Bucs QB Jameis Winston – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers sit with a 2-3 record after five games as they take a much needed rest with a bye week. While most teams would prefer their by week to come a little later, the Bucs believe it couldn’t come at a better times. With a rash of early-season injuries rarely seen, Tampa Bay gave its players the CBA-mandated four days off, then gave them an extra day.
PewterReport.com is taking a look at each unit during the bye week and will offer up our thoughts and grades on how each one had performed through the first five weeks. We will also pick a player from each unit that we feel has been the best in the team’s first five games.
On Friday we offer up our offensive grades and on Saturday we will share our thoughts on the defensive side of the ball.
Through five games, some would say Jameis Winston might be regressing. But if you ask him or the staff they would disagree. While the results on the field might not be meeting the high expectations coming into his second season, Winston has been hampered by a lack of a running game due to injuries to Doug Martin and Charles Sims. Who would have envisioned in Week 1 against Atlanta that by the team’s fifth game a player who wasn’t even on the roster – Jacquizz Rodgers – would be the starting running back against the Panthers on Monday Night Football? Add in the loss of blocking TE/FB Luke Stocker, and the Bucs running game had been ineffective until last Monday. For a quarterback that tends to excel off of play action, it is no wonder Winston has had moments of ineffectiveness.
Winston is 121-of-207 for 1,327 yards with nine touchdowns passing, one rushing and eight interceptions. Winston must improve his ball security, but was most likely pressing during the team’s three losses. Another part of his game that will continue to need improvement is his accuracy. Winston is competing 58.5 percent of his passes, but the offensive staff would like to see that number over 60 percent by season’s end.
UNIT GRADE: C
FIVE-GAME TOP PERFORMER: JAMEIS WINSTON
After having a monster 2015 season, Martin signed a lucrative contract extension deal in the offseason and much was expected from the 2012 first round draft pick from Boise State. Unfortunately, the injury bug grabbed a hold of his hamstring in Arizona in the Week 2 match-up with the Cardinals. Sims was the next man up,
RB Jacquizz Rodgers – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
but failed to impress in two games as a starter and was placed on injured reserve last week giving way to Rodgers, who wasn’t even on the roster when the season started. Rodgers did provide a spark for Tampa Bay in last week’s win over the Panthers, becoming the only Bucs running back to top the century mark so far this season.
The Bucs are hoping Martin is able to return after the bye week and take some of the pressure off of Winston during the final 11 games of the regular season. Through five games the Bucs running game is only producing an average of 88.6 yards per game which ranks them 24th on the NFL. So far this season, the Bucs have gained just 443 yards on the ground, and those numbers will need to dramatically rise for the Bucs to even entertain thoughts of the postseason.
UNIT GRADE: D+
FIVE-GAME TOP PERFORMER: JACQUIZZ RODGERS
While much of the wide receiver talk through five games has been about Vincent Jackson’s average play or if he is past his prime, wide receiver Mike Evans is quietly having a terrific third season in the league. Evan leads the team in every statistical receiving category with 32 catches for 449 yards and four touchdowns. At this pace Evans will top 100 receptions for more than 1,400 yards and 15 touchdowns.
Second-year receiver Adam Humphries is second of the team with 20 receptions for 216 yards but has failed to find the end
Mike Evans – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
zone. Jackson rounds out the receivers with 15 receptions for 173 yards and no touchdowns. The Buccaneers need more production down the stretch from any receiver not named Evans. The Bucs thought they has someone who could be part of the receiver rotation when the signed Cecil Shorts right before the season began but the former Texan has missed the last three games with a hamstring injury.
Perhaps the needed help will come from the return of Louis Murphy who is expected to be back after the bye week. Murphy has been recovering from an ACL injury suffered last season. The team could also re-sign speedster Donteea Dye after the bye week.
UNIT GRADE: C+
FIVE GAME TOP PERFORMER: MIKE EVANS
Like many of the Bucs offensive units, the tight end position has been steady, but not spectacular. Tampa Bay was hoping former second round draft pick Austin Seferian-Jenkins would finally mature and blossom into the tight end they expected, but his previous issues reared their ugly head and the teams was forced to part ways with the former Washington standout following a DUI arrest lat month.
Last year’s surprise, Cameron Brate, has played well so far this year with 17 catches for 197 yards and two touchdowns through five games. The loss of Stocker to the running game can’t be underestimated as it is no coincidence since he went out in Week 2, the Bucs haven’t consistently been able to run the football. Brandon Myers has filled in at times but hasn’t made a big impact as a pass catcher, notching just three receptions for 27 yards and one score.
UNIT GRADE: C+
FIVE GAME TOP PERFORMER: CAMERON BRATE
While it certainly can play better than it has, the Bucs offensive line has performed decent, especially for a unit that had to replace Pro Bowl left guard Logan Mankins. The Bucs thought they had his replacement in J.R. Sweezy, but the former Seahawk hasn’t played a single down in Tampa Bay after suffering a back injury this offseason. Pass protection has been better than run blocking so far this season – evidenced by Bucs doing a very good job against the Rams front four three weeks ago – allowing Winston to throw for over 400 yards in the 37-32 loss.
