The Buccaneers are off to a disappointing 3-5 start in the second year of the Lovie Smith era. Poor play and poor coaching cost the team a victory at Washington where Tampa Bay choked away a 24-point lead to lose 31-30. PewterReport.com reviews the individual efforts from the first eight games and analyzes the Buccaneers’ performances in its 2015 Midseason Awards.

BUCS 2015 MIDSEASON OFFENSIVE MVP – RB Doug Martin
There’s nothing that helps rookie quarterbacks develop sooner than a strong running game. Being able to turn and hand the ball off to Martin has greatly helped rookie Jameis Winston be effective in the play-action passing game. Martin’s production has kept Winston from having to shoulder the load on offense and that has led to four straight turnover-free games for the young passer.

Martin is Tampa Bay’s leading rusher with 643 yards and three touchdowns on 143 carries (4.5 avg.) and he’s already surpassed his rushing total from the last two years – with eight games remaining. Martin, who is in tremendous shape this season, is in a contract year after the Bucs refused to pick up his fifth-year option and is making the most of it as he’s on pace for 1,286 yards rushing and six touchdowns this year.

He also has 17 catches for 148 yards and a touchdown, which is the most production he’s had through the air since his rookie season. Martin, who leads the league in 26 runs that have resulted in missed or broken tackles, caught 49 passes for 472 yards and a TD that season.

BUCS 2015 MIDSEASON DEFENSIVE MVP – LB Kwon Alexander
It’s a blessing and a curse that a rookie like Alexander is the midseason MVP on Tampa Bay’s defense. It means that he’s playing well – evidenced by the fact that he beat out veteran Bruce Carter for the right to start in Week 2 of the preseason – but it also means that defensive tackle Gerald McCoy and linebacker Lavonte David, the Bucs’ high-paid defensive stars, aren’t playing as well.

Alexander, the Bucs’ fourth-round draft pick, is the team’s second-leading tackler with 59 stops, four tackles for loss, a sack, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. He’s also progressing quite nicely in pass defense, too. Alexander leads the team with seven passes defensed and two interceptions.

Alexander won the NFC Defensive Player of the Week award after the Atlanta game when he produced a career-high 11 tackles, one interception and stripped Julio Jones of the ball in the middle of a big catch-and-run. That performance came on the heels of the murder of his younger brother on Friday, October 30.

Bucs K Connor Barth - Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

Bucs K Connor Barth – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

BUCS 2015 MIDSEASON SPECIAL TEAMS MVP – K Connor Barth
Barth, who played for Tampa Bay from 2009-13 was brought in for one week during the preseason, but was released in favor of rookie Kyle Brindza, which was a huge mistake. Brindza made only 6-of-12 field goals during the first four weeks and also missed a few extra points. The Notre Dame product missed three field goals and an extra point at Houston and then two field goals and an extra point against Carolina, which led to the Bucs bringing Barth back.

Barth, an eight-year veteran, has brought stability back to Tampa Bay’s special teams. He’s never missed an extra point in his career, and he’s connected on 82 percent of his field goals in the NFL. This year, he’s made 12-of-13 (92.3 percent) field goals, including his first 11 with the Buccaneers. His lone miss was a 43-yarder against New York last Sunday.

MOST IMPROVED OFFENSIVE PLAYER – RB Charles Sims
Sims missed the first eight games of his rookie season due to a torn ligament in his foot that occurred during the preseason. He finished last year rushing for 185 yards and one touchdown on 66 carries with a long of 20, while catching 19 passes for 190 yards with a long of 24. This year Sims is bigger, healthier and more experienced and he’s making bigger plays.

Sims has rushed for 284 yards on 61 carries and his 4.7-yard average leads Tampa Bay, and his 59-yarder against New York was a career long. The second-year runner has also made more of an impact as a receiver, catching 20 passes for 238 yards and two touchdowns, with a long of 56 yards on a screen pass against Jacksonville. Sims has become a better tackle-breaking runner and has shown more explosiveness.

