Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Jeremy Zuttah

The Film Don't Lie: Buccaneers

October, 14, 2014
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A weekly look at what the Tampa Bay Buccaneers must fix:

The list is long, but pass protection might be the top priority as the Bucs head into their bye week.

They need to do a much better job of protecting the quarterback when they return to action against the Minnesota Vikings. The pass protection was horrible in Sunday’s 48-17 loss to the Baltimore Ravens.

Quarterback Mike Glennon was sacked five times. He was sacked or under duress on 63 percent of his dropbacks. That’s the highest pressure percentage for any quarterback with at least 40 dropbacks in the past five years.

What’s puzzling about this is that the Bucs used a lot of resources to rebuild their offensive line in the offseason. They let veterans Donald Penn, Davin Joseph and Jeremy Zuttah go. They spent good money on center Evan Dietrich-Smith and left tackle Anthony Collins in free agency. After guard Carl Nicks left the team because of a lingering toe problem, the Bucs traded for Pro Bowl guard Logan Mankins.

Right tackle Demar Dotson is the lone holdover from last year’s unit and Patrick Omameh has been the starter at right guard, but no one on the offensive line is playing well.

The Bucs could look to make some lineup changes during the bye. Garrett Gilkey already has been rotating in for Omameh, but there’s not much other depth on the offensive line. Rookies Kadeem Edwards and Kevin Pamphile have been inactive for every game.

The Bucs need to block better up front, but that might not be enough. The Bucs need to ask their tight ends and running backs to be more involved as blockers to make up for the deficiencies on the offensive line.
TAMPA, Fla. – The play of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' offensive line in Sunday’s 48-17 loss to the Baltimore Ravens was more than bad. It was historically bad.

Makes you wonder if Jeremy Zuttah, Donald Penn and Davin Joseph, offensive linemen who were let go in the offseason, were all that bad. Tampa Bay’s overhauled offensive line allowed quarterback Mike Glennon to be sacked five times on Sunday.

But, thanks to ESPN Stats & Information, there’s even more to the story of how bad things were.

Glennon was sacked or put under pressure on 26 of his 49 dropbacks. That’s 63 percent. That’s the highest pressure percentage of any quarterback with 40 dropbacks in the last five years.

In other words, Glennon didn’t have a chance. He completed just 6 of 21 passes when he was under pressure. When he wasn’t pressured, Glennon completed 18 of 23.
Let’s continue our position-by-position look at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with the offensive line. This unit isn't going to look anything like last season and that's a good thing because this was a problem spot.

Right tackle Demar Dotson is the only player certain to return to the same starting position he had last season. Veterans Donald Penn, Davin Joseph and Jeremy Zuttah are gone.

The Bucs were very aggressive in free agency as they sought to rebuild the line. They spent big money on left tackle Anthony Collins and decent money on center Evan Dietrich-Smith. They also brought in guard Oniel Cousins for depth.

But a big question mark remains at guard. That’s the health of Carl Nicks, who has appeared in only nine games the past two seasons due to injury. The Bucs and Nicks have said he’ll be ready for the start of training camp, but he missed the entire offseason program.

If Nicks is healthy, the entire line suddenly gets a lot better because he’s one of the best guards in the league. But, if Nicks has any setback, that’s a huge blow. Cousins, Patrick Omameh and Jamon Meredith will compete for the other starting spot and two of them could start if Nicks isn’t ready.
Time to start our position-by-position look at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the NFL draft nears. Let’s start with the offensive line.

Where things stand: This position group underwent a major offseason overhaul. Former starters Davin Joseph, Donald Penn and Jeremy Zuttah are gone. The team signed free-agent center Evan Dietrich-Smith and left tackle Anthony Collins. But there’s uncertainty at guard with no clear-cut starter on the right side and questions about the health of Carl Nicks.

What to watch for: The uncertainty at guard makes it very possible the Bucs will draft an offensive lineman early, perhaps even in the first round. They might have a shot at tackles Greg Robinson, Jake Matthews or Taylor Lewan. They could ask a rookie to slide to the interior or move Collins inside. Even if nothing happens in the first round, look for Tampa Bay to draft at least one offensive lineman.
Lovie SmithKim Klement/USA TODAY SportsCoach Lovie Smith and the Bucs expect to compete for championships starting this season.
ORLANDO, Fla. -- There is a very good reason why the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have been one of the NFL's most active teams in free agency.

