Some Thoughts on the Bucs’ Win Over the Eagles

Here are my takeaways from the Bucs’ 28-22 win over the Eagles on Thursday night.

“Playoff Lenny” is coming back into postseason form.  Leonard Fournette had his second big game in a row.  He had 127 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns.  He is the #1 running back without question right now, to go along with Tampa Bay’s tremendous passing attack.  Tom Brady threw for nearly 300 yards, two TD’s and one INT.

What a defense the Buccaneers have.  They’re the best against the run, but worst against the pass.  Against Philly, the run defense was again terrific, save for a couple of runs late in the fourth quarter.  The pass defense held Jalen Hurts to just 115 yards through the air, but…

Can the Bucs please cut down on all those penalties?  Most of the Eagles’ “offense” last night came from pass interference calls against the Bucs’ banged-up secondary, which also lost Richard Sherman to injury.  Tampa Bay was penalized seven times for 120 yards.  A couple of times, a Buccaneer defensive lineman jumped offsides.  This has to stop.  And what was Bruce Arians thinking on that 4th down call in the 4th quarter?  It was a lousy play call, it didn’t work, and the Eagles cashed in to make it a one-score game.

And yet, the Bucs are 5-1.  This was another game where they did not turn the ball over.  They’ll host the Bears a week from Sunday.

Photo courtesy: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs Ready To Go For Two

It’s almost time for the Super Bowl champs to start their title defense.  Now that the preseason is in the books, we can really start looking forward to opening night – September 9th – at Ray-Jay against the Cowboys.

I hadn’t been intentionally ignoring training camp or the preseason.  There just wasn’t a whole lot going on, since the starters barely saw any playing time.  Last night’s final preseason game against the Texans was the only time we saw the starters see nearly a half’s worth of action.  And the Bucs looked like they’re ready for Dallas on both sides of the ball.

All 22 starters are returning from last year’s Super Bowl team.  As long as Tampa Bay stays healthy, the Buccaneers should be in contention.

As Bruce Arians said, they’re going for two.

Photo courtesy: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Champs Get Their Bling

I guess this is the preverbal icing on the cake, or in this case, the hands.

On Thursday night, the Super Bowl Champs got their Super Bowl LV rings.

What does the bling include?  Two Lombardi Trophies, 319 diamonds (the final score of the game was 31-9,) and the team logo.  But there’s more: the interior is a 3-D display of Ray-Jay.  According to the team’s official website, this is the first Super Bowl ring ever to feature a twist-off top, and the first to include the stadium the game was played in as its design.

Not too shabby.

The glory of last year is just about over.  Well, Bruce Arians would tell you that.  The Bucs begin training camp on Sunday, as they begin their journey toward ‘goin’ for two’.

Photo courtesy: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Good News on Brady and Lavonte

This has been a big week for the Super Bowl champs, with news regarding three of their star players.

We’ll start with today’s news.  Tom Brady has extended his contract.  He’ll be playing with the Bucs beyond this upcoming season.  Second, Lavonte David signed a two-year contract extension that will ensure his career in Tampa will last more than a decade.  He and Devin White make up arguably the best linebacker duo in the league.  And earlier this week, the Buccaneers placed the franchise tag on Chris Godwin.

As Bruce Arians would say, they “ain’t goin’ nowhere.”

Yes, there are many more players that are set to become free agents.  Some of the biggest include Shaq Barrett, Rob Gronkowski, Leonard Fournette and Ryan Succop.  But this is at least a good start toward keeping the nucleus together.

Photo courtesy: @tombrady

Giving Thanks for the Bucs

Before I dive into the Buccaneers, I hope everyone is having a great Thanksgiving.  Hang in there – we can’t get back to normal soon enough.

I am thankful for my health, my family and the Bucs being in the playoff hunt this time of year.  And while Tampa Bay has lost 2 of its last 3, and some fans are ready to throw Tom Brady and Bruce Arians under the bus, let’s pause for a moment.  When was the last time the Buccaneers were in serious playoff contention on Thanksgiving Day?

The Bucs are 7-4, heading into Sunday’s game against the Super Bowl champion Chiefs.  After that, they have their bye.  Then, their last four games are against teams with losing records: Minnesota, Detroit and Atlanta twice.  If they can get their act together, they can finish 10-6 or 11-5 and break a 13-year playoff drought.

But the key phrase here is “get their act together.”  The offensive line desperately needs Ali Marpet back.  A.Q. Shipley – who was inserted to the line due to injuries – may have a career-ending one himself.  The running backs need to catch the ball when Brady throws it their way.  Brady needs to stop throwing deep balls that land right in the arms of a defender.  The secondary needs to stop playing 8-10 yards off the opposing receivers.  The defensive line needs to stop jumping offside and giving the other team a free first down.  Finally – and this can account for some of my previous points – the coaching needs to improve.  If you’ve watched any of the past two losses, you know what I mean.

Obviously, Sunday’s game against Kansas City is the toughest test yet.  But Bucs fans should at least be thankful that we’re at the very least talking about a possible playoff berth as we near the end of November.

