There it is. The 2018 season has come to a close for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with a loss to their divisional rivals, the Atlanta Falcons.
The Bucs now finish the season at 5-11, an identical mark to their disappointing 2017 season, despite a 2-0 start behind a dash of Fitzmagic and the addition of some high-profile veterans on the defensive line in Jason Pierre-Paul, Vinny Curry and Beau Allen this past offseason.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers By winning this meaningless game against the Falcons the Bucs could have pushed a possible top-5 draft pick nearly out of the top-10 with a win, so the Bucs truly won in the grand scheme by losing to Atlanta.
You can’t blame head coach Dirk Koetter for calling a gameplan that he thinks gives the team the best chance to win or blame the players for fighting. With Koetter’s dismissal looking more and more likely as the year comes to a close he has no reason to improve the Bucs’ draft stock and the players are competitors who you should never expect to go out with the specific intention of losing.
But still, it’s a double-edged sword. Fans rarely want to see their team lose but the difference in just a few spots that high in the draft can be the difference between getting the guy you absolutely want and just getting the talented guy who’s there. With the Bucs needing to fill some major weak spots in their roster, a top-5 pick is always a sought after commodity.
With that said, Sunday’s collapse on the way to a 34-32 loss was so typical of this Buccaneers team that it was almost expected. After leading the Falcons 17-0 with 51 seconds remaining in the first quarter, the Bucs allowed the Falcons to go on a 24-3 comeback run before failing on two fourth quarter two-point conversions and allowing Matt Bryant to kick a game-winning field goal with one second remaining
T Donovan Smith Once again Donovan Smith finds himself on the most disappointing list for the Buccaneers.
All season we have seen Donovan Smith play some good football, but repeated instances of poor protection and blocking in both the pass game and run game. On Sunday we saw much of the same, with Smith showing multiple times his struggles playing a full 60 minutes of good football.
With Smith at left tackle the Bucs can’t run it to the outside in his direction, he struggles with zone blocking – much like the rest of the offensive line – and he allowed a sack and multiple pressures on Sunday in pass protection.
In a contract year you can’t predict what the future holds for Smith, but as of now he continues to be one of the Bucs’ most disappointing players at one of the team’s most critical positions.
RG’s Alex Cappa and Caleb Benenoch Caleb Benenoch, who has started every game at right guard for the Buccaneers this season, and Alex Cappa, the team’s third round draft pick this past draft, combined to arguably make right guard the weakest position on either side of the ball for the Bucs this season and not much changed that argument on Sunday. Benenoch left the game early with an illness, allowing Cappa to get more snaps, but Benenoch would return later in the game.
The tandem were repeatedly beat in pass protection, ineffective in the run game and put their quarterback in danger repeatedly through allowed pressures and hits.
Look for the Bucs to likely make a move to improve the right guard position in the offseason while possibly letting Benenoch battle Demar Dotson for the starting spot at right tackle.
While the Bucs secondary had their most pass breakups as a unit all season with eight, as a whole they gave up 378 passing yards and three scores through the air. Yes the Falcons are talented at quarterback and receiver, but the secondary time and time and time again failed to make a play on third down and ended up giving up 27 second half points in the 34-32 loss to Atlanta. The Bucs will have a lot of work to do this offseason in improving a porous back end.