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President Hugh MacArthur
“What to say, what to say. Why is it that I feel good about a 2-5 team? I should feel angry and wanting to hold people accountable as a follower of this team, but somehow this season, this game, seems like the normal progression of things for the Bucs. Am I looking through pewter-colored specs? No, perish the thought.  I can see the problems with this team. Let’s start with the offense. It was, well, offensive. The thing I was most disappointed with was the lack of run blocking on the offensive line. With Anthony Davis, Jeremy Trueblood and Davin Joseph in there, I expected better things for Cadillac Williams vs. the Giants. And, make no mistake, the running yardage total had nothing to do with Caddy. There were no holes for most of the game, and I mean none. The poor guy was left on his own far too often.”

“Speaking of running, what in the world has happened to Dan Buenning?  There are rumors that he had a hip problem, but if this guy can walk he has got to be better than Sean ‘holding penalty’ Mahan. Mahan may one day be a great Bucs center, but he is not a starting caliber guard in the NFL and gets overpowered way too often. Makes you wonder if Jeb Terry can still walk. There has got to be somebody better than this guy at left guard.”

“Beyond the line and the lack of a rushing game, we get to the problem of the receivers. Joey Galloway with two inexplicable big-play drops. Michael Clayton with a dropped TD pass and a huge fumble on a fourth down conversion that would have kept a drive going deep in Giants’ territory. Bad breaks, but these are the bad breaks of bad teams. It was windy for both teams, and temperatures were in the 50s, but I saw Plaxico Burress catching balls. Our guys didn’t, and in a close game, that was much of the difference.”

“Let’s talk quarterback for a minute. Let me say that I like Bruce Gradkowski. I like his moxie and I like the way he commands the team and seems to be able to run a pretty complicated offense as a rookie. Let me now talk about what I worry about. His vaunted accuracy can be way off – even on the short throws.  In the NFL, you must throw from awkward angles, because despite what textbook quarterbacking looks like, QBs in this league are often on the run, so throws off the wrong foot, back foot or while diving to the sideline will happen. I worry Gradkowski doesn’t have the required arm strength for many of these off-balance launches. Far too often his balls are short, behind or bouncing – even on the short tosses. Grads is very decisive, which is a good thing.  Sometimes I think he could make better decisions. He throws into coverage too often. There haven’t been many interceptions yet, but there will be if he keeps going with his first read and firing without looking over the defense. I am certainly no expert, but sometimes it feels like Bruce goes from first read to check-down and skips a few reads in between.”

“Gradkowski is also a fast runner. I wonder if he is an instinctive one. Late in the second half against the Giants, Bruce pulled the ball down and there was literally one linebacker to his right and nothing but green for at least 10 yards. Somehow Gradkowski cut to the one place he couldn’t – to the right – and was tackled for a very short gain. Clearly, Gradkowski is in a bit over his head right now, and in time I hope the game slows down for him. It will be hard on him this season though, as he learns by dealing with very tough defenses. I fear more long days ahead for Tampa’s youngest QB.”

“I am not a coach. I am not quite a professional sportswriter like Scott Reynolds and Jim Flynn are. I quit playing football after high school. So, it goes without saying that I know nothing of what I am about to question, but question it I must. What on earth was that fourth-and-1 call in the fourth quarter? A delayed play-action pass for a rookie QB when you know a good defense, playing at home, is going to bring the house? I don’t get it. Gave me unpleasant flashbacks to another fourth down call against Washington in the playoffs last year. Sure, Caddy didn’t get the yard they needed on third-and-1. I sure would have liked to have seen a second attempt. The Bucs have struggled run blocking, but I still think Caddy is the best bet on this team for 36 inches with the game on the line. I wonder why there isn’t a heavy jumbo package with a bigger fullback? Can Chris Hovan play fullback? Dewyane White? Jon Bradley? Anyone with some push? Someone to give those watching the confidence that Tampa Bay can run the ball and pick up that one, stinking yard?”

“One facet of the team’s play I will not criticize is the defensive effort. You can blah, blah, blah about yards given up all you want, but this team just played three of the top offenses in the NFL and the points allowed were 13, 21 and 17. That’s an average of 17 points a game. Without a couple of horrific turnovers that started the defense inside its own 20, the average might be closer to 12 points a game. The Bucs needed to shut down the Giants’ running game, and by and large they did. That achievement kept the team in the contest for four quarters. You cannot question these results.”

