Bucs Get First Win of 2020

It was far from perfect.  But a win is a win, especially against a division rival.

On Sunday, the Buccaneers beat the Panthers for their first win of the season, 31-17.

The defense forced four turnovers.  It doesn’t matter much that the Panthers had over 400 yards of offense when you take the ball away four times.  Even special teams were a bright spot, with Ryan Succop making all of his kicks, and the unit was not fooled by Carolina’s fake punt in the first half.

Tom Brady looked much better than he did last week.  He threw one touchdown and one interception, but it’s worth noting: he had three potential touchdowns dropped.  Scotty Miller and LeSean McCoy dropped passes in the end zone.  And Cyril Grayson (who?) was all alone down the left sideline – with nobody around him – and the ball bounced right off his helmet.  Chris Godwin did not play, so other guys had to step.  Mike Evans sure did; he caught Brady’s lone touchdown and had over 100 yards receiving.

Another star was new running back Leonard Fournette.  He had over 100 yards on the ground and two touchdowns, including a 46-yarder that iced the game late in the fourth quarter after Carolina made a game of it.

While the headlines may be saying, “Brady gets first win in Tampa,” this game was won by the defense.  The Bucs sit alone in second place, pending what happens to the Saints tomorrow night.  We’re on to Denver next Sunday.

Photo courtesy: USA Today

Bucs Fall to Saints in Brady’s Debut

Let’s pretend, for a moment, that Tom Brady wasn’t the starting quarterback for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2020.  If you watched Sunday’s game against the Saints, you’d think were watching….a typical Bucs game.  Tampa Bay fell to New Orleans, 34-23.

This was a game where, yet again, the Bucs made too many mistakes to overcome.  But since this was Brady’s Tampa Bay debut, all of the spotlight was shining on him.  His first drive was great, capped off by a QB sneak into the end zone that Patriots fans saw so many times.

After that?  My goodness.

Brady threw two interceptions in this one.  The first was a miscommunication with Mike Evans.  The second was a bad throw that resulted in a pick-six for the Saints.  Brady looked out of sync with his receivers for much of the game.  I think that will improve as he gets more reps with them.

But before everyone hangs Brady out to dry, this was a team loss.  I wrote in my season preview about my chief concerns: the running game, the offensive line, the young secondary and the kicking game.  Well, the running game was a struggle yet again.  The pass protection was not good at all (why is Donovan Smith still our left tackle?)  The secondary actually played pretty well until Jamel Dean got burned in the fourth quarter.  And the kicking game is still a mess: new kicker Ryan Succop had a field goal blocked.  Another special teams mistake: the what-were-they-thinking moment on that botched kickoff in the fourth quarter that resulted in another turnover.

Another problem: penalties.  The Bucs were the most penalized team in the league last year.  On Sunday, they were penalized nine times for 103 yards.  Why can’t this team ever be disciplined, regardless of who’s coaching them?

Rob Gronkowski wasn’t a factor. Evans wasn’t a factor, though his hamstring injury may have had something to do with that.  I hardly heard LeSean McCoy or Cameron Brate’s names mentioned.

This was just one game, against one of the best teams in the NFL.  There is still time to make adjustments and turn this thing around.  Hopefully they can, or we’re looking at another season of the same ol’ Bucs.

Photo courtesy: Tampa Bay Times

Week 1 Preview: Buccaneers at Saints

This is one of, if not the marquee game of Week 1.  Tom Brady’s debut as Tampa Bay’s quarterback, against Drew Brees and the Saints, who have won the division three straight years.  Both QB’s are in their 40s, and both are still playing at a very high level.

This has all the making of a shootout, especially in the passing game.  The Bucs have Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and Rob Gronkowski, though Evans is now listed as doubtful for Sunday.  The Saints have Michael Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders.  Both teams can, and probably will, light up the scoreboard.

The Bucs running game hasn’t been much to speak of in recent years.  Can they establish something on Sunday?

Defensively, Tampa Bay is top-notch up front, and has two quality linebackers in Lavonte David and Devin White.  The question becomes: can the young secondary keep Brees in check?

Do you remember…

….the last time these two teams opened the season in the Superdome?  It was two years ago, and the Bucs pulled off a 48-40 upset, with Ryan Fitzpatrick throwing four touchdown passes.  That was arguably the greatest moment of 2018.  Tampa Bay finished 5-11.  They may need to score 48 points to win this opener as well.

