Sometimes things need to get worse before they get better.

The Buccaneers and their fan base already suffered through last year’s two-win season that sunk them to the NFL cellar. The draft picks and personnel moves that followed are part of the plan to turn things around, but until Tampa Bay starts winning some football games it’s not entirely clear if last year was rock bottom or if that thud’s yet to come.

FIRST QUARTER BLUES

The first quarter has not been kind to Tampa Bay during head coach Lovie Smith’s short tenure at the helm. That goes for the first quarters of individual games and blocks of seasons.

Coaches and players like to visualize their 16-game season as a four-quarter game: the first is games one through four, the second is games five through eight, and so on.

Sunday marked the end of the Bucs’ first quarter and the results tend to mirror their performance on the field during the first 15 minutes of games. Tampa Bay owns a 1-3 overall record and has been outscored 38-6 in opening periods through those four games, while also posting a pair of goose eggs.

The Bucs were 1-3 last year at this juncture and outperformed in first-quarter scoring, 38-17. For the year, Tampa Bay ended up being blanked in the first quarter nine times (56.3 percent of the games) and outscored 102-43.

A positive this year, at least, is that the Bucs are 1-1 in NFC South play compared to 0-2 in 2014. But in the brief Lovie Smith era, a lot of words have been spoken about starting fast and the Bucs have found themselves fighting up from their backs at the start of the second quarter 15 times in 20 games.

CREDIT WHERE CREDIT’S DUE

To say confidence in the offensive line was low to open the season would be a massive compliment.

Not many outside of One Buccaneer Place felt great about entering this season with a unit missing its most senior member and rookies starting at left tackle and right guard. On paper it looks like a downgrade from a line that was already one of the NFL’s worst in 2014.

There’s still a long way to go, but some credit does need to be given to how this year’s five-man assortment is holding up despite the overhaul and its inexperience.

After allowing quarterback Jameis Winston to be sacked seven times during the first two games, the line has surrendered just two in as many since. Both of those came yesterday against Carolina to former Buccaneers defensive end Ryan Delaire and Houston’s fearsome front seven didn’t register a single sack last week.

Keeping this pace would result in 36 total sacks allowed all year compared to 52 last season, exactly one less per game.

It should be noted that some of the improved numbers may be associated with Winston’s ability to escape pressure more effectively than Mike Glennon or Josh McCown did last year and it’s not like Winston’s been standing in roomy pockets scanning the field for open targets all season. But with the way the year’s started so far, let’s call this a small display of potential.

MAMA SAID THERE’LL BE DAYS LIKE THESE

Anyone expecting Jameis Winston to get through a full 16-game rookie season without a few days like Sunday is either blinded by their fandom for the 21-year-old or the most unwavering optimist in the greater Tampa Bay area.

Four interceptions, including another pick-6, and a fumbled snap all in the span of one afternoon can’t be tolerated, but chances are this won’t be Winston’s final dud of the year. The Bucs drafted him first overall with the expectation of him becoming their quarterback of the future, not so much their first-team All-Pro of the present.

Hoping for him to blast through the gates and play like a potential Pro Bowl contender is fine, but realistically expecting it and being irate when the opposite happens is illogical.

Wanting to see progress, however, is another story. And that’s what Winston needs to display moving forward, in defeat and (hopefully) victory.

Plenty of talk focused on Winston’s winning background prior to the NFL Draft this spring. High school and college, football and baseball, he’s always been on teams that won more often than not.

Assuming Winston enjoys a nice, long professional career, losses are going to come at some point. It just so happens that they’re coming in bunches right now and it’ll be interesting to see how he reacts to the adversity.

SWING AND MISS?

Tampa Bay’s search for consistent, effective edge rushers continues.

George Johnson and his whopping six sacks as a backup in Detroit last year was brought back to town this offseason as a remedy to the Bucs’ feeble pass rush.

Three games into the year, Johnson has already lost his starting spot at left defensive end opposite Jacquies Smith.

Third-year pro William Gholston overtook Johnson yesterday and played like a guy who wants to see more action. Gholston only finished his day with three tackles, one for a loss and a batted down pass, but that’s pretty disruptive compared to Johnson’s production of one assisted tackle.

Smith continues to show that head coach Lovie Smith and general manager Jason Licht have some hits when it comes to evaluating talent, but Johnson is following in the footsteps of another similarly named fella who proved to be a big whiff last year: Michael Johnson.

