SR’s Fab 5 is a collection of inside scoop, analysis and insight from yours truly, PewterReport.com publisher and Bucs beat writer Scott Reynolds. Here are a few things that caught my attention this week at One Buc Place and around the NFL:
FAB 1. MARTIN, SIMS ARE NFL’S BEST 1-2 PUNCH AT RUNNING BACK
It was time to address the Buccaneers defense.
After using its first two picks in the 2014 NFL Draft on 6-foot-5 wide receiver Mike Evans and 6-foot-6 tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins, it was time for Tampa Bay to upgrade its pass rush or its pass coverage, or perhaps draft a replacement for slow-footed middle linebacker Mason Foster. After all, Lovie Smith was a defensive-minded head coach and surely he would spend a premium pick on a defensive player at some point in his first draft in Tampa Bay.
Or at the very least, the Bucs would draft a guard to help the offensive line.
Yet with the fifth pick in the third round, Tampa Bay selected West Virginia running back Charles Sims. Cue the groans from Bucs fans.
Meanwhile at PewterReport.com, we were celebrating the pick because we had Sims as a Bucs’ Best Bet and understood Smith’s fondness for pass-catching running backs like the Pro Bowler he had in Chicago in Matt Forte. Five games into the 2015 season, everyone is celebrating because Sims is the Bucs’ second-leading rusher with 137 yards 66 carries (3.6 avg.) and the team’s second-leading receiver with 14 catches for 193 yards and two touchdowns.
Bucs RB Charles Sims – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Sims has been more productive than either Evans or Seferian-Jenkins thus far in 2015, and is coming off his best game as a pro, rushing for 51 yards on 12 carries (4.3 avg.) and catching four passes for 85 yards against Jacksonville, including a career-long 56-yard catch on a screen pass.
“I’m just out there making plays and having fun,” Sims said. “Our offensive line is doing a great job. It’s our job as backs to make plays. We had guys on the perimeter making plays and the offensive linemen are making plays, too. I’ve been catching passes for a while now, so I’m comfortable doing it.”
With inspired play from a healthier and trimmer Doug Martin, who is tied for third in the NFL for rushing yards with 405 and a pair of rushing TDs, he and Sims have become the best one-two punch in the league at running back through Week 5.
“We like that combination,” Smith said. “We brought Charles here because we thought he could catch the ball out of the backfield, split him out, whatever it might be. I liked the way he ran the ball also. That’s a good one-two punch we have going with our running backs.”
NFL RUNNING BACK COMBINATION PRODUCTION THROUGH WEEK 5
1. Tampa Bay – 540 yards (Doug Martin 405, Charles Sims 135)
2. Arizona – 537 yards (Chris Johnson 405, Andre Ellington 132)
3. Pittsburgh – 533 yards (Le’Veon Bell 302, De’Angelo Williams 231)
4. Washington – 496 yards (Alfred Morris 276, Matt Jones 220)
5. Green Bay – 431 yards (Eddie Lacy 257, James Starks 174)
Martin, who is in a contract year, has done a great job in leading the way for the Bucs’ ground game after two disappointing seasons. After a Pro Bowl rookie year in which he rushed for 1,454 yards and 11 touchdowns, Martin had 456 yards and one touchdown on 127 carries (3.6 avg.) in six games during the 2013 campaign before a shoulder injury at Atlanta sidelined him for the year.
Last year, Martin had 134 carries for 494 yards (3.7 avg.) and two touchdowns in 11 games, marking his second straight year with less than 500 yards rushing. In 2014, the Boise State product had 92 straight runs without a gain of 20 yards or more until the Carolina game when he ripped off a 63-yarder en route to a 96-yard rushing performance in Week 15.
Martin’s turnaround didn’t start this offseason. It began at the end of last year with a couple of inspired rushing performances against Carolina and New Orleans once he got healthy.
After a 10-carry, 17-yard effort against Green Bay’s stingy defense the next week, Martin finally recorded a 100-yard game with 108 yards on 19 carries (5.7 avg.), including a 45-yard run, in the 2014 season finale against New Orleans. That snapped a 15-game streak in which Martin had failed to rush for 100 yards.
Bucs RB Doug Martin – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
This year, he’s more showing tackle-breaking ability, and a burst that had been missing during his run of injuries over the past two years. Martin has had back-to-back 100-yard games in 2015, and has had four carries of 20 yards or more in 90 carries this year, including two against Jacksonville.
“He’s breaking a lot of tackles,” Bucs offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter said. “Yards after contact, he’s doing a really nice job. You’ve seen that before. You know what Doug can do. He’s done it before here, in his rookie year.
