Jaguars WR Allen Hurns and Bucs CB Brent Grimes - Photo by: Getty Images
It’s been nine years since Tampa Bay made the playoffs. It’s been 14 years since the Buccaneers won a postseason game. That was Super Bowl XXXVII, by the way.
You want Tampa Bay to take the step to become a playoff team.
You wish the Bucs were more improved.
But the reality is they’re not. They’re not ready for prime time.
Playoffs? This year?
Not yet – unless they really show some improvement over the next three weeks.
When it mattered most – when the starters were in over the last two preseason games – Tampa Bay trailed Philadelphia 14-0 last week in the first quarter and 14-7 into the second quarter on Saturday at Jacksonville.
Neither the Eagles nor the Jaguars are world-beaters, folks. The Bucs actually beat both teams last year. This year Tampa Bay didn’t look like it measured up – despite coming back to beat Jacksonville, 27-21, on Saturday night.
You hope Dirk Koetter isn’t showing his best stuff yet on offense.
You hope that Mike Smith’s defense will come together quickly, especially in the red zone where Tampa Bay has surrendered three touchdowns in its first three opportunities over the first two games of the preseason.
The Bucs were without two of their Pro Bowl stars in running back Doug Martin and defensive tackle Gerald McCoy on Saturday night, and the offense and defense looked awfully mortal with them on the sideline.
Jameis Winston, the Pro Bowl, 4000-yard passer from a year ago, started the game a dreadful 0-for-6 with an interception in the first quarter before rallying in the second quarter, completing 3-of-4 passes for 28 yards, including a 4-yard touchdown to Mike Evans.
He finished the game 3-of-10, and starting NFL quarterbacks can’t complete 30 percent of their passes.
Outside of Evans, I’m not overly impressed with this Bucs receiving corps. Are you?
If Evans goes down with an injury, the Bucs don’t have a starting-caliber starting receiver capable of threatening a defense. General manager Jason Licht liked this group heading into training camp, but by now he has to be thinking about receivers that are on other teams’ rosters.
The Bucs have to be thinking about adding one as the roster cuts come down, or via a trade, right?
The aging Vincent Jackson is a possession receiver these days. Adam Humphries, the guy who already won the No. 3 job, according to Koetter, yet he hasn’t caught a single pass in the preseason and has been invisible. Does that bother you like it bothers me?
After a strong showing in the preseason opener last week, Russell Shepard had several drops against Jacksonville and came back down to Earth. So did tight end Cameron Brate, who has generated a lot of buzz in training camp. One of those drops wound up bouncing off his hands and resulted in a Winston pick before Brate left the game following a nasty shot to the back of the head on another drop in the end zone in the second quarter.
Bucs HC Dirk Koetter – Photo by: Getty Images
The Bucs’ receivers can’t seem to separate, and that’s troubling. And it doesn’t help Winston’s cause.
Tampa Bay rushed for 73 yards in the first half, which was encouraging, but 15 of that came on Winston scrambles. The Bucs offensive line has talent, but was inconsistent, including the play of right tackle Demar Dotson, who just signed a lucrative contract extension. Dotson was flagged for a false start and also missed a block on Jacksonville’s first-round pick, Jalen Ramsey, who made a 6-yard tackle for loss on Charles Sims to start the game.
The Bucs’ starting offensive line only produced one run longer than 10 yards in the first half, and that’s not good enough – even without Martin.
Saturday’s game wasn’t really about finding a fourth receiver or a third running back – Mike James, Peyton Barber and Storm Johnson all had their moments. It was about how the starters looked playing most of the first half. It wasn’t too impressive to be honest.
There were a few positives, most notably the four interceptions from the secondary, including two by first-round pick cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III, which matched the entire interception total by all of the Bucs cornerbacks combined last year. Humphries averaged 15.5 yards per punt return and Donteea Dye had a nice 31-yard kick return to start the game – and he didn’t fumble like Kenny Bell did a week ago.
