Publisher Scott Reynolds
“Some fans may want to point to the fact that Denver is off to a 4-0 start under 33-year old rookie head coach Josh McDaniels while Tampa Bay is off to a 0-4 start under 33-year old rookie head coach Raheem Morris and wonder why the Bucs couldn’t do what the Broncos have done. However, he talent differential between the Broncos and Bucs is staggering. The Bucs don’t have a Champ Bailey at cornerback, nor do they have Ryan Clady at left tackle, Brian Dawkins at free safety, Elvis Dumervil at defensive end or Brandon Marshall or Eddie Royal at wide receiver. Instead, the Bucs have Aqib Talib, Donald Penn, a suspended Tanard Jackson, Gaines Adams and Antonio Bryant and Michael Clayton. Also keep in mind that McDaniels and the Broncos have claimed victory over Cincinnati, Cleveland, Oakland and Dallas. I would suspect that the Bucs could be 2-2 or at least 1-3 against that quartet, whose record is 6-10. Meanwhile, the combined record of Tampa Bay’s opponents is 9-7 this year.”
“Clifton Smith has fumbled four times in his last 12 games dating back to last year and cannot be trusted to carry the ball on offense. Smith’s fourth quarter fumble with 55 seconds left officially ended any faint hope the Bucs had in either tying or winning the game on Sunday. He can’t be trusted on offense any more and his role as a third down back should be stripped so he can focus exclusively on special teams as a returner. Cadillac Williams has not dropped a pass over the past two years and has improved in blitz pick-up. Either he or Derrick Ward should become the team’s halfback in two-minute situations.”
“Speaking of Morris, he made the wrong decision to go for Mike Nugent’s 22-yard field on fourth-and-goal from the Washington 4 with 4:55 left in regulation to cut the lead to 16-13. Morris’ reasoning was that he liked how his defense was playing and thought that the Bucs would be able to get the ball back and be in position for a game-tying field goal or a game-winning touchdown after a defensive stop. Morris got what he wanted, but asking a young quarterback in his first NFL start to drive 48 yards to get within Mike Nugent’s field goal range to tie the game with less than two minutes left is a tall order. The Bucs were also 81 yards away from winning the game. The correct call would have been to try to capture the lead with less than five minutes left down at the Washington 4-yard line, especially with how poorly Tampa Bay’s offense played in the second half. Had the Bucs not scored, the Redskins would have been pinned back near their own goal line and the chances were higher that Tampa Bay would have gotten much better field position by forcing a punt. Then the Bucs would have had another chance to score the game-winning touchdown and Johnson would have likely had less than 50 yards to go for that opportunity. Hindsight is 20-20, but Morris needs to learn from this coaching mistake. Morris’ intention was right with a better team featuring an experienced, veteran quarterback. But he has to adjust his football game-managing acumen for the team he currently has, which is much younger and less experienced.”
“Was that Geno Hayes out there at weakside linebacker or Derrick Brooks? If Hayes had donned a number 55 jersey instead of his regular number 54 uniform, you might swear that Brooks was back on the Buccaneers – after a dip in the fountain of youth. No, Hayes is not the second coming of Brooks, who is the best player in franchise history and a surefire Hall of Famer. But it was interesting to see a fast linebacker fly around the ball like Brooks did in his prime and shoot the gaps to make some tackles behind the line of scrimmage. That’s what Hayes, who finished with seven tackles, did at Washington, entering Sunday’s contest tied for the team lead with two tackles for loss. In the first quarter against the Redskins he had already posted three by my count, although the NFL statisticians had him down for two. Tackles for a loss have been few and far between for Tampa Bay through the first month of the season. The Buccaneers had only amassed seven in their 0-3 start, but came through with six against Washington.”
