The Buccaneers exit their bye week healthier than they have been in some time and eager to get the taste of losing out of their collective mouths after falling at home to Baltimore, 48-17, two weeks ago. PewterReport.com’ weekly series called State of the Buccaneers brings you what is going right and what is going wrong in Tampa Bay.
WHAT’S RIGHT WITH THE BUCCANEERS
(Somehow) Bucs Are Still In The Running For The NFC South Title
In most NFL seasons, a team that starts off 1-5 and 0-3 in the division is typically out of the division race by now. But that’s not the case for 1-5 Tampa Bay, which is winless in the NFC South. By virtue of two weekends – Week 4 and last weekend – in which the three other NFC South teams have been defeated, the Bucs can still cling to the faint hopes of winning the division. Carolina leads the division with a 3-3-1 record, while New Orleans and Atlanta are both 2-5, which is one game – and a head-to-head win – over the Buccaneers.
Tampa Bay’s Upcoming Schedule
If Tampa Bay is going to have the opportunity to win some games and get on a roll, now is the time. The combined record of the Bucs’ next four opponents – the Vikings (2-5) Browns (3-3) Falcons (2-5) and Redskins (2-5) – is 9-18. Over the next month, only one team might have a winning record, and that would Cleveland if the Browns beat Oakland this Sunday, which seems like a safe bet, right? Not so fast. The Browns lost at Jacksonville last Sunday, 24-6. The Bucs might not run the table and rip off four straight games to be 6-5, but should at least split the next month’s worth of games and be 3-7.
The Bucs Are Getting Healthier
The bye week was good for several Buccaneers, especially starting cornerback Johnthan Banks (neck) and starting free safety Dashon Goldson (ankle), who rested up and were back at practice this week. Tampa Bay’s secondary sorely missed both Banks and Goldson against Baltimore, as Joe Flacco threw five touchdown passes in the first half, including four in the first quarter. Defensive end Michael Johnson also got a week to rest the sprained ankle he’s been playing with since Week 1, and the same goes for defensive tackle Gerald McCoy’s broken hand.
Bucs Finally Breaking Up Passes
It sounds crazy to praise the pass defense after getting shredded by Baltimore QB Joe Flacco for five touchdown passes in the first half of Tampa Bay’s 48-17 loss two weeks ago, but the secondary has shown some signs of life recently. Heading into the Pittsburgh game after the first three weeks of the season, the Bucs defense had just four pass breakups and one pick. Over the last three games, Tampa Bay’s defense has produced 18 pass breakups, an average of six per game, and three more interceptions. The Bucs are on schedule for 58 pass breakups in 2014 as opposed to 73 pass breakups last year, but they are picking up the pace and getting their hands on more passes.
WHAT’S WRONG WITH THE BUCCANEERS
Bad News Buccaneers
The last two weeks haven’t been positive for the 1-5 Buccaneers off the field. Fullback Jorvorskie Lane gets popped with a two-game suspension for a performance-enhancing drug, which was a banned substance in weight loss supplement. It wouldn’t be shocking if that was the case with defensive end Da’Quan Bowers’ two-game suspension as the former second-round pick was out of shape during the OTAs and then suddenly looked like he was in great shape weeks later in training camp. Sandwiched in between those two-game suspensions was the firing of director of player development Isaiah Harris, who was arrested for a DUI.
No Extension For McCoy In The Immediate Future
All has been quiet on the contract extension front for Buccaneers defensive tackle Gerald McCoy. Hampered by a broken hand and admittedly sub-par play, McCoy, who is in a contract year, has two sacks in the five games he has played in and hasn’t come close to recording a sack in the last two games against pass-happy teams New Orleans and Baltimore. With the three-technique defensive tackle position being the key cog of the Tampa 2 defense, the Buccaneers cannot afford to not have a Pro Bowl-caliber player at this position in 2015 and beyond.
