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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: Do the Bucs get Scotty Miller involved more with Cyril Grayson, Jr. out? Does it look more like Sunday’s game as opposed to last year’s Packers game?

ANSWER: Scotty Miller will definitely have to step up and get more involved in the offense with Cyril Grayson’s hamstring injury. We’ll find out how serious Grayson’s injury is later this week, but it’s safe to wonder if he’s out for the Wild Card playoff game versus the Eagles. Miller had one catch for nine yards in the second half, but wound up leading the Bucs in rushing with two carries for 43 yards. His first carry was a 33-yard touchdown on an end around, followed by a 10-yard run on the next series.

Bucs WR Scotty Miller

Bucs WR Scotty Miller – Photo by: USA Today

Miller only had four catches for 80 yards in the four postseason games, with his best performance coming at Green Bay with two catches for 38 yards, including a 39-yarder. Miller’s other catch was a minus-1 yard reception. So it wasn’t like he was anything more than a role player last January. In the Super Bowl, Miller had one carry for minus-3 yards.

Sunday’s 3-touch game against the Panthers was actually in line with what we saw from Miller at the end of the 2021 season. The key was the big, 33-yard touchdown run. If he can make one impact play in the playoffs on his limited touches – like he did with his big, 29-yard catch at New Orleans – that might be all Tampa Bay needs from him.

QUESTION: Can we see more up-tempo offense to start next week vs the Eagles? They don’t give up big plays on defense, but they are below average at linebacker. Other than Darius Slay, the cornerback unit is not good.

ANSWER: Bucs head coach Bruce Arians said that going up-tempo was the key to the Bucs’ offense igniting on that two-minute drive right before halftime. Mike Evans’ 37-yard catch-and-run was huge, as was Breshad Perriman’s 24-yard catch near the sideline that set up Tampa Bay’s first half touchdown. Le’Veon Bell’s 1-yard touchdown catch gave the Bucs a 10-7 lead at halftime.

The Bucs came out using some up-tempo in the second half, with Tom Brady throwing a 42-yard strike down the seam to Rob Gronkowski, followed by a 19-yard pass. It is true that the Eagles don’t have a lot of talent in their linebacker corps, nor is Philadelphia that talented in the secondary outside of Darius Slay. Look for the Bucs to mix some up-tempo offense into the game plan, in addition to some play-action passes.

Brady seems to be at his best when he’s controlling the offense and the tempo. That seems to get him into rhythm faster and that was certainly the case in the second quarter when Tampa Bay went up-tempo. The Bucs were 0-of-4 on third down conversions prior to the two-minute drive right before halftime.

QUESTION: Impressed with Ke’Shawn Vaughn in his limited time. Is it safe to say we have a running back? Possibly a replacement for Ronald Jones II least as free agency hits?

ANSWER: Well, as of right now, Ke’Shawn Vaughn is the only Bucs running back under contract. It seems likely that the Bucs and Ronald Jones II mutually part ways in free agency in March. Jones will want to go elsewhere for a better chance to compete for carries in 2022. The Bucs will want to replace him with a running back that has a better skill set in the passing game as a receiver and a protector.

Vaughn rushed for 29 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries against Carolina on Sunday. He also had two receptions for 12 yards, catching both of his targets from Tom Brady. Vaughn has made real strides in the passing game, which has helped his cause moving forward.

Has Vaughn done enough to be considered a lead back, as head coach Bruce Arians suggested he could be? No, not yet. Vaughn might be better than a No. 3 running back, though. If he can make strides in the offseason and in training camp and the preseason next year, he could be the primary backup runner behind Tampa Bay’s starter. The guess here is that Leonard Fournette re-signs with the Bucs in free agency.

QUESTION: O.J. Howard’s time has to be done in Tampa Bay. How can he not see the field when there’s a bunch of injuries to skill position players? Can’t line him up like they have been doing with Cam Brate? I don’t get it. Has to be healthy by now, right?

ANSWER: It’s quite remarkable how O.J. Howard has gone from a first round pick, catching a total of 11 touchdowns in his first two seasons while averaging 500 yards per season in 2017-18, to catching 14 passes for 135 yards and one score this season. Howard has been nothing more than a blocker this year, with limited reps behind starter Rob Gronkowski and backup Cameron Brate.

Bucs TE O.J. Howard

Bucs TE O.J. Howard – Photo by: USA Today

The Bucs picked up his fifth-year option for this season, but it’s doubtful he returns in 2022 unless it’s on a cheap, one-year deal because he knows Bruce Arians’ offense. But because of his physical traits and early career production, there is a chance some team could take a flier on him and overpay Howard in free agency.

