This week, I start a new feature called “Bucs Extra.” It will focus primarily on other elements of the game that might otherwise go unnoticed.
What a little pass rush can do
The Buccaneers sacked Nick Foles three times in this game, and disrupted him on many other plays. Remember when Tampa Bay had no pass rush whatsoever? Gerald McCoy, Jason Pierre-Paul and Kwon Alexander all sacked the Super Bowl MVP. That helped ease the pressure a bit on an injury-plagued secondary. Ryan Smith also had a strong game. The defense allowed over 400 yards for the second week in a row, but they made enough key plays to be a factor.
Struggling running game
As great as the offense has been, the Bucs have struggled to get much of a running game going through two weeks. 43 yards rushing isn’t going to cut it. Second-round pick Ronald Jones has been a healthy scratch for each of the first two games. What’s up with that? He did struggle in the preseason, but I wonder if there’s more we don’t know.
Can this issue please go away someday? Chandler Catanzaro missed an extra point that really could’ve come back to haunt the Bucs. The PAT needs to be automatic; end of story. He also missed a FG last week in New Orleans. Ever since Connor Barth’s basketball injury way back in the day, our kicking situation has been a mess.
I don’t know about you, but I kind of like this whole FitzMagic thing that’s going on right now.
Two games, two wins. And we’re not talking about wins over cellar-dwellers. The Buccaneers have started the season by beating the NFC South champs and the defending Super Bowl champs.
Take that, so-called experts who had the Bucs losing their first three games.
There is no question who the story is right now: it’s backup quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. Sure, other players stepped up on Sunday. I’ll get into that in another article. But Fitz is the headliner right. He threw four more touchdown passes, two of which went for 75 yards apiece. He had over 400 yards passing. He did throw his first interception of the season, which was more the result of O.J. Howard’s inability to hang onto the ball after making a catch.
Fitzpatrick has eight touchdown passes in the first two games (and a rushing TD to boot.) He is just the third player in NFL history to have at least four TD passes in each of his team’s first two games.
Let that sink in for a moment. We’re talking Ryan Fitzpatrick here. A Buccaneer quarterback is doing this! Keep pulling magic out of that beard, sir.
One of the big questions coming into this season was: how would the Buccaneers start out with Jameis Winston suspended for the first three games?
Wow. Just wow.
Enter Mr. Fitzpatrick. He was unbelievable in Sunday’s 48-40 stunner over the Saints in the Superdome. How amazing was Fitz? He was 21-28 for 417 yards and four touchdowns. He also ran for a score. And, he made arguably the biggest play of the game by running for a first down late in the fourth quarter to help the Bucs run out the clock.
Remember last year how Winston couldn’t connect with DeSean Jackson on the deep ball? Fitzpatrick had no problem. The two connected for two long touchdowns. Fitz also hit Mike Evans for a deep score. We didn’t see much of that last year. Evans and Jackson combined for almost 300 receiving yards in this one.
It’s worth mentioning that offensive coordinator Todd Monken – who called the plays during the preseason – was calling the shots in the opener. Dear coach Koetter: please keep it this way.
This was not a perfect game by any means. Mike Smith’s defense is still a sieve, allowing 40 points to Drew Brees and company. The pass rush – even with all those off-season acquisitions – only had one sack. The secondary had its struggles. They did force two turnovers, including a fumble return for a TD, but Smith is lucky the offense bailed him out.
But this was all about “Fitz-Magic.” I said it before, and will say it again: what if the Bucs win 2 out of 3 without Winston? Well, they’ve got the first one.
On Sunday, the Buccaneers kick off the 2018 season in New Orleans against the Saints.
Remember last year when we had to wait half the year to play a division foe? Well, we get one right out of the gate this time.
There are a lot of questions, as always. How can the Bucs do with Ryan Fitzpatrick instead of Jameis Winston for the first three games? Can the defense actually stop anyone, unlike last year? (Vita Vea and Brent Grimes will not play in New Orleans.) Will Todd Monken keep calling the plays, or will Dirk Koetter re-take control?
I would love to see an amazing turnaround this season to prove the doubters wrong. No one outside of us diehards thinks Tampa Bay’s going to do anything this year. That includes Vegas; trust me, I was just there last week, and saw the long odds we’re facing. But beating the Saints in the opener would be a great start.