Time Of Possession Woes
The Buccaneers are six games into their 2014 campaign and Tampa Bay has yet to win the time of possession in any contest. As a result, the Bucs have lost the time of possession this year 33:38 to 26:22. That’s a different of seven minutes, which is half a quarter. Tampa Bay’s struggles on third down on both sides of the ball are to blame. The Bucs offense has converted just 37.3 percent on third downs, thanks in part to a lackluster, unproductive running game that has forced the team into third-and-long situations far too often. On defense, the Bucs are surrendering 49.4 percent of third downs to the opponent. The defense cannot consistently get off the field and get the ball back to Tampa Bay’s offense.
The Talent In Tampa Bay
Smith acknowledges that the team is short on talent in some areas, while linebacker Lavonte David believes the Bucs are one of the most talented teams in the league. So what’s the truth? It’s somewhere in between. The Bucs have enough horses to where the team’s record should be 3-3 – or at least 2-4. But some players that have had to play out of necessity – cornerbacks Leonard Johnson, Crezdon Butler and Brandon Dixon, safety Major Wright, defensive linemen Scott Solomon and Bowers, tight end Luke Stocker and receiver Robert Herron – might not make other teams. Notice the Bucs have two players competing for the starting right guard job in Garrett Gilkey and Patrick Omameh. That’s because they don’t have one starting-caliber guard. The Bucs need more talent to win more games.
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
Sounds about right Scott, but one thing you left out on what’s wrong with the Bucs is they have no offensive coordinator. When Arroyo goes against the likes of Sean Paton, well you get the picture, it’s no match. So I think a big story line for the Bucs is, who’s going to be the future O.C. next year? Dungy blew it sticking with not ready for prime time Shula. Does Lovie risk the same fate sticking with Arroyo? I’d look at Philly’s Q.B. coach, or the Q.B. coach of the Saints. Do you risk starting from scratch next year, or stick with what the players know? New O.C. might mean a whole new offensive staff. I think this is one of the big decisions going forward, and would like to see some future articles about it.
Surferdudes: I agree wholeheartedly. It’d be nice to see the Eagles’ QB coach coupled with our new first round QB Mariota!
surferdudes is correct. I’ll be surprise if we stick on offense or defense for coaching at the end of the year if we end up with just 1-2 more wins. Could be poor talent at many player and coach positions. What’s positive is we do have a chance to win some games in the next few weeks. Go Bucs!
We have to stick with the same offensive and defensive systems, or we will never improve.
Lovie is a good coach and I have no doubt that he will eventually get it right. But I have less affection for his assistant coaches. In previous posts I have made this known.
Lovie had a good defense when he had good DCs that ran the defense for him – Ron Rivera and Rod Marinelli. When Dallas refused to release Marinelli from his contract, our plans for a top ten defense went out of the window. When Tony Sparano reneged on the O-Line position, we chose an O-Line coach with a penchant for being released.
I hope Horse is right and some changes are made at year end, but Lovie is loyal to a fault. Things aren’t working now and coaches are publically taking responsibility, but will that be enough? I’m concerned about the weekly parade of players on and off the roster.
Great article and update! I agree most of lack of talent is on the offensive line and not the defense. Underperforming for sure.
Haven’t posted much lately, been a little under the weather. Considering most Buc news is bad not good for my recovery. So for that reason I am going to take a leap of faith and focus on what’s right with the Buc. Coaching, health, SCHEDUAL,and the status of NFC South in a way opens a hole for a big gainer. call me nuts but I predict a ten game win streak. That may not get us in the playoffs but it should provide fans with a little hope for 2015. All this team needs is a few wins under its belt. Time for a nap. Go Bucs
macabee here wishing you a speedy recovery. I can tell from your 10 game win streak prediction, you haven’t lost your sense of humor. Hang in there pal, I’m pulling for you! (Seriously, hope you’re back on the field soon!)
The real problem is they got no JUCE, no FIRE, they got no SAPP to rally the troops. Glennon needs to step up and start acting like the team is on his shoulders, both O and D and fire them up! They are pathetic “we don’t know why, we hope we can figure it out” PATHETIC. Stan up and start FIGHTING for those wins, from the first second to the last second. Go Bucs!
The Bucs are in a “State”, that’s for sure. I am hoping for a win against the Vikes.
You know we’re in trouble when the best thing right about our team is that the rest of the South sucks too….yikes.
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