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.
Question: How did Byron Leftwich’s play-calling look? How did he look on the sidelines?
Answer: I thought Byron Leftwich’s first shot at play-calling in Bruce Arians’ offense in Tampa Bay went very well. Especially on that first drive where he showed great balance with six passes and six runs. There weren’t any issues getting plays in that I could tell and he looked confident on the sidelines. He didn’t look like a first-year offensive coordinator to me.
Of course that was a preseason game, and the Steelers didn’t doing anything too exotic defensively. The real test comes in the regular season when he will have to win some chess matches and make some in-game adjustments that coordinators have to make to be successful.
It was a solid first test, and while we all sometimes wish the preseason was shorter, for someone like Leftwich, these four games are invaluable in terms of gaining experience calling plays and learning the Bucs’ personnel.
Question: With the first season preseason game wrapped up, what had you most concerned going into this week’s game against Miami
Answer: Probably the offensive line once we get past the five starters. If you think the Bucs’ starting group isn’t great, you saw just how much better they are than the back-ups. It got really ugly at times once the starters left, and Blaine Gabbert and Ryan Griffin were under duress for a good deal of time under center. It was so bad the Buccaneers essentially cut Evan Smith before the plane landed back in Pittsburgh. I am guessing the Bucs will be scouring the waiver wire heavily between now and the first game hoping to add some depth when teams begin their cut downs.
Aside from the offensive line it is injuries. The Bucs went into the game fairly banged up and left with safety Mike Edwards straining his hamstring, wide receiver Bryant Mitchell rupturing his Achilles and safety Kentrell Brice now dealing with an ankle injury that puts a strain on an already thin safety position.
Question: True or False: If the season started tomorrow, Matt Gay would be the starting kicker for the Buccaneers.
Answer: True, nd I don’t think it is really even close. The fact that Matt Gay has the range he does might mean that the Bucs are almost willing to give up a little accuracy that Cairo Santos might have over him. So many games are won in the last two minutes of the both halves and having a guy you can run out there to win a game or steal some points before halftime from long range is a big advantage. Of course we saw this team fall in love with the big leg of Kyle Brindza a few seasons ago, only to find out once the regular season started, and the games mattered, he wasn’t ready for the pressure and the spotlight and wasn’t accurate.
But Gay appears to be different. The only way anyone will know for sure however, is allowing him to do it. I don’t think we’re going to see Bruce Arians going for it on fourth-and-short, or forgoing kicking extra points the rest of the preseason. This team needs to see both Gay and Santos kick, and kick often.
Question: Which player has impressed you most so far in preseason?
Answer: The easy pick would be outside linebacker Noah Spence. And he has impressed me, but I think the transformation of running back Ronald Jones from last year to the year is even more impressive.
I’ll admit I was ready to give up on Jones, a second-round pick, completely after last season because he was so bad. With a less than two yards per carry average, going down too easily and playing with no confidence, I was ready to tag the bust label on him. We featured him in PewterReport.com’s Bucs Camp Diary series last season and each week I interviewed him, the more he seemed completely lost and overwhelmed.
But this year everything thing from his personality, to his body language, to his size – he’s up to 221 pounds – to his on-field performance has completely done a 180-degree turn. It’s not even like he is the same player. Hopefully Jones continues to grow and develop and stay injury-free. If so, he will push Peyton Barber for touches and maybe even the starting job this year.