Buccaneers avoiding 'rookie wall'

TAMPA, Fla. -- Earlier this week, Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Greg Schiano gathered all his rookies for a meeting.

"I sat them down and said 'OK, your college season is over,'" Schiano said. "And they looked at me kind of puzzled and I said "Yeah, the four preseason games you guys played a ton in and then the eight regular-season games. That’s your 12-game college season. Now, what do we have left"? And they all smiled."

Yes, it’s that time of year when first-year players traditionally start hitting the proverbial rookie wall. But the Bucs have three rookies that are getting significant playing time on the offensive side of the ball (and Akeem Spence has been starting at defensive tackle) and they may just be starting to hit their stride.

Quarterback Mike Glennon has made five starts after replacing Josh Freeman. Running back Mike James has been filling in for the injured Doug Martin the last two games. Timothy Wright has emerged as the team’s best pass-catching tight end. All three have been playing well and Schiano doesn’t think that’s due to coincidence.

"I think there are a couple common denominators," Schiano said. "Opportunity, No. 1. All three of them got the opportunity. The second thing, they were ready for that opportunity. I think all three came from college programs that prepare their players well for the National Football League.

"Opportunity and preparation I think are the biggest things and then probably the most important one is the individual makeup of those three kids. They are grinders, all three of them, from the day they got here. If you’re willing to put that extra work in, you reap what you sow."