“For whatever reasons, he had a couple of years where he maybe wasn’t as sharp. I don’t even know the reasons why, but Doug is a good football player. He’s one of the better backs in the league. We need to use him. We’ve got a nice one-two punch going with him and Charles right now. Hats off to him. Doug’s earned it and he’s playing like he practices, so we shouldn’t be surprised.”
Martin said he’s running the same way as always, but the difference is that his body is responding this year.
“I’ve always ran hard since I got here, but the last two years I was playing with some injuries and I wasn’t able to be myself,” Martin said. “I was somewhat effective, but not to the level of what I’m doing now. This year I’m healthy, I’m good and I’m actually a little lighter and it’s helping me with my explosiveness and my ability to make people miss.”
Aside from staying healthy and losing some weight, Martin’s secret to production is Sims carrying some of the load. After missing the first eight games of his rookie season with a tore tendon in his foot, Sims returned to action down the stretch and his two best days mirrored Martin’s as he produced 34 yards, including an 18-yard run and three catches for 45 yards against Carolina in Week 15, as well as a career-best 69 yards rushing, including a 20-yarder, and a touchdown against New Orleans in Week 17.
“Chuck missed a lot of games last year and I think there was a chip on his shoulder because of it,” Bucs offensive lineman Kevin Pamphile said. “He’s out there grinding and improving every day. He’s impressive. I love watching him run and catch.
“To finish strong last year was a good stepping stone for him leading into this offseason. As we start the season he’s getting touchdowns against the Texans and Panthers and making crazy plays all over the field. I am loving his improvement. Hopefully in the next couple of games he’ll show the fans even more.”
Sims is improving as a runner, but it’s his pass-catching ability that is special. His first receiving touchdown came on a 32-yard screen pass against Houston. The next week he was isolated in the slot as a receiver against Carolina linebacker Thomas Davis and beat him to the corner of the end zone on a touchdown pass.
Last Sunday’s big play was a 56-yard screen pass that almost went the distance. That’s the type of play the Bucs’ brass had in mind when they selected Sims in the third round in the 2014 NFL Draft.
“That was a screen, and the blocking on that play – Kevin Pamphile, Joe Hawley, Louis Murphy and Vincent [Jackson] all had beautiful blocks – and then Chuck turned on the speed,” Koetter said. “He almost had enough speed to outrun [Jacksonville linebacker Telvin Smith] – that guy is pretty fast.”
Credit Koetter for challenging Martin, Sims and Tampa Bay’s patchwork offensive line to man up and establish a strong running game against Jacksonville’s fourth-ranked rushing defense.
“When I saw that – Coach Dirk pulled up the statistic that I guess they are No. 4 in [run] defense. When I see that and when our room sees that, we think of that as a challenge. Today we were challenging them and I feel like we were very successful in that area.”
Martin ran for a season-high 123 yards and two touchdowns on 24 carries (5.1 avg.), while Sims racked up 51 yards on 12 carries (4.3 avg.). Sims added a team-high and career-high 85 yards on four catches, highlighted by his 56-yard reception.
“That’s another great call by coach,” Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston said. “Third-and-fifteen, you never think we just want to flip the field, but Chuck made an amazing play with his legs and Coach Koetter did it again.
“I believe the way that [Martin] and Chuck – Charles Sims – how they helped each other out is special.”
Koetter has done a masterful job in the last couple of weeks of building his offense around Martin’s rushing ability and Sims’ ability to catch and run. That has taken a lot of the pressure off Tampa Bay’s rookie quarterback and allowed Winston to be a more effective passer using play-action. It’s no surprise that Winston’s best day in the NFL – completing 13-of-19 passes for 209 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions and a QB rating of 122.5 – came in game in which Martin and Sims were both big producers.
“I think Coach Smith addressed why [Sims] was brought here,” Koetter said. “When I was with the Falcons, we coached Charles in the Senior Bowl and we thought really highly of him, too. He’s an all-purpose back. He’s got speed, he’s got hands, and he can run routes. You can move him around. We’ve seen his explosiveness, what he can do with the ball in the open field. Like I said, we’ve got a nice one-two punch going right now.”
Martin and Sims are great teammates, and the Bucs’ lead back acknowledged how much Sims helps him and Tampa Bay’s offense, which is beginning to establish its identity heading into the bye week.
“Chuck is a playmaker,” Martin said. “He can make you miss and he’s great in space. He has great hands. The more confidence he gets the more dangerous he gets. Our running back room is pretty dangerous right now with Bobby Rainey returning the ball, and Chuck and I playing well. We’re going to do great things this year.”
