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September 19, 2010 @ 8:07 pm
Current rating: 4.50 Stars/8 Votes

What We Learned: Bucs At Panthers

Written by Scott
Scott Reynolds


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In a new PewterReport.com feature, Scott Reynolds reviews Tampa Bay's 20-7 victory at Carolina and draws some conclusions about the 2-0 Buccaneers from Sunday's triumph.
Pewter Report's Scott Reynolds offers up some analysis and observations from Tampa Bay's 20-7 drubbing of the Panthers in Carolina as the Bucs start the 2010 season 2-0.

• We learned that the Bucs offensive line needs to do a better job of opening holes and we learned that Cadillac Williams is no longer considered an elite running back. Granted, Williams did have a 20-yard last week against Cleveland and had an 18-yarder and a 22-yarder called back due to penalties, but his 51 yards and 1.9-yard average against Carolina came on 27 carries. Not 17 carries – 27 carries.

Give most elite running backs 20 carries and they will break a big run – even if the offensive line is not opening up many holes. Elite backs can create big plays on their own with speed and elusiveness. Williams’ longest run of the day was an 8-yarder.

The Bucs would have used speedster Kareem Huggins on Sunday if not for his pulled groin. Another woeful rushing performance similar to this and LeGarrett Blount will be pressed into service even sooner – and that may not be a bad thing.

• We learned Josh Freeman isn’t selfish. All the kid wants to do is win. He doesn’t care about his stats or style points. He admitted that he only completed 50 percent of his passes after the game and took more pride in the fact that he didn’t have any turnovers rather than hyping up his two touchdown passes.

That’s a winning attitude, and it’s no surprise this team is 2-0 with Freeman, who is 4-1 in his last five starts, acting like a winner. Having a 4:1 touchdown-to-interception ratio is playing a huge role in Tampa Bay’s hot start.

• We learned Freeman is truly a dual-threat quarterback. Unless you followed Kansas State football intently (and I’m probably the only one around who does), you might not know that Freeman was nearly the Wildcats’ leading rusher during his junior season with 404 yards and 14 touchdowns on 107 carries. Keep in mind that sack yardage counts against rushing yardage in college football, so he likely rushed for over 500 yards.

Against the Panthers on Sunday, Freeman rushed for a career-high 43 yards on four carries. Yet as great as those scrambles were, his best run may have been shaking off Panthers defensive linemen Charles Johnson and Eric Norwood behind the line of scrimmage and firing a 40-yard pass downfield to tight end Kellen Winslow.

Through two games, Freeman has rushed for 77 yards on six carries (12.8 avg.) and picked up four first downs. Against Carolina, Freeman had runs of 17 yards, three yards, 11 yards and 12 yards. Bucs fans might not have recognized that Freeman is a dual threat as he rushed for 161 yards on 30 carries (5.4 avg.) last year, but they certainly do now.

• We learned that Mike Williams is a serious threat for NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year honors. Williams may not get enough touches to contend with Detroit running back Jahvid Best, who has four touchdowns in his first two NFL games, but the rookie receiver from Syracuse has a good chance of being the top rookie wide receiver in 2010. Through two games, Williams has seven catches for 84 yards and two highlight reel touchdowns, including Sunday’s 35-yarder in which he eluded four Carolina defenders, turning cornerbacks Chris Gamble and Richard Marshall, safety Sherrod Martin and linebacker James Anderson into the Keystone Cops.

You can tell that Freeman already has supreme confidence in Williams, evidenced by the fact that he fired a deep ball to the end zone early in the first quarter when Williams was in a one-on-one jump ball situation with Gamble. Gamble won that one, but clearly lost on Williams’ second quarter touchdown.

• We learned that tight end Kellen Winslow doesn’t need any practice. If a week off of practice helps Winslow’s ailing knee to the point where he catches four passes for 83 yards, including grabs of 24 and 40 yards to pick up first downs on scoring drives, let the veteran rest during the week for the remainder of the season.

• We learned the Bucs defense knows how to finish. In the first two games of the 2010 season, Tampa Bay has shut down and shut out opposing offenses in the second half. The Bucs have allowed zero points, outscoring foes 13-0 in the last two quarters.

