Admittedly, I don’t do much with the NFL Draft when it happens, mostly because I don’t follow much college football on the national level. So, when the Buccaneers draft someone, more often than not I say, “who?”
That said, as I look over who Tampa Bay picked over the last few days, it looks like they’ve done a decent job addressing their most pressing needs. First-round pick Vita Vea provides much-needed help up front. When I wrote about his selection the other night, I said I hoped the Bucs would address their awful secondary with the remaining picks. Well, three of their next four picks are either cornerbacks or safeties. And RB Ronald Jones could…. could be the heir apparent to Doug Martin.
We’ll see how it all plays out. But it looks like Jason Licht did pretty well, at least on paper.
Photo courtesy: Tampa Bay Times
The Buccaneers’ defensive line – you know, the one that couldn’t rush the quarterback – is going to look a lot different next season. And on paper, it actually looks impressive.
The biggest move came today, when the Bucs got Jason-Pierre Paul from the Giants. Throw in Vinny Curry and Beau Allen, and with Gerald McCoy already in the mix, you’ve got a unit that looks sure to get more than the 22 sacks Tampa Bay got all of last season. Robert Ayers and Clinton McDonald are both gone.
As I mentioned, this all looks intriguing on paper. Will any of it matter as long as Mike Smith is still the knucklehead running the defense? And lest we forget how awful the secondary was last year. Part of that was a lack of a pass rush, but part of it was the generally-awful play of the corners and safeties.
And just to get caught up on all-things-Buccaneers, offensive stars Mike Evans and Cameron Brate both have new deals. They also signed a new center – Ryan Jensen – who will hopefully help the offensive line.
But Jason Licht is opening his checkbook, ladies and gentlemen. It’s not often the Bucs go on spending spree like this.
Photo Courtesy: Associated Press
Why is it when the Buccaneers win a game, it never comes easy? The answer is simple: we’re Bucs’ fans. Nothing comes easy. I can count on one hand how many “easy” wins Tampa Bay’s had over the past decade.
I tweeted during the fourth quarter that if this game came down to Nick Folk’s leg – after he had already missed three kicks – that I was going to hide. I’m glad he made the game-winner – barely. And as more proof that nothing coming easy, there was a flag on that final play.
The Giants jumped offsides. Game over. Bucs 25, Giants 23.
There were so many twists and turns in this one, starting with the ‘what were you thinking’ play-calling at the end of the first half, and ending with the aforementioned Folk redeeming himself. Honestly, this was a game the Bucs easily could’ve lost. But maybe it’s a good sign that they won a game like this.
Jameis Winston’s day? Let’s call it decent. He still can’t consistently hit the deep ball. Yes, there was the beautiful pass to O.J. Howard. But the key word is “consistently.” Still, he wasn’t picked off, and he led his team down the field with the game on the line.
The Bucs still don’t have anything resembling a pass rush. They got by against Eli Manning. If you think that’s going to be okay against Tom Brady, you’re crazy. The return of Brent Grimes in the secondary made a difference on Sunday, though I still have doubts about that unit.
And Folk? My goodness. Can we please get someone who can make a kick? I wonder how short of a leash Dirk Koetter and Jason Licht have on him, especially after the Roberto Aguayo experiment that didn’t pan out.
But hey, we’re three games in, and the Buccaneers have won two of them. I’ll take it.
Up next: the Super Bowl champs on Thursday night. I hate Thursday night games, and not because the Bucs hardly ever win. I just hate them in general. And I despise the color rush uniforms that both teams will be wearing.
Photo courtesy: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
There will be no playoffs in Tampa this year. But at least the Buccaneers won more games than they lost. We haven’t been able to say that in six years.
The Bucs edged the Panthers in the season finale on Sunday, 17-16. The game wasn’t decided until the Bucs prevented Carolina from getting a two-point conversion with 17 seconds left.
It’s always nice to beat Cam Newton, isn’t it? Yes, it is.
This game was all about the defense. It was the defense that intercepted Newton three times, including Brent Grimes’ pick-six that put gave the Bucs the lead for the first time. The other two came from Keith Tandy, who really played very well down the stretch.
It was the defense that sacked Newton three times.
It was also the defense that allowed the Panthers to tie the game in the closing seconds, but came up with the big play when Ron Rivera decided to go for two and the win (by the way, I applaud Rivera for going for it; he had nothing to lose in that situation.)
Jameis Winston struggled for much of the day, but his TD pass to Mike Evans broke a 10-10 tie late in the fourth quarter. Winston is the first player in NFL history to start his career with consecutive 4,000-yard seasons. He also set a franchise record with 28 touchdown passes. But he also threw a pick and lost a fumble, and overthrew a lot of receivers. In the end, I guess you could say he did just enough to get the win.
While Mike Evans gets all the headlines for the receivers – and rightfully so – let’s give some props to Adam Humprhies: 10 catches for 94 yards.
Robert Aguayo was an adventure yet again. Of his three field goal attempts, he made the first, missed the second, and had the third one blocked. GM Jason Licht is going to have to make a decision about Aguayo’s future. My gut tells me it won’t happen in the offseason, but he just didn’t perform as well as any kicker should, let alone a second-round draft pick.
It’s been a fun season, Bucs fans. In my next column (whenever I get some free time) I’ll put a bow on the 2016 Bucs with the best and worst of the past four months.
Photo Courtesy: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Let’s flash back to the offseason for a moment. The Buccaneers decided not to pick up the fifth-year option on Doug Martin’s contract. That essentially meant 2015 could be his last year in a Tampa Bay uniform.
Dear Jason Licht: please re-sign this guy.
Martin is back and better than ever, showing the brilliance we haven’t seen since his rookie year. After Sunday’s performance in Philadelphia in which he rushed for 235 yards, No. 22 is one of the top running backs in the NFL – second-best, in fact. In ten games, he has 941 yards on the ground. Only the Vikings’ Adrian Peterson has more.
And while Martin has only found the end zone four times, I believe his success – and the effectiveness of the entire running game – is a factor in Jameis Winston’s recent success. What quarterback wouldn’t like to have a running game like the Bucs have right now? They’re averaging 142 yards per game on the ground – third best in the league.
Hopefully Martin can keep running wild for the rest of the year, and be rewarded in the offseason for doing so.
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.
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