interceptions. Also, often underachieving defensive end Gaines Adams really came to play. He looked quick and explosive.

Despite Clinton Portis' 50 yards rushing in the first half and 98 yards total, the Buccaneers did not have to consistently dedicate an extra defender to the box to stop the run.

Tampa Bay does have a real issue at the place-kicker position. Mike Nugent missed two field goals Sunday and had missed his first four attempts of the season before finally connecting to close out the first half. But that problem is only one of many.

Sadly, this might be as good as it gets for the Buccaneers this season.

Posted by ESPN.com’s Pat Yasinskas


We’ll take a quick trip through the injuries that matter most in the NFC South.

Saints. Tackle Jermon Bushrod (knee/ankle) and cornerback Malcolm Jenkins (ankle) did not practice Wednesday. Bushrod had to leave Sunday’s game against Buffalo and that gave Zach Strief some work at left tackle. Indications are Bushrod’s injury could keep him out against the Jets and the team will prepare Strief to start. Jenkins, the first-round pick, also was injured against Buffalo. The Saints have good depth at cornerback, but are hoping Jenkins can go against the Jets because he’s become a mainstay on special teams.

Buccaneers. Center Jeff Faine (triceps) looks like he’ll miss another game as he sat out practice. Sean Mahan continues to work in his spot. Defensive end Gaines Adams (groin) sat out practice. Adams’ health, combined with a lack of production, could push Stylez G. White into the starting lineup. Running back Derrick Ward (knee) sat out practice and that could put Cadillac Williams back into a starting role.

Falcons. Atlanta isn’t required to provide an injury report because of this week’s bye, but D. Orlando Ledbetter reports running back Jerious Norwood returned to practice after suffering a concussion in the Sept. 20 game against Carolina.

Panthers. Like the Falcons, the Panthers aren’t required to provide an injury report in their bye week and you can be darn sure John Fox isn’t going to reveal something he doesn’t have to.

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