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PewterReport.com began a new offseason feature this year, giving readers an opportunity to get their questions answered about the Bucs by the PR staff. Today, Mark Cook answers five questions taken from Twitter submissions and our message boards using the hashtag #PRMailbag. Each week, five of the questions used will earn the person who asked it one of our new Tampa Bay schedule refrigerator magnet.

Question 1. Joe Toller asks, what is going on with the Mike Smith defense? Is it taking time to develop, or what? Doesn’t look different to me. And  Samer Ali asks, What has Mike Smith done differently for this defense? Hard to see much other than more blitzes, which haven’t worked?

Answer: I think the biggest issue is just a lack of time together. It’s really impossible to get enough work in together during training camp and the preseason. Being afraid of injuries is a big part of it, and I do get that. There is such a fine line that coaches walk in preseason. If they keep the starters in, and say a Gerald McCoy goes down, they will get blasted by fans and the media. But when you are installing a defensive scheme that is 180 degrees different than what they have played the last two seasons, there will be growing pains. But it is up to the coaching staff to find a way to make it work, as the NFL season doesn’t care how much time you’ve had to practice it.

My opinion also is that a lack of a pass rush is hurting things as much as anything. I asked Koetter about that today in his press conference and he said that was a factor, especially on Sunday.

“It sure does, no matter how good your coverage is, the rush is the coverage’s best friend. Especially after Robert Ayers went out, when we were just in four-man rush, we just didn’t have a great pass rush. When it was five – and then they kept their tight end in a lot – five and a half, six blocking four, a quarterback like Carson Palmer – in the first two games now, we’ve seen two really good quarterbacks, Matt Ryan and Carson Palmer. Arizona’s got good wide receivers as well, especially with [Larry] Fitzgerald and a quarterback like that that has that kind of time, it’s going to be tough.”

I am confident things get better. This is a more talented defense and also a better coached one that last season. And we have seen flashes. Alterraun Verner contesting passes like he did in the first half yesterday. A 17-tackle performance from Kwon Alexander last week. Small strides, but to me, it shows things are better, even if it isn’t showing up in the stat book just yet.

But at some point the four-man rush has got to win some battles. Every time you blitz, you are leaving a player or a space free. We saw that at one point yesterday when Bradley McDougald came on a safety blitz and didn’t get to Carson Palmer, and the Cardinals veteran quarterback exploited the Bucs defense. Mike Smith has forgotten more about defense than 99 percent of us will ever understand. I am confident we see a better defense as the season improves if they don’t have any more major injuries.

Question 2. Front Proof Media asks, Vincent Jackson seems to be playing with less passion this year. Any insight as to what may be going on with him?

Answer: Well I will never question Vincent Jackson’s integrity and say his passion is gone. Despite the millions of dollars on the table, I firmly believe that Jackson would walk away before he dogged it to just collect a paycheck. But something is amiss and Koetter on Monday admitted as much, saying the precision between Jameis Winston and Jackson isn’t there right now. It is obvious that Mike Evans is the receiver that Winston is more comfortable with, but Winston isn’t afraid to spread the ball around as evidenced by his four TDs to four different receivers against Atlanta. Hopefully for the Bucs sake, Winston and Jackson develop a chemistry and the one thing I am certain of is, they are both huge fans of each other.

Question 3. Shug Smith asks, it appears communication between players was off on both sides of the ball. Can it be fixed before Sunday, or will it take time?

Answer: It better be. A loss to a team that has yet to score a touchdown in two games would be a disaster. I am a glass half full guy, and would think we could attribute a big part of communication issues to the loud stadiums they have played in to open the season. I think a return to home, in what should be in front of a good crowd is exactly what tho team needs right now.

Question 4. LAbucsfan asks, the Rams seem just as schizophrenic as the Bucs. What are the keys to winning this Sunday?

