It’s time for PewterReport.com’s 2-Point Conversion post-game column, which features two statements, two questions and two predictions based on the latest Bucs game. Tampa Bay fell behind 35-7 in the first half before rallying in the second half in Carolina. But great play by the Panthers offense and defense was too much to overcome as the Bucs fell to 3-4 after a 42-28 loss to their NFC South division rivals.

2 BIG STATEMENTS

STATEMENT 1: Panthers’ Misdirection Killed Young Bucs Defense
The Panthers took advantage of the Buccaneers’ young and inexperienced secondary with a bunch of misdirection plays – many of them for huge gains or touchdowns on Sunday. Those misdirection plays helped Carolina race out to a 35-7 lead in the first half. The hapless Bucs defense didn’t know if the Panthers were coming or going on more than a few plays.

Carolina offensive coordinator Norv Turner used speedy weapons like receivers Curtis Samuel and D.J. Moore, and running back Christian McCaffrey to befuddle the Bucs defenders on end arounds, reverses and double reverses. In the first half, Moore had 32 yards on an end around, followed by a 32-yard reception by McCaffrey, who hurdled Carlton Davis, on a double screen pass to set up Carolina’s second touchdown. Samuel scored on a 33-yard end around leaving several Bucs defenders in his wake with poor tackling attempts, and also had a 16-yard touchdown catch.

“Well, they had a couple of really nice double reverse plays that they threw in there and got us on two 30 yard runs, but our tackling was very poor in the first half,” Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter said. “We did much beter int he second half, but that first half, we just looked like a bad tackling football team in the first half.”

Bucs WR Carlton Davis and Panthers WR Chris Samuels – Photo by: Mary Holt/PR
Bucs WR Carlton Davis and Panthers WR Chris Samuels – Photo by: Mary Holt/PR

Inexperienced players like Ryan Smith (third year) and seldom-used linebackers Devante Bond (third year) and Adarius Taylor (fourth year), along with young defenders like safeties Justin Evans (second year), Isaiah Johnson (first year) and Andrew Adams (third year), not to mention rookies Davis and Jordan Whitehead, didn’t maintain discipline, were easily fooled with misdirection, took poor angles and failed up wrap up when in position to stop the Panthers’ weapons.

None of those players have more than three years worth of experience. In fact, Smith has the most playing time of any of those previously mentioned players. They’re either too young, too inexperienced, not good enough – or perhaps all three.

That speaks volumes and is an indictment on general manager Jason Licht, who didn’t sign veteran safety Eric Reid, who had an interception today, or trade for a veteran safety or cornerback – not that a player acquired in a trade on Tuesday would have helped the Bucs on Sunday, but the Bucs have eight games left and could have used some more experience. Outside of 35-year old Brent Grimes, Tampa Bay’s secondary is just too young and inexperienced to give this team a chance to win on a regular basis.

The result was confusion and missed tackles galore – not in pass coverage, but on end around runs by receivers and on screen passes. Sunday’s game in Carolina resembled the Bucs’ 30-10 debacle at New Orleans last year, when they simply couldn’t tackle Alvin Kamara – only this year it was McCaffrey who made the Bucs look silly.

“We know in play-option football, you have to play assignment football,” Koetter said. “So you’re worried about Cam [Newton] and what he can do with it, you’re worried about McCaffrey. They don’t send you a text message and let you know they’re going to run a reverse on the next run, so, that’s just another added dimension, and they’re doing a good job at that. But we couldn’t get it defended today.”

Panthers RB Christian McCaffrey - Photo by: Mary Holt/PR
Panthers RB Christian McCaffrey – Photo by: Mary Holt/PR

By halftime, McCaffrey had 63 yards rushing and two touchdowns and added another 36 yards through the air on two catches. He finished with 79 yards rushing and 78 yards receiving on five catches with three total TDs.

Of course we can’t just single out the Bucs youthful secondary for being awful. Tampa Bay’s veteran defenders were practically invisible on Sunday, especially in the first half when Carolina scored five straight touchdowns after going three-and-out on its first possession.

