Bucs WR Mike Evans - Photo by: Getty Images
The Buccaneers are off to a very disappointing 1-7 start in the Lovie Smith era. PewterReport.com reviews the individual efforts from the first eight games and analyzes the Buccaneers’ performances in its 2014 Bucs Midseason Awards.
BUCS 2014 MIDSEASON OFFENSIVE MVP – WR Mike Evans
The Buccaneers were hoping for big things from Evans, the team’s 6-foot-5, 230-pound receiver during his rookie season and he hasn’t disappointed. The team’s first-round pick has unseated Vincent Jackson as Tampa Bay’s leading receiver with 32 catches for 460 yards and four touchdowns. The veteran wide out has 32 receptions for 443 yards and two scores this season, which just trails the rookie.
Evans has been the most productive and reliable offensive weapon the Bucs have had all year, although he does have to be a bit more sure-handed to avoid the occasional dropped pass. But Evans’ numbers are impressive, especially considering he missed a game due to a groin injury.
The good news for Tampa Bay is that Evans’ arrow is pointing up and he seems to be getting better each week. His seven-catch, 124-yard, two-touchdown performance against Cleveland was his best game to date.
BUCS 2014 MIDSEASON DEFENSIVE MVP – LB Lavonte David
While defensive tackle Gerald McCoy leads the Buccaneers in sacks with five, David has made more plays on the ball and leads the team in tackles with 89, which is second in the NFL behind Luke Kuechly’s 97 stops. Although David doesn’t have a sack or an interception last year (he had seven sacks and five picks), he does have two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery.
But where David shines is in the Tampa 2 scheme as the weakside linebacker, which is typically a free tackler that flows to the ball and makes plays. David saw his four-game streak of double-digit tackles come to an end in Cleveland where he posted nine, but he had three straight games with 14 tackles prior to Sunday’s loss to the Browns.
David leads the NFL with 15 tackles for loss, and is just six away from topping his career high of 20 tackles for loss from a year ago. The third-year linebacker is on pace to record a monstrous 30 tackles for loss this season.
BUCS 2014 MIDSEASON SPECIAL TEAMS MVP – No one
Tampa Bay’s special teams have been a disaster this season. No Buccaneer deserves to be recognized as an MVP midway through the 2014 season, and if this poor play continues, special teams coordinator Kevin O’Dea’s job may be in jeopardy at season’s end.
Rookie kicker Patrick Murray has made 8-of-12 field goals (66.6 percent), although he has had two attempts blocked. Punter Michael Koenen, who serves as the special teams captain, had a punt returned for a touchdown by Atlanta’s Devin Hester and had two punts blocked. Outside of that, Koenen’s averaging less than 42 yards per punt and under 36 yards for his net average.
The Bucs’ return game is a joke, and is on to its third return specialist, Marcus Thigpen, after rookie Solomon Patton didn’t provide enough of a spark. Patton’s replacement, Trindon Holliday, lasted just a week before a hamstring injury sealed his fate and forced Tampa Bay to turn to Thigpen.
MOST IMPROVED OFFENSIVE PLAYER – RB Bobby Rainey
Rainey was inserted into the starting lineup last year and rushed for a career-high 532 yards and five touchdowns to lead the Buccaneers, while catching 11 passes for 27 yards and another score in 2013. The return of Doug Martin from shoulder surgery this offseason has relegated him to a backup role outside of the three games he has started due to Martin’s various injuries, but Rainey has still produced.
Rainey has outgained Martin as a rusher, 374 yards to 166 yards, and also as a receiver with a career-high 23 catches for 214 yards and a touchdown compared to Martin, who has just nine carries for 54 yards. Rainey has improved as a runner, receiver and blocker and is on pace to set career numbers and once again lead the Bucs in rushing.
MOST IMPROVED DEFENSIVE PLAYER – LB Danny Lansanah
Lansanah was an afterthought during his first season as a reserve linebacker in Tampa Bay last year. To his credit, Lansanah lost over 10 pounds in the offseason to improve his speed and become a better fit in the Tampa 2 defense. Lansanah started opening eyes in training camp and was splitting starting reps at strongside linebacker with Jonathan Casillas to start the season.
Lansanah has proven to be a playmaker at the Sam linebacker spot, recording a career-high 31 tackles, with three tackles for loss, five pass breakups and two pick-sixes. The Connecticut product has played so well that he took over the starting role full-time and made Casillas, who was traded to New England, expendable last week.
MOST DISAPPOINTING OFFENSIVE PLAYER – RB Doug Martin
Bucs head coach Lovie Smith is a run-first coach, and Martin, a former first-round pick, has been a huge disappointment in his third NFL season. Martin, who missed half of last year with a shoulder injury, has struggled with knee and ankle injuries that have caused him to miss three games and allowed Bobby Rainey to assert himself as the team’s most productive running back.
