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

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Wrapping Up The Bucs 2019 Draft

There is an obvious theme to the Buccaneers’ 2019 draft class. The Bucs had eight picks this year. They used six of them on defensive players.

 

 

Well, fixing the defense is a good place to start. After all, the defense has been one of the worst in the league in recent years. Two years ago. They were dead last. In 2018, they were sixth-worst in terms of yards per game, and only the Raiders gave up more points.

 

Things will at least look different. Tampa Bay has a new defensive coordinator in Todd Bowles, and it appears the Bucs will play a 3-4 scheme. We’ll see how that plays out.

 

One area that didn’t get addressed, at least in the draft, is the offensive line. The Bucs haven’t had much of a running game lately, and pass protection has been an issue. I hope they can pick up some players via free agency or whatever.

 

Did you notice the Bucs drafted a kicker? OK, so it was in the fifth round instead of the second, but I’m sure a lot of fans are having flashbacks to Roberto Aguayo.

 

If you read some of the message boards, more fans are ready to jump ship because of the concerns mentioned in the previous two paragraphs. I say, relax. We really won’t know for 2-3 years how good the 2019 draft class is.

 

Photo courtesy: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Recapping the 2017 Bucs, and the Expectations That Weren’t Met

Before the season began, it was understandable why so many Bucs’ fans were expecting a playoff year in 2017.  After all, Tampa Bay did go 9-7, and added a lot of firepower on the offensive side of the ball.

The Buccaneers finished 5-11.

So what happened?  Was the bar set too high?  I don’t think so, based on the success of last season.  But let’s break down what turned out to be a disappointing season in Bucs’ country.

Let’s start on the defensive side of the ball.  This was the biggest area of concern on 2016, the feeling that Mike Smith’s unit couldn’t stop anybody.  Well, in 2017, they still couldn’t stop anybody.  Guess where the Buccaneers finished in total defense (based on total yards allowed per game.)  They were dead last.  When it came to stopping the other team on third down?  Yep, dead last.  Guess which team had the fewest sacks in the NFL?  That would be Tampa Bay.  The defense gave up nearly 24 points a game, which puts them in the bottom ten in that category.  Sometimes stats can be misleading.  These aren’t.

And yet, Dirk Koetter said Monday that he expects Mike Smith to return with him next season.  Right.

Offensively, this was supposed to be the year Jameis Winston made the jump to the next level.  He’s shown flashes of brilliance.  The biggest one that comes to mind was just a day ago, when amazingly he led his team 95 yards in the final two minutes (with no timeouts) to beat the eventual NFC South champions.  But the turnovers are a problem – a big problem.  He continues to force the ball into double coverage (even triple coverage.)  And the fumbles are just as big an issue.  He has to do a better job hanging on to the football.  Period.

Finally, there was the disaster known as special teams.  Nick Folk started the year as the team’s kicker, taking over for Roberto Aguayo.  Folk was just as bad.  He single-handedly cost the Bucs the game against the Patriots.  Patrick Murray returned and stabilized that position a bit, though he missed some important kicks down the stretch.  And we won’t soon forget the other mishaps: allowing 100+ kickoff returns in each of the last two games, the punt block that the Saints ran back for a score in the Superdome.

So where do the Bucs go from here?  I was hoping Mike Smith would get fired, but Koetter says that’s not going to happen.  Koetter also said he’s going to keep calling the plays.  Good Lord.  The Buccaneers have a top-ten pick in the draft.  They need help just about everywhere, but fixing the defense should be the first priority (though other areas aren’t far behind.)

Finally, I conclude with some thank yous.  Thank you Gene Deckerhoff, Dave Moore, TJ Rives and the rest of the people at the Buccaneers radio network for keeping me entertained all season long.  Thank you to bloggers like JoeBucsFan and Pewter Report for their excellent coverage during the season (and offseason.)  If you don’t follow them on Twitter, I strongly suggest you do.

But most of all, thank you to my readers who come here for my sometimes silly take on my favorite football team.  Without you, I would not be doing this.  I live in the greater Boston area, and not everyone here is a diehard Patriots fan.  I just wish there were more Buccaneers’ fans around here.  This blog will remain mostly dormant until the NFL Draft.  But if something big happens before then, I’ll offer my take here.

Happy New Year, God Bless, and Go Bucs!

Photo Courtesy: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

 

No Defense, No Victory, Another 10-Loss Season

With another loss in the loss column, we’re getting closer to finding out what happens to Dirk Koetter and his cast of characters at the end of the season.

 

The Buccaneers lost again last night.  For the second week in a row, the score was 24-21.  For the second week in a row, the defense couldn’t stop anybody or get any pressure on the quarterback.  Oh, wait: that’s been the case all season.

 

I’ll be honest: I thought the Bucs would get blown out by the Falcons.  That didn’t happen.  Jameis Winston was outstanding, having arguably his best game of the season, even with his teammates dropping like flies due to injuries.   But Tampa Bay did what 4-10 teams do.  The fumble by Peyton Barber in the red zone was costly.  Twice the Falcons put the ball on the ground – including once in the Bucs’ end zone – and twice they couldn’t come up with a key takeaway.  As for Patrick Murray’s missed 54-yard FG attempt that would’ve forced overtime, well it’s been that kind of year.  At least Murray’s been light years ahead of guys named Aguayo or Folk.