Here is what the Bucs’ top defenders turned in performance-wise in the first half:

DT Gerald McCoy – zero tackles

DE Jason Pierre-Paul – zero tackles

DT Beau Allen – zero tackles

DT Vita Vea – zero tackles

DE Vinny Curry – one tackle

LB Lavonte David – one tackle

CB Brent Grimes – one tackle

McCoy, who was playing with an injured calf, and David would split a sack on the Panthers’ initial third down of the second half, but it was too little too late. David finished with eight tackles, while McCoy finished with two. Defensive end Carl Nassib also added a second-half sack, but Pierre-Paul’s consecutive sack streak was halted at six games. JPP had an underwhelming one tackle on Sunday.

Tampa Bay’s defense stiffened in the second half, holding the Panthers offense scoreless in the third quarter as the Bucs offense added two touchdowns to cut the lead to 35-28, but once Carolina stopped running its conventional offense and went back to misdirection, it marched down the field to score another touchdown and take a 42-28 lead with just over nine minutes left to put the game away.

STATEMENT 2: Evans Picked The Wrong Day To Be Awful
Buccaneers quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick forgot to pack his Fitzmagic as Tampa Bay traveled to Carolina to play the Panthers on Sunday. Fitzpatrick started slow, going 0-for-3 to start with a big interception. He didn’t have much help from a porous offensive line or from his top target in the passing game.

Fitzpatrick’s first three passes were intended for wide receiver Mike Evans, who came into the game averaging 110 yards per game, and after the first two were incomplete, he overthrew Evans for an interception by safety Eric Reid that was returned 39 yards to the 10-yard line. That set up Carolina’s first touchdown and an early 7-0 lead.

Evans had two dropped passes in the first half, including one on the first play of the game and another one in the second quarter that would have been a first down. Evans was 0-of-6 on his first half targets and was completely blanketed by third-year cornerback James Bradberry as Carolina took a 35-14 lead into halftime.

Bucs WR Mike Evans - Photo by: Mary Holt/PR
Bucs WR Mike Evans – Photo by: Mary Holt/PR

There’s no other way to say it – Evans picked the wrong day to be awful.

It’s one thing for the Bucs defense to get completely gashed by the Panthers offense, but Tampa Bay’s offense has the obligation to put up points, too – especially when the Bucs have the league’s top-ranked offense, averaging 467.6 yards per game, and averaging 28.7 points per game coming into Sunday’s game at Carolina. Evans is a big part of that.

Evans’ first catch, a 16-yarder, finally came in the third quarter, but Bradberry owned him all day. It would be his lone catch of the day in Carolina.

Evans, who signed a lucrative contract extension in the offseason that made him the league’s third-highest-paid wide receiver, averaging $16.5 million per season, has been dominant all season. He’s had four 100-yard games, including a season-high 179 yards and a 72-yard touchdown. When you’re making that much money you need to bring it every week – not 14 or 15 times per year.

Fitzpatrick, who will start next week at quarterback according to head coach Dirk Koetter, wound up completing 24-of-40 passes for 243 yards with four touchdowns and two interceptions and could have used a 100-yard game from Evans on Sunday. Tight end O.J. Howard turned out to be Fitzpatrick’s big target in the red zone on Sunday, with four catches for 53 yards and two touchdowns, which tied his career-high. Howard now has five touchdowns to lead the Bucs.

At wide receiver, Adam Humphries put on a show in his homecoming game. Humphries, who is from nearby Spartanburg, South Carolina and played collegiately at Clemson, had a game-high eight catches on all eight of his targets for 82 yards and two touchdowns, which were a career-high, in addition to a seven-yard run.

“Well Hump, he’s a good football player,” Koetter said. “He’s kind of down the line in the pecking order for us as far as a guy that gets targets. They did a good job on Mike today, and it was more about Hump was the guy. They were doubling Mike some, they were pressing Mike a lot. Fitz found him, and Hump made a couple of nice runs after the catch on his own.”

