The PR Bucs Monday Mailbag is where PewterReport.com’s Mark Cook answers your questions from our @PewterReport Twitter account. You can submit your question each week via Twitter using the hashtag #PRMailbag.
Question: Is this the best defense in the NFL?
Answer: On Sunday against the Packers, yes, the Bucs defense was absolutely elite. And when you look at the rankings this morning, the answer is also yes.
The Buccaneers are currently ranked No. 1 in the NFL in total defense giving up an average of just 282 yards per game through six contests. Against Green Bay, Tampa Bay allowed just 201 total yards to the NFL’s second-best offense prior to Sunday. And surrendered just 10 points to what was the league’s top scoring offense coming into the game, as the Packers were averaging 38 points per game.
Bucs OLB Jason Pierre-Paul and ILB Lavonte David – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Defensive coordinator Todd Bowles called perhaps the best defensive game plans in franchise history other than maybe the Super Bowl XXXVII win against the Raiders in 2002 – and this one might have been even better. After giving up 144 yards in the first quarter, the Bucs only allowed 57 yards over the last three quarters. Think about that – 57 yards – against Aaron Rodgers, Aaron Jones and a multitude of skill positions on offense for Green Bay. This wasn’t the Giants or the Jaguars, this was the league’s top-scoring offense – one that was averaging 488 yards through its first four games.
If the Buccaneers defense can play close to this level for the remainder of the season, this isn’t just a playoff team, this is a team that can win a Super Bowl.
Question: Ronald Jones II is different so far this year. Is this a change in the O-line or a change in him?
Answer: While the offensive line deserves some credit for Ronald Jones II’s success this year, the majority of the praise should be heaped on Jones himself.
I have never been so sure a player was a bust as I was following Jones rookie season where he gained just 44 yards and averaged only 1.9 yards a carry. It was dreadful and I was all for cutting Jones and just starting over.
There was no indication following his rookie season that Jones was even a capable backup in the NFL, much less a productive starter material. But here we are six weeks into his third season and guess who the third-most productive running back in the league is? Jones trails only Tennessee’s Derrick Henry and Minnesota’s Dalvin Cook with his 472 rushing yards on the season, and has now notched three straight 100-yard games after having just one through his first 32 games.
Bucs RB Ronald Jones II – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Jones came into this season bigger and stronger, and the results speak for themselves. At 225 pounds, he is running harder and more confidently than before and his ability to break tackles and gain yards after contact is a testament to there work he put in this offseason.
While the COVID-19 pandemic was difficult for the NFL’s offseason, a bit of a silver lining is perhaps the amount of time players had to train and workout on their own. Does Jones bulk up nearly 10 pounds and get stronger if there had been a normal offseason? Maybe so, but regardless Jones has taken over as the featured back and there is no debating who is Tampa Bay’s starter between he and Leonard Fournette right now.
Question: What needs to be done to keep Todd Bowles in Tampa Bay?
Answer: A blank checkbook? Seriously, if the Bucs defense continues to be a Top 5 defense this year, Bowles’ phone will be ringing off the hook once the year is over. I tweeted that Bucs fans should brace for that following yesterday’s win over the Packers and I got a lot of feedback pointing out that Bowles struggled at head coach in New York with the Jets and that he just isn’t head coach material.
#Bucs MVP today? Defensive coordinator Todd Bowles. Masterful game plan, ran to near perfection. Enjoy him the rest of the year Bucs fans, he will be a head coach next season if he chooses.
But that isn’t necessarily true. While it didn’t work out in New York that doesn’t mean it won’t if given a second chance elsewhere. There is a coach up in New England who was once fired by the Cleveland Browns, who seems to have bounced back from the consensus that he wasn’t head coach material. The Seahawks seem pretty happy with their head coach, who wasn’t very good his first time around in the NFL. I can’t say if Bowles is another Bill Belichick or Pete Carroll, but I won’t say he isn’t, either.
The hope here is Bowles would prefer to just be a defensive coordinator and stick around in Tampa Bay as it appears the team has something special happening. And if the Bucs end up with a Super Bowl and Bruce Arians decides to walk away in the next couple of years, then Bowles would likely be first in line to succeed him if he chooses.
Question: With the Bucs at 4-2, which loss is worse? After watching the Saints and the Nick Foles-led Bears, I’m thinking the loss to the Saints was a more winnable game and a lost opportunity. I think the loss to the Bears will be similar to the loss to the 49ers last year.
Answer: I disagree with you 100 percent. To me the loss to the Bears was so much worse as the Bucs squandered a 13-point they had approaching halftime. The mistakes that were made were almost all self-inflicted and that makes it even harder to accept. While the Bears are 5-1, they are not an overly talented 5-1 football team with Nick Foles at quarterback. I just don’t buy it. They have a very good receiver in Allen Robinson, but barely a running game to speak of, and a quarterback that doesn’t strike a lot of fear in opponents.
Bucs QB Tom Brady – Photo by: Getty Images
Defensively, Chicago is very good and creating match-up problems for opposing offenses, but I am really not a believer in the Bears despite their record through six games. Tampa Bay should have absolutely won that game, and if not for 11 penalties and poor officiating, the Bucs would have easily handled Chicago. I could be wrong and we will know if the Bears are for real over the next 10 games.
Mark Cook currently is the director of editorial content and Bucs beat writer and has written for PewterReport.com since 2011. Cook has followed the Buccaneers since 1977 when he first began watching football with his Dad and is fond of the 1979 Bucs team that came within 10 points of going to a Super Bowl. His favorite Bucs game is still the 1979 divisional playoff win 24-17 over the Eagles. In his spare time Cook enjoys playing guitar, fishing, the beach and family time.Cook is a native of Pinecrest in Eastern Hillsborough County and has written for numerous publications including the Tampa Tribune, In the Field and Ya'll Magazine. Cook can be reached at [email protected]
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