The PR Bucs Monday Mailbag is where PewterReport.com’s Mark Cook answers your questions from our Twitter account. You can submit your question each week via Twitter using the hashtag #PRMailbag.
Below are the questions we chose for this week’s edition of the PR Bucs Monday Mailbag. Read them over and offer up your thoughts in the comment section.
Question: Plain and simple. WTF was that? No fire, no passion. This team looked like it took the bye week off early.
Answer: A disaster. A travesty. An embarrassment. And something that should have never happened from a professional organization. And while the Bucs defensive players bear some of the responsibility in surrendering 48 points, I really think much of the blame goes to this coaching staff.
The fact is the players talent level is what it is. Cornerback Carlton Davis can only be as good as a rookie who is playing in his fourth game. Same for M.J. Stewart. Can they get better? Of course. And they will, Experience is the best teacher. But that is also where coaching comes in. Is this staff putting them in the best position to succeed? You can’t tell me this defense isn’t more talented on paper than it was last year. Yet they are performing far worse.
That has to fall on coaching. All we have heard since Mike Smith joined the team as the defensive coordinator three years ago, is that are issues with communication. Why? Why after three years are veteran linebackers Lavonte David and Kwon Alexander still looking at each other exasperated after a coverage bust? Why are veteran defensive linemen visibly angry on the sidelines trying to get the defense to rally? There is just zero confidence exuding from this unit. None. The Bucs are allowing opposing quarterbacks to complete 75 percent of their passes and are allowing an average of 33 points per game to be scored against them. They look confused at times and look like they are playing to not screw up. You can’t and won’t win many football games playing like that.
Simplify things. Make it easier. Especially when you have at times up to four rookies on the field at the same time. And one more thing. Why is veteran safety Keith Tandy not still on this football team? Yes, it is easy to second guess personnel moves, but this one is a head-scratcher, especially now with the injuries in the secondary and the lack of veteran experience.
Is Isiah Johnson more physically talented than Tandy? Is Justin Evans? Certainly. But they probably were more physically talented than John Lynch, Ronde Barber and even going back to the days of Mark Cotney. But as some point, experience and leadership have to factor in as much or even more than sheer athleticism. This staff and front office have made some bad personnel moves, plain and simple. In hindsight, drafting strong safety Derwin James over Vita Vea would probably be helping the 2018 Buccaneers more right now.
Potential and ceilings are nice when it comes to player evaluation, but practical, disciplined and smart football players trump maybe-so’s if you ask me. For the record I am not advocating that Tandy would or should start over Evans. That is crazy. But how can you make the case Jordan Whitehead or Johnson are better players than a veteran like Tandy if he were still on this roster?
Question: With Dirk Koetter’s coaching for his job, does Mike Smith get the boot mid-season? We all have seen the stats on the games with 400+ yards the D has given up, and I’m sure the Bucs have also. We also doubt Dirk will fire his friend. Do you think Jason Licht or the Glazers will give Mike Smith the pink slip?
Answer: That is a great question and one I can’t answer definitively. But if it means survival, then all bets should be off and loyalty and friendship have to be cast aside. It is a crappy part of the business but general managers and head coaches are paid rather well in the NFL and the tough decision sometimes have to be made.
No one will erect a statue of Dirk Koetter outside of One Buc Place proclaiming he was a loyal friend and went down with the ship. But they will hang your name on the walls of Raymond James Stadium if you win football games – especially in the postseason. Somewhere along the way the defensive message and/or scheme has gotten lost. The players either aren’t buying in to the message or don’t believe in it. They certainly haven’t been put in position to succeed in Mike Smith’s defensive scheme.
That wasn’t Tom Brady dropping six TD passes and 350 yards on this Bucs defense. It was mediocre Mitchell Trubisky. And that should have never happened on Sunday. And that was the 19th time out of the last 36 games that Smith’s defense has allowed 400 yards of total offense or more. That’s unacceptable.
Question: Who’s starting now on the defense that won’t be starting for the Falcons game?
Answer: I think you will see a handful of changes, but some due to injury. Vita Vea could be plugged in next to Gerald McCoy, especially if Beau Allen’s foot injury is still lingering. Vea did okay on Sunday. Not great, but okay. And I won’t even get into the Derwin James thing any more. The draft is over, Vea is a Buc, so now where does he go from here and how can he help this defense get better?
Rookie cornerback Carlton Davis left with a groin injury and didn’t return in the second half. Depending on the severity, it could be a lingering thing that keeps him out of the Falcons game opening the door for someone else to start. Interestingly, Brent Grimes was replaced by Ryan Smith in the second half as well and I am not sure if that was a performance issue, or with the game being out of hand, the Bucs wanted to see what Smith could do.
And lastly, I think M.J. Stewart could give way to someone else, even as Scott Reynolds suggested, Javien Elliott, who is in his third year.
Question: Do you think we will sign/trade for some help for the secondary?
Answer: I think the Bucs will be looking, and will have their ears open to possible trades, but I don’t now anything will actually happen. Trades are pretty rare, and Jason Licht has shown he values his draft picks and it would take a special deal to make a deal.
Seattle Pro Bowl safety Earl Thomas suffered a broken leg yesterday and is out for the year, so that potential option is now gone.
Depending on the severity of Davis’ groin injury they may have to find a free agent cornerback, but the pickings are slim to find anyone that could actually contribute more than depth at this point. Looking over the available cornerback list, Byron Maxwell and Dave Amerson are really the only two names that would be very familiar to most fans. But both of those guys had injury issues.