The one-two punch of Martin and Sims already is.
FAB 2. BUCS’ SACK ATTACK IS FOR REAL
Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht tried in vain to upgrade Tampa Bay’s pass rush by finding a premier defensive end this offseason.
Trent Cole wanted a shot at a Super Bowl, so he opted for Indianapolis rather than Tampa Bay. Derrick Mason tried to use the Bucs as leverage to get a new contract with Tennessee. Greg Hardy did the same thing – using the Bucs as leverage – to get a deal with Dallas because he’s always wanted to be a Cowboy.
Licht’s last resort was trading for Detroit defensive end George Johnson as the 2015 NFL Draft was practically void of the speedy, quick-twitch edge rushers the Bucs crave past the second round.
Bucs DL Coach Joe Cullen – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Fans grumbled as Licht bolstered the defensive tackle position with Henry Melton and Tony McDaniel, but did nothing at the defensive end spot. Yet Licht knew that Jacquies Smith, who recorded 6.5 sacks last year, could be the real deal, and that in fact the speed rusher that everyone said the Bucs needed was already on the roster.
Licht trusted Bucs defensive line coach Joe Cullen and his new assistant, Paul Spicer, to work with what they had last year, in addition to Melton, McDaniel and Johnson. After all, Cullen’s defensive line had produced 33 of the team’s 36 sacks last year.
During training camp, a confident Cullen kept assuring me that the Bucs’ pass rush would be just fine with Smith and three-time Pro Bowler Gerald McCoy leading the way.
A quiet preseason, as Smith dealt with an arm injury, made him the forgotten man on the defensive line until he erupted for four sacks and two forced fumbles in the first two weeks of the season, including a three-sack effort in a Week 2 upset at New Orleans. Keep in mind that Smith has 10.5 sacks in his last 14 games – more than any other Buccaneer, including McCoy. And he has three multi-sack games in his brief NFL career.
While Smith has been shut out the last two games, he made arguably the biggest play in last week’s 38-31 win over Jacksonville recovering a fumble forced by Johnson and scoring a touchdown to swing momentum back to Tampa Bay in the third quarter.
“When we had to get a stop, we did,” McCoy said. “I’m going to tell you right now, the play of the game, in my eyes, was the forced fumble by George. That’s huge. That changed the game right there.”
Cullen’s defensive line contributed mightily to a season-high six sacks by the Buccaneers, including two from new defensive end Howard Jones, who replaced T.J. Fatinikun, who is on injured reserve, and 1.5 sacks from McCoy.
Bucs DE Howard Jones – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
“Pleased in general,” Bucs head coach Lovie Smith said. “We left a little bit out on the field yesterday. That’s what Joe and Paul will say, but you have to be pleased when you see young players like ‘Jacq’, coming around, Will Gholston moving into a more prominent role, Howard Jones – it’s not like I’ve spent a whole lot of time with Howard myself, but it’s good to see a young player like that come up and get his opportunity to get playing time and come through. I think your first passing situation you get a sack. What a great move, too. So that’s been fun to watch with some of those players stepping up.
“We kind of changed it up a little bit, started dressing eight defensive linemen instead of seven and letting everybody have an opportunity to play. Then you get that competition on who gets back there [to the quarterback] the quickest.”
Cullen deserves a lot of credit for putting the ultra-quick Smith on the left side to work against slower, less-athletic right tackles, when conventional wisdom says to play the team’s fastest defensive end against left tackles to rush from the quarterback’s blind side. Instead, Cullen has used bigger, more physical ends like Johnson and Gholston there, while mixing it up with Jones or Smith on the right side in obvious pass-rushing downs.
A week earlier former Bucs rookie defensive end Ryan Delaire, who was in Tampa Bay’s training camp, got his first two sacks against Jameis Winston and his former team, which made the front office at One Buc Place look bad for one Sunday. Jones’ stunning, two-sack debut against Jacksonville quickly erased the notion that Smith, Licht and director of player personnel Jon Robinson had made a mistake, though.
The 6-foot-4, 248-pound Jones started his college career at wide receiver before finishing as a defensive end at Shepherd College, a Division II school where he set the all-time sack record with 35. Jones blazed a 4.6 time in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine and a 4.55 time at West Virginia’s pro day in 2014, but went undrafted.
After spending part of the 2014 season on Pittsburgh’s practice squad, Jones was re-signed in the offseason, but waived on September 8 and signed to Tampa Bay’s practice squad. The team loved what they saw from him in practice and the Bucs’ brass feels that it may have another Smith on its hands.