"We thought it would be unfair to ask the fans to be patient with us," general manager Jason Licht said at the NFL owners meetings.

Fire those cannons at Raymond James Stadium and start the parade down Dale Mabry Highway. So far, Licht and coach Lovie Smith, both hired in January, are doing and saying all of the right things. They have signed 11 free agents, highlighted by defensive end Michael Johnson, cornerback Alterraun Verner and quarterback Josh McCown.

"We wanted to go out and sign as many good players as we could this year to help our football team and make it competitive this year, and strive to win a championship this year," Licht said. "Not go with, 'Hey, give us a couple years.' We want to do it as soon as we can. The fans deserve it. I found out in a two-month period that these fans are so passionate in Tampa. So we want players that are just as passionate as the fans."

Those fans should be ecstatic to hear Licht's comments. This is a franchise that hasn't been to the playoffs since the 2007 season, and hasn't won a postseason game since its Super Bowl victory more than a decade ago. The franchise had good intentions in the interim, but the results weren't pretty.

Plans were put in place at various times from the days when Jon Gruden and Bruce Allen tried to win with veterans, to the time when Mark Dominik and Raheem Morris decided to build through the draft, to the days when it looked like Greg Schiano didn't have a plan.

[+] EnlargeAlterraun Verner
Brace Hemmelgarn/USA TODAY SportsLanding cornerback Alterraun Verner was part of an aggressive free-agent push by the Bucs this month.
But you can look at what Licht and Smith are doing and you see a firm plan that has a chance to work -- and work quickly.

"As you saw last year with Kansas City, sometimes a little change is healthy and successful," Bucs co-chairman Joel Glazer said.

The Chiefs indeed are a good example of a team that turned around its fortunes rapidly. Kansas City was dreadful in 2012, but made the playoffs last season.

For any doubters who say McCown, a career backup, doesn't have what it takes to lead a team to the playoffs, let me remind you that Alex Smith was Kansas City's quarterback last season. I don't see a big difference between Smith and McCown.

Yeah, people can talk all they want about how this is a quarterback-driven league and you need a star at the position to be any good. There is some truth to that. But was Russell Wilson really the best quarterback in the NFL last season?

Of course not. Wilson did some very nice things, but there were bigger reasons why the Seattle Seahawks won the Super Bowl. The defense and the running game had a lot to do with their success.

It's pretty obvious Licht and Lovie Smith are following a plan similar to Seattle's. Smith comes with a defensive background, and he inherited some good talent on that side of the ball. Linebacker Lavonte David and defensive tackle Gerald McCoy already are in place, and you could make an argument that a pass-rusher was the only thing Tampa Bay needed to be a dominant defense. That is why the Bucs signed Johnson, who had 11.5 sacks for Cincinnati in 2012.

On offense, the Bucs have overhauled their line. They parted ways with Donald Penn, Davin Joseph and Jeremy Zuttah, and replaced them with Anthony Collins, Oniel Cousins and Evan Dietrich-Smith. The running game should be in good shape, assuming Doug Martin is fully recovered from an injury that cut short last season.

I look at that and I see a team that might be ready to win now. I see a team with a plan that seems to make a lot of sense.

"Jason and Lovie have a plan, and that plan is that they want to win," Glazer said. "That's why we brought them in. We're all in the same boat. We want to win. They have a clear plan to get there, and that's why they were hired. We believe in the plan. We buy into the plan, and we're going to be supportive of the plan."

A few years back, the Glazers were often accused of not spending enough money to bring success. But recently, they have spent big money in free agency. This offseason, the Bucs went on another spending spree.

Licht and Smith frequently are being declared winners in free agency by the national media. They are also winning the news conferences by saying the right things.

Now, if they can go win some games in the fall, their plan could be a masterpiece.
ORLANDO, Fla. -- The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are optimistic that guard Carl Nicks will be ready to take part in the team’s offseason program, which begins in April.

“We certainly hope so,’’ general manager Jason Licht said Monday.

