Monday Column: The Bucs at the Bye

The Buccaneers have hit their bye week with a record of 2-3. That is considerably better than they were at this time last season. But they’re still not nearly ready to compete with the big boys in the NFL.

That last statement is not a surprise, though. This is a very young team that only won two games in 2014. The biggest thing I’m looking for in 2015 is improvement.

Let’s start with quarterback Jameis Winston, the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s draft. Through five games, he has an equal number of touchdown passes and interceptions (seven of each.) He’s completing 56% of his passes. Sunday’s win against the Jaguars was a nice bounce-back game for him, as he played mistake-free football after being responsible for five turnovers the previous week against Carolina.

The running game has been a positive so far. Don’t look now, but Doug Martin is tied for second in the NFL in rushing yards with 405. He had his best game of the season on Sunday, rushing for 123 yards and three touchdowns (one of them receiving.) That is the Doug Martin we all remember from his rookie year.

Is Mike Evans dealing with a sophomore slump? So far, the answer is yes. He has only 174 yards receiving, though he was injured earlier in the year. Still, the Bucs will need him to revert to last year’s form, and create a formidable tandem with Vincent Jackson.

How about the defense? Here’s an area where if I give a bunch of stats, you’d have no clue whether this unit is really good or really bad. On one hand, the Bucs are eighth in the league in total defense – i.e. yards allowed. They also have 15 sacks. But on the other hand – and this is the one that bothers me – they are dead last in scoring defense. They’ve given up 148 points in five games. They allowed two quarterbacks named Mariota and Bortles to combine to throw eight touchdown passes against them. The secondary in particular has been a sieve. How many times can Tim Jennings blow coverage? And how long can Lovie Smith continue to keep him in the lineup even though he keeps screwing up?

The kicking game was awful through the first four games. Case in point: Kyle Brindza is gone. Connor Barth is back, and he was flawless against the Jags. Thank goodness that issue has been resolved, at least for now.

Looking forward, Tampa Bay needs to keep running the ball, limit mistakes, and make some adjustments on defense, especially in the secondary.

Photo Courtesy: bucsnation.com

Bucs at the Bye: What a Mess

The Buccaneers have mercifully made it to the bye week with a record of 1-5. Just about everything that could go wrong through the first six weeks, has.

Remember back to the draft, when Tampa Bay used all of its draft picks on the offensive side of the ball? Maybe the Buccaneers should’ve thought a little bit about the defense, which has been shredded so far in the first six games. Consider these numbers:

The Bucs rank dead last in scoring defense, allowing 34 points a game. Twice in the last month, they have been blown out, giving up 56 to Atlanta and 48 yesterday to Baltimore. They have given up a whopping 165 points in the past four games. They are worst in total yards allowed per game (422.) They have the second-worst pass defense, and are 25th when it comes to stopping the run. They’re not getting any pressure on the quarterback; they only have nine sacks through six games. I could go on, but you get the idea.

Many fans are already calling for Lovie Smith’s head. That’s not going to happen to a first-year coach. But here’s a question: how does defensive coordinator Leslie Frazer still have a job? If I could only make one change during the bye week, it would be to send him packing. It wouldn’t fix all of the problems in Tampa, but it would at least send a message. It’s one thing to have a bad defense; it’s another thing for opposing teams to consistently run the ball down your throat, and for quarterbacks to play pitch-and-catch with wide-open receivers all day long, which is what we’ve seen so far in 2014.

Lovie says he’s not changing his defensive scheme. Okay, then….

The offensive side of the ball is no better. The Buccaneers are ranked 28th in total offense. They have no running game whatsoever. Doug Martin, Bobby Rainey or anyone else who takes handoffs is not getting the job done. The offensive line has been awful in terms of opening holes or protecting the quarterback.

Speaking of the QB position, I really think Mike Glennon is an adequate quarterback – not a superstar by a long shot, but not terrible, either. He’s thrown seven touchdowns compared to three interceptions. And consider this: he’s doing it with no running game or decent pass protection. His receivers often drop his passes. Anyway, he’s the best the Bucs have right now, so you might as well stick with him.

While Smith won’t get fired this season (or so I think) he definitely needs to be held accountable for this mess. He brought in some high-profile defensive free agents during the offseason. That plan hasn’t worked out. If we, the fans, turned up the heat on Raheem Morris and Greg Schiano when they were on the sidelines, then we should absolutely treat Smith the same way.

In the meantime, enjoy the bye week, knowing that Tampa Bay can’t lose next Sunday.

Photo Courtesy: tampabay.com