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

Bucs Go 11-5; Wild Card Game Up Next

If you had told me last winter that the Buccaneers would win eleven games in 2020, I wouldn’t have believed it.  Even after they picked up Tom Brady, I had the question: does he still have it at age 43?

Oh, yes, he does.  And the Bucs’ offense is on fire heading into next weekend’s wild card game in Washington.

Brady finished the regular season with 40 touchdown passes, including four more against the Falcons.  Chris Godwin is amazing.  Antonio Brown is heating up.  RoJo scored again.  But there is concern about Mike Evans, who injured his knee shortly after clinching his 7th straight 1,000-yard season.  He’s the first player in NFL history to begin a career like that.  But will the Bucs have him when they take on the Washington Saturday night?

Tampa Bay will be favored in the wild card round.  But even though the Bucs are playing a 7-9 team, don’t think for a moment that this will be a cakewalk.  Washington’s bread and butter is on defense, especially up front.  They are very, very good.  The Bucs’ offensive line needs to be stellar.

Tampa Bay has already snapped a 13-year playoff drought.  Now they’ll try to win a playoff game for the first time since the 2002 Super Bowl season.

Photo courtesy: Associated Press

A Big Comeback For the Bucs Against L.A.

Yeah, this Brady guy still has it.

On Sunday, he threw five touchdown passes to rally the Buccaneers from a 17-point deficit to beat the L.A. Chargers, 38-31.  It was Tampa Bay’s second-largest comeback in franchise history.

Those who still doubt TB12 will point to the pick-six he threw in the first quarter.  But he more than made up for that mistake.  What’s more, his five touchdown passes went to five different receivers.  And he did it without Chris Godwin, and lost O.J. Howard in the second half to an Achilles injury.  Early indications are that Howard may be done for the season.  But Howard, Mike Evans, Scotty Miller, Cameron Brate and even rookie Ke’Shawn Vaughn found the end zone.

This game turned in the final minute of the first half.  The Chargers fumbled away a botched handoff inside their own 10.  The Bucs took over and scored a touchdown.  Tampa Bay went into the locker room down by 10 instead of 17.  The Bucs came out firing on all cylinders after halftime.

Another bright spot: Ronald Jones finally rushed for over 100 yards.  Without Leonard Fournette in the lineup, it was nice to see the Bucs were still able to establish a running game.

Was this a perfect performance?  No.  The young secondary got burned twice for deep touchdowns by a very game L.A. quarterback, Justin Herbert.  Ryan Succop missed a field goal.  There were way too many penalties – again.

But the Bucs have won three in a row, and ¼ of the way into the season, they are alone in first place in the NFC South.  They go to Chicago to play the 3-1 Bears on Thursday night.

Photo courtesy: USA Today

2 Wins in a Row for the Bucs

The Buccaneers are over .500.  They’ve won two in a row.  And yet, you get the feeling they’re still not where they want to be.

On Sunday, the Bucs were in control from the start, beating the Broncos 28-10 in Denver.  Tom Brady threw three touchdown passes and no interceptions.  And the defense was outstanding: two interceptions, a safety, and six sacks, including two by former Bronco Shaq Barrett, against an injury-riddled Denver team.  The defense deserves the game ball for this victory.

Still, there is work to be done.  The offense was inept in the second half for the second week in a row.  There were more dropped passes.  There were way too many penalties – again (9 for 71 yards.)  And while special teams blocked a punt that led to a TD, they also had a PAT blocked.  And who knows how serious the hamstring injury is to Chris Godwin.

But we’ll take the wins any way we can get them.  And it’s not every day the Bucs beat an opponent by 18 points.  They’re back home to face the Chargers next week.

Photo courtesy: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Week 1 Preview: Buccaneers at Saints

This is one of, if not the marquee game of Week 1.  Tom Brady’s debut as Tampa Bay’s quarterback, against Drew Brees and the Saints, who have won the division three straight years.  Both QB’s are in their 40s, and both are still playing at a very high level.

This has all the making of a shootout, especially in the passing game.  The Bucs have Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and Rob Gronkowski, though Evans is now listed as doubtful for Sunday.  The Saints have Michael Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders.  Both teams can, and probably will, light up the scoreboard.

The Bucs running game hasn’t been much to speak of in recent years.  Can they establish something on Sunday?

Defensively, Tampa Bay is top-notch up front, and has two quality linebackers in Lavonte David and Devin White.  The question becomes: can the young secondary keep Brees in check?

Do you remember…

….the last time these two teams opened the season in the Superdome?  It was two years ago, and the Bucs pulled off a 48-40 upset, with Ryan Fitzpatrick throwing four touchdown passes.  That was arguably the greatest moment of 2018.  Tampa Bay finished 5-11.  They may need to score 48 points to win this opener as well.

The first game of the season is always tough to predict. But the Saints are the defending champs, and you’re going to have to beat them to prove otherwise.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 2020 Season Preview

Let’s get this party started.

