The 100th NFL season kicks
off tonight with the Packers and Bears.
On Sunday, the Bruce Arians era begins against the San Francisco 49ers
Here are some things to keep an
eye on: not just on Sunday, but as the season moves along:
OFFENSE: Can Jameis Winston
finally have the breakout season we’ve been expecting from a former No. 1
overall pick? Will there actually be a
running game? And as a sidebar to that,
can the offensive line open up holes in the ground game, and protect
Winston? If the preseason is any
indication, this could be a big area of concern.
DEFENSE: Everything has changed
here. Todd Bowles is the new coordinator,
and he’s showing a lot of different looks.
This until simply cannot have a repeat of the past several years, which
were nothing sort of dreadful. We saw
promising signs in the preseason. Can
they carry over to Sunday?
SPECIAL TEAMS: All eyes on rookie
kicker Matt Gay, who won the kicking job over Cairo Santos. Gay has been sensational in preseason and
training camp. He needs to continue that
success, or he’ll be considered the next coming of Roberto Aguayo.
Kickoff is on Sunday a 4:25. The
game is not televised here, because FOX is sticking us with the Cowboys and
Giants. But that’s why NFL Redzone was created. Your announcers are Kenny Albert and former
Buc Ronde Barber.
Here are some
takeaways from the Bucs’ 13-12 victory over the Browns in the third preseason
game. Since this was the so-called dress
rehearsal game, in which the starters play the longest, this was the most critical
game before it counts for real.
defense is going to be lightyears ahead of where it was last year. I know that’s not saying much, but new
defensive coordinator Todd Bowles has definitely made a difference. They kept an up-and-coming Browns team out of
the end zone all night.
concerned about the offensive line.
There was a lot of talk after the draft about how the Buccaneers did not
address this need, and now it’s showing.
There are very few holes in the running game. The pass protection is awful; Jameis Winston
was sacked five times while he was in there.
Yes, there is still time to fix this.
But it’s hard to establish a running game when the guys up front can’t
open up holes. And what difference does
it make if you have Mike Evans and Chris Godwin on your team if your
quarterback can’t get them the ball, not to mention Winston’s inconsistencies
with throwing the deep ball.
missed a kick. He’s human! But he responded with another game-winner. I think he’s going to win the kicking job, though
veteran Cairo Santos has done nothing to hurt his own cause.
Griffin will be the Bucs’ backup QB to start the season, after Blaine Gabbert left
the game with an injury. Who knows how
long he’ll be out.
not be writing anything about the final, most meaningless-of-them-all preseason
game against Dallas, unless major news happens.
The opener is just two weeks away.
now halfway through the preseason, and training camp is officially over. The Bucs are 1-1 in the preseason, having
beaten the Dolphins, 16-14, on Friday night at Ray-Jay. Here are some takeaways from that game:
headline may be what happened at the very end of the game, when rookie kicker
Matt Gay nailed a 48-yarder to win it.
It’s looking more and more like Gay is going to be Tampa Bay’s kicker,
even though Cairo Santos hasn’t done anything bad to justify losing his
job. The rookie has opened eyes with his
also a solid performance by Ryan Griffin, who saw the most action of any of the
Bucs’ quarterbacks. Granted, he was
playing against Miami’s backups, but the backup QB job is up for grabs, despite
Blaine Gabbert’s familiarity with Bruce Arians’ system.
Winston only played one series for the second straight game. Let’s just skip over him for now.
biggest concern may not be the defense, but the offensive line. Penalties are also a big problem right
now. Arians needs to get this fixed.
game is Friday night against Cleveland.
This is the so-called “dress rehearsal,” when the starters tend to play
the longest. The third preseason game is
always the one to watch.
Judging a preseason game is so difficult. You ignore the final score, and try instead
to focus on who shined, and who didn’t.
It’s even tougher when a lot of the starters either play very little, or
not at all. That said, here are some
thoughts from the Bucs’ 30-28 loss to the Steelers in the preseason opener.
Jameis Winston, who’s looked on-and-off during training
camp, was definitely on in this game. He
led Tampa Bay on 12-play, 81-yard drive that ended with a touchdown pass to
Chris Godwin. With Adam Humphries gone,
Godwin is now the #2 receiver behind Mike Evans. The drive was a nice mix of running the ball
(yes, they actually ran it effectively) and passing.
