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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. Bucs Are Wise To Stick With Fitz For Now

It wasn’t supposed to be this way for Tampa Bay’s offense.

The plan was for offensive coordinator Todd Monken to call plays in the preseason for experience and then for head coach Dirk Koetter to resume play-calling duties once the regular season came around.

Then all of a sudden, Monken showed a real knack for play-calling and Tampa Bay’s offense was scoring touchdowns in the red zone, and averaging 28 points per game, while the Bucs’ three quarterbacks combined to complete over 67 percent of their passes for six touchdowns and zero turnovers in August.

Koetter didn’t want to rock the boat and wisely stuck with Monken in the play-caller role once Week 1 rolled around.

The plan was for Ryan Fitzpatrick to start the first three games and use his veteran experience to help Tampa Bay avoid a 0-3 start during Jameis Winston’s three-game suspension. When Winston returned after the Pittsburgh game he would reclaim the starting quarterback duties.

Then all of a sudden, Fitzpatrick turned into FitzMagic, and Tampa Bay has the top-ranked offense and passing game through three weeks, in addition to the third-best scoring offense in the NFL, averaging 34 points per game. Meanwhile, Fitzpatrick became the second-leading passer in the league behind only Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes.

Koetter doesn’t want to rock the boat and will wisely stick with Fitzpatrick as the team’s starting quarterback this week when Tampa Bay travels to Chicago to take on a much improved and dangerous Bears team this Sunday.

Koetter continues to make all the right moves during this promising start to the Bucs’ 2018 campaign.

It’s ironic that the Tampa Bay Times – almost universally – wants Winston to start immediately when its columnists were calling for the Bucs to cut him during the summer when his three-game suspension was announced.

Cut him! But start him!

I don’t get it.

I had faith in Fitzpatrick all the way, dating back to my SR’s Fab 5 column immediately after Winston’s suspension was made public. And I still believe in Winston and that he can be a franchise-caliber starter in Tampa Bay moving forward in the near future.

It’s just that in the present and in the immediate future, Fitzpatrick is off to a record start that can’t be ignored. At age 35, Fitzpatrick has become the first NFL quarterback to throw for 400 yards in three consecutive games. Not Tom Brady. Not Peyton Manning. Not Drew Brees. Not Dan Marino, nor Matt Ryan nor Philip Rivers.

It’s Fitzpatrick, and none of that yardage came in garbage time as the Bucs began the 2018 campaign with a 2-1 start. Fitzpatrick is averaging 410 passing yards per game, but more importantly, he is 4-2 in his last six starts, while Winston is 2-10 in his last 12.

Bucs QB Ryan Fitzpatrick - Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Bucs QB Ryan Fitzpatrick – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

This isn’t a Fitzpatrick vs. Winston column. I really like both quarterbacks and the Bucs do, too. I like Fitz’s hot hand right now, and I like the fact that Winston will be ready when Fitz cools off. Winston is coming off his best-ever preseason in which he looked razor-sharp, completing 30-of-41 passes (73.2 percent) for 388 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions, no fumbles and a 126.9 QB rating.

The only questionable Winston pass that I can remember that was a near interception in the preseason came in Tennessee on a jump ball in the end zone thrown off his back foot into traffic. Yet Chris Godwin out-jumped the Titans defensive backs and came down with a terrific touchdown instead of allowing the pass to get picked off.

By comparison, Fitzpatrick completed 17-of-28 passes (60.7 percent) for 183 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions in the preseason and had a QB rating of 79.9. Three of the drives that Fitzpatrick engineered in the preseason resulted in rushing touchdowns (two by Peyton Barber and one by Ronald Jones).

But now Fitzpatrick has completed 78-of-111 passes (70.3 percent) for 1,230 yards with 11 touchdowns, four interceptions and a QB rating of 124.8, which is second in the league only behind Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes, who has thrown 13 touchdowns and no interceptions in the Chiefs’ 3-0 start.

