At one point the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had the 4th ranked offense in the NFL. Then we blinked.
Reality set in, and a few Quarterbacks later, the Bucs settled back down to their normal spot towards the back of the theater! The unusual part was watching Tampa Bay Defense and Last Place have a synonymous relationship in 2009. Once Jim Bates defensive duties were replaced by Head Coach Raheem Morris, that unit started marching towards their normal front seats they've been comfortable in for several years.
The one thriving unit that most Bucs fans were unaware of, has been Special Teams. Tampa Bay had the best special teams in several categories last year, giving up the least amount of real estate on Punt returns or Kick Off returns, and that usually is a sign of good quality backups on the roster. Players like Maurice Stovall, Will Allen, and Matt McCoy may not have been good enough to crack the teams starting roster, but their contributions are missed when they are injured, not able to play, or in these cases, traded away or released.
While it may seem to be a move to immediatly replace the depth at linebacker, signing former Raider LB Jon Alston gives Special Teams Coach Rich Bisaccia another speedster to replace the loss of McCoy and Will Allen who was signed by the Steelers last week.
Alston is a former Stanford Cardinal who ran a 4.5 second 40 yard dash at the 2006 combine, and was drafted by the St. Louis Rams in the 3rd round. As a Cardinal, Alston saved his best for last: accumulating 113 tackles, 16 sacks, 23 tackles for a loss and causing 6 fumbles, all in his last two years in school.
Being only 26, he fits in well with the overall youth movement and will back up Geno Hayes at least initially, with placement in a depth chart likely not to happen until OTAs or camp. During his rise up mock drafts due to his combine performance, several teams expressed an interest in switching him to Safety. Its possible the Bucs were one of those teams and may be considering that move now.
Bucs are still interested in signing Sean Jones of the Eagles to compete at Safety. Jones concluded his visit last Friday, and normally teams that work deals for players are done before they leave a teams complex.
CLAYTON UPDATE: Michael Clayton will be going to the bank again, as he is due a $1,000,000 deferred bonus on March 15th. This is money the team owes their receiver as part of the contract he signed in 2009, but there is no roster bonus or new money that would force the Bucs to make a quick decision on him. With a career low 16 catches for only 230 yards last year, it is increasingly uncertain whether we will see #80 catching footballs for the Bucs after August.