Bucs’ Tanard Jackson suspended indefinitely, out at least a year

TAMPA, FL - NOVEMBER 4: Safety Tanard Jackson #28 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers lines up on defense against the Arizona Cardinals at the Raymond James Stadium  on November 4, 2007 in Tampa, Florida.  The Bucs won 17 - 10. (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)

The NFL has suspended Bucs’ free safety Tanard Jackson indefinitely for violating the league’s substance abuse policy.

From the Tampa Tribune:

Jackson, who was suspended without pay for the first four games of 2009 for violating the same policy, learned of the suspension after Wednesday’s afternoon workout at One Buc Place, Bucs general manager Mark Dominik said.

Specifics of Jackson’s violation were not disclosed, but the suspension began immediately and he cannot apply for re-instatement until July 22, 2011.

“We know that he is suspended for the rest of the year,” Dominik said.

The NFL’s substance abuse policy primarily covers drugs and alcohol, as performance enhancing drugs are covered under a separate policy. The substance abuse policy does not call for a suspension until a player reaches Stage 2 of the league’s intervention program, indicating Jackson failed for the second time to remain in compliance with the terms laid out for him as a Stage 1 offender.

“As much as I would like to comment on it, I’m going through a lot and I can’t talk about it right now,” Jackson told the Tampa Tribune shortly after learning of the suspension. “Maybe at another time.”

Jackson has a load of talent but this is his second suspension in two years and once again the Bucs are left with Sabby Piscitelli at free safety. Piscitelli was almost cut in training camp and if he does wind up back in the starting lineup, expect opposing offenses to consistently attack him in coverage.

This is unfortunate news for the surprising 2-0 Bucs.

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Are the Bucs moving in the right direction?

Two years ago, the Buccaneers appeared destined for another playoff run after amassing a 9-3 record behind veteran players like Derrick Brooks, Jeff Garcia, Stylez G. White, Barrett Ruud, Kevin Carter and Antonio Bryant.

But the team faded down the stretch, losing all four of its remaining games (including an embarrassing defeat to the hapless Raiders in the final week of the year) to miss the playoffs entirely. Following the season, both head coach Jon Gruden and general manager Bruce Allen were fired and replaced by the experienced Raheem Morris and Mark Dominik, respectively.

Last year was a disaster for Morris and the Bucs, who finished 3-13 and statistically had one of the worst offenses in the league. Until Morris took over the play calling duties midway through the season, the once proud Tampa Bay defense also took a significant step back from what it was earlier in the decade under former coordinator Monte Kiffin (who left the team following the ’08 season to coach with his son at the University of Tennessee).

But one of the main reasons the Glazers fired Gruden and Allen was because of the pair’s desire to rely mostly on veteran players. There was a lot of turnover from year to year under Gruden and Allen and the Glazers felt as though the two weren’t building a young core that could compete for many years, not just one.

Read the rest of this entry »

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 2010 Team Needs

As part of our 2010 NFL Draft coverage, I will be breaking down positional needs for all 32 teams, starting in reverse alphabetical order. Next up is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Check out other team needs by clicking here.

1. Defensive Line
The Bucs have needs at every position outside of quarterback, but they’re in good shape with 10 selections in this year’s draft. Their top priority will likely be their defensive line, which has become a weakness under the new regime of Raheem Morris and Mark Dominik. If either Nebraska’s Ndamukong Suh or Oklahoma’s Gerald McCoy fall to them at No. 3, it’s hard envisioning a scenario where Tampa would pass on upgrading the interior of their defensive line. If both tackles are gone at that spot, then they may address their need at safety with Tennessee’s Eric Berry or hope to trade down and snag one of the defensive ends (Jason Pierre-Paul, Brandon Graham, Corey Wootten or George Selvie) that would be available later in the first round. But no matter how things shake out for them at No. 3, the Bus will attempt to upgrade their defensive line on draft day.

