It’s Time For Bucs Football

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.

 

Photo courtesy: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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O.J. Howard: Oh, No

It just keeps getting worse for the Buccaneers.

 

Tight end O.J. Howard, who was having an outstanding second season, is done for the rest of the year.  He injured his foot and ankle in the game against the Giants on Sunday.

 

O.J. had five touchdowns this year, and was averaging over 16 yards a catch.  Simply put, he was right up there with the most productive tight ends in the league.

 

The Bucs still have Cameron Brate, but this is another big loss for a team that’s seen its season go down the drain in a hurry.

 

In other news, Jameis Winston is once again the Bucs’ starting quarterback.  Ryan Fitzpatrick is back on the bench.  I mean, at this point, what the heck…

 

Photo courtesy: Tampa Bay Times

(Sigh) Another Frustrating Loss

Before I rip Mike Smith to shreds again, let’s start off with the final play of the game.

 

On one hand, it seems crazy: with the ball at the Atlanta 20, they call a play featuring a couple of laterals, that could’ve ended with DeSean Jackson running into the end zone with no time on the clock.  D-Jax never caught the lateral from Mike Evans, so it was a moot point.  Had Jackson caught it, would he have scored?  He says he would have.  But after watching the play over and over, there were three Falcons closing in on him.  It would’ve been VERY close.

 

Now, here’s my beef: you had the ball at the 20.  You have guys like Evans, D-Jax, Cameron Brate and O.J. Howard on your team.  This wasn’t a 50-yard Hail Mary.  Why wouldn’t you take a shot in the end zone with those stud receivers/tight ends?  I don’t understand that.

 

Let’s talk about Jameis Winston’s first start.  He had four touchdowns, but he also threw two interceptions: an overthrown deep ball, and a pass that ricocheted off a defender in the end zone.  You can’t have those kinds of plays.

 

Then there’s the kicking game, featuring a missed PAT by Chandler Catanzaro.  That was huge, because when the Bucs cut the lead to 24-22 early in the fourth, they had to go for two to try to tie the game.  They failed. 

 

And now, let’s get to that so-called “defensive coordinator” with a last name of Smith.  This was the fourth time already that his unit has allowed at least 30 points.  And again, the opposition racked up over 400 yards of offense, with wide open receivers all over the field.  And lest we forget that final 26 seconds of the first half when the Bucs had cut the lead to 21-13.  Smith’s defense allowed the Falcons to easily get into field goal range to add three points before going to the locker room.

 

And Koetter refuses to fire him.  Well, if this keeps up, Koetter will also be gone at the end of the season.

 

There is still time to right this ship.  There are still eleven games remaining.  But based on the unwillingness of Tampa Bay to make changes on the defensive side of the ball, this has the potential to get very ugly, very quickly.  I hope I’m wrong.

Whoa! The Bucs Just Overhauled Their Defensive Line

The Buccaneers’ defensive line – you know, the one that couldn’t rush the quarterback – is going to look a lot different next season.  And on paper, it actually looks impressive.

 

The biggest move came today, when the Bucs got Jason-Pierre Paul from the Giants.  Throw in Vinny Curry and Beau Allen, and with Gerald McCoy already in the mix, you’ve got a unit that looks sure to get more than the 22 sacks Tampa Bay got all of last season.  Robert Ayers and Clinton McDonald are both gone.

 

As I mentioned, this all looks intriguing on paper.  Will any of it matter as long as Mike Smith is still the knucklehead running the defense?  And lest we forget how awful the secondary was last year.  Part of that was a lack of a pass rush, but part of it was the generally-awful play of the corners and safeties.

 

And just to get caught up on all-things-Buccaneers, offensive stars Mike Evans and Cameron Brate both have new deals.  They also signed a new center – Ryan Jensen – who will hopefully help the offensive line.

 

But Jason Licht is opening his checkbook, ladies and gentlemen.  It’s not often the Bucs go on spending spree like this.

 

Photo Courtesy: Associated Press

 

Overtime Letdown: Bucs Lose…Again

Just when you think it can’t get any worse, it does.

 

This time, the Buccaneers waited until overtime for the pain and agony to become official: a 26-20 loss to the Packers in Green Bay.  Let me count the ways:

 

Jameis Winston gift-wrapped a Green Bay touchdown when he fumbled the ball right into the arms of Dean Lowry, who took it to the house.  Winston almost cost the Bucs more points in the fourth quarter due to miscommunication on a snap in the red zone.  He’s lucky he recovered the fumble, and ended up throwing his second TD pass of the game to Cameron Brate, which put Tampa Bay in the lead with about six minutes to go.

 

That brings me to my next point: Mike Smith’s joke of a defense couldn’t hold on to that slender lead late in the fourth.  The Packers tied it with a field goal, then won it on the first possession of overtime.  And on that drive, did you happen to notice the shoddy tackling?  Someone remind me again why Smith is still on the staff.

 

Of course, after the Green Bay field goal made it 20-20 with about two minutes to go, Jameis and company got the ball back, with a chance to go down the field and win the game.  They didn’t even come close.

 

While the Buccaneers have solved their field goal kicking situation, they had a punt blocked that led to a Packers’ touchdown.  Another mistake that you cannot make in any game, much less this one.

 

And then there were all of the penalties, and all of the sacks – seven of them in all – that cost the Bucs big-time.  The pass protection was a mess, yet they managed to have a nice game on the ground courtesy of Peyton Barber.  Go figure.

