Copyright 2009

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Publisher Scott Reynolds
“The Bucs defensive line got its best pressure of the first quarter with 20 seconds left. Gaines Adams, rushing from left end on third down, tried to run around two Buffalo defenders and wound up running four yards behind quarterback Trent Edwards, opening up a large gap in which Edwards scrambled through. The rest of Tampa Bay’s defensive linemen proceeded to somehow sack themselves as defensive tackle Chris Hovan made a flailing attempt to grab Edwards’ jersey as he was lunging towards the ground. Edwards pulled away and proceeded to scramble to where Adams should have been. Then Jimmy Wilkerson dove for Edwards, fell down and took out Stylez G. White in the process as Edwards launched a pass into the end zone to Terrell Owens that was deflected by Aqib Talib. Rookie Roy Miller and Wilkerson became the first – and only – defensive linemen to record sacks this season as they both dropped Trent Edwards on Sunday, but Adams was nowhere near the quarterback for the second straight week. Adams, whom the Buccaneers envisioned to be the next Lee Roy Selmon, has gone from playing like Regan Upshaw to playing like Eric Curry. At times, Adams looks disinterested and timid – hardly the pass-rushing monster that Monte Kiffin was advocating and Tampa Bay drafted fourth overall in 2007.”

“Ronde Barber didn’t mention any names after last week’s 34-21 loss to Dallas when stating that some of Tampa Bay’s defensive backs shouldn’t be too aggressive in trying to make plays, rather let the plays come to them. But it was clear to this veteran reporter that he was talking about the eagerness of Bucs strong safety Sabby Piscitelli. In the first half against Buffalo, Piscitelli charged up to the line of scrimmage trying to tackle Bills running back Fred Jackson, only to dive wildly at air as Jackson juked him and rushed for 24 yards. But later on that drive, Piscitelli would heed the advice of Barber – Tampa Bay’s playmaking king – and simply be at the right place at the right time. To unexpectedly help drive home his words of wisdom to Piscitelli, Barber forced a fumble by tackling Jackson from behind for a 2-yard loss. The jarring hit caused Jackson to throw the ball up in the air and allow Piscitelli to swoop in, catch the ball in mid-air and race 72 yards down the sidelines to the Buffalo 8. Forgive Piscitelli for being tackled from behind by Roscoe Parrish, who is one of the NFL’s fastest players. Plays like this fumble recovery will illustrate to Piscitelli that simply doing your job is good enough and that there’s no reason to try to make plays. As Barber has seen during his 12-year career, being in the right place at the right time is all it takes. That patience paid off again in the third quarter when Piscitelli recorded his first interception of the season. The Bucs’ third-year safety will undoubtedly go through more growing pains in his first season as a full-fledged starter, but he’ll also make his share of plays as long as he keeps buying into Barber’s words of wisdom.”

“Two things that annoy me to no end are the pushing and shoving that Adam Hayward and Matt McCoy seem to engage in nearly every time they cover a kickoff. I get the fact that both career backups want to make the most of their on-field time and are excited to get some playing time, but one of these days, they’ll get slapped with a costly 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty. Unless they back off on the machismo, it will happen. Speaking of 15-yard penalties, the Bucs had four of them on Sunday – all from facemask infractions – as part of a 12-infraction, 113-yard messy affair on Sunday.”

“It has taken only two weeks for Jim Bates’ defense to give up 900 yards of offense. Ouch. In the first game, Tampa Bay gave up 353 yards passing to Dallas as the Bucs were beaten through the air. In the second game, the secondary woes are somewhat shored up, but the Bucs gave up 218 yards rushing against Buffalo. Meanwhile, the Bucs have recorded only two turnovers (both by safety Sabby Piscitelli) and notched three sacks on defense. And middle linebacker Barrett Ruud leads this unit with the quietest 22 tackles you’ve ever seen. For a guy playing in his contract year, Ruud has yet to make any impact plays other than tackles. Against Buffalo, he was credited with 14 tackles, but only five of them were solo stops. It’s time for Ruud to live up to his namesake and play some rude, nasty football and force turnovers and make some key stops on third down. He – like several of his teammates – don’t look comfortable in Bates’ new defense yet.”

“I remember what former Bucs general manager Bruce Allen told me about the second game of the season. Getting a win in Week 2 is critical for teams that have started off 0-1 because it won’t be until Week 5 at the earliest until a team can have a winning record – and that is if a team reels off a 3-0 win streak to offset a 0-2 start. That means over a month of football transpires before a team can possibly get over .500. Unfortunately for Tampa Bay, a 0-2 start likely means a losing season in 2009. But that didn’t surprise you, did it? There’s just too much youth and inexperience – and perhaps talent – on Tampa Bay’s defense to overcome such a poor beginning to the season. The only way to prevent that from happening is a miracle win against the New York Giants at Raymond James Stadium next Sunday. A win over the G-Men and a winnable game at Washington could get the Bucs’ season back on track, but I just don’t see that happening.”

Editor-In-Chief Jim Flynn
"Talk about a mixed and wild outing, there might not be a better way to describe Bucs quarterback Byron Leftwich's first 11 pass attempts of the game versus the Bills on Sunday. Leftwich completed eight of his first 11 passes, but two of those pass attempts were intercepted by the Bills, including one returned 76 yards for a touchdown by Buffalo safety Donte Whitner. Leftwich's only other incompletion during that span was also nearly picked off, but was ruled incomplete. On the other hand, one of Leftwich's eight completions was to tight end Kellen Winslow for a 42-yard touchdown. All of that action, good and bad, in Leftwich's first 11 of what amounted to a total of 50 throws on the day."

