FAB 3. Koetter’s Game Plan For New Orleans

Not only is this a big week for the Buccaneers, it’s also a big week for Tampa Bay head coach Dirk Koetter and his offense. A win in New Orleans against the 5-2 Saints, who are currently leading the NFC South, and the Bucs are 3-5 and still have a chance to make something happen this year. A loss in the Big Easy would be Tampa Bay’s fifth in a row. With a 2-6 record midway through the season, any chance for a playoff berth would seem mighty bleak.

In order for Koetter and his Bucs to beat the Saints, they will need to rebound from last week’s three-point outing against Carolina and light up the scoreboard at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Drew Brees and the Saints offense have the second-best offense, averaging 390.4 yards per game. The Bucs offense isn’t too far behind, ranking fourth in the league with 376.6 yards per game.

Bucs OC Todd Monken – Photo by: Mark Cook/PR
Bucs OC Todd Monken – Photo by: Mark Cook/PR

But as offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach Todd Monken said, it’s all about scoring points.

“We are paid to get our players to perform on Sundays and offensively to score points,” Monken said. “The rest of it is just window dressing to make yourself feel better. It just is – plain and simple. The rest of it just makes you feel better. The bottom line is we have to score and we have to score touchdowns.”

Therein lies the problem for Tampa Bay, whose scoring offense is ranked 18th in the NFL with 21.1 points per game, while New Orleans is ranked sixth in scoring, averaging 27.3 points per game. That’s nearly a touchdown ahead of the Bucs.

Both Monken and Koetter believe that the offense was balanced against the Panthers last week, but the stats suggest otherwise. Tampa Bay ran the ball 22 times for 85 yards, averaging 3.9 yards per carry, but passed the ball 38 times for 194 yards.

That’s nearly twice as many throws for twice as many yards. And Doug Martin was having a good day with 71 yards in a game that was never really out of hand on the scoreboard until midway through the fourth quarter.

Having Winston throw the ball 38 times with an injured shoulder on a very windy day in Tampa Bay wasn’t wise, especially considering the fact that Winston struggled throughout the game – mostly on third down where the Bucs were just 2-of-12. I didn’t understand the reasoning last Sunday, and that certainly wasn’t Koetter’s finest hour as a play caller. Poor execution from the offensive players and untimely penalties didn’t help, either.

To beat the Saints in New Orleans, Koetter needs to really rely on the running game – and not just to aid Tampa Bay’s ailing defense, which gives up an average of 34 points per game on the road. The Saints’ run defense is ripe for the picking.

Bucs RB Doug Martin - Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Bucs RB Doug Martin – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

New Orleans’ defense ranks 20th, allowing an average of 344.7 yards per game, but its run defense ranks 21st, allowing 120.3 yards per game. Last week in a win over Chicago, the Saints’ fifth straight, the Bears ran for 157 yards on 31 carries. Chicago’s 5.1 average yards per carry was higher than the 4.9-yard average that the Saints are surrendering this season, which ranks 29th in the league.

New Orleans also ranks 29th in the league in third down percentage, allowing a 47 percent conversion rate, so that might be the tonic the Bucs need to improve their third down woes on offense. Tampa Bay’s defense is experiencing a similar problem as a year after ranking first in third down defense the Bucs are now the worst team in that category, allowing opponents to convert on 49 percent of third downs.

Where the Saints excel is in pass defense, and not necessarily in limiting passing yards, as they allow an average of 224.4 yards per game, which ranks 16th in the league. New Orleans plays a lot of man coverage with a single high safety and it blitzes on third downs, especially from the secondary. New Orleans has 19 sacks, which ties Baltimore for the 12th most in the NFL.

The Saints have nine interceptions this year, which is tied for fifth best in the league. New Orleans’ pass defense is sixth in the NFL when it comes to allowing passing touchdowns, as it has done on just nine occasions.

