Bucs Take LB White in NFL Draft

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The Buccaneers used the No. 5 overall pick in Thursday night’s NFL draft on someone they hope will become the leader of their defense.

 

His name is Devin White. He played linebacker at LSU. He’s fast. And if you believe the so-called know-it-alls, he’s a stud.

 

White and Josh Allen were the two names I kept hearing floating around as Tampa’s most likely picks. I’m happy the Bucs took one of them.

 

White can immediately fill the void left behind when Kwon Alexander went to San Francisco. Defense has been the Bucs’ biggest problem over the past several years, so Lord knows they needed some help. This unit is going to look a lot different next season under new defensive coordinator Todd Bowles. Hopefully the results will be different as well.

 

Photo courtesy: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

 

Bucs Fans: Stop Panicking (For Now)

Relax, everyone. Just relax.

 

What happened to the Buccaneers on Monday happens to every team in every sport at some point: players jumping ship for more money to play elsewhere.

 

For those who haven’t heard the news, here are the big headlines: Kwon Alexander struck gold in San Francisco. DeSean Jackson is going back to Philadelphia. And Adam Humphries is trading in red and pewter for Titan Blue.

 

Judging by my social media feeds, you’d think the world is about to end. Well, D-Jax turned back into a crybaby when he stopped getting the ball thrown to him. People loved Kwon’s passion but I read today that he missed a lot of tackles – a big problem for this defense over the past couple of years. Humphries is the loss that hurts me the most. Here’s a guy coming off a career year. But hey – money talks, and Tennessee offered more than Tampa. End of story.

 

Everyone is replaceable, ladies and gentlemen. Let’s see who the Bucs get in the draft, and more importantly, what Bruce Arians does with the players they acquire.

 

Photo courtesy: USA Today

Bucs Extra: Improved Defense, Kicking Problems Continue

This week, I start a new feature called “Bucs Extra.”  It will focus primarily on other elements of the game that might otherwise go unnoticed.

What a little pass rush can do

The Buccaneers sacked Nick Foles three times in this game, and disrupted him on many other plays.  Remember when Tampa Bay had no pass rush whatsoever?  Gerald McCoy, Jason Pierre-Paul and Kwon Alexander all sacked the Super Bowl MVP.  That helped ease the pressure a bit on an injury-plagued secondary.  Ryan Smith also had a strong game.  The defense allowed over 400 yards for the second week in a row, but they made enough key plays to be a factor.

 

Struggling running game

As great as the offense has been, the Bucs have struggled to get much of a running game going through two weeks.  43 yards rushing isn’t going to cut it.  Second-round pick Ronald Jones has been a healthy scratch for each of the first two games.  What’s up with that?  He did struggle in the preseason, but I wonder if there’s more we don’t know.

 

Inconsistent Kicking

Can this issue please go away someday?  Chandler Catanzaro missed an extra point that really could’ve come back to haunt the Bucs.  The PAT needs to be automatic; end of story.  He also missed a FG last week in New Orleans.  Ever since Connor Barth’s basketball injury way back in the day, our kicking situation has been a mess.

 

Photo Courtesy: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

 

An Ugly Day Across the Board in Minnesota

In my season preview a couple of weeks ago, I opined that the Bucs’ defense was the unit I was most concerned about heading into 2017.  They showed some promise against Chicago in the opener.

 

So much for that.

 

The Buccaneers’ leaky, unable-to-make-a-tackle secondary showed up again in Sunday’s 34-17 loss to the Vikings.  This is the third straight time they’ve made Case Keenum look like a superstar (the last two were when he was with the Rams.)  And while the secondary kept springing leaks, the pass rush was nowhere to be seen.  Yes, the two go hand in hand more often than not.

 

The offense doesn’t get any good grades, either.  Jameis Winston was picked off three times – once in the end zone, the other near the goal line when he threw into triple coverage.  Hey Jameis: it’s not a good idea to throw the ball to an area where there are three purple-clad defenders lurking.  You tend to do this a lot, and I’m begging you to stop.

 

 

Tampa Bay only had 26 yards rushing.  That’s not going to cut it, either.  Part of that, of course, is being forced to throw because the Bucs were playing from behind all day.