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About the Author: Eric Horchy

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Roland
Roland
6 years ago

“Assuming Winston enjoys a nice, long professional career” Adorable. I put the over/under on Winston’s career at exactly Tim Couch’s 59 career starts. I don’t think the Bucs will be smart enough to give up on him after he gets Lovie fired. I don’t think the Glazzers will bring in a new regime that wont at least lie to them and tell them that it is worthwhile to salvage something from Winston. And then there will be one or 2 GMs willing to give him a third chance once we finally get him out of Tampa Bay. 59 Games in… Read more »

Bucnut2
Bucnut2
Reply to  Roland
6 years ago

Roland, it will only be 59 games because he was taken #1 overall. this pick will set the franchise back another 5 years. Too bad when some of us ‘haters” preferred MM over the homer pick, SR, MC and the rest of the PR staff went for the hometown play. Reality is JW is a REALLY nice guy who has NO NFL future, unless you consider holding a clipboard a future.

Roland
Roland
Reply to  Eric Horchy
6 years ago

Good point Eric.
My bad.

Roland
Roland
6 years ago

“Winston’s ability to escape pressure more effectively than Mike Glennon or Josh McCown”
Ha ha ha.
Really ADORABLE.
Jameis the single least athletic QB (minus Peyton post neck fusion) starting in the NFL.
Mike Glennon posted the almost same exact timed and measured stats at the combine as Jdub. And Glennon is 6’7″…
Winston is no athlete. Jdub is as slow-twitch as they come at QB in todays NFL.

cgmaster27
cgmaster27
6 years ago

Haha, you think Glennon is more mobile than Winston. ADORBALE.

Roland
Roland
Reply to  cgmaster27
6 years ago

cgmaster27, your reading comprehension, as usually, is adorably lacking. Glennon is not more mobile then Winston. They are very, very comparable. Sorry, that’s to big a word for you isn’t it… They are the same. Similar. Alike. Glennon being 6’7″ will never have the same speed during direction changes as Winston. But Winston with his big slow goofy clown feet will never have the ability to slide and move in the pocket like a boxer either. (You know, how Tom Brady went from a 5th round pick prospect to a Hall of Famer). Glennon has decent footwork in the pocket… Read more »

buclover1988
buclover1988
Reply to  Roland
6 years ago

lmao ok couch coach.

drdneast
drdneast
6 years ago

Gholston also would have had a sack except for an inadvertent face mask. Hope he keeps the hustle up.

jiggyjoe
jiggyjoe
6 years ago

I don’t think Brady could win with the coaching and the surrounding players on this team. I don’t think we have had an average team in years.

1sparkybuc
1sparkybuc
6 years ago

The Bucs would have a much better chance of winning games with Glennon simply because of his experience. This OL is better than any he has had in the past and we have a few weapons. Winston needs to learn and observe from the sidelines. He’s not learning from his mistakes and showing any improvement.MM appears to be much more mature and able to adjust to the NFL. Winston needs less pressure. He’s not going to get that being thrown into the fire each week. The season is lost already. Don’t kill his confidence with loss after loss. He’s had… Read more »

buclover1988
buclover1988
6 years ago

some of you really just need to stop. how many gameshas glennon won for us? are you serious with the notion of putting glennon back in there? the kid has got to play! he also has none of his weapons all at once. not having ASJ is proving to be a huge loss.our tight ends are horrible outside of him. mike evans was out for a month. thats a month of reps that he and winston lost and now their playing catch up. you act like you all have his career figured out. im sure everyone had eli mannings career… Read more »

wnb0395
wnb0395
Reply to  buclover1988
6 years ago

Buclover, We should go be titan fans because we actually want the Bucs to be a better team. We dont want to completely ruin our #1 pick Winston by consistently throwing him to the wolves every week. We dont want to ruin his confidence which happens to be his best attribute. I think we should sit him and let him learn. Quit throwing him under the bus every week. Start Glennon, try to make him look as good as possible so we can get a good draft pic out of him when we trade him later. I do believe Winston… Read more »

jme0151
jme0151
6 years ago

Perfect buclover!!