The biggest improvement the Saints defense has made has been in scoring defense where it ranks 12th in the league, allowing just 20.7 points per game. Which brings us back to scoring points – preferably touchdowns – with Tampa Bay’s offense.

Having a truly balanced attack that features a consistent running game is going to be a must on Sunday for Koetter’s offense. Getting into manageable third down situations is going to be key, and that may be best accomplished with short passes that get the ball out of Winston’s hands quickly. You know, the same type of game plan that Winston had success with at Buffalo three weeks ago when he completed 72.7 percent of his throws for 387 yards with three touchdowns and one interception.

Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter - Photo by: Getty Images
Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter – Photo by: Getty Images

The temptation to exploit man coverage with deep passes will be there for Koetter, but he needs to take the focus on trying to get explosive plays in this game and move the chains instead. Short passes and a heavy dose of Martin should comprise the main thrust of the game plan.

Koetter needs to remember that the artificial turf at the Superdome sits on some awfully hard concrete and he needs to limit the number of five- and seven-step drops for Winston against the Saints’ blitzing defense. The last thing Koetter needs is for Winston to re-aggravate his shoulder injury by getting driven into the turf.

Just ask Austin Seferian-Jenkins about how hard that turf is. He injured his shoulder in the second game of the 2015 coming down hard on it in the end zone and missed half the season.

Koetter needs to remember why this team signed right guard J.R. Sweezy and moved Ali Marpet to center. Run Martin behind those guys and exploit the Saints’ glaring weakness with a lot of two- and three-tight end sets. This might even be the week to have seldom used rookie tight end Antony Auclair active.

The Bucs must resist the temptation to get into a shootout with Brees. Play ball control by controlling the clock with long, time-consuming touchdown drives that limit the Saints’ offensive possessions. Brees can’t hurt Tampa Bay from the sidelines.

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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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athans5

SR, I think that part 2 is a major overreaction. Koetter is known around the league as one of the best play callers, why would you want to strip him of what he is best at for Todd Monken? Who is completely unproven as a play caller. Ever since Koetter has come to Tampa we have had the best offense that I have had the pleasure to watch in my many years as a Bucs fan, by far! If anything we should be worried that Koetter was being too loyal to his friend Mike Smith when we should have gone… Read more »

DonkeyHunter

Don’t feel bad. There were plenty of us who didn’t buy into the PR hype this season. When it was announced that we were participating on Hard Knocks, I knew the season was over before it started. A bunch of players buying into their own hype. Soft practices. Trying to look good in front of the cameras. Believing they were the media darlings, despite not accomplishing shit in 10 years. PR ate it up like the abundance of casuals roaming the boards. So, after your apologies for not “reporting it like it is” and for “overhyping the team”…your first line… Read more »

tog

Where I disagree DonkeyHunter is that it’s not just about Koetter’s playcalling. Perhaps its not PRIMARILY about Koetter’s playcalling.

It takes so much to be an HC, and I think most coaches are better for focusing on that. And Koetter is a good playcaller, but there’s also reasons he get criticised for some of his decisions (3rd down, Sims, tosses, etc.)

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pinkstob

DonkeyHunter I agree with what you said for the most part. The only part I’m not sure on is whether Koetter might be part of the problem as the play caller. Winston has been inaccurate and Koetter continues to call the deep ball which is bad, but I don’t know if the OC will call a more balanced attack than Koetter. Even if you can run the ball, if your QB can’t hit wide open receivers it doesn’t matter what passing play you call because you can’t win only throwing short. Defenses will adjust. Rate this item:Thumb UpThumb DownSubmit Rating00… Read more »

Naplesfan

A lot of flailing around here, Scott. Bottom line is, if Koetter can’t turn it around and win most of the remaining 9 games, resulting in a 4 or 5 win season, the Glazers are going to look elsewhere for a head coach. And Jon Gruden might just be that guy. Or not. Whether Koetter calls his own plays or not is immaterial – he has to start producing wins, or he’ll be another failure at the head coaching spot in Tampa. It’s not just one thing here, it’s everything that is inconsistent and producing less than mediocre bottom line… Read more »

