Admittedly, I don’t do much with the NFL Draft when it happens, mostly because I don’t follow much college football on the national level. So, when the Buccaneers draft someone, more often than not I say, “who?”
That said, as I look over who Tampa Bay picked over the last few days, it looks like they’ve done a decent job addressing their most pressing needs. First-round pick Vita Vea provides much-needed help up front. When I wrote about his selection the other night, I said I hoped the Bucs would address their awful secondary with the remaining picks. Well, three of their next four picks are either cornerbacks or safeties. And RB Ronald Jones could…. could be the heir apparent to Doug Martin.
We’ll see how it all plays out. But it looks like Jason Licht did pretty well, at least on paper.
After a disappointing 5-11 season, the Buccaneers need help in a lot of areas. Among the biggest needs – the defensive line and the secondary. With their first pick in this year’s draft, they addressed the former in a big way.
The key word here is…. big.
Vita Vea is a 347-pound defensive lineman from Washington. 347 pounds! The Bucs traded down from #7 to #12 (via Buffalo) to get him. Put him in the mix with Gerald McCoy and free agent pickup Beau Allen, and the recipe is there for a unit that may actually lay a finger on the quarterback. Tampa Bay was dead last in sacks last year.
So, what about the early reaction on social media? Well, it’s mixed. It seems a lot of fans were hoping the Bucs would get a stud to help in the secondary. Me? I’m okay with the pick, as long as the use their three picks in the second round to do something about the worst pass defense in the NFL. If they don’t…. well, you don’t want to know how I’ll feel.
The Buccaneers’ 2018 schedule is now out. Now it’s time to dissect it, decide which games are most winnable, and for out-of-town fans like me, think about which game to head south to see.
My first thought after taking a look at this: ouch! What a tough five-game stretch to open with. The Bucs face four playoff teams, starting with the division champion Saints in the Superdome, followed by the Super Bowl champion Eagles in the home opener. Then, they get the Steelers on a Monday night. How does a Bucs’ team that went 5-11 last season end up on MNF? Oh, that’s right, they’re playing the Steelers, which will give the idiots at BSPN something to crow about while at the same time dissing Jameis Winston, even if Winston gets off to a good start.
Tampa Bay goes to Chicago in September. It sure beats December. But Baltimore in mid-December could be interesting to say the least.
There is a stretch of three straight home games in late November/early December. And wouldn’t it be interesting if the finale against the dirty birds from Atlanta is meaningful? One can dream, anyway.
The Buccaneers’ defensive line – you know, the one that couldn’t rush the quarterback – is going to look a lot different next season. And on paper, it actually looks impressive.
The biggest move came today, when the Bucs got Jason-Pierre Paul from the Giants. Throw in Vinny Curry and Beau Allen, and with Gerald McCoy already in the mix, you’ve got a unit that looks sure to get more than the 22 sacks Tampa Bay got all of last season. Robert Ayers and Clinton McDonald are both gone.
As I mentioned, this all looks intriguing on paper. Will any of it matter as long as Mike Smith is still the knucklehead running the defense? And lest we forget how awful the secondary was last year. Part of that was a lack of a pass rush, but part of it was the generally-awful play of the corners and safeties.
And just to get caught up on all-things-Buccaneers, offensive stars Mike Evans and Cameron Brate both have new deals. They also signed a new center – Ryan Jensen – who will hopefully help the offensive line.
But Jason Licht is opening his checkbook, ladies and gentlemen. It’s not often the Bucs go on spending spree like this.
Doug Martin’s tenure in Tampa is over. The Bucs released him today after six seasons in red and pewter.
The Buccaneers took Martin in the first round of the 2012 draft. He rushed for over 1400 yards, twice. I will never forget that game in Oakland where he ran wild for about 250 yards and four touchdowns. Heck, he was one of the top running backs in the NFL.
But it’s impossible to ignore how this all ended. There was the second-to-last game of the 2016 season in New Orleans, with the Bucs still in playoff contention, and Martin was inactive. At the time, we thought it was a benching, only to learn later he had been suspended for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. And Martin announced he had entered a drug rehab program.
In 2017, he just wasn’t the same.
This was a move that had to be made. So now what? Well, right now Peyton Barber moves into the lead running back role, pending what the Bucs do in the draft.