After the game, the Bucs kept things positive, as you expect they would.
“Things happen,” Evans said when asked about the team’s slow start in the first quarter for a second straight week. “The ball doesn’t always go your way in the beginning, but you just have to keep fighting through it and anything can happen. This is the preseason, you know? We have to work on our chemistry and keep fighting toward the real season.”
The “real season” is just a few weeks away and so far Tampa Bay’s starters have been outscored 21-7 in about three combined quarters worth of action. Are you concerned?
“I wouldn’t make any judgments based on two preseason games when you are playing a ton of guys and you’re not really game-planning too much,” Koetter said. “Would we like to start better? Absolutely. It’s going to ever beat the slow start we had last week. But let’s not confuse that with tonight. That was a real nice opening kickoff by D.D. There were a couple of penalties, which I couldn’t see or not see, but that’s beside the point. But we went down there and missed the field goal. I wouldn’t call that a slow start. I mean we’ve got to make the damn field goal.”
Koetter was obviously voicing his displeasure with Roberto Aguayo’s two missed field goals at Jacksonville and his missed extra point last week at Philadelphia.
“I wouldn’t say worried, but this is the NFL,” Koetter said about Aguayo. “They’re paid to make kicks. He knows it. I know it. Everybody knows it. It is what it is.”
Winston, who played with Aguayo at Florida State, came to the rookie kicker’s defense.
“I had more misses tonight (0-for-6 start) than him,” Winston said when asked about Aguayo’s misses. “It’s a snap-and-clear mentality. I don’t think these really count. He’s just teasing people right now. I know he’s going to produce during the season.”
Bucs QB Jameis Winston – Photo by: Getty Images
The “it’s just preseason” excuse when it comes to Aguayo only lasts for two more weeks.
At times it seemed like the best guy on offense for the Bucs was an official, as a slew of Jaguars penalties – 13 for 128 yards to be exact – kept some Tampa Bay scoring drives alive Saturday night. Jacksonville stole a page out of Tampa Bay’s playbook and actually beat itself.
The problem for the Bucs is that the Jaguars – and their penalties – aren’t on the regular season schedule this year. Instead, Tampa Bay will have to deal with an even bigger cat twice this year.
Does this look like a Bucs team that can finally beat the Panthers after three straight years of being swept?
Does Tampa Bay look like it can upset Arizona or Kansas City on the road, or Denver or Seattle at home?
The preseason games don’t count, but the Bucs starters will have one more dress rehearsal – next week against Cleveland – before preparing to start the 2016 campaign in Atlanta.
You’d like to see the Bucs jump out to an early 7-0 or 14-0 lead.
You’d like to see Aguayo finish a game perfect with 3-of-3 on field goals and 3-of-3 on extra points.
You’d like to see the front four along the defensive line get to the quarterback as they did at Philadelphia after being blanked in the sack department in Jacksonville as Blake Bortles had too much time to throw.
You’d like to see the Bucs starting defense hold the opposing offense to a field goal in the red zone.
You’d like to see Winston be sharper earlier against the Browns than he was against the Jaguars.
“It feels good to get a win,” Winston said. “It just feels good to get a win. You can’t really think about the negative stuff that happened tonight. You can only build on the positives. But when you win it makes everything else feel so much better.”
How do you feel about your Buccaneers?
Are you concerned?
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
I wonder if we win the game if not for Penalties against Jags ? It was nice to see VH3 playing so well. At least one of our draft picks showed up. Jenkins looked good and so did Evans. It concerns me that Winston did not have a completion until the 2nd qtr. I wonder how the bucs are going to react if we go into season and kicker is still looking like he belongs back in college ?