Tampa Bay has also taken away opponents’ running game. The Browns rushed for just 17 yards in the second half, while the Panthers were held to only 38. That fourth down goal line stand where linebacker Geno Hayes knifed in to tackle Jonathan Stewart was a thing of beauty.

The Bucs have also recorded three sacks and recorded five turnovers in the second half this year. That’s the sign of a winning football team’s defense.

• We learned why the Bucs were scouting middle linebackers so hard in the draft. Barrett Ruud has his share of critics that harp on his lack of stoutness against the run and his difficulty shedding blocks and Sunday’s game at Carolina gave those critics more fuel to put on the fire.

Ruud was sealed off by rookie right tackle Geoff Schwartz on DeAngelo Williams’ 11-yard run up the middle in the first quarter. In the second quarter, Ruud didn’t maintain gap control and over-pursued Jonathan Stewart on his 19-yard run up the middle. Later in the second quarter, he couldn’t shed Schwartz’s block and allowed a 16-yard run up the middle by Williams. Ruud was pancaked by left tackle Jordan Gross on a 9-yard run up the middle by Williams.

In the fourth quarter, Ruud missed an ankle tackle of Williams, who picked up five yards on third-and-1. The Nebraska product also got driven back seven yards and couldn’t beat the block by tight end Dante Rosario as Mike Goodson, the player he was assigned to cover, picked up 10 yards on a reception on third-and-10. Goodson also eluded Ruud in one-on-one coverage to pick up 14 yards on a second quarter reception.

To be fair, Ruud did make some good tackles and had several good defensive calls. The stat sheet reveals that he led the team with nine stops. Yet Ruud played a big part in giving up 59 yards rushing up the middle by this account, in addition to 24 yards receiving and five first downs. Considering the Panthers recorded 278 yards, that’s over one quarter of their offensive production and nearly one-third of the team’s 16 first downs.

• We learned that Ronde Barber is fighting Father Time – and winning. Last Sunday’s interception of Jake Delhomme was no fluke. Barber recorded his second pick in as many games as he picked off Matt Moore in the third quarter to set up a field goal. Barber gambled by releasing wide receiver David Gettis downfield and trusted his instincts and film study to freelance and step in front of wide receiver Steve Smith, who was covered by Aqib Talib, to pick off the pass.

Barber finished with five tackles, a tackle for loss, one interception and two pass breakups, including a great one on third-and-2 with 7:24 left in the fourth quarter. Rookie defensive tackle Gerald McCoy guard Travelle Wharton and really pressured Jimmy Clausen and Barber swooped in and knocked the ball away from Gettis at the last minute.

Barber’s lone sin was letting Gettis get behind him deep in the third quarter. Thankfully for the Bucs, Moore’s pass was too far out in front or Gettis would have had a 74-yard touchdown.

Make no mistake. The 35-year old Barber can still play at a high level in this league, and that’s a good thing as third-round draft pick Myron Lewis’ growth has been stunted due to injury. Lewis was inactive against the Panthers.

• We learned that Tim Crowder wants more playing time. After the Bucs went sackless in their first game, Crowder answered the bell for the team and recorded two at Carolina and forced a fumble. The former second-round pick has been more productive throughout his career and this season than starting left end Kyle Moore and deserves the chance to start. At the very least, his performance should be rewarded with more playing time.

Thankfully, head coach and defensive coordinator Raheem Morris didn’t use much of the 3-4 defense against Carolina. Last week, Crowder was used as a stand-up linebacker in the 3-4 and was responsible for covering the tight end. He gave up a 10-yard pass on third-and-7 to Cleveland’s Ben Watson, in addition to a 49-yard gain to tight end Evan Moore. Crowder is a pass rusher, not a pass coverage defender after Week 2 Morris should have that figured out.

• We learned that the Bucs defense came to play on third down. All four of Tampa Bay’s sacks against Carolina came on third down with Crowder (twice), defensive end Stylez G. White and linebacker Quincy Black doing the honors. Two of the Bucs’ takeaways – Ronde Barber’s interception and Crowder’s forced fumble – also happened on third down against the Panthers.

• We learned that Andrew Economos is a heat-seeking missile. The Bucs long snapper, who made two tackles and forced a fumble against Cleveland, has become a tackling machine. Economos dashed downfiled and recorded the Bucs’ first special teams tackle on Carolina punt returner Captain Munnerlyn.