 

So, what’s my big takeaway from this one?  Mike Smith’s defense still stinks.  Sure, he didn’t let Julio Jones go for 250 yards this time (but did you notice the times he was all alone in the middle of the field?)  So, Smith contained Jones, but he had no answer for Devonta Freeman.  If anyone deserves to get canned in two weeks, it’s Mike Smith.  Koetter may very well be done as well.  But if I had to pick one to get rid of, it’s the defensive coordinator.

 

Photo Courtesy: USA Today

Bucs Win Again Thanks to Self-Destructing Dolphins

Let’s call this one, winning ugly…part two.

 

For those who didn’t see (or listen to) this game in Miami, you’d look at the final score and think the Buccaneers dominated the Dolphins.  Oh, how wrong you’d be.

 

The Bucs won the game when Patrick Murray split the uprights with four seconds left on the clock.  But let’s talk about the bad football that preceded much of the winning kick.

 

The Bucs won this game because of two things: Jay Cuter and all those Miami penalties.  Tampa Bay picked off Cutler three times in the first half and also recovered a fumble.  But in true Bucs’ fashion, they only led by 13 points at the half.  At the time, I said to myself, “this is going to come back to haunt them.”

 

And it did.  Matt Moore came in for Cutler in the second half and lit up the Bucs defense like so many other quarterbacks (including some backups) have.  The Bucs nearly gave up a safety that could’ve really changed things in the fourth quarter.  Still, the Dolphins tied the game on one of those “how the heck do you let him get that wide open?” kind of deep throws.  As if you needed any more proof that Mike Smith’s defense is horrendous.

 

But there were all those penalties against the Dolphins – a whopping 17 of them – that helped the Buccaneers’ cause.  The Bucs had nine penalties of their own, including one that negated a touchdown.  It was just bad football.

 

Of course, this was a win, so there are positives.  O.J. Howard had one of the Bucs’ two touchdowns, on his birthday no less.  Happy birthday, O.J.

 

Ryan Fitzpatrick continues to perform admirably in Jameis Winston’s absence.  Fitzpatrick will never be mistaken for Tom Brady, but he’s been efficient.  And he’s won two games with basically no running game and a swiss cheese defense.

 

Patrick Murray continues to make us forget about Roberto Aguayo and Nick Folk.  Murray did miss a kick earlier in the game, but made the game-winner, and has played well since the Bucs re-acquired him.

 

On to Atlanta….

 

Photo Courtesy: Tampa Bay Times

 

Can Murray Rescue the Bucs’ Kicking Game?

And the winner of the Buccaneers’ kicking sweepstakes is: a former Tampa Bay kicker.

 

Patrick Murray is back.  The Bucs signed him today, and fans hope he can make us forget about Nick Folk and Roberto Aguayo.

 

You remember this guy, right?  Sure, you do.  He was the Bucs’ kicker three years ago.  And he was pretty good.  He made 20-of-24 field goals, and connected on all of his extra points (keeping in mind PAT’s were much shorter back then.)

 

Why did the Bucs get rid of him?  He was injured for most of 2015, and they let him go.  Cleveland picked up him, but he got hurt again after just two games last year.

 

All I want is for Murray to kick the ball through the uprights on a regular basis.  Doing that would ease the nerves of fans like me nervous every time the Buccaneers line up for a field goal or an extra point.

 

That’s all, Folk.

 

Yes! Bucs Win a Game They Easily Could’ve Lost

Why is it when the Buccaneers win a game, it never comes easy?  The answer is simple: we’re Bucs’ fans.  Nothing comes easy.  I can count on one hand how many “easy” wins Tampa Bay’s had over the past decade.

 

I tweeted during the fourth quarter that if this game came down to Nick Folk’s leg – after he had already missed three kicks – that I was going to hide.  I’m glad he made the game-winner – barely.  And as more proof that nothing coming easy, there was a flag on that final play.

 

The Giants jumped offsides.  Game over.  Bucs 25, Giants 23.

 

There were so many twists and turns in this one, starting with the ‘what were you thinking’ play-calling at the end of the first half, and ending with the aforementioned Folk redeeming himself.  Honestly, this was a game the Bucs easily could’ve lost.  But maybe it’s a good sign that they won a game like this.

 

 

Jameis Winston’s day?  Let’s call it decent.  He still can’t consistently hit the deep ball.  Yes, there was the beautiful pass to O.J. Howard.  But the key word is “consistently.”  Still, he wasn’t picked off, and he led his team down the field with the game on the line.

 

The Bucs still don’t have anything resembling a pass rush.  They got by against Eli Manning.  If you think that’s going to be okay against Tom Brady, you’re crazy.  The return of Brent Grimes in the secondary made a difference on Sunday, though I still have doubts about that unit.

 

And Folk?  My goodness.  Can we please get someone who can make a kick?  I wonder how short of a leash Dirk Koetter and Jason Licht have on him, especially after the Roberto Aguayo experiment that didn’t pan out.

 

But hey, we’re three games in, and the Buccaneers have won two of them.  I’ll take it.

 

Up next: the Super Bowl champs on Thursday night.  I hate Thursday night games, and not because the Bucs hardly ever win.  I just hate them in general.  And I despise the color rush uniforms that both teams will be wearing.

 

Photo courtesy:  Tampa Bay Buccaneers