Answer: As mentioned above, I think getting in front of the home crowd and feeding off that energy will be a big help and factor in a game I fully expect the Bucs to win. I would love to see a blowout, but the Rams defense is very good, especially their front four. Protecting Winston to me is the biggest key to winning on Sunday. I don’t see a high scoring affair by any means, but if the Bucs can keep Todd Gurley contained then they have a very good chance of winning this game. I watched the entire Monday night matchup last week against the 49ers and think the Bucs have a better offense than San Francisco. Unless there is another five-turnover game on Sunday from the Bucs, they should walk out of Raymond James 2-1 on the season.

Question 5. Greg D’Cruz asks, Jameis did so many interviews last week, any chance that led to his team not being crisp in practice and the game?

Answer: No Greg I really don’t think that it affected Winston. This guy has been in front of cameras and on the telephone doing interviews since 2013 virtually non-stop. The organization obviously has a desire to get Winston in front of the cameras as much as possible, as part of their job is to enhance his reputation. However, I don’t believe they would ever do it at the expense of his team or the organization. I think it is more along the lines of what Demar Dotson said after the game to some reporters on Sunday, and that is the team perhaps celebrated their win longer than they should have. Koetter will reign that in moving forward I believe. In fact on a national radio show last week he said he was afraid the team perhaps did exactly what Dotson said. I think as a new head coach Koetter also has a bit of a learning curve, and last week going into the Cardinals game was a dose of reality that will benefit him, and the team, moving forward.

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About the Author: Mark Cook

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 mark@pewterreport.com
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scubog
scubog(@scubog)
5 years ago

Vincent Jackson looks disinterested to me. No idea what’s going on with him. He is not the same guy he was before his injury last season and certainly not the 2014 version. There’s just no separation. The only receiver who at times is wide open is Adam Humphries. This game was much closer than the scoreboard showed. If Evans makes a better play on that pass in the end zone and Grimes makes a pick in the end zone like he’s done many times, it’s perhaps a less lopsided duel. The Falcons game was won on three outstanding plays, but… Read more »

Twistedwires
Twistedwires(@twistedwires)
Reply to  scubog
5 years ago

Great points scubog. I was thinking the same things. I didn’t take last week’s win as an indicator of great things to come and I don’t take this week’s loss as terrible things to come. The reality is that this team is in the middle of the pack. Which means that they are better than last year but not solid playoff ready yet. This doesn’t need to be an emotional roller coaster. “Oh, we’re awesome! Oh, no we suck again!” Bucs fans, we don’t suck and we’re not awesome. Let’s keep up the support that there is potential for a… Read more »

Iowabucfan
Iowabucfan(@iabucfan)
5 years ago

Mark, It “I” as in Iowa. Not LA (I do understand the confusion). Maybe I should get a nre screen name.

fredster
fredster(@fredster)
5 years ago

Scubog I noticed the same. Can’t tell what people are really thinking but he honestly seems like doesn’t want to be here and don’t see any fire or emotion.

Lack of pass rush is still killing the D. That simple.

drdneast
drdneast(@drdneast)
5 years ago

So true scubog. It is like I told my friend, another avid Bucs fan, we aren’t as bad as we look but the Cards are as good as they look. it was pretty much apparent to anyone watching that game that it looked liked Jackson was running his routes in cement shoes. My main problem with the game was the Bucs had a chance to make a turn as an team in the right direction by defeating the Cards. Instead, they pulled the same old Bucs stuff by looking like they were unprepared for the Cards intensity. Some may say… Read more »

Iowabucfan
Iowabucfan(@iabucfan)
Reply to  drdneast
5 years ago

You made some good points, drdneast. I trust this was a rude wake up call and the veteran leadership won’t let it happen again.

jiggyjoe
jiggyjoe(@jiggyjoe)
5 years ago

My thoughts are that it was just one game played against a very good team. As long as we win the games we should win and a few of the ones we shouldn’t; we could make the playoffs. BTW, I can’t believe that the Rams beat Seattle….

fredster
fredster(@fredster)
5 years ago

Agree Joe. I can believe the Rams beat them. They always play them very close. Division teams and all…

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