Sitting at a 2-4 record at the bye week, the Bucs record isn’t what the players, coaches, and many fans expected them to be at during their week off.

There’s been a series of ups and downs this season for the Bucs, with the highest of highs coming in an upset win over the Los Angeles Rams in Week 4, to the lowest of lows coming from last Sunday, where seven turnovers committed in London gave Tampa Bay their worst loss of the season and two straight defeats.

With the players having a week off before they play the Titans in Week 8, we examine the good and the bad from the offense, defense, and special teams.

Offense

The Good

Improved Rushing Attack
Bruce Arians said the Bucs were going to run the ball more once he took over as head coach and he has stuck to his word.  The Bucs are averaging 98.2 yards per game, which is 13 yards higher then the Bucs’ 85.5 average through six games in 2018, but you also have to factor in who was running the ball. Jameis Winston and Ryan Fitzpatrick were the Bucs second and third leading rushers in 2018, accounting for 433 yards of the Bucs rushing offense.

Winston this year has only ran for just 38 yards. The Bucs are getting production from their running backs the way it should be, providing support so the offense isn’t one dimensional.

The biggest help to the run game this year has been the improvement of Ronald Jones. In his second year, Jones has benefitted from the new coaching staff and more importantly, a confident mind set. Though he and Peyton Barber have shared the carries, Jones is the one that has provided a true spark when in the game, making defenders miss and hitting the hole. The run game has had an impact this season, which couldn’t be said a year prior. Eventually Jones should become the starter, only helping the cause.

All-Pro Season For Chris Godwin
Godwin has hands down been the best offensive player for the Bucs this season. He is well on his way to the 100-catch season that Arians had predicted this offseason, and is also on the path to his first Pro Bowl, if not All-Pro honors. Godwin leads all of the NFL in receiving yards and touchdowns, with 662 and six respectively.

Bucs WR Chris Godwin
Bucs WR Chris Godwin – Photo by: Getty Images

At times it looks like Godwin and Winston are just playing pitch and catch out there. Godwin surely benefits from defenses focusing on Mike Evans, but three straight games of over 125 receiving yards is impressive no matter who your teammate is. Arians also said he’s one of the best blockers in the run game, again proving how valuable he is. Godwin is the Bucs’ team MVP through six games.

The Bad

Too Many Sacks
The biggest story this past week was Jameis Winston’s six-turnover fiasco in London. Some of those interceptions can be attributed to poor protection but Winston bears some responsibility for the number of time he’s been taken down in 2019.

The Bucs have been sacked 13 times in the last two games and 25 times on the year, which is third worst in the NFL.

“The biggest thing is holding onto the ball and getting sacked,” Arians said on Winston’s problems. “First of all, you don’t want him to get hurt. When you make one guy miss, or you scramble to the side of the field [and] there are no receivers, throw it away. It’s very simple.”

The offensive line continues to take one step forward and one step back, going from shutting down Aaron Donald to allowing seven sacks in London. Even with promising performances from Ryan Jensen, Donovan Smith and Cappa, it still hasn’t been enough to hold Winston up right.

The Disappearance of O.J. Howard In The Pass Game
Everyone had such high hopes for Howard coming into his third year, with the only question coming into training camp was if he could stay healthy for 16 games. But a slow start to this season has turned the question whether he can still be viable for the offense.

Howard has 13 catches for 176 yards and no touchdowns this year. He was shut out in Week 2 at Carolina and has three catches over the last two games with some drops mixed in between there. Meanwhile, Cameron Brate has had 12 catches for 119 yards and two touchdowns while playing significantly less snaps. Howard’s been an important factor blocking in the run game, but more is expected from the former Alabama star as a receiving threat.

Defense

The Good

Best Run Defense In The NFL
Christian McCaffrey (twice), Saquon Barkley, Todd Gurley and Alvin Kamara. These are the best running backs in the league and a lineup of players that the Bucs shut down all in consecutive weeks.

Bucs LB Lavonte David and DT Ndamukong Suh
Bucs LB Lavonte David and DT Ndamukong Suh – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

The Bucs defense have a league-low 68 yards rushing allowed per game and it’s more impressive given the players they have stopped. Vita Vea and Ndamukong Suh have clogged up the middle, allowing no teams to find their footing in the ground game. Teams like the Rams and Saints didn’t even bother trying to run against the Bucs because of how good their front has been. They’ve essentially forced teams to pass the ball on every down.

Linebacker Depth
The highlight of the defense has been Shaq Barrett and his nine sacks, but teams are focusing on him now and he’s cooled off over the last two weeks. One of the more impressive units on the defense has been the middle linebackers and how deep their depth has been.