Nicks missed all but two games last season while dealing with a toe injury and a bout with MRSA.

“He’s moving along pretty good,’’ Licht said. “So far, we’ve been pleased with his progression. He’s continuing the rehab and we’ll see where that goes.’’

Nicks’ progress might be part of the reason the Bucs traded away center/guard Jeremy Zuttah to Baltimore on Sunday. A healthy Nicks would fill one guard position.

At the moment, Jamon Meredith and Oniel Cousins would be the top candidates to start at the other guard position. But Licht said it remains possible the Bucs could draft a guard.

“I think that’s going to be an open competition,’’ Licht said. “I think we’re going to go with who the best player is.’’
ORLANDO, Fla. – The Tampa Bay Buccaneers sent out a strong signal that they expect guard Carl Nicks to be healthy for the upcoming season.

The team traded away center/guard Jeremy Zuttah to Baltimore for a 2015 mid-round draft pick on Sunday, a day before the NFL owners meetings begin.

Nicks missed all but two games of last season after dealing with a toe injury and a MRSA infection. Zuttah spent last year playing center, but also has experience at guard. The Bucs previously addressed their center position by signing free agent Evan Dietrich-Smith. The fact the Bucs were willing to trade Zuttah shows they’re confident Nicks will be back for the 2014 season.

The Bucs are looking at Nicks as one of their starting guards. Jamon Meredith and Oniel Cousins are the candidates for the other starting guard spot. But the Bucs still could make a move for a guard in free agency or the draft.

Projecting a lineup: Offense

March, 21, 2014
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The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have been one of the league's busiest teams in free agency. That means the roster will have a new look.

Factoring in the new additions, let's take a look at what the starting lineup currently looks like starting with the offense:

McCown
Quarterback: Coach Lovie Smith has made it pretty clear that veteran Josh McCown is his starter. McCown would have to have a horrible preseason and Mike Glennon would have to light it up to have a shot at starting.

Running back: Doug Martin is the main guy here, but Smith has said he wants to spread carries around. That means Mike James and Bobby Rainey will be getting playing time.

Wide receiver: Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams are the incumbent starters, but there's not much behind them. That's why this is a position where the Bucs are still going to make moves.

Tight end: The Bucs signed Brandon Myers as a free agent and he's the early favorite to win the starting job. Tim Wright did some nice things as a rookie last year, but he's not much of a blocker.

Collins
Offensive tackles: The Bucs have made it clear that free-agent pickup Anthony Collins is their starting left tackle. That means Demar Dotson will stay at right tackle.

Offensive guards: Assuming Carl Nicks is healthy, he's the starter at one guard position. But the other spot is wide open. Jeremy Zuttah, Jamon Meredith and Oniel Cousins could be candidates for the starting job, but the Bucs might not be done at this position.

Center: The Bucs signed free-agent Evan Dietrich Smith from Green Bay and his arrival pushes Zuttah to guard.

What's next for the Buccaneers?

March, 17, 2014
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The Tampa Bay Buccaneers continued their free-agent frenzy Sunday by signing two players that are likely to fill roles as backups.

The Bucs signed former New England linebacker Dane Fletcher and former Cleveland guard Oniel Cousins.

Fletcher has been a backup middle linebacker and special-teams player for New England and is likely to play behind Mason Foster. Cousins was a part-time starter in Cleveland and he could factor into Tampa Bay’s overhaul of the offensive line. The Bucs previously released veterans Davin Joseph and Donald Penn and signed tackle Anthony Collins and center Evan Dietrich-Smith.

Cousins could get a chance to compete with Jamon Meredith and Jeremy Zuttah at guard.

The first wave of free agency is over and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have been very active. They’ve filled a lot of needs, but the Bucs aren’t done yet.

Looking at the roster, I still see a fair amount of needs. Let’s take a look.

Wide receiver. The Bucs flirted with Emmanuel Sanders before he signed with the Denver Broncos. The Bucs need to add a speed receiver to go with starters Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams.

Return man. The Bucs need to get better on special teams. Veteran Devin Hester, who has ties to coach Lovie Smith, remains available as a free agent.

