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DEFENSIVE LINE Jon Bradley started in place of the injured Ellis Wyms at under tackle for the third straight week. Bradley, a career reserve, didn’t provide much pass rush or run-stuffing ability. His backup, Jovan Haye didn’t have much of an impact, either. Both players finished with one tackle apiece.
Nose tackle Chris Hovan recorded a sack for the first time as a Buccaneer. After going without a sack in 17 starts last year, Hovan recorded his first sack in his 28th game in red and pewter. Hovan’s 15-yard spearing penalty on Tony Romo really killed the Bucs on the Cowboys’ final drive before halftime. The Cowboys scored a touchdown with under one minute left in the first half and Hovan’s penalty played a big role in that score. Hovan also had a 5-yard holding penalty. Despite his penalties, he played hard and led all defensive linemen with three tackles.
Defensive end Dewayne White is now Tampa Bay’s starting right defensive end in place of Simeon Rice, who was placed on injured reserve this week. White put the most consistent pressure on Tony Romo, but it wasn’t enough. He finished with only a disappointing single tackle and isn’t making much headway towards a big contract.
Defensive end Greg Spires was a non-factor and didn’t record a single tackle or a quarterback hurry. His play is in serious decline and he no longer deserves to start. Rookies Julian Jenkins (two tackles) and Charles Bennett (one tackle) need to get some experience and playing time.
White should be re-signed, but not handed a starting job until he becomes a more consistent playmaker. Tampa Bay needs more players with Hovan’s motor along the defensive line. They also need better coaching. Jethro Franklin might not have been the right guy to replace Rod Marinelli.
LINEBACKERS Barrett Ruud started in place of the injured Shelton Quarles at middle linebacker and had a team-high eight tackles. Ruud needs to do a better job of shedding blocks, but he imposes his will on some running plays. Ruud also did a good job of dropping back in coverage. He is gaining invaluable experience right now and needs to start the rest of the season.
Tampa Bay’s linebackers just aren’t making any big plays or creating turnovers. When was the last time Derrick Brooks made a play? Brooks certainly tries hard, but is a shell of his former self and isn’t producing the results needed at one of the most important positions on defense. He just doesn’t have the speed to make big plays anymore. He finished with a pedestrian four tackles.
Ryan Nece is a heck of a guy, but Ian Gold he’s not. Nece had five stops on defense, but like Brooks, just isn’t making any splash plays this year. None of the Bucs linebackers had a quarterback hurry, a pass defensed or a turnover.
Tampa Bay’s linebackers and safeties had a hard time working together and gave up two receiving touchdowns to running back Marion Barber in the end zone. The linebackers just aren’t making any impact plays or creating any turnovers. Ruud shows the most promise in this underachieving linebacker corps. Tampa Bay might be wise to move Brooks to strongside linebacker next year and get a faster playmaker at the all-important weakside linebacker position.
DEFENSIVE BACKS Despite a bad bone bruise suffered in last week’s win over Washington, Juran Bolden got the start at left cornerback. Bolden was a gamer and gave good effort, but couldn’t make many plays because of his limited mobility. Bolden finished with four tackles and one pass defensed.
Will Allen made a great play on a run blitz, but hurt his leg on the play. Then he hurt his team on the next play by staying in the game despite being hobbled and unable to run and getting beat by wide receiver Terry Glenn for a touchdown. Allen played decent football against the run and had a team-leading eight tackles, but played terribly in pass coverage.
Jermaine Phillips missed an easy tackle in the backfield on a run blitz that allowed Julius Jones to rip off a 14-yard run. Like Allen, Phillips struggled with pass coverage and failed to make any meaningful plays in the passing game.
Reserve safeties Kalvin Pearson (three tackles) and Blue Adams (one tackle) played decent while filling in for Phillips and Allen at the end of the game.
Cornerback Ronde Barber didn’t play up to his standards and didn’t seem to play inspired football. He got beat on a couple of passes, didn’t get to the quarterback when he blitzed and finished with a disappointing single tackle.
Cornerback Torrie Cox got beat on several pass plays and finished with two tackles.
Tampa Bay’s secondary got assaulted by Dallas’ wide receivers, especially in the first half. Glenn, Terrell Owens and Patrick Crayton were running wide open at times. Owens finished with 107 yards and one touchdown on eight catches, while Glenn finished with 89 yards and two TDs on four catches. This secondary is a wreck and played its worst game of the year in giving up five touchdowns. Both safeties shouldn’t be starting in the NFL and need to be replaced next year, Cox is a dime back masquerading as a nickel corner, Bolden and Barber had sub-par outings – but at least Bolden tried to make some plays. If there were such a thing as an F-minus grade, I would give it. This secondary misses Mike Tomlin and Raheem Morris in the worst way.
SPECIAL TEAMS Tampa Bay surrendered a 24-yard punt return by Terrence Newman in the first quarter. Kalvin Pearson made a touchdown-saving tackle on Newman’s return.
Pittman had one of his longest kick return of the season, a 35-yarder in the first quarter, but got benched on kickoff returns after running a kickoff out of bounds at the end of the first half. He was replaced by Torrie Cox in the second half. Cox bobbled a snap and didn’t offer any improvement with a 19-yard average on two returns. Pittman averaged 24.3 yards per return.
Jamie Winborn got flagged with a 15-yard horse-collar tackle on Dallas’ second-quarter kick return after a big return out past the 40.
Kicker Matt Bryant nailed a 46-yard field goal in the second quarter and his kickoffs were adequate.
Punter Josh Bidwell averaged 44.5 yards per kick and appears to have rebounded from an earlier season slump.
Ike Hilliard returned one punt for nine yards.
The special teams didn’t make or break the Bucs in this pitiful, 38-10 loss at Dallas.
COACHING Jon Gruden got Tampa Bay’s offense off to a great start with a nice, 90-yard touchdown drive to open the game, but things fell apart shortly thereafter. Gruden should have challenged Glenn’s second score, which was ruled a touchdown on third-and-goal from the 5. Replays showed that Glenn didn’t quite get the ball across the goal line. A successfully overturned call would have brought up fourth-and-inches, and Dallas likely would have gone for the touchdown anyway. Gruden’s play-calling in the game was actually quite good, and he’s been on a roll lately with some good play calls – followed by poor execution. Bruce Gradkowski didn’t connect with Joey Galloway on a possible touchdown pass and another deep pass, and that hurt the offense. Gruden did his best to try to establish the running game and provide a balanced attack, but the young Bucs offense was simply outgunned.
Monte Kiffin’s defense got absolutely shredded in the passing game today. I mean shredded. There was absolutely no pass rush outside of a play or two and some wickedly bad pass defense. Kiffin’s blitzes did nothing today, and generally haven’t gotten there all year. Tampa Bay’s defense is in shambles. For those of you out there who want Gruden fired, you might as well be calling for Kiffin’s head, too, if you are using that kind of logic. Tampa Bay’s defense has been just as big a culprit in bad losses like the one the Bucs endured today. This defense isn’t that talented anymore and needs a serious overhaul in the offseason. Tampa Bay’s defense didn’t record any turnovers, which has been an all too familiar sight. The Bucs may have to make some changes on the coaching staff next year.
The bottom line is that the coaches can only do so much. Injuries have ravaged this team, especially on defense and there isn’t enough leadership to inspire better performances out of the players. Some of that falls on the coaches, some of that falls on the players. Some players aren’t playing up to their abilities and some players just aren’t as talented as perhaps we – or the team – thought.
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Scott Reynolds is in his 25th 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 spent six years 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@example.com