The first-team defense only saw limited action, and wasn’t
facing the Steelers’ starters, including Ben Roethlisberger, so it’s hard to
judge this unit. They have been making
quite a few plays in camp. Any
improvement these days would be considered a plus.
The battle that intrigues me the most is for kicker. It’s rookie Matt Gay against the guy who
finished last year, Cairo Santos. On
Friday night, Gay made his only attempt, from 55 yards out. He and Santos have both been lights out in
training camp. Let me reiterate that:
the kickers are actually making kicks.
It will be interesting to see who wins the job. Right now, it’s a toss-up.
In case you missed it: Vita Vea will miss several weeks with
a knee injury. At least he’s not out for
the season. The Bucs also released offensive
lineman Evan Smith, who spent the last five seasons in Tampa.
We’re about to get our first look at the 2019 Buccaneers. The team holds its first workout of training camp on Friday.
There’ve been a lot of changes since the end of last season. That comes with the territory of eleven straight seasons without making the playoffs. Bruce Arians is now in charge. Gerald McCoy is gone – to a division rival no less. Jason Pierre-Paul is out of commission for a while – possibly the entire season. Enter Ndamukong Suh, and first-round pick Devin White, who Tampa Bay hopes will be the next Derrick Brooks. And under new defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, the Bucs will be moving to a 3-4 defense.
On offense, this has to be Jameis Winston’s breakout season, otherwise he won’t be around much longer. O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate are back from injuries. The running game is still in flux, with Peyton Barber apparently in the starting role for now. Can Ronald Jones do…well, anything? Can the offensive line do…well, anything?
On special teams, there’s a kicking competition between Cairo Santos and rookie Matt Gay. As I often say on social media, can we just get someone who can make a kick? And while we’re at it, how about a special teams’ touchdown or ten?
One thing we already know: Arians is a soundbite machine. Watch any of his news conferences and you’ll see what I mean.
And for me, as I unofficially begin my seventh season of this blog, I thank you for your continued support. Let’s shock the world. Go Bucs.
Well, you can drop all that talk of, “what if the Bucs run the table and make the playoffs…”
There was no repeat of the magic in the Superdome from the opener. Tampa Bay played well in the first half against New Orleans. But then, just like last week when I was at Ray-Jay, the offense went to bed in the second half (for what it’s worth, I also went to bed before the Saints mounted their comeback, but anyway…)
The game turned in the third quarter when the Saints blocked a punt, and turned it into the go-ahead touchdown. New Orleans scored 25 straight points. The Bucs couldn’t muster any offense after the Saints took the lead. Most of the yards they got were in “garbage time” at the very end.
The end result: Saints 28, Bucs 14.
Cairo Santos missed two field goals. He hadn’t missed since joining the Bucs a fee weeks ago. Yes, we’re back to this problem again.
The Buccaneers had 10 penalties in this game. That, too, is a problem. So is the offensive line and the lack of running game. That’s been an issue all year.
Well, it was a fun two-game streak while it lasted. The best the Bucs can do now is finish at .500, and that would mean beating Baltimore, Dallas and Atlanta. Dirk Koetter’s grave is already dug.
Well, this was a nice change of pace. Consider everything that happened in today’s game against the 49ers.
Jameis Winston threw for over 300 yards, two touchdowns and, most importantly, no interceptions.
The Bucs sacked Nick Mullens four times.
The Buccaneers had two interceptions – their first takeaways in two months. Yes, I said months. And Tampa Bay didn’t turn it over at all.
Is it any coincidence that the Bucs actually won this game?
And please, don’t give me this, “well, they were playing the ‘Niners.” Listen: the way the Bucs have been going, no game should ever be considered easy.
Oh, and Cairo Santos hasn’t missed a kick since joining Tampa a couple of weeks ago. It’s only two games, but is it possible they’ve at least stabilized that problem spot?
Next up: the Panthers come to Ray-Jay. Ever since beating Tampa, Carolina has lost three straight. Throw in the fact that I’ll be at the game, and you’ve got a wee bit extra intrigue next Sunday afternoon.
Well, we’ve been down this road before, haven’t we?
A new kicker comes to Tampa, can’t make his fair share of kicks, and gets booted. It happened again on Monday. Chandler Catanzaro, who missed two more kicks against the Redskins on Sunday, is now out of a job.
So who’s the new Bucs’ kicker now? His name is Cairo Santos, signed by the team right after Catanzaro was waived. Santos most recently played for the Rams. He’s made 84% of his kicks during his career. All I ask is that he answer the question I’ve been asking for years: