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
Well, that was worth staying up late for a Bucs’ game that was actually on TV.
This was a game that neither team seemed to want. But in the end, there was beleaguered kicker Roberto Aguayo, who had already missed two kicks earlier in the game, standing out there on the field with :03 left on the clock and the outcome resting on his right foot.
And wouldn’t you know – he nailed it.
The Bucs picked up an important win over a division rival, beating the Panthers, 17-14.
There is so much to dissect. Just look at the last drive alone. Dirk Koetter’s play-calling continues to bewilder me. The Bucs got the ball back with just under 2:00 remaining, and Koetter called two straight running plays, the second of which resulted in the running back going out of bounds, allowing Carolina to save a timeout. Then on the 3rd down, the Bucs threw it to pick up a first down, and suddenly they’re not just trying to milk the clock anymore. They marched down the field, and caught a break when the Panthers were called for a personal foul facemask. They caught another break when the refs said Vincent Jackson went out of bounds after making a catch, when the replay showed otherwise. That stopped the clock when it otherwise would’ve kept running. It all resulted in Aguayo’s redemption kick – right down the middle – that set off a late-night celebration in my apartment.
Don’t worry – I kept it down. There are a lot of older people in my building who likely went to bed after Big Papi’s career earlier in the night.
All I heard about going into this game was Carolina not having Cam Newton and running back Jonathan Stewart. Well, the Bucs didn’t have running back Doug Martin, and were without three-quarters of their starting defensive front: Gerald McCoy, Clinton McDonald and Robert Ayers.
Derek Anderson had beaten the Bucs twice before. It looked like he might do it again, but he made a critical mistake when Brent Grimes picked him off in the end zone late in the fourth quarter, one of four Tampa Bay takeaways.
As I said, this game was far from perfect. Jameis Winston is still making too many dumb decisions. Aguayo gives me a heart attack every time he steps on the field. You’d think the Buccaneers would decide to cover Greg Olsen every now and then. They’re still committing too many costly penalties and crucial times – whether it’s a 3rd and short situation, or the other team is punting it away and they decide it’s a good idea to knock the punter down to the ground right after he kicks it.
I mentioned Koetter’s play-calling at the end. What about that 3rd down call in the fourth quarter – a running play? The next play: Aguayo – wide left.
One thing that was great to see was the performance of Jacquizz Rogers, who rushed for over 100 yards, much of it in the first half. The Buccaneers put Charles Sims on IR earlier in the day (he’s been lousy anyway) so it was nice to have a running game in the absence of Doug Martin.
The Bucs are now 2-3, with both wins coming on the road against division opponents. They have their bye week next week, which gives them a chance to get healthy. Thank goodness.
Photo Courtesy: buccaneers.com
Now that the Buccaneers have reached the midway point of the 2014 season, it’s time for a midterm report card. As you might expect, there are more bad grades than good ones on a team that’s 1-7. I’m not going to grade each and every player, because that would take forever.
LOVIE SMITH AND JASON LICHT: F
When the Bucs hired Smith almost immediately after firing Greg Schiano, there was a sense of hope among Tampa Bay fans, a sense that things would start to turn around. There was hope that Smith’s defense would be as fierce as what we saw in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. Licht and Smith brought in a ton of free agents on defense (while letting Darrelle Revis go.) They spent their entire 2014 draft on upgrading the offense. Eight games into the season, the Bucs are second from the bottom in both total offense and defense. Some of the pundits predicted the Bucs could be a sleeper team for the playoffs. I was just hoping for some improvement. It hasn’t happened. We should’ve known something was up when they dropped their first two games at home to backup quarterbacks. Even coming off a 4-12 year, the Bucs have been a major disappointment in my opinion.
OFFENSE – OVERALL GRADE: D
The Bucs started the season with Josh McCown as the starting quarterback. In 2 ½ games, he threw two touchdowns, four interceptions, and put the ball on the turf a number of times. He’s been sidelined with an injured thumb suffered during the Thursday night debacle in Atlanta.
Enter Mike Glennon. He’s completed 57% of his passes so far. At times, he’s looked OK. Other times, like Sunday in Cleveland, he looked terrible. Now, he’s in danger of losing his job back to McCown. While the quarterback position is hardly the only problem on this team, it should be priority #1 in next year’s draft.
OFFENSIVE LINE: F
This group has also been a big disappointment. Remember back to just before the season began, when Tampa Bay acquired pro bowl guard Logan Mankins from the Patriots? That hasn’t helped a unit that has struggled in both the running game and pass protection. Left tackle Anthony Collins and center Evan Dietrich-Smith have not played well at all. The line has given up 21 sacks through the first eight games, and that doesn’t count all of the times the quarterback has been running for his life. It’s worth noting that Smith and Licht also overhauled this unit from last year as well.
