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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: A false start on the first play of scrimmage at Washington?! Really?!

ANSWER: Yes. Veteran tight end O.J. Howard did commit a false start on Tampa Bay’s first play from scrimmage in the 29-19 loss at Washington. That resulted in a first-and-15, which ultimately led to a three-and-out on the Bucs’ first drive. Just ridiculous. The Bucs finished with just six penalties for 43 yards, but many were untimely and either extended Washington drives or killed Tampa Bay drives.

The Bucs have fallen into a bad old habit of beating themselves and have a 6-3 record as a result. Tampa Bay has 65 penalties on the year, which is the eighth-most in the league. But the team’s 623 penalty yards ranks third in the NFL.

The problem is that it was veterans like O.J. Howard, Ndamukong Suh and Will Gholston committing the costly pre-snap infractions on Sunday. These are dumb mistakes from experienced players who should know better.

Offensive players know the snap count. There’s no excuse for false starts. Defensive linemen should watch the football and not listen to the cadence. That’s something that is taught at the Pop Warner youth football league level. These penalties are just ridiculous.

“Energy and passion are very fixable,” said Bucs head coach Bruce Arians after the game. “The penalties – they’ve got to get corrected sooner or later. First play of the game we’re shifting and we jump offsides. They didn’t even run a play and we jump offsides. That’s just stupidity. It has to go away if we’re going to go anywhere. It has nothing to do with ability. It’s all about execution and being a smart football team. We’re a very dumb football team. And that’s a reflection of the coaches.”

QUESTION: Do we really think this is a Super Bowl team? I don’t see it at all. An undisciplined, dumb team from coaching to the players. Why does Bruce Arians choose to receive? Where is Shaq Barrett? Why is the defense so bad? And don’t say injuries.

ANSWER: No, this current version of the Bucs is not a Super Bowl contender. I wrote about that in Monday’s 2-Point Conversion column. This is a dumb football team right now, according to head coach Bruce Arians, and I agree.

Dumb football teams are teams that find ways to beat themselves with self-inflicted wounds like penalties and turnovers. I’ve watched a lot of dumb Bucs teams from 2009-2019. Tampa Bay couldn’t get out of its own way at Washington and trailed from the beginning. This is a disturbing trend for a very talented football team. But talented teams don’t always win.

Bucs OLBs Jason Pierre-Paul and Shaquil Barrett and WFT QB Taylor Heinicke

Bucs OLBs Jason Pierre-Paul and Shaquil Barrett and WFT QB Taylor Heinicke – Photo by: USA Today

I have no idea where Shaquil Barrett was on Sunday. He was invisible with zero tackles. Fellow starting outside linebacker Jason Pierre-Paul was also ineffective with just one tackle while playing with a torn rotator cuff. The injury is negatively affecting JPP’s play, and the coaches are stubborn for playing him 79 percent of the snaps (58 plays) while rookie Joe Tyron-Shoyinka played just 26 percent of the time (19 snaps).

Why is the Bucs defense so bad? I think Todd Bowles is becoming too predictable as a play-caller, and some of that is rooted in injuries in the secondary, which limits some of what he can call. That’s not an excuse. That’s a reason. Yet at the same time, I think some of his blitz packages have gotten stale and are easily picked up by opponents who studied film from last year and earlier this season. We haven’t seen too many unique schemes work and successfully get to the quarterback.

But it’s not all on Bowles. The Bucs defense missed 13 tackles at Washington, and only had one takeaway. Tampa Bay’s defense is just not making enough plays to get off the field on third down, evidenced by allowing Washington to convert 11-of-19 (57.9 percent) on Sunday. Nor is the defense coming up with enough takeaways – just one in the last two games.

QUESTION: When does Bruce Arians start getting held accountable for the constant mistakes on offense and inexcusable penalties?

ANSWER: After the 29-19 loss at Washington, Bruce Arians did say that the team’s penchant for committing dumb penalties was a reflection of the coaches. And he’s right. As the head coach, Arians is ultimately responsible for the penalty crisis in Tampa Bay even though he has yet to jump offsides, commit holding, a false start or a pass interference penalty. It all starts with the players as they are the guilty parties.

Bucs head coach Bruce Arians

Bucs head coach Bruce Arians – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

And as I mentioned earlier, it’s not a bunch of rookies that are committing the dumb, pre-snap penalties. It’s the team’s veterans. In my 2-Point Conversion postgame column I note how it might be time for Arians to start benching some of these veterans in-game when the penalties occur to drive home the point that the flags will not be tolerated anymore.