“[Speed] was the No. 1 attraction,” Bucs defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier said. “We looked at him coming out of college as well and had some dialogue regarding him. To be able to pick him up and take a look at the long arms, as well as the speed, those were two contributing factors as we were trying to evaluate, ‘Who could we bring in, what are some attributes that we’re looking for?’ He had them. The speed, the long arms, the athletic ability, then to go out and do what he did on Sunday, it’s a good combination.”
Bucs DE Jacquies Smith – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Smith and Jones have combined for six sacks to help the Bucs’ outside pass rush, but it all starts in the middle with McCoy, whose 4.5 sacks in five games leads Tampa Bay and ranks second in the NFL. How McCoy goes, so goes the defensive line, according to Cullen.
That was evident in the preseason and the reason why Tampa Bay’s defense looked so porous against Minnesota was McCoy played uninspired football. His play was a bit sloppy against Cleveland and the Bucs got destroyed by the Browns and former Bucs quarterback Josh McCown in the third preseason game.
But the second preseason game – against Cincinnati on Monday Night Football – was a different story. McCoy’s engine was revved up and he split a sack with Johnson, who finished with 1.5 sacks in the Bucs’ rout over the Bengals.
Against Jacksonville, McCoy made his presence felt with 1.5 sacks – both of which came in the fourth quarter.
“It’s good to see our guys have that type of day,” Frazier said. “We went into the ballgame thinking that we could rush them. We thought we had a good pressure package as well. You combine our four-man rush with our pressure package and we were able to come up with those sacks. Gerald has been consistent all year long, but it was good to see George Johnson come along and get some pressure on the quarterback. Obviously, what Henry did as well, doing a good job. All the way around, all the guys contributed. Jacquies – even though he didn’t get the guy on the ground, he still got good pressure for us and we’re going to need that in order for our defense to keep improving, our front four being able to rush.”
Tampa Bay has 15 sacks this season and is tied for sixth in the NFL. The Bucs are averaging three sacks per game that would put them on pace to record 48 quarterback captures this season. To put that in perspective, Tampa Bay recorded 42 sacks in 2002 en route to winning Super Bowl XXXVII.
Helping the Bucs’ cause this year in terms of getting to the quarterback are some well-timed and well-executed blitzes. Tampa Bay’s linebackers recorded just three sacks last year and the secondary didn’t produce any.
Bucs LB Lavonte David – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Against Jacksonville, rookie middle linebacker Kwon Alexander split a sack with McCoy and another one with nickel cornerback Alterraun Verner. Linebacker Lavonte David also blitzed and recorded his first sack of the season. Against Carolina, Danny Lansanah got one against a scrambling Cam Newton.
Through five games, the Bucs linebackers already have three sacks and the secondary has produced half of one on Verner’s blitz.
“The key is getting in situations where we can blitz,” Smith said. “We were able to do that and the blitzes did come home. Kwon Alexander, Lavonte, there’s a period of time there where he really upped his game – our entire front. Blitzing has always been a big part of what we do. Everybody assumes we play Cover-2 – 50 plays a game we play Cover-2 every snap. It’s a little bit different than that. Blitzes did come home a few times.”
Outside of McCoy, there aren’t any real big-name pass rushers along Tampa Bay’s defensive line. But with young players like Smith and Jones attempting to make a name for themselves in 2015 with big plays through the first five games, the Bucs’ pass rush is as good as Licht, Smith, Frazier and Cullen envisioned it would be.
FAB 3. BUCS AT THE BYE WEEK: STRENGTHS
With Tampa Bay sitting at 2-3 entering its bye week, here is a look at what are some emerging strengths for the pewter-clad pirates.
• Finding An Identity On Offense
Tampa Bay’s running game is ranked 11th in the NFL with an average of 122.4 yards per game, led by Doug Martin’s 405 rushing yards and two touchdowns. Martin is tied for third in the NFL in rushing, and fellow running back Charles Sims has 225 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns. New offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter has made establishing the run a priority and using rookie quarterback Jameis Winston as a play-action passer where he is the most effective.
• Special Teams Is Finally Special
Perhaps the best thing heading into the bye week is the fact that Tampa Bay may have finally solved its kicker situation with the re-signing of Connor Barth, who was perfect on his field goals and extra points against Jacksonville. First-year punter Jacob Schum has averaged 42.1 yards per punt with a 39.7-yard net with five punts downed inside the 20. Bobby Rainey has done a great job returning punts and was the NFC Special Teams Player of the Week (right after getting some hype in last week’s SR’s Fab 5), and is averaging 13.3 yards per punt return and 29.9 yards per kick return. It took five weeks, but it looks like Tampa Bay’s special teams are finally special.