Right now, FitzMagic is still in the air and Fitzpatrick’s 1,230 yards lead all NFL passers – ahead of Ben Roethlisberger’s 1,140 yards and Drew Brees’ 1,078 yards. DeSean Jackson (312 yards, three TDs) and Mike Evans (367 yards, three TDs) are the first pair of teammates in NFL history to each record at least 300 receiving yards and three touchdown catches through their team’s first three games of a season.

Fitz’s magical start can’t be ignored, and Koetter is wise to not ignore it and continue to start him this week in Chicago – and perhaps beyond until the FitzMagic wears off.

Meanwhile, Tampa Bay Times columnist Martin Fennelly suggests that Bucs general manager Jason Licht trade Fitzpatrick for draft picks – to a team that Tampa Bay plays later in the year.

Bucs QB Ryan Fitzpatrick - Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Bucs QB Ryan Fitzpatrick – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

“Fitzpatrick has been a savior. Think 49ers GM and former Bucs great John Lynch doesn’t wish he had a Fitzpatrick about now, with Jimmy Garoppolo out for the year? If Winston returns and plays well, I’d ship Fitz for a third- or fourth-rounder.

If only it was editorially appropriate to insert a “shake my head” emoji into this article right about now.

Remember that Winston missed three games due to a shoulder injury last year and the Bucs’ 2-1 start this season is why Licht and Koetter wanted Fitzpatrick back for one more year. And remember that third-string quarterback Ryan Griffin, although he looked good in the preseason, has never taken a snap in an NFL regular season game.

No, the Bucs should not trade Fitzpatrick this year – to a team they are going to play in November – for middle-round draft picks. That’s asinine.

Fennelly continues: “The problem is the Fitz and pixie dust. What if the Bucs beat the Bears to go to 3-1? Boy, are they in trouble.”

The Bucs are in trouble – if they beat the Bears to improve to 3-1 on the season with Fitzpatrick at quarterback?

Isn’t the goal of every NFL teams to win games? How exactly would a 3-1 record during Tampa Bay’s most difficult part of the schedule be “trouble?”

Just because of a media-manufactured quarterback controversy? At 3-1 there is no controversy. Fitzpatrick stays at quarterback until he doesn’t play well resulting in back-to-back losses with him at the helm. Then Koetter thinks about putting Winston in.

Bucs QB Jameis Winston - Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Bucs QB Jameis Winston – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

Everything I’ve heard tells me that this organization believes in Winston for the long term. It’s not like they have to see Winston do this or that in 2018 to cement his future in Tampa Bay. The Bucs saw a more accurate quarterback when Winston returned from his injury last year. They saw Winston lead the Bucs to a comeback win in his last regular season game – the 2017 season finale victory over NFC South champion New Orleans.

Even before the team saw him dazzle in the 2018 preseason, the Bucs had already picked up his fifth-year option next year and committed $20.92 million to Winston in 2019.

Barring any type of meltdown – on or off the field next year, Winston will either get a long-term contract extension that will pay him $20 million per year in 2020 and beyond, or he will get the franchise tag that will pay him north of $24 million for one year in 2020 as the team works towards a multi-year extension.

At age 24, Winston’s long-term future with the Bucs is all but secure. Wisely, Koetter and Licht aren’t focused on that. They are focused on what every head coach and general manager should be consumed with from September through December – winning games and making the playoffs.

Right now that’s with Fitzpatrick leading the way.

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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 protected]
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DonkeyHunter

“It’s ironic that the Tampa Bay Times – almost universally – wants Winston to start immediately when its columnists were calling for the Bucs to cut him during the summer when his three-game suspension was announced.”

Almost as ironic as a certain PR reporter praising Koetter, yet was leading the “Fire Dirk For Gruden” campaign all off-season.

How’s that working out?

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BucWild02

Man, it’s cold in the shade!

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76Buc

Then let’s fight there.

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BucWild02

Huh?

So, my comment isn’t so obvious. Let me fix that…

Man(Donkeyhunter), it’s cold(blooded) in the shade(that you’re throwing at PR)!

