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Pewter Report’s Scott Reynolds answers your questions from the @PewterReport Twitter account each week in the Bucs Monday Mailbag Submit your question to the Bucs Monday Mailbag each week via Twitter using the hashtag #PRMailbag. Here are the questions we chose to answer for this week’s edition.
QUESTION: Teams seem to have picked up on the game plan for the Chiefs in the Super Bowl vs. the Bucs. Do you think Chiefs are in trouble thanks to what the Bucs exposed in the Super Bowl?
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ANSWER: The problem with the Chiefs, who are 2-3 on the season, is their rebuilt offensive line has not played well. In fact, rookie center Creed Humphrey and rookie guard Trey Smith have higher grades per Pro Football Focus than veteran guard Joe Thuney and tackles Orlando Brown, Jr. and Lucas Niang do. As a result, quarterback Patrick Mahomes has been under more duress this year – similar in some games to how he was in Super Bowl LV when he was constantly harassed by Shaq Barrett and Co.
Bucs OLB Shaquil Barrett and Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Mahomes has an NFL-high 16 touchdown passes so far this year, but he’s also thrown six interceptions. He threw just six picks all of last year, and is currently on pace to throw for 14 INTs this year. His career high was 12 interceptions in 2018, his second season in the league.
What opposing teams are doing that mimics Tampa Bay’s defense from the Super Bowl is playing more Cover 2 against Kansas City. That limits Tyreek Hill’s explosiveness with safety help over the top. In the Chiefs’ 38-20 loss to the Bills on Sunday Night Football, Buffalo’s Cover 2 helped hold Hill to 63 yards on seven catches (9.0 avg.). The Chargers and Ravens did the same thing in holding Hill to five catches for 56 yards (11.2 avg.), and three receptions for 14 yards (4.7 avg.), respectively.
In games where Hill has seen more man coverage, he’s feasted, catching 11 passes for 197 yards (17.9 avg.) and a touchdown against Cleveland, and 11 receptions for 186 yards (16.9 avg.) three TDs at Philadelphia. The Chiefs won both of those games, and that’s their formula for success. When Hill goes off, Kansas City wins. When he doesn’t – and he was held to seven catches for 73 yards (10.3 avg.) by the Bucs in Super Bowl LV – the Chiefs are absolutely beatable. It doesn’t help that Kansas City also has one of the worst defenses in the league.
QUESTION: How does the Carlton Davis III’s injury affect his impending free agent status? Are the Bucs more likely to franchise tag him now?
ANSWER: It’s never good to have a major injury on a contract year, but that’s what has happened to Tampa Bay cornerback Carlton Davis III. Before suffering a quadriceps injury that landed him on injured reserve at New England, Davis was off to a great start to the 2021 campaign with a 76.4 coverage grade per Pro Football Focus, five passes defensed and one interception.
Bucs CB Carlton Davis III – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Even before the season I believed that the Bucs were going to use the franchise tag on Davis in 2022. Next to wide receivers Chris Godwin, who is playing on the franchise tag this year, and Antonio Brown, Davis is the most important free agent the Bucs need to sign next March. The franchise tag amount for cornerbacks in 2021 was $15.060 million. Before committing $15 million or more to Davis in a long-term contract, the Bucs might want to see him play for that amount on a one-year deal first.
After struggling as a rookie, Davis made strides in 2019 with 19 pass breakups and his first career interception. He emerged as a shutdown cornerback last year with a team-high four interceptions and 18 pass breakups. Can he continue his ball-hawking ways when he returns in a few weeks? How he plays during the rest of the 2021 season will affect his market price without a doubt. Unless Davis wants a more reasonable deal – say $14 million per season, which would put him in the top dozen cornerbacks – I think the franchise tag is coming in 2022.
QUESTION: Are the Bucs still searching in free agency to shore up the secondary?
ANSWER: The Bucs are always scanning the waiver wire, researching possible trades and bringing in street free agents for tryouts. General manager Jason Licht, vice president of player personnel John Spytek and director of pro scouting Rob McCartney all do a great job of staying on top of free agency year-round. Barring any more injuries, I think the Bucs are satisfied with the additions of veterans like Richard Sherman, Pierre Desir and Rashard Robinson.