“The one aspect of the defense that I will question in this game, and that has bothered me all season is the blitzing. Blitzing bothers me because the Bucs don’t typically do very much of it and they just don’t seem to be very good at it. Aside from the occasional Ronde Barber masterpiece, I see linebackers and safeties getting picked up one after the other. It is rare that putting the Bucs corners on an island pays dividends.  Given that the Bucs’ blitzing doesn’t reach the opposing quarterback quickly enough, this is a problem.  I’d rather see more of a straight-up Tampa-2, let the defense stop the run, and take their chances if Tampa Bay can’t get to the passer quickly enough rushing four.”

“So, after all of this complaining that I have done in the name of the Roundtable, why am I optimistic about this team? At 2-5 aren’t they toast? Well, this season will be a struggle, but one thing you have to notice is that the Bucs have the toughest schedule in the NFL. Do you realize that when they play New Orleans next week to officially reach the halfway mark of the season they will have played eight teams with winning records? No team they have faced has fewer than four wins right now, and the NFC South has become the undisputed toughest division in the NFL. Check the standings if you don’t believe me. I wish I could say that the second half gets a lot easier, but with trips to Pittsburgh and Chicago on the schedule and a visit from Seattle, you can add in the divisional games and draw your own conclusions.”

“This is a young team on offense with talent.  They need time to develop and gel.  Yes, they are 2-5, but their two wins are against good teams and they were there right to the end with the Panthers, Saints, and to some degree, the Giants as well. Simply put, aside from the early games when Chris Simms’ three interceptions on offense were the norm, this team hasn’t been outclassed by anybody. They will be in their games for the rest of the season. It might feel bad because Tampa Bay went 11-5 last season, but maybe they arrived a bit too early. It will be entertaining to watch them try to find their identity in 2006. This year may not see the Bucs return to the playoffs, but with a very favorable salary cap situation, extra high draft picks, and another season to mature, the future just might be bright enough to put those shades back on. Just keep the pewter-colored ones in the drawer.”

Publisher Scott Reynolds
“It is amazing what an incredible homefield advantage the Giants have on windy days at the Meadowlands. You can tell that this Buccaneers team had never experienced anything like the blustery conditions that were present in New Jersey today. Sure, both teams played in the conditions, but the Giants weren’t the ones putting the ball on the ground all over the field at Giants Stadium. They obviously have had some exposure to the windy conditions that were present on Sunday. Tampa Bay has not experienced anything like that before and it showed.”

“I know Dan Buenning is nicked up right now and that may be why Sean Mahan is starting at left guard, but Mahan just doesn’t impress me. He’s too passive in pass protection and allows defensive linemen too much pocket penetration. Mahan doesn’t get enough push in the running game. Reserve guard Jeb Terry can’t seem get out of the doghouse, but isn’t he worth another look? Mahan is good for a holding penalty every game it seems.”

“Cadillac Williams is a good back, but he has yet to show me he can be an elite NFL rusher. He hasn’t shown much improvement over his rookie year and had a case of the dropsies today with a fumble and a couple of dropped dump-off pass. Folks, don’t think 1,178 yards rushing makes you an elite ballcarrier. Errict Rhett had a 1,207-yard season and Reggie Cobb came within 29 yards away from 1,200 yards rushing, too. Was either one of those guys an elite NFL runner? No. Williams needs to develop his hands and be a factor in the passing game before he becomes an elite back in my book. He also has to rip off more big runs and learn to make something out of nothing to be considered anything more than a good running back. In seven games he has just two runs over 20 yards and no runs over 40 yards. Say what you want about the run-blocking, but watch the NFL highlight reel each week and you’ll see some ballcarrier juke and make someone miss or break a tackle with a stiff arm to break away for a 40-yard run. Williams has the talent to become a great back, but can he actually get there?”

“Giants running back Brandon Jacobs is a pretty impressive player. As good as Tiki Barber is, I think the Giants would have generated more offense against Tampa Bay’s smallish defense by using the 6-foot-4, 265-pound behemoth back. Jacobs was hard to tackle and nearly unstoppable in the second half when he did most of his damage. I know Barber is the NFL’s leading rusher, but the formula against Tampa Bay still remains ram a big back down the throat of the Bucs’ defense. The score would have been much worse if Jacobs, who I think was only brought down to the turf once during the entire game.”