2 PROBING QUESTIONS

QUESTION 1: Should Warhop Be The Next Coach To Go?
Yes. Tampa Bay parted ways with defensive line coach Jay Hayes during the offseason and defensive coordinator Mike Smith after five games this season. Who is the next assistant coach who could/should be sent packing?

Offensive line coach George Warhop.

The Buccaneers offensive line has struggled to get the running game going all year. Whispers out of One Buccaneer Place suggest the scheme is a little more intricate that it needs to be. Tampa Bay’s pass protection started the year strong, but has struggled over the past two weeks. Last week, the Bucs offensive line surrendered six sacks at Cincinnati and allowed nine quarterback hits/hurries.

Bucs OL coach George Warhop – Photo by: Mark Lomoglio/PR

At Carolina, the Bucs offensive line gave up three sacks, but it could have been many more if not for Ryan Fitzpatrick’s ability to scramble or get rid of the ball quickly. Fitzpatrick was hit/hurried 11 times, which is a season high for Tampa Bay’s offensive line. That can’t happen. It’s a miracle the Bucs were able to still put up 28 points.

The team has invested two second-round picks in left guard Ali Marpet, who received a massive contract extension this year, and left tackle Donovan Smith, who is in line for a contract extension, but has yet to fully live up to his potential. Smith gave up three sacks in the game to defensive end Mario Addison, who came into the game with 4.5 on the year.

The Bucs made free agent Ryan Jensen the league’s highest-paid center and he’s not exactly playing like a Pro Bowler.

Warhop hasn’t missed a block or given up a sack yet, but he’s in charge of a unit that is not playing up to his potential. If the Bucs are going to be a pass-first team, fine. But the pass protection has to be stellar – every week. And it’s not. Warhop has to take responsibility for that.

For some reason, Warhop is just not getting the most out of his players, and has struggled to develop either third-year player Caleb Benenoch or rookie Alex Cappa into a starting-caliber right guard this season. There is also no clear-cut replacement for an aging Demar Dotson at right tackle, either. If Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter returns next year, Tampa Bay might need to look elsewhere for an offensive line coach that can take its high-priced offensive line to the next level.

QUESTION 2: Did Licht Whiff On Panthers CB Jackson?
Absolutely. Not every general manager’s draft picks are going to be hits, but it looks like Bucs G.M. Jason Licht had a really clear miss on second-round cornerback M.J. Stewart, who is simply not athletic enough to play cornerback at the NFL level. Stewart needs to be moved to strong safety to compete with Jordan Whitehead if there’s any chance of salvaging his NFL career.

Stewart was drafted with the 53rd overall pick before the Bucs selected Carlton Davis in the second round with the 63rd overall selection, but the bigger sin was picking Stewart over Donte Jackson. Carolina drafted Donte Jackson out of LSU two picks later at No. 55 overall.

Panthers CB Donte Jackson - Photo by: Mary Holt/PR
Panthers CB Donte Jackson – Photo by: Mary Holt/PR

The Bucs had Jackson, who was one of the fastest and most athletic cornerbacks in the draft, in for a pre-draft visit in April, but passed on him because of his lean 5-foot-10, 180-pound frame, opting for the 5-foot-11, 200-pound Stewart.

Jackson has proven to be the much better player thus far. Although he did get flagged with pass interference on DeSean Jackson in the second half, Jackson wound up with a sack and a fourth quarter interception against Tampa Bay. That was Jackson’s fourth interception of the year, by the way.

Here’s where I obligatorily remind you that the Bucs have just one interception through eight games this year.

One interception.

Even former Bucs cornerback Ronde Barber, who was calling the Bucs’ broadcast for Fox, said that Jackson was one of his favorite cornerbacks coming out in the draft. Licht wanted to draft tough, physical players, and Stewart is tough and physical. He’s just not athletic enough and is doesn’t make plays on the ball.

