Bucs at the Bye: Plenty of Blame to Go Around

With the Buccaneers on their bye week and sitting at 2-4, it’s time to use this break in the action to do some finger-pointing at four areas that I think deserve to be singled out.

Jameis Winston.  You have to start with the quarterback, right?  Winston’s had some good games this season, and then he’s had games like the one in London where he was responsible for six of the team’s seven turnovers.  He has plenty of critics.  He also has a lot of supporters.  You may be surprised to hear about the latter, but if you read what I read on social media, it’s true.  Winston’s defenders will tell you that the bad pass protection, receivers dropping the occasional big play, the secondary giving up too many points, are bigger problems.  Well, they’re all right.  But the bottom line is, Winston’s been too inconsistent.  And in his fifth season as the number-one overall pick in the pick, that is disappointing and unacceptable.

The offensive line.  This group has given up 25 sacks, tied for second most of the NFL with the Jets.  Only the Titans (the Bucs’ next opponent) is worse.  The running game is still largely non-existent.  Tampa Bay is ranked 23rd in rushing.  A lot of fans will say some of those sacks fall on Winston holding onto the ball too long.  I’ll buy that.  But the overall numbers don’t lie.  The GM also deserves some blame here.  More on that in a moment.

The secondary.  It’s been awful for several years now, and this year is no different.  The Bucs are dead last in pass defense, allowing over 300 yards a game through the air.  And yet, Tampa Bay is best in the league at stopping the run.  But with the dreadful coverage in the secondary, you’re inviting teams to throw the ball 50 times a game.  The Bucs have spent many, many draft picks on this area.  They’ve changed coaches.  They’ve changed schemes.  And yet, there’s been no improvement whatsoever.  That brings me to my fourth item.

Jason Licht.  He drafted all those guys in the secondary with no improvement.  Doesn’t he deserve some of the blame for this unit’s failure?  I think he does.  Licht has also done little to address the offensive line.  Doesn’t he deserve criticism for that as well?  I think he does.  He was the only one to survive the housecleaning at the end of last season.  Many fans, including me, don’t think he should survive this one if Tampa Bay keeps playing like this.

Photo Courtesy: SportsWire

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Bucs Play Worst Game of 2019 in London

The first play of this game turned out to be a precursor of what the next three hours or so would bring: Jameis Winston throwing an interception.

Winston would throw four more picks before the day was over.  And the Bucs played arguably their worst all-around game of the season in a 37-26 loss to the Panthers in London.  The Buccaneers turned it over seven times in this one.

Winston was abysmal.  The offensive line was horrible, allowing seven sacks.  The secondary was pathetic.  There was Mike Evans – dropping a rare perfect deep ball by Winston just before the half – a play that could been a game-changer.  The Bucs made another backup quarterback look like Tom Brady.  Does all of that sound familiar?  It should; we’ve been seeing this movie for the last several years – not weeks or months, years.

Tampa Bay now sits at 2-4 heading into the bye week.  What changes, if any, will Bruce Arians make?  He has to do something, because this team is a mess once again.

That’s all the venting I’ll do for now.  I’ll do some more in a forthcoming post.

Photo courtesy: Associated Press

Familiar Problems Plague Bucs in Loss to Saints

After scoring 55 points in a big win over the Rams last week, Bucs fans were hoping Tampa Bay could keep it going in a divisional matchup against the Saints.

Nope.

The Buccaneers lost to the Saints, 31-14.  The biggest problems continue to be the pass defense and the offensive line.  For a team that’s made a living of making backup quarterbacks look like superstars, the Bucs did just that with Teddy Bridgewater.  And Jameis Winston was sacked six times.

Mike Evans did not have a catch in this game.  The Bucs defensive line barely touched Bridgewater.  Credit New Orleans for that.

But let’s get back to the secondary for a moment.  The coordinator has changed.  The formations have changed.  And while the run defense has been impressive, the pass defense is once again among the worst in the league.  That is mind-boggling, given all of the draft picks spent on this unit.  One player who’s really drawn the ire of us fans is former first-round pick Vernon Hargreaves III.  But he is not alone.  The entire secondary is abysmal.  The Bucs have allowed 103 points in the last three weeks (that includes 40 to the Rams in a game the Bucs won.)

Yes, there is time to turn this around.  Beat the Panthers (who have turned things around since losing to the Bucs in Week 2) in London, and Tampa Bay will be 3-3 heading into the bye.  But for the love of God, something has to be done with the awful secondary.

Photo courtesy: New Orleans Saints

An Awful Loss For the Bucs

Attention Tampa Bay fans: after a gratifying win over Carolina, we have just been reminded that the Bucs are still…the Bucs.

They lost to the Giants on Sunday afternoon, 32-31.  It was a game in which Matt Gay missed two extra points, and a 34-yard field goal as time expired that would’ve won the game.  That’s five points left on the field.  I guess I was wrong when I wrote before the season began that this team appeared to have solved its kicking problems.  That is a resounding ‘no.’

In my game preview, I wrote that the Buccaneers have a history of making rookie and backup quarterbacks look like superstars.  Well, Giants’ quarterback Daniel Jones led his team back from an 18-point halftime deficit, and scored the game-winning touchdown with less than 90 seconds remaining.  I rest my case.  This defense may be improved over last year, but still has a long way to go to become elite.

