Week 4 Preview: Bucs at Rams

So here we go – the start of the most brutal part of the Buccaneers schedule, in which they’ll be away from home for the next six weeks.  First up: a matchup against the NFC Champion Rams in Los Angeles.

Can the Bucs recover from last week’s meltdown against the Giants?  Can Matt Gay get back on track?  How will the Bucs be able to control Aaron Donald, not to mention Sean McVay’s high-powered offense?  These are just some of the things to look for on Sunday.

Tampa Bay will be without their first-round draft pick Devin White again.  And center Ryan Jensen is questionable.  Lord help the offensive line if they’re not healthy and Donald is already licking his chops.

The Bucs are a heavy underdog in this one, as you’d expect.  But if they can pull off the upset, it would be a huge confidence booster moving forward.

Fox has the game on Sunday, with Chris Myers and Daryl Johnson in the broadcast booth at the Coliseum.

Finally, a note to my readers: I am going on vacation on Sunday, so I will not be providing a recap here after the game.  But I will be keeping tabs on it from fabulous Las Vegas.  I will resume the blog with coverage of the next game against New Orleans.

Photo courtesy: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Advertisements

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

Some Thoughts on the Bucs’ Second Preseason Game

We are now halfway through the preseason, and training camp is officially over.  The Bucs are 1-1 in the preseason, having beaten the Dolphins, 16-14, on Friday night at Ray-Jay.  Here are some takeaways from that game:

The headline may be what happened at the very end of the game, when rookie kicker Matt Gay nailed a 48-yarder to win it.  It’s looking more and more like Gay is going to be Tampa Bay’s kicker, even though Cairo Santos hasn’t done anything bad to justify losing his job.  The rookie has opened eyes with his performance.

It was also a solid performance by Ryan Griffin, who saw the most action of any of the Bucs’ quarterbacks.  Granted, he was playing against Miami’s backups, but the backup QB job is up for grabs, despite Blaine Gabbert’s familiarity with Bruce Arians’ system.

Jameis Winston only played one series for the second straight game.  Let’s just skip over him for now.

My biggest concern may not be the defense, but the offensive line.  Penalties are also a big problem right now.  Arians needs to get this fixed.

The next game is Friday night against Cleveland.  This is the so-called “dress rehearsal,” when the starters tend to play the longest.  The third preseason game is always the one to watch.

Photo courtesy: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Captain’s Take: Bucs Preseason Game #1

Judging a preseason game is so difficult.  You ignore the final score, and try instead to focus on who shined, and who didn’t.  It’s even tougher when a lot of the starters either play very little, or not at all.  That said, here are some thoughts from the Bucs’ 30-28 loss to the Steelers in the preseason opener.

Jameis Winston, who’s looked on-and-off during training camp, was definitely on in this game.  He led Tampa Bay on 12-play, 81-yard drive that ended with a touchdown pass to Chris Godwin.  With Adam Humphries gone, Godwin is now the #2 receiver behind Mike Evans.  The drive was a nice mix of running the ball (yes, they actually ran it effectively) and passing.

The first-team defense only saw limited action, and wasn’t facing the Steelers’ starters, including Ben Roethlisberger, so it’s hard to judge this unit.  They have been making quite a few plays in camp.  Any improvement these days would be considered a plus.

The battle that intrigues me the most is for kicker.  It’s rookie Matt Gay against the guy who finished last year, Cairo Santos.  On Friday night, Gay made his only attempt, from 55 yards out.  He and Santos have both been lights out in training camp.  Let me reiterate that: the kickers are actually making kicks.  It will be interesting to see who wins the job.  Right now, it’s a toss-up.

In case you missed it: Vita Vea will miss several weeks with a knee injury.  At least he’s not out for the season.  The Bucs also released offensive lineman Evan Smith, who spent the last five seasons in Tampa.

Next up: the Dolphins at Ray-Jay on Friday night.

Photo courtesy: Tampa Bay Buccaneers