It was only the third day of training camp, and already fans in
Tampa were voicing their opinions about how to fix the
Buccaneers' passing attack. During one of the first drills for
receivers, a squeaky little voice from a few rows up in the
bleachers could be heard yelling, "Hey, they aren't throwing the
ball to Daddy enough! Throw the ball to Daddy!" The advice came
from Sydni Emanuel, the two-year-old daughter of wideout Bert
Emanuel, whom the Bucs lured from Atlanta in April with a
four-year, $16.4 million deal.
Sydni shouldn't fret. Daddy will be getting plenty of chances
this season in a vastly improved Tampa Bay passing game, one that
provides the Buccaneers the means of overtaking Green Bay in the
In the last two drafts the Bucs raided the University of Florida
for wideout speed, taking Reidel Anthony in the first round in
1997 and Jacquez Green in the second round this year. Not until
Emanuel's arrival, however, was the last link to the franchise's
pathetic, pastel past erased.
Tampa Bay's last big free-agent signee at wide receiver was
Alvin Harper, who arrived from the Cowboys in 1995 with much
fanfare and a $10.6 million contract and left town after two
seasons with the nickname Maxwell House ("good to the last
drop"). Harper's departure, though unlamented, didn't make
matters much better. Despite quarterback Trent Dilfer's breakout
year--his rating of 82.8 was 18 points better than his previous
career high--the team still finished dead last in the NFL in
passing offense in '97. Anthony, whose 35 receptions led all
Tampa Bay wide receivers, had just one catch over the final four
games of the regular season. The Bucs' top three wideouts had
fewer receptions combined (101) than Detroit's Herman Moore (104).
Coach Tony Dungy knows what a feeble passing attack does to his
team. He has seen game film of the Packers loading the line with
eight defenders to stop the Bucs' run, and of Green Bay safety
LeRoy Butler creeping to within two yards of the line of
scrimmage. "When teams dare you to throw the ball like that, you
have to be able to nail a big play and make them pay," says
Dungy. "Now we've got the home run hitters. And if we can
exploit one-on-one coverage on the outside, then maybe the last
key for us is in place."
Emanuel may be just the man for the job. At 5'10", he is blessed
with speed and silky moves; he has averaged 71 catches and 984
yards receiving over the last three seasons. What's more, the
former quarterback from Rice is adept at reading defenses and
anticipating passes, which gives him an uncanny ability to come
up with big grabs under pressure.
The 5'11" Anthony, who bounced back from his late-season slump
to catch four passes for 114 yards in the playoffs, will start
opposite Emanuel. When Dungy needs size for blocking or wants a
bigger lineup, he can rotate in veteran Horace Copeland (6'3"),
and to help keep a possession going he can call on Karl Williams
(17.1 yards per catch on third down). As for Green, he'll see
most of his action at first on special teams.
"A Steady Eddie passing game isn't good enough to get this team
where we want to go," says Dilfer. "Because of our run-oriented
offense, when it's time to pass, everyone in America knows we're
going to throw the ball. So we usually need that great catch
under pressure. Now we have the players who can do it. This
offense is ready to kick butt."
The big leap for Emanuel will be to adjust to the fact that a
huge year in the Buccaneers' offense might mean only 60 catches,
and that his primary job is to help prevent opponents from
loading up to stop the Bucs' run. The thrust of the Tampa Bay
attack will again be the formidable one-two rushing punch of
Warrick Dunn, the 1997 NFL rookie of the year, and Mike Alstott,
who has morphed from a traditional fullback into a kind of
bulldozer back with speed and soft hands.
The upgrade at wideout will benefit not only the offense but
also the Bucs' swarming D, which held opponents to 16.4 points
per game in '97. "One reason our defense plays great is because
of what the offense does for them," says Dilfer. "We eat up huge
chunks of the clock, and we win the field-position battles. So
they go out there rested and in good position."
Those factors should only improve with a better passing
attack--that is, as long as Emanuel has better hands than his
kids. After a recent practice he jogged over to see Sydni and
his wife, Teri, and then handed his helmet to his youngest
She promptly dropped it on her mom's foot. --David Fleming
COLOR PHOTO: DAVID LIAM KYLE CATCHING ON Copeland (below) welcomes the productive Emanuel and the promising Green to the upgraded wideout corps. [Horace Copeland in game]
B/W PHOTO: ROBERT ROGERS Middleton [Frank Middleton]
Sept. 6 at Minnesota
13 at Green Bay
28 at Detroit (Mon.)
Oct. 4 N.Y. GIANTS
11 OPEN DATE
25 at New Orleans
Nov. 1 MINNESOTA
15 at Jacksonville
29 at Chicago
Dec. 7 GREEN BAY (Mon.)
19 at Washington (Sat.)