The first game of the season is always tough to predict. But the Saints are the defending champs, and you’re going to have to beat them to prove otherwise.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 2020 Season Preview

Let’s get this party started.

I admit: until this week, I really couldn’t get excited about the start of football because of everything that’s going on in the country right now.  But with the first game on tap for tonight, it’s time for me to give my overview of the 2020 season for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Why I’m so excited:

We have some guy named Tom Brady at quarterback, who’s won six Super Bowls.  Heck, the whole offense is loaded.  Brady lured Rob Gronkowski out of retirement.  Throw in Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, and that’s one heck of a passing attack.

The defensive line – best in the NFL against the run last year – remains mostly intact, though Carl Nassib is no longer in Tampa.  Devin White and Lavonte David are solid linebackers.

The Bucs have five primetime games.  Thanks, Brady.  Here in the greater Boston area, you’d expect many of the non-national games are going to be televised around here when they’re not opposite the Patriots playing at home.

What concerns me, for now:

The Bucs haven’t had much of a running game to speak of over the past several years.  Ronald Jones is the starter, according to Bruce Arians.  LeSean McCoy and Leonard Fournette have been added to the mix.  But I want to see an actual running attack before I take this off the list of “concerns.”

Can the offensive line protect Brady, especially Donovan Smith at left tackle?  First-round pick Tristan Wirfs will start the year at right tackle.  Could he move over to protect Brady’s blind side if need be?  Sure.  He played left tackle at Iowa.  But Smith is the one I’m most worried about.

The secondary is very young.  While they showed improvement in the second half of the year – especially after getting rid of Vernon Hargreaves – this is the part of the defense that I think opposing quarterbacks will pick on the most.

The kicking game is ALWAYS a concern.  Matt Gay is out after just one year.  Ryan Succop is now our kicker.  The Bucs always seem to lose about two games a year due to missed field goals or PATs.  Can Succop please find a way to make his kicks?

It’s going to be a fun ride, ladies and gentleman.  The season begins on Sunday with a big one against the Saints.  I’ll preview that matchup in the next couple of days.

Photo courtesy: Associated Press

Catching Up On the Bucs

The Buccaneers’ training camp is well underway, and the regular season opener in New Orleans is just 17 days away, if the schedule holds.  Here are some observations from training camp so far:

Offensively, the Bucs are loaded.  Brady.  Evans.  Godwin.  Gronk.  All of them have looked great.  Brady, now 43, looks like he hasn’t missed a beat.  However, two Bucs have been lost for the season due to injury: John Franklin and T.J. Logan.

That leaves the offensive line and running game as question marks.  Ronald Jones is now joined by LeSean McCoy in the backfield.  And it looks like under Bruce Arians’ offense, they’re going to be catching a lot more passes out of the backfield.  They’re struggled a bit in that department.  That has to change.

We know the defensive line is top notch.  So much of the focus is on the young secondary.  The Bucs need Jamel Dean, Sean Murphy-Bunting, Carlton Davis and others to continue showing improvement.  Second-year stud Devin White looks like he’s on the path to becoming a superstar.

And then, there’s special teams.  The Bucs have a kicking competition going on (don’t they always?)  It’s between second-year kicker Matt Gay and newcomer Elliott Fry.  Both of them have missed their share of kicks.  Arians says the one who’s the most consistent will get the job.  Can’t we just bring back Martin Grammatica?  And don’t even get me started on who’s going to be running back kicks.

There is, of course, much more to camp than just this.  The Bucs hold their first scrimmage at Ray-Jay Friday night.  Final cuts are coming soon.  This should be interesting.

Photo courtesy: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Bucs 2020 Schedule: Plenty of National Exposure

The Buccaneers’ 2020 schedule is out, and get ready to see them a lot in prime time.

Thank you, Tom Brady and company.

The Bucs will play a record five night games.  Yes, that is a franchise record.  Of course, some games could be flexed in or out of certain time slots, but for now, Tampa Bay is scheduled to play five games under the lights: on the road against Chicago, Las Vegas and the Giants, and home games against the Saints and Rams.  All five of those games are over a span of seven weeks. Many other games are set for the coveted late-afternoon time slot as well.

Oh, and we get Brady vs. Brees right off the bat to open the season in the Superdome.

Without further delay, here’s the schedule.  Time to start planning some road trips.

