Commentary | Tampa Bay Buccaneers are NFL Summer League champions

July 17, 2013 

Buccaneers  Football

Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Greg Schiano shouts instructions during special team's drills at an NFL football workout Tuesday, June 11, 2013, in Tampa, Fla. Wide receiver Mike Williams, right, heads back to the huddle. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

CHRIS O'MEARA — AP

TAMPA

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will head into preseason camp as the NFL Summer League champions.

This is not to be confused with the NBA Summer League in which the games are played on the hardwood.

The NFL Summer League is played in the head, and the idea is to collect the most chips to put on your team's shoulders.

The Bucs are the mythical champs and have no one to thank more than ProFootballTalk.Com, which many people consider the bible of Roger Goodall's world.

PFT has the Bucs 24th in its preseason ranking ahead of only a bunch of misfit teams that include the dysfunctional Oakland Raiders and Jacksonville Jaguars and New York's calamity Jets.

They are one spot ahead of their NFC South Division rival, the Carolina Panthers.

When the rankings recently came out, you can bet Tampa Bay head coach Greg Schiano and general manager Mark Dominik were hoisting champagne glasses.

To Schiano, it had to be like borrowing Dwight Howard and going down to beat the Miami Heat.

Now when the temperatures are soaring around 100 and his players are hallucinating that they are stranded in the Mojave Desert, he can shout his toes-in-the-line mantra and not expect a whimper of protest.

Schiano rips out the rankings, walks over to those players -- who can barely see with all the sweat dripping down their faces -- and shows them their status, which has them below the Kansas City Chiefs and Detroit Lions.

It's the mother of insults, and Schiano has to be loving every minute of it.

This comes on the heels of the Bucs spending substantial money to restore a secondary that looked as if it was stuck in quicksand.

They added Darrelle Revis, regarded the best cornerback in the league be

fore his ACL tear, and brought in All-Pro safety Dashon Goldson.

PFT conceded the Bucs secondary went from one of the worst to one of the best -- at least on paper. But they reference what every critic cautions: If there is no pass rush up front it doesn't mean a whole lot.

But 24 behind Kansas City and Detroit?

Could there be merit here?

There is enough to allow Schiano to convince his players they cannot take a second off.

The Chiefs were 2-14 last year but had six Pro Bowlers and now have a new coach in Andy Reid and a new quarterback in Alex Smith.

Here is a legitimate question: Would you rather have Greg Schiano and Bucs quarterback Josh Freeman?

Detroit comes in at 20th. The Lions were 4-12 last year. They have Mathew Stafford returning at quarterback. Would you rather have Freeman?

This is getting a little dicey.

Offensively, the Bucs have legitimate weapons with Doug Martin running behind an offensive line that now has All-Pro guards Carl Nicks and Davin Joseph healthy and a good receiving corps led by Vincent Jackson.

The blaring question marks are Freeman and an underachieving defensive line.

The Bucs set a franchise record, scoring 389 points last season, but Freeman completed just 54.8 percent of his passes and had a pair of back-to-back games with four interceptions that contributed to Tampa Bay's second half season meltdown. The pass defense was the league's worst, and the team tied for 29th in sacks.

The players have other reasons to carry multiple chips on their shoulders. In 2014, their cap space will shrink, and if you don't want to be a casualty next season, now is the time to prove yourself.

To add more wood to the fire, The Sporting News has Tampa Bay finishing last in the NFC South behind the Panthers and defenseless New Orleans Saints. Elliott Harrison of NFL.com even lists running back Doug Martin as a potential sophomore-slump candidate.

The Bucs won the NFL Summer League hands down. Congratulations to Mr. Schiano. Now put that title to good use.

Alan Dell, Herald sportswriter, can be reached at 941-745-7080, ext. 2112. Follow him on Twitter at @ADellSports.`

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