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Monday, Apr 21, 2014
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs’ Schiano expects big year from Freeman, Bowers

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PHOENIX -

Predicting a “great’’ 2013 season for Josh Freeman, Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Greg Schiano is eager to sit down with his young quarterback and discuss the factors that contributed to several turnover-filled efforts late last season.

Speaking at a breakfast for NFC coaches Wednesday at the owners meetings, Schiano also expected a double-digit sack season from third-year defensive end Da’Quan Bowers and lamented Tampa Bay’s penchant for yielding long pass completions during a 7-9 finish in Schiano’s first year on the sideline.

And, as expected, Schiano declined to comment on any potential trade talks with the New York Jets regarding cornerback Darrelle Revis.

“We have good young players in the pipeline, we’re going to continue to pursue guys in free agency and we’re going to draft well,’’ Schiano said. “We have many scenarios because you’re not in control of everything.’’

Schiano was asked whether acquiring Revis is one of the scenarios under consideration.

“Whether it does or doesn’t, I can’t comment on guys under contract with another team,’’ Schiano said. “Anything we can do to help our football team, we’re going to do.’’

The Bucs were 6-4 last year before a five-game losing streak derailed their playoff hopes. In back-to-back setbacks against the Saints and Rams, Freeman threw four interceptions apiece.

“If you look at Josh’s season, in 13 games he threw seven interceptions and in three games, he threw 10,’’ said Schiano. “That’s it in a nutshell. Let’s find the reasons why those three games occurred and eliminate the causes. When we get Josh back in the building, we’re going to dig into his feelings on what the causes were.

“I believe he’s going to have a great season and it’s going to catapult him to where he wants to go and where we want to go. All those beliefs are great, but you’ve got to do it. I’ve got to do it, he’s got to do it … we all have to do it.’’

In reviewing last season, Tampa Bay’s fifth consecutive year without a playoff berth, Schiano kept coming back to a young pass defense which ranked last in the league.

The Bucs were particularly vulnerable to the long strike, yielding 69 completions of at least 20 yards and 11 completions of at least 40 yards.

“There’s no excuses,’’ Schiano said. “It doesn’t matter if you have rookies or 10-year vets out there, you cannot allow big plays. That’s how you get beat. When you look at our season, the two things that hurt us most were big plays and giveaways. The big pass plays are killers.

“They not only affect the game, but they affect the momentum of the game. When you’re home, it sucks the life out of your crowd. And on the road, it ignites the crowd.’’

The Bucs will actively pursue some remaining free-agent corners, Schiano said. He didn’t deflect speculation the Bucs are interested in Brent Grimes, coming off an Achilles injury in Atlanta.

In Wednesday’s transactions, Tampa Bay re-signed a pair of free agents, long snapper Andrew Economos and linebacker Jacob Cutrera.

The Bucs are thin at corner and they are still awaiting a decision by Ronde Barber, who is contemplating retirement after 16 NFL seasons. Barber moved from corner to safety in 2012 and the Bucs targeted 49ers safety Dashon Goldson early in free agency, signing him quickly to pair with second-year pro Mark Barron.

“We feel Dashon is the kind of football player who represents who we are,’’ Schiano said. “He’s smart, he’s tough and he’s an intimidating player. That’s kind of the way we want to play. I’ll probably reach out to Ronde when we get back to Tampa.

“I don’t want him to feel pressured at all. He’s the epitome of a Buc and I really want him to do what he feels is best. If he comes back, that’s good for us. If he doesn’t come back because that’s what he decided to do, then good for him. I thought he played well and I have some visions of what he can do.’’

A better pass rush would help and Schiano said Bowers is poised for a breakthrough season.

A second-round pick in 2011, Bowers recovered from an Achilles injury and posted three sacks in limited action last year. He is awaiting the fallout from his arrest a month ago for carrying a gun at New York’s LaGuardia Airport.

“He’s a tremendous athlete for a man his size,’’ Schiano said. “He’s explosive and he’s done it. It’s our job to make him do it consistently. When he hurt his Achilles, it changed his body. Rather than being negative, he got in with our strength staff and changed his body. I think he’s prepared to take the next step.’’

Does that include becoming a double-digit sacker in 2013?

“He needs to be,’’ Schiano said. “He should be. That’s why we drafted him.’’


ikaufman@tampatrib.com

(813) 259-7833

Twitter: @IKaufmanTBO

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