The “dress rehearsal” didn’t go well this weekend.
It’s still just preseason, but if that first half was any indication of what’s to come, optimism just took a big hit.
Cleveland and discarded Tampa Bay quarterback Josh McCown got a nice head start when return man Travis Benjamin’s 53-yard runback put the Browns up 7-0 less than 2 minutes into the game.
Things just continued to go downhill from there.
Bucs fans looked on with frustration as another drive sputtered. Irritation grew while watching McCown take Cleveland 80 yards downfield for another touchdown.
It was a rough start to a rough night that ended in a 31-7 defeat and wiped away many of the positive memories from five days prior.
But hey, Tampa Bay jumped all over Buffalo last year in Week 3 of the preseason en route to a 27-14 win. We all know how 2014 turned out.
TROUBLE IN THE TRENCHES
Tampa Bay’s offensive line has been its biggest preseason concern and those worries didn’t lessen Saturday night.
The entire first quarter was filled with lowlights and now rookie left tackle Donovan Smith is walking around in a boot. The extent of the injury is unclear and head coach Lovie Smith was predictably vague when questioned about it Monday.
The team picked up veteran lineman Gosder Cherilus following the injury to starting right tackle Demar Dotson, but 2013 seventh-round draft pick Reid Fragel was back in to start Saturday.
Because of injury or competition, the Bucs have now started three different groups of five linemen in each preseason game. Lovie Smith addressed the media Monday and said it’s a frustrating reality but that the team’s still “on pace.”
“In an ideal world you would like to have all five guys together for training camp through the preseason,” Smith said. “But I really judge it more on getting in position and looking at a lot of different combinations in the preseason. It’s about the regular season. To me, I’d be disappointed if we’re having to rotate guys once the regular season starts. But right now we’re still on pace.”
Pass protection has been particularly troublesome, with Tampa Bay surrendering more preseason sacks (13) than any other team in the league. That’s an average of over four per game.
THREE’S A CROWD
Now that the Bucs traded tight end Tim Wright to Detroit for rookie kicker Kyle Brindza, three candidates are vying for the starting job.
Incumbent Patrick Murray and past Mr. Reliable Connor Barth failed to impress Saturday by taking turns missing field goals. Murray went 20-for-24 (83.3 percent) on field goal attempts last year but has already missed three of his five kicks and an extra point. Barth came aboard last week and promptly missed his first attempt Saturday from 43 yards.
Brindza converted all three of his field goal opportunities this preseason with the Lions and showed his versatility by averaging 49.3 yards on four punts, including putting three inside the 20.
“I think most of you have heard that we acquired Kyle Brindza, a kicker with a strong leg,” Lovie Smith said Monday. “Of course he’s a young guy, and playing at Notre Dame we knew a little bit about him. As we’ve said all along, we’ll always be looking to improve our ball club. If we see somebody that we think deserves a look, we’ll give him that. And that’s the case right now.”
ALEXANDER THE GREAT
Linebacker Kwon Alexander continues to be one of the Bucs’ preseason bright spots.
Photo: Mark Lomoglio/PR
The rookie out of LSU has taken advantage of his opportunities by playing fast, flying to the ball and leveling some jump-out-of-your-seat hits on opposing ball carries. Browns quarterback Josh McCown is aware.
Alexander racked up five combined tackles, a sack and two tackles for loss against Cleveland.
Heading into Thursday’s preseason finale, Alexander leads the team in tackles with 13, ahead of defensive lineman William Gholston (11) and cornerback Brandon Dixon (10).
Alexander is so far doing what Bruce Carter couldn’t, which is grabbing ahold of the starting middle linebacker job and making it difficult for coaches to wrestle it away.
After stealing away possession five times over the first two preseason games, Tampa Bay failed to generate the same kind of disruption against Cleveland.
That’s going to happen from time to time and the Bucs did a good job of not compounding the problem by turning the ball over on multiple occasions. Quarterback Jameis Winston’s ugly, back-foot interception while under pressure was the lone giveaway.
