FAB 2. Bucs’ Pass Defense Among League’s Worst

Lost in Tampa Bay’s offensive explosion and 2-1 record to start the 2018 campaign is the fact that the Bucs defense has struggled mightily this year.

The Bucs defense ranks second to last behind Kansas City in yards per game, surrendering 433.3 yards, and is tied for last in the league with the Chiefs in terms of passing yards, allowing 362.7 yards. Tampa Bay’s scoring defense ranks fourth to last in the NFL, allowing an average of 30.3 points per game.

In terms of quarterback percentage, the Bucs have allowed the three quarterbacks they’ve faced to complete a stunning 77.9 percent of their throws, which ranks last in the league as you might expect. The next closest team is Buffalo, which has allowed a 74.2 percent completion percentage so far this year.

Bucs CB MJ Stewart - Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Bucs CB MJ Stewart – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

Twelve teams held opponents under 60 percent completion percentage last year. The team with the best opponent completion percentage was Jacksonville at 56.8 percent. The Bucs ranked fourth to last in the NFL, with Smith’s penchant for playing off coverage as the culprit in allowing Tampa Bay’s foes to complete 67.6 percent of their passes. The worst team in the league was Cleveland, which allowed 68.6 percent of the passes by opposing QBs to be completed.

The fact that the Bucs secondary is incredibly inexperienced and the fact that Tampa Bay has faced two future Hall of Fame quarterbacks in New Orleans’ Drew Brees and Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger, in addition to Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles are two contributing factors in the high completion numbers. On some snaps against Philadelphia two weeks ago, the Bucs secondary features rookie cornerbacks Carlton Davis and M.J. Stewart and rookie safety Jordan Whitehead, who began the season as a reserve, and third-year cornerback Ryan Smith, who only played defense beginning in 2017.

But there is more to it than that, according to defensive coordinator Mike Smith, who is calling more man coverage and more press coverage beginning at the line of scrimmage, which favors the physicality that Davis and Stewart bring to the table.

“We are not doing a very good job in terms of that and I think a lot of it has to do with a couple of things,” Smith said. “You mentioned who we’ve played, and those are no slack guys in the first three games. Passing is a lot more efficient this season, and we’re not the only team that is having issues with a high percentage of completion. The big thing we have to do is to continue to work to have the timing of the route being disrupted. Sometimes you do that and against certain quarterbacks you wish you hadn’t done that.”

Smith alluded to Monday night against Pittsburgh where Roethlisberger was flushed from his launching point several times only to maneuver away from sacks and throw receivers open that were initially covered. He’s also right in acknowledging that the Bucs aren’t the only defense that is getting abused through the air.

Whereas the Browns’ 68.6 percent completion percentage was the worst in the league a year ago, there are a whopping 10 teams – including all four NFC South teams – that have allowed at least 68.8 percent of passes – or more – to be completed against them, including seven teams that have surrendered at least a 70 percent completion percentage.

The NFL is going through an offensive renaissance right now, especially with the passing game, and Tampa Bay is helping to lead the charge. The Los Angeles Chargers led the league in passing yards per game last year with 276.9 yards. Tampa Bay had the fourth-ranked passing game in 2017, averaging 272.9 yards per game.

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

This year, the Bucs are leading the way by averaging an incredible 400.7 yards per game. There are currently six NFL teams that are averaging over 300 yards passing per game, and a total of 11 teams that are throwing for more than 276.9 yards per game, which led the league last year.

So is this the new normal in the NFL – and if it is, why?

The usage of RPOs – run-pass options – generate a high percentage of completions in the short middle of the field as linebackers are often briefly frozen with the play-action from quarterbacks on those plays. The heavy use of smoke routes – instant passes from quarterbacks taking a one-step drop and firing the ball to receivers – and bubble screens to receivers, in addition to quick flare passes to running backs in the flat also contribute to team’s high completion percentages. Those plays seldom generate 10 yards or more, but are commonly used on first downs instead of runs because they can generally pick up a quick five or seven yards, which is better than a run that might only pick up three or four yards.

Bucs free safety Justin Evans said that the defense needs to do a better job against the pass, but creating takeaways is more important than allowing a high completion percentage. Through the first three games, Evans has a fumble recovery for a touchdown and recorded the team’s first interception of the year on Monday night.

“I don’t want to say you can’t limit a quarterback’s passing because you definitely can, but it’s the NFL and it’s a hard league,” Evans said. “This is a hard game and it’s an offensive game. Everybody’s passing the ball now. The offense is going to get theirs, but the defense is going to get theirs, too. It’s not easy.”