• Tampa Bay’s Pass Rush
We’ve covered the pass rushing success earlier in this week’s SR’s Fab 5, but here are some exciting possibilities. All-Pro defensive tackle Gerald McCoy has 4.5 sacks through five games and is on pace for 14 quarterback captures this year, which would be a career high if he stays on pace. Tampa Bay defensive end Jacquies Smith has four sacks this year and is on pace for 12 himself.
Bucs RT Gosder Cherilus – Photo by Cliff Welch/PR
• Offensive Line Improvements
The Bucs offensive line was a weakness last year, but was revamped in the offseason and the newcomers have played well. Rookie left tackle Donovan Smith and Ali Marpet have showed they can play at an NFL level early in their careers and will only get better. Right tackle Gosder Cherilus has been an adequate replacement for Demar Dotson, who will return after Week 8. Joe Hawley has filled in admirably for Evan Smith at center and has even outplayed him in some games. Left guard Logan Mankins has also played better, and when a groin injury prevented him from playing against Jacksonville, Kevin Pamphile stepped up and excelled.
• Demons Down
A year after losing all eight home games, the Buccaneers finally ended an 11-game losing skid at Raymond James Stadium with a 38-31 victory over Jacksonville. Tampa Bay is now 1-2 at home and 1-1 on the road. That road win game at New Orleans represented the Bucs taking down another demon after going winless in the division in 2014. The Bucs are currently 1-1 in the NFC South.
FAB 4. BUCS AT THE BYE WEEK: WEAKNESSES
The 2-3 Bucs head into the bye week with some things that have to be corrected. Here are some weaknesses that need to be eliminated in Tampa Bay.
• Slow Starts Plaguing Bucs
Tampa Bay has been outscored 38-9 in the first quarter and the offense has yet to score a touchdown in the first 15 minutes of the game. In fact, quarterback Jameis Winston has thrown two touchdowns – to the opponent by way of pick-sixes in the first quarter this year. The Bucs have to start faster on offense and defense. Tampa Bay did open the Jacksonville game with a field goal drive on its first possession, so perhaps progress is being made.
Bucs are 2nd-most penalized team – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
• Pass Defense Gets A Failing Grade
The Bucs pass defense is awful. Tampa Bay has given up 12 touchdown passes, which is the second worst in the NFL behind only Kansas City (13). Cornerbacks Tim Jennings, who played awfully against Jacksonville, and Mike Jenkins don’t make enough plays on the ball and have each given up a pair of touchdowns. Alterraun Verner has also given up a pair of scores and has been moved inside to nickel defense. Tampa Bay has only three interceptions and the cornerback position doesn’t have any yet. Johnthan Banks can’t heal up fast enough.
• Too Many Touchdowns In Tampa Bay
The Buccaneers defense is the worst scoring defense in the league and has surrendered 148 points, including an NFL-high 19 touchdowns through five games. That’s an average of almost four per game and a big reason why Tampa Bay is allowing an average of 29.6 points per game. For the Bucs to get above .500 they’ll need to reduce their points-allowed average by at least a touchdown.
• Bucs Still Beating Themselves
Tampa Bay has committed at least 10 penalties in four of its first five games of the season, including 10 against Jacksonville, and is second in the NFL in penalties committed with 48 for 391 yards – and average of 9.6 per game for 78 yards. Buffalo leads the league with 54 penalties for 490 yards, but Tampa Bay is on a torrid pace to amass 154 infractions for 1,251 yards, which would be a franchise-high.
• Scoring Superstars MIA
Tampa Bay spent a first-round pick on wide receiver Mike Evans and a second-round selection on tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins last year. Evans had a 1,000-yard season as a rookie and set a franchise record with 11 touchdown catches. He’s off to a very slow start in 2015 and is the third-leading receiver with 13 catches for 174 yards and no scores. Evans needs to find his swagger and make more plays. After an injury-filled rookie season, Seferian-Jenkins started 2015 hot with 110 yards and two touchdowns, but he injured his shoulder in Week 2 at New Orleans and has been out of action since. The talented tight end needs to pick up where he left off when he returns – hopefully at Washington.
