CB Vernon Hargreaves – Photo by: Getty Images
CB VERNON HARGREAVES III
When you start a rookie cornerback there will be some growing pains. Some times they hurt worse than others. Saturday was one of those painful days both literally and figuratively. Hargreaves was picked on by Drew Brees for a big part of the game and the rookie from Florida was beaten a number of times. In his defense he was shaken up in the first half and then later in the game but was able to tough it out. Despite his struggles Hargreaves did manage six tackles along with two pass breakups. Better days are ahead for Hargreaves, and days like Saturday will become more and more rare as he develops and learns the slightest errors can turn into big plays, first downs and touchdowns.
QB JAMEIS WINSTON
Casually glancing at the stat sheet Winston’s final numbers don’t look terrible. But the bottom line is, elite quarterbacks find ways to win tough, meaningful games in December. To be fair, it isn’t like Winston had a ton of weapons to work with, and after the Cameron Brate injury, he lost one of his favorite targets. But two very costly interceptions on poor decisions really hurt the Bucs chances of winning, and basically put a stake through the heart of the Bucs playoff chances.
Quarterbacks get took much credit when they win and too much blame when they lose. Again to be fair, Dirk Koetter did him few favors in the second half, throwing 25 times and only running the ball eight times., despite the team averaging over four yards per carry. In fact, Winston dropped back over 20 times in a row from midway through the third quarter, until the end of the game.
But that is life in the NFL, and a lesson hopefully learned. Winston finished 23 of 35 for 277 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. Winston also took a costly sack in the first half on a ball he could have thrown away. The second half sack wasn’t one that can be pinned on him.
KR JOSH HUFF
Josh Huff seems like a nice guy. And the staff thinks he has potential and brings a speed dynamic to the team. However if Huff is lined up to return kicks again next week, someone should have to answer for it. Once again, a mishandled kickoff spelled disaster. Opening the second half with the Bucs down just six points, the ball got way from Huff who dropped it after gathering it in and was tackled inside the five. A run went for no yards next, and that was followed with with an ill-advised Winston interception that lead to another Saints score and a 20-7 lead.
RG ALI MARPET
The Bucs’ shuffled-up offensive line did a good job protecting Winston, limiting the Saints to two sacks and four total quarterback hits. The group also did a fairly decent job in the rushing attack. Led by Jacquizz Rodgers, the Bucs gained 4.2 yards per carry but ran just 21 times for 89 yards. Marpet was the line’s weakest link Saturday, however. The second-year right guard got beat a few too many times and committed three penalties. Two of those penalties – a hold and false start – came within four snaps of each other. Marpet’s other infraction – a fourth-quarter hold to try and keep Saints defensive tackle Nick Fairley from teeing off on Winston – was declined in favor of Winston’s intentional grounding penalty.
As mentioned above, when the coaching staff watches the film they will most likely wish they had leaned on the running game a little more, particularly in the second half when the last run came with 4:10 left in the third quarter. Granted the Bucs were playing from behind, but the Bucs defense struggled much of the game getting off the field and one way to keep the Saints from scoring was the use a ball-control approach. The onside kick was also an odd decision as the Bucs had all three timeouts left with two minutes left. Even had the Bucs forced a punt, most likely they would have been pinned inside their 20 with no timeouts, needing to go at least 80 yards to tie the game.
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 [email protected]
Mark, I can’t buy into this on Christmas Day. It was the whole team that was Disappointing; none of those player did anything that bad to be on the list. Idon’t believe our Coaching helped these players tonight. Wrong passing scheme when the OL couldn’t block long enough to throw the ball accurately down the field. Koetter should have thrown shorter and be quick about it to. Smith didn’t get enough pressure on Brees and why we played back so far is beyond me.
Two weeks ago Huff let N.O. back in the game with a muffed kick return. Give Peyton credit, he tested Huff at the perfect time, and this time it did contribute greatly to our loss. That’s good coaching on their part, not so much us. Koetter should take a lesson from Garrett, and Peyton, give up play calling duties. Wearing both hat’s rarely works out well. Either you want to be a play caller, or a H.C., pick one. If we want to be a run first team that relies on play action, we better improve our stable of backs, and build the O line. A first round wide out will do sqwat until we can protect Jameis, and run the ball effectively. Bottom line, we’re not there yet. Winning the season finally at home, to go 9 7 is more then we could’ve hoped for this year. That should be our goal, this is not a team worthy of being in the playoffs.
Didn’t you see Sean Payton calling plays?
Our lack of run defense sure made it difficult to stop the more balanced Saints attack. The outcome of this game was disappointing, but like Dirk Koetter noted, the effort was there. Last year this team would have gone in the tank. Only the Falcons and Broncos home games left me thinking we weren’t competitive and “sucked.” What games like the loss against the Cowboys and this one against the Saints do is highlight weaknesses. Jason Licht and staff know much better what is needed to take the next steps to improve the team. In my view, its protection and weapons for Jameis.
