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

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(Sigh) Another Frustrating Loss

Before I rip Mike Smith to shreds again, let’s start off with the final play of the game.

 

On one hand, it seems crazy: with the ball at the Atlanta 20, they call a play featuring a couple of laterals, that could’ve ended with DeSean Jackson running into the end zone with no time on the clock.  D-Jax never caught the lateral from Mike Evans, so it was a moot point.  Had Jackson caught it, would he have scored?  He says he would have.  But after watching the play over and over, there were three Falcons closing in on him.  It would’ve been VERY close.

 

Now, here’s my beef: you had the ball at the 20.  You have guys like Evans, D-Jax, Cameron Brate and O.J. Howard on your team.  This wasn’t a 50-yard Hail Mary.  Why wouldn’t you take a shot in the end zone with those stud receivers/tight ends?  I don’t understand that.

 

Let’s talk about Jameis Winston’s first start.  He had four touchdowns, but he also threw two interceptions: an overthrown deep ball, and a pass that ricocheted off a defender in the end zone.  You can’t have those kinds of plays.

 

Then there’s the kicking game, featuring a missed PAT by Chandler Catanzaro.  That was huge, because when the Bucs cut the lead to 24-22 early in the fourth, they had to go for two to try to tie the game.  They failed. 

 

And now, let’s get to that so-called “defensive coordinator” with a last name of Smith.  This was the fourth time already that his unit has allowed at least 30 points.  And again, the opposition racked up over 400 yards of offense, with wide open receivers all over the field.  And lest we forget that final 26 seconds of the first half when the Bucs had cut the lead to 21-13.  Smith’s defense allowed the Falcons to easily get into field goal range to add three points before going to the locker room.

 

And Koetter refuses to fire him.  Well, if this keeps up, Koetter will also be gone at the end of the season.

 

There is still time to right this ship.  There are still eleven games remaining.  But based on the unwillingness of Tampa Bay to make changes on the defensive side of the ball, this has the potential to get very ugly, very quickly.  I hope I’m wrong.

A Fitz-Magical Season Opener For the Bucs

One of the big questions coming into this season was: how would the Buccaneers start out with Jameis Winston suspended for the first three games?

 

Wow.  Just wow.

 

Enter Mr. Fitzpatrick.  He was unbelievable in Sunday’s 48-40 stunner over the Saints in the Superdome.  How amazing was Fitz?  He was 21-28 for 417 yards and four touchdowns.  He also ran for a score.  And, he made arguably the biggest play of the game by running for a first down late in the fourth quarter to help the Bucs run out the clock.

 

Remember last year how Winston couldn’t connect with DeSean Jackson on the deep ball?  Fitzpatrick had no problem.  The two connected for two long touchdowns.  Fitz also hit Mike Evans for a deep score.  We didn’t see much of that last year.  Evans and Jackson combined for almost 300 receiving yards in this one.

 

It’s worth mentioning that offensive coordinator Todd Monken – who called the plays during the preseason – was calling the shots in the opener.  Dear coach Koetter: please keep it this way.

 

This was not a perfect game by any means.  Mike Smith’s defense is still a sieve, allowing 40 points to Drew Brees and company.  The pass rush – even with all those off-season acquisitions – only had one sack.  The secondary had its struggles.  They did force two turnovers, including a fumble return for a TD, but Smith is lucky the offense bailed him out.

 

But this was all about “Fitz-Magic.”  I said it before, and will say it again: what if the Bucs win 2 out of 3 without Winston?  Well, they’ve got the first one.

 

Photo Courtesy: Associated Press

 

The Good – and Bad – From the Bucs’ Second Preseason Game

Here are some quick thoughts on the Bucs’ preseason victory over the Titans Saturday night.

 

On the plus side, the headline is Jameis Winston.  He played the entire second quarter, and was sizzling.  He even showed an ability to connect on the deep ball, something that was sorely missing last year.  He is still making a couple of “what the heck were you thinking?” throws, but overall there was more good than bad in Nashville.

 

Staying with the passing game, the Buccaneers appear to have a formidable group of wide receivers.  Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson, Chris Godwin, etc. all look strong in the early going.