Howard did have his best game of the year against Philadelphia, catching six passes for 49 yards, including a touchdown. He was targeted seven times and the Bucs could turn to Howard again this week with the Eagles coming to town. It just seems like Howard hasn’t been the same in terms of speed and separation since tearing his Achilles tendon last year.

QUESTION: Are the defensive struggles due to Lavonte David, Shaq Barrett and Jason Pierre-Paul being out, or more serious issues?

ANSWER: The Bucs have to hope that the reason for the defensive struggles is due to the absence of linebacker Lavonte David and outside linebacker Shaquil Barrett – and to a lesser degree Jason Pierre-Paul. The loss of David seems magnified because Devin White has played so poorly without David by his side. White had four tackles at Carolina, two stops at New York in what was his worst game as a pro, and then only two versus the Panthers in the rematch.

With Barrett, he has the ability to take over the game as a pass rusher. The Pro Bowler leads the Bucs with 11 sacks this season and made his presence felt in last year’s postseason with three sacks at Green Bay and another one against Kansas City. Barrett also has an interception on the season and is a pretty stout run defender.

Pierre-Paul has just 2.5 sacks on the season and hasn’t been much of a factor due to a torn rotator cuff that occurred in Week 1. But if David and Barrett can return for Sunday’s game against the Eagles it would be a huge lift to the defense. David and Barrett are two of the highest paid players at their positions in the NFL. Their absence has definitely been felt. I would suspect Tampa Bay’s defense will be markedly improved with their return.

Having said that, the Bucs tackling has been spotty this year and that has been a season-long issue. Tampa Bay has missed its fair share of sacks, too. The Bucs missed at least three sacks on Sunday against the Panthers. Perhaps Barrett’s return off the edge and David’s return as a blitzer helps the Bucs in that area.

QUESTION: If the Bucs are one-and-done in the playoffs, as many people suspect they might be, is there any possibility of Todd Bowles getting canned? The defense has been absolutely abysmal all year.

ANSWER: No way. Todd Bowles just interviewed for the head coaching job in Jacksonville for a reason. The Bucs made Bowles the highest-paid defensive coordinator in the league for a reason. Tampa Bay’s defense held Kansas City to only nine points and kept the Chiefs’ potent offense out of the end zone for a reason. The reason? Bowles is a very good defensive coordinator.

Bucs DC Todd Bowles

Bucs DC Todd Bowles – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

Keep in mind that the Bucs defense has been ravaged with injuries all season – especially the secondary – since Week 1. Bowles has had to shuffle in a host of reserve players in the defensive backfield, the linebacker corps and the defensive line as a result. Bowles has also had to change his play-calling due to those injuries.

While the pass defense (240.9 avg.) has struggled this year, Tampa Bay’s run defense (91.4 avg.) has been a Top 5 unit all season. The Bucs also have a Top 10 scoring defense this season, allowing just 21 points per game. That’s far from abysmal. Go back and look at Mike Smith’s defense and Lovie Smith’s defense in Tampa Bay. There’s just no comparison.

If Lavonte David and Shaquil Barrett return for the playoffs and can play at a high level, Bowles’ defense will instantly become better. Yet the Bucs have only allowed 56 points over the last four games, averaging just 14 points per game. Again, that’s nowhere close to abysmal despite some missed tackles and sacks, which have been frustrating to watch.

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About the Author: Scott Reynolds

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: sr@pewterreport.com
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Captain Sly
Captain Sly(@captain-sly)
10 days ago

“Todd Bowles getting canned” #stopthestupid! The defense only gave up 17 points & the last one was an absolute dime by the QB just stop it already! You should be more concerned about the offense because had Brady not taken over the play calls with that up-tempo offense it would have been a replay of the Jets, Saints & Skins all over again.

Naplesfan
Naplesfan(@naplesfan)
Reply to  Captain Sly
10 days ago

Tom Brady calls ALL of the plays at the line of scrimmage – as one former NFL coach who faced TB-12 many times put it, “By the time the ball is snapped, Tom Brady is always holding the chalk”. And Tom Brady always controls the tempo – if he sees an advantage in quickly calling a play when the defense is on its heels, he’ll do that. But TB-12 is at his best when he is not going up tempo, because he is the greatest quarterback who ever was at reading defenses pre-snap, and making the necessary adjustments at the… Read more »

Captain Sly
Captain Sly(@captain-sly)
Reply to  Naplesfan
10 days ago

Just curious, do you credit or blame TB-12 for the egg we put up against the Saints at home?