Didn’t make it home in time for the start of the game, but I saw 3 passes in Winston’s first 6 go right through the WR’s hands. At least 2 of the 3, if not all 3, were right through Brate”s hands and looked very catchable. Even Winston’s pick was a very catchable pass that traveled right through Brate’s hands, then almost hit him in the helmet. I would say that Winston started 3 for 6 and ended the game at 60% by going 6 for 10, if we only had people in the game who could catch! Granted, I like Brate, and would love for him to be the #2 TE, and his hands last year and in camp have been very good, but something was wrong in this game as he couldn’t catch anything.
I’ve been watching this team play “exhibition” games for over 40 years. What I’ve learned is that folks give the glorified practice sessions (good or bad), far too much credibility. I try to focus more on the individual players this time of year. But I also recognize it’s but one joint practice with limited repetitions for the players. Think the Eagles and Jaguars are doing cartwheels over their showings against who they would consider “the lowly Bucs”? I am a little concerned about Roberto’s and Kenny Bell’s struggles getting into their heads. Perhaps a phone call to Dr. Phil is in order. Or to Connor Barth and Roddy White.
I was thinking the same thing. I hope Connor Barth’s number is still in the Roladex. Also, where is Spence ? I Thought he would be a starter by the beginning of the season and it looks like he is non existent.
Avatar still doesn’t work. Shows up on my profile but not here.
Same problem here. No picture and PR removed mine back when.
Aguayo didn’t really have to deal with failure at FSU (the block by Georgia Tech notwithstanding). It will be interesting to see how he deals with it now.
SR to answer your final question….yes. They’re the same concerns I had when I saw them in training camp.
That game was scary bad on offense. Winston is inaccurate way to often early. Maybe like a starting pitcher he needs longer warmup period. Something anyway.
Yeah, defiantly not what I was hoping to see in the first two pre season games. I was hoping to see a much more productive , more ” well oiled machine” but it is the pre season and no need to get to worried. It’s gotta be a bit of a wake up call for the whole team. This is the time to get that wake up call, before the season starts. Hopefully they will look and actually be wide awake against the Browns at home. As of today I would say I am a little more nervous about Atlanta week 1. That’s pretty much a must win, at least for early confidence that this team really needs IMO to have a chance at a 500 or better record this season. GO BUCS!!!
We really we know much of anything till we see how we play Atlanta week 1. That will really show how ready we are for this season. GO BUCS!!!
We really wont know much of anything till ….
The problem with the Bucs WR’s is much the same that faces the rest of the NFL teams. Not many are 3 or 4 deep in he position so who do you go after. Who is the Cowboys top receiver after Dez Bruant. Or the Falcons after Julious Jones or a large handful of other teams. Even the Patriots have trouble after their top top receivers go out.
Aguayo just needs to get his head out of the game because he is thinking way to much.
Also, Koetter might help Winston but having him start his games with easier throws. like to his RB’s to get him warmed up. Not deep out to VJ and long passes to Evans on go routes.
The DL suffered a lot without the prescense of the Real McCoy but they also didn’t start Akeem Spence for some reason. I guess because the team was using and treating this game like a preaseason game.
Also, the last time I watched a regular season game they lasted four quarters not one. Would I like to see the Bucs start faster, sure.
But i’m not going to start wringing my hands because the offense started a little sluggishly in the first quarter. They have two more “preseason games” to work on that facet of the game.
And again, it would help if Koetter started with easier throws for Winston to make at the beginning of the games.
They only have one more pre season game as the starters don’t even wear pads for the 4th one
Yes there are concerns, but I am encouraged as I see some promising Rookies. Some of you might want to go back and watch ASJ poor blocking which effected the running game. I am high on our Rookie Center and could be a starter in a year or two. I’m concerned about our WR’ depth. I hate to pick on Bell, but there is nothing special about him in the NFL; Vitale has showed me nothing as a TE, RB, Blocker and we seriously need to keep a different TE. Noah Spence and Jacques Smith both concern me because of their size. They might be fast, but if the OL is much bigger and faster with the hands and arms they are compromised. I know it’s preseason, but the starters need to play the 2nd half and the 3rd quarter on Friday as practice makes perfect. Go Bucs!