Cornerback. Even after signing Alterraun Verner, there still is a need here. The Bucs need a strong third corner to go with Verner and Johnthan Banks.

Guard. The Bucs have added guard Oneil Cousins, center Evan Dietrich-Smith and tackle Anthony Collins as they go about overhauling their offensive line. With Dietrich-Smith’s arrival, Jeremy Zuttah could move from center to guard. But Cousins has spent much of his career as a backup and the Bucs might want more of an upgrade at this position.

Outside linebacker. Jonathan Casillas was re-signed and he’s an option on the strong side. But the Bucs need depth and they’d be wise to bring in someone to compete with Casillas.

Buccaneers add more depth

March, 16, 2014
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The Tampa Bay Buccaneers continued their free-agent frenzy Sunday by signing two players that are likely to fill roles as backups.

The Bucs signed former New England linebacker Dane Fletcher and former Cleveland guard Oniel Cousins.

Fletcher has been a backup middle linebacker and special-teams player for New England and is likely to play behind Mason Foster. Cousins was a part-time starter in Cleveland and he could factor into Tampa Bay’s overhaul of the offensive line. The Bucs previously released veterans Davin Joseph and Donald Penn and signed tackle Anthony Collins and center Evan Dietrich-Smith.

Cousins could get a chance to compete with Jamon Meredith and Jeremy Zuttah at guard.

Bucs begin O-line overhaul

March, 8, 2014
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The Tampa Bay Buccaneers made one major move on their offensive line Saturday afternoon and they might not be finished.

In a move that came as no surprise, the Bucs reportedly have released veteran guard Davin Joseph. The move instantly freed up $6 million in salary-cap space. The Bucs now will have more than $24 million in cap space as they head into free agency.

Joseph, a two-time Pro Bowler, had been with the Bucs since 2006. But Joseph became expendable after not playing up to his previous level last season. That might have been due to a knee injury that forced him to miss the entire 2012 season.

Joseph’s release might only be the first of significant moves on Tampa Bay’s offensive line. Left tackle Donald Penn (a cap figure of more than $8 million) and center Jeremy Zuttah (a cap figure of more than $4 million) also could be candidates for release or contract restructures.

The future of guard Carl Nicks is uncertain. He missed all but two games last season while dealing with a toe injury and a staph infection. Tampa Bay’s offensive line was supposed to be a strength in 2013. Instead, the offensive line underachieved.

That’s why the Bucs released Joseph and that’s why there could be more moves on the horizon. Tampa Bay could look to free agency and the draft to make several moves on the offensive line.

Bucs question: O-line shuffle?

February, 27, 2014
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Time for our mailbag question of the day.

Chris in Greensboro, N.C. wants to know if the Bucs will wait until free agency to start overhauling their offensive line.

I don’t think the Bucs will wait that long. The offensive line didn’t play well last season and is taking up a lot of salary-cap room. I think things will start to happen sooner rather than later.

My best guess is something will happen before the start of the league year in March. Whatever happens, I think it’s fair to speculate something will happen with tackle Donald Penn and guard Davin Joseph. The pair is scheduled to combine for $14 million in cap space.

The Bucs could try to restructure one or both contracts. But I also think there’s a chance Penn and Joseph could be released, because their age could work against them as the Bucs try to build something for the long term. Center/guard Jeremy Zuttah also has a high cap figure and could be a candidate to restructure his contract.

Then, there is guard Carl Nicks, who is trying to come back from an injury. I don't think the Bucs will rush anything when it comes to Nicks. They will give him every opportunity to get healthy, because a healthy Nicks is one of the best guards in the game.

To submit a mailbag question, click here.
On paper, Tampa Bay’s offensive line was supposed to be one of the best in the league in 2013. In reality, it didn’t come anywhere close to that.

Both the run and pass blocking left a lot to be desired. With a new coaching staff coming in, there almost certainly will be some changes up front.

Performance won’t be the only thing taken into account. The five projected starters are taking up more than $27 million in 2014 cap space. This didn’t look like anything close to a $27 million line last season.

Let’s take a look at each member of the line and individual cap situations.

Left tackle Donald Penn. He turns 31 in April and is carrying the highest cap figure on the offensive line -- $8.083 million. Quality left tackles aren’t easy to find, but the Bucs could be looking out for one in free agency or the draft. If they released Penn, he would count only $333,333 against the salary cap.