“Hayes wasn’t the only young linebacker stepping up for Tampa Bay on Sunday. Strongside linebacker Quincy Black had his best game as a pro at Washington, recording a career-high eight tackles, two tackles for loss and his first NFL sack. Black entered the Redskins game with just 15 tackles in three games, an average of just five stops per contest. Black had been invisible at times this year, and was challenged this week by the team to step up or risk losing some playing time to reserve Adam Hayward. Black was far from perfect against the Redskins with his major gaffe being out of position and allowing Jason Campbell to scramble nine yards for a first down on third-and-7 early in the third quarter on Washington’s field goal drive. He also missed a couple tackles, but like the strong individual performances of players like Hayes, defensive end Gaines Adams and cornerback Aqib Talib, Black’s solid outing was a welcome sight for the Bucs’ brass. Now the key thing for Black, Hayes, Adams and Talib is to become consistent.”
Editor-In-Chief Jim Flynn
"Don't pin this loss on Tampa Bay's defense. The Bucs defense set the tone early in this contest. On Washington's first four drives of the game, the Redskins managed just 26 yards while the Bucs recorded two sacks and two turnovers in the first quarter alone. Washington had just 99 yards of offense at halftime. Sure, Redskins running back Clinton Portis rushed for almost 100 yards and quarterback Jason Campbell threw two touchdown passes in the second half, but Tampa Bay's defense held Washington to 277 yards of offense and did enough to help win this game, evidenced by its three sacks and four forced turnovers. Heck, even Bucs cornerback Ronde Barber blocked an extra point attempt. Tampa Bay's offense was inept, producing just 229 yards in this game. Second-year QB Josh Johnson was indecisive and looked like he was afraid to pull the trigger on most of his passing attempts. Complicating matters was the fact that kicker Mike Nugent missed two field goals vs. the ‘Skins."
"Speaking of Nugent, don't be surprised if the Bucs bring in some competition at the kicker position this week. There's also a chance the Bucs simply will release Nugent after watching him miss two more field goals vs. the Redskins. Tampa Bay had a 10-0 lead at halftime, but could have been up 16-0. Instead, Nugent missed two field goal attempts from 49 and 48 yards out. Both were wide right. To his credit, Nugent finished the game strong with successful field goals from 37 and 22 yards out. But through the first quarter of the 2009 regular season, Nugent is just 2-of-6 (33.3 percent) on field goal tries. He is 8-of-15 (53.3 percent) on his field goal attempts as a Buccaneer dating back to the preseason. Granted, most of his misses have been from long range (52, 50, 49, 48, 46, 46 and 38), but Tampa Bay inked Nugent and decided to keep him as its kicker for the regular season over Matt Bryant due to his leg strength and accuracy on long field goal attempts. The Bucs simply haven't gotten what they paid for. And no, the answer isn't re-signing Bryant, who missed most of training camp and preseason with a hamstring injury and doesn't have the leg strength the Bucs need in their kicker at 34 years old. Perhaps there isn't a better option at kicker available to the Bucs in free agency, but you can bet the Bucs will attempt to find one this week."
"Kudos to Bucs defensive end Gaines Adams and cornerback Aqib Talib. Both players have come under heavy criticism for their individual performances this season, but these two former first-round draft picks answered those critics with strong performance Sunday. Adams, who had a groin injury heading into this game, notched five tackles, one sack, two tackles for a loss and one fumble recovery. Talib contributed four tackles, but came up with three interceptions, which tied the franchise record held by CB Ronde Barber for most picks in one game. Unfortunately for Talib, he was also beat on wide receiver Santana Moss' 59-yard touchdown in the third quarter. It will be interesting to see how these two players build on their performances. The Bucs will need this type of effort and play from Adams and Talib if they're going to win a game in 2009."