Through two games, Economos has three special teams tackles, which matches his season total from a year ago. Economos, who was named the team’s special teams captain for the first time, trained hard during the offseason and looks faster than ever in coverage.

• We learned that Connor Barth may be the real deal. Barth made field goals of 24 and 33 yards against Carolina, and accounted for all of Tampa Bay’s second half points. He is currently 3-of-3 on the season after nailing a 49-yarder against Cleveland last week.

Barth was 5-of-5 in the preseason and made seven of his last eight field goals to end the 2009 season. Add up all the kicks in live games – preseason and regular season – and Barth is 15-of-16 kicking field goals. That’s 93.8 percent, folks. If Barth keeps this up he will be yet another fine free agent pick-up by general manager Mark Dominik.

• We learned that momentum can be a very dangerous thing for a young team – in a good way. Sometimes young football teams that are full of inexperience overcome that due to momentum and confidence. They just don’t know that they aren’t supposed to win games and be as good as their record might indicate.

That happened to Tampa Bay in 1997 when a young Bucs team started off 5-0, but later got exposed and had to rally and finish 5-6 down the stretch to make the playoffs with a 10-6 record. Don’t be surprised if the Bucs have a letdown in the middle of the season as the inexperience at key positions will ultimately surface in some costly ways.

Credit head coach Raheem Morris for using a bunch of media predictions of 2-14 (Sports Illustrated’s Peter King) and 5-11 (the local Tampa Bay newspaper) to circle the wagons before the season started and fire up his troops. It’s not that somebody forgot to tell the Bucs they were supposed to be bad this year. They didn’t listen.

For the record, Pewter Report picked the Bucs to go 7-9 this year and that’s certainly not far-fetched after a 2-0 record.

• We learned that the Bucs won’t finish in last place in the NFC South this year. That distinction will belong to the Panthers. The youngest team in the NFL is also one of the worst. Shoddy quarterback play – whether it is from Matt Moore or rookie Jimmy Clausen – will hurt Carolina all year.

• We learned that Tampa Bay has a decent shot of going undefeated into the bye week. All of a sudden, the upcoming game against the 2-0 Steelers looks potentially winnable thanks to smart, efficient quarterback play from Freeman, the opportunistic nature of Tampa Bay’s tough defense and Barth’s right leg on field goals. The fact that this game will be played at home and is a potential sell out will only help the Bucs.

Also aiding Tampa Bay is the fact that Pittsburgh’s quarterback situation is in turmoil. Ben Roethlisberger is suspended and backup Dennis Dixon hurt his knee against Tennessee on Sunday. That means that Charlie Batch or former Bucs starter Byron Leftwich will be under center at Raymond James Stadium.

One more positive in the Bucs’ favor is the fact that the offensive line handled Carolina’s pass rush pretty good and didn’t give up sack. The O-line will receive its stiffest test of the year from outside rush linebackers Lamarr Woodley and James Harrison.
Last modified on Thursday, 23 September 2010 14:52

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  • avatar

    To AIDEN and anyone else who thinks Cadillac Williams has only rushed good in the first three games of his career. Do your homework if you werent around for the 2005 season before you talk. The guy had 1200 yards (1178 to be exact) that season, yet didnt have more than 29 yards in a game for 6 games in a row when he was hurt!! That means he put some serious yardage on the books when he game back from his injury, starting with a 30 yard gain first play of the game in week 10 @ Atlanta and highlighted with a 150 yard game in week 15. Then the next year, 2006, which was simply put one of the worst offensive years ever, yet he finished with 800 yards (798 actual) while missing the last two games of the season. He probably never was an elite top 10 running back, but we've only had three of those in our history, Wilder, Dunn and Alstott. Without those 07 and 08 knee injuries, theres no telling where he would have ended up, especially if our O line would ever learn how to run block.
  • avatar

    "and we learned that Cadillac Williams is no longer considered an elite running back." Outside of the first 3 games of his career when he rushed for 434 yards, when has he ever been considered and elite running back?
  • avatar