RootsCrew

This is a great and depressing Fab 5. So many things have gone wrong in just 7 games it’s hard to even point to one thing. Offense, defense, clock management, in game adjustments, player rotation, execution and on and on. Maddening. I like Dirk. I like Winston. I love the playmakers we have on offense. But the disconnect on offense is disturbing to watch though. I was on board with Dirk giving up play calling at the end of last season. He specifically mentioned he might be stretched too thin to effectively call plays. As Scott mentioned, our predictability on… Read more »

Jlog

Koetter play calling is not great, clock management is still questionable with him as well. I’m more concerned with him as a coach, I just don’t see him being effective. The locker room may respect him, if they down it’s not a lot though. Not holding Smith to any standards is a complete failure IMO though. Also this “we don’t have an identity” BS, really. The team doesn’t have the identity that we expect them to have with the talent we have but they certainly has an identity and it’s a consistent one. Only the coaching staff and those men… Read more »

FLBoyInDallas

Haven’t commented since draft season earlier this year but I’ve been reading PR every day as usual and of course following the Bucs, and let me say this: Gruden is not the answer. How quickly we forget that Gruden’s overall record in Tampa produced a mere .509 winning percentage (57-55 record). In seven years he did win the division three times, but the other four finishes consisted of two third places and two fourth places. Besides the Super Bowl year, those other two first place NFC South finishes produced first-round wild card losses. Not only that, but his trend as… Read more »

Horse

100% agree; look at all the younger coaches who are winning without a QB like Brady or Brees.

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pinkstob

Agreed

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scubog

When criticizing the acquisition of players; shouldn’t you also consider the fact that so many premium Draft choices were given up to get Gruden in the first place?

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Horse

Well IRMA didn’t help at all as there is no two week reset-timeout button to go forward. I really don’t expect two more wins at best, but I hope I’m wrong. There’s not just an identity issue with the players; there’s also no solid coaching, good communication going on between coaches and players, and on going teaching player’s isn’t happening either. No contact at practices during pre-season was a surprise for me, and does answers some of my questions as to what happened with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. What I see so far is an inexperience head coach not learning… Read more »

martinii

Really some good honest and realistic insights Scott. Don’t feel like the lone ranger, the vast amount of Buc Fans and many respectable analyst predicted they would have a good season in view of their 9-7 record and weapons for Jameis acquisitions. After 50 years of watching and playing football I can tell you I cannot predict nor even come close to determining what a team will actually accomplish in terms of Wins and Losses during any given season. The long used axioms, “On any given Sunday, and Thats why they play the game,” are alive and well and have… Read more »

Mic

Everything that was said about the bad adjustments playcalling and defensive specialization I called for it since the Arizona game. It’s dumb and we’re both right it doesn’t give the players time to feel it out and set up moves or catch on to tendencies. One thing I disagree with is running Martin because you can look back through the film and see how obvious it is when it’s a run the formations the pre snap motion defensive players can see this and this is why we have a lot of one yard gains and losses but that occasional 10… Read more »

WinstonMVP

Way Too early to be saying Koetter needs to give up play calling. Hard to get in any groove when we cant complete any third down conversions. A lot of that falls on Winston’s slow starts. He just seems to take for ever to get rolling. That’s hurting alot. And our offense has had some high scoring games already. Just way too early to give up play calling. If it’s still a problem next year than I could see Koetter giving up play calling. IMO GO BUCS!!!