Jameis Winston did not lose this game.  Mike Evans did not lose this game.  Evans had three touchdowns, and the two connected on a huge pass in the final minute to set up what should’ve been a game-winning kick.  And this may be lost in the shuffle: the Bucs got hit with a delay of game penalty before Gay’s final miss.  Would that five yards have made a difference, given how close the kick was?  Either way, Matt Gay HAS to make that kick.

There’s more to write about, but I am sick to my stomach.  And I am angry.  With the next six weeks away from home, this was a game Tampa Bay had to have.  They didn’t get it.

Bucs Lose To 49ers in Ugly Opener

Here are some quick thoughts on the Buccaneers’ 31-17 loss to the 49ers in the season opener at Ray-Jay:

As ugly as this game was, I will start with some positives.  The Bucs actually had a running game, led by a rejuvenated Ronald Jones.  The defense looks much, much better than past years.  Vernon Hargreaves III came up with a rare pick-six.  This unit only allowed one offensive touchdown.  So how did San Francisco get 31 points?  Oh, I’m getting to that.  But first, one more positive: rookie kicker Matt Gay was perfect on the day.

Now, let’s get to the ugly stuff:

Jameis Winston had an awful game.  He had three interceptions, two of which were returned for touchdowns.  The other one, admittedly, went right through O.J. Howard’s hands.  But Winston was consistently off-target.  He fumbled a snap.  This is the year he has to break out and play like a No. 1 overall pick.  This was not a good start.  And if Twitter was a member of the Bucs coaching staff, Winston would be out on the street right now looking for work.  He MUST do better than this, or his ass is going to be on the bench very soon.

I said I was concerned about the offensive line before the season began.  They did not perform well against the ‘Niners.  Winston was sacked three times, and Demar Dotson was penalized twice for holding, which nullified would-be touchdowns.  The offensive line play makes the running game’s performance even that much more amazing.

Now, I want to take about the curious decision by Bruce Arians early in the fourth quarter.  The score was 20-14.  The Bucs kicked a field goal, but the 49ers were penalized for offsides.  Instead of making it a three-point game, Arians decided to go for it on 4th down from the 2.  Winston’s pass was batted away.  So instead of it being 20-17, the Bucs still needed a touchdown to pull it out – a score they would not get.  So, Arians is a gambler, eh?  He’s 0-for-1 so far.

Next up: the Panthers on Thursday night.  This is the Gerald McCoy Bowl, part one.

Photo courtesy: San Francisco 49ers

Buccaneers 2019 Season Preview

The 100th NFL season kicks off tonight with the Packers and Bears.  On Sunday, the Bruce Arians era begins against the San Francisco 49ers at Ray-Jay.

Here are some things to keep an eye on: not just on Sunday, but as the season moves along:

OFFENSE: Can Jameis Winston finally have the breakout season we’ve been expecting from a former No. 1 overall pick?  Will there actually be a running game?  And as a sidebar to that, can the offensive line open up holes in the ground game, and protect Winston?  If the preseason is any indication, this could be a big area of concern.

DEFENSE: Everything has changed here.  Todd Bowles is the new coordinator, and he’s showing a lot of different looks.  This until simply cannot have a repeat of the past several years, which were nothing sort of dreadful.  We saw promising signs in the preseason.  Can they carry over to Sunday?

SPECIAL TEAMS: All eyes on rookie kicker Matt Gay, who won the kicking job over Cairo Santos.  Gay has been sensational in preseason and training camp.  He needs to continue that success, or he’ll be considered the next coming of Roberto Aguayo.

Kickoff is on Sunday a 4:25.   The game is not televised here, because FOX is sticking us with the Cowboys and Giants.  But that’s why NFL Redzone was created.  Your announcers are Kenny Albert and former Buc Ronde Barber.

Photo courtesy: Tampa Bay Times

Some Thoughts on the Bucs’ Third Preseason Game

Here are some takeaways from the Bucs’ 13-12 victory over the Browns in the third preseason game.  Since this was the so-called dress rehearsal game, in which the starters play the longest, this was the most critical game before it counts for real.

Tampa Bay’s defense is going to be lightyears ahead of where it was last year.  I know that’s not saying much, but new defensive coordinator Todd Bowles has definitely made a difference.  They kept an up-and-coming Browns team out of the end zone all night.

I’m very concerned about the offensive line.  There was a lot of talk after the draft about how the Buccaneers did not address this need, and now it’s showing.  There are very few holes in the running game.  The pass protection is awful; Jameis Winston was sacked five times while he was in there.  Yes, there is still time to fix this.  But it’s hard to establish a running game when the guys up front can’t open up holes.  And what difference does it make if you have Mike Evans and Chris Godwin on your team if your quarterback can’t get them the ball, not to mention Winston’s inconsistencies with throwing the deep ball.

Matt Gay missed a kick.  He’s human!  But he responded with another game-winner.  I think he’s going to win the kicking job, though veteran Cairo Santos has done nothing to hurt his own cause.

Ryan Griffin will be the Bucs’ backup QB to start the season, after Blaine Gabbert left the game with an injury.  Who knows how long he’ll be out.

I will not be writing anything about the final, most meaningless-of-them-all preseason game against Dallas, unless major news happens.  The opener is just two weeks away.  Let’s go.

Photo courtesy: Tampa Bay Buccaneers