For a quick refresher, Tampa Bay’s recorded a pair of interceptions (CB Alterraun Verner and FS Bradley McDougald) and three fumble recoveries (LB Bruce Carter, DE Lawrence Sidbury and DB Leonard Johnson). The team’s four forced fumbles were credited to LB Khaseem Greene, DL William Gholston, Sidbury and Verner.
WHO’S BACK DEEP?
Tampa Bay drafted receiver Kaelin Clay in the sixth round this year with visions of him providing a spark to the return game.
So far it’s been more of a fizzle.
Clay has returned six punts for a 5.3-yard average (16-yard long) and five kicks for a 19.2-yard average (23-yard long). A positive is that he’s managed to avoid costly muffs or fumbles, but his indecisiveness allows coverage players to close in fast.
Kick return duties may now be fellow rookie receiver Rannell Hall’s to lose. The UCF grad was given his first three opportunities Saturday night and ran each back like a guy who wanted to get to the other side of the field as fast as possible.
Hall’s returns went for 26, 33 and 34 yards, respectively, for an average of 31.0.
Another rookie, Kenny Bell, has averaged 20.7 yards per kick return on his three attempts.
The only other Buccaneer to bring back a punt return this preseason has been rookie Adam Humphries. That chance came in the second quarter Saturday night and went for 12 yards.
Clay’s inability to turn heads on special teams may put an end to his short stay in Tampa Bay. If he survives tomorrow’s 4 p.m. cut-down deadline, he’ll need show some better burst and ability Thursday in Miami.
Listen the Bucs have serious issues on this team that won’t be fixed anytime soon. The O-line is about as bad as the line that gave up 60 sacks for David Carr and ruined his career, Winston will take a beating week to week and will throw under pressure causing a lot of turn overs to think otherwise is not reality and they haven’t been watching the Bucs thus far in pre season. Preseason troubles always become regular season troubles, problems don’t go away in the regular season, the o-line is the worst I have ever seen, the kick return man is a joke, we have no depth at any position except DT, kicking has now become a problem the punter sucks so on and so on. There will be an overhaul in coaching next yr Lovie, Frazier and Walthrop will be toast next yr as we will win a total of no more than 4 games and if we don’t beat the Titans at home I don’t know who we will beat
Gruden, you’re not going to get your job back, but I agree with much you say. Actually, the 1976 and 1977 OL was worse than this one. We are also deep at QB.
I am trying largely to ignore the preseason rollercoaster ride – after Cincy we had solved our OL problems and our DL looked like the best in the league; now after the Browns everything is a total disaster. I have fallen for this preseason review before, but not this time. We simply are not as bad as the team that got beat on Saturday and not as good as the team that made Gino and co. look rather Browns-esque. This won’t be the year we challenge for the Superbowl, i don’t think anyone is expecting that, but it’s also not setting up to be a totally wasted year ending in yet another re-boot…we have some talent (our starting and depth LBs and WRs are as good as anyone’s in the league) , we have some big holes (OL and DE for sure), we have some learning to do (QB is prime among them), and we have much much better coaching this year (e.g., Koetter) to help us do that learning (both in-game and at 1-Buc)…
It will be interesting if they also have Brindle punt. They could save a roster spot by having him pull double duty for both kicking positions. Though he may get a dead leg during games from all of the potential punting he might have to do if our offense fails to continue drives.
Smith in a boot. Well, he must be comfortable in it, Looks like he’s played in two of them the past week. Personally I can’t STAND Lovie’s “vague” pressers. HATED them last year and not thrilled with this year’s either. No more damn excuses though. The Buccaneers had BETTER show up to win a week from this coming Sunday.
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I agree with east end. IT was not as good as we thought after the Cincy game and not as bad as we think now after the Browns game. We are not going to be a playoff team but anyone who thought we were isn’t paying attention. It is going to take another few quality drafts to get to the point where we can win the Division and make some waves. We need help on both sides of the ball in the trenches.
I would keep Winston out of the first game for three reasons; injury needs to heal, Oline has to get it together and this will take a few games, watch and learn. This is starting to feel like another RGIII situation where he had no business playing with his injury. If Winston is for the long haul then we should at least make sure he is healthy to move around the pocket as we are going to be blitz by many teams. Lastly, we don’t have a DE rush and I don’t know how this is going to be corrected in this season.