FAB 5. SR’s BUC SHOTS
• While penalties have been a problem in Tampa Bay this year, one player has really improved when it comes to self-discipline. Defensive tackle Gerald McCoy has been one of the most-penalized Buccaneers over the past couple of years, recording a career-high 10 (three roughing the passer, two encroachment, two offside, one unnecessary roughness, one neutral zone infraction and one unsportsmanlike conduct) in 2013 with one declined, and six last year (four neutral zone infractions, two encroachments and an offside) with one declined. This year, McCoy has no penalties through five games.
Tampa Bay’s most penalized player this year is defensive end Jacquies Smith with five penalties (offside, neutral zone infraction, illegal use of hands, defensive holding and roughing the passer). The defensive holding penalty should have actually been given to safety D.J. Swearinger in the Texans game, but the officials got confused between 96 and 36.
• A big reason for the success of Tampa Bay’s running game has been the revamped offensive line. Bucs running back Doug Martin was thrilled to not only see the team draft a franchise quarterback in Jameis Winston in the first round, but to spend two second-round picks on offensive linemen Donovan Smith and Ali Marpet.
“The reinforcements are coming,” Martin said. “That’s what I thought. They’ve been doing an awesome job. We have Logan [Mankins] down and Evan [Smith] down and the guys playing for them are doing a great job, too. Having that continuity of production on the offensive line allows us to do great things.
“We have a lot of young guys on the line and they are hungry. They really work and that’s definitely helped a lot.”
• Despite running back Doug Martin’s hot start, the Bucs don’t plan on having any contract talks with him in the foreseeable future. Martin is in his contract year after the team did not pick up his fifth year option this offseason. One of Martin’s negatives is his penchant for getting hurt, as he missed several games in 2013 and 2014 and didn’t rush for 500 yards in either season.
The Bucs’ brass wants to see him stay healthy and be productive for a full 16-game season before discussing a contract extension. The good news for Martin is that he needs 95 more yards to reach 500 yards this season after just five games, and he’s on pace to have a 1,296-yard season with nine rushing touchdowns.
“Doug ain’t no joke, man,” said Bucs defensive tackle Gerald McCoy. “I tried to tell you all, but you all weren’t trying to hear me, but I tried to tell you all what I saw in the offseason and camp. I mean this is the fifth game – I remember what happened in 2012 when he started to get rolling.”
• Bucs offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter told the media that Evan Smith would return to his starting center role when his ankle injury heals up, which could be after the bye week. He said that injured starters don’t lose their jobs because they got hurt, but reserve Joe Hawley has been playing great football and there are some within One Buccaneer Place that prefer his skill set because he has the mobility to get out and pull in the run game.
• I’ve got some good news and some bad news. The good news is that after Bucs nose tackle Clinton McDonald came out to talk to my South Pasco Predators Pee Wee football team last Tuesday, we beat the New Tampa Tigers to move to 5-1 on the season and win the North Division and earn a playoff berth.
Buccaneers DT Gerald McCoy and the South Pasco Predators – Photo by: Scott Reynolds/PR
We trailed 12-0 in the third quarter before putting the clamps down on defense and getting two touchdowns on the board to win 16-12. A big thanks to Bucs defensive tackle Gerald McCoy for coming to the game and giving our team a great pre-game speech before kickoff.
The bad news is that my 10-year old son, Logan, fell and broke his leg (not football-related) while playing tag with his friends after school on Wednesday. He has a hairline fracture of his tibia below the kneecap, according to the x-ray. He was one of our starting defensive tackles, so our Predators will have to play on without him – next man up.
As soon as the x-rays revealed a fracture I called Dr. Jason Hunt at Kaizen Orthopedics, a PewterReport.com advertising partner, and have an appointment today to see him today. Dr. Hunt is one of the most friendly, outgoing doctors I’ve had the pleasure of meeting, in addition to being one of the best orthopedic surgeons in the Tampa Bay area.
We’ll see if Logan ends up needing surgery or not. Either way, he’s in good hands with Dr. Hunt, who will be starting a sports medicine blog on PewterReport.com next week. If you or a loved one needs orthopedic care, visit KaizenOrtho.com or call (813) 694-0449.
• We will be starting up our second DraftKings advertising campaign and will have another chance to get a FREE PewterReport.com t-shirt soon for signing up to play one-day, online fantasy football. Stay tuned to PewterReport.com for full details.
• If you haven’t stopped by Just Grillin – Your Tailgate Headquarters – for your FREE BBQ sauce, do so now. Just Grillin, which sponsors our Pewter Player each week on PewterReport.com, is located 15 minutes north of Raymond James Stadium at 11743 N. Dale Mabry Highway in Carrollwood. All you have to do is walk in, mention the word “Pewter” and get a FREE BBQ sauce – just for being a PewterReport.com visitor. How cool is that?