Lavonte David has been a rock on defense, continuing to be one of the most underrated players at the position. He’s in on most plays while flying around the field, and it’s no surprise that he leads the defense with 41 tackles. The great depth of the Bucs linebacker came from the production of Kevin Minter, who replaced an injured Devin White for three games.

Minter hasn’t missed a beat when taking over for White. And speaking of White, he’s had to battle through some tough injuries to start the year, but in his return in Week 6, White led the team in tackles with eight. He’s got plenty of football left ahead. Out of all the positions on defense, inside linebacker is the least concerning in terms of worrying about putting in a backup should a starter go down.

The Bad

Secondary Struggles
This is a narrative that has been beaten into the ground already, but it still rings true. The Bucs secondary has made rookie and backup quarterbacks look like Super Bowl MVPs. Vernon Hargreaves has struggled going against opponents number one wide receivers. Carlton Davis, while better than in his rookie season gets flagged too often for holding and pass interference penalties. M.J. Stewart has improved but still struggles at times, and Sean Murphy-Bunting is still learning how to play at this level.

The Bucs continue to get torched in the passing game with 304 yards per game, last in the NFL. As good as the run defense has been, it does’t really matter if you can’t stop anyone on second and third down. Receivers are left wide open, and no one seems to have an answer. The speedy rookie Jamel Dean has returned from a knee injury, but that doesn’t mean it will fix everything.

Lack Of Pass Rush Outside Of Shaq Barrett
The start to this season for Shaq Barrett was nothing short of spectacular. Through four games Barrett had nine sacks with three forced fumbles and interception. But since then he’s received more double teams as offenses key up on him, and Barrett has gone sackless in the last two.

Barrett’s nine sacks make up a majority of the 13 on the season. Carl Nassib has two, Will Gholston has one, and Ndamukong Suh and Vita Vea each have a half sack. Panthers quarterback Kyle Allen had all day to throw last Sunday, as did Saints quarterback Teddy Bridgewater a week prior. As much as the secondary has struggled, they haven’t received much help from the pass rush unless Barrett is the one doing it. Help could be on the horizon, though, with Jason Pierre-Paul returning prating during the bye week.

Special Teams

The Good

Matt Gay’s Improvement Since Week 3
Fear of the Bucs kicker curse made waves to Raymond James Stadium when Matt Gay missed a game winning 34-yarder in Week 3 as the Bucs fell to the Giants 32-31. Gay also missed an extra point on the first score of the game and had his next one blocked. Since that game, Gay has regrouped and been productive for the Bucs, especially from long range.

Bucs K Matt Gay
Bucs K Matt Gay – Photo by: Getty Images

In weeks four through six, Gay has hit all 11 extra points and made all four of his field goals. Three of those four field goals have been beyond 40 yards, hitting them from 41, 54 and 58 yards. He makes the longest of field goals seem easy and looks to have figured out how any early kicking issues he had been having.

The Bad

Return Game Disaster
Field position is so important in the NFL and the Bucs haven’t been able to flip it much. Both the kick and punt return game has failed to garner any kind of big return. Bobo Wilson had 2.8 yards per punt return on this season and has since been released by the Bucs for a lack of production. T.J. Logan was specifically brought in by the Bucs to return kicks. It’s been his only responsibility for Tampa Bay and he’s been a non-factor as well.

Touchbacks are common on kickoffs and that will happen, but when taking kicks out Logan has averaged just 18 yards per return. Logan also had a head scratching return in Los Angeles with eight minutes left in the fourth quarter and the Bucs up 11. Instead of taking a the touchback, he returned the ball for just 11 yards and pinned the Bucs back deep in a tough situation. Winston eventually threw a pick six to cut the game to eight, but the Bucs held on to win. Logan could have a chance to be the new punt returner and see if he can be an upgrade.

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35 COMMENTS

  1. How on Earth do you not mention the downfall of Winston?
    The real bad news is the owners are losing even more fans; they are digging themselves a really deep hole to get out of.

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    • Sorry to see some in denial.

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    • Agree but hasn’t the downfall of Winston exclusively been covered in multiple articles this week already??

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  2. With 5 tackles and .5 sacks,118 tackles in the NFL with more tackles than 2018 first-round draft pick Veta Vea
    There are 121 tackles with more sacks than Veta Vea
    There are 122 tackles in NFL with more sacks than 9 million Suh
    Just for averages 32 teams each team has 3.7 tackles with more tackles and sacks

    http://www.nfl.com/stats/categorystats?seasonType=REG&d-447263-n=1&d-447263-o=2&d-447263-p=3&statisticPositionCategory=DEFENSIVE_LINEMAN&d-447263-s=DEFENSIVE_SACKS&tabSeq=1&season=2019&Submit=Go&experience=&archive=false&conference=null&qualified=true

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  3. This article was easy for me to know without even reading it. Nothing against you Matt. Breaks down like this the good. Chris Godwin and Shaq Barrett. I will give some love to Rojo as well. Other than that everything else is bad. Teams don’t need to run the football against us so they don’t. Now what should have been is the ugly. Secondary, Jameis, and these combined coaching staffs are the ugly. The secondary because their on pace to give up the most yards ever in a season. The coaching staff starting with Arians wanting to coach coaches instead of this team. And knowing that Jameis to a fault will not give up on a play, I thought he finally turned the corner with him tucking the ball and running. He has been turned back by this staff. Leftwich is still learning how to even call a game, in which he has struggled to do all season. Until the leaders of this group takes control, Arians. Same Ole Bucs.

