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SR’s Fab 5 is a collection of inside scoop, analysis and insight from yours truly, PewterReport.com publisher and Bucs beat writer Scott Reynolds. Here are a few things that caught my attention this week at One Buc Place and around the NFL.
FAB 1. Be Cautiously Optimistic About These Bucs
The Buccaneers offense hasn’t scored a single touchdown this year. The team has yet to prove it can fix its red zone woes.
Tampa Bay’s defense hasn’t recorded a single sack in 2018. The team has yet to prove it can get to the quarterback.
Wait a minute.
Didn’t the Bucs add defensive ends Jason Pierre-Paul and Vinny Curry in the offseason, along with defensive tackles Vita Vea, Beau Allen and Mitch Unrein?
Isn’t defensive end Will Gholston 15 pounds thinner and looking to bounce back from a down year?
Doesn’t Tampa Bay have a proven new defensive line coach in Brentson Buckner, who is already making his mark at One Buccaneer Place?
The new additions are great, but talent doesn’t win championships.
Cohesive talent does.
It’s not so much skill as it is will.
Wide receiver DeSean Jackson and quarterback Jameis Winston are two of the more talented players at their positions (despite what ProFootballTalk.com’s Mike Florio would have you believe). Yet if they can’t connect on the deep ball and produce some scoring strikes with improved chemistry this year their talent underachieves.
That’s why when Bucs Pro Bowl defensive tackle Gerald McCoy took to the podium on Tuesday to discuss all of the great additions to the team’s defensive line, he did so with one part optimism and another part skepticism.
“It’s great, man. You always want to welcome new guys whether they are a rookie like Vita or Super Bowl champions in J-P-P and Vinny and Beau and Mitch has played on a Super Bowl team, so we have a lot of experience,” McCoy said. “That is what we need. Me going into my ninth year, we need more experience in the room and I am excited about it. It’s going to be good. Here’s the thing, the media, you guys see names and you immediately get excited. There is a lot of work to be done.
“I’ve been doing this a long time. I’ve seen people come in and people go out and I am excited for the names, which is great, but so much work to be done. I look at things a little different. I look at it like now we have guys where we don’t have to lay a foundation. They have the foundation because of all the experience that they have, but so much work to be done. Today is the first day of OTAs. We had Phase One and Phase Two where we learned new techniques from Coach Buck. But, so much work to be done. I don’t get all hype like that. Too much work to be done, so I’m excited for the names, but so much work.”
Why was McCoy, who has labored around inferior talent along the defensive line since he was drafted by Tampa Bay in 2010, so subdued when rattling off the names of some real premier defensive line talent that has made its way onto the Bucs’ 2018 roster?
Because he’s smart.
McCoy has seen this before.
The Bucs signed defensive tackle Clinton McDonald and high-priced defensive end Michael Johnson in 2014 coming off a 7-9 season the previous year. The result? A disastrous 2-14 season that nobody saw coming.
In 2016, Tampa Bay signed defensive end Robert Ayers, Jr. and drafted Spence in the second round. After a 9-7 campaign that year, the Bucs brought back virtually every member of the defensive line that helped record 38 sacks that season in addition to new defensive tackle Chris Baker, who turned out to be a bust. The result? A league low 22 sacks in a 5-11 campaign last year that nobody saw coming.
Before anyone crowns the Bucs “playoff contenders” or Tampa Bay “having the most talented defensive line in the NFL” McCoy wants to see how it all comes together with his own eyes.
I want the same thing.
And after a decade’s worth of getting your hopes up for a long, lost playoff season that has yet to arrive, you should, too.
The Bucs are more talented this year, and general manager Jason Licht and his staff did a very fine job adding talent this offseason. Let’s see how it all comes together in training camp and the preseason.
Licht will be the first to tell you he hates the “Won The Offseason” banner that the national media bestows on some lucky franchise – a franchise that usually doesn’t live up to expectations and fails to make the playoffs as a result, crumbling under the weight of heavy expectations.
Tampa Bay was that team last year.
Fox Sports, NFL Network’s Good A.M. Football show, HBO’s Hard Knocks mini-series and other media outlets, including PewterReport.com, bought in to the hype last summer. With another great draft that featured tight end O.J. Howard and free safety Justin Evans, in addition to free agent wide receiver DeSean Jackson, defensive tackle Chris Baker and strong safety T.J. Ward, the Bucs seemed destined to make the playoffs in 2017.
Tampa Bay has made even more splashes this offseason in free agency and the draft than it did a year ago, but after last season – and other seasons of false hope – this team no longer deserves the benefit of the doubt.
Show me. Let’s see it.
Go ahead and dominate in the preseason. Run the ball at will. Sack the quarterback often. Score touchdowns – field goals in August. And when the Bucs need to kick field goals – make them. Prepare in August like you’re going to play in September through December. Set the tone for the season.
Last year the Bucs didn’t get to the quarterback, couldn’t run the ball effectively and had trouble scoring TDs in the red zone and missed kicks in the preseason and it sure carried over into the regular season.
“Stacking wins” is a term often used at One Buccaneer Place because it’s impossible to get to the playoffs without going on some sort of a big winning streak or at least having a couple of mini-winning streaks within the year. Winning every other game only gets a team to 8-8.
Let’s see this team stack some long runs, stack some red zone touchdowns, stack some long-range field goals and stack some sacks first before we suggest that Tampa Bay might be this year’s New Orleans Saints, who went from worst to first within the NFC South division a year ago.
McCoy has never been more right to take a wait-and-see attitude, and I love his demeanor this offseason. He’s 30 and he knows it. He knows time is running out to get the Bucs to the playoffs and bring a Super Bowl championship back to Tampa Bay.
I’m not saying this year’s Bucs squad won’t make the playoffs, but I’m not here to tell you they are going to, either.
They need to come together on offense and defense with cohesion first. As McCoy accurately notes, that process has just begun. There is still a lot of work to do. That’s what the OTAs, mini-camp and training camp are for.
Be optimistic all you want about the coming 2018 season, Bucs fans.
I’d just suggest you would follow McCoy’s lead and be cautiously optimistic.