Here are some quick takeaways from the Bucs’ 27-21 victory over the Jaguars in the second preseason game.
First-round draft pick Vernon Hargreaves III was impressive, intercepting two passes. Granted, neither one came against Jacksonville’s first-team offense, but it was good to see that from a rookie.
Tampa Bay won the game. Who cares if it’s preseason; it’s nice to see the Buccaneers in the win column, though I’ve said many times that you should ignore the final score during these silly games.
It was another sluggish start for the first-teamers, both offensively and defensively. Jameis Winston missed his first six passes and was picked off. He did throw a TD pass to Mike Evans. He finished just 3-of-10.
The defense made Blake Bortles look great. When the starters for both teams were on the field, Jacksonville was the better team.
Roberto Aguayo missed two field goals. Remember: the Bucs used a second-round pick on this guy. Can you imagine the reaction from the fans when he starts pushing – or shanking – kicks once the games count?
Again, it’s only preseason. We didn’t see Doug Martin or Gerald McCoy. Hopefully we’ll see them in the so-called dress rehearsal against the Browns on Friday night.
Photo Courtesy: Pewter Report
I’m not going to lie to you. I didn’t see this coming. But I’m sure not complaining about it.
Who would’ve thought the Buccaneers would score 45 points in a victory over the Eagles in Philadelphia. I’m not saying they couldn’t win this game, but to dominate the way they did – my goodness.
Who would’ve thought Jameis Winston would throw five touchdown passes – to five different receivers no less. His performance tied an NFL record for a rookie; Matthew Stafford is the only other QB to throw five TD’s in his first season in the league.
Who would’ve thought the Bucs would go 9-for-12 on third down conversions.
And who would’ve thought Doug Martin would run wild at Lincoln Financial Field for a whopping 235 yards. OK, so we’ve seen him do that before, in his rookie year at Oakland. But still, that was sweet. Tampa Bay set a franchise record with 283 yards on the ground, and their 521 total yards were the second-most ever.
Let’s not forget about the defense, which held the fast-paced Eagles’ offense in check. Lavonte David and Gerald McCoy, who have both taken some heat for not making enough big plays, stepped it up. McCoy had 1.5 sacks. David had two interceptions, returning one of them for an icing-on-the-cake score late in the fourth quarter.
Most importantly, the Buccaneers are back at .500. What looked like another rough season just a month ago….now has some hope.
Photo Courtesy: buccaneers.com
We have reached the halfway point of the season, and the Buccaneers have a 3-5 record. They’ve already eclipsed their win total from all of last year, and there are signs of optimism, especially on the offensive side of the ball.
Still, this team has more losses than wins. That means there are problems that still haven’t been fixed. The biggest one involves Lovie Smith’s supposed calling card: the defense.
This unit does not appear to be much better than 2014, if it all. You can look at all the stats you want. The Bucs are allowing nearly 29 points per game. That’s a lot. They have not shown the ability to come up with the big play late in the game. The most glaring examples came when they blew double-digit leads in the second half to Washington and Atlanta (they did beat the Falcons in overtime.) Then in yesterday’s game against the Giants, Tampa Bay could not stop New York from chewing up precious time off the clock after the Bucs had pulled to within two points.
In the past month, we haven’t seen much of a pass rush. From what I’ve read, Gerald McCoy is taking a lot of heat from the media down in Tampa for his lack of production. He is one of the leaders on this defense, yet he does not have a sack in 2015. And he only has 18 tackles through eight games. Those numbers are staggering, given what the Bucs are paying him.
But the worst part of this defense has to be the secondary. Maybe someday they will learn how to defend the slant. Maybe one of these they will fight receivers at the line of scrimmage. Maybe one of these days they will stop allowing the opposition to get wide open in the middle of the field and beyond.
Lovie Smith is supposedly still calling the plays on defense, unless I’ve missed something. Who knows what defensive coordinator Leslie Frazer is doing these days, or whether he would even be able to make a difference. Smith benched starting cornerbacks Jonathan Banks and Mike Jenkins against the Giants. It’s about time.
On to Dallas next Sunday….
Photo Courtesy: buccaneers.com
See? All is well in Bucs country, at least for now.
Talk about a bounce-back game. After the Buccaneers were booed off the field in an embarrassing season opener, they marched into the Superdome and beat the division-rival Saints, 26-19.
Jameis Winston had a good day: 14-of-21 for 207 yards. He threw for a touchdown and ran for another. He lost a fumble, but fortunately it didn’t prove costly.
The defense, which was maligned by fans (including me) last week, stepped up to force three turnovers. Those mistakes turned into nine Tampa Bay points.
The fourth quarter was insane. Even with Tampa Bay leading 23-7 going in, I knew New Orleans would make a game of it. Sure enough, the Bucs tried hard to give the game away on a silver platter – whether it was all those penalties, the ultra-conservative play calling or the two lost fumbles. But there were also key plays in their favor: a missed field goal, a blocked PAT, and a stop on a two-point conversion. Still, it wasn’t until the Bucs knocked down Drew Brees’ pass in the end zone as time expired, that we could breathe a sigh of relief.
But the bottom line is: a win is a win, against a division opponent no less. Bucs fans will gladly take it.
Let’s just hope Gerald McCoy’s injury isn’t serious. That would be a crushing blow so early in the year.
Photo Courtesy: AP
It’s just about time to kick things off for real.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will open the regular season on Sunday, September 13 at home against the Tennessee Titans. Today, we preview each facet of this year’s team.
After last year’s dismal performance, this is the unit that will get the most attention. The biggest addition, of course, is Jameis Winston, taken by the Bucs with the top overall pick in this year’s draft. The rookie had his ups and downs during the preseason. He did not throw a touchdown pass in the three games he played in, though he did rush for a pair of scores. He actually has a real-life offensive coordinator this year in Dirk Koetter, who comes over from division-rival Atlanta. Here’s a thought: get the ball in the hands of Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson as much as possible.
