TAMPA – Football folks have a name they give to only the best of players, those rare few who have displayed the ability to change a game anytime they’re on the field.
Those players are called “game wreckers’’ and despite the fact his game Sunday against the Buccaneers will only be his third in the NFL, former FSU running back Dalvin Cook has already earned that moniker.
He has from Bucs defensive coordinator Mike Smith, whose notion was seconded by five-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Gerald McCoy this week as the Bucs prepared to take on Cook and the Vikings.
“He is a game-wrecker,’’ McCoy said of Cook. “I mean, he destroyed New Orleans (22 carries, 127 yards) and he had some big runs last week (against Pittsburgh, 12 carries, 64 yards).
“The thing about him is, he’s not a ‘run-and-get-out-of-bounds’ kind of guy. He’s a ‘get-that-extra-couple-yards’ kind of guy. Anybody like that, you’ve got to bring your big-boy pants with you.’’
The Bucs had to bring their big-boy pants to their season opener against the Bears last week, too, and they did. They limited Jordan Howard and (9 carries, 7 yards) and Tarik Cohen (7, 13) to just 20 yards on 16 carries.
That effort included six tackles for a loss on a day in which the Bucs allowed the Bears to produce just one first down via the run. The challenge Cook presents, though, is much different, Smith said.
“No disrespect to the Bears back that we played last week, but I think (Cook) is a different type of back,’’ Smith said of the Vikings 5-foot-10, 210-pound rookie second-round draft pick. “He’s a little bit bigger.
“And I don’t know that (Cook) has the quicks that we faced last week. But he is a stronger running back. He runs well behind his pads. He has already had two runs of 30 yards or more.
“I mean, all you’ve got to do is show that clip to the team and they’ve got respect for him right away. That’s how good he is. So yeah, we consider him a game-wrecker.’’
Cook can wreck a game in more ways than one. Though he has only caught five passes for 10 yards so far, the Bucs appear to have as much respect for his ability to hurt them as a pass catcher as they do a runner.
“Yeah, he can catch, too, so you’ve got that to worry about,’’ McCoy said. “And when they stretch the ball out, he looks for that hole and once he gets downhill, I mean he’s getting downhill in a hurry.
“And he’s not getting downhill and avoiding contact. When he gets going he really gets going, so yeah, he can wreck your game, just like Coach said. He’s a game-wrecker and we’ve got to be ready for him.’’
Peter King- “Bridgewater to Tampa Bay makes sense”
It’s the start of another week, and speculation about “quarterback musical chairs” in NFL free agency continues. And a prominent NFL media member believes that current Saints backup Teddy Bridgewater might leave New Orleans and he sees a possible fit with the Buccaneers.
Peter King, now with Pro Football Talk, gave analysis on numerous quarterback situations and potential free agents to be in his Monday morning column. And, while he is not reporting that the Saints will allow Bridgewater to be a free agent and/or that the Buccaneers would be his destination, he does lay out a solid case for a marriage between the two:
“Has there ever been a year with so many QB questions?” one NFL head coach asked me Friday.
From Tua to Tom, and Teddy to Taysom: Let's make some educated guesses on how all the 2020 movement might shake out.
— Peter King (@peter_king) February 17, 2020
Obviously, the Saints must first decide what to do with veteran Hall of Famer to be, Drew Brees, who is slated to become a free agent and cannot be franchise tagged. And, Bridgewater more than acquitted himself a year ago coming off the bench, when Brees was out with a fractured thumb. That included a four-touchdown performance in October in a a win at home against Tampa Bay.
Teddy Bridgewater: Tampa Bay makes sense
I can hear it now: Bridgewater doesn’t have the deep arm Bruce Arians needs. I would dispute that. When Arians put Carson Palmer in the pilot’s chair in Arizona, his previous NFL yards per attempt in Cincinnati and Oakland was 7.2. Bridgewater’s career NFL yards per attempt: 7.2.