Jackson is and does. Licht clearly drafted the wrong cornerback.

2 BOLD PREDICTIONS

PREDICTION 1: Catanzaro Will Remain The Bucs’ Kicker
I’m not exactly going out on a limb here, I know. But Chandler Catanzaro has caused angst for many a Buccaneers fan, player, coach and front office member this season with a missed field goal, extra point – or both.

For the first time in his Buccaneers career, Catanzaro made all of his kicks in a game. He was 4-of-4 on extra points and did not attempt a field goal.

If you’re looking for a silver lining, there you go.

PREDICTION 2: If Koetter Doesn’t Survive, Bucs Might Turn To Turner
It’s too early to suggest that head coach Dirk Koetter will be fired at the end of the season, but given the fact that the Bucs are 3-5 now and just eight percent of the teams that have had 3-5 starts have made the playoffs since 1990, it’s certainly not too early to speculate. So who would the Glazers look at as a potential replacement?

Although he doesn’t fit the current trend of young, up-and-coming offensive coaches like Sean McVay and Matt Nagy, I would look at Panthers coordinator Norv Turner for a couple of reasons despite the fact he’s 66 years old.

Panthers OC Norv Turner - Photo by: Getty Images
Panthers OC Norv Turner – Photo by: Getty Images

The first is that it gets him out of Carolina where he has turned Cam Newton and Christian McCaffrey loose this season and has done a fine job of incorporating speedy weapons like Curtis Samuel and D.J. Moore into the offense with misdirection runs in addition to taking advantage of their receiving skills downfield. That would be a blow to the division rival Panthers.

Second, Turner has a 114-122-1 record as a head coach with stops in Washington (49-59-1) and Oakland (9-23), but had a 56-40 mark with San Diego from 2007-12 where he and Philip Rivers led the Chargers to the playoffs for three straight years, including an 11-5 record in his first year and a 13-3 record two years later in 2009. Turner went 9-7, 8-8 and 7-9 over the last three years of coaching in San Diego in 2012. Plus, he has a .500 record (4-4) in the postseason.

After his offense put up 42 points on the Bucs on Sunday he might be worth an interview if Koetter doesn’t survive. Maybe he’s too old and doesn’t have the energy to be more than a coordinator, but I would certainly find out if I am the Glazers – and I would keep an eye on Baltimore’s John Harbaugh, too.

Scott Reynolds is in his 25th 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 spent six years 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: sr@pewterreport.com
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Horse

I really disagree with you Scott.
I believe it is still the defensive line, and if they could get to the quarterback faster or stop the run, we wouldn’t be having all these discussions about DB’s.
Norv Turner, really? Might as well bring back any previous head coach that’s been fired before with the Bucs less Dungy.

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dbenn2012

For God’s sake – Norv Turner as a Head Coach? The music has been played many times, there are many coordinators who are excellent or good and will never be a good Head Coach. Glazers – take a lesson from your dad – if you are going to make a change, a re-run, a sequel, followed by another sequel never works at the box office and seldom to none in the NFL. Again, if you go that way, which gets more obvious by the day, dismiss the many who admits he doesn’t have the Gonads to do the job. If… Read more »

BucRy

This season is pretty much over, I’m expecting big changes to come this offseason and I think it needs to be more than just coaching change at this point..but I wouldn’t be surprised if Jason gets another year.

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mattym3

Yeah, I can see giving Jason another year, but I’m guessing it’ll be a full house cleaning. GM, coach, McCoy, all 3 QBs.

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liquidmuse3

Licht’s obsession with toughness…in a league now built on speed…completely sunk him. MJ over Jackson, Vita over Derwin, Cappa over anybody. He also cannot sign good free agents nor draft running backs. Oh, and Jameis, who is exactly who he was at Florida State.

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e

If the Bucs are going to pass all day, defenses are going to tee off and disregard the run. Norv Turner? Seriously? The Glazers may want to consider opening the checkbook for Dungy to become president of this team next year and let him make the football decisions.

