What’s Up The Gut?

September 1st, 2017


That’s what he’s here for.

So far, Buc fans have noticed that Chris “Swaggy” Baker is an extrovert who doesn’t mind showing off his playful side. He’s been a natural for those Hard Knocks cameras, flashing a wide smile and some nifty dance moves.

Baker’s first tango with his new teammates comes Sept. 10 in Miami, where Jay Ajayi is eager to strut his stuff against a rush defense that ranked 22nd last fall.

“Stopping the run has been an emphasis for us since we got back from the offseason,” says Gerald McCoy. “Even though we were good on third down, we put ourselves in a lot of bad situations. We can get to the passer — we showed that last year — but we’ve got to stop the run for sure.”

That’s where Baker comes in, rather forcefully if Buc fans have their way.

A 320-pound (335?) wide-body, Baker was targeted by the Bucs early in free agency to rotate with McCoy and Clinton McDonald inside.

Can Baker make a difference as a run-stuffer?

“He wouldn’t be here if he couldn’t be,” McCoy says. “He’s here for a reason and that’s what he’s good at. He can rush, too, but his presence in the middle is going to be huge for us this year.”

To say the Bucs struggled against the run in 2016 is a bit of an understatement. Only four times did opponents rush for less than 100 yards and Tampa Bay saved the worst for last.

December Dive

After surging to an 8-5 mark with a five-game winning streak, the Bucs were run over at Dallas and New Orleans, effectively ending their postseason chances.

The Cowboys ran 32 times for 185 yards, but I’ll give the Bucs a bit of a pass because Dallas boasted the NFL’s premier offensive line and stud rookie back Ezekiel Elliott. The Cowboys imposed their will on a lot of defenses in 2016.

But the following week at the Superdome, the Bucs failed to make the Saints one-dimensional. That’s a major issue when you’re facing Drew Brees — and the Bucs paid an exorbitant price.

New Orleans ran 31 times for 123 yards, allowing Brees to repeatedly burn the Bucs on play-action. Even in the season-ending victory against Carolina, Tampa Bay yielded 128 yards on the ground.

In those final three weeks, Buc opponents averaged 4.7 yards per carry.

“Our main intent is to demolish the run and get after the quarterback,” says left defensive end William Gholston, who excels against the run. “Looking at the schedule, we do have some very legitimate offensive lines and running backs we have to face.”

Especially early.

Ajayi ran for 1,272 yards last year and was the only back to post three 200-yard games. In Week 2, the Bucs face Chicago’s Jordan Howard at home before heading to Minneapolis for a meeting with flashy rookie back Dalvin Cook and 2015 Pro Bowler Latavius Murray.

If I’m Mike Smith, I’m loading up the box in the first three weeks, challenging Jay Cutler, Mike Glennon and Sam Bradford to beat me.

“Last year in spots we got the job done against the run, but we didn’t make our goals so no, it wasn’t good enough,” Gholston says. “I expect Chris Baker to be a key contributor. He was a dynamic player for Washington and he can be a dynamite player for us as well.”

D.C. Chatter

I talked to a few people with Redskins ties Thursday night in the Raymond James Stadium press box. When I mentioned Baker, they described him as a good player, more adept as a pass rusher than a run-stuffer.

Whether Baker plays a pivotal role or not, the 2017 Bucs simply have to be more stout in shrinking rushing lanes They didn’t allow many long runs last fall, but there were too many five-yard gains.

In that regard, Tampa Bay’s third-down efforts on defense were even more impressive.

Besides the elite quarterbacks residing in the NFC South, don’t forget about backfield upgrades in New Orleans (Adrian Peterson, Alvin Kamara) and Carolina (rookie Christian McCaffrey).

The Bucs know it all starts up front. That’s why they retained Gholston, a middling pass rusher who plays the run well.

The Dolphins are rested and waiting. If the Bucs want to turn the hounds loose on Cutler, they’ll first have to set a trap for the elusive Mr. Ajayi.

They better bring a big net.

Ira Kaufman is the most beloved, revered and esteemed Buccaneers columnist in town. He has hung his hat at JoeBucsFan.com world headquarters since July 2016. Tampa Bay’s only Pro Football Hall of Fame voter, Ira busts out columns here every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and his award winning podcasts fire Tuesdays and Thursdays.

24 Responses to “What’s Up The Gut?”

  1. JonBuc Says:

    Swaggy is under dee suspicion until proven otherwise. He showed a bit of a turd factor on Hard Knocks…including teammates calling him out.

  2. Lamarcus Says:

    Jonbuc is right. He has a lot to prove in a bucs jersey. Idc what he did for the redskins. He appears lazy, out of shape , and he sends a bad message to our younger players.

  3. NOSBOS Says:

    They described him more pass rusher than run stuffer. Hmm,Interesting. That hit on eli last season sorta validates that.