Naplesfan
Naplesfan(@naplesfan)
Reply to  Captain Sly
10 days ago

Tom Brady is as much to blame as anybody. However, no player is or ever has been perfect, or ever will be. Eggs will occasionally get laid in an individual game. And the Saints defense is widely considered one of the top defenses in the league, ranked 4th in points allowed and also administered a defensive asswhupping to the no. 1 seed Packers. And given that the offense is mediocre (19th in points scored), they’re almost never an easy out even for top ranked offenses.

That’s why the play a 17 game season.

Captain Sly
Captain Sly(@captain-sly)
Reply to  Naplesfan
10 days ago

Well at least you are Consistent!

drdneast
drdneast(@drdneast)
Reply to  Naplesfan
10 days ago

You sound like a Trump cultist only your glorious leader is Lefty. Never try to use reason with a fanatic, they have their very own unique set of facts and truths.

Dude
Dude(@dude)
Reply to  drdneast
10 days ago

Says the person who drinks their Kool-Aid from a cup branded with CNN on it, while watching MSDNC, and wearing a T-shirt that says “Death To America!” Dr. Dem, you’re one of the few devoted Trump haters who continues to turn a blind eye to the catastrophe that is now taking place in this country under dem control. It’s either that, or you really have no idea what’s going on in this country? Either way, at this point, I feel sorry for you. I really do. One day, your eyes will be opened to the truth, and you’re going to… Read more »

scubog
scubog(@scubog)
Reply to  drdneast
9 days ago

It’s obvious that your weak narratives are more important to you than the end result in both your political and football viewpoints.

drdneast
drdneast(@drdneast)
Reply to  Naplesfan
10 days ago

I don’t know what or why you have this attraction to Lefty. It seems unnatural unless you are related to him or you have some monetary reason. Brady gets two plays called in from the sideline. One is the primary, the other is to aduible to if he doesn’t like the defense set up for the primary one. It has always been that way. Brady is great at reading defenses, like Tony Romo has pointed out repeatedly. But like every other QB in the league, he has to much to do to start calling his own plays between snaps. I… Read more »

Naplesfan
Naplesfan(@naplesfan)
10 days ago

Scott – why do you answer, respectfully and undeservedly so, such idiots as who posed the questions here. “Struggling defense”????? At the end of the season just concluded, the Bucs defense ranks 5th in the league in points allowed – the only stat that really matters – as well as 3rd in rushing defense and 10th in total yards allowed. That’s after an abysmal start (I recall after three weeks the Bucs were ranked 29th in points allowed, giving up 29.3 points per game), the Bucs defensemen have been climbing out of that basement ever since, and finishing strong late… Read more »

Last edited 10 days ago by Naplesfan
Buc stops here
Buc stops here(@buc-stops-here)
Reply to  Naplesfan
10 days ago

Agreed with you Naplesfan. Another fact – the 11 defensive starters have played a total of 0 minutes together this year. That is right, zero! The hope is in the playoffs all 11 will be on the field at the same time – that means JPP, Shaq Barrett, and Lovante David all on the field with the 8 other starters at the start of the game. If that happens, we will see an improvement. Also, I don’t get how the “bad” defense is. They held the Saints to 9 points – about the Saints lowest total of the year. It… Read more »

Pete Wood
Pete Wood(@littlebrownjug)
10 days ago

Maybe I’m missing something. The Bucs have their best season ever and are tied for the best record in the NFL. They are guaranteed to host at least two playoff games if they win. The Eagles barely slipped into the playoffs and got blown out by a team that we beat. And we beat the Eagles in their stadium. How in the name of Warren Sapp are we in danger of being one and done? Why is the sky always falling for some Bucs fans? We’re having a great season, y’all. Seriously. No need for doom and gloom.

gcolerick
gcolerick(@gcolerick)
Reply to  Pete Wood
10 days ago

How in the name of Warren Sapp are we in danger of being one and done???? Injuries would be the answer to that question. Don’t believe there was a game this year that we did not lose someone to an injury. The only group that stayed healthy was the offensive line and thank God for that. Here’s hoping we get David and Barrett back for the playoffs and can get through the playoffs without losing anyone else.

bucballer
bucballer(@bucballer)
Reply to  gcolerick
10 days ago

Yet here we r! Best record in football! Division Champs! And defending SuperBowl champs. So there’s that!

drdneast
drdneast(@drdneast)
Reply to  Pete Wood
10 days ago

The Eagles are a better team than when we played them but you made some very vlid points. I agree with you.

