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Publisher Scott Reynolds
“The Buccaneers played some spirited football today. They competed well against a much more talented football team. They didn’t give up and they fought hard. I’ll give them that. There was progress in the team’s run defense, as Laurence Maroney is as talented as some of the running backs the Bucs have given up big days to in the past. Maroney was held to 43 yards and one touchdown on 13 carries and you could see improved tackling by the defensive line aided in that effort. After surrendering over 250 yards on the ground to Carolina last week, Tampa Bay was would have held New England to under 100 yards rushing if not for a 17-yard scramble by rookie quarterback Brian Hoyer in the fourth quarter. That run gave the Patriots 107 yards on the ground. The interceptions by safety Tanard Jackson and Aqib Talib showed how competitive the Bucs have become against defending the pass. Of course they didn’t shut down Wes Welker or Randy Moss, but they competed better than they did against teams like Dallas or Philadelphia. Jimmy Wilkerson and Stylez G. White even combined on a third down sack before halftime and Tampa Bay’s talent-poor defensive line drew three holding penalties with its pass rush. Let’s face it. The Bucs didn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell to win this game against a Super Bowl-caliber team like New England, but in matchups against similarly talented teams like the New York Giants and the Eagles, the Bucs didn’t compete as well as they did against the Patriots from an effort standpoint in my opinion.”

“Jimmy Wilkerson, Tanard Jackson and Aqib Talib are the playmaking stars on defense, but where is Barrett Ruud? For a player that wants to be paid like the league’s elite middle linebackers, his missed tackle on Sam Aiken’s 54-yard touchdown catch-and-run was quite damning. That’s a routine tackle that has to be made. Not only does Ruud have to make those types of tackles, he also has to create turnovers and make impact plays. Ruud had a chance to record a sack in the fourth quarter on a blitz and inexplicably blew right past Tom Brady, who is not exactly mobile. Ruud finished with a pedestrian six tackles against the Patriots. The front office is beginning to have doubts as to whether Ruud can be dominant in the middle of the defense. I am, too. I’m beginning to wonder if Ruud is more of a complimentary-type defensive player rather than a defensive star. Sunday’s performance backs up that theory.”

“To all those Bucs fans who have been lobbying, screaming and crying for Josh Freeman – you got your wish. Freeman saw his first NFL action in London. In his 10 snaps under center, Freeman completed 2-of-4 passes for 16 yards and scrambled for five yards. He was also called for a delay of game, was sacked twice and fumbled the ball on fourth down on Tampa Bay’s own 14-yard line. Did he look like he was ready to you? Hopefully all the impatient fans that are ready to rush this ‘not-ready-for-primetime player’ into the starting lineup saw the reasons why I and my fellow Pewter Reporters kept saying publicly that Freeman wasn’t ready to start. He isn’t ready, folks. As bad as Josh Johnson has been with getting sacked 11 times and throwing eight interceptions in four games, it will be worse under Freeman. Don’t get me wrong. I still think Freeman can develop into a quality NFL starting quarterback – perhaps even a great one – in time. But it won’t come fast for the 21-year old who would have been better off staying for his senior year at Kansas State for one more year of development. Prepare yourself for some Trent Dilfer-like numbers from Freeman and for no more than one win down the stretch.”

“I like Raheem Morris as a defensive backs coach. I think he’s the best defensive backs coach in the NFL. I don't know if I like him as a head coach and I just don’t think he knows how to make this Buccaneers football team get better over the bye week. I think Tampa Bay will be hard-pressed to win a game down the stretch. Finishing 0-16 is not out of the realm of possibility given the opponents left on the schedule and because neither Josh Johnson nor Josh Freeman has the experience to lead this team to a victory. I would not be surprised if Morris is fired at the end of the year unless this team wins at least two games over the final nine contests. I believe general manager Mark Dominik will stay on for 2010, but the arranged marriage between Dominik and Morris will end. No inside information on this necessarily, just a hunch.”