“Jon Gruden’s playcalling is going to get blasted by the media and fans today and I can see why – to a degree. On the surface, asking a rookie quarterback to throw about 50 times in nearly impossible, windy conditions is crazy playcalling. But after the game, Gruden said the Bucs only had the wind in the second and third quarter and he wanted to take advantage of that in the passing game. For all of Bruce Gradkowski’s errant throws, he put several deep passes on the money – only to be dropped by Joey Galloway and Michael Clayton. Gruden kept throwing ball hoping that these big plays would click, but they never did. When it comes to the running game, look at the first half stats. You’ve run the ball five times with Cadillac Williams and got only four yards. Williams fumbled a pitch and dropped two catchable passes. Gradkowski completed 7-of-23 passes for just 67 yards. You have the wind in the third quarter and you’re behind 14-3. What do you do if you’re Gruden? Me? I’d throw it. I don’t think Williams is in Jon Gruden’s doghouse, but here’s something to think about it. Williams couldn’t handle Gradkowski’s pitch, which hit him right in the hands and wound up being a fumble at the Bucs’ 28-yard line, and he couldn’t get a yard on a key third-and-1 in the second half. Notice how Williams did not get a second attempt on fourth-and-1. I don’t know if Gruden completely trusts this guy. In other words, if the running game is not clicking early, I think Gruden feels more comfortable putting the game into the hands of Galloway, Clayton and Gradkowski. When the Bucs have trailed this year, those have been the players who have brought Tampa Bay back – not Williams.”

“The fourth down fumble rule is probably one of the stupidest rules in football. The fumble can only be recovered by the player that fumbled it. How many times do you think that ever happens? I know the league doesn’t want an offensive player purposely fumbling the ball across the first down marker to increase the chances of making a first down, but the rule seems so unforgiving. Can someone please explain this to me?”

Editor-In-Chief Jim Flynn
“Tampa Bay’s offense produced just 174 yards vs. New York’s defense, which was injured and without several key starters on Sunday. This unit got off to a rough start and never found its rhythm, and starting field position had a lot to do with those woes. The Giants’ average starting field position was the 37-yard line, whereas the Bucs’ average starting field position was the 27-yard line. But that 10-yard difference doesn’t do Tampa Bay’s defense justice. Of New York’s first five possessions, its worst starting field position was it own 43-yard line. Three of those possessions started on Tampa Bay’s 48, 41 and 28, respectively. Still, the Bucs defense managed to hold the Giants’ potent offense to 251 yards and two touchdowns on Sunday. After starting two of its first five possessions inside its own 5-yard line, Tampa Bay’s average starting field position dramatically improved. In fact, four of their last eight drives started at Bucs’ 40-yard line or better. Yet, Tampa Bay’s offense managed to score just three points. The defense might have allowed the Giants to score two touchdowns, but put the blame for this loss squarely on the shoulders of the Bucs offense, which didn't resemble much of one in this game.”

“Tampa Bay’s offense has failed to score a touchdown for two straight games, and has scored a touchdown in three straight first halfs. While rookie quarterback Bruce Gradkowski likely will improve as the season goes on, look for the Bucs, who are 2-5 and watching their 2006 season slip away, to pursue a veteran signal caller in free agency next year. The Bucs probably will offer Chris Simms a contract, but they’re not going to overpay for his services, and after watching Brian Griese receive a $5 million signing bonus just a few months after he tore ligaments in his knee, no one should be surprised if Simms gets a contract offer from another team that the Bucs opt not to match. The Bucs want and need to add a veteran quarterback, and the candidates could include Mark Brunell (Washington), Drew Bledsoe (Dallas), Jake Plummer (Denver) and/or Brett Favre (Green Bay), all of whom could part ways with their respective teams during the offseason. The good news for the Bucs is they will have the money to lure a quarterback to Tampa Bay next year.”

“While I understand that Tampa Bay’s average starting field position wasn’t favorable, and that the Bucs fell behind 14-0 in the second quarter, I’m still having a terrible time figuring out why in the world Bucs head coach Jon Gruden opted to run the ball just 13 times vs. the New York Giants. And three of those runs, which were by rookie QB Bruce Gradkowski, weren’t even by design, which means Gruden called just 10 running plays in a game that was played in 25-35 mile-per-hour winds. In Gruden’s defense, Tampa Bay’s offensive line was dominated up front, Cadillac Williams had a costly fumble that resulted in a touchdown for the Giants and New York’s secondary is suspect. Still, Gruden needs to make a conscious effort to run the ball more as asking Gradkowski to throw 48 times is asking too much of the rookie signal caller.”

“Just when you thought it couldn’t get worse for the 2-5 Bucs, you can take a look at the second half of their schedule and quickly find out it can. Here’s Tampa Bay’s remaining opponents: New Orleans (5-2), at Carolina (4-4), Washington (2-5), at Dallas (4-3), at Pittsburgh (2-5), Atlanta (5-2), at Chicago (7-0), at Cleveland (2-5) and Seattle (4-3).”

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