Sept.  13      @ New Orleans

Sept.  20      CAROLINA

Sept.  27      @ Denver

Oct. 4           L.A. CHARGERS

Oct.  8          @ Chicago (Thursday)

Oct.  18        GREEN BAY

Oct.  25        @ Las Vegas (Sunday night)

Nov.  2         @ NY Giants (Monday night)

Nov.  8         NEW ORLEANS (Sunday night)

Nov.  15       @ Carolina

Nov.  23       L.A. RAMS (Monday night)

Nov.  29       KANSAS CITY

—BYE WEEK—-

Dec.  13       MINNESOTA

Dec.  20       @ Atlanta

Dec.  26/27  @ Detroit

Jan.  3          ATLANTA

Recapping the Buccaneers’ Draft

The 2020 NFL Draft is in the books, and it looks like the Buccaneers did a great job addressing their greatest needs.

This team has neglected the offensive line for years.  Not this time.  The Bucs used the 13th pick – trading up a spot with San Francisco – to take  OT Tristan Wirfs from Iowa.  This guy is huge, and that’s an understatement.  Apparently, he’ll start at right tackle, but can easily switch to LT because of his versatility.  Protecting Tom Brady is a top priority.

I don’t follow national college football that closely, and thus don’t really know much about any of the draftees.  But the Bucs got a safety in the second round, addressing their secondary.  They also drafted a couple of running backs to hopefully jump-start a running game that has been non-existent for several years.  Ronald Jones has yet to have a break-out season, and Peyton Barber is now in Washington.

The next big day on the calendar is the release of the NFL schedule.  We already know who and where the Bucs will be playing, but we will soon know when.  I’m eyeing the day when they go to Vegas.  Hopefully there will actually be sports by then.  I hope everyone’s staying safe in the meantime.

Photo courtesy: Tampa Bay Buccaneers / Associated Press

Wow! Gronk Follows Brady to Tampa Bay

So, let me get this straight: not only is Brady a Buccaneer, but so is Gronk.

Wow.

Yes, the Bucs made it official Tuesday night what had been reported earlier in the day: they traded a fourth-round pick in this year’s draft in exchange for former Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski.

Gronk retired from the NFL last year and went on to pursue a career in professional wrestling.  And we all know what a party animal he is.  Well, now he’s un-retiring, and reuniting with the quarterback who’s thrown 90 touchdown passes to him over the years.

Think of Tampa Bay’s offense right now: Brady, Evans, Godwin and now Gronk.  The Buccaneers now have three tight ends when you add Howard and Brate to the equation.  Bruce Arians doesn’t use tight ends much in the passing game.  You’d have to think that’s going to change now.

But at a time when sports are not happening, the Bucs are currently the talk of the sports world.  When was the last time we could say that?

Hopefully they address their needs during the upcoming draft.

Photo courtesy: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

TB12 Is Still TB12

Okay – we have this whole numbers game figured out without any drama.

Tom Brady will still wear No. 12.  And Chris Godwin, who used to wear that number, will now switch to No. 14.  Godwin offered Brady his longtime number, and it goes without saying that TB12 accepted.

I’ve liked Godwin from the beginning, and this classy move makes me like him even more.  When you talk about the Bucs’ receivers, it used to be, “Mike Evans is a stud.”  Now, it’s “What a two-headed monster they have.”

By the way – the Buccaneers teased today that the new uniforms are coming out one week from today – April 7.  The anticipation is building.

Everybody stay safe out there during these challenging times.  It’s rough on all of us, but we will come out of this stronger than ever.  And God bless everyone on the front lines of this pandemic.

Suh is Coming Back, Too

With all the hoopla surrounding the Tom Brady signing, the Buccaneers have quietly secured most of their stout defensive line from last year.

On Thursday, Ndamukong Suh signed a one-year deal.  So, he, Shaq Barrett and Jason Pierre-Paul will all be back next year.  The only linemen who won’t return are Carl Nassib (Oakland) and Beau Allen (New England.)

One of the lasting images I have of Suh from last year is his fumble return for a touchdown to seal the upset victory over the Rams in L.A.

The Bucs were the #1 defense against the run last year.  There’s no reason to believe they won’t be near the top next year. 

What a month it’s been for the Bucs.  If you’re not excited by now, I don’t know what to tell you.

Photo Courtesy: Tampa Bay Buccaneers