Editor-In-Chief Jim Flynn
"The Buccaneers didn't even look like they belonged on the same field with the Patriots in Wembley Stadium on Sunday. New England is one of the NFL's best teams, and what we also know is Tampa Bay clearly is one of the league's worst. The Bucs were outgained 414-240. New England's quarterback, Tom Brady, tossed three touchdowns while Tampa Bay's signal caller, Josh Johnson, threw three interceptions. No one expected the Bucs to go to the Super Bowl this year, but perhaps the most disappointing aspect of Tampa Bay's 0-7 start has been the fact that this team hasn't even been competitive with the exception of one-score losses to bad football teams in Washington and Carolina. The Bucs have simply been destroyed by the NFL's better teams, like the New York Giants, Philadelphia Eagles and New England Patriots. It was fitting that the Patriots' 35-7 win over the Bucs was played in London because Tampa Bay closely resembled an NFL Europe team. Say what you will about Bucs head coach Raheem Morris and his coaching staff because they deserve criticism, but let's face it – this Bucs team lacks talent and playmakers. Unless that changes, it won't matter who is coaching this team. The Bucs will continue to lose, and more often than not, lose big."

"Add wide receiver Wes Welker to the list of productive players the Bucs have passed on in the NFL Draft over the past five years. Now, in Tampa Bay's defense, every team in the league passed on Welker until San Diego signed the 5-foot-9, 185-pound receiver as an undrafted free agent in 2004. Heck, what were the Chargers thinking cutting him the same year? Welker got away from Miami, too, which traded him to New England in 2007. Welker has since posted back-to-back 100-catch, 1,000-yard receiving seasons for the Patriots, and he had 10 catches for 107 yards and one touchdown against the Bucs on Sunday. That couldn't have sat well with Tampa Bay, especially since Bucs general manager Mark Dominik knows how close Welker was to landing in Tampa. When the Chargers released Welker in '04, he literally was on his way to Tampa Bay to sign on with the Bucs' practice squad, a move initiated by then-head coach Jon Gruden and G.M. Bruce Allen. But at the last minute the Dolphins signed Welker to their 53-man active roster, preventing Welker from landing with the Bucs, who weren't willing to put him on their active roster at that time. The rest, as they say, is history. Welker is the type of playmaker the Bucs are in desperate need of. It's up to Dominik, head coach Raheem Morris and director of college scouting Dennis Hickey to find these types of player and put them in a Bucs uniform. Otherwise, the rebuilding process will last a longer than the Bucs or their fans want it to."

"Bucs head coach Raheem Morris wisely pulled quarterback Josh Johnson after his poor showing against the Patriots, where he completed just 36 percent of his passes and tossed three interceptions. Johnson, who has engineered just two scoring drives in as many weeks, was benched in favor of rookie QB Josh Freeman, but after the game Morris wouldn't commit to starting Freeman against the Green Bay Packers after the bye week. Freeman looked like a deer in headlights in his two offensive series in London, but the Bucs need to make something of their season, which isn't going anywhere with Tampa Bay sitting at 0-7 and having lost 11 straight games dating back to 2008. Freeman could benefit from the playing experience. One could understand Morris not wanting to tip his hand to the Packers in terms of letting them know which quarterback to prepare for. But when the Bucs take the field for their throwback game versus the Packers at Raymond James Stadium on November 8, Freeman should be the starting quarterback for Tampa Bay. Otherwise, given how bad Johnson has performed in recent weeks, what will it say for Tampa Bay's 2009 first-round draft pick if he isn't the better option at this point?"

"Tampa Bay has been outscored 203-96 in its first seven games, so it's no wonder the Bucs are 0-7 heading into their bye week. Things don't get any easier for the Bucs after the bye, either. Tampa Bay's next four opponents are Green Bay, at Miami, New Orleans and at Atlanta. All four teams are in playoff contention."