MOST IMPROVED DEFENSIVE PLAYER – DE Jacquies Smith
Smith, an undrafted free agent waiver wire claim, was a big surprise last year as he came on during the second half of the season when Tampa Bay benched free agent bust Michael Johnson and recorded 6.5 sacks to finish second on the team. This year, Smith leads the Bucs with five sacks thanks to a career-best three-sack game against New Orleans in Week 2.

Smith has also forced three fumbles, including two at New Orleans and one against Washington that was returned for a touchdown by fellow defensive end Howard Jones. Smith had his own fumble recovery for a touchdown in a 38-31 win against Jacksonville, which proved to be the difference in the game. Smith missed the New York Giants game with an ankle injury, but is on pace to finish with double-digit sacks for the first time in his career.

Bucs TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins had 2 TDs and 110 receiving yards against the Titans – Photo by: Mark Lomoglio/PR

Bucs TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins – Photo by: Mark Lomoglio/PR

MOST DISAPPOINTING OFFENSIVE PLAYER – TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins
Seferian-Jenkins missed seven games during his rookie season in 2014 due to ankle and back injuries and ended the season on injured reserve after having back surgery. After a promising training camp and start to the season in which he had five catches for a career-high 110 yards and two touchdowns, Seferian-Jenkins suffered a shoulder injury at New Orleans in Week 2 and has missed the last six and a half games.

Players can’t help get injured, and Seferian-Jenkins is on the verge of returning to action. But it has certainly been disappointing not having him in the lineup, especially since Mike Evans missed the season opener with a hamstring injury and Vincent Jackson has missed the last two and a half games with a knee injury. The Bucs sure could have used his production, especially in the red zone where the team has bogged down often lately.

MOST DISAPPOINTING DEFENSIVE PLAYER – DT Gerald McCoy
McCoy had a strong start to the 2015 campaign by racking up 4.5 sacks in the first five games and he had another sack and forced fumble called back due to a penalty. But McCoy has only produced four tackles over the last three games and hasn’t recorded a sack since notching 1.5 against Jacksonville before the bye week.

McCoy has been hampered a bit by a sore shoulder, but he suffered that injury in New Orleans in Week 2 and had 2.5 sacks shortly there after. Both head coach Lovie Smith and McCoy have voiced frustration over his recent poor, and McCoy has acknowledged that his production needs to pick up, especially in one-on-one situations. McCoy, who is a team captain, the team’s highest-paid player and its best pass rusher, had 12 one-on-one passing situations against New York and didn’t produce a sack.

BEST ROOKIE – QB Jameis Winston
Winston has been as good as advertised and has already emerged as a vocal leader on offense, as well as a playmaker. After throwing seven interceptions in the first four games of the season, including four against Carolina, Winston vowed to be better. Since the win over Jacksonville, Winston has gone four games without a turnover and helped the Bucs to a 2-2 mark over that span and has ignited the offense.

Winston has completed 57.7 percent of his passes for 1,897 yards with 10 touchdowns and seven picks. What’s been even more impressive is his ability to scramble, especially inside the red zone. Winston, whose speed and mobility were questioned prior to the draft, has rushed for 115 yards on 27 carries (4.3 avg.) with a long of 21 and three rushing scores. Winston is on pace to throw for 3,794 yards with 20 touchdowns and 14 interceptions, in addition to six rushing touchdowns this season.

Bucs SS Chris Conte - Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

Bucs SS Chris Conte – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

BEST FREE AGENT ACQUISITION – SS Chris Conte
The Buccaneers needed to upgrade the play at the safety position this offseason and Conte has done just that. With Bradley McDougald disappointing over the first half of the season, and the oft-injured Major Wright failing to make any impact plays when he is in the lineup, Conte has been a steady force at safety for Tampa Bay.

He’s the third-leading tackler with 49 tackles with four tackles for loss, five pass breakups, two forced fumbles and an interception. More importantly, Conte has stayed healthy this season outside of an ankle sprain during the second half of the Jacksonville game. Conte battled injuries during his career in Chicago, including a concussion last year, but has been a solid upgrade over the team’s play at the safety position last year.