When healthy, Martin has done little in the ways of production. In his five starts, Martin has yet to rush for more than 45 yards in any game and he is only averaging 2.9 yards per carry. With just 166 yards rushing and one touchdown, Martin is having his worst NFL season and will likely be traded in the offseason unless there is a sudden, huge improvement in his performance. Martin’s abysmal production gives him the edge over left tackle Anthony Collins for the team’s dubious Most Disappointing Offensive Player honors.
MOST DISAPPOINTING DEFENSIVE PLAYER – CB Alterraun Verner
While Tampa Bay defensive end Michael Johnson has certainly disappointed, Verner gets the slight edge because he came to the Buccaneers with Pro Bowl credentials at the cornerback position and the unintended responsibility of filling Darrelle Revis’ shoes. Instead, Verner has had lapses in coverage and hasn’t gotten pushed around too often by the receivers he’s covering.
Verner, who had five interceptions and a career-high 22 pass breakups last year in Tennessee, has just six pass breakups and one pick this season. What’s worse, Verner has surrendered at least five touchdowns in eight games, and hasn’t come close to the $8 million he’s receiving from Tampa Bay this year.
BEST ROOKIE – WR Mike Evans
The fact that Evans is the Buccaneers’ best offensive weapon also makes him the team’s best rookie, especially in a year when Tampa Bay’s 2014 draft consisted of nothing but offensive players. At the halfway point of the season, Evans has become the Bucs’ go-to receiver, supplanting his mentor, Vincent Jackson, in that role.
Evans is on pace to record 64 receptions for 920 yards and eight TDs this season. That would be the best rookie season for a wide receiver in Tampa Bay since Michael Clayton, the Bucs’ first-round pick in 2004, posted 80 catches for 1,193 yards and eight touchdowns.
BEST FREE AGENT ACQUISITION – DT Clinton McDonald
The Buccaneers have basically whiffed in free agency, but McDonald, who is the team’s starting nose tackle, is the best of the bunch. With 26 tackles and five tackles for loss, McDonald has been a force in Tampa Bay’s inconsistent, but improving run defense.
Against the pass, which is why McDonald was brought to Tampa Bay, McDonald has a sack, an interception and a pass breakup, which shows he can make plays against the quarterback near the line of scrimmage. McDonald, who came from the Super Bowl champion Seahawks, has also been a great leader and locker room presence at One Buccaneer Place.
WORST FREE AGENT ACQUISITION – DE Michael Johnson
Johnson signed a five-year, $43.75-million contract this offseason and hasn’t come close to living up to it. Although he has dealt with ankle and hand injuries, Johnson hasn’t come close to playing up to his enormous athletic potential. With just 15 tackles, two sacks and one forced fumble in seven games, Johnson has been a big free agent bust for Tampa Bay.
What’s even more damning is the fact that Johnson had all of his splash plays – the sacks and fumble – in the Pittsburgh game and has not made an impact play over the last month. Jacquies Smith is beginning to take some snaps away from Johnson and that will likely continue unless his level of play and production increases dramatically.
BEST PLAY OF THE YEAR (SO FAR) – LB Danny Lansanah’s Pick-6 vs. QB Drew Brees
Lansanah intercepted a wobbly pass from Brees and returned it 33 yards for a touchdown to give visiting Tampa Bay a 24-13 lead in the third quarter in New Orleans. The pick-six was Lansanah’s second of the season and it capped off a 24-0 run after the Saints took a 13-0 lead in the second quarter. However, the game would end with New Orleans winning in overtime, 37-31, and this game was indicative of one of many opportunities where Tampa Bay has had a chance to win this season.
Scott Reynolds is in his 23rd year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds enjoys giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: [email protected]
Good analysis PR. How about adding McCown. the thought was that he would come in and show everybody how to run your offensive system. All he showed was don’t do as he says. he was a total waste; worse we didn’t pick up a quarterback like we should have in the draft.
It seems to me that the Bucs are getting better. I think that some changes will help make this team much better. I don’t see Glennon as the answer. I see him as about the same as Josh Freeman. Maybe less. I think Coach Smith knows what to do and I feel he will get it done, but not this year. Rainey played pretty good. Why did they take him out in the second half? The O line showed some good things. When Glennon got sacked, he held on to the ball too long. I am sure next year we will have a new set of O & D coaches. Special Teams is in need of help. I think Vincent Jackson needs to retire or be traded. His heart is not in it. Too many drops.
I’d pick McCoy over David. Scott, two forced fumbles, and one recovery won’t get David to the pro bowl this year either. No one cares about the million tackles, he leads the worst defense in the NFL. No picks from the weakside linebacker in this defense is pathetic. That’s how Brooks made all those pro bowls, picks for T.D.’s, picks that won games. That’s what a pro bowl MVP linebacker does, makes plays that win games. Wow E, he made 3 tackles for a loss yet the Bucs lose by 30, no one cares.
Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha awards, Ha Ha Ha. Rofl
The NFL needs to go to some sort of official state with tackles, the nonsense numbers that Kuechly puts up don’t match what he does on the field – just touching someone as they run by you or over you isn’t a tackle Carolina.
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