It seems like a long, long time since I have done a 'Five Questions' feature with a rival blogger. Jason from Bucs Nation, our Tampa Bay Buccaneers website, asked this week, however. So, after a looooong hiatus, the first 'Five Questions' post we have done around here in quite a while. And yes, it includes my favorite question. If you don't know which one that is, you're new around here. You'll learn.
Here we go.
Big Blue View: You asked me about Greg Schiano, so I will ask you. What are your impressions, and do you think he could have along, successful run with the Buccaneers?
Bucs Nation: With Raheem Morris, the Bucs players had the run of the ship. Schiano has dramatically changed the culture with the team. He has provided structure, identity, attention to detail and vision the franchise and its young players sorely missed. I was wondering how the "Toes on the Line" military mentality would play to today's young NFL player but Schiano has shown a side that should appeal to his players.
[Related: Ed answers questions from Bucs Nation]
The Eric LeGrand thing was great (for those who don't know, LeGrand was a young college player at Rutgers who was paralyzed from the neck down making a tackle. Schiano has always stayed close to him and when he got the Bucs gig, he fulfilled LeGrand's dream by signing him to an NFL contract. LeGrand "retired" before training camp but has been a regular on the Bucs sideline) and last week for Ronde Barber's 200th consecutive start - he opened up in nickel so Ronde could slot to his corner position and finish the streak at the position he started it. Ronde is now a free safety in Schiano's new defense. Stuff like that smooths off the hard disciplinarian exterior and gives the players a comfort level that he actually cares about them. In the end, they're all a bunch of kids with huge egos that need to be coddled. Schiano may kick their asses but he also gives them shirt off his back - and that does a lot.
It was important for the Bucs players to get some early success so they buy in. According to DT Gerald McCoy, the Bucs have not only bought in, they "Dove in".
I believe Schiano will win in Tampa Bay and I think he's going to be here for quite some time.
BBV: Tell us some players we might not really know a whole lot about, but who could have an impact on Sunday's game.
Bucs Nation: Lavonte David, the second-round rooki,e comes to mind immediately. I can't tell you how bad the Bucs linebacker play was last season. The Bucs brought in David for his speed, instincts and tackling skills and they've certainly shown. Through OTA's, training camp and the pre-season some whispered at first what seemed a ridiculous comparison - that the undersized David reminds many of future Hall of Famer Derrick Brooks. Seeing him in action last Sunday against Cam and the Panthers - I have to admit, the kid's game is similar. The Bucs use him differently though - you'll see him come on blitzes a lot more than Brooks ever did.
BBV: If you could take one player off the giants' roster and put him on the Buccaneers, who would it be? Why?
Bucs Nation: Jason Pierre-Paul for sure. Not only for his ties to the area but JPP is a better pass rusher than anyone the Bucs have on their roster. The Bucs defensive line has gotten better with Gerald McCoy (if he can stay healthy), Adrian Clayborn and Michael Bennett, but they still have to manufacture pressure with blitzes. Add JPP and the Bucs defense (in effectiveness) would be similar to the old days when John Lynch, Warren Sapp and Simeon Rice ruined peoples days.
BBV: The Giants drafted David Wilson one pick after the Bucs drafted Doug Martin, and many Giants' fans were hoping for Martin. Your thoughts on what you see from Martin thus far?
Bucs Nation: Unlike Wilson (who I regretfully drafted on my fantasy team thinking he'd be more of an impact with the G-men), Doug Martin has been sensational for the Bucs. He took LeGarrette Blount's starting gig by the second game of the pre-season and against the Panthers was a huge impact.
Martin is the complete back everyone wants. He's an elusive but powerful runner with good speed, he's an excellent receiver and is terrific at pass protection. He never has to come off the field. Blount is a one trick pony with his power running. He's a terrible blocker and an average receiver. Martin will be the main guy in Tampa Bay.
I think OC Mike Sullivan is trying to mirror a lot of what the Giants have done with their running game in the past - like Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs. Martin would be the Bucs' version of Bradshaw.
BBV: Where is Josh Freeman in his development as a quarterback at this point? His numbers against Carolina weren't great. Is he a guy people in Tampa Bay are happy with as the long-term answer at that spot?
Bucs Nation: Freeman...well, let me put it this way, remember Eli early in his NFL career? Threw a lot of interceptions, made some questionable decisions, his accuracy was suspect but still showed the ability to make a big play here or there? That's what Freeman has been. Like those Giant fans back in the day, some Bucs fans are off the Freeman bandwagon.
I still believe Freeman has the ability to be an upper eschlon quarterback in the league. He'll never be Drew Brees or Aaron Rodgers but he can be a guy who can lead this team to the playoffs - and as Giants fans know - all you have to do is get in and get hot.
NFL.com has a great new feature that allows you to watch the all-22 coaches film. I studied Freeman intently after the Panthers game and actually came away very impressed. Freeman in seasons past had a tendency to struggle at reading a defense and locking in on receivers. Against Carolina, Freeman went through all of his progressions quickly and usually made the right decision with the football.
There were a couple opportunities where he could have tested the Panthers deep but rather than go with the 50-50 opportunity, he would drop it off for the surer bet that gave him a 5-6 yard gain. This allowed Tampa Bay to extend drives and keep Newton off the football field.
There weren't many opportunities for big plays though, as the Panthers respected Vincent Jackson with a lot of deep zone.
Freeman's numbers were a bit misleading against the Panthers. He was red hot in the first quarter and looked like he was going to have a big day. When the Bucs got up 13-0, Schiano and Sullivan began to focus on pounding the ball with Martin and former Giant D.J. Ware (Blount had gotten banged up but will be fine for Sunday).
Freeman had a 31-yard completion to Vincent Jackson wiped out by a holding call and two other mid-range passes dropped by Jackson. He was accurate with most of his throws, putting it exactly in the right spot for his receivers to do some damage with it. More importantly, he was a caretaker of the football and did not try to force anything into double and triple coverage - which is a vast improvement from last season.
All this is a long winded way of saying Freeman is improving but he's not there yet. The arrow is pointing up, though.