Buccaneers 2019 Season Preview

The 100th NFL season kicks off tonight with the Packers and Bears.  On Sunday, the Bruce Arians era begins against the San Francisco 49ers at Ray-Jay.

Here are some things to keep an eye on: not just on Sunday, but as the season moves along:

OFFENSE: Can Jameis Winston finally have the breakout season we’ve been expecting from a former No. 1 overall pick?  Will there actually be a running game?  And as a sidebar to that, can the offensive line open up holes in the ground game, and protect Winston?  If the preseason is any indication, this could be a big area of concern.

DEFENSE: Everything has changed here.  Todd Bowles is the new coordinator, and he’s showing a lot of different looks.  This until simply cannot have a repeat of the past several years, which were nothing sort of dreadful.  We saw promising signs in the preseason.  Can they carry over to Sunday?

SPECIAL TEAMS: All eyes on rookie kicker Matt Gay, who won the kicking job over Cairo Santos.  Gay has been sensational in preseason and training camp.  He needs to continue that success, or he’ll be considered the next coming of Roberto Aguayo.

Kickoff is on Sunday a 4:25.   The game is not televised here, because FOX is sticking us with the Cowboys and Giants.  But that’s why NFL Redzone was created.  Your announcers are Kenny Albert and former Buc Ronde Barber.

Photo courtesy: Tampa Bay Times

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Some Thoughts on the Bucs’ Third Preseason Game

Here are some takeaways from the Bucs’ 13-12 victory over the Browns in the third preseason game.  Since this was the so-called dress rehearsal game, in which the starters play the longest, this was the most critical game before it counts for real.

Tampa Bay’s defense is going to be lightyears ahead of where it was last year.  I know that’s not saying much, but new defensive coordinator Todd Bowles has definitely made a difference.  They kept an up-and-coming Browns team out of the end zone all night.

I’m very concerned about the offensive line.  There was a lot of talk after the draft about how the Buccaneers did not address this need, and now it’s showing.  There are very few holes in the running game.  The pass protection is awful; Jameis Winston was sacked five times while he was in there.  Yes, there is still time to fix this.  But it’s hard to establish a running game when the guys up front can’t open up holes.  And what difference does it make if you have Mike Evans and Chris Godwin on your team if your quarterback can’t get them the ball, not to mention Winston’s inconsistencies with throwing the deep ball.

Matt Gay missed a kick.  He’s human!  But he responded with another game-winner.  I think he’s going to win the kicking job, though veteran Cairo Santos has done nothing to hurt his own cause.

Ryan Griffin will be the Bucs’ backup QB to start the season, after Blaine Gabbert left the game with an injury.  Who knows how long he’ll be out.

I will not be writing anything about the final, most meaningless-of-them-all preseason game against Dallas, unless major news happens.  The opener is just two weeks away.  Let’s go.

Photo courtesy: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Some Thoughts on the Bucs’ Second Preseason Game

We are now halfway through the preseason, and training camp is officially over.  The Bucs are 1-1 in the preseason, having beaten the Dolphins, 16-14, on Friday night at Ray-Jay.  Here are some takeaways from that game:

The headline may be what happened at the very end of the game, when rookie kicker Matt Gay nailed a 48-yarder to win it.  It’s looking more and more like Gay is going to be Tampa Bay’s kicker, even though Cairo Santos hasn’t done anything bad to justify losing his job.  The rookie has opened eyes with his performance.

It was also a solid performance by Ryan Griffin, who saw the most action of any of the Bucs’ quarterbacks.  Granted, he was playing against Miami’s backups, but the backup QB job is up for grabs, despite Blaine Gabbert’s familiarity with Bruce Arians’ system.

Jameis Winston only played one series for the second straight game.  Let’s just skip over him for now.

My biggest concern may not be the defense, but the offensive line.  Penalties are also a big problem right now.  Arians needs to get this fixed.

The next game is Friday night against Cleveland.  This is the so-called “dress rehearsal,” when the starters tend to play the longest.  The third preseason game is always the one to watch.

