The Bucs kick off the second half of the season on Sunday against the Redskins and PewterReport.com offers up our midseason grades and analysis. Take a look at the report card after eight games and see if you agree.
Plagued by injuries throughout the season, the defensive line didn’t really get a chance to play together with all of their horses in the stable until last week at Carolina. Vita Vea started the year missing the entirety of training camp and the first three games of the season. He’s finally getting his legs underneath him, learning how to play in the NFL, but as head coach Dirk Koetter has said, his best football is ahead of him. When Vea finally came back, it was Gerald McCoy and Vinny Curry who simultaneously went down, missing games in weeks seven and eight before coming back against the Panthers. Curry re-aggravated his ankle injury and will miss the game this week.
Due in part to all of this, the defensive line hasn’t met the expectations for what was planned as to be an upgrade. Jason Pierre-Paul and Carl Nassib have prevented this grade from being lower than what it could it be. Pierre-Paul’s eight sacks and Nassib’s three combine for 61% of the sacks the Bucs have gotten this season. Somehow, despite missing two games each, the aforementioned McCoy and Curry somehow are next in line for the Bucs with two and one and a half respectively, despite missing games.
At 18 sacks, the Bucs are 27th overall in that department. While Pierre-Paul has had a superb season that will likely get him to the Pro Bowl, there hasn’t been enough around him to compliment that. The pass rush overall has been inconsistent, showing sparks of optimism before fizzling out and disappearing once again. For a team that has struggled to produce sacks, Noah Spence can’t even make the game day roster, being listed as inactive for half of the games this season. The Bucs have improved their run stopping ability, yet sit in the middle of the pack for opponent’s rushing yards per game at 15th in the league. That doesn’t move the needle.
It’s been a one man wrecking crew with Jason Pierre-Paul’s fantastic season in numbers, but that’s about it.
Best Of The Bunch: Jason Pierre-Paul
It looked like the linebacker’s group was about to turn a corner now with Mark Duffner as the new defensive coordinator, but then they lost the heart and soul of their defense, Kwon Alexander. Since his absence, the linebackers have had a tough transition period trying to replace him. I know these grades are for the entire first half, but when you’re talking about a position where only predominately three people play and one of them is now lost for the season, it’s hard to not to further analyze what the new group looks like post Alexander.
Adarius Taylor, Devante Bond and Riley Bullough were brought back after the season began due to injuries across the unit.
Lavonte David is still one of the best linebackers that football has to offer, though even when he and Alexander were playing together, it always felt very Jekyll and Hyde. They would have a game like against Atlanta where David would linebackers just six tackles, and follow that up with plays of brilliance, such as his diving forced fumble on Baker Mayfield that helped the Bucs cling to a victory against the Browns. You never exactly knew what you were going to get from the linebackers, and now having Taylor, Bullough, and Bond at the forefront increases that difficulty.
The NFL is a week to week league, but no one is going to feel bad for you because one of your best players is out. Some good news will soon be on the way for this unit as Kendell Beckwith could be returning in the near future, which is an instant and much needed upgrade.
Best Of The Bunch: Lavonte David
What is there to say that hasn’t already been said? The corners and safeties have been burned by big plays and deep balls all year long, they haven’t recorded an interception since September, and receivers are left wide open. The Bucs defense as an entire unit is on pace to be historically the worst defense in team history, that is not hyperbole, and the job that’s been done by the secondary is a big part of that.
The corners play way off of the receiver before the ball is even snapped. Brent Grimes has done that for most of his career, but it’s looking like his age is finally catching up to him, where he can’t use his athleticism as much to make up for that range since returning to the lineup in week three. If there’s any positive to look at, it’s that rookie Carlton Davis is getting valuable experience, and has shown signs of improvement in brief spurts.
Best Of The Bunch: Carlton Davis
We’re still at the point where you’re holding your breath each time Chandler Catanzaro lines up to kick an extra point. He has missed four XP’s so far this season, many on their first touchdown of the game, immediately putting the Bucs behing the eight ball and letting the air out of the tires when the team should be upbeat about scoring a touchdown. Catanzaro’s game winning 59-yard field goal in overtime may just be the only reason he has kept his job, that doesn’t save him from a low grade here.
Punter Bryan Anger hasn’t fared much better this season either. He hasn’t directly cost the team in many sufficient ways, but the Bucs have been working out other punters during their off days on Tuesday, which would render someone to believe that they aren’t happy with Anger’s performance. Anger is averaging 44.6 yards per punt, which puts 20th in the league in terms of average. Anger has a 38.8 net average with just eight punts landing inside the 20.
Shout out to long snapper and Tampa native Garrison Sanborn though, he hasn’t botched any snaps.
As great as Adam Humphries has done as a wide receiver this year, he’s pretty much become just a safe option out there. That’s not necessarily on him if the opponents gunners are in your face each time before the football lands. Remember when DeSean Jackson was taking some returns? Feels like ages ago, but as Jackson has said himself, he wants to focus on just being a receiver, and any returns are extracurricular.
The Bucs kick return game is absent, and for a team that needs to create opportunities in different ways because of a lack of turnovers, this hasn’t been favorable to them.
Best Of The Bunch: Garrison Sanborn