Photo courtesy: USA Today

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

J.P.P. And Shaq Are Coming Back

Two big pieces of the Buccaneers’ star-studded defensive line are coming back.

First, the Bucs signed Jason Pierre-Paul to a two-year contract. J.P.P. had 8.5 sacks in just 10 games last season.

Also, Tampa Bay placed the franchise tag on reigning sack leader Shaq Barrett.  He was set to become an unrestricted free agent on Wednesday.  Shaq had 19.5 sacks in his first season with the Bucs.

It remains to be seen what happens to the other members of the front four: Ndamukong Suh and Carl Nassib.  Bruce Arians made it clear after the season ended that keeping the nucleus of this defense together was a priority.

Oh, and what about Jameis Winston?  He should know his fate by the end of the week, perhaps as early as Wednesday.  I don’t know how that it going to play out, but that will likely be the next big development in what’s already been a busy week.

Photo courtesy: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

An UGLY Performance by the Bucs

This was disgusting.  Absolutely disgusting.

There was nothing to like about Sunday’s game at Ray-Jay, where the Buccaneers were soundly beaten by the Saints, 34-17.  New Orleans is the better team; there’s no questioning that.  Still, this was bad.

The problems with this team are the same ones we’ve seen game in and game out.  The secondary is awful.  The offensive line can’t protect anybody.  Jameis Winston continues to turn the ball over with relative ease.  He had four more INT’s in this game.  I blame the first one on O.J. Howard, but the other three are all on the quarterback.  He has nearly 100 turnovers (including lost fumbles) in his nearly five years in Tampa.  And don’t get me going on the whole “they’re not all his fault” thing.  That’s true, but the number of miscues is still alarming to say the least.

By the way, Howard didn’t get another pass thrown to him after he caused that first turnover. 

But it doesn’t stop there.  The play calling is horrible.  51 passes and only 8 rushes?  And it’s not just this game.  I have serious concerns about Byron Leftwich’s ability.  And Bruce Arians’ postgame act is getting old.  He can rip the officials all he wants.  But he was brought in to fix this mess, and it hasn’t happened.  And Bruce, you may want to think twice before challenging another pass interference call.

For weeks, I’ve been quietly saying to myself that Tampa Bay is still better than Atlanta.  Well, now they’re tied.  And the Falcons are playing better than the Bucs right now.  After next week, our team could very well be in sole possession of the NFC South cellar…again.

Photo courtesy: USA Today

Bucs Release Former First-Round Pick Hargreaves

Cornerback Vernon Hargreaves will go down in Tampa Bay history as a first-round bust.

The Buccaneers got rid of their 2016 first-round draft pick on Tuesday, two days after Bruce Arians benched him during the game against the Cardinals for not hustling on a play.

The funny thing is, Hargreaves started out 2019 on fire.  He had a pick-six in the opener against San Francisco.  Then he made the game-saving play near the goal line in the closing seconds to beat Carolina.  But after that, he did a poor job covering, well, just about every receiver from every team.  Opponents knew this, and constantly threw in his direction, constantly drawing the ire of Bucs fans.  He only had one other interception during his time in Tampa.

Hargreaves was just one problem in a disastrous secondary.  This group is very young, and they’re not good.  This move does not improve the pass defense.  But Arians is sending a message here, first with the mid-game benching, and now the release.

Photo courtesy: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

A Draining Defeat for the Bucs in Seattle

In a season that has been frustrating to say the least, this may have been the most draining defeat suffered by the Buccaneers so far in 2019.

Seattle beat Tampa Bay in overtime, 40-34.

The Bucs went toe-to-toe with one of the best teams in the NFC.  At one point, they led 21-7.  They coughed up that lead.  Still, they persevered, scoring the tying touchdown in the final minute of regulation.

So why did they lose?  Look no further than the well-documented worst secondary in the NFL.  Russell Wilson torched them for five touchdown passes, including the game-winner on the opening possession of OT.  This was the sixth time in eight games that the Bucs’ opponent has scored at least 30 points.  That is, simply put, unacceptable.

Don’t blame Jameis Winston for this loss.  He played well.  He did lose a critical fumble in the fourth quarter – and you can debate all you want about whether Donovan Smith’s arm caused the miscue – but Winston recovered from that, and led his team down the field to tie the game in the closing seconds. And something dawned on me after the fact: do you think Bruce Arians should’ve gone for two and the win, instead of playing for overtime? I’m just going to throw that out there.

To pull off an upset, you need some breaks to go your way.  Seattle’s kicker missed a PAT and two field goals, including one at the end of regulation.  Winston’s first TD pass could’ve easily been a pick in the end zone, but ricocheted into the arms of…. Breshad Perriman of all people.  But despite that good fortune, the Bucs couldn’t pull it out.

The brutal stretch of games away from Ray-Jay is now over.  The Bucs only won one of them, against the Rams in Los Angeles.

Later this week: Bri hands out his midseason report card.

Photo courtesy:  Seattle Times