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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: Does it seem like Devin White has really regressed? He’s abysmal most times in coverage and doesn’t make as many splash plays as in the past to at least offset that.
ANSWER: There is no denying that Devin White’s play has taken a step back this year. The Bucs coaches won’t tell you that in order to either keep White’s confidence up or just to make excuses for their star inside linebacker and team captain. It’s not always fair to grade a player’s performance by the stat sheet, but the fact that he has made zero splash through the first eight games this year is alarming.
Bucs ILB Devin White – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
If a team needs a tackling machine, it doesn’t spend a Top 5 pick on an off-ball linebacker. The Bucs used their fifth overall pick on White in 2019 because he’s a tackling machine and an incredible athlete with big-play capabilities. White had a career-high nine sacks, two interceptions, three fumble recoveries and a forced fumble in 2020 in both the regular season and postseason combined.
Where is that guy? It’s been eight games and White has yet to record a takeaway or a sack. We’ve seen a lot of tackles, but a number of misses, too. Plus, he hasn’t grown as a leader, as I pointed out in my 2-Point Conversion column. White is capable of so much more. He has Pro Bowl talent, but it has to start showing up on Sundays on a consistent basis.
QUESTION: Saints went to same DB backfield as Game 1 last season for the last drive. Why did Bucs not see it and throw deeper routes when Saints were giving underneath easily. Could have had four plays to get into field range. Did they get greedy?
ANSWER: It seemed like Tampa Bay may have gotten a little greedy at the end of Sunday’s 36-27 loss at New Orleans. Quarterback Tom Brady and the Bucs trailed the Saints by two points, but had 1:41 left with a timeout. It’s not illogical to think that Brady was going to drive the Bucs down the field for another game-winning Ryan Succop field goal.
Saints defensive back P.J. Williams had other ideas, stepping in front of wide receiver Chris Godwin for a pick-six that proved to be the dagger on Halloween. Brady didn’t see Williams on the play.
“Bad throws,” Brady said after the game. “Just threw it to the wrong guy. I had Mike open. Cost us the game.”
The Bucs had travel about 45 yards to get into Succop’s range, and trailing by two, the team had all four downs at its disposal. In hindsight it’s easy to say that Brady should have thrown underneath instead. Way more often than not Brady avoids the turnovers that come with risky throws. And he usually drives the Bucs down the field for the game-winning points. Even the G.O.A.T. can have an off day.
QUESTION: Are players penalized for their penalties? Maybe fined or something?
ANSWER: The Collective Bargaining Agreement rules does not allow for NFL teams to fine players for getting penalties. That’s not to say that some teams don’t go rouge and violate this and impose certain levies, although that practice likely happened more back in the day than in today’s NFL. I remember there being a certain former Bucs secondary coach that used to fine his defensive backs if they dropped interceptions.
Bucs head coach Bruce Arians – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
The most discipline an NFL coach can impose on today’s players is to bench them. But when it’s a starter like Jason Pierre-Paul or Shaquil Barrett jumping offsides, is replacing either with Anthony Nelson any better? If Ross Cockrell gets flagged for defensive holding like he did on a critical third-and-5 in New Orleans in the fourth quarter, who is Todd Bowles going to replace him with? The Bucs are out of bodies in the secondary. Should Devin White get benched in favor of aging inside linebacker Kevin Minter, who is not nearly the play-maker that White is?
All the Bucs coaches can continue to do is talk with the players and show them how the team’s 11 penalties for 99 yards against the Saints cost them the game. It’s up to the players to hold themselves accountable and avoid mistakes. Losing a winnable game should be enough of an incentive. It was last year with a penalty-ridden, 20-19 loss at Chicago in Week 5.
QUESTION: Besides Mike Evans and Chris Godwin how do you think the other receivers looked?
ANSWER: Tyler Johnson has been outstanding for the Bucs in Antonio Brown’s absence. While he’s not the explosive playmaker than Brown is, Johnson has proven to be a reliable pass-catcher that can move the chains. He had a career-high six catches for 65 yards and only had one drop, but it came in garbage time. Johnson has a career-high 14 catches for 191 yards (13.6 avg.) this season after catching 12 passes for 169 yards (14.1 avg.) and two touchdowns last year as a rookie.
In addition to Johnson, Cyril Grayson made a huge, 50-yard touchdown catch in New Orleans on Sunday. The former LSU track star scored his first NFL TD on his second-ever catch. Grayson has been seldom used and was activated from the practice squad on Saturday. He’s got speed to burn and may have earned himself a few more Sunday activations and perhaps a few reps on offense after Sunday. He was certainly more impressive than rookie Jaelon Darden, who had three catches for 11 yards against the Saints.
QUESTION: Are we witnessing fools gold with this Bucs team? Even if they finish 14-3 with their only other loss to the Bills, what do we make of this team? Throw out Week 1 and and they still will have not beaten one quality team the whole season.
ANSWER: The Bucs didn’t make their schedule. They can’t control which teams they play and which ones they don’t play. If Tampa Bay plays a clean game in New Orleans and doesn’t commit 11 penalties for 99 yards and lose the turnover battle 3-0, the Bucs are 7-1 right now. But that didn’t happen. Turnovers can be great equalizers.
Bucs WR Chris Godwin – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
It’s worth noting that both losses to the Rams and the Saints came on the road where there is home-field advantage this year with stadiums back to full capacity following last year’s COVID-19 pandemic restrictions. Bucs head coach Bruce Arians has harped on the fact of how home-field advantage in the playoffs will be even more important this year. If Tampa Bay is 14-3 my guess is that the team is at least tied for the lead in the NFC.
I don’t think you can throw out the Bucs’ Week 1 win over the Cowboys, either. Dallas is 7-1 and a field goal away from being undefeated. The Patriots are now 4-4. Looking back, that victory might turn into a quality win. The Saints have won three straight and will likely come to Tampa Bay for the rematch against the Bucs with a winning record. I think the Bucs will have some quality wins on their resumé by the end of the year – even if they lose to the Bills.