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mattym3

I’d rather see someone with experience like Brooks come in if we’re looking to old stars to come in. Look at what Lynch has done in SF. He hasn’t won much, but he’s brought in the talent and seems on a great trajectory.

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MizzBucsFan24

“It’s too early to suggest Koetter will be fired” Lol and you would look at Norv Turner. Who has proven that he is a better OC than head coach more than once. Thoughts like this are just scary to me. This teams needs a head coach to run the whole team not just the offense and one that has a clear plan to get this team to compete every week. And holds every player and coach accountable

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Buc76

What a waste of an article. It’s like someone dying of a disease and you’re talking about a sprained ankle. I think you guys just want your access to the Bucs. You don’t write objective articles. This organization is rotten to the core. Is a rudderless ship. The glazers need help badly. They need a bill polian type to come in here and take over.

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fredster

Wow Bucs have more problems than Winston? Imagine that. Lol. Turner? He hasn’t had track record as a coach. He’s a good coordinator that’s it like lot of others. Including probably Koetter.

We are a kicker and RG and RT from being a great offense no matter who plays an of decent.

Defense is another story. Lot issues still. D line, CB, Safety etc etc.

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fredster

Meant No matter who plays qb If decent

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EastEndBoy

Good grief … have we actually sunk that low now… Norv Turner???? Get real.

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EastEndBoy

Hard to blame Warhop for Donovan “turnstile” Smith. Not sure what he’s supposed to do when Licht refuses to get him another option at LT.

Mario Addison…good one Donovan! LOL. Imagine how much better Fitz would be if he had time in the pocket like Newton did today…

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Buc-n-Philly Fan

Uh…this was the same turnstile Winston had!

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EastEndBoy

Indeed – imagine how much better Winston would be…

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skipper

Kinda surprised at reresurecting the old Norv as head coach. Offensive coordinator perhaps, not head coach. Gotta be someone else to energize this football program.

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Pete Wood

I will undoubtedly be swamped with dislikes for saying this, but I think this team is on the right track. We have a sucky defense that we can fix in the off season through the draft and free agency. We have the best receivers in the league. Our offense is getting the job done. So, keep the head coach and the oc. Don’t fire everybody. We don’t need to start at ground zero again. I would support getting a new DC. And, I think we need to draft better. We’d have six wins right now if we hadn’t made psycho… Read more »

Naplesfan

Dude – every single one of the five years that Jason Licht has been GM of the Bucs, he has had “a sucky defense that we can fix in the off season and free agency.”

You’re the Charley Brown of Bucs fans, guy … and Jason Licht is the Lucy Van Pelt of Bucs GMs.

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BucWonder

Good Grief!

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Pete Wood

A good burn deserves a shout out.
You’re a good man, Naplesfan!

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Gina1396

The Glazers will fire Koetter and Licht at the end of the season unless Bucs have historic turn-around. Koetter doesn’t appear to be head coach material, (good coordinator) although the fact his offfensive and defensive lines are both offensive isn’t entirely his fault. I can’t believe some people still consider Licht a good GM. Have we forgotten we chose a kicker in the 2’nd round who was a flop. This year was terrible, M.J Stewart couldn’t cover my Grandma and she uses a walker. Vita Vea May still end up being a good D lineman but there were a lot… Read more »

Devasher

Donte Jackson ran a 4.32 40 at the combine. MJ Stewart? 4.54. Now while 40 times can get overrated for certain positions, corner is not one of them. Remember Johnthan Banks running a 4.61 then Miss St teammate Darius Slay running a 4.32? Banks was the better college corner but Slay is the much better pro. It doesn’t take a genius to realize a lack of speed kills at corner. We got Johnthan Banks part 2, the Panthers got their Darius Slay. Also anyone else notice we coudlve used Eric Reid’s production in the backfield today? Good thing Scott’s buddy… Read more »

scubog

You had me until you threw out the name Norv Turner as a potential HC candidate. Some folks are better as position coaches and coordinators. Coach Turner is one of them. There’s little doubt that the “Baby Glazers”, as Naples calls them, will be tossing out HC names at this coming Thanksgiving dinner in between the discussions about the upcoming Draft like the rest of us. I’m in agreement that bringing in a well respected football man like Tony Dungy as team President would at least bring some credibility. He was very successful in building his coaching tree with some… Read more »