Evans, who only has 14 NFL starts, said that as Davis, Stewart and Whitehead gain more experience with each snap they play, the better Tampa Bay’s pass coverage will be.

“The more experience you get the better you get, so as DBs we’d love for that [completion percentage] to go down, but as long as we’re not giving up busted plays and letting balls go over our heads they’re going to catch some,” Evans said. “If they’re catching over 70 percent that’s just what it is, but we have to play sound with no balls over our heads and no busted plays and go from there.”

Bucs CB Carlton Davis and SS Jordan Whitehead - Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Bucs CB Carlton Davis and SS Jordan Whitehead – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

Smith, the team’s defensive coordinator, said that recent league rule changes have opened the door for an offensive explosion in the passing game – much to the chagrin of NFL defenses.

“There are no more bang-bang hits,” Smith said. “We’ve taught our players if he’s in a defenseless position you can’t hit him. Of course if you can’t hit him he’s probably going to have a good opportunity to catch the darn ball. That’s changed some. I’ve said before – I think it was last week when someone asked – offenses are doing a great job of working on the spacing and they are going to throw them into tight windows because guys know now that if you hit them. Not only is it a 15-yard penalty, but it’s also going to come out of your back pocket [with a fine].”

On Monday, veteran cornerback Brent Grimes returned to action for the first time this season and gave up a 27-yard touchdown to Antonio Brown and several other catches to JuJu Smith-Schuster, including a 43-yarder in the first half. Grimes also missed some tackle opportunities in the run game, and had an awful game.

Meanwhile, Smith, the team’s third-year cornerback, had the best game of his career against Philadelphia in Week 2 where he broke up two passes and allowed just one catch for two yards. After playing over 90 percent of the snaps on defense against the Eagles, Smith was relegated to special teams duty and didn’t play a single snap on defense.

If the 35-year old Grimes can’t shake off the rust from his groin injury and continues to play poorly, Smith, who is a much better tackler, should at least split reps at left cornerback moving forward. Smith said he understood going bench to the bench on defense against the Steelers.

“It wasn’t tough, I mean BG came back,” Smith said. “I knew it was going to happen and if my number gets called I’ll be ready. I’m just doing what I have to do to help the team and that’s it. As for the high completion percentage we’re allowing, we can’t really dwell on it. It happened. We just have to work every game to lower that percentage.”

Football is a game played in the fall, and as temperatures drop and more games are played in inclement weather, teams will be forced to run the football with greater regularity and that could mean fewer passing yards and likely a lower completion percentage as September turns into October.

Bucs defensive coordinator Mike Smith - Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Bucs defensive coordinator Mike Smith – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

One thing that should Tampa Bay’s pass defense in the coming weeks is facing second-year quarterback Mitchell Trubisky on Sunday in Chicago and Cleveland’s rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield in four weeks. While Evans says the Bucs can’t afford to take Trubisky, his lack of experience and the fact that he’s learning a new offense this year under new head coach Matt Nagy should help.

“If anything we could probably try to mess with his head a little more because Drew and Ben have seen things a billion times, so they probably knew exactly what we’re going to do, so it’s probably hard to try and disguise coverages,” Evans said. “If anything, that’s probably the only thing we can exploit because he’s an NFL quarterback and he starts – so you’ve got to respect that or he’ll make you look bad.”

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Scott Reynolds is in his 24th 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 son's Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: [email protected]

53 COMMENTS

  1. “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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    • Man, it’s cold in the shade!

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      • Then let’s fight there.

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

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

        Yeah, I did think Jameis Winston’s behavior had changed since that day. Apparently not given what happened with the Uber driver. However, if he is to be believed, he did give up drinking and yes, it is a fact that nothing else has happened in two years since that we are aware of.

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        • 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 remember what happened?” and “We’ve all done stupid things when drunk”. It’s a straight line between this kind of thinking and the abetting by inaction the sexual assaulting of women.

          I remember in the leadup to the Winston draft how much you pushed the narrative that Winston learned from his mistakes and would be squeaky clean. I provided an example of that above. Yet, here was an example of the complete opposite and you sought to aggressively downplay it. The most hypocritical part was when you argued that nothing had happened in the last 2 years which was a bizarre argument and a retread of what you’d already said – simply with context changed. At one point you even restated that he’d learn from having football taken away, a tragically comical retread from 4 years previous.

