What was expected to be a breakout season by third-year quarterback Jameis Winston has been anything but. Despite adding weapons across the offense, Winston has struggled with accuracy over the last five weeks and has cost his team chances at more wins because of it. To make matters worse, Winston is now shelved for at least two weeks with a shoulder injury, and was recently checked out by renowned medical doctor James Andrews. Nothing has been determined for the long term, but as of now doctors and the organization have decided to rest Winston, for the time being, to allow his shoulder to heal.
On the year, Winston has thrown for 1,920 yards on 159-of-259 passing (61.4 percent), with 10 touchdowns and six interceptions and a QB rating of 87.3. While his numbers are on pace to be career highs in some areas, Winston’s inconsistency continue to hurt the team at critical times. Not all of the struggles are on Winston, however. The inability to consistently run the football has hurt the offense and some of the play calling has been questionable, too.
Statistically, backup, and now starter, Ryan Fitzpatrick has played better than Winston, competing 62.5 percent of his passes for 358 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions, notching a 95.7 QB rating. While the stats are a little better, it is only a small sample. However the Bucs could have done much worse in signing a backup.
Despite the struggles on offense, the Buccaneers are third in the NFL in passing offense, averaging 272 yards per game through the air. But, as offensive coordinator Todd Monken said recently, those stats are just window dressing and mean little. GRADE = C
The Buccaneers passed on a number of running backs in this year’s draft before finally selecting Jeremy McNichols in the fifth round, who was eventually released prior to the regular season. The team was counting on Doug Martin returning from a three-game suspension and regaining his 2015 form. So far that hasn’t been the case as Martin is only averaging 3.5 yards a carry this year (73-254).
Backup, and previous season’s starter, Jaquizz Rodgers, hasn’t fared much better, rushing 48 times for 171 yards. Peyton Barber, who could see more carries as the year progresses, is only averaging 3.6 yards per carry himself. Surprisingly, Charles Sims has the best per carry average (3.9) but has only carried the ball eight times for 31 yards. On the other hand, he has added 17 receptions for 117 yards, making him the top receiver out of the backfield. GRADE = C-
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After acquiring weapons like DeSean Jackson and Chris Godwin in the offseason to add to an already strong core of players with Mike Evans and Adam Humphries, Tampa Bay’s wide receiver corps. was thought to be the most elite part of their offense. They’ve had their moments of capitalization, but that’s all they’ve been – just moments and not constants.
Evans leads the team with 40 receptions. As a result of those 40 receptions, he has 532 yards and four touchdowns. Humphries is next in line with 311 yards on 31 catches. Jackson comes in with 422 yards on 27 catches with two scores, and Chris Godwin has just 83 yards on eight catches.
The numbers themselves are fine, but it’s what could have been with them that makes this all so frustrating. Because of poor play from the quarterback position, inconsistencies in the run game and head-scratching play designs from the coaches, these wide receivers aren’t getting the out-put they should be. Their grade could be bumped up higher, but we can’t forget that Evans has had some crucial drops this year, Jackson doesn’t appear to be starving to fight for deep balls like he has in his career, and Humphries had a costly fumble that lost them the Bills game.
It’s the most promising group, but still one that has struggled.
GRADE = C+
While the Buccaneers offensive line has only given up 17 sacks, which is the 11th lowest in the league, that number doesn’t tell the whole picture. Winston, and Fitzpatrick, when playing, have constantly been pressured and harassed. Combined with the inability to generate much of a running game (28th in the league), it has been a disappointing year across the board for the Bucs offensive line.
To be fair, most have had individually good games at one point or another this year. However, the Bucs line has struggled to have all five play consistently well for an entire game, and that is where the biggest issue is. Each week, even sometimes on each series, a breakdown here or there dooms the play and momentum. From a missed assignment to a penalty, no one on the line has been immune to mistakes.
The jury is still out on the move of Ali Marpet to center, although the coaching staff has praised the former Hobart standout and guard in his first two seasons in Tampa. J.R. Sweezy has graded out as the lowest performer on the offensive line by Pro Football Focus, although most Bucs fans would argue that left tackle Donovan Smith should own that honor. Smith has struggled at times in both run and pass blocking and the Bucs may look to try and upgrade that position in the offseason.
Veteran Demar Dotson is having one of, if not his best season so far in 2017. While not perfect, the former basketball player turned defensive lineman, turned NFL tackle, has been the team’s most consistent player on the line this year.
In an odd approach the Bucs staff has also decided to split playing time at the left guard position, subbing Kevin Pamphile and Evan Smith during the course of games. Both have played well at times, while also struggling. Basically a summary of how the entire line has played through the first eight games.
Even though there are individual highlights, working as a unit is what makes an offensive line, and this Buccaneers group has rarely done that in 2017. GRADE = D
Of all the Bucs offensive units, the tight ends have been the most consistent. While far from perfect, this unit has been better than the other groups. The tight ends are led by Cam Brate, who is having a Pro Bowl-caliber year with 32 receptions for 442 yards and four touchdowns, tied for the team lead in scores with Mike Evans. Brate is on pace to break Jimmie Giles single season tight end team records for yards, receptions and touchdowns.
Rookie O.J. Howard has had an up-and-down rookie season, nabbing 14 receptions for 227 yards and three touchdowns. He did have a costly fumble last week in New Orleans and didn’t have his best game as a blocker. The Bucs hope to get him even more involved with the offense in the second half of the season.
Veteran Luke Stocker caught a touchdown against the Saints, but is primarily used as the team’s fullback and lead blocker. GRADE = B
Mark Cook currently is the director of editorial content and Bucs beat writer and has written for PewterReport.com since 2011. Cook has followed the Buccaneers since 1977 when he first began watching football with his Dad and is fond of the 1979 Bucs team that came within 10 points of going to a Super Bowl. His favorite Bucs game is still the 1979 divisional playoff win 24-17 over the Eagles. In his spare time Cook enjoys playing guitar, fishing, the beach and family time.Cook is a native of Pinecrest in Eastern Hillsborough County and has written for numerous publications including the Tampa Tribune, In the Field and Ya'll Magazine. Cook can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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