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76Buc

I agree BucWild. I was referring to the 300 Spartans:)

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tog

My favorite is all the reporting PR did about how Winston would never do anything bad. To quote Scott Reynolds:

“September 20, 2014 is the day Winston changed. That was the day that football was taken away from him…”

And then when the Uber driver came out it was “nothing’s happened in the 2 years since!”

It’s hard to keep things straight when you got so many darts!

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tog

Scott, to be blunt I was hugely disappointed in how PR and yourself covered what happened with Winston. Because I’d had such respect for your and PR’s work, I listened to everything you put out about Winston and the Uber driver. And what I heard was a lot of poorly informed and regressive defending of Winston (both explicitly and implicitly). Yourself and the rest of PR went out of their way to minimize both the timeline (“It was 2 years ago”) and the nature of his actions. Both yourself and Mark defended him by, literally, stating that “Did he even… Read more »

Naplesfan

Gee, I also remember Scott flogging his “defense doesn’t matter anymore in the NFL, now it’s all about the passing game” all last off-season and pre-season. Yet, here we are, about to face the Bears, and suddenly Scott is worried that our defense can’t even stop a mediocre defense, while he frets that the very good Chicago defenders are about to throttle the league’s best offense. Could it really have been that Scott was just making up excuses for Licht’s rotten record in drafting and signing free agent defenders for his entire tenure at Tampa Bay? Naw, really? Look, yes,… Read more »

Naplesfan

Correction to my my second para. above … should read:

Yet, here we are, about to face the Bears, and suddenly Scott is worried that our defense can’t even stop a mediocre offense, while he frets that the very good Chicago defenders are about to throttle the league’s best offense.

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BucWild02

LA Rams have the best defense in the NFL, arguably. They have a defense filled with Pro Bowl players, All PRos and future HOF candidates: Donald, Suh, Brockers, Talib, Peters, amongst others. They just gave up 31 points at home to a Minnesota team that previoiusly lost to the (laughingstock)Buffalo Bills.

DEFENSE IS DEAD.

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BucWild02

Compelling case to keep Fitz in at starter. Respectfully I disagree. The healthy #1 overall draft pick QB whose future with the franchise is tied to the future of the front office and coaching staff need to put their guy out there. Every game he’s on the roster, healthy and not starting is one more game that argues against keeping him or them. It’s a shot to his confidence, his team mates confidence, and the fan’s confidence. Make no mistake, at their level, confidence is everything. There isn’t a better opportunity to put Winston back in there. He’s the starter,… Read more »

Buc-n-Philly Fan

We have seen you state this probably 20 different times. We know your take. It is not going to happen. Fitz WILL start this game. He should. His Teamates want it and have publicly said so (D-Jax). It is the correct play for where we are right now. Don’t worry BucWild, Winston is not going anywhere and he will start this year. Just not until after the bye. And no, Koetter will not be shown the door for making that call. I believe the GM and Ownership think this is the right move too. Go Bucs! Rate this item:Thumb UpThumb… Read more »

BucWild02

I see. So it isn’t a mystery after all? We all KNOW it’s going to be Fitz starting. I wonder why the Bucs haven’t come out and just stated it then. Are they gaining a competitive advantage by keeping it a secret? Some secret. Lol. And DJax said after Philly but before Pittsburgh that he would ride the hot hand at QB just like NBA2K when a player is on fire. Fitz isn’t on fire any more. He lost. He threw 3 picks and could have thrown 3 more if the passes weren’t dropped by Pittsburgh players. DJax – 3… Read more »

DonkeyHunter

“DJax – 3 catches for 37 yards vs the 29th ranked defense in the NFL.”

Oh boy, we’re cherry picking stats? I want to play!

Last season when we faced the 31st ranked defense in the NFL, DJax had 2 catches for 20 yards.

Crazy, right? He’s already matched his TD total, halfway to his yardage total, doubled his YPR total from last season.

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BucWild02

I didn’t think I was cherry picking stats. I was just pointing out that Fitz and DJax had a connection in week 1 and 2 which was when he made his comment about the hot QB. Week 3 was a totally different story. That’s why I put D.Jax’s numbers up.

