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. PewterReport.com 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.
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. QUARTER SEASON GRADE= B-
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. QUARTER SEASON GRADE= C
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
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. QUARTER SEASON GRADE= B-
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. QUARTER SEASON GRADE= B
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. QUARTER SEASON GRADE= B
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. QUARTER SEASON GRADE= C
Mark Cook currently is the director of editorial content and Bucs beat writer and has written for PewterReport.com 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, the beach and family time.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@example.com
PewterReport.com prides itself on being the most complete, comprehensive news source covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and delivering inside scoop on the team found nowhere else.