• And speaking of FREE, have you had the chance to sign up for your FREE personal training session at D1 Sports in Tampa? With your FREE session you’ll be able to check out the D1 facility near Citrus Park Mall and work with a personal trainer to see if you like it. It’s a no-risk, no-obligation opportunity. Click here or call (813) 358-7671.
Scott Reynolds is in his 22nd year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds enjoys giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Pingback: SR’s Fab 5: Martin, Sims Are NFL’s Best 1-2 Punch At RB; Bucs’ Sack Attack | Buccaneer Bruce
Fab 1 is very interesting. Before reading the article, I saw the headline of “Martin/ Sims are best 1-2 punch in league. I started thinking about who I thought was the best combo. My list was Martin/ Sims, Gurley/ Mason, Devonte Freeman/ Tevin Coleman, Matt Jones/ Alfred Morris, and Giovani Benard/ Jeremy Hill in no particular order. I completely overlooked Pittsburgh’s combo. Arizona’s tandem is nice too. Everyone is talking about Martin for comeback player. I think Chris Johnson should be the favorite for that award. Green Bay’s duo is mainly Lacey. Also would be interesting to see the numbers including receiving yards because thats where majority of Sims production has been. With receiving yards Bucs would be much higher. Also think that receiving yards would help Atlanta and Cincinnati move up the list. But in the end, I hope Martin and Sims keep up this production.
Is Lovie still talking to you guys after last weeks column.
I see the bucs is improving. I see that Tampa may get a CB & Safety with the first 4 picks with a DL and OL the other two picks of the first four rds. I think Tony Romeo is Leaving for the cowboys.Maybe trading the b’u QB is good now a 2nd or 3rd draft choice now.
Wow…did we just go into the bye leading the South with a 4-1 record? Here’s how EEB saw the first quarter (and a bit): Strength = Doug Martin (we seem to be getting carried away with the praise for some of these young guys…I think potential is probably the better description at the moment for Chuck and Kwon); Good Surprise = Oline; Bad Surprise = LvD; Weakness = entire secondary. JW has been as expected. GMC has been as expected. The DEs have been as expected. VJax as expected. If someone wants to be disappointed in Evans maybe I can see that point, but to me he’s been fine. ASJ would have given Martin a run for Strength of the team, but sadly he (again) cannot run…
EEB; agree. Just my opinion, but to go 7-8 wins we needed to be 3-2 or 4-1 at this point. Our games get much tougher as the season continues. I do like the improvement we are seeing from the OL, RB, QB, WR. Still not sure about the DE because most teams are focusing on McCoy and they haven’t gotten enough on some of our reserve starting DE. Once Banks is back the CB position will see improvement, but we still need another CB and faster Safety.
First off, sorry to hear about your sons broke leg Scott, I’ve broken my femur before, never felt a pain like it. He’s young so it’s a good time to do it if any.
As for the fab 5 good stuff as always . The running game has far surpassed my expectations. The offensive line as well. Marpet might be my second favorite player.
Got a lot of good young players on this team and Licht is hitting on some no names. I’m a big fan of Licht, probably more so than some but I love his moves, but not all can be perfect. But you can at leaste see he learns from his mistakes, like bringing Barth back in.
Our secondary is by far the weakest link on this teams and will have to be a focus in this draft.
Good week for a buy as we get some key players healthy. I have made it known I don’t like eds and think he shouldn’t see the field again unless Hawley injures himself. Progress gentleman and I like it, wins bring swagger and that’s what this team needs.
Winston is a rookie; shouldn’t expect the Wr’s stats to be that great; should improve throughout the season; but, we won’t see ‘it’ till next season. Second year is usually the indicator of what you have in a player.
For the secondary to play like it has . . . with the Dline pressure(evident from the sacks), suggests something is wrong. It’s surprising there is a problem. Well, coach Smith is doing some stuff like moving Verner inside. But, when Banks is out, the secondary takes a few steps back. It’s certainly disappointing Jenkins/Jennings can’t step in. Maybe they can, and we just haven’t seen it yet. The Jags had Julius Thomas in the game, and the Bucs shut him down; so, maybe it was part of the gameplan to leave the Wr’s out on an island.
I noticed our Safeties missed on int’s . . . in the middle of the field, and in the endzone. They flinched! It’s possible we haven’t seen the Bucs play their best ball. jBarring injury, I’d expect maybe some surprise wins.
