So, If the Bucs End Up With the #1 Pick….

Here’s one thing about this painful-to-watch season for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. They are in the running for the No. 1 overall pick in next year’s draft.

The Bucs are 2-11 right now, and are tied with the Jets, Titans, Jaguars and Raiders for the worst record in the NFL. As of this writing, Tampa Bay would own the top pick due to strength of schedule (or lack thereof.) Anyway, it’s some tiebreaker that could change between now and the end of the regular season.

The Buccaneers need a quarterback – badly. Oregon QB Marcus Mariota, who was named a finalist for the Heisman trophy on Monday night, is the name that keeps popping up. If he is still available whenever Tampa Bay is on the clock, the Bucs need to grab him. But taking Mariota will not solve the problems for an offense that has been painful that has trouble just scoring 20 points in a game.

Mariota won’t do well in Tampa if nobody can protect for him. The offensive line, which was overhauled before the season, needs to be revamped again. As bad as Josh McCown has been this year, I would argue that the guys in charge of protecting the quarterback have been the biggest disappointment in 2014. Players like Evan Dietrich-Smith, Anthony Collins, Oniel Cousins, Demar Dotson have not produced. And Logan Mankins – who was acquired before the season began – has only made headlines when he gets called for holding. They are also partly responsible for the abysmal running game. Tampa Bay is 31st in rushing yards, averaging only 78 yards per game.

So for all the fans (including me) who would love to see Mariota in a Bucs uniform, I say bring it on. But let’s hope Lovie Smith and Jason Licht also draft some guys who can do damage in the trenches.

Photo Courtesy: AP

 

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Bucs Have Lack of Discipline, and it’s Killing Them

When a football team has a 2-10 record, there are many problems that can be singled out: quarterback play, no running game, bad play-calling, etc.

Then there are penalties – all those penalties.

In Sunday’s loss to the Bengals at Ray-Jay, the Buccaneers were penalized a whopping 13 times for 94 yards. Mind you, those are the infractions that were accepted by Cincinnati; it doesn’t count the penalties that are declined. And according to nflpenalties.com, the Bucs are tied for the most-penalized team in the NFL. Tampa Bay has been flagged 102 times, tied for most with Seattle (of all teams.) That’s an average of 8.5 penalties per game.

To me, penalties = lack of discipline.

As I mentioned in my last post, if we the fans slammed former head coach Greg Schiano for having an undisciplined football team, then we need to treat Lovie Smith the same way. Smith took the blame for that unacceptable 12-men-on-the-field penalty that cost the Bucs a chance to kick a game-winning field goal yesterday. While that was the most glaring mistake, penalties in the red zone cost the Bucs chances to score touchdowns against field goals (I’m looking at you, offensive line.) Anthony Collins and Demar Dotson are among the most penalized players in the NFL. Yep, they both play in the trenches.

There is plenty of yellow laundry to go around: offense, defense, special teams, you name it. Heck, these days the Bucs can’t seem to get a big play without having it called back.

Photo Courtesy: tbo.com

Bucs’ Midseason Report Card

Now that the Buccaneers have reached the midway point of the 2014 season, it’s time for a midterm report card. As you might expect, there are more bad grades than good ones on a team that’s 1-7. I’m not going to grade each and every player, because that would take forever.

 

LOVIE SMITH AND JASON LICHT: F
When the Bucs hired Smith almost immediately after firing Greg Schiano, there was a sense of hope among Tampa Bay fans, a sense that things would start to turn around. There was hope that Smith’s defense would be as fierce as what we saw in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. Licht and Smith brought in a ton of free agents on defense (while letting Darrelle Revis go.) They spent their entire 2014 draft on upgrading the offense. Eight games into the season, the Bucs are second from the bottom in both total offense and defense. Some of the pundits predicted the Bucs could be a sleeper team for the playoffs. I was just hoping for some improvement. It hasn’t happened. We should’ve known something was up when they dropped their first two games at home to backup quarterbacks. Even coming off a 4-12 year, the Bucs have been a major disappointment in my opinion.

 

OFFENSE – OVERALL GRADE: D

QUARTERBACKS: D
The Bucs started the season with Josh McCown as the starting quarterback. In 2 ½ games, he threw two touchdowns, four interceptions, and put the ball on the turf a number of times. He’s been sidelined with an injured thumb suffered during the Thursday night debacle in Atlanta.