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Dman

I’m trusting Koetter on this. He wants to win – period. This isn’t about the future, it’s about Chicago. That said, I expect Jamies to be starting coming out of the bye week. Jamies is our #1 guy. He was our best QB in preseason. He finished last year strong. And he is the long term guy. He needs to get back on the field.

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BucWild02

After this week, Tampa’s offense will be in the top ten still, but definitely not #1. The Rams will own that spot after destroying Minnesota in a shootout on TNF. Does that really matter most? The Raiders are averaging 400 yards per game(0-3), Texan 396 per game(0-3), Lions 393 yards per game(1-2), and the Vikings 391 per game(1-2-1). Thats 4 teams with top ten offenses that are a combined 2-10-1.

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Buc-n-Philly Fan

We happen to be 2-1. I wonder who was at the helm???

I am not in favor of Fitz being the long term option but I am for the hot hand that damn near got us back in that game last week. We lost as a Team not because of Fitz. We were in that game but not in spite of Fitz.

You are stuck on one idea. We will agree to disagree. Enjoy the game Sunday!!

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BucWild02

You good Philly man. I’ve brought up multiple points. I’ve brought up multiple comparisons to other players who have been suspended or injured and came back. I’m not stuck on anything other than the Bucs winning this week and in future weeks while keeping the front office and coaches from getting fired. Fitz is great. The team is lucky to have him as Winston’s backup. He lead a very talented offense to a couple of good wins against three really good playoff teams that were missing some of their most talented players. Rate this item:Thumb UpThumb DownSubmit Rating00 No votes… Read more »

wnb0395

Your comparing apple to Oranges when comparing Foles to Fitz. If Foles would have played at Fitz level he would still be starting or if Fitz would have played at Foles level then Winston would be starting this week. Foles never played at a pro bowl level or even top 10 QB level. Fitz is playing at a top 2 Qb level right now. Find me a comparison where the back up is playing as a top 3 Qb and filling in for a QB who is out because of behavior not injury or is even out because of injury.… Read more »

Jordan Chavez

If Monken has had a great influence on the Bucs Offensive success, which I think we can all agree with, then why wouldn’t Winston get the benefit of the doubt to put the offense in the same situations that Fitz is doing? Can we all not agree that the weapons on this offense are loaded and that this year we are seeing all of them utilized properly? Winston is the better and more talented quarterback. The numbers show it. Look at the preseason when all 3 qbs were playing lights out. Winston was still #1. Look at his stats last… Read more »

Jordan Chavez

And I’ve got to respectfully disagree with you again Scott. Bringing up Fitz record as a starter these past 6 games vs Winston’s last 12 is kinda out of context too. I looked up the combine win % of the teams fitz played and its .465. The teams Winston has faced is .604 and 8 out of the 12 were playoff teams that Winston faced last year….

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Horse

Stats can be very misleading and you can analyze some of it anyway you want to.
The only stat that I know was we missed alot of tackles; two of them resulted in long touchdowns. Also I don’t understand Mike Smith scheme that DB’s can press, but Grimes never has to.
The other stat that I know is that Fitzpatrick threw 3 interceptions and one was for a touchdown, and his total passing yards were not good at halftime and we were down by 23 points.

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revfish

Excellent Fab five Scott! One disagreement and then 2 comments. Chicago is not a better team than Philadelphia, New Orleans, or Pittsburgh. They had to come from behind to beat Arizona. If we can beat Philly and New Orleans, It makes no sense that we are bested by the Bears. No one has stopped our offense, and we were dropped passes from winning Monday night. The bears are not a pushover but we should still win It makes no sense that we are best at by the Bears. No one has stopped our offense, and we were dropped passes from… Read more »

dharbert

Scott, the Fab 5 articles are still not showing up on the ‘articles’ page. What’s the deal?

