Bucs Release Former First-Round Pick Hargreaves

Cornerback Vernon Hargreaves will go down in Tampa Bay history as a first-round bust.

The Buccaneers got rid of their 2016 first-round draft pick on Tuesday, two days after Bruce Arians benched him during the game against the Cardinals for not hustling on a play.

The funny thing is, Hargreaves started out 2019 on fire.  He had a pick-six in the opener against San Francisco.  Then he made the game-saving play near the goal line in the closing seconds to beat Carolina.  But after that, he did a poor job covering, well, just about every receiver from every team.  Opponents knew this, and constantly threw in his direction, constantly drawing the ire of Bucs fans.  He only had one other interception during his time in Tampa.

Hargreaves was just one problem in a disastrous secondary.  This group is very young, and they’re not good.  This move does not improve the pass defense.  But Arians is sending a message here, first with the mid-game benching, and now the release.

Photo courtesy: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Familiar Problems Plague Bucs in Loss to Saints

After scoring 55 points in a big win over the Rams last week, Bucs fans were hoping Tampa Bay could keep it going in a divisional matchup against the Saints.

Nope.

The Buccaneers lost to the Saints, 31-14.  The biggest problems continue to be the pass defense and the offensive line.  For a team that’s made a living of making backup quarterbacks look like superstars, the Bucs did just that with Teddy Bridgewater.  And Jameis Winston was sacked six times.

Mike Evans did not have a catch in this game.  The Bucs defensive line barely touched Bridgewater.  Credit New Orleans for that.

But let’s get back to the secondary for a moment.  The coordinator has changed.  The formations have changed.  And while the run defense has been impressive, the pass defense is once again among the worst in the league.  That is mind-boggling, given all of the draft picks spent on this unit.  One player who’s really drawn the ire of us fans is former first-round pick Vernon Hargreaves III.  But he is not alone.  The entire secondary is abysmal.  The Bucs have allowed 103 points in the last three weeks (that includes 40 to the Rams in a game the Bucs won.)

Yes, there is time to turn this around.  Beat the Panthers (who have turned things around since losing to the Bucs in Week 2) in London, and Tampa Bay will be 3-3 heading into the bye.  But for the love of God, something has to be done with the awful secondary.

Photo courtesy: New Orleans Saints

Bucs Get First Win in Dramatic Fashion

Here are some thoughts on the Bucs’ first victory of the season: a 20-14 win over the Panthers in Charlotte.

It is amazing what Todd Bowles has done with this defense in just two games.  Take Mike Smith’s swiss-cheese defense, and flip it 180 degrees.  Bowles’ unit kept the Panthers out of the end zone, and has only allowed one offensive touchdown in eight quarters.  After Carolina, not surprisingly, marched down the field for a final drive, Vernon Hargreaves made the play that everyone’s still buzzing about, stopping Christian McCaffrey at the two-yard line with less than 90 seconds to play.  It was a night where the Bucs stifled McCaffrey all the way around.

Another star was Shaquil Barrett.  He’s another new face on defense, and he sacked Cam Newton three times. 

The Buccaneers gave up some long plays in this one, but tightened up in the red zone.  I remember Tony Dungy’s teams winning a lot of games like this.  I’m just throwing that out there.

On offense, Jameis Winston did not turn the ball over.  That is huge.  Everyone (including me) rips him when he screws up, so it is only fair that I praise him when he has a good game.  His stats may not jump out at you, but again, no turnovers.

Chris Godwin is a beast: 121 yards and a TD.  He, not Mike Evans, is the Bucs’ leading receiver after two games.

Peyton Barber churned out 82 tough yards on the ground, and scored a touchdown.  He had to work for every one of those yards against a tough Carolina defense.

This was not a perfect game by any means.  There were way too many penalties again (p.s. – someone tell Bruce Arians and Bowles that you can’t call back-to-back timeouts.)  Going 2-for-12 on third down isn’t going to cut it, either.  But at the end of a late night, the Bucs beat a division opponent on the road.  That is huge.

Photo courtesy: Associated Press

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

The Good and Bad From the Bucs’ Second Preseason Game

Here are some quick takeaways from the Bucs’ 27-21 victory over the Jaguars in the second preseason game.

THE GOOD
First-round draft pick Vernon Hargreaves III was impressive, intercepting two passes. Granted, neither one came against Jacksonville’s first-team offense, but it was good to see that from a rookie.

Tampa Bay won the game. Who cares if it’s preseason; it’s nice to see the Buccaneers in the win column, though I’ve said many times that you should ignore the final score during these silly games.

THE BAD
It was another sluggish start for the first-teamers, both offensively and defensively. Jameis Winston missed his first six passes and was picked off. He did throw a TD pass to Mike Evans. He finished just 3-of-10.

The defense made Blake Bortles look great. When the starters for both teams were on the field, Jacksonville was the better team.

Roberto Aguayo missed two field goals. Remember: the Bucs used a second-round pick on this guy. Can you imagine the reaction from the fans when he starts pushing – or shanking – kicks once the games count?

Again, it’s only preseason. We didn’t see Doug Martin or Gerald McCoy. Hopefully we’ll see them in the so-called dress rehearsal against the Browns on Friday night.

Photo Courtesy: Pewter Report

 

The Newest Buccaneers

Now that the NFL draft is in the books, it’s time to take a look at the newest Buccaneers. By now, you probably know who Tampa Bay chose. Also, I’m no draft analyst, nor do I really follow big-time national college football. So with the disclaimer out of the way, let’s look at what the Bucs did.

I’m glad the Bucs focused on the defensive side of the ball. That’s the reason Lovie Smith is no longer the head coach. The first-round pick generally garners the most attention, so I’ll do the same. Vernon Hargreaves III played cornerback at Florida. Tampa Bay needs people to do a better job defending the pass. So this pick makes a lot of sense. Remember the percentage at which opposing QB’s were completing passes against this defense last year? I don’t, but I know it was way up there. And some of those quarterbacks weren’t exactly superstars.

In the second round, they took Noah Spence. Lord knows the Bucs need a pass rusher, or two, or three, or….well, you get the idea. So that was a good move as well.

They also drafted a kicker in the second round, Roberto Aguayo out of Florida State. This is the move that seems to be getting the most criticism, especially since Tampa Bay traded up to get him. From what I’ve read, this guy was money from inside 40 yards. Okay, so what happens when he comes on to try a 50-yarder with the game on the line? I’ll take a wait-and-see approach on this. The Bucs kicking game has been wobbly at best over the past couple of years. Let’s see what happens.

Those are my thoughts. I won’t dissect the other picks because, as I alluded to earlier, I just don’t know enough about their college careers. But I was pleased to see the defense be the priority in this year’s draft.

Photo Courtesy: buccaneers.com