Enter Mike Glennon. He’s completed 57% of his passes so far. At times, he’s looked OK. Other times, like Sunday in Cleveland, he looked terrible. Now, he’s in danger of losing his job back to McCown. While the quarterback position is hardly the only problem on this team, it should be priority #1 in next year’s draft.

 

OFFENSIVE LINE: F
This group has also been a big disappointment. Remember back to just before the season began, when Tampa Bay acquired pro bowl guard Logan Mankins from the Patriots? That hasn’t helped a unit that has struggled in both the running game and pass protection. Left tackle Anthony Collins and center Evan Dietrich-Smith have not played well at all. The line has given up 21 sacks through the first eight games, and that doesn’t count all of the times the quarterback has been running for his life. It’s worth noting that Smith and Licht also overhauled this unit from last year as well.

 

MIKE EVANS: B
He was the Bucs’ first-round draft pick this year, and we’ve gotten a glimpse of what he can do. While he hasn’t been perfect, he leads the receivers in yards (460) and touchdowns (4) and is tied with Vincent Jackson for the team lead in receptions. He has the potential to be a star down the road, no question about it.

 

DEFENSE – OVERALL GRADE: D-
Let’s think back to the defensive players Smith brought in: Michael Johnson, Alterraun Verner and Clinton McDonald come to mind. Have any of them made an impact? I don’t think so. I hadn’t heard Verner’s name much at all until Sunday, when he was beaten soundly for the winning touchdown in Cleveland. This is the guy who supposedly has to fill Revis’ shoes in the secondary. As mentioned early, Tampa Bay is 31st in the league in total defense behind only Atlanta. They’ve given up the third most points; only Jacksonville and the Jets are worse. They’re near the bottom of the league in sacks. And turnovers – something Smith prides himself on – have not come as often as the fans would like.  Oh, and former first-round pick Mark Barron is now with the Rams.

 

GERALD MCCOY: B+
I’m giving McCoy a grade, because he’s one of the leaders of this defense, and recently signed a 7-year, $98 million contract. He has been one of the few bright spots on defense. His five sacks lead the team. And this guy was playing with an injured hand for a few games.

 

LAVONTE DAVID: A
You mean there’s a player on a 1-7 team that deserves such a grade? Like McCoy, David is a leader on defense. He leads the team in tackles. This guy is everywhere on the field. I look forward to watching #54 in person when I travel to Ray-Jay this weekend to see the Bucs play the Falcons.

 

SPECIAL TEAMS: D

Rookie kicker Patrick Murray has been so-so this year.  He is 8-of-12 on field goals.  He’s had two kicks blocked, one of them coming in the most recent loss to the Browns.  The mistakes on special teams on Sunday actually caused me to lower this grade from a C to a D.

 

Photo Courtesy: AP

 

Busy Week For Bucs

What a week it has been for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. That’s not much of a surprising statement, given that the start of free agency always results in a lot of activity around the league. But I wasn’t expecting it to be quite like this.

It all started even before free agency began, when word leaked out that the Bucs were shopping Darrelle Revis. He ended up signing with New England. One year and $16 million later, he’s out of Tampa. That didn’t take long.

So who’s new? They picked up cornerback Alterraun Verner from Tennessee, and defensive end Michael Johnson from Cincinnati.  Verner had five picks for the Titans last season. And two years ago, Johnson had 11 1/2 sacks for the Bengals. Throw in former Seattle defensive tackle Clinton McDonald, and it’s clear Lovie Smith and Jason Licht are overhauling just about everything on the defensive side of the ball. A few extra sacks this season would be a nice return on this investment.

There is also a change on the offensive line. Donald Penn is gone, and Anthony Collins is now a Buc. Like Johnson, Collins spent the past few years in Cincinnati.

But the biggest surprise may have come at the quarterback position. Josh McCown signed a two-year, $10 million contract. Signing a QB may not be a shocker. What is surprising, is that Lovie Smith has pretty much named McCown the starter already. So there won’t even be any competition with Mike Glennon? Will the Bucs draft a rookie QB in the draft? Who knows if we’ve heard the last of this quarterback situation.

Photo Courtesy: tbo.com