The key is Tampa Bay is expecting Carlton Davis III (quad) and Sean Murphy-Bunting (elbow) to return from their injuries in a few weeks. The Bucs won’t face any real aerial assaults until New Orleans in Week 8 on Halloween with upcoming games against Philadelphia’s Jalen Hurts and Chicago rookie Justin Fields.
Bucs CB Jamel Dean – Photo by: USA Today
Jamel Dean returned from his knee injury and played well against Miami, recording five tackles, two pass breakups and an interception, which was a promising sign. And don’t forget about Ross Cockrell and Dee Delaney, who was the star of the preseason. The Bucs appear to have enough able bodies at cornerback right now.
I was fine with the Bucs passing on a trade for Stephon Gilmore. He’s 31, coming off quad surgery, doesn’t play on special teams and wants to be paid a fortune in 2022. Add in the fact that he’s on the PUP (physically unable to perform) list and can’t return until Week 7, and there are just so many unknowns about Gilmore to absorb a contract that is over $5 million for the cap-strapped Buccaneers.
With Jordan Whitehead, Mike Edwards and Andrew Adams, the Bucs have enough depth at safety to weather the storm with Antoine Winfield, Jr. out with a concussion. There is a chance he plays this Thursday night at Philadelphia if he can get out of the concussion protocol. Bucs head coach Bruce Arians should have an update about Winfield on Monday at 4:30 p.m. ET.
QUESTION: When Scotty Miller returns, how do you see his snap count impacted by Tyler Johnson’s performance while he is out?
ANSWER: Scotty Miller is quickly becoming the forgotten man in Tampa Bay’s offense this year. With just two catches for 11 yards before suffering a severe turf toe, he was ineffective in limited snaps before his injury. Starters Mike Evans (393), Chris Godwin (366) and Antonio Brown (325) all have over 300 yards receiving. Tyler Johnson is the fourth receiver on the depth chart with Miller out, but the reality is that tight end Rob Gronkowski (16-184-4) and running back Leonard Fournette (19-167) are higher on the receiving hierarchy than Tyler Johnson.
Bucs WR Tyler Johnson – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Johnson, who is in his second season, has seven catches for 115 yards in spot duty in his second season. When he is on the field and hauling in passes, he’s making plays. His 15.7-yard average is second on the team behind Brown’s 16.7 avg. If Miller returns this year, the Bucs will take advantage of his speed and ability to get vertical – provided he can get back to 100 percent. But Miller is a bit of a one-trick pony. He doesn’t play special teams like Johnson can, and is more fast than quick, which limits him in Bruce Arians’ offense.
Miller is in his third season and will have a fight on his hands to make the team next year, especially if Godwin and Brown are re-signed, as expected. Johnson and rookie Jaelon Darden will present Miller with good competition for a roster spot in 2022.
QUESTION: Lavonte David in all likelihood isn’t playing on a short week. It will be a greater challenge containing Jalen Hurts on the run. Does Tampa Bay make Hurts beat them with his arm and try to contain?
ANSWER: To a degree. The Eagles involve Jalen Hurts in their run game whether it’s designed QB runs or the yards he picks up from scrambling. Hurts has averaged 8.6 carries for 51 yards per game. To put that in perspective, Hurts has rushed for 256 yards and three touchdowns, which is more than Leonard Fournette has this season. Fournette, who is Tampa Bay’s lead running back, has 251 yards and one touchdown on the year.
Bucs ILB Kevin Minter – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Hurts’ ability to hurt defenses with the pass or run is worrisome this week, especially without Lavonte David. Defensive coordinator Todd Bowles would be wise to deploy some short zone coverages once again, as man defense could create some running alleys for Hurts with defensive backs having their back turned away from the QB in coverage. Putting middle linebacker Devin White as a spy on Hurts would be wise, but then who would cover running backs Miles Sanders and Kenneth Gainwell out of the backfield?
Veteran Kevin Minter is a savvy, experienced player who knows Bowles’ scheme like the back of his hand. He’s filled in for both David and White before. But at age 30, he’s no longer solid in man coverage and can’t be counted on to make an open-field tackle on a very elusive runner like Hurts. If Hurts is going to break free from the pocket, he will be running towards the weakside of the Bucs defense right at Minter.
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: email@example.com
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