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 Has You Optimistic About The Bucs Through 4 Games?
Scott Reynolds: Pierre-Paul Is Playing At A High Level
The Tampa Bay defense stinks. On Sunday, I called Mike Smith’s defense “absolute garbage,” which it is. Garbage stinks. To be clear, when I’m talking about the defense I’m talking about the reliance on quarters coverage, the game plans and the lack of successful in-game adjustments. I’m not calling the defensive players garbage – although several Buccaneers on defense haven’t played well to start the season. One of those players is not defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, who leads all Tampa Bay defensive linemen in tackles (17) and leads the team in sacks with four. A lot of Bucs general manager Jason Licht’s offseason moves have been hit-and-miss thus far through four games, but trading a third-rounder for Pierre-Paul is clearly his best decision.
Pierre-Paul has been slowed by a knee injury he suffered against New Orleans in Week 1 – a game in which he did not record a statistic despite the Bucs winning 48-40. Since then, JPP has recorded 17 tackles, four sacks, two tackles for loss and a force fumble in the past three weeks. The 29-year old is on pace to record 16 sacks this year, which would be among the best pass-rushing seasons in Bucs history, ranking second behind Hall of Fame defensive tackle Warren Sapp (16.5 sacks in 2000), and ahead of legendary defensive end Simeon Rice (15.5 sacks in 2002). JPP would also become the first Buccaneers defender to record double-digit sacks since Rice put up 14 in 2005.
Perhaps more importantly, what I liked about Pierre-Paul’s performance at Chicago in the 48-10 beatdown at the hands of the Bears is that he played hard the entire game, leading the Bucs with seven tackles and a sack. JPP never gave up and at times was the only Tampa Bay defender flying around and making plays in Chicago. I also liked how he was on the sidelines giving a fiery speech to the defense while team was down, which shows me that he certainly cares, is engaged in what’s happening and is taking on a leadership role. Speeches are great, but real leaders back up their talk with good play and that’s what JPP did against the Bears. Tampa Bay’s defense has a long way to go in terms of putting more pressure on the quarterback, reducing opposing quarterback’s completion percentage – and most importantly – forcing opponents to score fewer points. But Pierre-Paul’s play through four games is certainly a reason for optimism for me.
Trevor Sikkema: DeSean Jackson Is Consistent
We all remember the deep ball woes of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last season. After signing wide receiver DeSean Jackson to a 3-year deal, the team hoped they’d solved their problems of having a non-explosive offense down the field. But, it turned out that signing Jackson and actually getting him that ball deep down the field were two very different things.
Last season Jackson and quarterback Jameis Winston struggled to connect. Whether it was bad accuracy, mistiming or not making decision fast enough, that ball just did not get into Jackson’s hands the way the team envisioned.
This year things are much different — and for the better. Jackson is just two yards behind fellow Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans in terms of yards, Evans at 426 and Jackson at 424, and both of those are in the top 10 in the league. But more important than that is the average yards per catch stat for Jackson. With an average of 24.9 yards per catch, Jackson has the highest rate in the NFL of wide receivers who have at least 15 catches.
It has mostly been quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick connecting with Jackson, to this point, and now that Winston is back there is some concern of a drop off. But it has been good to see Jackson win down the field. They’ll clearly need him to continue to do so to outscore opponents enough to make up for the defense.
Mark Cook: Young Secondary Players Gaining Experience
Yes, I know that isn’t a lot to hang your hat on, but it is a fact. Carlton Davis, M.J. Stewart and Jordan Whitehead aren’t just going to wake up one morning and be good players. And the jury is still out on if they even reach “good” status, buy NFL standards anyway. But there is just one way to find out, and that is trial by fire.
Brent Grimes had most certainly is playing his last season with the Buccaneers. And Vernon Hargreaves is still a huge question mark with his development being hampered by injuries so far. So finding out what you have for next year and beyond is important for the Buccaneers. I love the way Davis responded after taking a beating Week 1 against the Saints. Stewart has shown some flashes as well. And with Chris Conte on IR for the time being, even Whitehead will have a chance to show the Buccaneers his potential moving forward.
I would agree with Reynolds and Sikkema on their two choices. Pierre-Paul has been a great addition to this football team and Jackson is looking like the old DeSean. But neither are long-term contributors to the Bucs future plans. And as mentioned, the jury is still out on the young defensive backs, but by the time the end of the season rolls around, the Bucs front office – whoever might be in charge – will have season’s worth of tape and will have a much better idea of where they stand in the secondary moving forward.
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: email@example.com