    Great article. I'm sold on the young Buc defense and on Freeman's maturation in his decision making. The only thing that worries me: in both the Cleveland game and the Carolina game, there were at least 4 instances where a WR got behind the safeties and corners. Subpar QB play saved the Bucs from being exposed. Guys like Brees and Ryan won't miss those throws. But enough of that. The Bucs are 2-0 and look legit, with a promising future. I hope the naysayers have learned a lesson in patience.
  • avatar

    I know it's trivial, but Love the Red Top and White Bottoms on the team. It's the best look imo. It beats out the Pewter bottoms hands down.
  • avatar

    You nailed it with your studious insight!!
  • avatar

    message to all hater: the Bucs are 2-0 baby!!! wow is it great to see this young talented team grow in front of our eyes, i have been waiting for this fora long time. and i can officially say it THE TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS HAVE A ELITE FRANCHISE QUARTERBACK NOW, aaahhhh thats nice to say... BUCS 4 LIFE GO TAMPA BAY FIRE THOSE CANNONS CAUSE WERE 2-0 BABY now lets take care of a former buc in Tomlin and ruin his homecoming.
  • avatar

    I'm not trying to throw anyone under the bus here but man, what a difference in the substance when Scott writes an article. I have to admit that I miss Flynn. I'm sure that the other writers need time to develop contacts at some level near Scott's I just hope it is sooner than later. GO BUC's
  • avatar

    The key is progress and we're seeing it at QB, WR, and DT. We have some very talented players who haven't seen the field yet. The youth movement needs to get Huggins, Blount, and Lumpkin involved at RB, and Parker, Benn, and Stroughter at WR. We need another younger option at TE. Winslow is great but his durability is a question. The OL has to be the next top priority. Our run blocking is pathetic. I believe we have some real jewels waiting in the wings at DE, and only need to upgrade Sims at DT. Ruud will improve this year and I am happy with the LBs we have. Our DBs have performed pretty well so far and is not a pressing need, but Mister Ronde Barber can't play forever. The only problem with him is, if he keeps making interceptions, the QBs might rethink their misconception that he is too old and too slow to play the game. Dominik and Morris have done a great job in a very short period of time. There are still issues to be addressed, but I am confident they will be. Terrific scouting and great decisions seem to be the norm with this new regime. I love it. I have a feeling blackouts are not going to be a long term problem.
  • avatar

    Great read, great points. We will definitely need some wiggle at the RB position this weekend. Cadillac runs hard but could use a scat back this weekend. Make the Steelers D run around trying to catch Kareem.
  • avatar

    I think if we have a specific, mostly conservative game plan against the Steelers, there's absolutely no reason we can't beat them. Nothing they do on offense is even remotely threatening (beyond the running game, and we've controlled a couple of good running teams at this point). I think check-downs, screen passes, etc., will be the key against the Steelers (no deep passes unless a receiver is CLEARLY open AND Polomaunu's (sp?) location has been identified. On the team as a whole: Freeman's poise is phenomenally encouraging (we saw this last year). The ability, two games in a row, to make the defensive adjustments after being somewhat abused in the run game to turn around and SHUT down an opponent is the sign of a much more seasoned team than we are. This, to me, is almost more encouraging than the offense.
  • avatar

    I think caddy just needs a little help from the oline and a change of pace back. Through both games I've either seen him or EG taking all the snaps....the dude has 2 blown up knees I'd say he needs a little more of a break to be able to run consistently cause he's still busting off 5-10 yard runs he just follows them up with 1 or 2 or no yard gains and that to me just screams take me out I need a breather dude. Work horse backs in the NFL these days are long gone cause the defenses have gotten bigger and badder and with 2 knees already in the trash bin...well it just isn't going to work like it used to. So moral of the story give the man some help and fans don't dismiss this guy so quickly, he may not be chris johnson or AP, but he can stil run and with all the hard work he's put in to be able to still be our family cadillac I'd say we owe it to him as fans to cheer for this guy till our knees give out.
  • avatar

    Scott, I really like this new weekly article. The format is a quick and easy read. Like Garv, it only adds more fuel to my fire for this week. I hope it is a sell out and that the majority of FANS there are wearing Pewter/ Red!!
  • avatar