I think tampa could look at the waiver wire and pickup a vet ko & kr player untill the rookie is healthy.I also think Tampa needs to get another vet QB to be ready incase JW gets injured Please Not RG 3. go bucs
i mean my god. itsthe freaking pre season. we have 2 rookies startling along the line with a rookie qb, no mike evans…mccown had extra incentice. he was pumped about playing us, he had sucked until then. the browns took it too us. but if i recal, in 2011 we took it to the chiefs in a big way that pre season,and look what happened. it was an awful night and instead of treating it as it is, were acting like the sky is falling. jongrude, i have nothing but respect for you, but stop with the “who will we beat” non sense. im happy this lesson will be learned now. everyone was saying how incredible we looked after cincy,now people are questioning if we will win a game? its nothing but the pre season emotional roller coaster. hell, games arnt being shown on tv really other than “prime time” games. i understand frustration, but inconsistent play will happen that has 20-21 yr olds playing at key positions.
Also, McCown played against our defense for a year in practice so he new the Tampa 2 in detail.
I love the comments from the folks who think the Bucs should sit Winston until the O line becomes more experienced or nagging injuries are fully healed. LOL. The Bucs are not going to do that. Duh. The drafted Winston over Mariota knowing he was a lot less mobile, had plenty of baggage, and was a turnover machine all because he would be NFL ready day 1. Enjoy!
whatever buc wild. winston threw dimes against cincy and struggled the following game. hes gonna make mistakes and to put this pre season game loss…again a pre season game loss all on him is a joke. he is pro ready. the great qbs all struggle initially. the oline needs to get better but everything from,offense to defense is a work in progress. lets cry more over a pre seasongame. we already look better than last yr. we are improving. regardless of what some of you may be thinking.
Well said EastEndBoy and Buclover. Much too much is made over tese exhibition outings. And no JonnyG, preseason games (good or bad) are not necessarily a forecast of things to come. Totally dominated the play-off Bengals and got totally dominated by the mediocre Browns. So, which is it? Who knows?
and eastnboy is 100% right. weve got to learn to be more patient with our players and coaches. we cant just reboot everything all the time. i hate losing but weve got to take our lumps with our young playerd. really, it was nothing but a scrimmage, a friendly match….chill out.
Agree with much said above and accept it will be a slow start to the season. Much in part to the team adding additional needs as cuts are made prior to and just after the season starts. And the Bucs need several pieces yet. Those pieces hopefully will come with our “first refusal” privileges of players released. Maybe by game 4 or 5 we’ll see what this team is intended to look like. ‘Till then … good luck. Go Bucs!
Geez! I am only suggesting we don’t play Winston for one game which will give him ample time to maybe get his ankle healed enough that he will be mobile. Just because Winston wants to play, doesn’t mean he should. He had a lingering ankle injury last year and his production fell because he wasn’t as mobile. One Game!
I say if our Oline doesn’t improve by week 4-5 and Winston has just been getting hammered- pull his ass, let Glennon get pounded for the remainder of the season and pick up some more talent next year at the one spot…no need to ruin Winston in a go nowhere season – ala RG3…
The special teams play should improve through waiver wire additions. Play will be inconsistent all year on both sides of the ball, but be better in the second half of the season. Jameis will get dinged and miss time at some point. We will get a top 15 draft pick next year. However, I’ll still watch to see how it unfolds.
You know…..I could live with that…as long as JW isn’t seriously hurt, and the second half really is progress. Then we draft a stud LT or DE and pick somebody up in FA, and 2016 starts to look really interesting.
Glennon should be the starting QB this season for three reasons: 1. He has outplayed Winston in pre-season and Winston is playing like any rookie QB would play….poorly! 2. The OL is horrible and Lovie Smith must be held accountable for this mess. He had the whole off-season to fix it and to expect adding two rookie lineman would fix the problem is outrageous!!! 3. Glennon will not be here next year and this is an opportunity for both Glennon and the Bucs to establish his value for another team.
This looks like another long and frustrating year for Bucs FANS!!!
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