Photo courtesy: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Captain’s Take: Bucs Preseason Game #1

Judging a preseason game is so difficult.  You ignore the final score, and try instead to focus on who shined, and who didn’t.  It’s even tougher when a lot of the starters either play very little, or not at all.  That said, here are some thoughts from the Bucs’ 30-28 loss to the Steelers in the preseason opener.

Jameis Winston, who’s looked on-and-off during training camp, was definitely on in this game.  He led Tampa Bay on 12-play, 81-yard drive that ended with a touchdown pass to Chris Godwin.  With Adam Humphries gone, Godwin is now the #2 receiver behind Mike Evans.  The drive was a nice mix of running the ball (yes, they actually ran it effectively) and passing.

The first-team defense only saw limited action, and wasn’t facing the Steelers’ starters, including Ben Roethlisberger, so it’s hard to judge this unit.  They have been making quite a few plays in camp.  Any improvement these days would be considered a plus.

The battle that intrigues me the most is for kicker.  It’s rookie Matt Gay against the guy who finished last year, Cairo Santos.  On Friday night, Gay made his only attempt, from 55 yards out.  He and Santos have both been lights out in training camp.  Let me reiterate that: the kickers are actually making kicks.  It will be interesting to see who wins the job.  Right now, it’s a toss-up.

In case you missed it: Vita Vea will miss several weeks with a knee injury.  At least he’s not out for the season.  The Bucs also released offensive lineman Evan Smith, who spent the last five seasons in Tampa.

Next up: the Dolphins at Ray-Jay on Friday night.

Photo courtesy: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

It’s Time For Bucs Football

We’re about to get our first look at the 2019 Buccaneers. The team holds its first workout of training camp on Friday.

 

There’ve been a lot of changes since the end of last season. That comes with the territory of eleven straight seasons without making the playoffs. Bruce Arians is now in charge. Gerald McCoy is gone – to a division rival no less. Jason Pierre-Paul is out of commission for a while – possibly the entire season. Enter Ndamukong Suh, and first-round pick Devin White, who Tampa Bay hopes will be the next Derrick Brooks. And under new defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, the Bucs will be moving to a 3-4 defense.

 

On offense, this has to be Jameis Winston’s breakout season, otherwise he won’t be around much longer. O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate are back from injuries. The running game is still in flux, with Peyton Barber apparently in the starting role for now. Can Ronald Jones do…well, anything? Can the offensive line do…well, anything?

 

On special teams, there’s a kicking competition between Cairo Santos and rookie Matt Gay. As I often say on social media, can we just get someone who can make a kick? And while we’re at it, how about a special teams’ touchdown or ten?

 

One thing we already know: Arians is a soundbite machine. Watch any of his news conferences and you’ll see what I mean.

 

And for me, as I unofficially begin my seventh season of this blog, I thank you for your continued support. Let’s shock the world. Go Bucs.

 

Photo courtesy: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs CB Ryan Smith Suspended

Buccaneers cornerback Ryan Smith has been suspended for the first four games of the regular season for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs.

 

This is the second year in a row that a Tampa Bay player will miss the start of the season due to suspension. Remember Jameis Winston last year?

 

Smith is entering the final year of his contract. From what I’ve seen, he hasn’t contributed much consistently to a defense that’s been awful for past several years. I’ll bet all of the rookies the Bucs drafted in the secondary are chomping at the bit right now.

 

Photo courtesy: espn.com

 

Suh is the Newest Buccaneer

The Bucs hope they’ve found Gerald McCoy’s replacement.

 

On Thursday, they officially signed Ndamukong Suh. This had been reported by various outlets a couple of days ago, but I like to wait until things like this are confirmed (must be my TV news background.)

 

Suh has been around the league for a while. Last year, he was on a Rams team that went to the Super Bowl. He spent the early part of his career in Detroit.

 

This guy is solid; there’s no doubt about that. But he also comes with baggage – i.e. doing things like stepping on a player during a game. If he can get rid of that stuff, then okay. At the very list, he needs to put numbers similar those put up by McCoy did.

 

Photo courtesy: Tampa Bay Buccaneers