Season Spotlight

September 5th, 2019

“You up for this, my draft brother?”

The May words of a Buccaneers assistant coach have been darting through Joe’s head since they were uttered four months ago.

And they are critical to the team’s success this season.

Joe’s talking about Nick Rapone, Bruce Arians’ longtime friend and the Bucs’ safeties coach. Todd Bowles’ defense is going to blitz and blitz some more. And Rapone explained who will lead the way.

“In our system, the No. 1 person that blitzes is the nickel,” Rapone explained while talking about M.J. Stewart. “He is a physical player. He was a rookie [last year]. There is a learning curve. Our nickels have to blitz. Our nickels have to play man-to-man. He has the innate skills to play man to man; he’s physical enough to blitz. So we’re basing it on what he can do based on what we saw.”

Fast-forward to 2019, and astute Bucs observers realize Stewart has won the nickel job. He looked stronger and faster this summer versus last season.

Asked if Stewart has enough quick twitch and speed to succeed, Rapone was candid and compared him to a true superstar.

“Enough of it at the nickel, not at a corner, but at the nickel,” he said of Stewart. “Because remember, the nickel a lot of times is the guy that’s protected. And you can always double with the nickel. But that nickel also has to play run support. He’s a very good special teams player; he’s a physical kid. And the nickel in our scheme has to be physical, not finesse.

“Like the Honey Badger [Tyrann Mathieu], everybody talks [about him], he was physical. He would throw is body around. We are looking at M.J. as the same type of player.”

So here were are on the cusp of the regular season. The Buccaneers’ top blitzer is going to be M.J. Stewart, and he’ll have a ton of responsibility in a new defense.

Is he up for it immediately? That’s a major question that soon will have an answer.

15 Responses to “Season Spotlight”

  1. BetterBucFan Says:

    Remember the preseason game vs the Titans last year where he forced three fumbles in that one game? I believe B.A. when he says Stewart is physical.

    I don’t believe the comparison though.

  2. BucAllNight Says:

    Perfect fit for his skill set…. he will shutdown Kittle along with Lavonte.

    Remember they have no WRs that’s why that guy put up those high numbers he’s gonna come back down to reality this year starting week one.

    The DRIVE to 11-5 starts this Sunday at 4.20.5.

    Go Bucs!!!!!

  3. BetterBucFan Says:

    It was 2 forced fumbles, my bad

    0:50 and 3:40 for both of them.

  4. 813bucboi Says:

    better scheme+better coaching=better results

    GO BUCS!!!!!

  5. LordCornelius Says:

    Hoping Mike Edwards is full strength. I think him + Whitehead will be our best chance at stopping Kittle from the big plays and maybe Lavonte/White on the short/intermediate stuff.

    Kittle is too athletic for Stewart to cover without help.

  6. Sport Says:

    This must be rational Joe. I’m not sure Shill Joe has the capability to learn anything about football his high school coach didn’t teach him.

    Ronde also said the preseason only showed 5% of the playbook.

    813buc nailed it.

    Go Bucs!

    In BA I Trust!

  7. JimmyJack Says:

    MJ was popping to me in that Browns game. He looked very comfortable in his new role. I do not recall him blitzing though so I hope he didn’t do it much.

    If he can keep playing good solid football for us(and provide some splash) this is the type of guy you will look at and say……yeah…….our coaching was BS before Bruce got here and that was our biggest problem………Other canidates include VHIII, Carlton, Whitehead, Bond, Gholston, Beau Allen, Spence(whoopsie), Cappa, Benechot, Jensen, D.Smith, RoJo/Barber, Winston………..basically the entire team.

  8. Rayjay1122 Says:

    I feel pretty excited about the defense. Of course even an average defense after the slop the past few seasons woyld seem so great. It’s the offense I am concerned about. We have great receiving options but we have by far the worst OL in the NFL. No rushing attack meaning we will be one dimensional again and need a lot of short passes to get the ball out quick because we sure can’t pass protect. Us Winston can’t complete a long pass anyways, so no point sitting in the pocket for an incompletion or a sack.

  9. JimmyJack Says:

    Lord Whiteheads job needs to be to absutely crack Kittle at some point in the first quarter. Blow that guy up one time and let him know it aren’t gonna be easy if he wants to make a play on this defense.

    2018 imploded at home in Prime Time vs the Steelers when they showed us if we wanted to tackle them it would not be easy. I firmly believe that was the turning point of our season when they embarrassed us like that. We lost cause we couldn’t tackle.

    If this defense cannot set the tone for a change we will get pushed around again like we did on Monday Night.

  10. LordCornelius Says:


    Sounds good to me!


  11. Isaac haggins Says:

    Another guy taken 25 picks ahead of projections , short and lacking speed , no real ball skills?? He may fit this role though as he is physical , tackles well and makes play to the ball well !!! Not like some others that like photos near the ball !!

  12. dmatt Says:

    If Whitehead can get some ints he has the rb moves to get in in the end zone against most offenses. The guy was a rb in college. I thought earlier after the draft safety Mike Edwards was compared to the next honeybadger,
    Tyrann Matthieu. I believe the secondary will be a second coming of the 49ers 1981 young secondary led by rookies Ronnie Lott, Carlton Williamson, Eric Wright, n 3rd yr player,Dwight Hicks. They were known to be aggressive,hard hitters, n playmakers. Bill Wash’s philosophy was to surround them with coaches who will maximize their skill sets. Can I hear a TBowles, Amen is even better.

  13. SenileSenior Says:

    As Mr Spock would have said, “Fascinating!”

    Better coaching?

    This staff has certainly has reassessed how they will use many of the same players we had last year.

    In BA I trust.
    Go Bucs!!!!

  14. teacherman777 Says:

    So we drafted a nickle at the top of the 2nd.


  15. TDTB Says:

    Teacherman is right. The problem was not drafting MJ, it was where he was drafted. Players with physical shortcomings that can be lived with are for the 4th and 5th rounds. The Bucs knew he was too slow for CB when he was drafted. This staff projects what they think a player can potentially become and then drafts as if the development has already happened…thereby passing on players who are better suited to start immediately. There is no reason in any draft not to select three players in the first three rounds that satisfy objective criteria necessary to be starters as rookies. That doesn’t mean they’ll always pan out, but the odds of success go way up if the player performs above average in relevant tests at the combine and has a significant history of high level production in a successful top tier college program. Doing this turns the starting roster over completely every 8 years. If just one of the higher round players pans out each draft then the starting roster turns over every 4 to 5 years. With rookie deals lasting 3 and 4 years, there is no reason to be in salary cap hell with a starting roster that turns over in 4 to 5 years. Apparently Licht didn’t learn this when he was at NE because it’s exactly what the Patriots do. Other than Brady there have been no sacred cows in NE. They draft 3 to 5 starters each draft class by sticking to basics and taking what falls to them (if they end up with too many at a position they trade them out for whatever is needed). They don’t over draft and they don’t fall in love with players. It’s the only way to have long term success.