The Buccaneers finished the first quarter of their season with a 2-2 record. There was some good play and then there was some bad, but all in all an average start to the season. breaks down each unit and offers up a grade. Take a look and see if you agree and give us your feedback.

Bucs fans – and the organization – hope Jameis Winston will have a breakout season in 2017, his third year in the league. So far the question of will it happen is still up in the air, but there are some signs he is close. However, there are still areas of concern based on consistency.

So far Winston has thrown for 1,198 yards with seven touchdowns and three interceptions, and has completed 61 percent of his passes, a slight improvement over his first two years in the league. But as mentioned above, consistency remains a concern. Winston has his best game of the year against the Giants a week ago, playing a nearly flawless game, but followed it up with three average at best quarters on Thursday night against the NFL’s lowest ranked defense. Still, his fourth quarter ability to rally his team was impressive despite the final results. Quarterbacks can’t be perfect every game, but a slow start contributed to the Bucs playing catchup all night, and while others certainly contributed to the loss, Winston’s lack of accuracy on key plays in the first three quarters was frustrating to see.

Bucs QB Jameis Winston
QB Jameis Winston – Photo by: Getty Images

With that said, through four games Winston is on pace to have his best season so far in yards (over 4,000 for third straight year), 28 touchdowns and less interceptions (12). But until Winston develops more consistency, and accuracy, particularly on deep balls, the Bucs most likely will stay a .500 team.

The Bucs managed to weather the storm of not having Doug Martin for the first three games of 2017, going 2-1 in those games. Jacquizz Rodgers did as expected (3.9 yard avg.) and had his best game in the win over the Giants last Sunday. But make no mistake, Martin is the best back on the Bucs roster and the team is very happy to have him back.

On the year the Bucs have been successful running the ball, with Rodgers leading the way with 167 yards and one score. Martin’s boost was evident on Thursday night against the Patriots where he averaged 5.7 yards on 13 carries, while also adding a rushing touchdown. Peyton Barber has contributed 49 yards on 12 attempts with Charles Sims chipping in 23 yards on six carries. Tampa Bay’s only failure in the running came has been a lack of commitment to it at times, like in the loss to the Vikings where the Bucs only ran nine times. Look for head coach Dirk Koetter to try and get the running game more involved beginning next week in Arizona, where it will only help Winston and the passing game.

Bucs running backs have also notched 12 receptions so far this season.

The Bucs receiving corps have nabbed 60 passes from Winston this season, and as expected Mike Evans has 24 of those for 276 yards and two touchdowns. Evans has been steady so far in 2017, but isn’t being targeted as much as in year’s past due to the addition of DeSean Jackson who has 14 receptions for 249 yards and one touchdown. While Jackson and Winston have missed on a number of deep shots, Jackson leads the receovers by far with 17.8 yards per catch. If their connection rate can improve, Jackson is one pace for another 1,000 yard season, as is Evans.

Bucs WR DeSean Jackson - Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Bucs WR DeSean Jackson – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

Adam Humphries continues to just bring his work pail to games on Sundays and has been very steady through four games, catching 17 passes for 207 yards. Rookie Chris Godwin had four balls for 52 yards, but is having a hard time getting on the field with Evans and Jackson getting the bulk of the snaps. Bernard Reedy has one catch for six yards this season, playing primarily on special teams.

This unit would have scored a higher grade had we stopped grading after the first three games. Unfortunately for Tampa Bay, they struggled badly against New England. Cam Brate had three drops in the that game, although he did make an exceptional catch for the Bucs final touchdown of the night. Rookie O.J. Howard has been mainly used in the run game as a blocker and up until last Thursday night, he had shown why the Bucs couldn’t pass him up at No. 19 in the draft. Thursday he showed he was still a rookie however, with a critical holding penalty, and a miscommunication with Winston on the final play, where the Bucs were trying to win it with a desperation touchdown.

Brate does lead the team with three touchdowns on 15 receptions for 205 yards and Howard has added four catches for 92 yards and a touchdown.

The move of Ali Marpet to center with the return of J.R, Sweezy from injury had been a success for the most part, although Marpet has had some poor snaps at times this season. All in all, the duo have made the Bucs a more physical line and is paying dividends as Tampa Bay have averaged four yards per rushing attempt. Both have also been solid in pass protection this year.