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    • 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, the NFL is more pass happy, but mainly because offenses are mostly going to the short passing game in substitution of the running game. So it skews the numbers to make even good passing defenses look mediocre. But that does nothing to negate the value of a top notch defense. Chicago may or may not throttle our no. 1 offense, but the fact that our defense continues to suck every single year under Licht is what really should bother most of us.

      It is pretty clear that a high octane offense can get you into the playoffs if you also have a fair to middling defense. Similarly, a high octane defense can get you to the playoffs if you have at least a fair to middling offense. But a a high octane offense combined with a sucky defense is not the way to build a playoff team.

      There are no more excuses for Licht this year. There weren’t any good excuses last year either, but here we are. It is long past time to hold Licht (and the coaches) responsible for a bottom dwelling defense, year in and year out. It is great to have a very good offense, but teams cannot rely upon perfection in offense to wipe out horribility in defense.

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      • 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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      • 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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    • I didn’t call for the Bucs to fire Dirk Koetter and replace him with Jon Gruden during the “off-season.” Gruden was already hired by the Raiders and the Bucs had committed to Koetter by the end of December – after Gruden turned the Bucs down. It’s important to get your facts straight.

      During the season when the Bucs had an interest in potentially hiring Gruden I reported what I knew at the time. There was significant interest in replacing Koetter with Gruden during a few months of football season while team’s record was nose-diving.

      At the start of this season I even wrote in an SR’s Fab 5 that the Bucs dodged a bullet by not replacing Koetter with Gruden.

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  2. 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, he plays if he’s able.

    Fitz was hot in relief, but he’s a temporary reliever, not a permanent starter. Anyway, he’s cooled off and the Bucs lost MNF mostly because of Fitz, Grimes, and Koetter’s two huge mistakes(1.Not bitching and forcing a review for ejection about the crown of Bostic’s helmet being lowered on the hit to Fitz early and 2.The punting call on 4th down late).

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    • 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!

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      • 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 catches for 37 yards vs the 29th ranked defense in the NFL.

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        • “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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          • 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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      • 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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  3. 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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    • 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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      • 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.

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    • 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. You cant because this is a unique situation.

      Rams avg 468 ypg, tamps 473, N.O 428, KC 398. So 4 of the top 8 offensive teams have a combined record of 11-2 and the top 2 offenses which include us are combined 6-1. Now lets look at scoring offenses PPG where we are currently 4th. The top 6 scoring teams in the NFL which include us are 14-4. Do you know whos not in the top 10 in scoring. All 4 teams you mentioned above.

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  4. 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 year after coming back from his shoulder injury. He was a top 5 QB in the league based on the numbers.
    Fitz is the back up. He did his job. He played great during the 3 games and helped us get to 2-1. But now Winston is back, so let him get us to 11-5.
    Go Bucs!!

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    • 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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  5. 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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  6. 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 winning Monday night. The bears are not a pushover but we should still win.

    I love the article about Pittsburgh is kick off’s and I thought the same thing while watching the game. Why doesn’t Tampa do the same thing? Kick it high and have it land right around the goal line. Yes you risk a long return, but 98% of the time you will stop them he I love the article about Pittsburgh is kick off‘s and I thought the same thing while watching the game. Why doesn’t Tampa do the same thing? Kick it high and have it land right around the goal line. Yes you risk a long return, but the many opportunities for great field position makes that a net gain.

    Second, on the whole I thought Ryan Fitzpatrick fared well against the blitz even as he obviously did not do perfect. How many receivers dropped catchable balls? The bears may blitz and it may cause us trouble. But connecting on a hot route overcomes bliss.

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

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    • That should be fixed now.

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  8. 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 from way behind the line of scrimmage. I know they’re coming,and so do opposing teams who have more then enough time to recover, and pick them up. Scott if you’re waiting for Dotson’s knee to get 100%, and he’ll get better as the season rolls along, you’re dreaming. Same goes for Grimes. What you’re seeing isn’t rust, it’s old age. Giving up a high percentage of completions is a big enough problem. The real killer is the missed, and awful tackling. The play A.B. scored on Grimes was there all night, but Ben didn’t go to it as much as he could because he was having such great success wherever he thew it. I think Grimes gives up a T.D. 10 out of 10 times on that play. Why did we not sign Breeland at corner? The real bummer was watching Reid signing with the Panthers. I’d take those two over Grimes, and Conte any day. Licht screwed the pooch not making those moves.

