Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter – Photo by: Getty Images
The third preseason game is supposed to give the team, its fans and the media perhaps the best glimpse of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. But due to a series of injuries to several starters, Saturday night’s effort against the Cleveland Browns was certainly lackluster, especially given the opponent. The Bucs lost to the Browns, 13-9, to fall to 1-2 in the preseason.
The Browns may be better this year, but they’re not expected to be a playoff-caliber team.
Yet, the Bucs are supposed to be.
Eh, it’s just preseason, the optimists will say.
Where are the points? Where is the pass rush? That’s what the realists will say.
Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter was asked if he saw any crisp play against the Browns.
“No,” Koetter said.
He was asked what he saw from his team on Saturday night.
“Blah,” Koetter replied.
Tampa Bay’s offense has scored a total of 33 points this year through three games – just 18 by the starters.
The Bucs defense has recorded just five sacks – two by the starters – in the preseason and recorded only three takeaways – including two interceptions by cornerback Vernon Hargreaves, who had one against Cleveland rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer.
The Bucs defense was short-handed against the Browns, missing defensive end Will Gholston, defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, middle linebacker Kwon Alexander and cornerback Brent Grimes due to injuries. It showed on the Browns’ first drive as Cleveland took a 3-0 lead on a 10-play, 57-yard scoring drive.
Browns QB DeShone Kizer – Photo by: Getty Images
Without McCoy, the Bucs’ pass rush is really lacking. Outside of a third quarter sack by defensive end Noah Spence, who benefited from a nickel corner blitz by Robert McClain, Kizer had plenty of time to throw the ball on Saturday night.
“It was non-existent tonight,” Koetter said. “That’s how I would characterize it tonight. Then again, our best player, our best interior guy was not out there. We’re definitely not doing everything scheme-wise that we have in. Just straight up rush, it just wasn’t there.”
“We did a good job – other than third down – we did a really good job on defense in the first half with the takeaways.”
It should be noted that three of the Bucs’ five preseason sacks have come on blitzes. Can Tampa Bay’s four-man rush be effective when McCoy returns? Are the Bucs just being vanilla because it’s the preseason? Or is the lack of pass rush a sign of things to come beginning in Miami on September 10?
Rookie Kendell Beckwith, who started at middle linebacker for Alexander, missed an ankle tackle on Duke Johnson’s 37-yard run in the second quarter. Beckwith made up for it by forcing a fumble while tackling Johnson at the Tampa Bay 10. Fellow linebacker Adarius Glanton recovered the fumble at the 5-yard line to prevent Cleveland from scoring.
Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston didn’t have right tackle Demar Dotson and left guard Kevin Pamphile blocking for him, nor did he have starting wide receivers Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson at his disposal.
But he did have tight ends Cameron Brate and O.J. Howard and wide receivers Chris Godwin and Adam Humphries – until a hip injury in the second quarter sidelined Humphries – and it didn’t seem like nearly enough to get the job done offensively. Godwin, who started in place for Evans, looked good, though, finishing the game with four catches for a team-high 56 yards.
Winston played through the third quarter, completing 17-of-27 passes for 200 yards with no touchdowns and one interception to rookie Jabrill Peppers on a poorly thrown pass to Brate in the red zone on Tampa Bay’s first drive.
Winston came close to throwing a touchdown (finally) in the preseason in the third quarter, but his on-target throw to Donteea Dye at the front right pylon was ruled incomplete 31 yards seven plays 42-yard field goal.
Winston exits the preseason without a TD pass and engineering just one touchdown drive. Does that concern you?
Bucs RB Jacquizz Rodgers – Photo by: Mark Lomoglio/PR
“It’s going to concern me if it happens on September 10, but tonight … it is what it is,” Koetter said. “When you have turnovers and penalties in the red zone – it doesn’t matter what plays you call.”
Jacquizz Rodgers, who figures to be the starting running back for the first three games in place of Martin, got the start and carried five times for 15 yards on the opening drive and finished the Browns game with 34 yards on 10 carries (3.4 avg.). Rodgers rushed for 49 yards on 17 carries and averaged 2.8 yards per carry. Are you worried?
Tampa Bay’s run game, which struggled last year, rushed for 78 yards against Cleveland, including just 53 from the starters through three quarters.
That’s not going to cut it in Miami.
There are some Buccaneers who shined in August that you don’t have to be worried about, though.
