The Bucs are Back to Work

It’s time to get fired up for another season (hopefully) of Tampa Bay Buccaneers football.

The Bucs reported to training camp this week, as they start getting ready for the season opener in New Orleans on September 13.  In case you haven’t heard, the entire preseason has been canceled.  So, there won’t be any “dress rehearsal” during the third preseason game or anything like that.  Nope – on 9/13, it’s Bucs/Saints in the Superdome.

The Bucs have already signed all of their draft picks.  That is good news.

As always, there are a lot of questions heading into the 2020 campaign.  And the biggest one has nothing to do their superstar quarterback, Tom Brady, who will soon turn 43.  The biggest question right now is: will there even be a season because of the pandemic?  For now, it’s game on.  But as we’ve seen over the past six months, things can change on a dime.  Just look at what’s happening with Major League Baseball, in particular, the Miami Marlins.  A bunch of them got Covid, and games have already been postponed.  I hope that doesn’t happen in the NFL, but it certainly could.  Some players have already said they will opt out.  Bucs’ tackle Donovan Smith has hinted he might do that, though he has not made an official decision.

Anticipation is so high with this team with the additions of Brady and Gronk.  And yet, because of the pandemic, it appears only a fraction of Ray-Jay will be full for home games.  I usually head south for a game every year.  The chances of that happening are slim in 2020. 

But for now, let’s think positive, stay safe, and hope that the Bucs can become the first team to play (and win) a Super Bowl in their home stadium.

Photo courtesy: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Bucs 2020 Schedule: Plenty of National Exposure

The Buccaneers’ 2020 schedule is out, and get ready to see them a lot in prime time.

Thank you, Tom Brady and company.

The Bucs will play a record five night games.  Yes, that is a franchise record.  Of course, some games could be flexed in or out of certain time slots, but for now, Tampa Bay is scheduled to play five games under the lights: on the road against Chicago, Las Vegas and the Giants, and home games against the Saints and Rams.  All five of those games are over a span of seven weeks. Many other games are set for the coveted late-afternoon time slot as well.

Oh, and we get Brady vs. Brees right off the bat to open the season in the Superdome.

Without further delay, here’s the schedule.  Time to start planning some road trips.

Sept.  13      @ New Orleans

Sept.  20      CAROLINA

Sept.  27      @ Denver

Oct. 4           L.A. CHARGERS

Oct.  8          @ Chicago (Thursday)

Oct.  18        GREEN BAY

Oct.  25        @ Las Vegas (Sunday night)

Nov.  2         @ NY Giants (Monday night)

Nov.  8         NEW ORLEANS (Sunday night)

Nov.  15       @ Carolina

Nov.  23       L.A. RAMS (Monday night)

Nov.  29       KANSAS CITY

—BYE WEEK—-

Dec.  13       MINNESOTA

Dec.  20       @ Atlanta

Dec.  26/27  @ Detroit

Jan.  3          ATLANTA

Recapping the Buccaneers’ Draft

The 2020 NFL Draft is in the books, and it looks like the Buccaneers did a great job addressing their greatest needs.

This team has neglected the offensive line for years.  Not this time.  The Bucs used the 13th pick – trading up a spot with San Francisco – to take  OT Tristan Wirfs from Iowa.  This guy is huge, and that’s an understatement.  Apparently, he’ll start at right tackle, but can easily switch to LT because of his versatility.  Protecting Tom Brady is a top priority.

I don’t follow national college football that closely, and thus don’t really know much about any of the draftees.  But the Bucs got a safety in the second round, addressing their secondary.  They also drafted a couple of running backs to hopefully jump-start a running game that has been non-existent for several years.  Ronald Jones has yet to have a break-out season, and Peyton Barber is now in Washington.

The next big day on the calendar is the release of the NFL schedule.  We already know who and where the Bucs will be playing, but we will soon know when.  I’m eyeing the day when they go to Vegas.  Hopefully there will actually be sports by then.  I hope everyone’s staying safe in the meantime.

Photo courtesy: Tampa Bay Buccaneers / Associated Press

Wow! Gronk Follows Brady to Tampa Bay

So, let me get this straight: not only is Brady a Buccaneer, but so is Gronk.

Wow.

Yes, the Bucs made it official Tuesday night what had been reported earlier in the day: they traded a fourth-round pick in this year’s draft in exchange for former Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski.

Gronk retired from the NFL last year and went on to pursue a career in professional wrestling.  And we all know what a party animal he is.  Well, now he’s un-retiring, and reuniting with the quarterback who’s thrown 90 touchdown passes to him over the years.

Think of Tampa Bay’s offense right now: Brady, Evans, Godwin and now Gronk.  The Buccaneers now have three tight ends when you add Howard and Brate to the equation.  Bruce Arians doesn’t use tight ends much in the passing game.  You’d have to think that’s going to change now.

But at a time when sports are not happening, the Bucs are currently the talk of the sports world.  When was the last time we could say that?

Hopefully they address their needs during the upcoming draft.

Photo courtesy: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

TB12 Is Still TB12

Okay – we have this whole numbers game figured out without any drama.

Tom Brady will still wear No. 12.  And Chris Godwin, who used to wear that number, will now switch to No. 14.  Godwin offered Brady his longtime number, and it goes without saying that TB12 accepted.

I’ve liked Godwin from the beginning, and this classy move makes me like him even more.  When you talk about the Bucs’ receivers, it used to be, “Mike Evans is a stud.”  Now, it’s “What a two-headed monster they have.”

By the way – the Buccaneers teased today that the new uniforms are coming out one week from today – April 7.  The anticipation is building.

Everybody stay safe out there during these challenging times.  It’s rough on all of us, but we will come out of this stronger than ever.  And God bless everyone on the front lines of this pandemic.