Not in agreement on several of these: 1st, the Bucs needed to gain yards quickly once they were down by two touchdowns in the third. The Bucs defense could not stop the Saints ground game, so the Saints could easily put together a slow, 10-minute drive if they felt like it. I was relieved that we gave up the ground game and managed to be one score behind with 3 time outs and the 2 minute warning left. The no huddle worked well, too. Finally, a screen pass is similar to a running play, with a low chance of an interception and with a higher chance of a big gain than a rush gives you. They did keep using those.
2nd, again because the Bucs defense could not stop the Saints ground game, the onside kick gave them one more opportunity to get the ball back with time on the clock and timeouts to spare. It almost worked, too. The receiver bobbled the ball and dropped it on the ground. The Bucs coverage just couldn’t beat him to it there.
3rd, Josh Huff has had some trouble receiving Lutz’s weird, short, near the sidelines kickoffs. However, he’s gotten touchdowns on kick returns as an Eagle. I wouldn’t give up on him, especially if Ryan Smith is your alternative. He’s also made mistakes and has no track record of NFL success as a returner. Still, you’re right. Huff’s cold streak has probably landed him in Koetter’s special teams doghouse for the rest of the season.
Peyton has given up play calling duties in the past. Garrett was stripped off his duties by J.J., saying he needed to concentrate on being the head coach. They’ve been better since. That doesn’t mean you won’t see them heavily involved on game day. Bellichick is a defensive genius, he doesn’t call the defense on Sunday. Koetter has to let go, and let the next guy make a name for himself, that would be Monkin. Coaches like Garrett through experience have learned to trust the guy they hired to do the job as well, or better then them. IMO, it’s the best dynamic for a coaching staff.
I disagree with this list quite a bit.
First of all on the defense, the backfield including Hargreaves played well considering the defensive line couldn’t rush Brees worth a damn. No backfield in the league can cover the Saints receivers if Brees is given time to throw as he was throughout the game. The blame for the productive offense of the Saints is squarely and entirely on the defensive front seven, particularly the line. With Gholston out it seemed to really disrupt the performance of the entire line.
Secondly, I don’t put Winston on the most-disappointing list. He didn’t play badly, he didn’t play especially well wither, but without his favorite red zone receiver in the lineup that made the difference in TDs that almost certainly would have been scored if Cameron Brate were on the field instead of Brandon Myers. That’s not Winston’s fault.
Marpet – yes, he got called for several penalties, but overall he and his mates on the offensive line did a decent job protecting Winston who was only sacked twice, same as Brees. That’s good protection, and the run blocking was also reasonably effective considering the yards per carry in excess of 4.
The only “most disappointing” players on the team were the defensive line as an ineffective unit, and Josh Huff, who should be cut. Not only did he muff another kickoff return but he also didn’t play well when he caught one of Jameis’ throws and was promptly tackled on the open field by a safety. He just isn’t productive.
Finally, on the play calling, we cannot fault Dirk Koetter for going heavy on the passing after we got two touchdowns down. Jameis would be the last to complain about the ball being put in his hands. The problem more than anything was losing his most effective red zone receiver in the second half. The two interceptions hurt, of course, but we still had the opportunity to win late in the fourth quarter, but lacked the weapons and had a defense that never took away the ball a single time all game. We are a team that wins with take-aways, and when we don’t get any we lose.
There is only one thing this team is lacking in order to go to the playoffs…talent. Specifically, a WR with speed that can take the top off the defense and complement Mike Evens. You’ll be surprised how much better the OL gets when that happens. We do need another quality lineman even if Sleezie, Breezie, or what ever his name is comes back to play. A tight end with speed to go with Cam would be nice.
On defense I know about safety and another edge rusher, but what we really need is depth.
First round I say BPA.
VH3 is definitely at the top of the list for me.
Hargreaves struggled early but played better down the stretch.
It’s hard to blame Koetter for trying the onside kick. Do you really think we could have gotten a three and out the way the Saints were moving the ball? Even after the failed onside, we gave up 8 yards on a first-down run that basically ended the game.
The biggest disappointment to me is the front office. It was obvious to everyone before the trading deadline that Jameis needed some offensive weapons after all the injuries. Instead of picking up someone to help, they decided this wasn’t the year to make a run and as a result, Evans was the only receiving threat on the field after Brate got hurt.
And just which trading partner is going to offer something for nothing and who are you picking up this late in the season with any chance of helping the team? These street guys are available for a reason. What hurt most was the rapid decline and injury to Vincent Jackson, the injury to Cecil Shorts and ASJ literally taking a shit. Recovering from that has been a real issue as you noted, but fixing it during the season is nearly impossible.
It’s extremely rare for an offensive skill player to become available via any means after the season starts. It’s unrealistic to expect the cavalry to come to the rescue when your team leads the entire league in players on IR, as the Bucs did this season.
Frankly, it’s a wonder that the Bucs avoided another losing season give that fact.
It’s going to be an interesting off season to say the least. A lot of holes to fill, with new questions now at running back, once thought to be a strength. Koetter crows about having four good backs, but I’d trade them all for one Zeke Elliott. I think Sunday’s game is the biggest of the season, and not because of play off possibilities. Finishing the season on a three game losing streak, and another home loss could be devastating to this young team, and fan base. The Panthers won’t be going through the motions, they’ll want to embarrass us at home. We need to come out, and set the tone for next year. Let’s go Bucs!
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