The second most-watched group will be the offensive line. With a rookie quarterback running the show, it will be up to this group to take some of the pressure off Winston, and open up holes in the running game. Last year, these guys were awful in both categories.
Speaking of that, will Doug Martin bounce back, in what could be his final season in Tampa? In his rookie season in 2012, he was fantastic. Since then – not so much.
Lavonte David and Gerald McCoy are the leaders of this group. There is no doubting that. Tampa Bay improved in the secondary even more by signing two-time Pro Bowler Jim Jennings just this week. Dashon Goldson, Mason Foster, Michael Johnson and Da’Quan Bowers are all gone.
For the second year in a row, the Buccaneers have a rookie kicker. Kyle Brinzda won the starting job over last year’s kicker, Patrick Murray, and former Buc Connor Barth (remember him? He’s briefly re-joined the team after Denver cut him.) Brinzda made two field goals over 50 yards in the preseason finale against Miami to seal the deal.
The team also has a new punter. Michael Koenen is no more. The new guy in town is Jacob Schum, who was claimed off waivers from the Jets. Hopefully he will be an upgrade from Koenen, who struggled big-time last year.
The whole unit needs to be much better than last year, especially on kickoff and punt returns. We the fans are sick of seeing a flag for illegal block in the back on nearly every return.
Is Lovie Smith on the hot seat in just his second year? If the Bucs get off to a slow start, I say the answer is yes. Admittedly, this season could be also be challenging because of a rookie starting quarterback. But if the team doesn’t at least show some improvement, then the fire’s going to start burning a lot more under the head coach.
Photo Courtesy: USA Today
Tampa Bay fans: there is reason for hope.
There was a lot to be excited about in Monday night’s preseason victory over the Bengals at Ray-Jay. Jameis Winston looked great. Doug Martin looked like the Doug Martin of his rookie season. Heck, even the defense sacked Cincinnati QB’s a few times.
I know, I know: it’s only preseason. But how could you not like what you saw in the first half of that game? I will only talk about the first half, because all of the stars were out of the game in the second.
Let’s start with Winston. Man, he has cannon for an arm. He marched his team right down the field to start the game, capping it with a scramble to the right pylon to open the scoring. Jameis finished 8-of-13 for 90 yards before limping off the field in the second quarter. It doesn’t appear to be a serious injury, and the Bucs did the right thing taking him out of the game at that moment.
Speaking of injuries, hopefully the one suffered by Mike Evans isn’t critical, either.
Martin also looked great while he was in there: six carries for 59 yards, including an impressive 30-yarder on the opening drive. We haven’t seen this from him the past two seasons. Hopefully this is a return to his rookie form, when he rushed for over 1400 yards.
The defense sacked Andy Dalton three times. Let me repeat that: the defense recorded three sacks. We haven’t said that much over the past few years. Gerald McCoy looked like the leader he’s believed to be. Altrerraun Verner had a Pick 6, courtesy of A.J. Green having butterfingers.
There was one problem area that still needs to be addressed immediately: the penalties. The Bucs had 14 of them for 153 yards, most of them coming in the first half while the starters were still in there. Penalties were a huge problem last year, and on Monday night, it seemed like there was a yellow flag on the field on almost every other play.
Still, a win is a win, even in the preseason. And Monday night’s performance gave Buccaneer fans reason to at least hope that things could be different in 2015.
Photo Courtesy: Fox Sports
Before this season began, there was hope – lots of it, in fact.
The hope was that Lovie Smith would come in, and the Buccaneers would turn things around, or at least start to head in the right direction. He and GM Jason Licht would start to right the ship. Some of the so-called pundits even predicted Tampa Bay would qualify for the playoffs.
Those self-proclaimed experts were wrong. Man, were they ever wrong. And we, the fans, paid the price.
None of us expected the Bucs to go 2-14. Remember back in the draft, when the Bucs used all of their picks to upgrade an offense that needed more than a few extra cylinders? The offensive line was overhauled via free agency. What did we end up with in return?
We got an offense that finished 30th in the league in total yards.
We got a journeyman quarterback that won only one of his eleven starts, completed only 56% of his passes, threw more INT’s (14) than TD’s (11) and was sacked 36 times.
We got a running game that averaged less than 100 yards per game on the ground. Think of how much worse it would’ve been had they not gone crazy on Sunday in the finale against the Saints.
We did, however, get a beast of a wide receiver. Mike Evans went for over 1,000 yards and 12 touchdowns. Only Dez Bryant, Antonio Brown and Jordy Nelson found the end zone more often. When you consider who was throwing the ball to Evans this year, his stats are even more remarkable.
What did we get on defense? We got a unit that ranked 25th in the league, and more often than not, looked worse than that. Lovie Smith is supposed to be a defensive-minded coach. Plays that could’ve been made to seal games were not made. Gerald McCoy and Lavonte David are great, but the jury is still out on many others.
What’s the most painful part of this season, besides the obvious 2-14? If the Bucs had gone 8-8, they would’ve won the NFC South and would be hosting a playoff game at Raymond James Stadium this weekend.
I was going to hand out final grades, as I did at the midpoint of the season. But honestly, you could take everything I wrote eight weeks ago and just multiply it times two – including the number of wins, sadly.
How the heck did they beat Pittsburgh?
But hey – they’ve got the No. 1 pick in next year’s draft. Yeah! There is hope after all!
By the way, the photo at the top of this article is a shameless selfie, taken as the Bucs were losing to the Falcons at Ray-Jay in November.