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surferdudes

I think the Bucs are starting Fitz to protect Winston from the Bears pass rush. Winston won’t start the game, but he could finish it after Fitz is knocked silly by Mack. When blitzing Kwon, or David they have to get a clean shot at the Q.B. to be successful. If they get picked up by a blocker they are to small to get past them, or push them back into the Q.B.. The Steelers on the other hand have massive L.B.’s that run right through backs, and tight ends. I also notice when our L.B.’s do blitz they come… Read more »

Chris

I was at the game, and that play between AB and Grimes was right in front of me. When I saw that Grimes was lined up in zone coverage, I knew right away that Ben was putting the ball there. The fact that Grimes completely whiffed on the tackle made it all the more bad.

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sunshineben

WHY so much love for Winston ????? Has he proved to be worthy of the 1st pick in the draft or has he been passed by by qb’s taken after him on teams with lesser weapons. He is accurate throwing the football or just average with so many weapons? Didn’t he cost his school Big $$ following female issues with charges of rape .. Did you see Winston (video) in the cafe screaming the nastiest things he wanted done to some female in front of other students . Didn’t Winston “borrow” crap legs from Publix and tried to lie his… Read more »

BucWild02

Crab legs controversy, cafeteria table top meme, bee-bee gun shoot out in the apartment complex breaking windows, Erica Kinsman rape allegation and the subsequent title IX lawsuit vs FSU from poor follow up on the university’s part are all things Winston did BEFORE the Bucs drafted him #1 overall. The took him anyway. He was their guy. Uber driver groping allegations occured after his first year with the team. She simply reported innappropriate behavior. She didn’t file a sexual assault or any kind of assault charges. She still hasn’t. NFL investigated and handed Winston a 3 game suspension. He didn’t… Read more »

Buc-n-Philly Fan

Well stated BucWild! Ben is just a HATER and is actually hoping Winston fails so he can be right. I am a Gator fan, not FSU. I sure hope lame ass Ben is not a Gator fan. I am sure he would be a fly by night one anyway…

Take your hatred elsewhere Ben. Winston is the QB of the Bucs for a long time to come.

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sunshineben

Thanks for expressing you opinion even if you don’t agree with mine . .. nope ,not a hater as i have season tkts but don’t like the face of the team being suspended while not being honest with the team or fans. You may overlook poor character which is your choice . GO bucs , see you at the game buc fans!!

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cgmaster27

Ben ,you keep regurgitating the same opinion every post. We get it ,you wanted the constantly Injured Mariota ,but hes never going to be a bucs qb. Move on

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Madman

Glad Fitz is starting. Bucs will get their points.

Bucs D needs to step up this week against an anemic offense. If they can’t stop Mitch & Co. then they can’t stop anybody.

OL better get their act together or Mack will feast.

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EastEndBoy

Woho Scott, them’s some fighting words with your journalist colleagues in Tampa….no? Anyway, the Steelers gave the whole league the blueprint for defense – and they don’t have a particularly good one. BLITZ, BLITZ, BLITZ….that makes FITZ very uncomfortable….so I surely hope our boys (Monken, Koetter and co.) are ready for some all out assaults from the Bears D. I wish RoJo was dressing so that we had somebody to take a screen pass to the house….we’ll see. On the flip side- I would just repeat that…the Steelers showed us that the way to play D when you don’t have… Read more »

BucWild02

Bucs blitzed on the play Vance McDonald trucked Conte onto IR(or into retirement?) Blitzes leave one on one coverage and can lead to big plays against the defense. Bucs were better on defense when they rushed four down linemen and didn’t blitz actually.

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Ron Potter

Meh. I wouldn’t call it wisdom to start Fitz on game 4. I think the wisdom is in whatever Koetter’s seeing at practice right now because I’d start Winston this Sunday if he looked good in practice along with several other factors that would influence that decision for me that can only be seen and heard in that locker room this week. I’m ok with starting Fitz though; however, if we lose this Sunday, I’ll be thinking of the what ifs had Winston been starting. If we win, great! And here’s to hoping Winston is a lock for starting game… Read more »

WinstonMVP

I just don’t see us not getting at least (1) more point then the Bears. BUCS WIN!!! 3-1 No matter who the QB is this week. I think we would have to have an absolute terrible game against the Bears to lose. Winston should start week 6 no matter what happens or who starts this week IMO. GO BUCS!!!