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Naplesfan

What does it matter who calls the plays? What matters is points on the board, and Ws in the W-L column. It’s Koetter’s responsibility to decide how and who calls the plays. Maybe Moncken isn’t a good play caller – nobody can say he’s ever done it effectively in the NFL before. Or maybe he is a good play-caller. Either way, it’s Koetter’s responsibility to git’er done. And right now, Koetter’s not gittin’ er done. That has to change, or the Glazers are going to have to take action to git’er done. Rate this item:Thumb UpThumb DownSubmit Rating00 No votes… Read more »

surferdudes

Too many “whys”, in this article, and no answers in sight. If Licht, Koetter, the Glazers themselves knew how to fix this mess, they’d have been doing so. Every press conference, the same questions are asked about this team, and we get the same we need to do better all around spiel. That may be true, but nothing changes that might make that happen. You can’t pry the play calling away from Koetter, Smitty is staying in the press box, we keep rotating players, nothing has changed, nothing will change. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over,… Read more »

Horse

surferdudes, agree with you.

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Mike.Seven

I want to go on record before Sundays game, Koetter was not great choice for coach but has made some strides, The problem is the defence is being asked to spend to much time on field due to fumbles, punts, Ints open receivers being missed, and on this site no one wants to blame the QB. This site assumes he is great franchise QB with bad team and coach. However, in 2 quarters Fitz lit up the field with points TD and yards using the same team. There will be excuse Monday JW is hurt shoulder, my point let the… Read more »

Horse

Mike.Seven; you make good points and I do agree with some of it, but during Fitz time on the field the game was over and the other teams defense was playing softer coverages

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Mike.Seven

Understand 2nd half they were in more prevent, however, I sure liked the way ball hit receivers in the numbers and open receivers were found so often.

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Naplesfan

If Winston can play he should. If he can’t, he shouldn’t. That’s up to the medical staff.

Whether Fitz will do better or not, that’s impossible to say unless he is asked to take over.

I don’t believe that anyone is making excuses, Koetter, Winston, or anyone else associated with the team. Everybody on the Bucs agrees that the performance to date is bad and must get better. Talk is cheap. We need to see improvement or nothing else matters.

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Horse

Naplesfan, Agree with you.

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Buc 1976

Koetter should be here next year no matter his record. He does not throw the ball nor catch the ball. As far as the assistant coaches go many will probably be let go.
The person to look at maybe Licht GM earn their pay by finding talent in the 4th to 7th rounds he has not done so. If we look at some good teams they find some talent in those rounds.

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Buc76

Its already too late. Koetter is not an NFL Head Coach. Its obvious. Someone I work with said this team has no soul and they are right. Its a lifeless team. Not inspired. Its beyond play calls and the clock. these guys are just collecting paychecks. they do not care if they win or lose. This has been going on the last 9 years.

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Horse

Buc76; not sure yet. I’m going to wait until after these next two games.

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Buc 1976

Horse this season started with a bye because of IRMA. That was a game that could have played on Thursday! But because of network contracts was NOT. The Bucs IMO would have won that game and the Bears game a week later.
And who knows after that but the moral I think would have been much better with 2 wins under their belt.

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Horse

I can’t disagree with those thoughts, but I thought we were focused at the Bears game and it gave me no reason to doubt we were in trouble. Not sure if the Coaches know how to coach out of this mess. Surprised no trades were made last week? I sure would have sent some kind of message to the team as a wake up call.

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stlbucsfan

Great Fab 5, I agree the soft training camp was probably the recipe for disaster on this team. The offense didn’t face real competition in practice so it makes sense why the timing is not good and things are inconsistent. We had guys playing flag football all summer now when they get hit in the mouth THIS team doesn’t know how to respond. There are new players starting at virtually every level of the team that are facing real competition for the first time as a unit during the season. Teams bond and find out a lot about themselves during… Read more »

surferdudes

Koetter thought the whole preseason was about finding out who your back ups were going to be. His admission, he didn’t know how to approach the games, because winning didn’t matter. He admitted he didn’t game plan. I don’t see why he couldn’t do both. Yeah you got to find out who your back ups are going to be, but your main goal should be getting your starters ready when it does count. Koetter clearly has failed at that, slow starts, no physicality, on either side of the ball from a soft no contact training camp. I get he didn’t… Read more »

Horse

Surferdudes, I hear you for sure and agree on most what you are saying. I’m waiting to see what happens these next two games. I’m waiting to see how many players step forward so we know who to release, cut, trade when the season ends; same for Coaching, GM too. There’s got to be some major progress here in winning now!

