Josh McCown has seen a few visions of what might be his team’s future pass right in front of his eyes the past couple of weeks.
The Bucs have visited with at least four of the top quarterback prospects in this year’s draft, and while brief, McCown’s encounter with each was still long enough to remind him what his role on this team really is.
Though he’s been placed atop the depth chart and is the odds-on favorite to open the 2014 season as the Bucs’ starter, McCown knows he’s here in part to mentor the player who will eventually replace him.
And meeting the likes of Teddy Bridgewater, Johnny Manziel and Jimmy Garoppolo only reinforced the notion that getting a young quarterback through his first season will be one of the more important aspects of that job.
“In my opinion, the longest year in your career is easily that first year, because you’re going from the (NFL scouting) combine to the end of your rookie season and it’s just a long year,’’ McCown said.
“And you’re excited about all of that, but it can be draining and very emotional. And now that they’ve bumped the draft back, there’s this waiting period for those guys, and that can be tough.’’
One of those guys could wind up replacing McCown, and not near the end of the season but near the end of training camp. Should that happen, McCown said, his approach to his job won’t change.
“If we pick a young guy at that (No. 7 overall spot), then let’s help him get ready, because we’re picking him there because we think he can help us win games,’’ McCown said. “It’s all about helping us win football games.’’
The cloning process
At 6-foot-7 and 270 pounds, Bucs defensive end Michael Johnson looks a lot like former Bucs sack master Simeon Rice. What the Bucs want to know is whether Johnson can play like Simeon Rice.
Judging by the five-year, $43.75 million contract they gave him in free agency, the Bucs are convinced Johnson can do for them what the 6-5, 268-pound Rice once did.
Just to be sure, though, the Bucs have had Johnson studying tape of Rice, their hope being that he can pick up on some of the traits that made Rice one of the game’s best pass rushers.
“I’ve been watching a lot of him, and I definitely (see some similarities) between us,’’ Johnson said. “He’s a long guy like me, and he didn’t do a whole bunch of different things, but what he did do he was good at. You’ll definitely see some of that in me this year.”
The Bucs could stand to see a little of that in Johnson. Though they surpassed the 30-sack plateau for the first time since 2007 last season, they still ranked 24th in the league with 35 sacks.
The addition of Johnson, who recorded just 3.5 sacks last year but had 11.5 the year before, should help them improve, but Johnson realizes his game needs some tweaks and he’s hoping Rice can help him make them.
“Anytime you have a pass rusher with similar body types to you, you try to look and see what he did and what he was successful with and you try to incorporate that into your game,” Johnson said.
“If it’s something you can become good at, then cool. If not, you just have to find whatever your niche is. So yeah, it’s good to look at a guy like that, but I hope I get the chance to talk to him as well.”
Listen to what the man said
Defensive end William Gholston rallied down the stretch of his rookie season last year, recording 10 tackles, three pass breakups and 1.5 sacks in his last four games. Defensive tackle Gerald McCoy believes there’s a lot more of that kind of production to come for Gholston.
“I always say that he looks like Julius Peppers,’’ McCoy said. “The way he looks in his pads and the way he moves, I told him, ‘You can be that guy.’ Because Pep, he played inside sometimes, but when he wanted to get to the quarterback, he did.
“And that’s Will. He can do things he doesn’t even realize he can do. I had to tell him last year, ‘Man, you know if you try this, nobody is going to stop you.’ And he was like, ‘Hey, you’re right.’ And I was like, ‘Yeah, I know I’m right. I’ve been trying to tell you that for five weeks.’ ’’