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Crack3rK

Well said, Scott. I am perplex by this manufactured QB controversy. Bucs winning? That’s always a good thing in my book.

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StPeteB

I think we will see more of a ball control offense this week and I think Monken will emphasize red-zone scoring as opposed to big plays in the passing game. I think the protection has been solid for the most part this season and Quizz has done better than I expected in blitz pickup. I think that will continue this week. I think Hump and Jackson get touches off of quick screens that will get the Bears out of blitzing so often. Evans and Brate will create matchup nightmares for the Bears secondary and will snag a TD each. Bears… Read more »

stlbucsfan

If the Bucs get the doors blown off their defense again this week I hope they replace Mike Smith during the bye week. He has talent on the DL and in the secondary he just chooses to misuse it. Ryan Smith played the best week of football we’ve ever seen the week prior then gets benched for Grimes who was slow and small and as usual off in coverage. It was clear to everyone watching that Grimes did not have it at least Monday night, when every game matters we need a DC capable of making that observation and getting… Read more »

Buc stops here

Who believes Martin Fennelly anymore? He was writing back in the 1980s when I lived in Tampa (he was not there in the 1970s), I am a little surprised he is still there. Trade Fitzpatrick? Good luck with that. Fitzpatrick resigned for one year – he did not plan to play again this year, he planned to retire. He agreed to play one more year as the Bucs wanted him for this three game stretch when it came to be. So the Bucs got a good QB for three games (perhaps more the way he is playing) and one more… Read more »

flarick

If Ryan Fitzpatrick stays hot even if FitzMagic lasts all season long, there’s is a lot of good that will come out of it for Jameis Winston as Tampa’s long term starter at quarterback. Standing around with a clipboard and possibly headphones for a year or even watching a proven starter, charting the when and why certain plays are called or audibles called, and generally getting a snapshot of the big picture has been the starting point for many great quarterbacks many of whom are enshrined in the Hall of Fame. Winston never had that opportunity in Tampa because there… Read more »

Bucsfan1983

LOL. Good job taking Vea over James.

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bucsmaniac

I guess we will see this weekend.

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BucWild02

Yep, settled science. Derwin James is going to Canton and Vita Vea is out of the league. Who knew it would only take three weeks? You did Bucsfan1983!

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bucsmaniac

Play calling, O Line and those receivers getting open all over the place…Like Winston said how could you not do well with the way they are playing! Don’t think Fitzpatrick could even make it to the end of the season having to throw 50 times a game…Our QB will be back after the bye and if your a hater…sorry about that! As always I am more worried about keeping the other team from scoring.

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drdneast

OMG Sunshineben please stop with the rewiinds. Go get a cafe latte double seat at Starbucks with Tom Jones and Marin Fentanyl. We all know about the heinous felonies of stealing crab legs, fountain drinks, shooting BB guns at each other and shouting obscenities in a lunch room. We don’t need to be reminded about them ad nauseum. But since Winston isn’t doing 5 to 7 in the Atlanta Federal Correctional facility, I am happy to see him behind center for us. Just call me a bleeding heart liberal. Was glad to see you call out the St. Pete Times.… Read more »

thewbacca

Although Tampa has a challenging schedule this year in terms of opponents win % in 2017, they are fortunate with not so many cold weather games and no west coast trips. Expect the passing game to survive the fall and hopefully the winter!

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Pete Wood

One statement and one prediction
1. Bucs blew their first round pick last year. They overthought it and did not pick the best player available. Plain and simple, they should have drafted James.
2. They will lose to the Bears. It might be close, but they will lose.

I hope I’m proven wrong on both counts.

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76Buc

Smith said. “I would think this week that would be something they would probably want to do, especially with the way our offense has been playing offensive football.
The problem is our defense has also been playing offensive football.

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