Season Preview: 2015 Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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


Inept Bucs Fall To 0-3 With Loss To Patriots

Another week, another awful performance by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ offense.

The Bucs could only muster three points on Sunday afternoon against the Patriots in a 23-3 loss. The Bucs are now 0-3, and in sole possession of last place in the NFC South.

For the third game in a row, Josh Freeman failed to complete 50% of his passes. He finished 19-41 for 236 yards, and an interception to former Buccaneer Aqib Talib late in the first half that led to a Patriots’ field goal. He also missed an open Tim Wright in the end zone. Vincent Jackson dropped two passes, including one that would’ve set up the Bucs inside the Pats’ 5. The Bucs turned it over on downs twice. Ryan Lindell missed another field goal. It was a day of missed opportunities, especially in the first half.

And eventually, you knew that Tom Brady would start catching on with his young receivers. Kenbrell Thompkins caught both of Brady’s touchdown passes in the second quarter as the Pats built a 17-3 halftime lead. The way the Bucs offense has been playing this year, there wasn’t much hope of a comeback.

Doug Martin rushed for a hard-fought 88 yards.

After committing double-digit penalties in each of the first two games, the Bucs only had four penalties against New England.

So now, the Bucs face more of the same questions. They have a quarterback who can’t complete half of his passes. They’ve only scored 34 points through three games, and one of those touchdowns was Mason Foster’s interception return against the Saints. The defense is much-improved from last year, but they can’t do it all. How much longer will Greg Schiano stick with Freeman? The coach seems adamant that Freeman’s his guy. Some of us would beg to differ.

Next week: The Bucs return home to face the Arizona Cardinals.

Photo Courtesy: Associated Press

Bucs Doomed Again By Penalties and Mistakes in Loss to Saints

In many ways, this game was eerily similar to the opener against the Jets.

Once again, the Buccaneers had way too many penalties. Once again, their quarterback had an uninspiring day. And once again, they allowed their opponent to get into field goal range at the end of the game and beat them. The Bucs lost to the Saints on Sunday night, 16-14, in a game that was delayed by more than an hour by the weather.

Let’s jump right to the fourth quarter before we look at some of the numbers. Mason Foster picked off Drew Brees and returned it 85 yards down the right sideline to give the Bucs the lead at 14-13. It stayed that way until the final 90 seconds. The Bucs had 3rd and 6 from the New Orleans’ 32. The Saints were out of timeouts. A first down ends the game. The Bucs decided to hand it off to Doug Martin – who had a huge game – but he failed to pick up the first down this time around. Ryan Lindell missed a 47-yard field goal. The Saints took over with just over a minute to go, but Brees made it look easy, marching his team down the field, inside the Tampa Bay 10. Garrett Hartley made a 27-yarder, and the Bucs were 0-2.

Think Greg Schiano will be questioned about that 3rd down play call? You’d better believe it.

And then there were all those penalties. Last week, they had 13. On Sunday, they had 10 more. They’ve been flagged for over 100 yards in each of the first two games. Many of the penalties have involved communication issues or personal fouls. That’s lack of discipline. And it’s pretty clear the coaching staff hasn’t done enough to address this serious problem.

Then, there’s Josh Freeman. He needed to have a big game, and he didn’t. And when he finally hit Vincent Jackson for what appeared to be a 73-yard touchdown in the third quarter, it was nullified by – you guessed it – a penalty. Two plays later, Freeman threw an interception. He didn’t do nearly enough to silence his critics. He finished just 9-of-22 for 125 yards.

On a positive note, Martin had 29 carries for 144 yards. It was nice to see him get going after a rough opener in the Meadowlands. As for the defense: geez, if they can only get rid of these stupid penalties, they’d be a pretty good unit.  They allowed Jimmy Graham to do whatever he pleased in the first half, however.  For the second straight week, they held an opponent to less than 20 points.

NEXT WEEK: The Bucs come up north to play the Patriots.

Photo Courtesy: