It looks like the Bucs are ready to get this party started.
There was a lot to like in the so-called “dress rehearsal” preseason game Friday night against the Lions. Tampa Bay lost, but as usual in preseason, ignore the final score. The Buccaneers, for the most part, kicked the Lions’ butts while the starters for both teams were in there.
Peyton Barber is going to be the starting running back on opening day in the Superdome. There’s no doubt about that. He’s looked impressive through three games, while Ronald Jones has struggled. Jones did catch a nice deep ball down the left sideline, but he’s largely been ineffective running the ball.
There’s been more good than bad from Ryan Fitzpatrick, who will start the season while Jameis Winston serves his suspension. Jameis has also played well so far. Heck, the same can be said of third-stringer Ryan Griffin.
Special teams? Adam Humphries, are you serious? I know it wasn’t the 2013 Iron Bowl, but it’s rare for any Buccaneers to return any kick for a touchdown under any circumstances.
If I do have a question mark, it’s the defense (shocking!) Yes, I know there are a lot of injuries, including first-round pick Vita Vea. But I get the impression that the overhauled defensive line isn’t really gelling together yet. And then there’s the secondary, which is still giving up big plays (but not a lot of points.) Dirk Koetter says Chris Conte is better than you think. Hey coach: we the fans beg to differ.
I know it’s hard to get excited over games that don’t count. But the Bucs sure look like a much better team than the one that went 5-11 a year ago. A note to my readers: I will not be blogging about the final preseason game unless there’s a significant development. The fourth exhibition game is the least meaningful of them all. Wake me up in two weeks in New Orleans.
Photo courtesy: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
There is a lot of anger right now amongst us Bucs fans. And most of it is directed at one guy: defensive coordinator Mike Smith.
After today’s exasperating, last-second, 30-27 loss in Buffalo, a lot of fans say it’s time for Smith to walk the plank.
And why not? This was the third time in six games – and second in a row – that his defense has surrendered at least 30 points (Minnesota is the other one.) Remember last week when the Cardinals jumped out 31-0 against his defense? Today, his unit could not hold on after the Buccaneers took the lead late in the fourth quarter. In the blink of an eye, the score went from 27-20 to 27-27.
By the way – Arizona got shut out today. The Cards’ offense is terrible – except when they face the Buccaneers. The same can be said for whoever the Bucs face these days.
I’m not saying Smith is solely to blame for today’s defeat in Orchard Park. The Bucs had three turnovers; the third one – the fumble by Adam Humphries – was the mostly costly because it set up the game-winning field goal. But that final Buffalo drive featured a run for a first down in which there were several missed tackles. That is unacceptable. That falls on the coaching staff.
The defensive meltdown is what we’re all talking about, instead of a very good performance by Jameis Winston. He wasn’t perfect by any means (he threw an interception and lost a fumble) but he was much better than in previous games. O.J. Howard had his best game of the season. Mike Evans continues to show he’s one of the best receivers in the game.
For crying out loud, the Bucs put 27 points on the board against a very good Buffalo defense. And they still didn’t win the game.
We’re six games in. The Bucs are 2-4 and sitting in last place in the NFC South. They need to get this turned around in a hurry, or the high aspirations before the season will soon be just a bad dream. And it starts with fixing this hole-filled defense.
At least they fixed the problem with the kicking game, for now.
By the way, Buccaneer Bri will not be blogging after next week’s game against Carolina. Vegas is calling next week, and Bri will gladly favor a trip to southern Nevada any day of the year.
Photo courtesy: Buffalo Bills
There will be no playoffs in Tampa this year. But at least the Buccaneers won more games than they lost. We haven’t been able to say that in six years.
The Bucs edged the Panthers in the season finale on Sunday, 17-16. The game wasn’t decided until the Bucs prevented Carolina from getting a two-point conversion with 17 seconds left.
It’s always nice to beat Cam Newton, isn’t it? Yes, it is.
This game was all about the defense. It was the defense that intercepted Newton three times, including Brent Grimes’ pick-six that put gave the Bucs the lead for the first time. The other two came from Keith Tandy, who really played very well down the stretch.
It was the defense that sacked Newton three times.
It was also the defense that allowed the Panthers to tie the game in the closing seconds, but came up with the big play when Ron Rivera decided to go for two and the win (by the way, I applaud Rivera for going for it; he had nothing to lose in that situation.)
Jameis Winston struggled for much of the day, but his TD pass to Mike Evans broke a 10-10 tie late in the fourth quarter. Winston is the first player in NFL history to start his career with consecutive 4,000-yard seasons. He also set a franchise record with 28 touchdown passes. But he also threw a pick and lost a fumble, and overthrew a lot of receivers. In the end, I guess you could say he did just enough to get the win.
While Mike Evans gets all the headlines for the receivers – and rightfully so – let’s give some props to Adam Humprhies: 10 catches for 94 yards.
Robert Aguayo was an adventure yet again. Of his three field goal attempts, he made the first, missed the second, and had the third one blocked. GM Jason Licht is going to have to make a decision about Aguayo’s future. My gut tells me it won’t happen in the offseason, but he just didn’t perform as well as any kicker should, let alone a second-round draft pick.
It’s been a fun season, Bucs fans. In my next column (whenever I get some free time) I’ll put a bow on the 2016 Bucs with the best and worst of the past four months.
Photo Courtesy: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
As dress rehearsals go, that was pretty darn good. I think we can all breathe a sigh of relief, at least for now.
The Buccaneers excelled in their third preseason game against the Browns on Friday night, winning 30-13 at Ray-Jay.
The offense didn’t just move the ball; they pushed it down the field. Jameis Winston threw for 259 yards and two TD’s while he was in there. Mike Evans went over the century mark.
The running game struggled a bit. I’m hoping that won’t be the case two weeks from now. Doug Martin and Charles Sims can be quite the tandem if they both stay healthy and be productive.
The defense had eight sacks, including putting Robert Griffin III on his back five times. Is it plausible that the Bucs could actually have a fierce pass rush this season? That would be a nice change of pace. It was a rough night, however, for cornerback Brent Grimes, who got burned twice by Josh Gordon.
But perhaps the biggest reason to exhale was the play of the special teams. Roberto Aguayo – who’s taken a lot of heat to the extent that he was getting booed during training camp – was perfect. Six kicks – three field goals and three PAT’s – and he made them all. Praise the Lord. And his performance may have overshadowed that awesome punt return for a touchdown by Adam Humphries. I mean, how often do we see a Buccaneer return a kick of any kind to the house?
It hasn’t happened too often over the years, my friends.
Overall, there was a lot more good than bad in this game. The last preseason game is generally the most meaningless of them all, but we’ll see what develops. Only two weeks to go until Tampa Bay kicks things off for real in the Dome in Atlanta.
Photo Courtesy: Getty Images