Outside Linebacker
Upgrading the strongside linebacker position is one of the Bucs’ top priorities this offseason and now that Geno Hayes (who had a breakout season last year) will be sidelined for 3-4 months after undergoing surgery in late January to repair a torn labrum, weakside may need to be addressed as well. Tampa signed Angelo Crowell to a one-year contract last offseason, but the deal blew up in Dominik’s (who overpaid) face after the oft-injured linebacker missed the entire 2009 season when he tore one of his biceps in August. It’s doubtful the Bucs bring him back seeing as how he can’t stay on the field and was plummeting past Quincy Black and Adam Hayward on the depth chart before being placed on IR. Black is adequate, but the Bucs need more playmakers on the defensive side of the ball and could use one of their early round selections to beef up the strongside position.

3. Safety
Tanard Jackson is entrenched as the starter at free safety, but the strong safety position definitely needs to be addressed this offseason. Sabby Piscitelli proved that he’s a liability in coverage and quite frankly, he wasn’t that great against the run either (which was supposed to be his forte). Bringing back 31-year-old, injury-prone Jermaine Phillips isn’t the answer, so taking a player like Berry at No. 3 makes sense. The question is, will Tampa take Suh or McCoy if either of them fell at that spot? Good safeties are hard to find in the draft, but Suh and McCoy are two prospects that have the potential to anchor a line for years to come. Either way, the safety position opposite Jackson must be addressed.

Cornerback, receiver, running back, guard and offensive tackle are needs for the Bucs this offseason as well.

Photo from fOTOGLIF

The NFC North is the most overrated division in the NFL

Once Brett Favre signed with the Vikings and the Bears acquired Jay Cutler this offseason, pundits couldn’t help but to gush over how good the NFC North Division would be.

But now that nine weeks are in the books, it’s clear that the NFC North is the most overrated division in football.

With Favre under center, the Vikings have been as good as advertised this season. But the Bears were crushed 41-21 at home by the Cardinals on Sunday and the Packers lost 38-28 to the freaking winless Buccaneers and rookie quarterback Josh Freeman, who was making his first career start.

Turnovers killed Green Bay today in Tampa. The Packers managed to rack up 404 yards of total offense, 170 yards on the ground (Ryan Grant was effective) and also held the Bucs to just 81 rushing yards of their own. But Aaron Rodgers was intercepted three times, including once with time ticking down in the fourth to seal Green Bay’s fate. (Tanard Jackson returned the interception 35 yards for a touchdown to put Tampa Bay up for good at 38-28.)

Somehow, the Packers allowed Freeman to throw three touchdown passes without much threat of a running game. Freeman was far from perfect as he threw an interception, struggled with his accuracy and fumbled a snap (which was recovered by Tampa). But he was solid in the second half, showed nice poise for being a rookie and bought extra time for himself while scrambling out of trouble. Head coach Raheem Morris said his rookie signal caller was ready to play coming into the game and it showed.

The Packers still haven’t beaten a team with a winning record this season. I’ll be the first to admit that I was wrong when I said in the preseason that they were Super Bowl contenders. They haven’t been able to overcome the injuries on the offensive line and the defense has been inconsistent. Rodgers wasn’t great today, but for the most part he has kept his team in games on his own by buying himself extra time to find open receivers.

Green Bay’s schedule is tougher in the second half than it was in the first. This is an 8-8 team at best and so are the Bears (if that). That’s not exactly what most pundits had in mind when they were talking up the NFC North in preseason.

Bucs’ Jackson suspended, Talib arrested

In the course of two days, the Buccaneers’ secondary has taken a significant hit after free safety Tanard Jackson was suspended four games for violating the league’s substance abuse policy and cornerback Aqib Talib was arrested for simple battery and resisting arrest.

Jackson, who was entering his third season, has emerged as one of Tampa’s better young defenders. He started all 32 games for the Bucs over the past two seasons and made defensive calls for the team in the secondary. Given that Will Allen is his replacement, this is a significant blow to the Bucs’ defensive backfield.

Talib showed promise as a rookie last year and was likely going to be promoted to starter this season. But his starting status is now very much in question following his arrest, not to mention he was also punished for striking teammate Torrie Cox in the face with his helmet at the conclusion of a recent practice.

The Bucs lost one of the better defensive minds in football when long-time coordinator Monte Kiffin left the team to coach with his son at the University of Tennessee. Now they have to deal with the loss of Jackson for four games and concern themselves with disciplining Talib.

This isn’t a good sign for a team that is trying to adjust to a new head coach and a new defensive coordinator.

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