 

If this loss wasn’t bad enough, the injuries are piling up.  Kwon Alexander and Brent Grimes didn’t play.  Perhaps the biggest loss was Lavonte David, who got hurt in the fourth quarter and could be out for a while.  Noah Spence and Gerald McCoy are also banged up.  Who’s going to step it up on defense?  Heck, who’s going to play defense at this point?

 

The Bucs host the Giants next Sunday.

 

Photo courtesy: Tampa Bay Times

 

So, About That Bucs’ Dress Rehearsal…

The third preseason game is normally the one when most of the starters play well into the second half.  For this reason, it is considered a ‘dress rehearsal’ of sorts to get ready for the season.

 

But Saturday night at Ray-Jay, several key Buccaneers didn’t see any action: Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson, Gerald McCoy and Kwon Alexander, just to name a handful.  Tampa Bay lost to Cleveland, 13-9, and if you look at some of the fan posts on the Bucs’ official Facebook page, you’d think the sky is falling.

 

Please.

 

This is why preseason games are so hard to judge, and why many people would argue they’re pointless.  With so many of your important players on the sidelines, it’s hard to say, “well, this would’ve happened….” if those players were on the field.  And if you really want another meaningless game, I present the preseason finale against Washington on Thursday night as Exhibit A.

 

If there was something to take away from this game, it was the Bucs’ inability to finish off drives in the red zone – again.  Three field goals just won’t cut it two weeks from now in Miami.

 

Just get me through to the season opener at Hard Rock Stadium on September 10th.

 

Photo courtesy: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Three Wins in a Row! Bucs Are In the Playoff Hunt

If you would’ve told me a month ago that the Buccaneers would beat the Chiefs and Seahawks back-to-back, I would’ve said you’re crazy.

If you would’ve told me a month ago that the Bucs would score just 14 points against Seattle – at home – and still win the game – I would’ve said you’re crazy.

Well, there is nothing crazy about the way Tampa Bay is playing right now. The Bucs beat a very good Seahawks team at Ray-Jay on Sunday, 14-5. Yes, it’s one of those oddball-looking scores but you won’t find me or any other Bucs’ fans complaining about it.

This one was all about the defense, which was getting shredded week after week during the first half of the season. But in the last three games, we’ve seen a complete turnaround. On Sunday, they sacked Russell Wilson six times, picked him off twice, and kept the Seattle offense out of the end zone. One of those interceptions was by Alterraun Verner, who was on the field just two days after his father passed away. If you haven’t seen his reaction yet, you’ll have a tough time not crying. It was a scene very reminiscent of Kwon Alexander’s performance in Atlanta one year ago.

As for the offense, Mike Evans caught two more touchdown passes from Jameis Winston, both in the first quarter. The offense didn’t do much the rest of the way, but the strong performance of the defense bailed them out.

So where do things stand with five games to go? The Bucs are 6-5, still one game behind Atlanta in the NFC South. They are a half-game behind Washington for the #6 seed in the conference. Their remaining games are against the Saints (twice), the Panthers, the Chargers and Cowboys. Yeah, I had to sneak that Dallas reference in at the end. It won’t be easy, but the Bucs are peaking right now; they just have to keep it going.

Photo Courtesy: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

 

Kwon Alexander Becoming a Force

When the Bucs scored 31 points against Atlanta on Sunday, it’s easy to put all of the praise on the offense. They gave up 24 points, so it’s easy to assume the defense struggled against Matt Ryan and company.

But one player stood out among the rest: linebacker Kwon Alexander. He had a whopping 17 tackles. He also had a sack.

Remember what he did last year in the Georgia Dome? Let me remind you. Two days after his teenage brother was shot to death, Alexander forced two turnovers and had a third called back by a penalty. The Bucs won the game in overtime. Kwon earned a game ball for his effort.

He missed the last four games of last season for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. The Buccaneers lost all four. Before he was sidelined, the team was 6-6 and in the thick of the playoff hunt.

Think his presence means something?

With Alexander and Lavonte David, Tampa Bay has a pretty dynamic 1-2 punch of linebackers. They’re worth keeping an eye on as the season moves on.

Photo Courtesy: buccaneers.com

 

A Great Opener For the Bucs

After one week of the season, the Buccaneers are alone in first place in the NFL South.