In the end there is only so much that coaches can do. They harp on it all week in practice and in the meeting rooms. It’s been a point of emphasis since Week 1 when the Bucs were flagged 11 times for 106 yards against the Cowboys. But talk is cheap.

Mistakes happen, but it’s time for Arians and his coaches to knock off the nonsense by benching some of the repeat offenders. Howard, Suh and Gholston have had multiple pre-snap penalties this year. It’s time for Arians to make an example out of them for a couple of series or a quarter on game days to drive the point home. If you commit stupid penalties, you don’t get to play.

QUESTION: Were any receivers open or was Tom Brady just checking the ball down at Washington? Was it the play-calling? Why are we not using play-action more? The offense has dropped off badly, as the red zone percentage is down.

ANSWER: Tom Brady was checking the ball down too soon and too often for Bruce Arians’ liking at Washington. Remember, Arians’ offense is a vertical-based system that is predicated on taking shots downfield. Brady only had two completions over 25 yards, including a 29-yarder to rookie Jaelon Darden and a 40-yard touchdown to Mike Evans.

Otherwise Brady was checking the ball down to running back Leonard Fournette, who was targeted nine times and caught a team-high eight passes. The problem was that Washington was playing two-high safeties for most of the game. Every offense has plays in the playbook that are designed to find the holes in this coverage. In fact, the Bucs have been one of the NFL’s best offenses this season against middle-of-field-open coverages.

Bucs QB Tom Brady and HC Bruce Arians

Bucs QB Tom Brady and HC Bruce Arians – Photo by: USA Today

I think what prompted Brady to check the ball down so much was that the receivers and tight ends weren’t getting much separation down field. I assume he was getting frustrated with guys not getting open and just checked it down, while Arians wishes Brady would have hung in the pocket a little longer. The All-22 film will tell us more later in the week when it comes out.

“Tom was just getting it out of his hands,” Arians said. “There were a couple of times I thought he could have held on [to the ball] a little bit longer. Versus some coverage, just take your checkdown and get to the next play.”

Washington double-covered Evans for most of the game with a cornerback underneath and a safety over the top, while Chris Godwin played on an injured foot. Other players like Tyler Johnson, O.J. Howard and Cam Brate just weren’t getting open, which led to an underwhelming day for Brady, who passed for 220 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions.

QUESTION: Why is our defense so bad? We have ran the same system with basically the same players for two-and-a-half seasons. Why are they not more effective?

ANSWER: As I mentioned before, I think there is some predictability to what Todd Bowles is calling that some teams have figured out. And the Bucs just haven’t made enough plays on defense. Jason Pierre-Paul and Shaq Barrett have been invisible for the past two games, and when they aren’t going up front it makes things difficult for the team’s wounded secondary.

OLBs Shaq Barrett and Jason Pierre-Paul and DT Ndamukong Suh

Bucs OLBs Shaq Barrett and Jason Pierre-Paul and DT Ndamukong Suh – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

The fact that starting cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting has been out since Week 1 and fellow starter Carlton Davis III has been out since Week 4 hasn’t helped, either. Inside linebacker Devin White has been too erratic and hasn’t made enough splash plays this year so far. He’s underwhelmed, but Sunday’s 18-tackle, two-sack performance was a step in the right direction.

Throw in the fact that Pierre-Paul is now oft-injured, only has 2.5 sacks and is showing his age at 32, and it’s not good. Ndamukong Suh has been less effective at age 34 this year, and the same could be said of Lavonte David, who is not the fast playmaker he once was now at age 31. Newly signed cornerback Richard Sherman is about done at age 33. Tampa Bay is going to have some tough decisions to make in the offseason.

Sherman won’t be back. David deserves to stay. But the rest of them? We’ll see.

STATEMENT: The upset bug is going around in the NFL big time. Last week 4 teams were upset, this week 4 more teams were upset. Any given Sunday.

ANSWER: This isn’t a question, but I feel compelled to address it. There is no such thing as the upset bug. The term “any given Sunday” has been around for decades. This is nothing new. There are usually upsets every week in the NFL season. It’s just that more upsets have happened over the last two weeks that it makes it look like it’s a contagion when it’s actually not.