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bEubanks11

I said the same things weeks ago. Being reminded of the timid training camp solidifies the view I have of Koetters mentality which is that he plays the game not to lose until he’s forced to play to win. I get that he doesn’t want to squander his first head coaching job and wants to protect it. That’s back firing badly. Time to lay it on the table Dirk and your players will follow!

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pinkstob

I’ve been waiting for this article. SR’s unrealistic insight and analysis has really turned me off of PR over the years. I can’t remember when it started but I typically read the title of the article and if it’s full of hyperbole and unearned hype then I haven’t been reading them. I hope this Fab 5 is the start of a return to insight and analysis based on the facts that brought me to PR in the first place over 10 years ago. I thought it was a pretty good article except there is one assumption almost everyone is making… Read more »

pinkstob

BTW, all of this criticism I am directing at talent is a direct condemnation of Licht’s work as the GM. He needs to be gone after this season is over.

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Horse

Pinkstop; hard not to agree with what you are saying. I’m not ready yet to fire the cannons until these next two games are done.

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Naplesfan

23 teams passed on Aaron Rodgers in the 2005 draft. Hindsight is always 20/20, and the cheapest kind of sight one can have. And Cadillac Williams won rookie of the year, and performed great until he got injured. No coach or GM can possibly predict injuries. Everybody was patting the Vikings guys on the head for getting such a great deal by taking Dalvin Cook in the second round. He looked fabulous for the first month of the season, and then wham! Out on IR. Ditto with all the declarations of genius bestowed upon the Texans for taking DeShaun Watson… Read more »

bEubanks11

Horse, you crack me up with how you get stuck on a saying and then end every post that way. What is the relevance of the next 2 games exactly? And Pink, I get that you’re angry man. I said last week that there’s got to be something more productive for me to do with my Sundays than to be wasting 3 hours watching this sh!t show. But to say there isn’t tremendous talent on this team is inaccurate. It’s the lack of refinement and use of talent that’s the killer. These players are not being put in position to… Read more »

Horse

beubanks; can’t disagree with you about my draw out as to what I know is going to happen, but I’m like many Buc Fans I still have some hope something good will happen. Once our 9th game is over we will be well into the season. If we are 2-7 by then, it’s surely over and any win after that means nothing, but losses in obtaining higher draft picks.

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scubog

We here in Bucville always know how to place blame when the losses begin to pile up. Here we cite predictable play calling when most of us couldn’t even diagram even the simplest one. We blame the General Manager for failed player acquisitions albeit more typically after the results are known. We blame the Head Coach for not getting the team ready when most of the players earn more than he does and shouldn’t need prompting. We blame the Defensive scheme when most of us have no idea what any of the terms even mean and certainly have no clue… Read more »

pinkstob

I disagree with you for the most part on this one Scubog. Most football websites nowadays, including PR, offer offensive and defensive play breakdowns. TS does it with a fair amount of regularity with this Cover 3 articles. What better time is there for blaming the GM’s player acquisitions than after the results are known? Should we be calling for the GM to be fired before the results are known? The head coach is paid to get the team ready; it’s in his job description. If the players didn’t need prompting all we would need are coordinators and position coaches.… Read more »

bEubanks11

I love the fire and heart and accountability you feel for this team Pink. You are a true fan to believe you are a part of this organization as I do as well. But to think that we can affect the buccaneers draft plans by watching more college film is a little far fetched. The organization has employees that they pay a lot of money to figure that out. These people have jobs just like we all do. I know for a fact they couldn’t do my job and I’m not for a second believing that I could do theirs.… Read more »

scubog

In my case, I do know about contractors, but I get your point. My point was to include ourselves as part of the problem with our favorite team’s psyche. There’s just little passion for this team nowadays. Even in the old days folks would complain about yet another loss. Now, no one seems to really care. No longer do I go to work on Mondays and hear, “What happened to the Bucs?” I actually miss that.

