The PewterReport.com Roundtable features the opinions of the PR staff as it tackles a topic each week that involves the Bucs.
This week’s topic: What Do The Bucs Want For Christmas? (Besides The Playoffs)
Table of Contents
Scott Reynolds: Good Health, Of Course
There’s nothing better than the gift of health, right? This Buccaneers team has largely been healthy outside of two season-ending injuries to tight end O.J. Howard and nose tackle Vita Vea. And this team has largely been COVID 19-free up until the recent incidents involving left tackle Donovan Smith and running back Ronald Jones II. Those two missed the game at Atlanta last Sunday and Jones will also likely miss this week’s game at Detroit. The Bucs need to get back to being COVID 19-free so they can be healthy and ready for the playoffs, as I’m anticipating this team clinching a playoff berth with a win over the Lions on Saturday.
Bucs RB Ronald Jones II – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
So what does Santa need to bring the Bucs for Christmas? How about good health? No more players going on the COVID-19 reserve list, with the help of their families continuing to make the necessary – and difficult – sacrifices of staying at home so that their husbands, boyfriends and dads can continue to suit up on game day. And the Buccaneers being completely responsible for the rest of 2020 and into 2021, as they have been for the vast majority of the season to stay eligible to play in the remaining games – especially the long-awaited playoffs.
Santa could also bring good health in the way of no more groin pulls or other injuries down the stretch, so that the Bucs can be as close to 100 percent as possible heading into the playoffs. The good news is that with two games left, Tampa Bay is healthier than it was a year ago when wide receivers Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and Scotty Miller were all sidelined due to hamstring injuries. If top cornerbacks Carlton Davis III and Jamel Dean can recover from their groin injuries and stay healthy for the rest of the season – and the postseason – who knows how far this talented Tampa Bay team can go if the rest of the Bucs can remain healthy. Tampa Bay will be 6-2 on the road this season with a win at Detroit, and that’s good news because it will start the playoffs on the road. The key to postseason success will be how healthy this Bucs squad will be come January.
Mark Cook: Sacks, Sacks And More Sacks
Santa Claus is loading his sleigh as we speak and heading out soon to deliver sacks and sacks of toys to children all over the world. After Santa gets done delivering, can we somehow get him to swing over to One Buccaneer Place and toss all those sacks overboard so the Tampa Bay defensive players can pick them up off the practice field and carry them into Detroit this Saturday? And keep several more sacks around for the playoffs?
The Bucs have been really good this season getting to the quarterback – in spurts. Overall, the team has 43 sacks, which is tied for third-most in the NFL. The only teams that have gotten to the quarterback more efficiently than the Bucs are the Steelers, Rams, and Eagles. So getting the quarterback down is something Tampa Bay is clearly capable of, but it seems as of late especially, it takes a while for the defense to get rolling. Of course it makes sense to attempt to get to the quarterback with just the front four. Every time you blitz, you are leaving an open hole somewhere in the defense. But the Bucs have struggled at times getting home without bringing an extra man or two.
In games that Tampa Bay dominated this season it wasn’t just because of an explosive and highly-talented offense, but also with a defense that put pressure on the quarterback. Look at the Packers, Raiders and even the Vikings game recently. While we want to see the secondary play better, there is no better friend to pass coverage than a strong and efficient pass rush. Bucs fans, get your crayons out and get that letter made out to Santa and overnight it to the North Pole. Ask for him to drop off all his sacks on Friday when he is done delivering toys. The Bucs have had a good amount this year, but could always use a few more.
Jon Ledyard: Consistently Dominant Offense
Obviously every team in the NFL would like dominant offense, but it’s realistic on Tampa Bay’s Christmas wish list. The Bucs have looked unstoppable on offense for stretches of nearly every game this season, but they’ve looked just as incompetent for periods of almost every game as well. It’s a befuddling combination of errors on the part of almost every aspect of the unit, but the coaches, who wore most of the blame heading into the bye, may be starting to corner.
Bucs WR Mike Evans – Photo by: USA Today
The Bucs’ offensive game plan against Atlanta was their best of the season, which may sound ridiculous since they scored zero first half points. Sure, a few play calls were frustrating, but tons of first down passes, more play-action than any game this season, horizontal passing concepts, patience on the deep ball … it was all there against Atlanta. Once Tampa Bay cleaned up some protection issues against the Falcons’ exotic pressures, it was rolling.
It’s late in the season to find the kind of continuity the Bucs offense needs to find in order to achieve success in the playoffs, but they are definitely heading in the right direction. If Tampa Bay can dominate some bad Lions and Falcons’ defenses for four quarters over the next two weeks, it’ll lock the team into the fifth seed in the NFC, squaring off against the winner of the NFC East (likely Washington). That’s a game they should win on paper, but if they aren’t able to string together elite performances against bad teams, getting the points they need against Washington’s impressive young defense will be hard to come by. With the Bucs defense struggling mightily, the offense needs to be a unit ready to carry this team through the rest of the regular season and into the playoffs.
Matt Matera: More Picks From The Bucs’ Secondary
What if I told you that two out of the last three interceptions by the Bucs’ defense came from outside linebacker Jason Pierre-Paul? The Bucs have just one interception by a player in the secondary over their last six games, coming from Jordan Whitehead in the fourth quarter against the Rams. Santa needs to gift the Bucs a few more INTs this Christmas season.
Bucs CB Carlton Davis III – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
As exciting as it is when Pierre-Paul gets his hands on the ball, it won’t happen often, and they can’t rely on it. The Bucs are at their best when they get the big spark play from an interception, so they’ll need to pick it up down the stretch. They’ve gotten their hands on the ball, it’s just a matter of turning pass breakups into INTs. It’ll start with playing more press-man at the line of scrimmage rather than continue to get sliced and diced in soft zone coverage. The Bucs have 14 interceptions this year, which is more than the 12 the defense had a year ago – but Tampa Bay needs more.
By playing man they’ll force the quarterback to hold onto the ball longer, which will get the pass rush home, and guys like Carlton Davis III, who leads the Bucs with a career-high four interceptions, can pounce on those chances. Another thing that would help is getting better play from cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting, who has struggled as of late. If he can step up his game, or if the Bucs decide to replace him with Ross Cockrell, we’ll see more picks go to the secondary like they did earlier this season.
Taylor Jenkins: To Play A Full 60 Minutes Of Football
I think that the wish atop the Bucs’ Christmas list this year would have to be 60 minutes of quality football on both sides of the ball in each game moving forward.
Bucs QB Tom Brady and Bruce Arians – Photo by: USA Today
Offensively, the Bucs rank 14th league-wide with an average of 13.4 points in the first half of games this season, including an abysmal eight points per first half over their last three games. In the second half, that number jumps to 15.2 points per game, good for the second-best mark in the league. Defensively, the Bucs are allowing an average of 14.8 points in the first half of games this year, good for 25th in the league, while ranking fourth with an average of just 8.1 points allowed per second half.
Playing a complete game has been an ongoing issue for Tampa Bay – on both offense and defense. For every bit of undeniable talent that the Bucs have on offense, there is just as much potential on defense. We’ve seen how dangerous the Bucs can be when they’re playing at their best. They’ll need to find a way to string that talent and potential into complete football games as the playoffs grow closer.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
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