Bucs QB Jameis Winston - Photo by: Getty Images
Tampa Bay quarterback Jameis Winston looked sharp completing 9-of-13 passes for 99 yards. Pro Bowl wide receiver Mike Evans looked sharp, too, catching four passes for 58 yards.
But there were three missed opportunities where Winston and Evans failed to make plays that would have helped the Bucs’ cause even more in the 2017 preseason opener, which Tampa Bay lost to Cincinnati, 23-12.
On second-and-goal at the Cincinnati 2, Winston lofted a floater to Evans that was too far outside. On the next play, Winston’s pass was off target again as Evans was distracted by some hand-fighting with cornerback Adam Jones. No flag was called, and the Bucs had to settle for a 20-yard field goal by Roberto Aguayo.
Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter – Photo by: Getty Images
“We didn’t finish the first drive the way we wanted to, settling for a field goal, but it was a promising start,” said Bucs tight end Cameron Brate, who had two catches for 27 yards.
The Bucs have to have higher expectations for Winston and Evans, and they need to have higher expectations for themselves.
“Me personally, I have to finish,” Winston told the Buccaneers Radio Network. “We can’t drive the ball 90 yards down the field and not score a touchdown. We have to get better from that aspect. Every day we’re get better and better. We’re going to start finishing.”
Evans and Winston did a lot of good things on that opening drive, but it didn’t end in a touchdown, and that’s the focus for head coach Dirk Koetter. Settling for field goals on offense too many times has gotten the Bucs 6-10 and 9-7 in the last two playoff-less years.
And with the Bucs’ shaky situation at kicker where Aguayo missed an extra point and a 47-yard field goal, while Nick Folk connected on a 45-yarder, the Bucs must score more touchdowns and not rely on any kicker for numerous field goal tries this season.
Entering his third year in the league, Winston was in firm command of the offense and completed 69 percent of his passes, a marked improvement over last year when he was connecting on just 62 percent of his throws. But Koetter and quarterbacks coach Mike Bajakian will pick apart those two end zone throws, which were slightly off target and suggest that Winston needs to make those connect for the Bucs to score touchdowns – and make the postseason.
Good isn’t good enough anymore. It’s time to be great.
Winston’s last pass of the night came on third-and-2 and was thrown slightly behind Evans, who was wide open while running a drag route across the middle. Evans tried to catch the ball one-handed, perhaps a bit lackadaisically, only to drop it, which forced a Bucs’ punt.
Tom Brady puts that pass on the money. Drew Brees hits Evans in stride. Aaron Rodgers helps his receiver move the chains.
Friday night in Cincinnati was an instance where Evans was good, but he too, needs to be great.
Winston’s off-target passes weren’t killers. Evans’ drop wasn’t a dagger.
This is the preseason opener, after all. Let’s keep it in perspective.
But oh, what a teaching opportunity for Koetter, Bajakian and offensive coordinator and receivers coach Todd Monken to get on their offensive stars, and demand better because the Bucs will need Winston and Evans to be better than they were last year for Tampa Bay to live up to lofty expectations and get where it wants to go.
“We’ve been backed up a couple times tonight and got it out of trouble,” Koetter said. “It was a good start. One of our things is we have to finish for touchdowns. It wasn’t perfect, but it’s better than a kick in the butt.”
The kick in the butt came on defense, as Tampa Bay defensive coordinator Mike Smith can’t be too happy with his units’ run defense. The Bucs gave up 140 yards and a touchdown on 36 carries (3.9 avg.), including 26 yards to Jeremy Hill and 31 yards to rookie Joe Mixon against the first-team defense. Backup quarterback Jeff Driskel ran for 34 yards to lead all rushers, and had an 18-yard touchdown run.
Bucs MLB Kendell Beckwith & Justin Evans – Photo by: Getty Images
The PewterReport.com staff has lamented the fact that the Bucs have had a very soft training camp without any live tackling periods or full contact periods – and it showed in Tampa Bay’s poor tackling on defense. Rookie safety Justin Evans and rookie middle linebacker Kendell Beckwith had lackluster debuts for the Bucs and missed tackles. Beckwith was blocked out of his gap on more than one occasion, too.
The lone bright spots on defense might have been cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III, who had a daring interception in the end zone to snuff out a potential Bengals scoring drive in the first quarter, and defensive tackle Clinton McDonald, who had three tackles and actually played well against the run. Punter Bryan Anger was in midseason form, averaging 46.5 yards per punt with two downed inside the 10-yard line.