I admit: until this week, I really couldn’t get excited about the start of football because of everything that’s going on in the country right now.  But with the first game on tap for tonight, it’s time for me to give my overview of the 2020 season for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Why I’m so excited:

We have some guy named Tom Brady at quarterback, who’s won six Super Bowls.  Heck, the whole offense is loaded.  Brady lured Rob Gronkowski out of retirement.  Throw in Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, and that’s one heck of a passing attack.

The defensive line – best in the NFL against the run last year – remains mostly intact, though Carl Nassib is no longer in Tampa.  Devin White and Lavonte David are solid linebackers.

The Bucs have five primetime games.  Thanks, Brady.  Here in the greater Boston area, you’d expect many of the non-national games are going to be televised around here when they’re not opposite the Patriots playing at home.

What concerns me, for now:

The Bucs haven’t had much of a running game to speak of over the past several years.  Ronald Jones is the starter, according to Bruce Arians.  LeSean McCoy and Leonard Fournette have been added to the mix.  But I want to see an actual running attack before I take this off the list of “concerns.”

Can the offensive line protect Brady, especially Donovan Smith at left tackle?  First-round pick Tristan Wirfs will start the year at right tackle.  Could he move over to protect Brady’s blind side if need be?  Sure.  He played left tackle at Iowa.  But Smith is the one I’m most worried about.

The secondary is very young.  While they showed improvement in the second half of the year – especially after getting rid of Vernon Hargreaves – this is the part of the defense that I think opposing quarterbacks will pick on the most.

The kicking game is ALWAYS a concern.  Matt Gay is out after just one year.  Ryan Succop is now our kicker.  The Bucs always seem to lose about two games a year due to missed field goals or PATs.  Can Succop please find a way to make his kicks?

It’s going to be a fun ride, ladies and gentleman.  The season begins on Sunday with a big one against the Saints.  I’ll preview that matchup in the next couple of days.

Photo courtesy: Associated Press

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

Wow! Gronk Follows Brady to Tampa Bay

So, let me get this straight: not only is Brady a Buccaneer, but so is Gronk.

Wow.

Yes, the Bucs made it official Tuesday night what had been reported earlier in the day: they traded a fourth-round pick in this year’s draft in exchange for former Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski.

Gronk retired from the NFL last year and went on to pursue a career in professional wrestling.  And we all know what a party animal he is.  Well, now he’s un-retiring, and reuniting with the quarterback who’s thrown 90 touchdown passes to him over the years.

Think of Tampa Bay’s offense right now: Brady, Evans, Godwin and now Gronk.  The Buccaneers now have three tight ends when you add Howard and Brate to the equation.  Bruce Arians doesn’t use tight ends much in the passing game.  You’d have to think that’s going to change now.

But at a time when sports are not happening, the Bucs are currently the talk of the sports world.  When was the last time we could say that?

Hopefully they address their needs during the upcoming draft.

Photo courtesy: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

TB12 Is Still TB12

Okay – we have this whole numbers game figured out without any drama.

Tom Brady will still wear No. 12.  And Chris Godwin, who used to wear that number, will now switch to No. 14.  Godwin offered Brady his longtime number, and it goes without saying that TB12 accepted.

I’ve liked Godwin from the beginning, and this classy move makes me like him even more.  When you talk about the Bucs’ receivers, it used to be, “Mike Evans is a stud.”  Now, it’s “What a two-headed monster they have.”

By the way – the Buccaneers teased today that the new uniforms are coming out one week from today – April 7.  The anticipation is building.

Everybody stay safe out there during these challenging times.  It’s rough on all of us, but we will come out of this stronger than ever.  And God bless everyone on the front lines of this pandemic.

Bucs Come Up Big in Atlanta

Think of everything that happened in Tampa Bay’s 35-22 win over the Falcons on Sunday in Atlanta.

Jameis Winston threw two more interceptions, but also three touchdowns.  Two of them went to superstar Chris Godwin.  The other one was caught by Vita Vea.

Vita Vea?

Yes, the guy on the defensive line who weighs 347 pounds reported as an eligible receiver, and caught a 1-yard TD pass.


The Bucs defense played well.  Yes, you read that right.  They had six sacks.  They forced two turnovers, once of which was a fumble returned for a touchdown by Ndamukong Suh.  With the exception of the second play of the game, the secondary did a nice job covering the Falcons’ receivers.  Atlanta was just 4-of-16 on third downs.  Where has this defense been over the past two months or so?

Need more insanity?  Matt Gay missed three extra points (one of them blocked.)  And those misses didn’t come back to haunt the Bucs.

Godwin and Mike Evans are both over 1,000 yards receiving.  Vea is suddenly a touchdown machine.  And Tampa Bay is staying out of the cellar of the NFC South for the time being.

Enjoy Victory Monday, Bucs fans.

Photo courtesy: Tampa Bay Buccaneers