Naplesfan

Gee, I am pretty sure that there were like a hundred and fifty Bucs commenters and writers here at PR who proclaimed the end of Defensive Woes with the firing of Mike Smith. And here we are, with the Bucs D letting the Carolina Panthers set their all time record of points scored in any half of football. And looking like a Junior Varsity High School team in the process. Our guys literally running around in useless circles while Carolina’s offense literally ran circles around them. To tell you the truth, the first half of that game was one of… Read more »

Buc-n-Philly Fan

The firing of Mike Smith was not the “fix”. Stop being such a dick about folks wanting him gone. The move was punitve AND necessary as the “Baby Glazers” never fire anyone in the middle of the season. I don’t think anyone was naive enough or dumb enough to have “proclaimed the end of Defensive Woes with the firing of Mike Smith. ” So you saying that and implying that fans were stupid enough to think the defense would be fixed. I do agree with you at this point (and I was wrong before when I said you were wrong… Read more »

Naplesfan

Uhhh – no, pointing out what gazillions of commenters here DID write over and over again, that firing Smith was the solution does not make one a dick … it means I have a memory that lasts more than five minutes … and obviously, you writing like a butt hurt weanie, was one of the ones who proclaimed Smith the destroyer of Bucs defenses, which of course he was not. The destroyer of Buc defenses is Jason Licht, who has been solely in charge of defensive talent and coaching, just as he is responsible for offensive talent and coaching. He… Read more »

Naplesfan

A word of advice, or caution, to Scott Reynolds: A lot of your readers here think you are refusing to acknowledge the utter failure of GM Jason Licht because you are trying to preserve your “insider access”, whatever that may be. Your readers may or may not be barking up the right tree. But at this point, maybe you should be thinking longer term, as in what your access will be come the last whistle next month, December 30, when Licht is likely to become, very shortly at least, the next ex-Buccaneers GM. Being thought by so many to be… Read more »

johnny

lmao yea ill pass on hiring a 66 yr old HC who already “retired” once …

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drdneast

Naplesfan, I too agree that Licht needs to go but only if someone more qualified is out there. But there is no need for your vile disgusting name calling of Scott Reynolds. Try to be a better person than that piece of trash that is occupying the WH right now although I am almost certain he is who sets and leads the tone of your ugly thoughts and writings. I hope Scott bans you and not because of what you might think, but because of the disgusting hateful way you express yourself. Rate this item:Thumb UpThumb DownSubmit Rating00 No votes… Read more »

Naplesfan

I used a term that perfectly describes what many of us thinks about Scotts unjustified ass kissing of Jason Licht.

This is a man’s game, and the fans and players are entiltled to both believe and write that Scott is acting like Licht’s bitch.

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scubog

You’re actually blaming Trump for Naplesfan’s commentary? Now that’s a stretch.

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chipbuc

With all due respect Scott there is no if Koetter, and Licht are here next year. Licht has put us in the same bind every year he’s been GM.He has failed to address weaknesses on the team every year he’s been here. We never have experienced depth at any position, with the exception of this year on the D line. Were’s the experience at cb, rb, s, oline, lb. Every year it’s draft a player and expect him to play like a veteran. What is so hard about picking up a good veteran RB to lean on, because we have… Read more »

thewbacca

Just based on actuarial tables, Norv Turner has a 1.1% chance of being dead next year. Which means he is doing better than Tampa’s defense. Still wouldn’t take the gamble on Norv though.

https://www.ssa.gov/oact/STATS/table4c6.html

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