While Winston looked good in his first preseason action, so did both quarterbacks who are vying to be his backup. Ryan Fitzpatrick shook off a rough start to training camp and looked like a gamer, completing 6-of-13 passes for 45 yards and an interception, while rushing for the Bucs’ lone touchdown. Fitzpatrick rotated with Ryan Griffin, who completed 4-of-9 passes for 57 yards, before taking some hard hits and leaving with a shoulder injury.
Bucs defensive tackle Gerald McCoy said not to sound any alarms over the team’s lackluster preseason debut.
“Preseason game number one, at this point in my career, is just kind of knocking the rust off, getting used to another snap count, really just hitting somebody else,” McCoy said. “We were kind of feeling things out and were a little rusty, I think that showed. It’s not something that can’t be fixed – it’s just rust.”
Scott Reynolds is in his 23rd 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 enjoys 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: email@example.com
I was disappointed by the the play of all the DT’s. Exception being McDonald and maybe Ward on that one play.
Critical of Mike Evans for only 58 yards in one quarter of play, Really? He was the offense.
I agree SR that they need to be great. My only question is did the PR staff lament the live tackling and full contact in private or did they lament in an article. They could have but I don’t remember seeing it.
Listen to the podcasts and read the fab fives. Idk where you’ve been, they’ve mentioned it a couple times actually.
It’s just the first preseason game. I prefer they avoid as much injury from too much contact early in camp as possible. There were no injuries, except for Griffin, so we came out pretty good. When its all said and done the only thing we will remember or care about from this game is Aguayo and his misses. The run defense was porous more than it was miss tackles, at least what I saw. Evans missing Mixon on the dump pass could be more of the fact Mixon is big, fast, and talented more than poor tackling.
That’s why I asked. I don’t listen to podcasts (not just PR but anyone’s podcasts) and I don’t read every Fab 5 anymore so I miss a few things. Where I’ve been is less important than what I’ve been which is extremely busy the last couple years unfortunately. I expect things to normalize around March of next year and I should be able to read and post more often.
On run plays it looked like our D line rushed on an angle instead of going straight up field. This left wide open cut back lanes, don’t understand this tactic. One play McCoy rushed to the right while the play went left, leaving him zero chance to make any kind of play. Both first, and second string D’s were exposed on boot leg plays. Fool me once shame on you, fool me all night long shame on us. Not very assignment sound.
My thoughts. The game was overall dissapointing. Mike Evans got away with push off on the deep catch. Other than that played pretty well. He didn’t catch a ball that was behind him, I though Pacman mugged him in the end zone but wasn’t called. Play calling odd, two fades? Winston was sharp but he’s likely never going to be the guy that’s accurate every throw. Maybe but doubt it.
Defense was terrible. They ran it down our throats all night. Lots to fix there. They better push them hard in practice and work on tackling! Basics aren’t good.
Time to love on from Aguayo Licht. Rolled the dice and lost on this one. Let’s not get cute in the draft again please. So many options were available at that pick. Good-great kickers are easy to find. Come on!
Move on from Aguayo. Stupid iPhone. Lol
I agree with Scott, while looking at the numbers both Winston and Evans looked fine, one of the key areas needing improvement all last season was red-zone offense, getting TDs vs. FG attemptes. They didn’t get it done.
Quite a few of Winston’s passes were off target, thrown behind or wide of the target, even some of the receptions. Winston was careful with the ball, didn’t make any bad throwing decisions, which is good (he’s listening to his coach), but there seems to be something with his throwing technique that is causing off-target passes, so to be “great” he needs to work on that.
Evans needs to do a better job of getting separation from defenders, especially in the end zone, which he was not able to do even if the passes from Winston had been on target.
None of these factors are anything but areas that need further work. I do expect both players to get better in the pre-season games. Neither of these players or their coaches are satisfied with last night’s performance.
On the plus side, Jameis commanded the first team offense and really mixed up the plays effectively, and getting out of the hole on both possessions was impressive. There’s much to feel good about, and much to work on.
Oh and finishing drives with touch downs has been an issue for 3 years now. Better work on it hard. Better play calling. Better throws, better everything. FG’s especially if the keep Aguayo isn’t going to cut it.
How about a better run game? First and goal at the 4 and we turn to two throws to try to get it in? Those throws will be easier if we got good push up front in a power goal line running game that forces the defense to load the box.
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