Bucs RG J.R. Sweezy – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

Tampa Bay has employed a platoon system at left guard with Evan Smith and Kevin Pamphile seeing game action. Both have had their ups and downs, but haven’t been bad overall, minus the costly hands to the face on Smith in the Patriots game that negated a touchdown.

The Bucs tackles have also played well so far this season, with Demar Dotson being the higher rated one this season. The aging veteran missed part of the preseason with a groin injury but came back healthy and has maybe been the best offensive lineman for the Bucs so far this season. Donovan Smith on the left side has played exceptional at times, but still has those occasional lapses of inconsistency. Regardless, none of the Bucs two losses can be pinned on this unit and the line has only given up seven sacks so far this season.

The offensive coaching staff, headed by Koetter who calls the plays, has had a tough time developing a rhythm so far through four games. Koetter even admitted as much on Friday during his game after press conference. Establishing the run is dictated of course by the situation of how the game is going, and it is understandable in a game like the Vikings, getting away from when you are playing from behind. Still, there have been some questionable calls this year that make you scratch your head at times. Of course when they work they look brilliant, and when they fail, the play caller opens themselves up for criticism. The mini-bye week should give Koetter and his staff an opportunity to take a look back at the first four games and see where improvements can be made in execution, and also in the game plan and in-game calls.



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Mark Cook currently is the director of editorial content and Bucs beat writer and has written for 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, surfing and family time at the beach. In addition, Cook can be found in front of a television or in Doak Campbell any time the FSU Seminoles are playing. 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]


  1. Those grades sound about right to me. No grade for Kicker? Understandable! lol. Re Kickers per Greg Auman/TBT, the Bucs are bringing in six kickers Nugent, Franks, Lambo, Pat Murray & Marshall Koehn Monday, plus Cairo Santos for physical.

    Two Bass fishermen from Ohio may be invited also. (a lil Sunday afternoon sip of Jack Daniels made me tell that lie) lol. Just my fun loving way of saying, I think we’re desperate for a reliable kicker. Go Bucs!

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    • Per ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the Bucs are bringing in former Chiefs kicker Cairo Santos for a physical to see where he is with his adductor sprain. The source said he is about two weeks away.

      Per ESPN’s Jenna Laine, in four seasons, Cairo Santos has made 89 of 105 field goals (84.8). He also hasn’t missed an extra point since 2015. The Bucs are bringing in multiple kickers Monday for a tryout before a decision is made on Nick Folk.

      The belief is that of the six kickers coming in for a tryout. Cairo Santos is the best, but he is not ready yet – about 2 weeks away. Now this is my opinion, so take only as that and wait for media opinion more familiar with the situation. The Bucs may keep Folks on for that period of time until Santos is medically cleared to play. I am familiar with the other tryouts and there’s not much out there to pick from. Whatever the Bucs do. Go Bucs!

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  2. Winston is rated 26th on the nfl qb rating so B- is questionable

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    • You went to ESPN for their QBR rankings. LOL. That is a terrible stat on it’s own. Winston is ranked 11th (before Thurs game) using advanced stats from Football Outsiders. Try harder to slander our QB.

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      • You’ll have to excuse sunshine. He has to find the only convoluted statistical outlet that has mariota ranked ahead of Winston.

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      • QBR is the gold standard of QB stats, give it up CG.

        I am more concerned about performance of the entire offense than of any specific player or unit … with our supposedly MVP quarterback, and what was touted as the best receiver group in the league, we are still ranked just 17th in points for in the league. Only 14 points scored against the worst defense in the league last Thursday. Outscored by a backup quarterback. It’s not just on one player or group, and the offensive playcalling is also not impressive. With our talent, we ought to be a minimum of top ten, closer to top 5 in points for.

        These grades are mostly too favorable. The entire team ranks a C minus, equally shared by offense and defense, though defense has suffered far more on the injury side than the offense, keeping several of our defensive starts off the field for multiple games.

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        • There you go with that gold standard again. I bet every coach goes right to espn to check their qbs stats. No one but you looks at it as the gold standard.

