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

Some Final Thoughts on the 2018 Bucs

 

As we say goodbye to 2018, it’s time to reflect on the Buccaneers season that ended with a last-place finish, and the firing of Dirk Koetter as head coach.

 

BEST MOMENTS: the first two games against the Saints and Eagles, both won by the Bucs.  Nobody outside of us diehard fans thought they win a shootout in the Superdome, then beat the defending champs in the home opener, both with Jameis Winston suspended for the first three games.

 

WORST MOMENT: things started going downhill with the blowout loss to the Bears in Chicago, followed by another defeat in Atlanta after the bye week.  It was only then that the Bucs decided to fire Mike Smith as defensive coordinator.  Smith should’ve been let go before the season began, much less five games in. With Smith at the helm, his defense allowed at least 30 points in four of the first five games.

 

BEST OFFSEASON ACQUISTION: Jason Pierre-Paul.  What a steal this guy was.  He had 12.5 sacks on a team that, last year, hardly got any pressure on the quarterback. 

 

BIGGEST DRAFT DISAPPOINTMENT: Ronald Jones.  The Bucs drafted him in the second round.  He gained a grand total of 44 yards rushing.  He didn’t even play in more than half of the games, and not all of those were due to injury.  The Bucs clearly were not happy with him from the start of training camp, hence the lack of playing time.

 

GOOD RIDDANCE AWARD: DeSean Jackson.  He made it clear he wants out.  I say, get out of town.  This whiner was unhappy that Winston wasn’t getting him the ball.  He pulled off similar antics when he played for Philadelphia and Washington.

 

BIGGEST QUESTION MARK GOING FORWARD: Jameis Winston.  General Manager Jason Licht has made it clear that Winston will return in 2019.  We saw a lot of good Jameis, and a lot of bad Jameis: 19 TD passes, 14 INT’s and three lost fumbles.

 

INTERESTING FACT: on December 2nd, I saw the Bucs beat the Panthers at Ray-Jay.  That was the last time Tampa Bay tasted victory. 

 

Sure, there are other good and bad moments, but these are the ones that come to mind at first.  I wish all of you a Happy New Year, and go Bucs.

 

Winning vs. Tanking For the Bucs

So yet again, the Buccaneers are playing out the string at the end of a season.  They will miss the playoffs for the 11th straight year.

 

This brings up the debate that I always see: should the team just keep losing to get a better draft pick, or try to (gasp) win these last two games for a sense of pride?

 

Look – it’s pretty much a given that Dirk Koetter will be fired at the end of the season.  GM Jason Licht may walk the plank with him.  Then there’s the future of Jameis Winston.  And today brought the news that DeSean Jackson sold his house in Tampa.  All of that said, will a couple of losses – and moving a couple of spots in next year’s draft – really have that much of a difference?

 

I say no.  I want to see wins.

 

I’m a diehard fan of this team.  I have been for over 30 years.  I want them to win every single week.  Nearly three weeks ago, I was at Ray-Jay to see Tampa Bay beat Carolina.  The Bucs haven’t won another game since.  They’ll be in Dallas on Sunday, then host Atlanta (another disappointing team) in the finale.  It’s a losing season no matter what.  But I’d rather have 7-9 instead of 5-11. 

 

So, my message to the Bucs is this: don’t just roll over and play dead in AT&T Stadium on Sunday.  There are fans who want you to ‘tank.’  I’m not one of them.  There will be plenty of time to talk about the future direction of this team.  That can wait.  Until then, a chance to play ‘spoiler’ against the Cowboys awaits.

 

Photo courtesy: USA Today

 

No Playoffs For the Bucs. Again.

OK, so the headline of this blog post isn’t exactly earth-shattering news.  But it didn’t become official until now.

 

With today’s loss to the Ravens in dreary Baltimore, there will be no playoffs for the Buccaneers for the eleventh consecutive year.

 

Maybe we should’ve known it wasn’t going to be a good day when, on the opening drive, Chris Godwin dropped a pass that could’ve gone the distance.

 

Maybe we should’ve known it wasn’t going to be a good day when they flubbed up the extra point on the game’s first touchdown.

 

Maybe we should’ve known it was going to be a good day when they recovered a muffed punt inside the Baltimore red zone, only to come away with three point.

 

The Bucs only scored three points in the second half.  This is a troubling trend over the past three games, starting with the Carolina game when they only scored seven points after halftime (and they won that game.)

 

Or maybe, just the thought of chasing Lamar Jackson and company all over the field was too much to comprehend.

 

No matter how you slice it, the final two games against the Cowboys and Falcons will amount to nothing more than ‘playing out the string,’ though Dallas will certainly have something to play for.

 

Dirk Koetter’s grave has been dug.  It’s only a matter of time before we put him in it.  Jason Licht may end up in the ground next to him.  We’ll see.

 

Photo Courtesy: Baltimore Ravens

A Good Draft for the Bucs? I Say Yes

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

 

Whoa! The Bucs Just Overhauled Their Defensive Line

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

 

Yes! Bucs Win a Game They Easily Could’ve Lost

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