We all saw this coming, but now it’s official.
Doug Martin’s tenure in Tampa is over. The Bucs released him today after six seasons in red and pewter.
The Buccaneers took Martin in the first round of the 2012 draft. He rushed for over 1400 yards, twice. I will never forget that game in Oakland where he ran wild for about 250 yards and four touchdowns. Heck, he was one of the top running backs in the NFL.
But it’s impossible to ignore how this all ended. There was the second-to-last game of the 2016 season in New Orleans, with the Bucs still in playoff contention, and Martin was inactive. At the time, we thought it was a benching, only to learn later he had been suspended for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. And Martin announced he had entered a drug rehab program.
In 2017, he just wasn’t the same.
This was a move that had to be made. So now what? Well, right now Peyton Barber moves into the lead running back role, pending what the Bucs do in the draft.
Photo Courtesy: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
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
It’s time to get down to business.
One week from today, the Buccaneers kick off the 2017 season against the Dolphins in Miami. Here are some things I’ll be keeping an eye on as the games begin to count:
THE OFFENSE: by all accounts, the Bucs are loaded. Jameis Winston is starting his third year in Tampa Bay, and does he ever have weapons. The names are many: Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson, O.J. Howard, Cameron Brate, Doug Martin (after he finishes serving his suspension.) On that last note, I want to see how they’re going to run the ball in Martin’s absence. It appears Jacquizz Rogers will be the featured back, along with Charles Sims (who I’m not a big fan of.)
Here are two things to look for: can Winston cut down on his mistakes? And perhaps an even bigger question: can this team finish off drives with touchdowns? It’s one thing to move the ball at will down the field, but if you can’t finish it off with six, that’s disappointing.
THE DEFENSE: this is the group I’m most concerned about. I know what you’re thinking – ‘well, they looked great during the preseason.’ The key word there is the last one. This is a unit that gave up a lot of big plays last year, especially in the passing game. The Buccaneers play in a loaded NFC South – with quarterbacks named Ryan, Brees and Newton. The tackling has to be better. The secondary has to be a lot better than it was in 2016. I think the Bucs are going to score a lot of points, but I can also see them giving up a lot as well. We’ll see.
SPECIAL TEAMS: the kicking game was solved during the preseason. Nick Folk is the guy now. Roberto Aguayo was cut, and is now unemployed. He signed on with the Bears, but they let him go, too. Given all of the issues in the kicking game last season, Folk will be under intense scrutiny, and will surely hear about it when he misses a kick.
It’s playoffs or bust for the Bucs. They went 9-7 last year and missed the postseason by one game. There’s only way 2017 will be considered a success is if Dirk Koetter’s guys are still playing football come January.
Until then, it’s on to Miami for the season opener….
Photo courtesy: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Here are some random thoughts on the Buccaneers’ 12-8 victory over the Jaguars in the second preseason game.
The offense looks really, really good…..for the most part. Jameis Winston sizzled in the first half, completing 21 of 29 passes and showing his ability to push the ball downfield. Of course, there was that awful pass he threw while falling down, that ended up getting picked off in the end zone. Although the INT was nullified because the refs ruled Winston was down, we can’t have Winston making too many more dumb plays like that.
Doug Martin is making a strong case that he should still be in Tampa when he returns from his suspension.
Mike Evans continues to shine, although he let a sure touchdown go right through his hands. I was also impressed with rookie tight end O.J. Howard.
The defense also looked strong, stifling the Jacksonville attack for much of the time the regulars were in there. This unit gave up a lot of big plays last year, and the secondary would’ve been burned for another TD in this contest by Allen Robinson if he had someone other than Blake Bortles as his quarterback.
Nick Folk is the guy now in the kicking game. He made 2 field goals. But he also missed one, and had one blocked. Why can’t we get someone who can make a kick?
The next preseason game is against the Browns at Ray-Jay this weekend. If you watch any exhibition game, make it this one. The third game is considered the dress rehearsal.
Photo courtesy: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
After watching Tuesday night’s premiere of “Hard Knocks” on HBO featuring the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, I can’t wait for the rest of the season.