Chandler Catanzaro was perfect on all of his kicks.  Amen.

 

Now for the negative: the penalties, oh those penalties.  Tampa Bay was sloppy in this department, and many of the flags were thrown while the first-teamers were on the field.  Hey coach: clean this up immediately.

 

After playing well against Miami, Ryan Fitzpatrick was…well, “meh.”  Lest we forget….he’s the starter for the first three games.

 

For all the hype surrounding the revamped defense, they didn’t put much pressure on the quarterback.  They also missed some tackles.  Sound familiar?

 

If you watch any preseason game, watch the next one against the Lions on Friday night.  The third game is the so-called “dress rehearsal” in which the starters play the longest.  Stay tuned.

 

Photo courtesy: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

 

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

 

It Was Ugly, But the Bucs Will Take It

Wait a minute – you mean the Buccaneers really do have a defense?

 

For at least one week, the answer is yes.

 

The Bucs throttled the Jets today at Ray-Jay, 15-10.  Heading into this game, the defense had eight sacks all season.  They sacked former Buc Josh McCown six times in this game.

 

Six!

 

Thank goodness for the stellar defense effort, because the offense was not in rhythm for much of the day.  Backup QB Ryan Fitzpatrick completed 50% of his passes, and listening to the radio broadcast, I can’t tell you how many times legendary Tampa Bay broadcaster Gene Deckerhoff described one of Fitzpatrick’s passes as nearly being picked off.  He did throw one INT, had another that was nullified by a penalty, but in the fourth quarter he threw the only TD pass of the game to Charles Sims. 

 

Speaking of unusual things, Sims scored a touchdown.  This is the same Charles Sims I’m not a big fan of.  Oh well, I guess I have to give him props this time around.

 

Patrick Murray made all of his kicks.  The Buccaneers have stabilized their kicking situation…..finally.

 

But consider this: the Bucs won this game with their backup QB, with no running game, poor offensive line play, and they were without their star receiver, Mike Evans.  The highlight reel won’t be one that you’ll want to see over and over again, but we’ll take the wins anyway we can.

 

The next three games are on the road, starting with next Sunday in Miami.  This was originally the season opener, but it got postponed because of Hurricane Irma.

 

Photo courtesy: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

 

This is Bad, Bucs Fans. Very Bad

Just when you thought the Buccaneers’ season couldn’t get any worse, it has.

 

Oh, has it ever.

 

In what is quickly becoming a season to forget, the Bucs were trounced by the Saints in the Superdome today, 30-10.  We saw a lot of the same old Bucs: the defense got picked apart again. The running game was non-existent.  Jameis Winston was ineffective (before leaving the game with a shoulder injury.)  And special teams were problematic yet again, with the Saints blocking a punt and returning it for a touchdown, and another missed field goal (though that was the least of the problems on this day.)

 

But here’s the question that a lot of fans – including me – are asking right now: has Dirk Koetter lost this team?  The lasting image from this game will be the scuffle on the Tampa Bay sideline, which appeared to be instigated by Winston, and involved Mike Evans annihilating Marshon Lattimore.  I am shocked Evans did not get kicked out of the game, but he could very well be suspended for that hit.  But look closely at the replay: you see Koetter doing absolutely nothing to diffuse the situation.  Nothing.  Doesn’t the head coach need to take the control there?  Well, Koetter didn’t do that.   This is about a lack of discipline, and a lack of discipline can be traced to bad coaching.  I’ve written the same thing about Lovie Smith in years’ past, and I’m not letting Koetter off the hook, either.

 

This was supposed to be the year the Bucs made the jump to the next level – the playoffs.  Instead, they sit at 2-6 and in the basement of the NFC South, and are arguably one of the most disappointing teams in the NFL right now.  This five-game losing streak started with the New England game the Bucs could’ve won.  There was the early knockout punch in Arizona.  There was the late meltdown in Buffalo.  And now we’ve seen back-to-back abysmal performances against division opponents.  Do the Glazers have the guts to make a change-mid season?  We shall see.

Photo courtesy: Tampa Bay Times