Buccaneers Midseason Report

Now that we’re officially halfway through the 2019 NFL season, it’s time to reflect on what we’ve seen so far in the first eight games for the Bucs.  You’ll notice I’m not going through every player or every position.  I’m just going to pick and choose.  So here we go:

OFFENSIVE MVP: Mike Evans.  This guy is a stud; there’s no other way to say it.  Remember how he started off with no touchdowns in the first two games?  Well, now he has seven.  His 842 receiving yards are second in the NFL behind only Michael Thomas of the Saints.  Evans and Chris Godwin have become one of the best receiving tandems in the league.

DEFENSIVE MVP: Shaq Barrett.  What a pickup this guy was.  He leads the league in sacks with 10.5, eight of which came in the first three games.  The drop-off since then is likely attributed to teams paying more attention to him now, but that opens up opportunities for others.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT: the secondary.  Even with all those draft picks spent on this group, they’re still terrible.  They’re allowing 31 points a game.  They are second-worst in defending the pass (Oakland sneaked ahead of them!)  And yet, the run defense is best in the league.  Knowing that, it’s no secret why teams are just throwing the ball at will.

BIGGEST QUESTION MARK: Jameis Winston.  Believe me, I read all kinds of comments from the lovers and haters on a weekly basis.  The haters point to all the turnovers and bad decisions.  The lovers will mention the big passing games he’s had, and how the aforementioned secondary is making him look back.  It will very interesting to see what the Bucs do with him after this season.

BEST GAME SO FAR: The Week 4 win over the Rams in L.A.  Tampa Bay pulled a stunner, scoring a season-high 55 points against the defending NFC champs.

WORST GAME SO FAR: the game right before that, against the Giants.  The Bucs blew a 28-10 lead, and made rookie QB Daniel Jones look like a superstar, as they have with so many other rookie and backup quarterbacks.  Has anyone seen what Jones has done since that game?

So, there’s a quick summary.  The Bucs finally play a home game this weekend against the Cardinals.  It’s only their third game at Ray-Jay so far.  And in just over a month, I’ll be heading down to Tampa for the game against the Colts.

Go Bucs!

Photo courtesy: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Yet Another Frustrating Bucs Loss

You have to admit this about the Buccaneers: they keep finding creative new ways to lose the game.  In their 27-23 loss to the Titans, let’s take a look:

Jameis Winston committed four more turnovers: two interceptions, two lost fumbles, though the first fumble was arguably more of Ryan Jensen’s fault for a bad shotgun snap.  Tennessee’s first two TD drives covered a total of 16 yards.  Winston is responsible for ten turnovers in the last two games.  Ten.

Now let’s go to the touchdown by Mike Evans – who had monster game – right before halftime.  The score was 17-15.  Bruce Arians decided to go for two, and the Bucs were unsuccessful.  Why would you go for two that situation, with a whole second half to play?  Had they just kicked the extra point to pull within one, they would’ve needed just a field goal down the stretch.

Then there’s the play that we’re ready to murder the refs over.  Late in the fourth quarter, the Titans tried a fake punt.  Devin White clobbered the runner, forced a fumble, and Andrew Adams picked it up and ran it all the way back.  But for some ridiculous reason, the officials blew the play dead after the fumble recovery.  Why?  That play would’ve given Tampa Bay the lead with just over three minutes remaining.

And finally, at the two-minute warning, the Bucs had 4th-and-1 from the Tennessee 32.  They line up in the shotgun and…. hand the ball off to Peyton Barber?  What kind of a play call is that?  You’ve got Evans and Chris Godwin as weapons.  In my opinion, Ronald Jones is a better back that Barber.  But once Barber got the handoff – in the shotgun, 4th-and-1 turned into 4th-and-5.  And naturally, he got stuffed.  Heck, if you’re going to run, why not try a quarterback sneak?  Byron Leftwich deserves all the criticism in the world for that decision.

Speaking of play-calling, I’m baffled as to why players like Dare Ogunbowale and Breshad Perriman get their numbers called.  They are terrible.

All in all, this was yet another case of the Bucs beating the Bucs.  They made mistakes, and the Titans made them pay.  Tampa Bay is now 2-5, with a cross-country trip to Seattle staring them in the face.  Oh, my.

Photo courtesy: Tennessee Titans

Bucs Get First Win in Dramatic Fashion

Here are some thoughts on the Bucs’ first victory of the season: a 20-14 win over the Panthers in Charlotte.