WORST FREE AGENT ACQUISITION – MLB Bruce Carter
Carter was signed to a four-year, $17-million contract after the Bucs did not re-sign four-year starting middle linebacker Mason Foster this offseason. Carter’s $4.25 million salary this year ($3 million base plus $1.25 million roster bonus) was guaranteed, but the team can part ways with him in the 2016 offseason without a cap penalty.

That could be an option as Carter was first beaten out by Alexander, a rookie, for the starting middle linebacker spot after the first preseason game, and then for the starting strongside linebacker spot by Danny Lansanah. Carter has been relegated to special teams duty and plays some occasional downs at the Sam linebacker spot. With just six tackles and a pass breakup, Carter is one expensive backup.

Bucs QB Jameis Winston – Photo by: Getty Images

Bucs QB Jameis Winston – Photo by: Getty Images

BEST PLAY OF THE YEAR (SO FAR) – Winston’s 10-yard TD run vs. New York Giants
With apologies to Alexander’s dramatic strip of Julio Jones, which counted as a forced fumble and a fumble recovery, in a 23-20 overtime win at Atlanta, Winston’s high-flying 10-yard touchdown run against the New York Giants was absolutely spectacular. Winston has scored three rushing touchdowns this season, but his leaping TD against the Giants was by far his best.

That play displayed Winston’s win-at-all-costs mentality and brought the Bucs to within a two-point conversion of tying the Giants in the fourth quarter. That type of daring play not only excites the fan base, but it shows the team he has a take-charge mentality and will courageously lay his body on the line for a win. Winston has already made some dazzling plays during the first half of his rookie season, and there will be more to come. But his 10-yard touchdown leap against the Giants really stands out.

BUCS’ RECORD DOWN THE STRETCH – 3-5 record to finish 6-10
Tampa Bay really needs to win on Sunday at home versus a battered Dallas team that has lost six straight without starting quarterback Tony Romo. If the Bucs don’t win they virtually have no chance of finishing with a winning record this year, as they will fall to 3-6 on the season. Tampa Bay has yet to win back-to-back games in the year and a half that Smith has presided over the team, and the schedule over the second half of the season looks somewhat daunting.

After facing Dallas (2-5), Tampa Bay travels to Philadelphia (4-4) and Indianapolis (4-5). If you are feeling good that the Colts are without Andrew Luck, we’ll remind you that the Bucs lost to backup quarterbacks three times last year (St. Louis and Carolina twice), and backup Matt Hasselbeck is 2-0 as a starter this year and has played well. The Bucs then travel host Atlanta (6-3) and New Orleans (4-5) before visiting St. Louis (4-4), hosting Chicago (3-5) and ending the season at Carolina (8-0). Games against the Cowboys and the Bears appear to be the most winnable, and it will be difficult to sweep the Falcons and Saints – even after capturing road wins against those teams earlier this year. Yet anything less than a 6-10 finish for the Buccaneers would be unacceptable and should lead to Smith’s firing if the team’s record is 5-11 or worse come January.

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About the Author: Scott Reynolds

Scott Reynolds is in his 25th 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 spent six years 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: sr@pewterreport.com
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jongruden
jongruden
5 years ago

I agree with all the awards actually, can’t rebuttal any of them today. I will add to the list the “Plays hard” category- William Gholdston- Scu, lol and Teams “best blocker” Luke Stocker- PR, and fellow posters. ha
I am glad that Winston is showing signs of being that franchise qb we all longed for and we don’t have to keep attacking Mariota to make this pic look better, I’m just happy we finally found stability at the position.

scubog
scubog
Reply to  jongruden
5 years ago

It was one game JonnyG! Give it a rest. You get a negative opinion about a player and no matter what he does your viewpoint never wanes. Once in your dog house always in your dog house. Like them or not, the two 4th round Draft picks you cited are starters.