Kicker Nick Folk has made 7-of-8 field goals through three games – although he missed his lone extra point attempt. Folk was perfect against the Browns, nailing field goals from 31, 42 and 43 yards.
Still, having a kicker connecting on 87.5 percent of his field goals is much better than Roberto Aguayo hitting just 73 percent of his kicks like last year. If the Bucs can’t find the end zone this year – and it’s been a mighty struggle in August – Tampa Bay may be relying on Folk more than it wants to in 2017.
Punter Bryan Anger has without question been the team’s MVP and showed why on Saturday night with seven – seven! – punts downed inside the 20.
Bucs P Bryan Anger & K Nick Folk – Photo by: Mark Lomoglio/PR
“Anger was huge there in the first half, and Nick making all of his field goals,” Koetter said. “I think you would have given special teams an ‘A’ if we didn’t have that penalty on the punt return. That ended up being a 30-something-yard penalty. That hurt us.
“[Anger’s night] didn’t surprise me. When Jason [Licht] brought Bryan in here a year ago. Bryan’s one of those players that maybe just needed a change of scenery. He’s a high draft pick and he’s done nothing but perform for us.”
Does a team want its punter to be the best player, though? Is that a good thing?
After a lackluster preseason from the starters, does this look like a playoff team to you?
Or are the Bucs simply saving their best stuff for the Dolphins in the 2017 season opener when they will be back to full strength?
We’ll get the answer in two weeks.
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 protected]
Am not panicking but am definitely concerned. I’ve seen countless of mentions of how deep this team is but when things look like they did tonight everyone points to the absences of key players. If we are so deep then not having Demar Dotson should not result in the line completely falling apart. The pass rush shouldn’t completely evaporate the moment Gerald isn’t out there. We should be able to get the ball to our two well above average tight ends when Evans and D-Jax are not available.
The excuses are not helping anyone. The guys failing on the field tonight will be counted on in major rolls throughout the season when people inevitable get banged up. Are we a Dotson or McCoy or Grimes injury away from disaster? Does all of this potential and expectation go to waste because we can’t hold the fort without a couple key guys? I don’t think anyone should feel confident in answering those questions right now.
I agree with the majority of what you said, especially the excuses. It’s like we’ve already built an empire based on them.
I’m a little worried but is true they were not deep in the playbook on either side of the ball. I guarantee you the plays and schemes will look a lot different in regular season. Having said that what you saw was basic “go out there and hit the big ugly guy”, still the running game should have looked better because hitting the guy in front of you is the basic run strategy. Its looked like we never had a clean hole to hit all preseason.
No more than usual. You fergit! I’m a Buc fan since ’76. I would like to see a red zone TD now and agin. But I’m really not that concerned when the boys in the band are all assembled and playing for the marbles. Go Bucs!
Let’s put it this way: Are the players happy with how they played? Nope. Neither am I.
Are the coaches happy with how they played? Nope. Neither am I.
Is the team doomed to fail? Nope. They may, they may not. Who knows? All we know is that we’re a few key injuries away from being even with the Browns. Healthy? Who knows?
I’m not concerned one bit. I’ve been watching these practice games (?) long enough to know they don’t mean much. In this one the Browns seemed more intent on winning than did our Pewter Pirates. It was reminiscent of the Bucs early/lean years when the upstart Bucs put more emphasis on winning exhibition games knowing there was little chance for victory once the season started.
My # 1 concern was escaping the preseason without major injuries. Check
My # 2 concern was obtaining a reliable kicker. Check
My # 3 concern was Marpet having a smooth transition to center. Check
However, even with those three main goals being achieved, I have a couple of things that are unsettling.
# 1) After watching Fitzpatrick look like a guy just going through the motions trying to extend his mediocre career, I sure hope Ryan Griffin gets healthy soon.
# 2) The group of back-up offensive linemen doesn’t seem to include any legitimate developmental guys ready to rise up the ranks. I see Licht seeking some candidates to upgrade following cut day.
I am not abdicating all out panic but if you are not at least concerned with the lack of pass rush, the poor red zone efficiency, or the poor pass protection then I think you are putting your head in the sand.
Its fine to completely dismiss preseason play when you’re a perennial playoff team. When you are long on hope and expectation but short on accomplishment like we are you should at least be apprehensive about what we have seen thus far. There is no previous track record of righting the ship. Of turning it on when the cameras are rolling. I assure you there is far more concern and urgency inside OBP and there should be for us as well.