…..I noticed something with Arians this season. He defended almost every (Jameis) Winston miscue for the first three months of the season. In December, though, that changed. Tampa was 7-7 entering the last two games, both at home. In game 15, against Houston, Winston threw interceptions on two of the first five Buc snaps, and Tampa was down 10-0 after four minutes.
The Bucs lost by three. Next week: Overtime against Atlanta. First play, Winston somehow didn’t see lurker linebacker Deion Jones on tight end Cameron Brate. Pick six. “It smells as bad as it could possible smell,” Arians said after the game. The Bucs had a clear path to a redemptive 9-7 seasons, but six interceptions in the last two weeks ruined that.
….. This is the story about Bridgewater I appreciate: After Drew Brees was lost with a hand injury in Week 2 and Bridgewater took over, Bridgewater hosted a dinner in Seattle—site of the next game—for all the offensive players, basically to say, All is not lost. We’ll be fine. Minus Brees, the Bridgewater-led Saints went 5-0.
Maybe the Bucs will think Winston deserves another chance with Arians and offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich. But I won’t be surprised if they go after Bridgewater or Ryan Tannehill, the best free-agent quarterbacks on the market.”
Definitely a compelling argument, but, again, it still has to play out as to whether the Saints don’t re-sign Bridgewater and how, interested are the Bucs vs. other potential teams when the free agency mayhem begins?
As for Tampa Bay are obviously trying to decide what to do with their own free agent-to-be, Winston. As we wrote late last week, coach Bruce Arians remained non-committal on whether to bring back their starter of the last five seasons. This is mainly due to Winston’s inconsistent play, numerous interceptions and the fact the Bucs have had only had one winning season in his five years at the helm.
It this type of “connect the dots” free agency talk will only continue to build until either Tampa Bay commits to Winston or free agency begins without the Bucs having signed Winston to a long term deal or given him the one year franchise tag. The clearest of indications that they’ve moved on and want a new QB.
And, everyone continues to wait on those decisions.
NFL analyst- Bucs DE Shaq Barrett top player in free agency
Coming off an amazing first season with the Bucs, defensive end Shaq Barrett is in line for a huge payday. And, a respected NFL analyst says Tampa Bay better be ready to pay, because he believes Barrett is the top free agent upcoming for the entire NFL.
Brian Baldinger, a former 12 year player and now analyst with the NFL Network, posted on social media Saturday evening what he loves about Barrett’s pass-rushing skills and then made his declaration:
.@Buccaneers @ShaquilBarrett lead the @NFL in sacks in 2019 and I will show up in an in depth video breakdown coming your way why #SackBarrett is no fluke. I think he is the #1 player in this Free Agent class. #BaldysBreakdowns pic.twitter.com/MdPcsMg9H6
— Brian Baldinger (@BaldyNFL) February 16, 2020
There is no exaggerating that Barrett surpassed anyone’s expectations off of a one-year, modest free agent signing from the Broncos by Bucs GM Jason Licht. His four sack game in week 2 against Carolina put the entire NFL on notice.
And, Barrett continued to be a dominant pass rush force for defensive coordinator Todd Bowles the entire season. He ultimately broke Tampa Bay’s single season sack record held by Hall of Famer Warren Sapp in the final game of the season. Barrett finished with 19.5 sacks, which led the NFL.
Now, the Bucs and Licht have to decide whether they’re going to give Barrett a massive contract or perhaps, entertained putting the “franchise tag” on him to ensure that he’s one of the top five paid defensive ends in football. If Licht and the Bucs choose to do that, Barrett will be making in the neighborhood of $18-20 million per year.
One concern for the Buccaneers is that Barrett’s breakout 2019 with the 19.5 sacks is more than he had in his previous five years in Denver combined. So, naturally, there is some skepticism that he will be able to produce at that high of a level for multiple years.
Still, it’s going to take that kind average per year deal to keep him from being available via free agency for someone else to sign. And, a further benefit to the franchise tag is at the Buccaneers could always reach a long-term agreement later this off season after tagging Barrett, too.
Now, we wait to see what Tampa Bay can get done.
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