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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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
If you’re like me, you’re still trying to comprehend how the Buccaneers beat the Saints in the season finale.
Jameis Winston threw three more interceptions, including a horrendous one into triple coverage. The Bucs gave up a 100+ yard kickoff return for the second week in a row (but scored their own special teams touchdown in the fourth quarter.) A missed extra point by Patrick Murray was looming large. There’s no way Winston would drive his team 95 yards in the final two minutes.
Oh, but he did. Yes, the recent turnover machine hit Chris Godwin on a deep ball with nine seconds left in the contest to win it. And before all of the Saints fans in attendance could wipe away their tears of disbelief, they found out they’d won the NFC South anyway, because Carolina choked against Atlanta.
This Godwin kid is pretty good, the more I see of him. He’s made some acrobatic catches, and with the disappointing season turned in by Desean Jackson, Godwin could be the number-two receiver on next year’s team.
Was this game perfect? Of course not. I mentioned the interceptions and the kickoff returns. Mike Smith’s defense is still a sieve. The lack of a pass rush was a problem all year, though they did sack Drew Brees twice.
But it was nice to finally win a game. I’d much rather see them win than intentionally lose to improve their draft pick order. Heck, this team needs help just about everywhere, so any decent player will do at this point.
Coming on Monday: my ‘year in review.’ As you might expect, with a 5-11 season, it won’t be pretty. But tonight is a night to be joyous, because the boys in Pewter finally won another game. Happy New Year, and good night.
Photo Courtesy: Tampa Bay Times
There are many reasons why the Buccaneers lost to the Super Bowl champion Patriots on Thursday night, 19-14. Let me count the ways:
The kicking game still stinks. This is the most glaring problem, but as you’ll see, hardly the only one. Why can’t we get a kicker who can consistently kick the ball through the uprights? Nick Folk missed three more field goal attempts. That’s six missed kicks in less than a week, covering two games. And these were bad misses – not even close to being good. One of them was a 56-yarder that would’ve been no good from 26. I am stunned that he is still on the roster after his performance. Can we turn the clock back and bring Matt Bryant back to Tampa?
Jameis Winston is too inconsistent. Ignore his final numbers, which show he threw for over 300 yards. He continues to throw into double coverage. He’s missing open receivers. He can’t consistently throw the deep ball very well. Remember that play where DeSean Jackson was open down the sideline? Jackson can’t be a factor downfield if Winston doesn’t get him the ball.
The play-calling was pathetic at times. Doug Martin was running wild through the Pats’ defense in the first half. So why did Koetter basically abandon the running game in the second? Fast-forward to the fourth quarter, after the Bucs cut the lead to two with just over two minutes remaining. The Bucs went for the onside kick, which was unsuccessful. New England converted it into three points. Why the onside kick? They had one timeout left plus the two-minute warning. They could’ve kicked it deep, gotten a touchback, meaning no time would come off the clock. They could’ve stopped New England, and gotten the ball with about a minute left – in much better field position – and only needing a field goal to win the game (and heck, maybe Folk would’ve made one for a change.)
All the talk up here in New England is about the Pats much-maligned defense bouncing back. Okay, I’ll buy that. But this is a Bucs’ blog, so you get the Bucs’ perspective on the game. Tampa Bay held a Tom Brady-led team to under 20 points. The game was there for the taking, and the Buccaneers didn’t grab it.
Photo courtesy: Getty Images
If you were worried about any rust from the Buccaneers’ season being delayed by a week, worry no more. Tampa Bay dominated the bumbling Chicago Bears at Ray-Jay on Sunday, 29-7.
You don’t have to look far to find the story of this one. The Bears were sloppy, and the Bucs made them pay. Tampa Bay’s first TD came one play after Chicago fumbled while deciding to scoop up a punt. A Mike Glennon (remember him?) fumble led to another touchdown. And the icing on the cake, if you will, was Robert McClain picking off Glennon, and running it back for a “pick six.”
And that was all in the first half.
Mike Evans is poised for a gigantic year. He caught his first TD pass of the season following the fumbled punt return, and finished with 93 yards on the day. The addition of DeSean Jackson is huge. Even though D-Jax only had 3 catches, his presence allows for a lot of 1-on-1 coverage for both receivers, and Evans is already reaping the benefits.
Jacquizz Rodgers had a decent day that included a 1-yard touchdown run. Speaking of the running game, can we please get rid of Charles Sims? He’s terrible, and I’ve been saying that for a while.
So, what about Jameis Winston? I’ll call his day ‘efficient.’ He did have the nice TD to Evans, and he didn’t throw a pick. But he still needs some work on the deep ball. There were several times where he missed an open receiver on a long ball.
For the defense, it was all about the turnovers. Good thing, because Glennon was finding open receivers, and had a number of dropped passes. But if you can take the ball way, who cares?
Nick Folk made all 3 of his field goal attempts. But he missed an extra point. Oh, Roberto Aguayo, where are you? That’s right – he’s unemployed. He could’ve been on the field for this one, but he didn’t make the Bears’ roster after the Bucs let him go.
It’s great to win the opener. It gives us fans hope that this season will be special. Next week: the Bucs head to Minnesota to play the Vikings.
Photo courtesy: Tampa Bay Buccaneers