Roy Cummings of the Tribune thinks the Bucs are set to roll out what they have at DT, namely starting Hovan and Sims at the 7 and undertackle positions, with Greg Peterson and Dre Moore to spell them. He also thinks potential difference-makers in Bates' system, namely Boston College DTs B.J. Raji and Ron Brace, will be gone for the Bucs by the time they hit 19 in the draft. Raji? Definitely (don't even think the combine report about him rolling a few doobies will back teams off). Brace? Possibly. Teams tend to overvalue bulk at DT rather than college production (staring at you, former first rounders Brodrick Bunkley, John McCargo). Then again, there weren't alot of takers on probably the best remaining UFA DT on the market... Tank Johnson, who was productive and kept his nose clean in Dallas. So maybe teams won't be chomping at the bit to go DT in the first round. Then again, the hesitance on signing a free agent like Johnson could be due to cap hell some teams are in and his past behavior, so who knows for sure.
Cummings thinks the Bucs can get by with Hovan and Peterson as their starting tackles and, in support of his argument, refers to Bates' days in Miami when his defenses 2002 and 2003 ranked 4th and 3rd in the league in points allowed with the (not-so-mighty in Cummings' mind )Bruce Bowen and Larry Chester anchoring the center of the D-line. However, when you look deeper into those team stats, you see that the 2002 Dolphin defense ranked 5th in the NFL against the run, allowing a mere 3.8 ypc. The 2003 Dolphin defense ranked 5th against the run, allowing a stingy 3.0 ypc (2nd best in the NFL). What does that tell me? That Bowen and Chester were probably a little more talented than Cummings gives them credit for.
That's nice and all about the Dolphin comparison, but what the hell have Ryan Sims or Greg Peterson done to make anybody think they're going to be able to step in and even get up to the level of Larry Chester/Bruce Bowen? We're hearing so much about players who WILL step in and be productive on this team... but HAD the opportunity before and have NOT cracked the starting lineup or been a consistent producer. Ryan Sims was productive early in his career in Kansas City, but lost his starting gig in a mere 2 years and blew his opportunity to shine at the end of last season in a horrible fashion. I don't know jack bumpkis about Greg Peterson's prospects as a starter... namely because he hasn't started a game in 2 years, nor made enough plays when he was on the field. I like Chris Hovan... I'm still not sure how to take his end to the season, be it on his bum knee or just as a cog in a collapsed, unmotivated defense. No doubt the end of the season was a perfect storm of injury, inept performance from backups/replacements, missed assignments, and overall poor execution by everyone on the defense with enough blame to go around. That said, the problems started up front with the D-line, and neither Hovan nor Sims could cover their gaps up front and give the linebackers some relief. An abberation? God, I hope so. The first 3/4 of the season was a strong statement from the defense, so I'll give Hovan the hesitant benefit of the doubt. Also, if Raheem has the confidence to stick with him and not cut him along with the slew of other older players back in February, that speaks about his confidence in Hovan's abilities and that he hopefully still has plenty left in the tank.