Beat Writer Charlie Campbell
"Tanard Jackson has really made his presence felt in the three games since his return from a four-game suspension. Last week, he changed the scoreboard by 14 points in the Bucs favor. He forced a fumble on the Bucs' 2-yard line that prevented the Panthers from getting a touchdown. Later on in the game, he intercepted a pass and returned it for a touchdown. Against the Patriots, Jackson affected the scoreboard again with an interception in the end zone early in the second quarter. The Syracuse product recovered and made a great leaping interception to prevent another New England touchdown. Jackson was around the field with a number of good plays and finished with a team-high eight tackles. He stopped wide receiver Brandon Tate on an end around. If Jackson didn't make the table Tate would have ripped a huge gain. Jackson also put on some big hits on wide receivers, like hard shot to wide out Randy Moss on the sideline. Jackson was greatly missed during his four-game suspension. The back end of the defense is much more solid with Jackson playing center field. The defense has improved at preventing the big plays. Having Jackson in at safety helps to bail out mistakes from his cornerbacks, and fellow safeties Sabby Piscitelli and Will Allen. In the past two games, Jackson has taken away 14 points from the opposition, and scored seven for Tampa Bay. That is serious amount of production for the Buccaneers' third-year safety."

"The Buccaneers' struggles in the third quarter continued against the Patriots. Entering the game they had been outscored 47-7 in the third quarter. The Bucs one touchdown came on rookie wide receiver Sammie Stroughter's kick return for a touchdown against the Carolina Panthers in Week 6. The Tampa Bay offense has been unable to get on the scoreboard all year in the third quarter, and the streak was kept alive against New England. Tampa Bay's offense was unable to manage any points, and the defense allowed a touchdown in the third quarter. Through seven games the Bucs have been outscored 54-7, and the Tampa Bay offense has been outscored 54-0 in the third quarter thus far in 2009. When asked about the third quarter struggles after the Panthers' game, head coach Raheem Morris was unaware of how badly the Bucs had been outscored coming out of half time. The players and coaching staff are clearly doing a poor job of making halftime adjustments. It seems that the Bucs aren't changing their game plans at halftime, and are sticking with what was designed going into the game. The offense always looks the same in the third quarter. We haven't seen the Bucs go to a hurry-up, or a whole series of power running with double tight ends, or taken a lot of shots deep. The coaching and execution by the players in the third quarter has been abysmal this year."

"I think it was a wise decision to put Josh Freeman in the game late in the blowout against the Patriots. Freeman's development is probably only going to be aided by that playing time against New England. If Freeman threw an interception returned for a touchdown, it would not have mattered towards the final outcome of the game so the young quarterback and his teammates could more easily shrug it off. Considering the team was going to make the move to Freeman as the starter before the end of the season, it only makes sense to get him some snaps against the Patriots. There are short-term benefits as well for Freeman and the Bucs as they pursue an elusive first victory of the season. The Bucs' next opponent is the Green Bay Packers, and like the Patriots, they deploy a 3-4 scheme that utilizes a lot blitzes from linebackers. Freeman getting some live reps against a 3-4 scheme that is trying to confuse quarterbacks with a variety of blitzes will only help Freeman if he goes against Green Bay."

"One of the best games of the week across the NFL was Minnesota Vikings going to Pittsburgh to take on the defending the Super Bowl champion Steelers. In that game, a few players that could have been Buccaneers were standouts. Tampa Bay passed on Vikings running back Adrian Peterson in the 2007 Draft, and he had 22 combined touches (rushing and receiving) for a combined 129 yards and a touchdown. Later in that draft, the Bucs passed on wide receiver Sidney Rice, who had 11 catches for 136 yards. They also passed on Steelers linebacker LaMarr Woodley who returned a fumble 77 yards for a touchdown. This year, the Bucs passed on Vikings receiver-returner Percy Harvin. The former Gator returned a kickoff 88 yards for a touchdown. Later in the 2009 draft, the Bucs passed on Steelers wide receiver Mike Wallace in the third round. Wallace had three catches for 72 yards, including a 40-yard touchdown reception. The players the Bucs took instead are: Gaines Adams, Arron Sears, Freeman, and Roy Miller. The first two of those draft picks are not suiting up for the team any longer, and the last two are just breaking into game action. The Bucs ownership believes that the team has to be built through the draft, and if Tampa Bay is going to be competitive with good teams like the Patriots they are going to have to improve their drafting greatly and stop passing on game-changers."

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