Monday Column: The Bucs at the Bye

The Buccaneers have hit their bye week with a record of 2-3. That is considerably better than they were at this time last season. But they’re still not nearly ready to compete with the big boys in the NFL.

That last statement is not a surprise, though. This is a very young team that only won two games in 2014. The biggest thing I’m looking for in 2015 is improvement.

Let’s start with quarterback Jameis Winston, the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s draft. Through five games, he has an equal number of touchdown passes and interceptions (seven of each.) He’s completing 56% of his passes. Sunday’s win against the Jaguars was a nice bounce-back game for him, as he played mistake-free football after being responsible for five turnovers the previous week against Carolina.

The running game has been a positive so far. Don’t look now, but Doug Martin is tied for second in the NFL in rushing yards with 405. He had his best game of the season on Sunday, rushing for 123 yards and three touchdowns (one of them receiving.) That is the Doug Martin we all remember from his rookie year.

Is Mike Evans dealing with a sophomore slump? So far, the answer is yes. He has only 174 yards receiving, though he was injured earlier in the year. Still, the Bucs will need him to revert to last year’s form, and create a formidable tandem with Vincent Jackson.

How about the defense? Here’s an area where if I give a bunch of stats, you’d have no clue whether this unit is really good or really bad. On one hand, the Bucs are eighth in the league in total defense – i.e. yards allowed. They also have 15 sacks. But on the other hand – and this is the one that bothers me – they are dead last in scoring defense. They’ve given up 148 points in five games. They allowed two quarterbacks named Mariota and Bortles to combine to throw eight touchdown passes against them. The secondary in particular has been a sieve. How many times can Tim Jennings blow coverage? And how long can Lovie Smith continue to keep him in the lineup even though he keeps screwing up?

The kicking game was awful through the first four games. Case in point: Kyle Brindza is gone. Connor Barth is back, and he was flawless against the Jags. Thank goodness that issue has been resolved, at least for now.

Looking forward, Tampa Bay needs to keep running the ball, limit mistakes, and make some adjustments on defense, especially in the secondary.

Photo Courtesy: bucsnation.com

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