Latest edition of Bucsblitz mailbag, 10:30 a.m.
First of all, Merry Christmas. Here’s the latest edition of the “Bucsblitz Mailbag.” I take your questions, either e-mailed to me or off the message board, and answer them. If you’d like to e-mail me a question, PM me at txrangerman.
Q: I just heard that we will play the Giants for our Wild Card game. Eli (Manning) still hasn’t shown me anything basically so I like our chances in this game. — NewBucs
A: I think this is probably the best matchup the Buccaneers are going to get in the postseason. I don’t like how the Bucs would have matched up with the Vikings or the resurgent Redskins (or Saints). But don’t discount the Giants. If they run the football as effectively as they did against the Bills on Sunday (nearly 300 yards on the ground), Eli won’t need to be effective. He’ll just need to hand off the football. The run game will be key in that game. The Bucs’ run defense has improved quite a bit over the start of the season. But the fact that the 49ers ran fairly well on them gives me a bit of pause. Let’s see how they do against the Panthers’ duo of DeAngelo Williams and DeShaun Foster before we wonder if the run defense may be taking a slight downturn.
Q: I’m a Colts fan. How would you assess Cato June’s season? He was great in coverage, being a saftey in college, so his stats looked good in defending the pass but he was a non-factor as far as tackling was concerned. He was a grabber and never, and I do mean never, went low to bring down a ball carrier. I was glad to see Bill Polian agreed by not signing him. However, I also said June had talent and I believed that this could be a wakeup call for him. I thought he might play better against the run, some, which would make a big difference. I'm just curious. How has he done? — Advanced32
A: I don’t believe many people down here are complaining about June. He has the reputation of being an average tackler, but he has 114 tackles through 14 games (75 of them being solo). I think sometimes scouts get hung up on whether a tackler is “above-average” or not. NFL teams are filled with defensive players who are effective, but average, tacklers. The Bucs’ defensive philosophy of swarming to the football and holding up offensive players at the point of contact surely aids June when he makes first contact. He has only one interception, but the secondary has been exceptional this year so June hasn’t had to drop into coverage as much. And the Bucs are easing June’s transition to the weak side by having him share third-down reps with veteran Derrick Brooks. June is this team’s future weakside linebacker — make no mistake. But he’s been an effective addition on the strong side this season as he awaits Brooks’ eventual retirement.
Q: Who ends next year with more receiving yards? Michael Clayton or Maurice Stovall? — iDRIVEaCADDY
A: Stovall’s injury adds a new wrinkle to this question. Neither, frankly, stepped into a consistent role in this offense this season, mostly due to Ike Hilliard’s resurgence. But I don’t know if you can count on Hilliard being as productive next season. If things stay the way they are now, I think Stovall will have slightly better numbers. I don’t think Clayton will ever be the player he was his rookie season and I think he would benefit from a change of scenery. I think his injury woes have prompted the powers-that-be to lose confidence in him.
But the receiver situation bears watching because of the ages of Hilliard (31) and Galloway (36). I think the Buccaneers should make a play for one of the league’s top free-agent wide receivers, Chicago’s Bernard Berrian, in free agency. He can give them the top-shelf speed Galloway gives them now and is more proven than either Clayton or Stovall.
Happy Holidays, everyone.