The PewterReport.com Roundtable features the opinions of the PR staff as it tackles a Tampa Bay Buccaneers-related topic each week.
This week’s topic: What do you want to the Bucs to accomplish vs. the Lions on Friday night?
Scott Reynolds: Tampa Bay’s Pass Rush Come Alive
Buccaneers general manager desperately wanted to upgrade the team’s pass rush in the offseason after Tampa Bay recorded a league-low 22 sacks in 2017. Licht added a pair of run stuffers in free agency in Beau Allen and Mitch Unrein, in addition to signing defensive end Vinny Curry and trading for defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul. Licht added another defensive tackle in the draft in first round with Vita Vea, and welcomed the return of a bigger, healthier Noah Spence, who is slated to become the team’s designated pass rusher. So far we haven’t seen the results when it comes to this revamped unit’s pass rush.
Bucs DE Jason Pierre-Paul – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
In two preseason games, opposing quarterbacks have dropped back a combined 80 times yet the Bucs have just three sacks. Pro Bowl defensive tackle Gerald McCoy recorded the first sack of the preseason in Miami, while reserves Spence and Patrick O’Connor split a sack. Last week in Tennessee, Curry had a sack called back due to a penalty, but the Bucs only registered one quarterback capture against the Titans, and that was by reserve DaVonte Lambert. The Bucs have logged nine quarterback pressures, led by two from Curry, but it hasn’t been enough.
In an rough-and-tumble NFC South division that features three great quarterbacks in Atlanta’s Matt Ryan, Carolina’s Cam Newton and New Orleans’ Drew Brees, who happens to be Tampa Bay’s Week 1 opponent, putting pressure on the passer and recording sacks is paramount to victory. Three sacks in two games isn’t going to cut it. That’s leftover crap from the 2017 season. I want to see the Bucs’ pass rush come to life against Detroit with the starters playing at least a half. Pierre-Paul needs to get home and take the QB down, as does Curry. Spence needs to come alive and be that situational pass rusher the team envisions he’ll be this year. Defensive coordinator Mike Smith should even send a blitz and have linebackers Kwon Alexander and Lavonte David get into the QB hunting season. Getting three or four sacks against the Lions would go a long with in helping the confidence of the defensive line and showing the fans that this unit has turned the corner and that more quarterbacks will fall in 2018.
Mark Cook: Get Out Alive
Reynolds isn’t wrong. The pass rush, despite a huge upgrade on paper at least, has yet to come alive. We saw that last preseason and it continued on into the regular season where the Bucs only notched 22 sacks.
But honestly, at this point, I just want to see this team come out of the game on Friday healthy. The teams that stay the healthiest during a season always have a better chance of playing late into January. The Bucs have already suffered a number of annoying injuries in training camp, and this week received a major scare when left tackle Donovan Smith went down with what looked to be a serious knee injury. This team is no doubt deeper at a lot of positions, but offensive tackle is not one of them. And even if all the backups were healthy, you are talking about the quarterback’s blind side protector. Smith has been criticized for this play, even by PewterReport.com at times, but other than losing a quarterback for the year, this team is no position to overcome a Smith season-ending injury.
The team will play their starters into the third quarter most likely, and everyone in the stadium – especially the coaches – will be holding their breath on every single snap until the backups are inserted in the third quarter. This team deserves some good luck with injuries. Fingers crossed on Friday Dirk Koetter isn’t talking a significant injury to a Buccaneer in his post game press conference.
Trevor Sikkema: Ronald Jones To Carry the Load
Ronald Jones should get 20 carries on Friday night. He likely won’t, but he should.
11 yards on 12 carries isn’t going to cut it, and right now that’s what Jones currently has for the Buccaneers. Jones’ lack of production isn’t from a lack of talent. It’s from a lack of experience and a lack of confidence because of that. The Buccaneers need to do everything they can to try to spark the confidence in Jones, and that won’t happen by having him watch from the sidelines.
I understand that the third preseason game is often the “dress rehearsal” and that most of the starters will play most of the game. But the Bucs already know what they have in Peyton Barber. He won’t gain anything by getting a few extra preseason carries. For Jones, however, those extra carries could mean everything.
Right now Jones is as useful for the Buccaneers as if he were inactive on game day. I know that’s harsh, but that’s reality. The only way you’ll accelerate his learning curve is by getting him live action. They have two more live action opportunities before the games start to really count. They’ll need a confident Jones when they do.
Feed Jones — early, often and all game.