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    • 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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  9. 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 way out which the employee and publix both said the items were not given to him? Didn’t Winston forget to tell the nfl and team and the incident with the uber driver and then lied saying he was with another guys? Did he put his team 1st and state he is not allowed on uber and why? Did he try to hide from the truth again which got him suspended ? would you want him to be the face our beloved bucs nationally?? humm ( my opinion)

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    • 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 fight the suspension through an appeal. He acknowledge being drunk. He apologized for his behavior, even if he didn’t agree with her account of events.

      After this incident, he stopped drinking. He settled down and got married. He is active in a number of ways in the community. He has worked to become a better person. He has worked to become a better QB. Bucs PICKED UP his 5th year option after he was suspended. He has the respect of the people in the locker room and upstairs.

      While suspended, he organized and lead football activities to try to keep sharp. He reviewed the games as they occured and texted his teammates along the way, congratulating them for their performances. He is humbled and working hard to be the best asset he can be for the team. Very unselfish.

      He will be the Bucs QB this year and next year. Period. End of story.

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      • 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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        • 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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    • 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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  10. 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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  11. 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 a very good one is BLITZ, BLITZ, BLITZ….please, for the love of Pete would Mike Smith call up some Blitzes this weekend!

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    • 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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  12. 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 5 regardless of winning or losing game 4 cuz the future is now with this kid. He’s earned the starting job breaking NFL records being the youngest QB to do so and on a poor team with the second best play-caller calling the plays. The kid didn’t even know what losing was like until he became a Buccaneer. We gotta find out what we have with him asap with THIS team cuz his rookie deal is about up.

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  13. 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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  14. 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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  15. 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 offense will struggle against our front 7 and our D will have a great day. It’ll come down to special teams and field position so as long as we tackle well on kickoff coverage and Chandler makes his FG and XPs we should be fine. I predict the final to be 31-14 Bucs.

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  16. 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 that player out of the lineup. We are not generating a pass rush consistently with either the 4 down or the blitz which is purely scheme related considering the talent he’s working with. Bradley McDougald was let go I’ll have to assume bc Mike Smith said he preferred Conte which looks foolish considering how solid McDougald has been in Seattle.

    Fitz should start the next game but I think we bring Jameis back after the bye regardless of how Fitz performs. What we saw was when Fitz has a clean pocket he can make throws, I think Jameis can do the same. We also saw that when Fitz is under fire he is just as prone to make the errant throw as Jameis, which makes the decision very simple. I think this offense is very explosive but could benefit greatly from a stronger commitment to the run. Peyton Barber may have looked fantastic in camp but he’s just been solid during the season and I see no reason Rojo shouldn’t be getting carries. We saw those blitz assignments missed by the veteran backs last week so it’s not like either have run away with the job. Fitz threw 28 and 33 times the first two weeks compared to 50 this past week. The game obviously dictated that he threw more but the main reason we were down so much was bc they put the ball in his hands so much early. We have an explosive offense but I hope they are really assessing this team and not caught up in the record. We have a defense that’s been atrocious despite creating some turnovers and an offense with no running game. I might be crazy but if we really want to make the playoffs I think we will need to shore up at least one of those areas and the status quo hasn’t worked.

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  17. 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 year out of him. You try to trade him, he is liable to retire on the spot. He agreed to play for Tampa for one more year – not just anywhere one more year. He might do it, but with retirement on his mind, he just might not.

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  18. 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 was no proven starter, so he was left with get in the game and sink or swim, with only the quarterback coaches and OC to offer advice and provide the reasoning after the fact. We saw Winston’s game improve after he was forced to do just that because of injury last year. Think how much his intellectual game might improve after watching Fitzpatrick run the team from the sidelines for most of an NFL season.

    Yes, because injuries Mike Smith is forced to start two rookie corners and one rookie safety. But, while they’re making their share of mistakes, because they’re rookies learning on the job, they’re obviously NFL caliber players, because they’re getting a little bit better every week. Let’s remember even the great Ronde Barber was on the Bucs’ roster for three years before earning his regular starting cornerback spot. As long as M.J. Stewart, Carlton Davis, and Jordan Whitehead keep improving every week, and the defensive line keeps doing the same thing, whether it’s from players returning from injury or better teamwork among the pass rushers, the Bucs will be okay by midseason and they’ll be fine by the end of the season. Maybe they won’t be championship caliber yet, but the defense will likely be good enough with good things portending for next year.

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  19. LOL. Good job taking Vea over James.

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    • I guess we will see this weekend.

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    • 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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  20. 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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  21. 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.
    Tom Jones spent a whole column last week whining and complaining about Winston’s uber experience but failed to spend one sentence on Big Ben’s past history which is much worse.
    Such hypocrisy.

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  22. 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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  23. 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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  24. 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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