Bucs at the Bye: Plenty of Blame to Go Around

With the Buccaneers on their bye week and sitting at 2-4, it’s time to use this break in the action to do some finger-pointing at four areas that I think deserve to be singled out.

Jameis Winston.  You have to start with the quarterback, right?  Winston’s had some good games this season, and then he’s had games like the one in London where he was responsible for six of the team’s seven turnovers.  He has plenty of critics.  He also has a lot of supporters.  You may be surprised to hear about the latter, but if you read what I read on social media, it’s true.  Winston’s defenders will tell you that the bad pass protection, receivers dropping the occasional big play, the secondary giving up too many points, are bigger problems.  Well, they’re all right.  But the bottom line is, Winston’s been too inconsistent.  And in his fifth season as the number-one overall pick in the pick, that is disappointing and unacceptable.

The offensive line.  This group has given up 25 sacks, tied for second most of the NFL with the Jets.  Only the Titans (the Bucs’ next opponent) is worse.  The running game is still largely non-existent.  Tampa Bay is ranked 23rd in rushing.  A lot of fans will say some of those sacks fall on Winston holding onto the ball too long.  I’ll buy that.  But the overall numbers don’t lie.  The GM also deserves some blame here.  More on that in a moment.

The secondary.  It’s been awful for several years now, and this year is no different.  The Bucs are dead last in pass defense, allowing over 300 yards a game through the air.  And yet, Tampa Bay is best in the league at stopping the run.  But with the dreadful coverage in the secondary, you’re inviting teams to throw the ball 50 times a game.  The Bucs have spent many, many draft picks on this area.  They’ve changed coaches.  They’ve changed schemes.  And yet, there’s been no improvement whatsoever.  That brings me to my fourth item.

Jason Licht.  He drafted all those guys in the secondary with no improvement.  Doesn’t he deserve some of the blame for this unit’s failure?  I think he does.  Licht has also done little to address the offensive line.  Doesn’t he deserve criticism for that as well?  I think he does.  He was the only one to survive the housecleaning at the end of last season.  Many fans, including me, don’t think he should survive this one if Tampa Bay keeps playing like this.

Photo Courtesy: SportsWire

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Bucs Play Worst Game of 2019 in London

The first play of this game turned out to be a precursor of what the next three hours or so would bring: Jameis Winston throwing an interception.

Winston would throw four more picks before the day was over.  And the Bucs played arguably their worst all-around game of the season in a 37-26 loss to the Panthers in London.  The Buccaneers turned it over seven times in this one.

Winston was abysmal.  The offensive line was horrible, allowing seven sacks.  The secondary was pathetic.  There was Mike Evans – dropping a rare perfect deep ball by Winston just before the half – a play that could been a game-changer.  The Bucs made another backup quarterback look like Tom Brady.  Does all of that sound familiar?  It should; we’ve been seeing this movie for the last several years – not weeks or months, years.

Tampa Bay now sits at 2-4 heading into the bye week.  What changes, if any, will Bruce Arians make?  He has to do something, because this team is a mess once again.

That’s all the venting I’ll do for now.  I’ll do some more in a forthcoming post.

Photo courtesy: Associated Press

Familiar Problems Plague Bucs in Loss to Saints

After scoring 55 points in a big win over the Rams last week, Bucs fans were hoping Tampa Bay could keep it going in a divisional matchup against the Saints.

Nope.

The Buccaneers lost to the Saints, 31-14.  The biggest problems continue to be the pass defense and the offensive line.  For a team that’s made a living of making backup quarterbacks look like superstars, the Bucs did just that with Teddy Bridgewater.  And Jameis Winston was sacked six times.

Mike Evans did not have a catch in this game.  The Bucs defensive line barely touched Bridgewater.  Credit New Orleans for that.

But let’s get back to the secondary for a moment.  The coordinator has changed.  The formations have changed.  And while the run defense has been impressive, the pass defense is once again among the worst in the league.  That is mind-boggling, given all of the draft picks spent on this unit.  One player who’s really drawn the ire of us fans is former first-round pick Vernon Hargreaves III.  But he is not alone.  The entire secondary is abysmal.  The Bucs have allowed 103 points in the last three weeks (that includes 40 to the Rams in a game the Bucs won.)

Yes, there is time to turn this around.  Beat the Panthers (who have turned things around since losing to the Bucs in Week 2) in London, and Tampa Bay will be 3-3 heading into the bye.  But for the love of God, something has to be done with the awful secondary.

Photo courtesy: New Orleans Saints

Week 4 Preview: Bucs at Rams

So here we go – the start of the most brutal part of the Buccaneers schedule, in which they’ll be away from home for the next six weeks.  First up: a matchup against the NFC Champion Rams in Los Angeles.

Can the Bucs recover from last week’s meltdown against the Giants?  Can Matt Gay get back on track?  How will the Bucs be able to control Aaron Donald, not to mention Sean McVay’s high-powered offense?  These are just some of the things to look for on Sunday.