So come along for the ride, and I’ll have a few things to say about the game Sunday night, win or lose.
It looks like the Bucs are ready to get this party started.
There was a lot to like in the so-called “dress rehearsal” preseason game Friday night against the Lions. Tampa Bay lost, but as usual in preseason, ignore the final score. The Buccaneers, for the most part, kicked the Lions’ butts while the starters for both teams were in there.
Peyton Barber is going to be the starting running back on opening day in the Superdome. There’s no doubt about that. He’s looked impressive through three games, while Ronald Jones has struggled. Jones did catch a nice deep ball down the left sideline, but he’s largely been ineffective running the ball.
There’s been more good than bad from Ryan Fitzpatrick, who will start the season while Jameis Winston serves his suspension. Jameis has also played well so far. Heck, the same can be said of third-stringer Ryan Griffin.
Special teams? Adam Humphries, are you serious? I know it wasn’t the 2013 Iron Bowl, but it’s rare for any Buccaneers to return any kick for a touchdown under any circumstances.
If I do have a question mark, it’s the defense (shocking!) Yes, I know there are a lot of injuries, including first-round pick Vita Vea. But I get the impression that the overhauled defensive line isn’t really gelling together yet. And then there’s the secondary, which is still giving up big plays (but not a lot of points.) Dirk Koetter says Chris Conte is better than you think. Hey coach: we the fans beg to differ.
I know it’s hard to get excited over games that don’t count. But the Bucs sure look like a much better team than the one that went 5-11 a year ago. A note to my readers: I will not be blogging about the final preseason game unless there’s a significant development. The fourth exhibition game is the least meaningful of them all. Wake me up in two weeks in New Orleans.
Here are some quick thoughts on the Bucs’ preseason victory over the Titans Saturday night.
On the plus side, the headline is Jameis Winston. He played the entire second quarter, and was sizzling. He even showed an ability to connect on the deep ball, something that was sorely missing last year. He is still making a couple of “what the heck were you thinking?” throws, but overall there was more good than bad in Nashville.
Staying with the passing game, the Buccaneers appear to have a formidable group of wide receivers. Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson, Chris Godwin, etc. all look strong in the early going.
Chandler Catanzaro was perfect on all of his kicks. Amen.
Now for the negative: the penalties, oh those penalties. Tampa Bay was sloppy in this department, and many of the flags were thrown while the first-teamers were on the field. Hey coach: clean this up immediately.
After playing well against Miami, Ryan Fitzpatrick was…well, “meh.” Lest we forget….he’s the starter for the first three games.
For all the hype surrounding the revamped defense, they didn’t put much pressure on the quarterback. They also missed some tackles. Sound familiar?
If you watch any preseason game, watch the next one against the Lions on Friday night. The third game is the so-called “dress rehearsal” in which the starters play the longest. Stay tuned.
Here are some thoughts on the Bucs’ preseason opener against the Dolphins. Tampa Bay won, 26-24. But the final score isn’t that important in games like this.
*Ryan Fitzpatrick looked sharp. Considering he’s going to be starting quarterback to start the season, this is a good thing.
*Jameis Winston took over for Fitz. Winston was also solid, that is, until the starting offensive line came out and nearly got his head taken off. He’s suspended for the first three games of the season, but can play in the preseason. Ryan Griffin also played very, very well. It was a good night for all of the quarterbacks.
*It looks like Peyton Barber may have the inside track to be the starting running back. He scored Tampa Bay’s first touchdown, and looked impressive in limited action. Ronald Jones – a.k.a. “RoJo” – also ran one into the end zone. But, he also dropped a pass that was right in his hands. From what I’ve read on social media, this has been a problem in training camp.
Speaking of problems, we STILL can’t get a reliable placekicker. Chandler Catanzaro made two field goals, including the game-winner in the final minute, but he missed another FG, and an extra point. He needs to be more consistent than that. My goodness.
As for the first-team defense, it’s hard to tell. The first-teamers did not allow a touchdown. It was a rough performance for Ryan Smith, though.
All in all, there was more good than bad. We like that around here.