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  4. Watching Packers game. They may have our best pick from Jason Bust Licht’s 2016 draft

    Buccaneers 2016 draft picks
    Round 1: pick 9 (9th overall): Vernon Hargreaves, CB, Florida – BUST
    Round 2: pick 8 (39th overall): Noah Spence, DE, Eastern Kentucky – BUST
    Round 2: pick 28 (59th overall): Roberto Aguayo, K, Florida State – BUST
    Round 4: pick 10 (108th overall): Ryan Smith, CB, North Carolina Central – Special teams player
    Round 5: pick 9 (148th overall): Caleb Benenoch, T, UCLA – BUST
    Round 6: pick 8 (183rd overall): Devante Bond, LB, Oklahoma – Just released
    Round 6: pick 22 (197th overall, from Washington): Dan Vitale, FB, Northwestern – Good enough for the Packers

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  5. Teams now have Shaq Barrett on tape. And within the last 2 games, he has not been effective. This, we no longer have a pass rush unless we blitz. And we do that quite often meaning..Teams are making us pay dearly and exposing our secondary. I said before the season began, our key would be a great pass rush. We do not..have that. And I’m not looking for JPP to last the rest of the season with his neck. We are the type of team that will win by shootout. And this depends on which Jameis shows up. Jeckle..or Hyde.

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    • Twspin opined “and I’m not looking for JPP to last the rest of the season with his neck.” Just curious where you earned your medical degree?

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  6. Pretty fair asessment except for one notable huge exception you did not notate about the offensive line.
    The Bucs O line was holding up fairly well until Cappa broke his arm and Dotson broke what was left of his body in the second half of the Saints game.
    That was when the dam broke as far as sacks.
    And as any analyst of the game should know, how the offensive line goes, so goes the QB.
    Winston was under assault in the second half of the Saints game, where the Saints got the majority of their sacks and during the whole game against the Panthers.
    At the same time I didn’t see the coaching staff change the route tree much so the deep vertical game BA loves so much was just a disaster waiting to happen for a QB with no time to throw.
    I would like to see Winston scramble more often when his receivers are covered. Tuck the ball away and go. He did it last year and I wonder if the current staff has told him to refrain from scrambling. Good question for PR to ask at a presser.
    It is not all on the DBs for the poor pass coverage. There has to be more heat generated on the QB.
    Hopefully JPP will return for the Titans game and provide it.
    Twspin, I was wondering where you got your crystal ball or medical degree to make that statement about JPP or is it only wishful thinking.
    I don’t claim to have either but I do know John Lynch had the same sort of injury and we released him and he went on to make three or four more pro bowls.
    Most broken bones heal back stronger, not weaker.

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  7. Watching the Saints handle the Bears, without Brees and Kamara. Sean Payton is an excellent coach, knows how to game plan with whatever personnel he has available. We have an Arizona retiree as a coach (what a pension plan), who is leaving play calling duties to an inept play caller.

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    • Dude, there is more problems than just coaching.

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      • You are right, but look what has happened to Atlanta since Koetter moved on. Ryan is a better than average QB and their team was good. You tell me coaching does not matter. Just say’in.

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        • And Smith too.

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      • Bad grammer Horse. Stay out of your cups.

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    • I’m not sure anyone can call Leftwich inept anymore than they can call a player inept after only one full year in the league. I think Leftwich is inexperienced and this talk of him being a potential Head Coach after the Rams game was definitely premature.

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  8. Coaching: BA is doing a good job most of the time.
    Defense: Very Good
    OC/Play calling: Below average. I don’t like the fact that he is learning on the job. You should learn as an assistant.

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  9. And with the 7th pick of the 2018 Draft, Tampa Bay Bucs give future QB star Josh Allen to Buffalo so they can Draft Veta Vea DT who has fewer tackles than 121 other tackles in NFL thru 6 games.
    This will be laughed about for the next 10 years maybe longer.
    The reason given they have a QB in Jameis Winston LOL!!!
    LOL LOL

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  10. Agree coaching just one of the issues. Defense is half-ass, good run defense, abysmal pass defense.

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  11. Bridgewater 5-0 as a starter. Brees could probably have done better though. .

