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.
QUARTERBACKS What began as Ryan Fitzpatrick riding the hottest streak in the NFL while waiting for the Bucs’ franchise quarterback Jameis Winston to return from suspension has grown into an official QB controversy.
The quarterback situation in Tampa has become a huge question mark with Winston being benched after throwing four interceptions against the Bears in his first start of the season. In just three and a half games played this season, Winston has managed to put himself second-worst in the league with 10 interceptions and a league-worst TD/INT ratio.
Luckily the Bucs have been able to count on veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick. Fitzpatrick has cooled off following his record-breaking stretch to start the season, but he’s still been a key component to one of the league’s more prolific offenses.
Through five and a half games Fitzpatrick has led the Bucs to a 2-3 record with 1,793 yards and 17 touchdowns to just seven interceptions. Fitzpatrick continues to lead the league in touchdown percentage (9.2%), yards per attempt (9.7) and yards per completion (14.7). GRADE: B BEST OF THE BUNCH: Ryan Fitzpatrick
RUNNING BACKS The Bucs’ run game has been underwhelming. It’s hard to determine exactly how much of that is on the offensive line or the running backs themselves, but both have played poorly in the run game.
The Bucs rank 30th in the league with 90.1 rushing yards per game and it’s coming on an abysmal 3.8 yards per carry.
With Ronald Jones seeing a very limited workload early and now preparing to miss time with a hamstring injury, his start with the Bucs has been nothing a letdown. He was drafted in the second round to add explosiveness to the Bucs’ run game, but he’s amassed just 42 rushing yards on 19 carries.
Peyton Barber has led the Bucs’ backfield in both volume and production, but neither have been optimal.
Barber – the starting running back in all eight games this season – has gained 376 yards on 104 carries for an average of 3.6 yards per carry, a career-low. Barber has only eclipsed 70 yards on two occasions this season with a season-high of 85 rushing yards in the Bucs’ week eight loss to Cincinatti.
Both Barber and backup Jacquizz Rodgers have played well in pass protection, something that’s arguably been their most important job to this point in the season. GRADE: D BEST OF THE BUNCH: Peyton Barber
RECEIVERS When looking from top to bottom, it’s hard to find a team in the league that has more talent at wide receiver than the Bucs.
With Mike Evans, Desean Jackson, Chris Godwin and Adam Humphries it’s easy to see why they have such a dangerous passing attack.
Mike Evans has been his usual, unreal self, racking up 786 yards and four touchdowns on 47 receptions. Evans’ 786 yards is good enough for fifth in the league.
Desean Jackson – an early-season hero as he exploded alongside Fitzpatrick – also ranks in the league’s top-20 for receiving yards with 626, just 42 yards short of his career-low total last year.
Through two games Desean Jackson had hauled in all nine of his targets for 275 yards and three touchdowns on a crazy 33.6 yards per reception. Jackson’s production has regressed closer to normal, but he continues to lead the league with 22.4 yards per reception.
Adam Humphries and Chris Godwin have flourished in their sidekick roles, as well. Together they’ve combined for 758 yards and six touchdowns and Humphries had arguably the game of his career in the Bucs’ comeback attempt against the Bengals, catching all eight of his targets for 82 yards and two incredible touchdowns. GRADE: A BEST OF THE BUNCH: Mike Evans
TIGHT ENDS The Bucs’ tight end room could be described in a very similar way to their wide receiver group: an elite group highlighted by two stars.
The first half of 2018 has seen O.J. Howard continue his growth toward being a premier tight end in the NFL. Howard is the fifth ranked tight end with 472 receiving yards on 16.9 yards per reception. In addition to his work as a receiver, Howard continues to be a factor with his advanced blocking abilities in both running and passing situations.
Cameron Brate has continued to be his sure-handed self, converting 14 of his 20 targets for 129 receiving yards and three touchdowns.
Brate and Howard are backed up by two more young tight ends, Canadian sophomore Antony Auclair and third-year hybrid Alan Cross. Cross and Auclair generally face limited snap-counts but have done well when asked to, with the exception of a couple false start penalties on Auclair. GRADE: B+ BEST OF THE BUNCH: O.J. Howard
OFFENSIVE LINE One of the biggest offseason signings for the Bucs was Ryan Jensen. Jensen was added to try and shore up one of the organization’s biggest deficiencies, their offensive line.
The experiment hasn’t gone exactly as planned, with Jensen failing to stand out in either facet of the Bucs’ offense. When reviewing each team’s offensive line through the season’s first half, in fact, Pro Football Focus’ Michael Renner claimed that Jensen, “already looks like one of the worst free agent signings of the offseason.”
OG Caleb Benonoch has also struggled mightily, constantly failing to get an adequate push in the running game or protect the Bucs’ QB duo.
Fortunately it hasn’t been all bad news as Ali Marpet looks as comfortable as ever returning to his natural guard spot – with the exception of some poor, ill-timed penalties – and the team’s offensive tackles Donovan Smith and Demar Dotson have mostly kept their names out of the paper. Smith and Dotson have had their struggles, but the missed assignments are mostly kept to a minimum and their play has been consistent, even if not spectacular, through eight games.
As previously mentioned, the offensive line cannot seem to get anything going in the run game, averaging just 3.8 yards per carry as a team and they sit near the middle of the league with 24 sacks allowed. GRADE: C BEST OF THE BUNCH: Ali Marpet