EastEndBoy
EastEndBoy
6 years ago

In order: 1st Q blues: when was the last time we had a team that started fast…or even started sluggish…is it really that hard to not start every game in a hole? OLine: I admit to expecting us to have the 32 ranked Oline in the league this year, and I am incredibly happy that we are probably more like 22nd. JW: I fully expected multiple-INTs game from him in the first quarter of the season…but I also fully expect to see improvement now over the last three quarters. And in fairness to all of my PR brethren who are… Read more »

pinkstob
pinkstob
Reply to  EastEndBoy
6 years ago

EastEndBoy, I agree with most of what you’re saying. I especially agree with the no excuses mantra. My grandmother always said, “Excuses only satisfy the maker (maker being the person making the excuse, not God…some people have gotten confused when they heard me say the expression)”. No matter the expression, I really REALLY hate excuses.

EastEndBoy
EastEndBoy
6 years ago

One more thought…probably many of you, like me, watched us on our final drive before half time go 80 yards with seeming ease for a TD, and wondered “why don’t we do that every time”? Here is the play calling on that drive: 1) Martin outside 2) Martin middle 3) JW short to VJax right 4) Martin middle 5) JW short to Murphy left 6) Martin middle 7) JW screen to Martin 8) Sims outside 9) JW short to Vjax middle 10) JW short to Murphy left 11) Sims middle 12 JW short to VJAx left 13) Martin middle In… Read more »

76Buc
76Buc
6 years ago

I have never seen so many seers. People who can see into the future with perfect clarity. You must be making a killing in the market. Wow 59 games. Yes, let’s trade him after 59 or less games for say a 6th rounder, to S.F. where he ends up in the Hall of Fames in Canton. You guys are all pathetic.

drdneast
drdneast
6 years ago

I don’t see Winston becoming a Freeman either. But I was never high on starting the kid the very first game of the season. They should have started Glennon the first 5 games and then assessed where they were as a team. If they were 3-2 then you have a legitimate shot at the playoffs. But if you are 2-3 or worse, then your chances are diminished, especially considering the talent of the teams we have gone against. I don’t think the team is hurting Winston’s confidence right now, but if he has another bad game against the Jags, they… Read more »

Architek79
Architek79
6 years ago

Wow I must admit – PR use to be the place for balance and calmer fans but you guys are really extreme. Calling Winston a busy or a clipboard holder after 4 games??? I mean statistically speaking it’s highly unlikely and as SR and MC pointed out leading to the draft, history says you must draft a quarterback to eventually contend in the NFL. You guys like me are sick of losing but to speak out of emotion and call him a bust is premature and irresponsible. It’s okay to want Lovie out and I agree the excuses are dead… Read more »

drdneast
drdneast
6 years ago

Thanks for your calm approach Architek79.
Agree with you about the calmer and more rational fans overall.
After watching Sunday’s game in the stadium I can understand some of the anger but you are right, to call a player a bust after four games is inane.
Still, I thought he was thrown into the fire to soon but it’s to late to go back now.

scubog
scubog
6 years ago

Finally a rational comment, from an architect no less, after reading the juvenile, knee-jerk remarks from fans seeking to validate their prior bias. Happens every time a QB 0r DT doesn’t have the instant success many think should come with a young 21 year old on the first step of his career path.

stlbucsfan
stlbucsfan
6 years ago

This team is failing not bc of Jameis and his INTs but bc of the front office’s(mainly Lovie’s) glaring inability to assess talent. Add Delaire to the long list of players that could help our team if we were smart enough to keep him. Not acquire, trade or pry off someone’s practice squad but just KEEP.

macabee
macabee
6 years ago

Definition: CRITIC a person who expresses an unfavorable opinion of something. “critics say many schools are not prepared to handle the influx of foreign students”. synonyms: detractor, attacker, fault-finder, backseat driver, gadfly Definition: FAN an enthusiastic devotee (as of a sport or a performing art) usually as a spectator; an ardent admirer or enthusiast (as of a celebrity or a pursuit). Synonyms: addict, aficionado, buff, devotee, enthusiast, fanatic, fancier, lover, maniac Definition: HATER a person who greatly dislikes a specified person or thing. “a man hater”. an unusually negative or critical person. Synonyms: cynic, anklebiter, slanderer, misanthrope, traitor, deserter Make… Read more »

jongruden
jongruden
6 years ago

Well the Noles Fans have left the building, after all the bias fans boasting for their qb before the draft the Winston fans except CG has stuck around to stand up for their guy. Well as much as I wanted Mariota it didn’t happen and I knew the Bucs were handing in the card with Winston’s name on it, I started preparing myself as a Winston fan myself as I am a Bucs Fan and I support my qb at least for a few yrs and I certainly don’t throw him under the bus and say ” he will only… Read more »