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
This past weekend, I made my annual trip down to Raymond James Stadium to see the Bucs play in person. We all know they lost to the Falcons. But you see and experience so much more when you’re at the game, so I wanted to share my thoughts about what I saw. I’m not going to include any stats in this article.
The Bucs lost this game for the same reasons they lost seven others: too many dumb mistakes. Everyone sitting around me (who’ve clearly been to a lot more games than I) knew that every flag was going to be against the home team. Seriously, how many times did the Bucs bail out the Falcons in this game? On Atlanta’s first TD drive, the Bucs jumped offside THREE times. And then there were the occasions that the Falcons faced third and long, only to be given new life by a defensive penalty away from the ball? The penalties are a lack of discipline. A lack of discipline can be traced to bad coaching. You hear that, Lovie Smith and Leslie Frazier?
I also saw an Atlanta receiver wide open in the end zone TWICE. How does that happen? On the first one, the Bucs got lucky that Matt Ryan’s pass was underthrown, and the defender was able to get back in time to knock it away. I don’t remember who it was, because it happened at the opposite end of the field. But I DID have a good luck at Devin Hester all alone in the end zone nearest my seat, and he dropped the ball. The Falcons had to settle for a field goal. That dropped pass cost Atlanta four points. I was really hoping that drop would come back to haunt the Falcons. Wishful thinking.
The Bucs need to draft a franchise, stud quarterback next year. I heard that from fans sitting around me at Ray-Jay, and even more in a sports bar after the game. We were all surprised that Josh McCown was given the start. If Mike Glennon is “the future” (Lovie’s words) than why wouldn’t you play him the rest of the season? McCown didn’t disappoint, and I say that sarcastically. For three quarters, he played mistake-free, albeit unspectacular football. But in the fourth quarter, when he needed to rally his team, he couldn’t do it. Even with two minutes to go and trailing by ten, the Bucs still had an outside shot to pull off a miracle. They were down by the goal line, and had all three timeouts that they could’ve used on defense. But McCown threw a pick in the end zone. The fans who hadn’t left the stadium by then started heading for the exits. He got his share of boos.
The other guy who we booed a lot was punter Michael Koenen. He is not having a good year, and he shanked a couple of kicks in the second half that gave Atlanta superb field position. He was also handling kickoffs. Remember Connor Barth? Remind me why got rid of him again?
While the Bucs need a stud quarterback, I can tell you Mike Evans is a stud receiver. Man, some of the catches he was making….he was amazing. He and Vincent Jackson make a formidable receiving tandem, IF only they had a decent quarterback who could not only get them the ball, but hit them in stride every once in awhile. That was another thing I noticed: how many passes from McCown did not give the receiver any chance of gaining yards after the catch?
There was a nice crowd at the game. I thought there would be a lot more empty seats than there were, given this was a matchup between two bad teams. While it wasn’t a sellout by any means, but decent nonetheless. There were quite a few Falcons’ fans in attendance, not surprising based on simple geography.
So those are my observations from my seat in Section 121. If you were at the game, I’d love to hear yours.
At the halfway point of the 2014 season, the Buccaneers are 1-7. Their latest loss came against the Browns on Sunday, 22-17. Here are some takeaways from the game:
SPECIAL TEAMS WERE AWFUL.
Patrick Murray had a field goal blocked in the first quarter, which led to a Cleveland field goal. He also missed a long one later in the period (55 yards.) Gerald McCoy was called for offside when the Browns were lining up for a field goal. The Browns ended up converting on fourth down, and found the end zone two plays later. Michael Koenen had a punt blocked in the fourth quarter. On the ensuing Cleveland possession, Brian Hoyer found a wide-open Taylor Gabriel for what turned out to be the winning score.
IS GLENNON STILL THE STARTING QB?
He’s making a strong case to lose his job. Glennon threw two interceptions, one of them coming in the end zone on a tipped pass. Many of his passes were short of their intended targets. Heck, even his first TD pass to Mike Evans was underthrown; Evans made a great adjustment to haul it in. Glennon completed just over half of his passes (17-of-33) which seems to be all he’s good for. That’s not going to win you many games. So will it be Josh McCown or Glennon next week against Atlanta? Whatever Lovie Smith decides, it will be the lesser of two evils.
ABOUT THAT FINAL DRIVE….
Tampa Bay had a shot to win the game, driving into Cleveland territory in the final two minutes. But on second down, Vincent Jackson dropped what would’ve been a first down. On third and one, the play call was a head-scratcher: a deep pass down the sideline? Then on fourth down, Mike Evans was called for pass interference, negating his catch that would’ve kept the drive going. Following the penalty, Glennon tried unsuccessfully to connect with Austin Seferian-Jenkins. You’ve got Evans and V-Jax on your team; why the heck would you not go to one of those targets, instead of the guy who fumbled away the opening play of overtime a week ago?
Tomorrow, it’s time to hand out midterm grades. Get ready.
Photo courtesy: cleveland.com