MIKE EVANS: B
He was the Bucs’ first-round draft pick this year, and we’ve gotten a glimpse of what he can do. While he hasn’t been perfect, he leads the receivers in yards (460) and touchdowns (4) and is tied with Vincent Jackson for the team lead in receptions. He has the potential to be a star down the road, no question about it.
DEFENSE – OVERALL GRADE: D-
Let’s think back to the defensive players Smith brought in: Michael Johnson, Alterraun Verner and Clinton McDonald come to mind. Have any of them made an impact? I don’t think so. I hadn’t heard Verner’s name much at all until Sunday, when he was beaten soundly for the winning touchdown in Cleveland. This is the guy who supposedly has to fill Revis’ shoes in the secondary. As mentioned early, Tampa Bay is 31st in the league in total defense behind only Atlanta. They’ve given up the third most points; only Jacksonville and the Jets are worse. They’re near the bottom of the league in sacks. And turnovers – something Smith prides himself on – have not come as often as the fans would like. Oh, and former first-round pick Mark Barron is now with the Rams.
GERALD MCCOY: B+
I’m giving McCoy a grade, because he’s one of the leaders of this defense, and recently signed a 7-year, $98 million contract. He has been one of the few bright spots on defense. His five sacks lead the team. And this guy was playing with an injured hand for a few games.
LAVONTE DAVID: A
You mean there’s a player on a 1-7 team that deserves such a grade? Like McCoy, David is a leader on defense. He leads the team in tackles. This guy is everywhere on the field. I look forward to watching #54 in person when I travel to Ray-Jay this weekend to see the Bucs play the Falcons.
SPECIAL TEAMS: D
Rookie kicker Patrick Murray has been so-so this year. He is 8-of-12 on field goals. He’s had two kicks blocked, one of them coming in the most recent loss to the Browns. The mistakes on special teams on Sunday actually caused me to lower this grade from a C to a D.
Photo Courtesy: AP
Here are some thoughts on the Buccaneers’ 27-14 victory over the Bills in their third preseason game.
OFFENSE KEEPS IMPROVING
This unit keeps getting better. After a sloppy start, the offense rebounded for a more-than-respectable first half. Josh McCown had his best performance of the preseason: 13-16, 112 yards and a 24-yard touchdown pass to rookie Mike Evans. Unlike last week, Evans hung onto the ball this time. Doug Martin also found the end zone from one yard out. McCown also led an 82-yard scoring drive, something else the team had been lacking until now. The Bucs scored 24 points in the first half. Let that sink in for a moment.
DEFENSE DOMINANT AGAIN
The defense was stingy once again, holding Buffalo to just 82 yards in the first half. But for first time this preseason, we saw their ability to create turnovers: three of them in fact. Clinton McDonald returned a fumble for a touchdown. Dashon Goldson picked off E.J. Manuel. Lavonte David forced a fumble which set up Martin’s TD run. You know Lovie Smith, who prides himself on forcing takeaways, was pleased with the effort.
The Bucs wrap up the preseason on Thursday night against the Washington Redskins.
Photo courtesy: AP
What a week it has been for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. That’s not much of a surprising statement, given that the start of free agency always results in a lot of activity around the league. But I wasn’t expecting it to be quite like this.
It all started even before free agency began, when word leaked out that the Bucs were shopping Darrelle Revis. He ended up signing with New England. One year and $16 million later, he’s out of Tampa. That didn’t take long.
So who’s new? They picked up cornerback Alterraun Verner from Tennessee, and defensive end Michael Johnson from Cincinnati. Verner had five picks for the Titans last season. And two years ago, Johnson had 11 1/2 sacks for the Bengals. Throw in former Seattle defensive tackle Clinton McDonald, and it’s clear Lovie Smith and Jason Licht are overhauling just about everything on the defensive side of the ball. A few extra sacks this season would be a nice return on this investment.
There is also a change on the offensive line. Donald Penn is gone, and Anthony Collins is now a Buc. Like Johnson, Collins spent the past few years in Cincinnati.
But the biggest surprise may have come at the quarterback position. Josh McCown signed a two-year, $10 million contract. Signing a QB may not be a shocker. What is surprising, is that Lovie Smith has pretty much named McCown the starter already. So there won’t even be any competition with Mike Glennon? Will the Bucs draft a rookie QB in the draft? Who knows if we’ve heard the last of this quarterback situation.
Photo Courtesy: tbo.com