The Buccaneers wrapped up their first quarter of the season with a 27-24 upset win at Pittsburgh to give Tampa Bay a 1-3 record, something most Bucs fans and the organization is disappointed with. Despite the losing record, a number of players have stood out through the team’s first four games. PewterReport.com takes a look at the Top 5 performers through the first quarter of the 2014 season for the Buccaneers.
1. DT GERALD MCCOY
When Tampa Bay hired Lovie Smith as the Bucs new head coach last January, the inevitable – and possibly unfair – expectations of Warren Sapp were running through most fans’ minds. Through the first quarter of the season, not only has McCoy has embraced those expectations, and is doing his part to meet them. In three games (McCoy missed the Falcons game with a broken hand) Tampa Bay’s two-time Pro Bowl three-technique has recorded two sacks, 10 tackles and one pass breakup, with one of those sacks coming last week while virtually playing with one hand. Besides the officially tracked stats, McCoy has been a disruptive force on the inside and creates headaches for opposing offensive coordinators each week. Make no mistake, on Monday, when opposing teams being their game planning, the first thing they do is try and figure out how to stop McCoy.
2. LB LAVONTE DAVID
While the numbers are down from last season, the struggle through the first four games of the entire defense have possibly contributed to the lack of splash plays for Tampa Bay’s star weakside linebacker. Even though he has yet to record an interception or sack, David is still having a solid season and leads the team with 38 tackles, a team-leading eight tackles for loss, a team-high two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery. Even with the somewhat quiet season so far, Davis still ranks ninth in the NFL in tackles. One aspect of David’s game that has improved is his leadership. A number of players in the locker room have mentioned that David is now a more vocal leader. As the defense improves, look for more impact plays from the former Cornhusker.
3. LG LOGAN MANKINS
As the preseason was winding down, Bucs general manager Jason Licht, seeing a group of offensive guards struggling, threw up a Hail Mary, and the football gods answered and the Bucs and Patriots swapped Mankins for Tim Wright and a fourth-round pick in next year’s NFL Draft. Mankins has been a terrific addition to the Bucs offensive line, playing through injury, being consistent on the field and a leader in the meeting room. Mankins’ veteran presence was exemplified last week against Pittsburgh when a Mike Glennon hard count caused Steelers defensive lineman Arthur Moats to jump. Mankins immediately lunged forward and the Steelers were penalized for a defensive offsides call resulting in a first down. When the season is over, quarterbacks Josh McCown and Glennon will undoubtedly owe Mankins a dinner at the very least, and would be wise to invite Licht along to join them for an evening at Bern’s Steakhouse.
4. WR MIKE EVANS
When Tampa Bay selected wide receiver Mike Evans last May in the draft, it was a bit anti-climactic. With Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel still on the board, and a number of other players some would deem as bigger needs, the selection of Evans didn’t created a huge buzz. But through the first four games Evans has lived up to his billing and had been the most consistent receiver on the Bucs roster. Evans 17 catches for 203 yards (11.9 avg.) is towards the league leaders in receptions for rookies, outpacing other first-rounders like Sammy Watkins and Brandin Cooks. Unfortunately Evan suffered a groin injury last week at Pittsburgh and will be out two to three weeks, but when healthy, the former Aggies star is becoming a reliable target that is quickly improving all aspects of his game and once day could replace Vincent Jackson as a Pro Bowler.
5. LT ANTHONY COLLINS
Collins had been far from perfect, and has had three holding penalties that have frustrated fans and coaches, but when looking at his first four games, and the players he has went against, the former Bengals backup has been very impressive. Collins allowed one sack by Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy and Rams defensive end Robert Quinn, who led the league in sacks last year with 19. That’s something that would be hard to fathom after Collins’ lackluster preseason. Run blocking is something Collins himself would most likely agree needs to get better but he and his offensive line teammates should only improve as the season progresses as the continuity gets better. Perhaps more importantly, Collins is viewed as an upgrade over Donald Penn.
Honorable Mentions: QB Mike Glennon, RT Demar Dotson, DT Clinton McDonald and RB Bobby Rainey
Mark Cook currently is the director of editorial content and Bucs beat writer and has written for PewterReport.com since 2011. Cook has followed the Buccaneers since 1977 when he first began watching football with his Dad and is fond of the 1979 Bucs team that came within 10 points of going to a Super Bowl. His favorite Bucs game is still the 1979 divisional playoff win 24-17 over the Eagles. In his spare time Cook enjoys playing guitar, fishing, surfing and family time at the beach. In addition, Cook can be found in front of a television or in Doak Campbell any time the FSU Seminoles are playing. Cook is a native of Pinecrest in Eastern Hillsborough County and has written for numerous publications including the Tampa Tribune, In the Field and Ya'll Magazine. Cook can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Offensive play calling is absolutely horrible…
The officiating was abissmal. I’m not usually one to complain, but thet might as well gave the game to the saints. Glennon looked pretty good and I feel comfortable with him at quarterback
Collins? That’s a joke!
LaVonte David feeds off McCoy. When McCoy was out David was in single digit tackles. With McCoy David is in double digits. Look at NFL stats. Lavonte has significantly more solo tackles than Luke Kuechly. As a mike Kuechly must get a lot of garbage assists.
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