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Naplesfan

The Bucs fan base has ALWAYs been dominated by a combination of fair weather fans and the “ticket brokers” who gladly buy season tickets simply to sell them off to the enemy. It’s always been that way. People in Florida simply do not have the longstanding sports culture that northern cities do. Even perennial losers like Cleveland still have rabid fans and sell their tickets mostly to the home crowd. Perennial winners like New England or Green Bay, you better be the son or daughter of a lifetime season ticket holder, because inheriting those tickets is the only way you’ll… Read more »

Naplesfan

Correction – “Peyton”

I threw up a little in my throat while writing that last paragraph above

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Horse

Scubog Yes, once again I admit i called McCoy a bust after two years of injuries. I was wrong like I have said numerous times. Yu pretty much play it safe in your writings. Yes I speak out; sometimes too soon like many fans and yes we aren’t coaches or past professional players. I’m waiting until after our 9th game because if we can’t beat the Jets, then we have to go back to the drawing board. As to the fans who aren’t attending the games, but are still fans; accept the thought many don’t want to sit in the… Read more »

scubog

I never mentioned your name Horse. You weren’t the only one down on McCoy.

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surferdudes

Scu, I’m sure the fans would’ve been into the game if the team gave them something to cheer about. The stands would’ve been full if we were riding a winning streak instead of a losing one. Can’t blame people for not wanting to spend good money on season tickets for a team that’s been flailing along for the last 10 years. As far as player acquisitions, and the draft, most weren’t happy drafting a kicker in the 2nd round, letting guys like Penn, or Bennett go, and myself, and Horse have been calling for building in the trenches for years.… Read more »

EastEndBoy

I find it hard to blame Koetter – the mistakes our players are making are not what he’s (or their college coaches for that matter were) teaching them. I can find blame in Smith for sticking with a system that relies on the weakest aspect of the players he has (1-on-1 pass rush). But most of all Licht’s neglect of the two lines is criminal for a GM…that’s got to be GM 101, and he’s failed it miserably. Not a single 1st rounder or top-tier FA on either line in his whole tenur – a recipe for disaster. He also… Read more »

Naplesfan

SMH Guys like you claim that Licht “neglected the two lines”, which is complete balderdash. The entire O-line that we have was brought in by Licht, using both high draft picks and expensive free agents. Other than McCoy, the entire D-line was brought in by Licht, and he’s made multiple high draft picks (2nd round counts as “high”) and expensive free agent acquisitions, every year he’s been here. And, uhhh, we had many needs beyond the lines. Virtually 100% of all Bucs fans agreed that quarterback, receivers, tight ends, linebackers, and defensive secondary were ALL top needs too. One can… Read more »

EastEndBoy

SMH Our best OLineman was brought in by Dominik. And if Licht hadn’t cut him, our second best OLineman would still be a Dominik pickup. Our best DLineman was brought in by Dominik…as was one of our starting DE. Who is this amazing high priced talent Licht brought in…Cousins? Collins? Johnson? Johnson? .. Just bringing in cast offs is not particularly helpful. If you want to give the guy credit, that’s fine, but find somebody on the roster that he should actually be able to count as a win…Cameron Brate…but no, there is nobody on either line that he can… Read more »

EastEndBoy

…in the 1st round or FA….yes Marpet in round 2 is a win.

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damian_thompson

Scott, LONG time reader/subscriber of PR and LOVE these articles. Your writing and analysis is deep & well thought out… (ready for it?) most of the time. BUT, you have to get off this soapbox about hitting in preseason being a big cause of their poor play in regular season. This team is mismanaged, underprepared, & lacks accountability, ALL true. But the no contact preseason = sloppy tackling regular season argument fails in week one. By the logic of lack of tackling drills and contact in preseason then week one would be the worst example of this, but it wasn’t.… Read more »