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          • But I digress I know you’re never wrong Naples. Espn the gold standard. Hahaha

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          • You typically try to make this about the commenter, not the comment. Please demonstrate that “no one but me” ever looks at the QBR as the gold standard in QB stats.

            It is repeatedly reported and discussed on literally hundreds of websites, including the gold standard of online pro football stats – It is the only QB stat that considers everything a quarterback does, and the context in which he does it, unlike passer rating or the NFL’s “next gen” stats that only address passing.

            The number one job of the quarterback is to lead the offense in performing its number one job, which is to score points. With a a mediocre points ranking of just 17th in the league, accomplished in part against the league’s worst defense, that’s not a good performance. The QBR takes into account everything from passing efficiency in terms of “Expected Points Added”, taking sacks, rushing. and whatever it takes to put points on the board.

            Last season Jameis Winston actually did fairly well in QBR, ranking 12th in the league, above others like Mariota, Rivers, Wilson, Carr, etc. Yet I strangely don’t recall you’re going on a massive rant campaign claiming that QBR was a poor indicator of QB performance that that there was no way Jameis was better than those quarterbacks he ranked above. Do you recall those rants?

            Didn’t think so.

            The stats don’t lie, whether it is bottom line points for, or the QB stats. They don’t tell the whole story either, but they give us metrics to use besides our eyes. Our eyes also tell us that Jameis Winston is a good NFL quarterback, but well below elite statues, despite being handed one of, if not possibly the most potent stable of offensive playmakers to pass to. Yet we continue to not score more than a mediocre number of points against even the worst defense in the league. And that is not just on Jameis, but it’s on the entire offense and offensive coaches too.

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  3. Those grades are a bit generous for the offense IMO.

    But the grades are in the ballpark so that is good.

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  4. The kicking game needs fixing now. The pats where there for the taking. So there is no chance for errors. Atlanta & Carolina are winning. Let’s get this team together. Find a new kicker & a pass rusher. We got no bi so we need to heal & start winning.

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  5. I see three things that need to improve immediately? Field goal kicking and extra points; offensive play-calling to get Winston up and running right away; defensive play-calling that allows our Corners to play tighter on the LOS.
    It appears they’re going to solve their problems by replacing Folk;. Who’s going to tell the offensive coordinator and defensive coordinator to make a change in their own play calling?

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  6. Next four will give us a little better idea of what we have.

    Maybe, they should give Ted Nugent and David Crosby a tryout along with those fishermen. Liven things up a bit. Hardy Har Har! … (::[]::)

    Go Bucs!!!!

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  7. Just re-watched the Koetter press conference for Friday. Some discussion occurred regarding his play calling. Had to listen hard to what he is saying and “read between the lines” some. He is well of aware, I think, of what is mostly his fault and what are execution or other problems.

    I continue have a lot of faith in him.

    I enjoyed his final comment as well.

    Go Bucs!!!!!!

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  8. look forward to this article on the defense, cornerbacks will get no higher than D thanks to VH3, what happened to javien Elliott

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  9. Koetter admitted during the preseason he didn’t game plan for the games because the preseason is more about evaluation then trying to win. I was confused about that, why can’t you do both? Preseason should be about getting you’re team prepared for the regular season, by getting your units in sinc on what you would normally do during a real game. You wouldn’t run a rookie back up the middle 3 times in a row during a regular game, so doing it during the preseason isn’t a true indication of that backs running ability. Isn’t how they take a real game plan to the field, and preform, for both units a better indication? We were all worried Jameis wasn’t throwing T.D. passes to Evans, and D Jax, but we were told that really wasn’t the point, shouldn’t it have been? Three preseason, and four games in, we’re still waiting for that T.D. pass to D.Jax. Koetter also toyed with the idea of giving up play calling duties last year admitting doing both put a lot on his plate. Wouldn’t the preseason have been the prefect time to give Monken that opportunity? So now we sit at .500. We still don’t know what our identity is on offense, but any test I’ve ever taken 50, out of a 100 wasn’t a passing grade. Mark, your B, and C grades should add up to a big fat D, but they don’t. I’m as confused about your grades as much as I’m confused about Dirks preseason reasoning.

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  10. Little to generous to the QB but that’s probably gratitude for Winston making FSU relevant again after seeing this was written by Cook.

    Other than the QB rating I agree with everything else.

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