It was great to see the Bucs’ training camp through the lenses of NFL Films. Those people do an outstanding job during football season every year. There were the tense moments, like Dirk Koetter chewing out Jameis Winston after throwing a pick. Then, there were the personal, family stories of players like Winston and Gerald McCoy.
And then, there were the lighter moments. I got a chuckle out of Winston answering the question about whether he wanted extra Marriott points if he didn’t let housekeeping into the room. And then there were the rookies singing in front of the rest of the crowd. Chris Godwin, Riley Bullough, Antony Auclair – my goodness. And poor Maurice Fleming and Justin Evans – getting run off stage, with Doug Martin serving as a Gong Show host of sorts.
It looks like next week’s episode will focus, in part, on the kicking battle between Roberto Aguayo and Nick Folk. It will likely also include great shots from the preseason opener in Cincinnati. I don’t know how the rest of the football universe is enjoying Hard Knocks so far, but I definitely am.
Photo courtesy: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Buccaneers’ season has been over for a week now, so it’s time form some final thoughts on the 2016 team. Arguably, I should’ve done this several days ago, but a new work schedule has something to do with that.
Dirk Koetter was promoted to head coach from offensive coordinator during the offseason. He finished his first season with a 9-7 record, the first Bucs team to have a winning season since 2010. I like the fact that he will always tell you exactly how he feels. He did make some questionable decisions in some games, and the Bucs had a knack for burning timeouts early in games, though that seemed to improve as the season went on.
Second-year QB Jameis Winston had a good season as a whole. He threw for over 4,000 yards and 28 touchdowns. He also had 18 INT’s, including six in the final three games. The Bucs had to win two of those three to get into the playoffs, but were only victorious in the finale against the Panthers. He made a lot of plays that make you say ‘wow’ – both good and bad.
The running game was a disappointment. First, you had Doug Martin. He started off slow, got hurt, came back, but never was the same. Then he was benched (or so we thought at the time) in the critical second-to-last game against New Orleans. A few days later, he revealed he had been suspended for violating the league’s drug’s policy, and would be seeking treatment for addiction. Jacquizz Rodgers did look promising when he was in there, however, averaging 4.3 yards a carry. The play of the offensive line didn’t help the running game, either.
Defensively, I’d call it a mixed bag. When Tampa Bay won five in a row to get into playoff contention, the defense looked like it was among the best in the league. But those five games aside, they gave up too many big plays in the passing game, which is one of the things that cost Lovie Smith his job. The Bucs ranked 23rd in the league in total defense, which is based on total yards allowed. That’s not good enough to become a playoff contender. I didn’t hear Lavonte David’s name nearly enough this year. One of his few shining moments came in San Diego: a pick-six that helped in the win over the Chargers.
And how can I not talk about the rookie kicker, Roberto Aguayo. He was an adventure every time he came out on the field. He made just 71% of his field goals (22-for-31) and missed two extra points. There was a stretch late in the season where he made nine straight FG’s, but then his last two in the final game were a miss, and a block. He did not have any competition for his job in 2016. That will definitely change next season.
So how did I feel about the season overall? I was pleased. The Bucs have gone from 2-14, to 6-10, to 9-7 in the past three years. There were the impressive victories over the Chiefs and Seahawks, and the ugly defeat against the Rams in the home opener.
But it’s always nice when they win the game that I fly down to see in person. Next year’s goal: playoffs or bust.
Photo courtesy: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
So now we know the deal with Doug Martin – why he was surprisingly inactive for the Saints game, and in turn the finale against Carolina this weekend.
Martin released a statement late this afternoon, saying he’s been suspended four games for violating the league’s drug policy. Not only that, he’s entering rehab for it. Martin’s suspension starts with Sunday’s game against the Panthers, then he will have to sit out the first three games of 2017. What happens to him after that remains uncertain.
Wow. I didn’t see this coming.
Martin was the league’s second-leading rusher last year, but this season has been a disappointment. He missed a bunch of games due to injury, and when he has been on the field, he just hasn’t been the same.
Photo Courtesy: Tampa Bay Times