jongruden
jongruden
Reply to  scubog
5 years ago

Scu- You keep saying this is his only bad game, he has ZERO sacks for the yr, what game was ever a factor in?

scubog
scubog
Reply to  jongruden
5 years ago

Noooo,you have it backwards. It was one game I said he played hard.

jongruden
jongruden
Reply to  scubog
5 years ago

Starters on a horrible team, but yes, Marpet is a decent guard so far but I didn’t like the selection at the time cause Tyler Locket was on the board.

grafikdetail
grafikdetail
5 years ago

sick of all the firing talk… give them time to build a team first … finish out his contract and weight in the pros & cons then

georgehicks
georgehicks
5 years ago

Well Buc fans on national TV and the cowboys. A year ago I thought that Bucs would roll over. But I believe Tampa got it right with the rookies. And I believe that Jameis Winston is the real deal instead of 5 FGoals. Tampa will make some TD’s. The line has to hold its own.I hope Tampa will slow down troubl maker Hardy and Tampa will be firings TD all 4 qtrs. and beat Dallas. I believe Tampa is better then its record. GO BUCS

pinkstob
pinkstob
5 years ago

I also agree with these award selections if I’m assuming things correctly. I’m assuming one player can’t win two of these awards (except best play which makes sense). Otherwise K. Alexander should have won defensive MVP and best rookie. I think both K. Alexander and A. Marpet have outperformed Winston to this point. They both been more consistent and more productive.

pinkstob
pinkstob
Reply to  pinkstob
5 years ago

I just thought of something. The “Best play” should have been a tie with K. Alexander ripping that ball out of Julio Jones arms. That wasn’t just a forced fumble, Julio should have pressed charges against Kwon after the game.

buclover1988
buclover1988
Reply to  pinkstob
5 years ago

of course you dont want to give winston any credit pinkstob. what a surprise. man we are 3-5 bc of winston.theres only 2 games in which he mightly struggled, other than that, hes been fantastic. yes marpet and alexander have been impressive, but winston has led us to victories and has stepped up to be the leader of this team as a rookie. thats a lot. seriously, its like u dont want to credit winston for anything hes done. just being honest.

pinkstob
pinkstob
Reply to  buclover1988
5 years ago

Gil Brandt ranked our rookies in the same order I did. I guess he doesn’t want to credit Winston for anything he’s done either.
http://www.nfl.com/photoessays/0ap3000000577866/todd-gurley-amari-cooper-lead-rookie-pro-bowl-candidates

jongruden
jongruden
Reply to  pinkstob
5 years ago

Gil Brandt is like 85 yrs old, dementia might be getting to him.

buclover1988
buclover1988
Reply to  pinkstob
5 years ago

i could really care less what gil brandt or any other analyst believe. so dont waste your time. its clear as day that winston is a major reason were a better football team this year. winston hasnt had a full arsenal all year and has showed marked improvement every week. you dont want to admit that your just wrong about winston and are too prideful to give winston any kind of credit for anything because you want to “stand your ground”. people enjoy hating on winston and your one of those people. mariota is a fine qb, but so is… Read more »

jongruden
jongruden
Reply to  buclover1988
5 years ago

buclover1988- Your absolutely right about how people who didn’t like Winston or Mariota are still loyal to that opinion no matter what happens. If Mariota has a good game its because he throws short slants, if Winston has a good game they will say it was just one game or two time will tell in yr 3 so on and so forth. The fact is both qb’s look to be the franchise guy for their teams so embrace the future and get rid of preconceived stubborn opinions and open your minds and root for your qb

EastEndBoy
EastEndBoy
5 years ago

Respect your choices Scott….but
1) I’m not sure how Doug Martin isn’t your choice for Most Improved Offensive Player when he’s neck-and-neck with CJ2K for Comeback Player of the Year in the whole league.
2) ASJ gets the Most Disappointing Award because he got hurt?…that’s pretty tough. He was on pace for an amazing year before going down.
3) Most Improved Defensive Player…J Smith…yuck…can we just agree that nobody gets that award this year at the halfway point.

jongruden
jongruden
Reply to  EastEndBoy
5 years ago

EastEndBoy- I agree with maybe comeback player of yr honors but I will give to CJ2K for two reason he is having a better yr and second he was literally sitting on his couch without a team in late July

plopes808
plopes808
5 years ago

I agree with most of these choices except for the following:

1) Most disappointing offensive player I think belongs to Evans. Sure, it’s disappointing that ASJ is always hurt but I think setting a record for dropped passes is more disappointing.