Horse
Horse(@horse)
10 days ago

We finally got a break here as to the Playoffs when we went up to the #2 Seed. Eagles won’t be easy for sure, but they are a beatable team and just maybe, we have some mojo. Go Bucs! Keep the Repeat Alive!

Spitfire
Spitfire(@spitfire)
10 days ago

I’m not a fan of how much you guys dog JPP. In terms of this season (with the condition he is in now) the Defense doesn’t miss him as much, but overall compared to last season or if he was healthy, they miss him dearly. The energy he brings, the leadership he brings, the run defense and sack potential he brings when healthy is a major loss to our Dline this season.

drdneast
drdneast(@drdneast)
Reply to  Spitfire
10 days ago

No one is dogging JPP, just stating facts. He has an injury and his play and performance has suffered because of it. At the same time, replacing him with Troyinka hasn’t been the godsend that PR writers thought it would be. A healthy Troyinka hasn’t performed much better than an injured JPP.

Brandonges
Brandonges(@brandonges)
10 days ago

Glad you bring up how lost Devin White has looked without Lavonte David. White was awful yesterday. All those screen plays the Panthers were running White was five yards in the backfield with no one blocking him and not close to the ball. The guy is boom or bust on every play and lately, it’s been all bust.

Captain Sly
Captain Sly(@captain-sly)
10 days ago

Black Monday in full effect! Couple excellent defensive coordinators got fired; Vic Fangio & Brian Flores (Shocker). I do think Todd Bowles gets another shot with my best guess being Chicago. Both Fangio or Flores would be an excellent replacement for Bowles if there’s an opening. However I can’t imagine Flores not getting snatched up and even cutting to the head of the line to get that Bears job.

drdneast
drdneast(@drdneast)
10 days ago

Is there any way we can get Licht to trade our draft picks away for current players than to spend them uselessly in the draft.
I give Licht an A in trading draft picks away and acquiring fee agents but a D in the draft. He has blown so many high draft picks it’s almost an embarrassment. Hargreaves, Howard, Winston, MJ Stewart, Arroyo, ASJ, Charles Sims, Noah Spence, Kyle Trask.The list goes on and on. His best draft was probably 2019 but still, the number of high picks he has blown is mind numbing.

Captain Sly
Captain Sly(@captain-sly)
Reply to  drdneast
10 days ago

You say this with a straight face and with the knowledge that 60% of the players have been drafted by Jason Licht. You also say this without knowledge of the Rentention Rate of other GM’s across the league. But indulge me, name another GM in Bucs history that has built a better roster. (Jeopardy music playing)

drdneast
drdneast(@drdneast)
Reply to  Captain Sly
10 days ago

Comparing Licht to past Buc GM’s is ridiculous. Just because you are a better GM than the other ones who were abysmal failures doesn’t make you a good GM.

Captain Sly
Captain Sly(@captain-sly)
Reply to  drdneast
10 days ago

Okay since my means of comparison are as you say ridiculous I’ll credit you for thinking that “the grass is greener on the other side” so which other teams GM are you using to compare him with? Don’t want anyone to write your comments off as arbitrary or whimsical.

Dude
Dude(@dude)
10 days ago

While I agree that Bowles defense has been putting up good numbers and will get better with players returning, I don’t think the Bucs allowing 14 points a game for the past four games is a great example for how this defense performs. Let’s face it, the last 4 games have been against 3 teams with very bad offenses. Maybe any of them scoring 14 points might have been too much allowed? However, I think these last 4 games were great confidence builders for this defense heading into the playoffs. I believe we will see a defense similar to what… Read more »

scubog
scubog(@scubog)
9 days ago

Let me get this straight. We are the defending Super Bowl champion, the current NFC South Division winner, tied for the best record in the NFL at 13 dash 4, have a top 5 offense, with a QB who has thrown over 5,000 yards and 40+ TD’s, a respectable defense that is top 5 against the run and has survived having off- the -street players man the secondary, going to the playoffs with a home game as the # 2 seed, and there are still folks spewing their fact-less narrative about our “idiot” offensive coordinator and average GM. As Jim… Read more »

Mb Nfl Double Your First Deposit Football Team Vs Bucs Pewter 728x90 Jpg