Suh is Coming Back, Too

With all the hoopla surrounding the Tom Brady signing, the Buccaneers have quietly secured most of their stout defensive line from last year.

On Thursday, Ndamukong Suh signed a one-year deal.  So, he, Shaq Barrett and Jason Pierre-Paul will all be back next year.  The only linemen who won’t return are Carl Nassib (Oakland) and Beau Allen (New England.)

One of the lasting images I have of Suh from last year is his fumble return for a touchdown to seal the upset victory over the Rams in L.A.

The Bucs were the #1 defense against the run last year.  There’s no reason to believe they won’t be near the top next year. 

What a month it’s been for the Bucs.  If you’re not excited by now, I don’t know what to tell you.

Photo Courtesy: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Farewell, Jameis

Now that Tom Brady is officially the new starting quarterback of the Buccaneers, it’s time to say a few words about the man he’s replacing, Jameis Winston.

Winston won’t be back.  He already posted on social media that he’s moving on, saying he loves Tampa and “I look forward to seeing y’all again in February.”  Interpret that how you may.  As of this writing, another team has not picked him up.

Do I feel bad for him?  Sure, I do.  He had five years here as the starting quarterback, and didn’t always have the strongest supporting cast, especially in pass protection and pass defense.  He threw for almost 20,000 yards while he was in Tampa, including over 5,000 last year.  He threw 121 touchdowns in five years.

But he’s gone because of the mistakes.  The 30 interceptions did him in.  He threw 88 picks in five seasons.  He also lost 23 fumbles, and while you can argue that some of those were the result of poor offensive line play, the numbers speak volumes.  He cost his team a lot of wins, though he certainly isn’t the only Buccaneer I can say that about.

Some team will pick him up eventually.  He may have to compete for a starting job, or maybe not.  But I wish him well.  He’s got plenty of talent.  If there’s a team out there that can get him to make better decisions, then he definitely has a future in this league.

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

 

Yes! Bucs Finally Win a Home Game!

The Buccaneers did something today they hadn’t done in nearly two years: they won a game at Ray-Jay. They beat the Jaguars, 38-31.

The Bucs scored 38 points. 38!

Thank you, Doug Martin. He’d actually been running pretty well even before today, but it had been overshadowed by all of the negative stuff surrounding Lovie Smith and company. Today, Martin ran for 123 yards and three touchdowns – one of them receiving. He’s now rushed for over 400 yards through the first five games. He’s looking at a 1,000-yard season if he stays on this pace.

I’m giving Connor Barth a shout-out because of the mess the kicking game had been until now. He was 3-for-3 on field goals and perfect on PAT’s. Everyone take a deep breath now.

Another honorable mention goes to Bobby Rainey for his work on kickoff returns. One of them was a 58-yarder that led to Martin’s touchdown reception.. And for a change, the penalty flags stayed away for the most part on special teams (I think there may have been one.)

How about the defense? Well, at times they let Blake Bortles look like Tom Brady. But they also sacked him six times and picked him off once. And the key play of the game came in the third quarter, when Jacquies Smith recovered a Jacksonville fumble in the end zone to put Tampa Bay back in the lead for good. The Bucs had blown a 13-point lead, then a Barth FG cut the lead to one before the big play happened.

Jameis Winston had a decent day: 13-19, 201 yards and a touchdown. Most importantly, he did not turn it over. The latter is perhaps the biggest thing worth mentioning.

Sure, it was hardly perfect. There were still too many penalties. And I don’t understand Lovie Smith’s stupid play-calling at the end of the first half when he had all three timeouts and decent field position. Oh, by the way: this win may have saved his job for the time being.

A win is a win. We the fans will take them any way we can.

Photo courtesy: buccaneers.com

Bucs Lose Again: I Need a New Dictionary

As a journalist, I’m supposed to come up with new and creative ways to state my opinion. After seeing the same old story from the Buccaneers on Sunday in Carolina, I’m open to new terminology.

Josh McCown is pathetic. All three of the Bucs turnovers can be traced directly to him: two lost fumbles and an interception. Sure, you can argue all you want about that phantom fumble that was revered on a challenge by Ron Rivera. But the bottom line is, this guy is dreadful when it comes to protecting the football. Then there’s the lack of a sense of urgency. Down by two scores late in the fourth quarter (before McCown found the end zone with his legs) he took forever getting his team organized at the line of scrimmage. Even Dave Moore, the Bucs’ radio commentator, was all over him for that. Would Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers ever play like that? No way.

And yet, Mike Glennon, who stood on the sidelines once again, wonders if he’ll ever take another snap for this team. I’ve said it before, and I’ll continue saying it: Glennon is not the answer at quarterback, but he’s sure looked a LOT better than the guy now known as “McClown.” Josh needs to be benched, but if Lovie Smith hasn’t done it by now, it’s probably not going to happen.

And the defense? They lost to backup QB Derek Anderson for the second time this season. They made him look like a star. He threw for 277 yards. The entire Bucs offense only had ten more than that. Carolina held the ball for over 37 minutes, as the defense could not get off the field. We saw this in the season opener, and we saw it again on Sunday. They did force a turnover down by the goal line, but there were other chances – especially in the fourth quarter – to get the ball back and they couldn’t capitalize. An interception of Anderson was wiped out by a roughing-the-passer penalty. Then there was Alterraun Verner’s inability to hang on to a sure pick.

Again, we’ve seen these problems all year long. Why should they change now? The Packers will be angry when they come to Ray-Jay next weekend, having lost to Buffalo. And in the season finale, the Saints may need that game to win the division that nobody seems to want.

But hey – the Bucs are still in the running for the No. 1 draft pick!

Photo Courtesy: AP