  4. NOSBOS Says:

    I’ll agree whit that when I hear a coach say it until then you fans just barkin out yo aresholes.

  5. NOSBOS Says:

    Man ain’t got s$@% to prove to none of y’all. You don’t cut his check.. He’s been in this league how long again.

  6. JonBuc Says:


    Are you his agent?

  7. No_Bucs_Given Says:

    Agree Nos

  8. Lord Cornelius Says:

    I haven’t said 1 critical thing of Baker yet because I’m waiting to see him in regular season.

    I’d prefer a pass rushing disruptive DT over a run stuffer all day so if that’s what he’s good at then all the better. This is still a passing league now

  9. Jim Says:

    If so, he’s in trouble…

  10. 1sparkybuc Says:

    The Redskins were one of the worst against the rush last year. I have to believe our scouts saw Baker as not a key to that problem. I hope his performance outweighs his attitude issues. I’m a big fan of Stevie T. BAker doesn’t come across as a team guy.

  11. Trox Says:

    It s amazing what information gets leaked out to the press in DC when Bruce Allen deems it fit. Otherwise, not a whisper from Tampa North.

  12. stu Says:

    So far in the public eye he’s proven to be a lazy, blow hard, who has a thing for palm trees…

  13. mark2001 Says:

    Seems that if he wants anymore “positive attention” it will have to be because of superior play on the field. Otherwise, that boat has sailed.

  14. tnew Says:

    The biggest thing that we can do to stop the run is to get early leads. Teams tend to panic as soon as there is a 10 point differential. The biggest problem with the run last season was that we couldn’t stop it, when we knew it was coming.

  15. NOSBOS Says:

    I wish.

  16. NOSBOS Says:

    9 year pro stu.

  17. NOSBOS Says:

    Y’all fickle man. Y’all beef is over his practice habbits,not a game but practice. We up in arms over practice. I think some salty because. Y’all wanted poe. Check the last three years,he’s out performed him in each one.

  18. Garv Says:

    Right now we know he’s a clown, likes to have fun and would probably be fun to hang around with. Time to walk the walk as a football player and Ira is dead on about needing to stop the run. Swaggy does that, it’s all good. He doesn’t? Don’t want to think about that.

    ALL about Miami now! #BMFS

  19. Pickgrin Says:

    Almost time to see if Swaggy’s play can cash the checks that his mouth has been writing.

    Hard Knocks has not been a great look for Baker and his “I’m a player not a practicer” attitude has been very much “as advertised” coming in.

    I am willing to give the benefit of the doubt regarding his play until shown otherwise based on previous recent tape of real NFL games he played in.

    If Swaggy plays as well as the 22nd best DT in the league which is exactly where his salary falls – then we will probably be in very good shape at DT if GMC and McDonald also have healthy and productive years.

    If Baker plays better than that (which is possible if he balls out because he’s lining up next to McCoy) Then we got a good thing going in the middle of our Dline for the next 2-3 years and can concentrate on finding edge rush help immediately and draft for DT developmentally.

    That trio has to be among the best threesome at DT in the league as McDonald is a very good player when healthy and GMC is GMC.

    But health has been a pretty big issue for McDonald since he came to Tampa Bay and he’s missed a bunch of games. GMC has been pretty consistently available after he got past the 2 season ending injuries his 1st two years – but he does seem to get hurt at least once or twice every year and has to play through those injuries which usually limits his effectiveness when he’s not close to 100% healthy.

  20. Destinjohnny Says:

    We don’t have the line depth to be better than a 9-7 team.
    We will be good but not great.
    I put that at the feet of our gm for not drafting lineman

  21. Rod Munch Says:

    Up the gut, meaning between the tackles, is a play that Dirk called last night on 77 of the Bucs 81 plays.

  22. SB Says:

    From Everything I have heard we should be afraid of McCaffery!

  23. Rod Munch Says:

    SB – From watching McCaffery play I’d compare him to a smaller Charles Sims. His upside is huge however, in theory he could be more of a Warrick Dunn type and I’d assume that’s what Mike Shula is coaching him up to be in Carolina – but I don’t think he has the natural ability that Dunn had and also Dunn played forever without getting hurt. I’m hoping McCaffery plays like he did in college with an upright running position, if he does that he’ll be on IR by week 6 — but going back to Shula and Dunn, what worries me is that Shula showed McCaffery how Dunn would curl himself up before getting hit and that’s why he never got injured despite being undersized, not one ever got a good clean hit on him. For McCaffery, in preseason, he seemed to be doing that – but Dunn did it naturally, it wasn’t taught, for McCaffery it’s not natural since in college he ran upright like Sims runs – but Sims is like 30 pounds heavier.

    We shall see but I think injuries will be an issue.

  24. SB Says:

    If he doesn’t get injured I would bet on him for OROY. After that I would go Kareem Hunt now that Spencer Ware is out.