The arrival each year in the Tampa Bay area of the players participating in the East-West Shrine Game more or less serves as the unofficial kickoff to the NFL Draft season.
With the exception of the four teams still participating in the Super Bowl tournament (and even they have scouts here watching the Shrine Game practices) the focus now shifts to the draft.
As usual, the Buccaneers have been focused on the draft for a little longer than most teams and many believe their focus is largely on filling their need for a No. 2 wide receiver.
That may very well be the case. The Bucs do need a complement to top wideout Mike Evans. But F.F.I.’s Roy Cummings says the Bucs focus is somewhere else.
Having just completed his 19th season on the Bucs beat, Cummings said during an interview with Ron Diaz on 620 WDAE in Tampa Bay on Monday that the Bucs have one need far greater than a No. 2 wide receiver.
“Every time I hear this conversation I hear that the Bucs need a No. 2 wide receiver,’’ Cummings said. “You know what the Bucs need? They need a No. 1 running back. They don’t have an every-down back right now. That comes before a No. 2 wide receiver every time and it has to come now.’’
Cummings explained that the Bucs don’t have a No. 1 running back right now because there’s no way of knowing if Doug Martin, who has been suspended for violating the NFL’s PED policy and is seeking help for a drug dependency issue, will ever be back or what kind of player he’ll be when and if he does come back.
He also explained that the Bucs are a run-first team that builds its passing game on play-action fakes. Quarterback Jameis Winston needs those fakes, Cummings said, to buy time in the pocket, where he usually works off deeper five- and seven-step drops instead of the short drops that quick-release quarterbacks such as the Falcons Matt Ryan use.
Whether the Bucs see it the way Cummings does or feel the greater need is for a receiver may not be known until draft day. Until then, this debate is sure to rage on.
Meanwhile, in a wide-ranging interview heard here, Cummings also spoke about Martin’s future with the Bucs, the divisional playoff games and what lies ahead for the final four teams in the Super Bowl tournament.
It’s definitely worth a listen.