27 at Cincinnati
1997 Record 10-6 (2nd in NFC Central) NFL rank
(rush/pass/total): offense 11/30/29; defense 6/10/3
1998 Schedule strength NFL rank: 3 (tie) Opponents' 1997
winning percentage: .543 Games against playoff teams: 9
Seven players drafted by the Bucs in the 1990s have represented
the franchise in the Pro Bowl. That's the highest such total in
the league--one more than that of San Francisco, Dallas or
Pittsburgh. In addition, 25 players drafted by Tampa Bay in the
'90s have started at least 25 games for the Bucs, tops among NFL
Team Pro Bowl draftees in the '90s No.
Buccaneers Mike Alstott, FB; Derrick Brooks, LB;
Trent Dilfer, QB; Warrick Dunn, RB;
John Lynch, S; Tony Mayberry, C; Warren Sapp, DT 7
Cowboys Larry Allen, G-T; Leon Lett, DT;
Russell Maryland, DT; Emmitt Smith, RB;
Erik Williams, T; Darren Woodson, S 6
49ers Eric Davis, CB; Merton Hanks, S;
Dana Stubblefield, DT; Ricky Watters, RB;
Lee Woodall, LB; Bryant Young, DT 6
Steelers Chad Brown, LB; Barry Foster, RB;
Eric Green, TE; Levon Kirkland, LB;
Neil O'Donnell, QB; Joel Steed, NT 6
Fiery second-year right guard Frank Middleton has the
ever-expanding girth of a young Nate Newton, but if he can keep
the weight down, the Arizona product can be as dominant a player
as his Cowboys counterpart....Including their 21-7 loss to Green
Bay in the playoffs, the Bucs scored either one or no TDs in six
of their seven losses. Nevertheless, they sent the backfield
trio of quarterback Trent Dilfer and running backs Warrick Dunn
and Mike Alstott to the Pro Bowl....Defensive end Chidi Ahanotu
had 10 sacks but didn't get the chance to go to Honolulu. The
Bucs inadvertently sent in the wrong depth chart for the Pro
Bowl ballot....Dilfer's string of 48 straight starts is the
second-longest active streak among quarterbacks. Green Bay's
Brett Favre has 93.
Projected Lineup With 1997 statistics
Coach: Tony Dungy
Third season with Buccaneers (16-16 in NFL)
Offensive Backs PVR*
QB Trent Dilfer 50[PVR*] 386 att. 217 comp. 56.2%
2,555 yds. 21 TDs 11 int. 82.8 rtg.
RB Warrick Dunn 37[PVR*] 224 att. 978 yds. 4.4 avg.
39 rec. 462 yds. 11.8 avg. 7 TDs
FB Mike Alstott 47[PVR*] 176 att. 665 yds. 3.8 avg.
23 rec. 178 yds. 7.7 avg. 10 TDs
RB Leeland McElroy[N] 152[PVR*] 135 att. 424 yds. 3.1
avg. 7 rec. 32 yds. 4.6 avg. 2 TDs
Receivers, Specialists, Offensive Linemen
WR Bert Emanuel[N] 78[PVR*] 65 rec. 991 yds. 9 TDs
WR Reidel Anthony 141[PVR*] 35 rec. 448 yds. 4 TDs
WR Horace Copeland 260[PVR*] 33 rec. 431 yds. 1 TD
TE Dave Moore 161[PVR*] 19 rec. 217 yds. 4 TDs
K Michael Husted 105[PVR*] 32/35 XPs 13/17 FGs 71 pts.
PR Jacquez Green[N] (R) 267[PVR*] 24 ret. 14.2 avg. 2 TDs
KR Karl Williams 248[PVR*] 15 ret. 18.5 avg. 0 TDs
LT Paul Gruber 6'5" 292 lbs. 16 games 16 starts
LG Jorge Diaz 6'4" 308 lbs. 16 games 16 starts
C Tony Mayberry 6'4" 302 lbs. 16 games 16 starts
RG Frank Middleton 6'3" 340 lbs. 15 games 2 starts
RT Jason Odom 6'5" 307 lbs. 16 games 16 starts
LE Chidi Ahanotu 48 tackles 10 sacks
LT Brad Culpepper 59 tackles 8 1/2 sacks
RT Warren Sapp 58 tackles 10 1/2 sacks
RE Regan Upshaw 28 tackles 7 1/2 sacks
OLB Derrick Brooks 145 tackles 1 1/2 sacks
MLB Hardy Nickerson 147 tackles 1 sack
OLB Jeff Gooch 26 tackles 0 sacks
CB Anthony Parker 80 tackles 1 int.
SS John Lynch 109 tackles 2 int.
FS Charles Mincy 44 tackles 1 int.
CB Donnie Abraham 54 tackles 5 int.
P Tommy Barnhardt 29 punts 45.0 avg.
[N]New acquisition (R) Rookie (statistics for final college
year) *PVR: Player Value Ranking (explanation on page 88)