Bucs Fans: Stop Panicking (For Now)

Relax, everyone. Just relax.

 

What happened to the Buccaneers on Monday happens to every team in every sport at some point: players jumping ship for more money to play elsewhere.

 

For those who haven’t heard the news, here are the big headlines: Kwon Alexander struck gold in San Francisco. DeSean Jackson is going back to Philadelphia. And Adam Humphries is trading in red and pewter for Titan Blue.

 

Judging by my social media feeds, you’d think the world is about to end. Well, D-Jax turned back into a crybaby when he stopped getting the ball thrown to him. People loved Kwon’s passion but I read today that he missed a lot of tackles – a big problem for this defense over the past couple of years. Humphries is the loss that hurts me the most. Here’s a guy coming off a career year. But hey – money talks, and Tennessee offered more than Tampa. End of story.

 

Everyone is replaceable, ladies and gentlemen. Let’s see who the Bucs get in the draft, and more importantly, what Bruce Arians does with the players they acquire.

 

Photo courtesy: USA Today

Some Final Thoughts on the 2018 Bucs

 

As we say goodbye to 2018, it’s time to reflect on the Buccaneers season that ended with a last-place finish, and the firing of Dirk Koetter as head coach.

 

BEST MOMENTS: the first two games against the Saints and Eagles, both won by the Bucs.  Nobody outside of us diehard fans thought they win a shootout in the Superdome, then beat the defending champs in the home opener, both with Jameis Winston suspended for the first three games.

 

WORST MOMENT: things started going downhill with the blowout loss to the Bears in Chicago, followed by another defeat in Atlanta after the bye week.  It was only then that the Bucs decided to fire Mike Smith as defensive coordinator.  Smith should’ve been let go before the season began, much less five games in. With Smith at the helm, his defense allowed at least 30 points in four of the first five games.

 

BEST OFFSEASON ACQUISTION: Jason Pierre-Paul.  What a steal this guy was.  He had 12.5 sacks on a team that, last year, hardly got any pressure on the quarterback. 

 

BIGGEST DRAFT DISAPPOINTMENT: Ronald Jones.  The Bucs drafted him in the second round.  He gained a grand total of 44 yards rushing.  He didn’t even play in more than half of the games, and not all of those were due to injury.  The Bucs clearly were not happy with him from the start of training camp, hence the lack of playing time.

 

GOOD RIDDANCE AWARD: DeSean Jackson.  He made it clear he wants out.  I say, get out of town.  This whiner was unhappy that Winston wasn’t getting him the ball.  He pulled off similar antics when he played for Philadelphia and Washington.

 

BIGGEST QUESTION MARK GOING FORWARD: Jameis Winston.  General Manager Jason Licht has made it clear that Winston will return in 2019.  We saw a lot of good Jameis, and a lot of bad Jameis: 19 TD passes, 14 INT’s and three lost fumbles.

 

INTERESTING FACT: on December 2nd, I saw the Bucs beat the Panthers at Ray-Jay.  That was the last time Tampa Bay tasted victory. 

 

Sure, there are other good and bad moments, but these are the ones that come to mind at first.  I wish all of you a Happy New Year, and go Bucs.

 

Winning vs. Tanking For the Bucs

So yet again, the Buccaneers are playing out the string at the end of a season.  They will miss the playoffs for the 11th straight year.

 

This brings up the debate that I always see: should the team just keep losing to get a better draft pick, or try to (gasp) win these last two games for a sense of pride?

 

Look – it’s pretty much a given that Dirk Koetter will be fired at the end of the season.  GM Jason Licht may walk the plank with him.  Then there’s the future of Jameis Winston.  And today brought the news that DeSean Jackson sold his house in Tampa.  All of that said, will a couple of losses – and moving a couple of spots in next year’s draft – really have that much of a difference?

 

I say no.  I want to see wins.

 

I’m a diehard fan of this team.  I have been for over 30 years.  I want them to win every single week.  Nearly three weeks ago, I was at Ray-Jay to see Tampa Bay beat Carolina.  The Bucs haven’t won another game since.  They’ll be in Dallas on Sunday, then host Atlanta (another disappointing team) in the finale.  It’s a losing season no matter what.  But I’d rather have 7-9 instead of 5-11. 

 

So, my message to the Bucs is this: don’t just roll over and play dead in AT&T Stadium on Sunday.  There are fans who want you to ‘tank.’  I’m not one of them.  There will be plenty of time to talk about the future direction of this team.  That can wait.  Until then, a chance to play ‘spoiler’ against the Cowboys awaits.

 

Photo courtesy: USA Today

 

Buccaneers Midseason Report Card

We’re halfway through the 2018 season, and the Buccaneers sit at 3-5, in the cellar of the NFC South.  So, it’s time to hand out some midseason grades.

