Fan bloggers Jason De La Torre and Romando Williams will be regularly offering up their insight into their favorite team, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, in their blog titled From The Cheap Seats. De La Torre is a Bucs Blogger for NFL.com’s Blog Blitz, both are long-time Pewter Report subscribers, active participants on the PewterReport.com message boards and die-hard fans that are extremely knowledgeable about the game of football. In this edition of From The Cheap Seats, De La Torre reviews the first quarter of the Bucs’ season.
We’re four games into the 2010 season and what a start it has been for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Coming into the season, few would have predicted that Tampa Bay would match their entire 2009 win total in just a month but somehow, some way it’s happened.
These Buccaneers may not be the most talented team in the NFL but they certainly have heart and a desire to play the entire 60 minutes. That, a little luck, and some young talent that doesn’t realize they shouldn’t be this competitive yet have the Buccaneers off to a good start in their “race to ten”.First Quarter Record:
Tampa Bay has matched their entire win total of 2009 in the first month of the season, have won five of their last seven games and four straight on the road. Sooner or later someone may take notice of this football team. Then again, Coach Morris is definitely milking the “us against the world” mentality.Most Valuable Player:
Josh Freeman, Quarterback
Freeman has been the key cog in this Buccaneer resurgence. The second year quarterback has led the Bucs to two come from behind victories this season, completed nearly 60% of his passes for 824 yds with 5 touchdowns and 3 interceptions. He’s on pace for 25 touchdown passes and has become a rushing threat, adding 112 yards on the ground.
Offensive Player of the Quarter:
Josh Freeman, Quarterback
His leadership and grittiness have become some his strongest assets (which include size, a cannon arm, and mobility). He’s already established a connection with his new number one wide out Mike Williams, which may end up being one of the legendary connections in Bucs history.Defensive Player of the Quarter:
Ronde Barber, cornerback
Methuselah has nothing on Ronde Barber. The ageless wonder has been terrific this season, making big time plays in the Bucs secondary that have helped Tampa Bay to its fast start. While Aquib Talib has more interceptions and has gone against the league’s best, Talib has been caught a few times on the deep ball this year. Barber has been burned once or twice as well but typically, the wily vet is in position to make a play on the ball.Special Teams Player of the Quarter:
Connor Barth, kicker
Perfect on all his kicks, including the game winner at Cincinnati, Barth has been the closest thing to automatic the Bucs have had since Gramatica (pre-Super Bowl hangover).Most Improved Player of the Quarter:
Tim Crowder, Defensive End
While inexplicably still not the starter for Tampa Bay, Crowder leads the Bucs defense with 2 sacks and a forced fumble. He’s been getting more and more playing time as one of the few Buc defensive linemen that can apply consistent pressure on the quarterback.Most Disappointing Player of the Quarter:
The entire Bucs Offensive line
Considered the strongest unit heading into the 2009 season, it’s a mystery what’s happened to the Bucs offensive line. It’s not a lack of talent. Davin Joseph and Jeremy Trueblood are high draft picks, Jeff Faine was a highly coveted free agent, Donald Penn was considered one of the best LT’s in 2009 and Keydrick Vincent was a cog in the Carolina running machine.
Yet this unit has given up 10 sacks, countless pressures, and has opened up few holes for the Bucs’ anemic running game.
If the Bucs hope to continue their winning ways, this unit must get better.Rookie of the Quarter:
Mike Williams, Wide Receiver
Few players have ever had the instant impact that this young talent has provided the Bucs in the first quarter of the season. The fourth round steal out of Syracuse has emerged as Josh Freeman’s go to guy and has answered the bell, hauling in a team leading 19 catches for 238 yards and 3 touchdowns.Best Game of the Quarter:
Tampa Bay 20, Carolina 7
While probably not the most exciting game of the quarter (the Cincinnati game takes that one), the most complete performance by the Bucs was definitely their win in Charlotte. The Bucs were solid in all three phases and dominated their longtime nemesis, the Panthers. Worst Game of the Quarter:
Pittsburgh 38, Tampa Bay 13
It was just one of those days for the Bucs where whatever could go wrong did.Best Coaching Move:
Sticking with Safety Cody Grimm
After a rough first outing against Pittsburgh, the Bucs coaching staff stuck behind rookie 7th round draft pick Cody Grimm as suspended safety Tanard Jackson’s replacement and the youngster rewarded their confidence by having a break out game against Cincinnati. 9 tackles (6 solo), solid coverage and a pick six helped the Bucs contain the vaunted Bengal passing attack to just 209 yards passing and three interceptions.Worst Coaching Move:
Sticking with Cadillac Williams as the primary back
It’s just painful to see Williams struggle. Certainly, he gets no help from his offensive line, is probably the best at blitz pickup among the running backs, and has the heart of a champion but Williams has become a terrible liability in the running game.
A measly 2.6 yards a carry on 66 totes and several pass drops as Freeman’s safety valve has hurt the Bucs’ offense. Opponents have no respect for Tampa Bay’s running game making play action ineffective and putting more on the broad shoulders of QB Josh Freeman.
It’s incumbent on the Bucs coaching staff to get LeGarrette Blount and Kareem Huggins up to speed on blitz pickup as quickly as possible.
Having Blount’s power and Huggins shiftiness can mask a lot of the deficiencies in the offensive line. Williams doesn’t have the power, speed, or vision any more to make an impact.
Cut the cord, coach Morris.Reasons for Hope:
For young teams, confidence is crucial and getting off to a good start was imperative for the Bucs to have any hope of success this season. With the fast start, Tampa Bay has the opportunity to build off the momentum of the first quarter and play with confidence the rest of the season. The schedule is also pretty favorable, with five of their remaining games against teams at .500 or worse.Reasons for Suicide Watch:
First, there’s the youth of this football team. Can they be mentally strong enough to handle the inevitable slumps and the grind of a 16 game season? Then of course there’s the records of the teams the Bucs have beaten - a combined 3-12. Record Prediction:
With the schedule in their favor and good head start on the race to ten, I believe the Buccaneers have the confidence to stay the course and be competitive in most of their games this season. While I’m predicting the team will go 6-6 the rest of the way, it’s more due to the Bucs’ inability to run the football and stop the run. It’s hard to win consistently in the NFL when you’re deficient in those two key areas.
If they can find a way to shore up those two glaring weaknesses the thought of playoffs may not be as laughable as it was four weeks ago.
Stay thirsty for Bucs football, my friends.
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