Good news: The secondary. VH3 looks like a real player. Grimes looked great too. Even Conte made some big plays.
Bad news: Bucs have absolutely NO ONE at WR behind Evans and VJax. And the kicker is a head case. Greeaaaaat.
Franchise QB’s are accurate and score in the pre season against vanilla base defenses. Winston’s pre game rants will be ignored if he continues to miss open receivers and turns the ball over.
Leaders produce and inspire those that follow them to do so
All teams have depth issues, but the Bucs have too many average players in positions of importance. I don’t see coaching making a drastic difference given the reality of the situation is the Bucs roster overall is pretty average.
That has been true since the last time the Bucs were in the playoffs. In those playoffs Jon Gruden guided an average team talent wise to a playoff birth. But that team did not have the horse (talent) to compete with a talent rich team like the Giants.
Alldaway I don’t know you can call our SB team average when we had the defense in the league not sur you even watched the games of that season . Get your head out fo the sand.
How did you get your avatar to work?
Is there cause for concern? Yes, but there’s also a lot to be excited about. In week 1, our pass rush was great, week 2 the secondary starred. Having both is of course ideal, but the fact that both have showed promise should put our minds at ease.
Offensively, I’m sure Koetter isn’t showing all his tricks yet. We will see more when the season starts and I think it will be enough to repeat or improve on last year’s performance. It’s not time to abandon ship yet, we’re on our way back to relevance
Well I didn’t get to watch the game but the stats said it all. There is some cause for concern in certain areas for lack of depth.
Wr is going to be a problem position this year no doubt. Kenny bell probably won’t even make the team. No real speed out there on the intermediate routes.
Can’t even fathom what is going on with Agyauo never saw this at fsu. He’s clearly thinking too much in these kicks. Let’s hope this gets figured out quick.
Agreed with Drd above as Jameis needs to get some close routes early and he needs to get in the groove early.
I’m not sure this is a playoff team this year. I figured we were another year away a from that.
The secondary played great and I will be the first to admit how impressed with Hargreaves I am. I know it’s back up qbs he’s picking off, but he has been playing fantastic so far and I think has earned a spot with the ones.
It’s pre season so I won’t start hating until the regular games start as those count.
Am I concerned? Not really because I wasn’t sold we were anything close to a playoff team yet! We are better than last year for sure. Better D line,CB’s, coaches, etc. We have depth issues like all NFL teams, but we have more issues than the playoff teams.
We are going the right direction I think. We have had couple good drafts (never liked the kicker pick) and I feel like Koetter is going to be a good coach. I wish it could turn around in one year, but I’m dealing in reality. 8-8 is possible with this tough schedule. 6-10 is possible too. Few key injuries and all bets off and could be drafting real high again. So concerned no not really. Did expect better at this point? Better from Kicker,Winston,etc? Yea I expected better at this point, but as a long time Buc’s fan I’m used to disappointment. Lol.
eh, not concerned. I trust the coach at this point. I think it is important to recall what coach said regarding “game plan”. Not having a game plan is like not having a business plan. If you have no game plan then winning as a team is next to impossible. Same as in business. I see it as coach looking at individual match-ups or skill set in general and not so much as “team” win/plan. Only exception is our FG kicker..concerning is reality, he needs to correct it before 2 weeks!
I am not concerned about the wins or losses as such during the preseason. I’ve seen to many teams win 3 or 4 preseason games and have a mediocre or really bad seasons.
I am glad to see less procedural penalties by all the players. I do see signs that all the players are playing hard and projecting a lot of enthusiasm and I am inferring an optimistic attitude overall. This is an intangible that could make a difference between a 9 and 7 season rather than a 7 and 9 record.
I am looking at Friday’s game to see how our starters and backups perform. The last game will of course give us an idea of the final cuts.
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