 

DEFENSE: F

I’m starting here, because this is the no-brainer.  What other grade can I possibly give a unit that’s giving up 34 points a game, can’t cover, can’t tackle, can’t take the ball away, etc.  This was the worst defense in the league last year.  There has been no improvement, with the exception of Jason Pierre-Paul, who has eight sacks.  Mike Smith got canned, and he may just the first person to lose his job over this pathetic unit.

 

OFFENSE: B-

Here’s the crazy thing about this team.  As bad as the defense is, they’re ranked second in the NFL in terms of total yards per game, and they’re averaging 28 points a game.  And yet, they’re doing almost all of it through the air – no running game to speak of.  Why isn’t this grade higher?  Oh, those turnovers…all 21 of them.  The Bucs are -15 in turnover ratio.  If they’re going to make a second-half run, the mistakes need to go down dramatically.

 

COACHING: D

I mentioned Mike Smith finally getting canned for his awful defense.  But geez, doesn’t Dirk Koetter deserve some of the blame for his team’s performance?  You’d better believe he does.  Tampa Bay is one of the ten most-penalized teams in the league.  A lot of that is attributed to coaching.  And what kind of coach calls for a fake punt from deep his own territory, trailing by 21 points?  If the Bucs don’t get hot down the stretch, it’s adios, Dirk.

 

SPECIAL TEAMS: C-

Chandler Catanzaro has missed four extra points this season.  That’s four too many.  He’s 10-of-12 on field goal attempts, which actually isn’t that bad, but it just feels that way.  Remember how shocked we all were when he hit from 59 yards out to beat the Browns in overtime?  As for punt returns, why isn’t DeSean Jackson getting more touches?  He’s an explosive player.  Remember that punt return for a TD against Pittsburgh that was called back?  Yes, I know it didn’t count, but this guy has the knack to make big plays on special teams, and I don’t understand why he’s not getting more touches.

 

The Bucs face the Redskins on Sunday at Ray-Jay.

 

Photo courtesy: USA Today

(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.

A Fitz-Magical Season Opener For the Bucs

One of the big questions coming into this season was: how would the Buccaneers start out with Jameis Winston suspended for the first three games?

 

Wow.  Just wow.

 

Enter Mr. Fitzpatrick.  He was unbelievable in Sunday’s 48-40 stunner over the Saints in the Superdome.  How amazing was Fitz?  He was 21-28 for 417 yards and four touchdowns.  He also ran for a score.  And, he made arguably the biggest play of the game by running for a first down late in the fourth quarter to help the Bucs run out the clock.

 

Remember last year how Winston couldn’t connect with DeSean Jackson on the deep ball?  Fitzpatrick had no problem.  The two connected for two long touchdowns.  Fitz also hit Mike Evans for a deep score.  We didn’t see much of that last year.  Evans and Jackson combined for almost 300 receiving yards in this one.

 

It’s worth mentioning that offensive coordinator Todd Monken – who called the plays during the preseason – was calling the shots in the opener.  Dear coach Koetter: please keep it this way.

 

This was not a perfect game by any means.  Mike Smith’s defense is still a sieve, allowing 40 points to Drew Brees and company.  The pass rush – even with all those off-season acquisitions – only had one sack.  The secondary had its struggles.  They did force two turnovers, including a fumble return for a TD, but Smith is lucky the offense bailed him out.

 

But this was all about “Fitz-Magic.”  I said it before, and will say it again: what if the Bucs win 2 out of 3 without Winston?  Well, they’ve got the first one.

 

Photo Courtesy: Associated Press

 

The Good – and Bad – From the Bucs’ Second Preseason Game

Here are some quick thoughts on the Bucs’ preseason victory over the Titans Saturday night.

 

On the plus side, the headline is Jameis Winston.  He played the entire second quarter, and was sizzling.  He even showed an ability to connect on the deep ball, something that was sorely missing last year.  He is still making a couple of “what the heck were you thinking?” throws, but overall there was more good than bad in Nashville.

 

Staying with the passing game, the Buccaneers appear to have a formidable group of wide receivers.  Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson, Chris Godwin, etc. all look strong in the early going.

Chandler Catanzaro was perfect on all of his kicks.  Amen.

 

Now for the negative: the penalties, oh those penalties.  Tampa Bay was sloppy in this department, and many of the flags were thrown while the first-teamers were on the field.  Hey coach: clean this up immediately.

 

After playing well against Miami, Ryan Fitzpatrick was…well, “meh.”  Lest we forget….he’s the starter for the first three games.

 

For all the hype surrounding the revamped defense, they didn’t put much pressure on the quarterback.  They also missed some tackles.  Sound familiar?

 

If you watch any preseason game, watch the next one against the Lions on Friday night.  The third game is the so-called “dress rehearsal” in which the starters play the longest.  Stay tuned.

 

Photo courtesy: Tampa Bay Buccaneers