If Jacksonville beats Buffalo last Sunday it has nothing to do with Baltimore losing at Miami last Thursday, nor does it have to do with Tampa Bay losing at Washington this past Sunday. It’s a coincidence. Nothing more.

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About the Author: Scott Reynolds

Scott Reynolds is in his 27th 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 coordinator/defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: [email protected]
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Buc-Up
Buc-Up
6 months ago

DT usually take 2-3yrs to develope, so we should’ve drafted Suh’s replacement instead of wasting picks 2-4 on players that aren’t contributing in relation to their draft position. Especially since this roster was contructed to win now.

drdneast
drdneast
Reply to  Buc-Up
6 months ago

I’ve been saying that since the draft. Actually I had no problem with the No.1 and 3 picks, but the 2 and 4 picks were a complete waste. Darden appears to play skittish with all those big men out there and a sure sign of that is his Kenny Bell slip and falls on the kickoffs.

toofamiliar17
toofamiliar17
Reply to  drdneast
6 months ago

The Darden judgements make me laugh. He’s a rookie 4th round pick. Everyone needs to calm down. He doesn’t look remotely like Kenny Bell. He’s slipped on a few returns, and he fell victim on a weird play this past week where the ball popped up after a defender put a hand on the ball as he made the tackle. He’s also made some plays, including the longest punt return of the entire NFL season in his first game up, and a nice kick return that set us up nicely at the 34 last week. He hasn’t done much as… Read more »

Dman
Dman
Reply to  Buc-Up
6 months ago

So again, why did we let Khalil Davis go? Not a start, but just coming around. Stupid to release him.

bucballer
bucballer
Reply to  Dman
6 months ago

That was clearly a miscalculation and a mistake!

Eddie
Eddie
6 months ago

We shouldn’t have to suggest to the coaches what to do to fix these penalties. Something that coaches admitted that it is fixable but it hasn’t been. Either fix it or get another job coaches. You can penalize any players, bench them, cut them but fix it or get out.l

Captain Sly
Captain Sly
6 months ago

Over Reaction Monday in full effect. In first place but let’s fire the coaches, bench the starters, replace the GM, and draft replacements. WOW

drdneast
drdneast
Reply to  Captain Sly
6 months ago

To some degree I agree with you but some of the arrows pointed at the Bucs need to be fixed and those rest on the shoulders of both the coaches and the players. Something has to be done to get more pressure on the QB on third down. Play calling just has to be better and more varied. Four of five bubble screens a game just doesn’t cut it. Neither does slamming it up the gut continuously for three yards. It’s time to dust off Rojo and get him in the game. He has more burst and cutting ability than… Read more »

scubog
scubog
Reply to  drdneast
6 months ago

Got to agree with you here Dr.D. I’m not a big fan of those frequent WR screens either. They have been effective at times, but I keep waiting to see one get jumped and taken the other way. I also agree with you about playing RoJo more. He just looks like the better pure runner to me. I’m really disappointed in O.J. Howard. I really liked the pick when he came out in the Draft. I know injuries have been a factor in limiting his career, but this game I saw absolutely nothing from him being any kind of factor.… Read more »

drdneast
drdneast
6 months ago

OJ Howard is getting close to being useless which is why the Bucs picked up Danny Fell. Jumping offsides on first down on the first play of the game? All we needed after that was Josh Freeman at QB. Our former No 1 draft pick wasn’t targeted once during the entire game against the worst pass defense in the NFL. Good grief. When the Bucs drafted him his forte was supposedto be blocking but now we here he isn’t very good in that department. Has his blocking regressed since he hs been here or has he just not developed it.… Read more »

Dude
Dude
6 months ago

Mistakes happen, but it’s time for Arians and his coaches to knock off the nonsense by benching some of the repeat offenders.”

I think they need to fine them. Hitting them in the pockets is the only way to get someone’s attention. If you ask me, it seems that a few of these players might welcome a few plays off considering their play on the field and energy level. Which, if true, won’t solve anything. Money is and always has been the great motivator. Pride comes next.

toofamiliar17
toofamiliar17
6 months ago

Did Scott actually take the observation about recent upsets as a suggestion that there is a literal airborne virus or something causing bad teams to beat good ones recently? lol come on. I read the message myself, how do you get that from that? What a strange response to what was clearly just someone saying, “Man, ton of upsets recently, crazy. Teams gotta be on their toes.”

lambeau
lambeau
6 months ago

Speaking of the draft–let’s keep Sapp away from the evaluation process. Barmore’s a stud.