Let that sink in for a moment.

The Bucs played a great game in beating the Falcons in Atlanta, 31-24. The Saints lost.  So did the Panthers on Thursday night.

There was so much to like about this game. Let’s start with Jameis Winston, who threw four touchdown passes to four different receivers.  It was a great way to bounce back from an early interception that led to a Falcons’ touchdown.  Mike Evans and Austin Sefarian-Jenkins made gorgeous catches in the end zone.  And then there was the short toss to Charles Sims, who broke about four tackles on his way to pay dirt.  It was an amazing individual effort.  Brandon Myers caught the other TD; who saw that one coming?

The defense was…..well, good enough to win. They sacked Matt Ryan three times.  The real star was Kwon Alexander, who had 17 tackles to go with one of those sacks.  And late in the game – when you were starting to have flashbacks to the Washington debacle from last season – the defense came up with the stop it needed.

Roberto Aguayo made all five of his kicks. After what he went through in the first half of the preseason, that deserves a mention.

It would’ve been nice to see more from the running game. Doug Martin and company struggled throughout, though Martin did have a couple of big runs in the fourth quarter to help bleed the clock.

Congrats, Dirk Koetter. You’re 1-0 as an NFL head coach.

The bottom line: Tampa Bay beat a division opponent on the road. That in itself is a big deal.

Photo Courtesy: buccaneers.com

 

Monday Column: Kwon Alexander’s Inspirational Performance

There are always storylines that emerge from every NFL game, every Sunday. Some make you jump for joy. Others make you want to fire the head coach. And there, there are the inspirational stories, like the one involving Buccaneers’ rookie linebacker Kwon Alexander.

The first-year pro from LSU had the game of his life on Sunday against the Falcons. He was responsible for two turnovers, and had a third called back by a penalty. His eleven tackles led Tampa Bay.

And he did it all under heartbreaking circumstances.

Alexander’s 17-year old brother was shot on Friday night, and died the next day. Kwon said he wanted to play, because that’s the way his brother would’ve wanted it. And to do what he did in the Georgia Dome is nothing short of remarkable.

Kwon was given a game ball after the overtime win. If you haven’t seen the video yet on the Buccaneers’ official website, you should. It will bring a few tears to your eyes. Here’s the link. It’s just over a minute long.

http://www.buccaneers.com/videos/videos/Watch-Kwon-Alexander-Gets-the-Game-Ball/bfd10859-f573-4922-abd6-889f08bda231

God bless you, Kwon. I am so sorry for your loss.  You’ve earned a lot of respect, and not just from Bucs’ fans.

Photo Courtesy: AP

Bucs Win in Overtime: Amazing!

For a moment, I was getting to write about how the Buccaneers blew another double-digit lead and suffered a devastating defeat.

Well, they did blow the lead. But instead of losing, they found a way to a win the game this time. The Bucs beat the Falcons in overtime, 23-20. Connor Barth kicked the winning field goal on the first possession of OT, and the Bucs defense followed that up by doing something they hadn’t done the entire second half: stop Matt Ryan.

Jameis Winston had another solid day in which he did not turn it over. He threw for 177 yards and a touchdown, and also ran for a score on a broken play in the third quarter. He hasn’t turned the ball over in three straight games now.

Sure, Tampa Bay’s defense still stinks. Besides blowing another big lead, they let Ryan throw for nearly 400 yards. The Falcons were just shy of 500 yards in total offense on the day. But – and this is a big “but” – they turned it over four times. The Buccaneers turned those mistakes into points, and that was the key.

The bright spot in this unit was rookie Kwon Alexander, who picked off Ryan and also recovered a fumble. It turns out he had just lost his brother a couple of days earlier to gun violence. Man, for him to play like that after what happened…..what an inspiring story that should not be overlooked.

The bottom line is, the Buccaneers improved to 3-4 with their second road victory over an NFC South opponent. Instead of talking about the awful secondary, or why in the world Lovie Smith went for it on 4th down on his side of the 50 late in the fourth quarter, I choose to focus on the end result.

If you like fantasy stats, Matt Ryan and Julio Jones probably got you some serious points. But I don’t play fantasy football. The Bucs won the game. In the end, that’s all that matters.

Photo Courtesy: buccaneers.com