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

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A Most Improbable Victory!

Well, where do we begin to dissect this one?

There is so much that happened in this wacky game.  But for now, let’s focus on the guy who, in the words of Gene Deckerhoff, puts “toe to leather”: Chandler Catanzaro.

For the second game in a row, he missed an extra point that came back to haunt the Bucs.  Then, with the game tied, he had a chance to it with a 40-yarder at the end of regulation.  Nope – wide right.

Fast-forward to late in overtime.  There was Catanzaro, sent back on to the field with less than two minutes remaining in OT.  It was a 59-yard attempt.  The ball starts out heading toward the right upright, then curves back in.  And it had the distance.

Ballgame.  My goodness.

Remember when the Bucs had Matt Bryant?  Sure – that guy was money.  Every other kicker Tampa Bay has had, with the exception of a brief flash of brilliance from Connor Barth, had been terrible.  Was this remarkable kick in overtime enough to save his job?  Stay tuned.

Photo courtesy: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

 

The Bucs Finally Make Mike Smith Walk the Plank

It’s about time this happened.  But what took them so long?

 

On Monday, the Buccaneers announced the news that I and every other Bucs fan have been waiting to hear: Mike Smith is out as the defensive coordinator.

 

Under Smith, Tampa Bay had the worst defense last year, and so far, the worst defense this year.  The Bucs have given up 30 or more points in four of their five games.  Remember that fantastic win over the Saints in the season opener?  Yes, I do.  It’s easy to overlook at Smith’s defense still allowed 40 points.  This, even though the team supposedly upgraded the defensive side of the ball during the offseason.

 

This move should’ve been made a long time ago – as in, say, nine months or so ago.  But the Bucs finally pulled the trigger.

 

So now what?  Linebackers’ coach Mark Duffner will take over as defensive coordinator in the interim.

 

How this plays out over the next eleven weeks remains to be seen.  We’d all be shocked if this defense pitches a shutout against an improved Cleveland team on Sunday.  But finally, the Bucs have rid themselves of the guy responsible for the biggest weakness on this team.

Some Thoughts on the Bucs’ Schedule

The Buccaneers’ 2018 schedule is now out.  Now it’s time to dissect it, decide which games are most winnable, and for out-of-town fans like me, think about which game to head south to see.

 

My first thought after taking a look at this: ouch!  What a tough five-game stretch to open with.  The Bucs face four playoff teams, starting with the division champion Saints in the Superdome, followed by the Super Bowl champion Eagles in the home opener.  Then, they get the Steelers on a Monday night.  How does a Bucs’ team that went 5-11 last season end up on MNF?  Oh, that’s right, they’re playing the Steelers, which will give the idiots at BSPN something to crow about while at the same time dissing Jameis Winston, even if Winston gets off to a good start.

 

Tampa Bay goes to Chicago in September.  It sure beats December.  But Baltimore in mid-December could be interesting to say the least.

 

There is a stretch of three straight home games in late November/early December.  And wouldn’t it be interesting if the finale against the dirty birds from Atlanta is meaningful?  One can dream, anyway.

 

Here’s the schedule:

 

Sept. 9 — @ New Orleans

Sep. 16 — PHILADELPHIA

Sept. 24 — PITTSBURGH (Monday)

Sept. 30 — @ Chicago

BYE WEEK

Oct. 14 — @ Atlanta

Oct. 21 – CLEVELAND

Oct. 28 — @ Cincinnati

Nov. 4 — @ Carolina

Nov. 11 – WASHINGTON

Nov. 18 @ NY Giants

Nov. 25 – SAN FRANCISCO

Dec. 2 – CAROLINA

Dec. 9 – NEW ORLEANS

Dec. 16 — @ Baltimore

Dec. 23 — @ Dallas

Dec. 30 – ATLANTA

Can Murray Rescue the Bucs’ Kicking Game?

And the winner of the Buccaneers’ kicking sweepstakes is: a former Tampa Bay kicker.

 

Patrick Murray is back.  The Bucs signed him today, and fans hope he can make us forget about Nick Folk and Roberto Aguayo.

 

You remember this guy, right?  Sure, you do.  He was the Bucs’ kicker three years ago.  And he was pretty good.  He made 20-of-24 field goals, and connected on all of his extra points (keeping in mind PAT’s were much shorter back then.)

 

Why did the Bucs get rid of him?  He was injured for most of 2015, and they let him go.  Cleveland picked up him, but he got hurt again after just two games last year.

 

All I want is for Murray to kick the ball through the uprights on a regular basis.  Doing that would ease the nerves of fans like me nervous every time the Buccaneers line up for a field goal or an extra point.

 

That’s all, Folk.

 

So, About That Bucs’ Dress Rehearsal…

The third preseason game is normally the one when most of the starters play well into the second half.  For this reason, it is considered a ‘dress rehearsal’ of sorts to get ready for the season.

 

But Saturday night at Ray-Jay, several key Buccaneers didn’t see any action: Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson, Gerald McCoy and Kwon Alexander, just to name a handful.  Tampa Bay lost to Cleveland, 13-9, and if you look at some of the fan posts on the Bucs’ official Facebook page, you’d think the sky is falling.

 

Please.

 

This is why preseason games are so hard to judge, and why many people would argue they’re pointless.  With so many of your important players on the sidelines, it’s hard to say, “well, this would’ve happened….” if those players were on the field.  And if you really want another meaningless game, I present the preseason finale against Washington on Thursday night as Exhibit A.

 

If there was something to take away from this game, it was the Bucs’ inability to finish off drives in the red zone – again.  Three field goals just won’t cut it two weeks from now in Miami.

 

Just get me through to the season opener at Hard Rock Stadium on September 10th.

 

Photo courtesy: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Good and Bad From the Bucs/Browns Game

As dress rehearsals go, that was pretty darn good. I think we can all breathe a sigh of relief, at least for now.

The Buccaneers excelled in their third preseason game against the Browns on Friday night, winning 30-13 at Ray-Jay.

The offense didn’t just move the ball; they pushed it down the field. Jameis Winston threw for 259 yards and two TD’s while he was in there. Mike Evans went over the century mark.

The running game struggled a bit. I’m hoping that won’t be the case two weeks from now. Doug Martin and Charles Sims can be quite the tandem if they both stay healthy and be productive.

The defense had eight sacks, including putting Robert Griffin III on his back five times. Is it plausible that the Bucs could actually have a fierce pass rush this season? That would be a nice change of pace. It was a rough night, however, for cornerback Brent Grimes, who got burned twice by Josh Gordon.

But perhaps the biggest reason to exhale was the play of the special teams. Roberto Aguayo – who’s taken a lot of heat to the extent that he was getting booed during training camp – was perfect. Six kicks – three field goals and three PAT’s – and he made them all. Praise the Lord. And his performance may have overshadowed that awesome punt return for a touchdown by Adam Humphries. I mean, how often do we see a Buccaneer return a kick of any kind to the house?

It hasn’t happened too often over the years, my friends.

Overall, there was a lot more good than bad in this game. The last preseason game is generally the most meaningless of them all, but we’ll see what develops. Only two weeks to go until Tampa Bay kicks things off for real in the Dome in Atlanta.

Photo Courtesy: Getty Images