"Speaking of Byron Leftwich, he simply isn't going to make it through the season (maybe not even through next week's game vs. the Giants) if he's called on to throw as many times as he has in Tampa Bay's first two contests of the year. Leftwich completed 26-of-50 passes for 296 yards and tossed three touchdowns and two interceptions against Buffalo. While he was only sacked twice, Leftwich was knocked to the ground at least 13 times, and he struggled to get back on his feet after a few of them. The scary part is if Leftwich goes down the Bucs will have to turn to second-year QB Josh Johnson or rookie Josh Freeman. Neither player has ever started a regular season game in the NFL, so seeing either player take reps under center on game days would obviously not be ideal for the 0-2 Bucs."

"Even without starting wide receiver Antonio Bryant, who missed Sunday's game with a knee ailment, I thought the Bucs stood a slight chance of escaping Buffalo with a much-needed win. However, if you would have told me the Bucs were going to be penalized 13 times, four of which were 15-yard face mask infractions, and QB Byron Leftwich was going to throw two interceptions, including one that got returned for a score, I would have never hesitated to pick Buffalo. This young Tampa Bay team simply isn't good enough to overcome those types of mistakes, and those gaffes cost the Bucs on Sunday."

"Despite falling behind Buffalo 17-0 in the first quarter, Tampa Bay managed to go in to halftime down just 20-14. While the defense allowed its fair share of yards, mistakes and points, the Bucs offense failed to capitalize on the opportunity it had to take the lead in the third quarter. In fact, the Bucs' first four drives in the second half lasted just 11 plays and produced just 35 yards and zero points."

"On a positive note, the Bucs offense, which ranked 30th in the NFL in red zone offense in 2008, is now 5-of-5 (100 percent) on converting possessions inside the 20-yard line into touchdowns."

Beat Writer Charlie Campbell
"As Jim highlighted, Tampa Bay has definitely improved its ability to score points in 2009 under new offensive coordinator Greg Olson. Under the direction of former head coach Jon Gruden, the Buccaneers were 30th in red zone offense in 2008. Thus far in 2009, the Bucs are a perfect 5-for-5 in the red zone. Part of the difference is quarterback Byron Leftwich playing more aggressively than former quarterback Jeff Garcia did. Plus, Gruden was too conservative in his play calling in the red zone. He would protect field goals, and sometimes was playing for three points. Head coach Raheem Morris said his offense would be a touchdown-scoring offense. While Tampa Bay has come up short and lost their first two games, Morris' offense has been outstanding about scoring touchdowns in the red zone."

"The Bucs had their second straight good game of production from the tight ends. That should not be surprising considering they have two former first-round picks in Kellen Winslow and Jerramy Stevens. Winslow caught a 42-yard touchdown pass and Stevens caught a 6-yard touchdown. The Bucs' standout tight ends showed the mismatch skills that they possess. Both Winslow and Stevens are too physical to be covered by defensive backs, and are too fast to be covered by linebackers. Winslow's touchdown reception was impressive in that he beat a cornerback, Buffalo's Terrence McGee, with speed, running a deep slant in the middle of the field. The Bills allowed two touchdowns late in the game against the Patriots in Week 1 to tight end Ben Watson. It would have been nice to see the Bucs get the tight ends deep down the middle seam, but outside of the pass to Winslow, they worked the ball to the tight ends primarily underneath in the short part of the field. Prior to the season, there was a lot of hype regarding the Tampa Bay tight ends, and they came through with good production in the first two weeks. Winslow has a touchdown catch in each game, and Stevens has produced each week. Considering the lack of production from the wide receivers, the tight ends have to be integral part of the passing offense, and it looks like Winslow and Stevens are more than capable of being up for the challenge."

"Speaking of the wide receivers, entering the fourth quarter against Buffalo the Bucs receivers had totaled only three catches. With the running game struggling, and the Bills having a lead, Tampa Bay needed their receivers to step up and produce. Unfortunately for the Buccaneers, the receivers did not get the job done. Maurice Stovall made a fabulous catch in the game. He totaled 80 yards receiving on three catches, and that was as many receptions and more yards than all the other receivers combined. Tampa Bay obviously missed wide receiver Antonio Bryant, who was out with a knee injury. The receiving corps does not have a lot of speed, and Bryant is really the only receiver that has the speed to consistently break long receptions downfield. Wide receiver was a need entering last offseason. The Buccaneers did not sign a significant veteran free agent, and waited to draft a receiver until the seventh round. Neglecting that need appears to be coming back to bite the Bucs. The wide receivers struggled to get open against Buffalo. Their inability to create separation was evident in Bucs quarterback Byron Leftwich throwing a lot more passes to his running backs and tight ends. In 50 pass attempts the Bucs receivers caught a total of six passes. The Buccaneers offense is more adept at scoring points this year, and if Bryant can return to his 2008 form that would be a major boost. It looks like it could become a necessity as the other receivers have struggled to provide explosive plays. Soon teams will focus their attention on the tight ends in the passing game, and dare the Bucs receivers to make big plays against them. If Bryant is not back it may be very difficult for Tampa Bay to get big plays out of their passing game."

"Bucs cornerback Aqib Talib got beat twice by wide receiver Terrell Owens for big plays. Fortunately for Talib, Owens dropped the first of what could have been a long pass, and a possible touchdown. The second time Talib was beaten, Owens made the reception for a 43-yard touchdown catch. Aside from those two plays, Talib has provided good coverage this season, but it is somewhat concerning to see him get beat twice on similar routes running downfield. With the Tampa Bay defensive line struggling to rush the passer, the secondary is under a lot of pressure to not allow separation. After a rough showing in the first game, the Bucs secondary allowed two more deep touchdowns in Week 2. Until the Buccaneers can show that they can stop the deep ball, teams are going to be targeting the Bucs secondary downfield, Talib included."

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