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  12. 90% of all stats are B.S.

    One of the biggest reasons any NFL team winds up having the “best” run defense (and this isn’t our first time singing this tune) is because they have the worst pass defense. Why try and run when passing is sooooooooooo easy.

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    • 90% of all stats are BA.

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  13. I just watched my DVD of the Superbowl bucs. Boy were they dominant. The team we have now would be eaten alive by those guys. Not to mention the league was tougher then, none of the wimpy rule changes were around. We didnt have the best QB in the league, but he was consistent and smart with the ball. He didnt lose games for you.

    If the two teams would play each other Ronde Barber would be Winstons favorite receiver. Sapp and Rice would feast on the current oline.

    Winston is a coach killer. While not all the problems with the team are because of him, he brings a high degree of risk when he is under center. Bucs will have to decide if the intermittent rewards are worth it for winston.

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    • The Glazers are coach killers more than Winston is. Meanwhile, Lovie Smith is turning Illinois around. Why? Because they actually gave a Super Bowl quality HC time to make an honest attempt at building a winning program. Congrats to Lovie Smith and Illinois for upsetting 6th ranked Wyoming this weekend! I’m not surprised.

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      • 6th ranked Wyoming!? R u $4itting me! The worm has turned.

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        • *Wisconsin

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  14. Did you see how effective your Denver QB was when he lost two of his starting offensive lineman DumbAss, Not very pretty.
    Again, I implore PR to ban DumbAss from the site. He adds nothing constructive here and never has.

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    • Yep, you continue to live up to your true colors drdneast. “Let’s ban free speech because we disagree with them!”

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  15. And now Koetter is back with Atlanta and they can’t seem to win a game! I’m in the corner of good coaching helps average talent win football games. BA needs to take back play calling for a couple of games to see if that will help at all? I don’t really know. But doing nothing and expecting different results is just frustrating. Where is this accountability I heard so much when BA was hired? It applies to the coaches as well… I’m just saying!

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  16. I know some coaches script the first dozen plays or so… give it a try Coach! Have a contest and let fans vote on the first twelve plays to start the game… at least ur trying to get some interaction with the fans…the calls couldn’t possibly be any worse than what DoughBoy is calling…

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  17. The good- 2 wins
    The bad- 4 losses
    Bucs just need to win!

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  18. Sometimes I wonder if some folks actually watch the game or if they just go to some statistics site and cherry-pick the ones that support their agenda. Here’s what I’ve observed about our run defense. Teams try, fail and resort to passing. While it may be true that they find it easier to pass, they stop even trying to run because it was getting stuffed……….by Vita Vea. He might not make the tackle to ring up on the stat sheet, but he made the play.

    Not trying to defend Lefty, but his “inept” play-calling has resulted in the offense being one of the best in the league. The offense has stopped itself from winning by being so generous giving the ball away and taking sacks due to holding the ball too long. What appears to be a good running game gets shelved because the team gets behind on the scoreboard due to the defense’s inability to even force the opponent to punt once in a while.

    Two things holding the team back: 1.) Bad Jameis appearing more often than Good Jameis. 2.) VH3 in no way resembling a high first round draft pick.

    If Matt Gay hits the chip shot and the team was 3 dash 3 instead of 2 dash 4, we’d all feel better.

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  19. I agree it should be the good (not much), the bad (plenty), and the ugly (starting to really show itself.)

    I can’t blame coaching much For first year though. They simply don’t have all the pieces they need. Blame Licht, blame luck, blame previous coaches, blame Glazers, whatever. They have new systems, lack talent at O line and secondary, and pass rush (maybe JPP can help) and inherited a lot of the problems. I know one thing Koetter and his “great” offense go Back to Atlanta and they now are the Bucs. Can’t Or won’t run the ball, and 1 win. Hard to play QB without run game or defense isn’t it? You think Matt Ryan sucks or is it a team effort and QB can’t be successful when there is no balance (run game) or at least average defense? Yeah Winston played atrocious last week but this current situation is no win situation for a team or any QB period. That’s not making excuses it’s stating facts. Now if this team had decent O line and defense would Winston still flounder? Maybe. Maybe not. We likely won’t know unless they tag him one more year and fix THE TEAM! Frustrating to be a Bucs fan 12 years or so.

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    • Try being one for 43 years!

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  20. Bye week fatigue has set in and I’m all talked out. [Almost!] The guys have embarrassed themselves the last few weeks with Jameis leading the pack. Get back on the field and work. If they continue as they have, there will be another turnover beginning in December and before the season ends. Hopefully that starts with Jason Licht.

    If we miraculously turn it around and BA and his staff get the team to gel, well God bless!!!

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  21. Beat Tennessee Sunday and begin to correct the ills or lose and fall further into the abyss. Its that simple

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