Bucs G Kevin Pamphile – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
The ground game has struggled for the most part, and even though Rodgers rushed for 101 yards against the Panthers last Monday night, much of that was due to Rodgers ability make things happen on his own. Second-year players Ali Marpet and Donovan Smith, while far from perfect, have been solid this season at right guard and left tackle, but most continue to grow. Joe Hawley has been a steady and reliable center, and Kevin Pamphile has done a nice job for the most part this season replacing Mankins and Sweezy at left guard. Pamphile more than held his own against talented defensive tackles like Aaron Donald and Kawaan Short, making the Bucs front office breathe a little easier since Sweezy hasn’t played this year.
Demar Dotson, another Buc who was paid handsomely in the offseason, hasn’t been his best in 2016. He leads the team in penalties and has given up more QB pressures than we are accustomed to seeing. Dotson will be the first to say he needs to pick up his game over the next 11 weeks.
UNIT GRADE: C+
FIVE GAME TOP PERFORMER: KEVIN PAMPHILE
With an offense ranked 23th in the NFL in total yardage and point scored, it would be easy to to say the coaching hasn’t been up to par, however with injuries to Martin, Sims and Stocker, the Bucs staff has done a solid job with the hand it’s been dealt. And the good news, besides hopefully getting healthy soon, is there is still lots of room to improve and make a dramatic jump in the rankings. Once the team gets the running game going it will help the overall production of that side of that ball. Dirk Koetter has had a few growing pains taking over as head coach as opposed to just the coordinator, but seems to be learning from any issues with clock management and other hiccups through the first five weeks.
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, surfing and family time at the beach. In addition, Cook can be found in front of a television or in Doak Campbell any time the FSU Seminoles are playing. 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
These are pretty fair assessments all the way around. After last season, the offense was supposed to take that next step. That’s why Koetter was kept. And while it hasn’t materialized there are a ton of variables here. We’ve played some damn good defenses and teams so far. We all knew that. However Jameis’ inaccuracies topped with a total lack of a run game is dragging this offense down terribly.
I am a little surprised at he line as well but the sweezy thing pisses me off. How do you sign a guy that has to have back surgery right away? How does that even happen!? I also saw, Donavan smith has given up 25 QB hurries already this season, the most in the league. I think we all agree , the man is meant to be a guard so LT is a position we are going to have to look at at some point here.
The receivers are pretty much Mike Evans at this point, and that is is fantastic at that. I love Humpheries, but as others ave stated, he needs to be running much more intermediate routes.
Hopefully we get Dougie back and he is full go after the buy week. It would be nice to string more than one win together at a time.
You can argue what he’s regressed but he has regressed. Lack of run game hasn’t helped. Hoping last week was sign of things to come and he protects the ball better. He’s got lot to learn still and his accuracy really needs to improve. Love his fire though.
Meant Why he’s regressed….
Spot on Mark. I believe our weakest link at OL is Center; WR is Jackson; Offensive Coordinator is Time Management.
Rewatched the game this morning, two observations. D. Smith gives up to much pressure. He’s a bit slow, and to upright. Needs to get lower, and use better punch with his hands. Don’t see him as anything more then an average LT, wouldn’t mind us using a top pick on one, and move Smith to RT replacing the holding penalty waiting to happen Dotson. Liked what I saw out of Allen Cross. He looked assignment sound, and decleated that safety on JW’s TD pass. I’d like to see him get more snaps as lead blocker, instead of using a TE, he’s built lower to the ground like a true FB, and has more short area pop. Kid did a nice job.
I agree with the dude. We need to use 2 of our top 3, or at worst top 4, draft picks to bolster the OL. This will be the third draft in a row I’ve wanted us to do this, and not by reaching and hoping on Smith. Then depending on how those picks look, we need to take OL on at least 1 of our top 3 picks the following year, or 2 if one of the prior year’s picks doesn’t look like starting material.
It will make JW better, it will make our defense better, and it will make our running game better, regardless of who is back there. That’s important because while you may be a fan of the Dougernaut it’s apparent we’d be better off having him be the feature but not the workhorse, we need a big back who can pound the rock late in the game. Kind of like the one we gave away.
Lastly I’m not sorry to see Vitale go, he couldn’t play his way onto a roster with more holes than swiss cheese. Picked up by the Browns says it all. Another hype special courtesy of PR.
An overall depressing article and still, we’re right were I thought we’d be after 5 games. Injuries and father time has neutered our offense over the last 4 games. I’ll be very excited to get Murphy back after the bye. We have to have some production on the other side of the field. Mike has really excelled this season and taken a step forward. The OL is what it is at this point. Sweezy continues to annoy me & Dot has really not impressed. Doug coming back is essential for Dirk to have a full playbook to use and to keep Jameis from throwing 40+ a game. He’s just not ready yet. Most QB’s aren’t for that matter. Every aspect of the offense can improve…a lot. Let’s hope we’re singing a different tune after the Chicago game.
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