2)Best play of the year should be a tie between the 2 mentioned. I think I’d give the edge to Alexander’s play though.

Horse
Horse
5 years ago

Scott, I would take Cherilus over Conte. I think Conte is part of our Safety problem has he is slow to react. and Jennings over Carter because he cause us a loss; Carter just couldn’t beat out anybody.

EastEndBoy
EastEndBoy
Reply to  Horse
5 years ago

@horse…yes, without a question, Jennings is one of the worst FA signings we have ever had…terrible player…statue of a CB…beaten on plays he himself says he knows are coming yet cannot stop…definitely Jennings and not Carter who is just a ghost.

plopes808
plopes808
Reply to  Horse
5 years ago

ah I almost forgot about Jennings…I was trying to lol

ColoradoBuc
ColoradoBuc
5 years ago

EastEndBoy: ASJ gets Most Disappointing , not because he is hurt, but because: 1) he is aalways hurt and 2) he doesn’t seem to have the desire to play hurt.

jongruden
jongruden
Reply to  ColoradoBuc
5 years ago

^Agree with you on ASJ, huge pussy if you ask me

EastEndBoy
EastEndBoy
Reply to  ColoradoBuc
5 years ago

I can understand that people are disappointed ASJ has been hurt – hey, I am too. I just can’t be disappointed “in” him because he got hurt. Unless you have some knowledge that he’s faking it to sit out healthy, I would rather he just gets better and doesn’t try to play hurt like GMC is doing….then we’d be getting a half-hearted effort from him and fans would be saying he’s terrible because he doesn’t make more than 2 catches (or tackles in GMC’s case) per game anymore. Let’s give the kid a little more time before we start claiming… Read more »

Bschucher
Bschucher
5 years ago

There has been ZERO info lending to the fact that ASJ doesn’t wanna play. You are making that up.

surferdudes
surferdudes
5 years ago

You can let L. David share the award with McCoy. Sapp, and Brooks they ain’t.

plopes808
plopes808
Reply to  surferdudes
5 years ago

Well, David still leads the team in tackles so at least he’s doing something right. Same can’t be said for GMC lately

drdneast
drdneast
5 years ago

Watch your language jongruden although I guess it pretty much describes ASJ.

AZ_BUC_FAN4LIFE
AZ_BUC_FAN4LIFE
5 years ago

My biggest question is this…..Why didn’t they just IR ASJ designated to return, if he was going to be gone so long? Then you have a spot they could have brought someone else in. But of course our Coach has yet to tell us how bad the shoulder was.

scubog
scubog
5 years ago

It’s been disappointing that ASJ has been hurt the same as it’s been disappointing that V-Jax is lame and that Dot got injured in pre-season. But to me a Most Disappointing award needs to reflect his actual play not whether he’s available to play. It’s so immature for some of you to chastise a player and trivialize his injury when you know nothing about his condition or his desire to play. My Most Disappointing offensive player who has actually played would be the free agent TE, # 82 who is so insignificant I can’t even remember his name.

openmindna
openmindna
5 years ago

All this talk has merit but the one thing I read at the end of the article disturbs me. It is my opinion that firing Lovie Smith is not a wise decision even if with a 6-10 record. This organization has done nothing over the last 8 years and I believe its because we have no continuity. Every 2-3 years getting a new coach is not how to get the team on track. We have a very young team with good players who will develop. The offense is proof of the progress thats been made. We have nothing to lose… Read more »