It is amazing what Todd Bowles has done with this defense in just two games.  Take Mike Smith’s swiss-cheese defense, and flip it 180 degrees.  Bowles’ unit kept the Panthers out of the end zone, and has only allowed one offensive touchdown in eight quarters.  After Carolina, not surprisingly, marched down the field for a final drive, Vernon Hargreaves made the play that everyone’s still buzzing about, stopping Christian McCaffrey at the two-yard line with less than 90 seconds to play.  It was a night where the Bucs stifled McCaffrey all the way around.

Another star was Shaquil Barrett.  He’s another new face on defense, and he sacked Cam Newton three times. 

The Buccaneers gave up some long plays in this one, but tightened up in the red zone.  I remember Tony Dungy’s teams winning a lot of games like this.  I’m just throwing that out there.

On offense, Jameis Winston did not turn the ball over.  That is huge.  Everyone (including me) rips him when he screws up, so it is only fair that I praise him when he has a good game.  His stats may not jump out at you, but again, no turnovers.

Chris Godwin is a beast: 121 yards and a TD.  He, not Mike Evans, is the Bucs’ leading receiver after two games.

Peyton Barber churned out 82 tough yards on the ground, and scored a touchdown.  He had to work for every one of those yards against a tough Carolina defense.

This was not a perfect game by any means.  There were way too many penalties again (p.s. – someone tell Bruce Arians and Bowles that you can’t call back-to-back timeouts.)  Going 2-for-12 on third down isn’t going to cut it, either.  But at the end of a late night, the Bucs beat a division opponent on the road.  That is huge.

Photo courtesy: Associated Press

Some Thoughts on the Bucs’ Third Preseason Game

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.

Tampa Bay’s 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.

I’m very 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.

Matt Gay 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.

Ryan 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.

I will 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.  Let’s go.

Photo courtesy: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Captain’s Take: Bucs Preseason Game #1

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.

Next up: the Dolphins at Ray-Jay on Friday night.

Photo courtesy: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

No Playoffs For the Bucs. Again.

OK, so the headline of this blog post isn’t exactly earth-shattering news.  But it didn’t become official until now.

 

With today’s loss to the Ravens in dreary Baltimore, there will be no playoffs for the Buccaneers for the eleventh consecutive year.

 

Maybe we should’ve known it wasn’t going to be a good day when, on the opening drive, Chris Godwin dropped a pass that could’ve gone the distance.

 

Maybe we should’ve known it wasn’t going to be a good day when they flubbed up the extra point on the game’s first touchdown.

 

Maybe we should’ve known it was going to be a good day when they recovered a muffed punt inside the Baltimore red zone, only to come away with three point.

 

The Bucs only scored three points in the second half.  This is a troubling trend over the past three games, starting with the Carolina game when they only scored seven points after halftime (and they won that game.)

 

Or maybe, just the thought of chasing Lamar Jackson and company all over the field was too much to comprehend.

 

No matter how you slice it, the final two games against the Cowboys and Falcons will amount to nothing more than ‘playing out the string,’ though Dallas will certainly have something to play for.

 

Dirk Koetter’s grave has been dug.  It’s only a matter of time before we put him in it.  Jason Licht may end up in the ground next to him.  We’ll see.

 

Photo Courtesy: Baltimore Ravens

Bri Goes To Tampa, and Bucs Win

On Sunday, I made my annual trip down to Ray-Jay to see the Bucs play in person.  I left the stadium with a big smile on my face, as Tampa Bay knocked off Carolina.

 

This one went according to script (you will smell the sarcasm shortly.)  The Bucs’ defense came into this game with three interceptions all year.  Well, some guy named Andrew Adams doubled that total, in just this game alone.  Throw in a fourth pick by Javien Elliot, four sacks, and you’ve got yourself a 24-17 upset.

 

I, and other Bucs fans, have been bashing this defense all year.  Well, over the past few games, we’ve seen some improvement, so I am more than happy to give credit where credit is due.  It was the defense that won this game.

 

Jameis Winston did not throw a pick, though he did have a couple of passes that made me say, “ay ay ay.”  Chris Godwin a had a big game, catching a key TD just before the half that I had a good look at.

 

This team is far from perfect.  The Bucs needed every one of those interceptions to win this game, because after they went ahead 24-10 early in the third quarter, the offense went to bed.  It felt like Carolina had a zillion chances to tie it up in the fourth quarter, but the defense stepped up, even with so many starters injured.  Whatever Mark Duffner is doing with this group, it’s working.

 

Dear Bucs: see what happens when you don’t turn the ball over as often as the opponent?  You usually win.

 

The Saints come to Ray-Jay next Sunday.  We all remember that tremendous opener in the Superdome.  I’ll bet New Orleans hasn’t forgotten, either.

 

Photo courtesy: Tampa Bay Buccaneers