 

Last year, the Bucs finished 9-7.  This loss means they will not match their win total of last year.  It’s just one more sign of what a disappointment this season has been.

 

Next week, they’ll host the Lions and Ray-Jay.  Buccaneer Bri will be making his annual trip down south for that one.  So be on the lookout for some photos, videos and hopefully other fun stuff next Monday.

 

Photo Courtesy: Associated Press

 

Another Tampa Bay Loss, Another Tampa Bay Rant

I’m getting sick and tired of writing about the same old problems with this team every time they lose. 

 

The offense can’t score early in the game.  The defense can’t stop anybody from scoring.  The play-calling leaves a lot to be desired.  And after this latest loss to Atlanta, the Bucs are now further cemented in the cellar of the NFC South at 4-7.

 

Let’s start with Mike Smith’s pathetic defense – you know, the one that allowed at least 30 points for the fifth time this season.  Look: Julio Jones is a great wide receiver – one of the best in the game.  But how do you let a guy like that torch you for over 250 yards?  You’d think it’d be worth double-covering him every now and then, even if it means man-to-man coverage on another receiver like Mohammed Sanu.  You have to make someone other than Jones beat you, and Smith didn’t give that scenario a chance to play out.

 

This defense also has to be the worst in the league at getting off the field on third down.  The Falcons were 11-of-14 on third down in this game.  That is insane.  And it’s been happening all year long.  And let me tell you: we’re not talking 3rd-and-short, either.  A lot of these conversions require double-digit yards, and the Bucs are letting their opponents convert with ease.  How many times to do you a see a Tampa Bay defender playing so soft, that all the receiver has to do is run about two yards to move the chains before the defender even lays a hand on him?

 

Forcing turnovers is still an issue, though they did get a big one in the fourth quarter that nearly led to the Buccaneers coming all the way back from 21 points down.

 

That leads me to my next point: Dirk Koetter’s play-calling.  After the turnover, the Bucs marched down the field and into the red zone.  With about seven minutes to go, Tampa Bay had 2nd and 2 from the 19.  Koetter called three straight pass plays – all of them incomplete.  This was their big chance to tie up a game they had no business even being in, and they couldn’t get two yards in three plays?  As for his decision to go for it on 4th down instead of kicking the field goal, I’m a bit torn.  If you kick the field goal (and yes, we have a guy that can kick now) then you’d be trailing by four, meaning you’d still need a touchdown to win the game, not to mention stopping the Falcons’ offense.  So I was actually okay with the decision to go for it, but I did not like the play-call at all.

 

Naturally, Atlanta got the ball back, marched right down the field and scored the you-knew-it-was coming insurance touchdown.

 

But that’s not the only questionable play-calling.  Tampa Bay has two really good tight ends on this team: Cameron Brate and rookie O.J. Howard.  Can someone explain to me why neither of them saw a pass thrown in his direction for the entire first half?

 

I really don’t see how Koetter and Smith still have jobs at the end of this lost season, especially Smith.  The defense was the biggest problem last year; they’ve done nothing to fix that.  On offense, they’ve got all of these weapons, yet they consistently struggle out of the gate.  I know Jameis Winston is injured, but it’s been this way even when he’s been in there.  That ultimately has to fall on the head coach.

 

OK – rant over.

 

Next week: the Battle of the Bays, at Lambeau Field.

Photo Courtesy: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

 

Season Preview: 2017 Tampa Bay Buccaneers

It’s time to get down to business.

 

One week from today, the Buccaneers kick off the 2017 season against the Dolphins in Miami.  Here are some things I’ll be keeping an eye on as the games begin to count:

 

THE OFFENSE: by all accounts, the Bucs are loaded.  Jameis Winston is starting his third year in Tampa Bay, and does he ever have weapons.  The names are many: Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson, O.J. Howard, Cameron Brate, Doug Martin (after he finishes serving his suspension.)  On that last note, I want to see how they’re going to run the ball in Martin’s absence.  It appears Jacquizz Rogers will be the featured back, along with Charles Sims (who I’m not a big fan of.)

 

Here are two things to look for: can Winston cut down on his mistakes?  And perhaps an even bigger question: can this team finish off drives with touchdowns?  It’s one thing to move the ball at will down the field, but if you can’t finish it off with six, that’s disappointing.

 

THE DEFENSE: this is the group I’m most concerned about.  I know what you’re thinking – ‘well, they looked great during the preseason.’  The key word there is the last one.  This is a unit that gave up a lot of big plays last year, especially in the passing game.  The Buccaneers play in a loaded NFC South – with quarterbacks named Ryan, Brees and Newton.  The tackling has to be better.  The secondary has to be a lot better than it was in 2016.  I think the Bucs are going to score a lot of points, but I can also see them giving up a lot as well.  We’ll see.

 

SPECIAL TEAMS: the kicking game was solved during the preseason.  Nick Folk is the guy now.  Roberto Aguayo was cut, and is now unemployed.  He signed on with the Bears, but they let him go, too.  Given all of the issues in the kicking game last season, Folk will be under intense scrutiny, and will surely hear about it when he misses a kick.

 

It’s playoffs or bust for the Bucs.  They went 9-7 last year and missed the postseason by one game.  There’s only way 2017 will be considered a success is if Dirk Koetter’s guys are still playing football come January.

 

Until then, it’s on to Miami for the season opener….

 

Photo courtesy: Tampa Bay Buccaneers