GRUDEN BAFFLED BY BATTED BALLS Tampa Bay quarterback Chris Simms led the league in deflected passes last season even though his first regular season action didn’t come until Week 6.
Despite the coaching staff’s effort to remedy Simms’ deflected passes this offseason, those problems persisted in preseason and carried over to Tampa Bay’s regular season opener against Baltimore, which the Bucs lost in embarrassing fashion, 27-0.
The 6-foot-4, 220-pound Simms had three passes batted at the line of the scrimmage during Sunday’s game. One of those deflected passes was intercepted by Ravens rookie defensive tackle Haloti Ngata and returned 60 yards. Simms also had a pass intercepted by cornerback Chris McAlister and returned 60 yards for a touchdown.
Simms finished Sunday’s game completing 17-of-28 passes for 133 yards and tossing three interceptions before being relieved by rookie QB Bruce Gradkowski midway through the fourth quarter. His three turnovers led to 17 of Baltimore’s 27 points.
Bucs head coach Jon Gruden expressed his frustration with the deflected passes when asked about the problem by the media on Monday.
“You can roll your eyes and say, well they are just talking, but the bottom line is they are batting down balls and he is 6-foo-4 and we have to eliminate that,” said Gruden. “Our pass protection certainly has to be more aggressive. We can’t be on the fringe and we can’t block a quarter of the guy or a half of the guy you have to get between the numbers. When somebody leaps you have to do what you have to do to make sure that doesn’t persist. I am not talking about being illegal. We can’t telegraph throws either. We have to hasten our delivery and at times throw the ball awkwardly. We can continue to have a lecture on this matter but do something about it because that is what needs to be done. We have to address this because one was tipped and intercepted yesterday and run back to the two-yard line and two or three other easy receptions were rejected again so we have to do a much better job and that is all I can say.
“I don’t like getting kicks blocked, punts blocked, or passes blocked. I hate the sound and I hate all the work that goes into this to get an open look and have a pass rejected. It’s a downer, it’s a downer. It is really a downer. Am I concerned? Yeah, I am concerned because it is happening too much. Until we improve it, it is a problem.”
Despite having a lackluster performance in his first career regular season start on opening day in the NFL, Simms still has the confidence of his head coach and offensive playcaller. In fact, Gruden defended Simms to a certain extent on Monday.
“There are several guys that didn’t play well and they are enjoying a similar day today as he is,” Gruden said of Simms. “This is a young guy who has tremendous, I think, commitment to play better and he will. [Bucs quarterbacks coach] Paul Hackett and Jon Gruden take responsibility for the shortcomings yesterday and we have to do a much better job helping him.”
JOSEPH SIDELINED FOR SEVERAL WEEKS The Buccaneers were without starting offensive guards Dan Buenning and Davin Joseph in their 27-0 loss to the Ravens on Sunday.
While Bucs head coach Jon Gruden believes Buenning, who has an ankle injury, stands a good chance of returning to the starting lineup and practice on Wednesday, he couldn’t say the same for Joseph, who will be sidelined for the next several weeks with a knee injury he sustained in practice last week.
“We’re going to call it a sprained knee,” Gruden said of Joseph’s injury. “It’s not going to require surgery; it’s just going to require time to heal. He is making progress, but it is going to be a couple weeks I think.”
The Bucs had third-year offensive lineman Jeb Terry start in Joseph’s place at right guard on Sunday. Unfortunately for the Bucs, it was Terry’s first career start. Sean Mahan, who started all 17 games at right guard for the Bucs last year, started at left guard in place of Buenning vs. the Ravens.
The offensive line as a whole struggled, allowing three sacks and failing to open up holes in the running game, which produced just 26 yards on 13 carries.
Gruden hopes to get both players back in the starting lineup as soon as possible. For Joseph, the Bucs are targeting Week 4 for his possible return to action. In the meantime, Gruden made it clear that he expects his backups to do a better job of filling in for injured starters.
“I am optimistic that after the bye, Davin will hopefully be close to ready to go,” said Gruden. “I punched him in the mouth yesterday in the locker room (joking). He and Buenning, I clanked both their heads together. I need those guys and at the same time I expect a lot better from our whole football team when someone goes down. When someone goes down, whether it be Brian Griese a year ago or Shelton Quarles yesterday, by God the next guy steps up and plays and you have to play better than the starter, you have to play better than the guy you are replacing. That is what championship football teams do and that is what some of these men are going to have to do. Our schedule doesn’t lie, it is tough.”
Should Buenning be able to start at left guard as expected on Sunday, Gruden suggested Mahan could replace Terry as Joseph’s replacement at right guard.
“We’ll see what Dan Buenning’s status is,” said Gruden. “Dan Buenning’s status as a 17-game starter at left guard and Sean Mahan’s experience at right guard could possibly open the door to us to return to the same group of guys we had last year. But once again we’re in that period of adjusting the offensive line and adjusting the offensive line. We’ll do that again if need be, but we have to determine the health of Buenning. When we know what it is, we’ll make the decision we think gives our team a chance to compete.” SEVERAL BUCS BANGED UP
Tight end Dave Moore suffered a rib injury during Sunday’s contest and his status is unknown for the upcoming contest vs. the Atlanta Falcons. Bucs head coach Jon Gruden said the Bucs auditioned several long snappers Monday in case Moore is unable to play vs. the Falcons.
“That was a big part of last night,” Gruden said. “We flew in four or five candidates on the red-eye so we could work them out this morning. Doug Jolley did a good job in an emergency roll yesterday. But we will take a good look at these men today carefully. If there’s a guy we think can help us, we’ll certainly have to make a change given Dave’s status.”
Bucs linebacker Shelton Quarles, who was held out of Sunday’s regular season opener with a groin injury, is expected to return to practice Wednesday.
Running back Cadillac Williams carried the ball eight times for 22 yards (2.8 avg.) on Sunday. He left the game temporarily with back spasms, which was something that hampered him in training camp as well.
“His back tightened up,” Gruden said of Williams’ back spasms. “We had him checked out last night and this morning.
“Anything that happens to Cadillac is a concern of mine. We obviously need him. We’re going to have to lean on him, there’s no question about that. But, I am optimistic that he’s going to be okay and ready to go against Atlanta.”
QUOTE OF THE DAY Bucs head coach Jon Gruden on how he specifically blames himself for Tampa Bay’s 27-0 loss to Baltimore
“The entire football game is your responsibility. You get beat like that, hell’s bells, you didn’t do a very good job, to say the least. I’m not going to sit here and assess blame upon myself publicly – I get enough of that when I’m walking out to my car. I didn’t like it one damn bit yesterday. I’ve got a lot of pride in what we do here. We work extremely hard. And to go out there and get defeated soundly at home is enough to make me sick. I’ve got a lot of respect for these fans that pay good money to come in here and watch their Buccaneers and to send them home like we did yesterday is something that makes me sick and humiliated. It eagers me to get back to work here, because there’s work to be done.”