Guard Davin Joseph. He’s 30 and coming off a tough season. Joseph was coming off knee surgery and didn’t look like the player he was in the past. Joseph is scheduled to have a $6 million cap figure. There would be no cap charge if the Bucs released Joseph.

Guard Carl Nicks. He missed all but two games last season. It remains to be seen if Nicks can get back to full health. But, assuming he can return, Nicks isn’t going anywhere. He’s scheduled to count $7 million against the cap and $6 million of that is guaranteed.

Center Jeremy Zuttah. He turns 28 in June. With coach Greg Schiano and the Rutgers connection gone, Zuttah isn’t a lock to stick around. He has a $4.5 million cap figure and the Bucs could free up that full amount by releasing Zuttah.

Right tackle Demar Dotson. He’s the safest bet on the offensive line to stick around. Dotson has a $2 million cap figure with $1.25 million of that guaranteed.
TAMPA, Fla. -- Our series on Tampa Bay's five biggest offseason needs continues with a look at the offensive line at No. 2.

This unit was supposed to be one of the team’s biggest strengths in 2013. Partly because of injury and partly because of inconsistent play, the offensive line ended up being a weakness. The run blocking was horrible, and the pass blocking wasn’t a lot better.

Nicks
The new regime undoubtedly will be looking for better play from the offensive line, and that could mean some major changes. The biggest question on the line is guard Carl Nicks. When healthy, he might be the best in the game. But Nicks rarely has been healthy since joining the Bucs, and there are questions about whether or not he ever will return to full strength.

Veterans Donald Penn and Davin Joseph are getting older, and they’re carrying big salary-cap figures. The team also needs to decide if Jeremy Zuttah is a center or a guard and let him stay at one position. Right tackle Demar Dotson, who comes with a low salary, appears to be the only certainty for 2014.

The team could use an early draft pick on an offensive lineman. There also is enough salary-cap room to make a move or two in free agency.

Looking at playing time: Offense

January, 17, 2014
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TAMPA, Fla. -- It’s time to take a look back at playing time for the 2013 season.

We’ll start with the offense and will have a separate post on the defense at another time. Tampa Bay’s offense ran 1,036 plays. Here is the breakdown by position with my quick take below each one.

QUARTERBACKS: Mike Glennon 842, Dan Orlovsky 4.

Quick take: Josh Freeman started the first three games before Glennon took over. Glennon got plenty of experience and has been selected to most of the All-Rookie teams.

RUNNING BACKS: Erik Lorig 383, Bobby Rainey 327, Doug Martin 304, Brian Leonard 291, Mike James 155, Spencer Larsen 35, Michael Hill 18, Jeff Demps 10.

Quick take: The Bucs were forced to use a lot of players in the backfield due to injuries. Martin was the opening-day starter, but he went down early with a season-ending injury. James was his replacement, but he also suffered a season-ending injury. Rainey finished up the year as the feature back. The good news here is the Bucs now have several backs with experience.

WIDE RECEIVERS: Vincent Jackson 969, Tiquan Underwood 563, Mike Williams 363, Chris Owusu 263, Skye Dawson 99, Russell Shepard 32.

Quick take: Jackson was the iron man in this group. Williams suffered a season-ending injury and was replaced by Underwood in the starting lineup.

TIGHT ENDS : Timothy Wright 608, Tom Crabtree 214, Nate Byham 113, Luke Stocker 105, Kyle Adams 64.

Quick take: This is another position where the Bucs had to do some juggling due to injuries. Wright, an undrafted rookie, wound up getting most of the playing time as Crabtree, Byham and Stocker all landed on injured reserve.

OFFENSIVE LINE: Demar Dotson 1,035, Donald Penn 1,033, Jeremy Zuttah 1,015, Davin Joseph 1,010, Jamon Meredith 475, Ted Larsen 361, Gabe Carimi 210, Carl Nicks 145.

Quick take: Dotson, Penn, Zuttah and Joseph were at least durable. Nicks played in only two games due to injuries. Many of Carimi’s snaps came as an extra tight end.

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