And boy were they out in an island. And I think Thomas being limited might have been more to do with their “pitch” count for him.
“their “pitch” count for him.” – i’m not sure who you mean here, actually – sorry. Who’s “their”? The bucs or the Jags? And what’s pitch count?
The jags. Thomas only played a handful of snaps. Same as we did when Evans came back.
ahh, well then, the secondary really has problems!
I agree with you. We will know what JW is going to be next year. I will say that I like his progress. I was VERY worried after both the Titans and panther’s game and his near fumble last week still has me concerned. I think last week was and is the formula for the BUCS offense this year. Run the ball, throw lots of screens and when JW airs it out do it off of play action.
Would also like to say congrats to the bucs for winning three awards this week. Rainey, Doug, and now Jameis with rookie of the week.
Okay, got to say it. Howard Jones..6’4″ and only 248, but a playa. “Too Small Jones”..lol
IF you look at Mariotta’s stats and the reviews about him, you will read their coaching staff has pretty much limited his passing plays to short or medium range passes to prevent INT’s.
They really haven’t asked him to do very much but “manage” the game.
Hopefullyy our coaching staff will continue to do the same. Rookies will be rookies.
Well mariota is game planned that way as he has never been a deep ball qb either. Evident by his 2-20 on passes of over 20 yards this year. Mariotas game is quick passes, it’s what he’s great at and very accurate. Problem with that is in the nfl 12 play drives don’t happen very often and that why he’s suddenly struggling.
I have always said this team has talent this year and for the most part, better overall talent than all of the teams they faced.
Look at all the weekly NFL awards they continue to receive.
The one key ingredient they seem to lack is the confidence and swagger in the team itself.
Perhaps Winston is helping to change that.
If the Bucs can go into Washington and beat the ‘Skins, that should help in a big way in developing that confidence and swagger.
Despite their record, the ‘Skins have an average team by NFL standards with a solid run defense.
It should be no surprise that their pass defense isn’t as good, especially with ex-Buc Goldson playing on the back end.
Also, ex-Buc and now ex-Bear Mason Foster was picked up by Washington when the Bears cut him after training camp.
So what we had last year was a starting LB who couldn’t even make one team who was picked up by another due to injuries and sits on the bench.
Geeesh. Thanks Dominick.
All the talent is there, we just haven’t been able to consistently put it all together YET. I was talking to a friend the other day who commented on how young the Bucs are and how his team (Dallas) was young once and grew into a successful team over time. I think we’ll see the same here, these next few weeks will be a tough test for sure. We’ll see some ups and downs but in the end I think we come out better. We’ve already gotten better since last year and that should continue with Licht making some good moves. We fix the secondary this off season and we’ll see marked improvement in 2016. Go Bucs!
I had heard rumblings about those stats you cited cgmaster but hadn’t seen them as of yet.
Watched him against the ‘Fins on Sunday and to say he had a bad day would be like saying Hitler made a bad decision to invade
Fumbles, INT’s, sacks. His QB rating has dropped for three consecutive weeks as NFL defensive coordinators figure out what his strengths are and begin taking them away.
Well fumbling has always been a problem with Mariota and something I never understood why no one brought it up during the draft. He had a ton of fumbles in college and all anyone could focus on was Jameis’ interception total.
Like I also stated after week one, all teams have to do is run press coverage on his receivers and it will take their whole offense out and it has.
He’s also got the lowest QBR in the NFL ion the 4th quarter. He would’ve never fit the system Koetter runs. But I digress, we have Jameis and enough about Mariota. ON a side note great to see Jameis on the side lines congratulation all of the offensive players on the FSU bench after every touchdown. Dudes just a leader.
Let’s hope we come out swinging this week, as I think we have a damn good shot at beating the Skins.
Here’s a link I found for those deep balls.
I wondered the same thing about all those fumbles as well and stated so on another site.
Also said when the ball goes does in the NFL it isn’t as easy to recover and so far I’ve been proven right.
Besides, that last place you want your franchise QB is in the bottom of a NFL pile trying to recover and retain a fumble.
There are things that happen in those piles you can’t print in a family environment.
I don’t wish the guy any ill will and both QB’s have their strengths and weaknesses as do all rookies.
But you could tell on the Dolphins game their LB’s were sitting in their zones and clogging up the passing lanes which resulted in one clear INT.
I do think the Dolphin player purposely went after his knee though which was probably done to slow him down through the rest of the game.
Enjoyed seeing Winston having a good time at the Florida St. game and providing moral support for his team.
Some guys just can’t stop being themselves even on their days off.
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