    We can beat the Steelers. There defense is a little better than ours but our offense can move the ball through the air. Come on they had 7 first downs and 127 TOTAL yards for the game. I think 106 of those yards were on the ground. Titans are tough on defense, but their offense had a terrible time holding on to the football. Same game plan as Carolina. Stop the run and play without turnovers BUCs win. We are at home amd Raymond James will be rocking........ GO BUCs..... Fire those CANNONS 3-0 here we come
  • avatar

    PR I have been a Barrett Ruud supporter, but wanted Brandon Spikes from the U of F. I noticed the same things you did. Ruud is a good linebacker, but certainly not an All Pro.
  • avatar

    We can win against the Steelers, go get them Bucs. Look at them and know that they put their pants one leg at a time just as we do also. Fear is the biggest hurdle. Go hit someone and take this game from their defense. Do not depend on Caddy as he is not the answer, defense and Freeman is the key. Hopefully Blount will be activated and have some packages installed for him. We need his physical presence and I pray that the O-line can play better because this unit has truly regressed, including Faine and Joseph.
  • avatar

    Super job by the team, they are young and haven't filled all of their holes yet (Ruud specifically should be a back up, or only in on passing downs), but an impressive start.
  • avatar

    I'm glad and not surprised we're 2-0. The Steelers defense will be a big test and should utilize Huggins speed because, it's painfully obvious, Caddy is average at best. The Steelers is a winnable game so I hope the Bucs are focused and hungry.
  • avatar

    Great article, very well thought out... Pit s going to be very tough, a true test, but we have a chance with #5 and that defense
  • avatar

    Good Article. I think we also learned that the draft will be focused on OL RB , and DE at this point in time. I am concerned about Faine making it through the season and I am not sure how we will be able to adjust to that. One thing I see already about the Steelers; they are fast and hard hitting. We better have our chin straps on tight and ready to play smash ball. I hope this game will get sold out? Go Bucs!
  • avatar

    Great article, PR. Just one note on Barber's pick. My untrained eye suggested that Ronde was playing the short zone on the play and correctly let Gettis run by. He saw they were trying to run him off deep to clear for S Smith. The veteran knew the obvious - that the Panthers were likely trying to target Smith and Ronde jumped Smith's curl route perfectly. Those bunch formations are tough to read, but Barber's the guy to do it. Well done!
  • avatar

    Steelers vs. Bucs defense caomparison. Total Points Allowed: PIT – 20 BUCS- 21 Yards per Game: PIT – 266 BUCS – 309 Passing Yards allowed: PIT – 429 BUCS – 395 Rushing Yards allowed: PIT – 104 BUCS – 223 Interceptions: PIT – 4 BUCS – 4 Forced Fumbles: PIT – 6 BUCS – 4 Sacks: PIT – 6 BUCS – 4 Opposing QB Rating: PIT – 63.6 BUCS – 55.6 You can argue that the Flacons and Titans were better teams than the Browns and Panthers, but our defenses match up very well statisticly. They are better vs. the run, we are better vs. the pass. This Sunday is a huge game for us. If we win the turnover battle, we will win the game. If we manage to win and head into our bi-week 3-0…I think we’ll have no more black outs and the national media will once again except us as worthy of coverage.
  • avatar

    the bucs have the makings of something good. this was a nice game but we are a long way from having an elite pass rusher. if we get one, along with an MLB, we can become a truly fierce unit. the offense could use 1 or 2 pieces to help in the run game but our passing game is going to be really special for years - we haven't even seen benn or stroughter get in the flow yet, but as our QB matures he looks to have some really exciting guys to throw to. if this continues, many people will owe the glazers an apology for misconstruing their intentions when they blew up the team and put their trust in dominick. we're not a playoff team yet, and there will be some tough-to-watch games possibly as soon as next sunday, but man......after 3-13 this is like water in the desert.
  • avatar

    What an EXCELLENT piece of writing, We DID learn those things and it's about time we appreciate them. I feel strongly that this team is on the way back in a big way. The running game right now is a problem but with Josh Freeman and our defense, it can be overcome enough to win some more games. And just wait until Blount and Huggins gets some carries. I'm excited! This process of watching and being a part of the Buccaneers building through the draft, building into what I believe will be a consistent winner again, is as good as it gets. Thanks and a hat tip Scott. Not that I needed it, but this article got me even more fired up!
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