The point is that preaseason games are absolutely, completely meaningless, as far as proving how good or not a team is. They are only tests of individual players in what are basically paid scrimmages put on for the financial benefit of the league (the league charges as much for a scrimmage as they do for a real game) and the coaches and GMs for deciding who’s the best 53, and who belongs on practice squad, and who doesn’t belong at all.
With Greg Williams being notorious for his bounties, it occurred to me that was one reason so many players were held out.
Yes, because we normally have lackluster preseasons and when we do we go on miss the playoffs.
Said it all. My biggest concern right now is for me it is clear we have no backup quarterback. Look at Fitzpatrick or Griffin as any kind of solution as for a backup I’m willing to grab someone off waivers after next week and bring him on board. Fitzpatrick and Griffin have not shown me anything.
They played like they wanted it more, but we did look ill prepared. Kizer made some good throws with great catches on the other end, but he had all day to throw. We on the other hand were under siege. To many blown assignments, to many clean hits on our Q.B.’s. Let’s remember why Griffin is hurt, we didn’t protect well enough. Our lack of pressure by our front four is alarming. Those Rice comparisons to Spence seem foolish. The young man has not flashed. Yes I’m concerned.
“They played like they wanted it more” is the dumbest fan-speak cliche known to man. No one doesn’t want to win. Boot traps talk is for morons.
Or maybe the Browns played their starters a lot more than we did (8 of our starters were completely held out of the game) because the Browns were a much worse team last year and virtually everybody still on the roster from last year is still on the bubble?
I am concerned about the lack of pass rush and the depth at OT/DL.
As for Fitz…he looks like he doesn’t even want to be out there and is playing sandlot football lol.
Not concerned about:
– points scored…it’s all vanilla offense, testing things out in preseason
– losing to the Browns…terrible, terrible team but whatever
Very concerned about:
– individuals getting embarrassed in one on one situations…Donovan Smith
– lack of depth on a team that regularly is near the top of the league in game-time missed due to injury
– lack of running game…leading to more passing and in turn more pressure on Donovan Smith…yikes.
I’m not the least bit concerned about preseason.
I am always concerned about the regular season.
I don’t think lackluster is the right word to be used in regards to the Bucs preseason.
They haven’t lacked for effort or at least 99 percent of the team hasn’t.
Disjointed might be the better description.
Especially after last night when 9 starters virtually sat on the bench.
Three of them were the teams top playmakers.
Three of the four on defense were are best defensive players.
Lackluster no, disjointed yes.
Have to agree with you Scubog.
As for the alarmists about Donovan Smith, I guess the same people who used to throw darts at Chris Conte have moved their target to Smith since so many of the things they used to say about him were untrue or idiotic.
To hear these people cry, you would think Winston was getting slammed to the ground on every play..
But I remember distinctly Winston bragging about how clean he was after his stint against the Bengals.
Don’t remember the Jags bothering him that much in the previous game.
And when Winston was sacked last night the pressure came from up the gut, not from the left flank.
One of those times Martin completely whiffed on a block that led to the sack.
So who to blame, Donovan Smith. makes sense to me.
As for the DL, the Jags threw so many short passes because of the rush their offense was virtually nonexistent in the first half.
And for those who are unaware of this, and Scott Reynolds should be if I know since Barber told me during the broadcast, the Browns completely revamped their Oline during the offseason and they now have the highest paid OL in the league.
Lackluster? Not really.
BTW, Deshawn Kizer was 6-18 for 93 yards last night with 1 INT.
He didn’t exactly light up the defense last night.
The Bucs played like any team without 9 starters on the field last night.
Even the Patriots.
No, I’m not concerned. The Browns have a ton of talent on their offensive line. I would have loved to see my boy Noah abuse Joe Thomas, but nobody abuses Joe Thomas. Overall, I’m not concerned about the pass rush looking a little stale with no Gerald McCoy…because that’s pretty much expected. Gerald has been a one-man wrecking crew when he’s played this preseason.
On offense…it’s kind of a weird coincidence that the starters have not scored a touchdown because Jameis has looked pretty damn fantastic. He is throwing with so much more precision than he has in the past. His completion percentage could jump 5 points this year…and we’ve barely seen them with the whole arsenal playing. I’m excited…and when Doug returns in Week 4, look out.
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