Tampa Bay will be without their first-round draft pick Devin White again.  And center Ryan Jensen is questionable.  Lord help the offensive line if they’re not healthy and Donald is already licking his chops.

The Bucs are a heavy underdog in this one, as you’d expect.  But if they can pull off the upset, it would be a huge confidence booster moving forward.

Fox has the game on Sunday, with Chris Myers and Daryl Johnson in the broadcast booth at the Coliseum.

Finally, a note to my readers: I am going on vacation on Sunday, so I will not be providing a recap here after the game.  But I will be keeping tabs on it from fabulous Las Vegas.  I will resume the blog with coverage of the next game against New Orleans.

Photo courtesy: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

An Awful Loss For the Bucs

Attention Tampa Bay fans: after a gratifying win over Carolina, we have just been reminded that the Bucs are still…the Bucs.

They lost to the Giants on Sunday afternoon, 32-31.  It was a game in which Matt Gay missed two extra points, and a 34-yard field goal as time expired that would’ve won the game.  That’s five points left on the field.  I guess I was wrong when I wrote before the season began that this team appeared to have solved its kicking problems.  That is a resounding ‘no.’

In my game preview, I wrote that the Buccaneers have a history of making rookie and backup quarterbacks look like superstars.  Well, Giants’ quarterback Daniel Jones led his team back from an 18-point halftime deficit, and scored the game-winning touchdown with less than 90 seconds remaining.  I rest my case.  This defense may be improved over last year, but still has a long way to go to become elite.

Jameis Winston did not lose this game.  Mike Evans did not lose this game.  Evans had three touchdowns, and the two connected on a huge pass in the final minute to set up what should’ve been a game-winning kick.  And this may be lost in the shuffle: the Bucs got hit with a delay of game penalty before Gay’s final miss.  Would that five yards have made a difference, given how close the kick was?  Either way, Matt Gay HAS to make that kick.

There’s more to write about, but I am sick to my stomach.  And I am angry.  With the next six weeks away from home, this was a game Tampa Bay had to have.  They didn’t get it.

Week 3 Preview: Buccaneers vs Giants

The Buccaneers will go for their second straight win on Sunday when they host the Giants at Ray-Jay.

The headline for this game – at least on a national level – is the quarterback change made by the Giants.  Eli Manning is on the bench, and rookie Daniel Jones gets his first career start.  For any Tampa Bay fans who think this is great news, I will politely remind you that the Bucs have a history of making rookie and backup quarterbacks look like superstars.  Remember Derek Anderson?

In addition to preparing for Jones, one of the keys for the Bucs will be stopping Saquon Barkley, much like they were able to contain Christian McCaffrey last Thursday night.

Offensively, this is stating the obvious: the Buccaneers have to protect the football and cut down on penalties.  The latter has been a big problem in the first two games.

Another reason this is an important game: Tampa Bay won’t play another game at Ray-Jay until November 10.  The next six weeks consist of four road games, a “home” game in London, and the bye week. Yikes.

Kickoff is at 4:05, and will be televised around here on Boston 25.  For the second time in three weeks, Kenny Albert and Ronde Barber are the announcers.  Barber will be inducted into the Bucs’ Ring of Honor at halftime.  His pick-six in against the Eagles in the 2002 NFC Championship game is arguably the greatest play in team history.

Bucs Get First Win in Dramatic Fashion

Here are some thoughts on the Bucs’ first victory of the season: a 20-14 win over the Panthers in Charlotte.

It is amazing what Todd Bowles has done with this defense in just two games.  Take Mike Smith’s swiss-cheese defense, and flip it 180 degrees.  Bowles’ unit kept the Panthers out of the end zone, and has only allowed one offensive touchdown in eight quarters.  After Carolina, not surprisingly, marched down the field for a final drive, Vernon Hargreaves made the play that everyone’s still buzzing about, stopping Christian McCaffrey at the two-yard line with less than 90 seconds to play.  It was a night where the Bucs stifled McCaffrey all the way around.

Another star was Shaquil Barrett.  He’s another new face on defense, and he sacked Cam Newton three times. 

The Buccaneers gave up some long plays in this one, but tightened up in the red zone.  I remember Tony Dungy’s teams winning a lot of games like this.  I’m just throwing that out there.

On offense, Jameis Winston did not turn the ball over.  That is huge.  Everyone (including me) rips him when he screws up, so it is only fair that I praise him when he has a good game.  His stats may not jump out at you, but again, no turnovers.

Chris Godwin is a beast: 121 yards and a TD.  He, not Mike Evans, is the Bucs’ leading receiver after two games.

Peyton Barber churned out 82 tough yards on the ground, and scored a touchdown.  He had to work for every one of those yards against a tough Carolina defense.

This was not a perfect game by any means.  There were way too many penalties again (p.s. – someone tell Bruce Arians and Bowles that you can’t call back-to-back timeouts.)  Going 2-for-12 on third down isn’t going to cut it, either.  But at the end of a late night, the Bucs beat a division opponent on the road.  That is huge.

Photo courtesy: Associated Press