Before the season began, it was understandable why so many Bucs’ fans were expecting a playoff year in 2017. After all, Tampa Bay did go 9-7, and added a lot of firepower on the offensive side of the ball.
The Buccaneers finished 5-11.
So what happened? Was the bar set too high? I don’t think so, based on the success of last season. But let’s break down what turned out to be a disappointing season in Bucs’ country.
Let’s start on the defensive side of the ball. This was the biggest area of concern on 2016, the feeling that Mike Smith’s unit couldn’t stop anybody. Well, in 2017, they still couldn’t stop anybody. Guess where the Buccaneers finished in total defense (based on total yards allowed per game.) They were dead last. When it came to stopping the other team on third down? Yep, dead last. Guess which team had the fewest sacks in the NFL? That would be Tampa Bay. The defense gave up nearly 24 points a game, which puts them in the bottom ten in that category. Sometimes stats can be misleading. These aren’t.
And yet, Dirk Koetter said Monday that he expects Mike Smith to return with him next season. Right.
Offensively, this was supposed to be the year Jameis Winston made the jump to the next level. He’s shown flashes of brilliance. The biggest one that comes to mind was just a day ago, when amazingly he led his team 95 yards in the final two minutes (with no timeouts) to beat the eventual NFC South champions. But the turnovers are a problem – a big problem. He continues to force the ball into double coverage (even triple coverage.) And the fumbles are just as big an issue. He has to do a better job hanging on to the football. Period.
Finally, there was the disaster known as special teams. Nick Folk started the year as the team’s kicker, taking over for Roberto Aguayo. Folk was just as bad. He single-handedly cost the Bucs the game against the Patriots. Patrick Murray returned and stabilized that position a bit, though he missed some important kicks down the stretch. And we won’t soon forget the other mishaps: allowing 100+ kickoff returns in each of the last two games, the punt block that the Saints ran back for a score in the Superdome.
So where do the Bucs go from here? I was hoping Mike Smith would get fired, but Koetter says that’s not going to happen. Koetter also said he’s going to keep calling the plays. Good Lord. The Buccaneers have a top-ten pick in the draft. They need help just about everywhere, but fixing the defense should be the first priority (though other areas aren’t far behind.)
Finally, I conclude with some thank yous. Thank you Gene Deckerhoff, Dave Moore, TJ Rives and the rest of the people at the Buccaneers radio network for keeping me entertained all season long. Thank you to bloggers like JoeBucsFan and Pewter Report for their excellent coverage during the season (and offseason.) If you don’t follow them on Twitter, I strongly suggest you do.
But most of all, thank you to my readers who come here for my sometimes silly take on my favorite football team. Without you, I would not be doing this. I live in the greater Boston area, and not everyone here is a diehard Patriots fan. I just wish there were more Buccaneers’ fans around here. This blog will remain mostly dormant until the NFL Draft. But if something big happens before then, I’ll offer my take here.
If you’re like me, you’re still trying to comprehend how the Buccaneers beat the Saints in the season finale.
Jameis Winston threw three more interceptions, including a horrendous one into triple coverage. The Bucs gave up a 100+ yard kickoff return for the second week in a row (but scored their own special teams touchdown in the fourth quarter.) A missed extra point by Patrick Murray was looming large. There’s no way Winston would drive his team 95 yards in the final two minutes.
Oh, but he did. Yes, the recent turnover machine hit Chris Godwin on a deep ball with nine seconds left in the contest to win it. And before all of the Saints fans in attendance could wipe away their tears of disbelief, they found out they’d won the NFC South anyway, because Carolina choked against Atlanta.
This Godwin kid is pretty good, the more I see of him. He’s made some acrobatic catches, and with the disappointing season turned in by Desean Jackson, Godwin could be the number-two receiver on next year’s team.
Was this game perfect? Of course not. I mentioned the interceptions and the kickoff returns. Mike Smith’s defense is still a sieve. The lack of a pass rush was a problem all year, though they did sack Drew Brees twice.
But it was nice to finally win a game. I’d much rather see them win than intentionally lose to improve their draft pick order. Heck, this team needs help just about everywhere, so any decent player will do at this point.
Coming on Monday: my ‘year in review.’ As you might expect, with a 5-11 season, it won’t be pretty. But tonight is a night to be joyous, because the boys in Pewter finally won another game. Happy New Year, and good night.