So, If the Bucs End Up With the #1 Pick….

Here’s one thing about this painful-to-watch season for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. They are in the running for the No. 1 overall pick in next year’s draft.

The Bucs are 2-11 right now, and are tied with the Jets, Titans, Jaguars and Raiders for the worst record in the NFL. As of this writing, Tampa Bay would own the top pick due to strength of schedule (or lack thereof.) Anyway, it’s some tiebreaker that could change between now and the end of the regular season.

The Buccaneers need a quarterback – badly. Oregon QB Marcus Mariota, who was named a finalist for the Heisman trophy on Monday night, is the name that keeps popping up. If he is still available whenever Tampa Bay is on the clock, the Bucs need to grab him. But taking Mariota will not solve the problems for an offense that has been painful that has trouble just scoring 20 points in a game.

Mariota won’t do well in Tampa if nobody can protect for him. The offensive line, which was overhauled before the season, needs to be revamped again. As bad as Josh McCown has been this year, I would argue that the guys in charge of protecting the quarterback have been the biggest disappointment in 2014. Players like Evan Dietrich-Smith, Anthony Collins, Oniel Cousins, Demar Dotson have not produced. And Logan Mankins – who was acquired before the season began – has only made headlines when he gets called for holding. They are also partly responsible for the abysmal running game. Tampa Bay is 31st in rushing yards, averaging only 78 yards per game.

So for all the fans (including me) who would love to see Mariota in a Bucs uniform, I say bring it on. But let’s hope Lovie Smith and Jason Licht also draft some guys who can do damage in the trenches.

Photo Courtesy: AP

 

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Bucs Embarrassed in Detroit: No Surprise There

From a Tampa Bay fan’s perspective, there was absolutely nothing about this game that surprised me.

Josh McCown still stinks. The offensive line is still horrible. The Bucs still have no running game. Mike Evans continues to impress despite the lousy outcome. You get the idea. The Buccaneers got blown out by the Lions at Ford Field, 34-17.

“McClown” completed less than half of his passes. He was sacked six times, and that number could’ve very easily been higher. One of his two interceptions came in the end zone (Tampa Bay did get it right back when the Lions fumbled on the return.) A lot of fans including myself would love to see him benched for the remainder of the year, but if it hasn’t happened by now…

The third Bucs turnover came on a bad snap by Evan Dietrich-Smith. Seriously, how many times have we seen that this year?  And this one wasn’t even in a shotgun formation.

Doug Martin only had 22 yards rushing against a very good Detroit rush defense. I mention this, because I saw tweets that Martin did not talk to the media after the game. Not sure if this is true or not, but it bears watching.

233 yards of total offense is not going to get it done. Think of how many times the Bucs have had less than 300 in a game this year.

The defense, after showing some improvement over the past few games, looked like its old self. Yeah, Calvin Johnson is really good.

All in all, this was simply a case of a very good team beating up on a very bad team. It would’ve been nothing short of a miracle if the Bucs had won this game.

Photo Courtesy: buccaneers.com

 

Bucs Implode Against Bears: Can We Please Bench McCown?

I think I share the sentiment of Bucs fans everywhere when I say, why the heck is Josh McCown still quarterbacking this team?

He practically single-handedly gave the Bears the game on a silver platter on Sunday during a second-half implosion that resulted in a 21-13 Chicago win. Sure, there are other problems besides the play of the quarterback. But “McClown”, as we the fans now call him, is the easiest target.

After the Bears had cut the lead to 10-7, McCown coughed up the football on a sack. It was yet another awful display of ball control. One play later, Chicago was ahead.

On the very next possession, McCown threw a pick deep in Tampa Bay territory. Four plays later, the Bucs were looking at an 11-point deficit.

It’s not just McCown who’s drawn my ire. The play-calling at the end of the game left a lot to be desired. Fast-forward to late in the fourth quarter. The Bucs were trailing by eight and facing a 4th and short. The Bucs were not showing any urgency on offense. Yet they rushed up to the line, and McCown ran a quarterback sneak that went nowhere. I double-checked the clock: there was 2:07 remaining when he snapped the ball. Why on earth would you not let seven more seconds tick off the clock, so that you could take some time to discuss the biggest play of the game? Nope, Lovie Smith decided not to do that. Instead, the play call was a sneak behind the awful center known as Evan Dietrich-Smith?

But wait – it gets worse. After the 2:00 timeout, Smith decided to challenge the play, even though it was pretty clear McCown did not pick up the first down. Why is this significant? It cost the Bucs a timeout, meaning they could’ve gotten the ball back with more time than the handful of seconds they ended up with.

Yes, there were other problems that contributed to this loss. But once again, the play of “McClown” is at the top of the list. Can we please put Mike Glennon back in there? McCown has been a disaster, and while Glennon is no superstar, it makes a lot more sense to play the young QB at this point.

If only Lovie would see it that way.

Photo Courtesy: chicagobears.com

 

Bucs’ Midseason Report Card

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

QUARTERBACKS: 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