Beat Writer Charlie Campbell
"The Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive line is on pace to total 16 sacks in 2009. With the rest of the defense included, the Bucs are on pace to record only 24 sacks for the season. While those numbers are bad, there were definite signs of improvement from Tampa Bay's front four with pressuring the quarterback. Defensive end Gaines Adams broke out with a great game. He had a sack, a fumble recovery, a batted pass, two tackles for a loss, forced a holding penalty, and played solid run defense against Washington. Adams' production against the Redskins was more than his previous three games combined. Jimmy Wilkerson notched the first sack-fumble of the year for Tampa Bay, and Wilkerson is on pace to lead the team with eight sacks. The pass rush has gotten some aide from the linebackers and cornerbacks this season, and Sunday saw more of that. Linebacker Quincy Black notched his first sack when he read Redskins quarterback Jason Campbell, and fired into the backfield to get the quarterback down. Linebacker Geno Hayes and cornerback Ronde Barber have had success as blitzers this season as well. The biggest weakness on the defense is the lack of pass rush from the defensive line. Sunday's game was a step in the right direction and something to build on. Adams seemed to have no confidence in the locker room after the previous games and in the days during the week. Hopefully for his sake and the sake of Bucs fans, Adams has turned the corner and will be productive for the rest of the 2009 season. He is on pace to have four sacks this season, but sacks can come in bunches. If he can have a few multi-sack games that will change his pace quickly, but what Tampa Bay needs the most is Adams to maintain that production over a few weeks. He needs to reel off four or five straight games with a sack, and be a constant resident in the opposing backfield. If Adams gets it going, the rest of defense could follow."
"In the past three games it has been disappointing to see little to no production from wide receiver Michael Clayton. After his Week 1 performance where he had five catches for 93 yards, Clayton has totaled two catches for 27 yards. Last week against the Giants, and this week against the Redskins, Clayton was held without a catch. Thus far in 2009 he has seven catches for 120 yards, and is on pace to have 28 receptions for 480 yards and no touchdowns. Those numbers are in line with what he produced each season from 2005-2008, and not nearly what would be expected for what he is being paid. After the game against the Cowboys, head coach Raheem Morris dared the media to write an article questioning the team's decision to re-sign Clayton to a sizeable contract. To be fair, Clayton continued to provide support in the run game with some great blocking. However, the money that he is being paid is not just to be a blocker. Tampa Bay needs more from Clayton, and the rest of their wide receivers. Clayton may be making Morris eat those words."
"The most important down in the NFL for quarterbacks is third down. For quarterbacks, third down separates the men from the boys. The Buccaneers struggled mightily on third down against Washington. Quarterback Josh Johnson and the Bucs were only 2-of-13 (15 percent). One third-down conversion came in the first half on a pass to tight end Kellen Winslow, and the second one came in the fourth quarter on a pass to Cadillac Williams. Washington wasn't much better, but the Bucs' lack of third down success caused the defense to be on the field longer than it should. The defense started the game fast, but as the game wore on they wore down and its pass rush suffered. If the Bucs offense is going to get back to some of the production they showed in the first two weeks of the season, it is going to have to start producing more first downs. Johnson has to do a better job of completing passes on third down, and using his legs to pick up first downs on third-and-short to third-and-manageable."
"I wish the Bucs would get more aggressive with their play calling. I would like to see some flea-flicker bombs downfield, jailhouse blitzes, zone blitzes, halfback options, reverses, and even some spread option plays. After all, it is only a matter of time before Johnson is on the bench backing up rookie signal caller Josh Freeman. Why not do some spread-option running plays as an effort to go all-out and win a game? Even if Olson and the Bucs don't want to play that aggressively, there are plenty of gadget plays the offense can do to try and get some wins. On special teams they could run some fake punts, fake field goals, and do some surprise onside kicks. Against the Redskins, the offense looked very much like some of the ultra-conservative Jon Gruden games where the offense appeared to be playing for field goals over touchdowns. For example, late in the fourth quarter on fourth-and-goal with the game on the line, the Bucs kicked a field goal. At 0-3 why not go for it? That was the only drive of the game where the offense moved the ball down the field, and got inside the Redskins' 10. It seems questionable to not go for the win on the road with a play to go for a touchdown. Instead, the Bucs chose to be within another field goal of tying the game. Now at 0-4, and not being a playoff contender, there seems to be no reason not to be aggressive in the playcalling."