Fab 2. Evans On The Verge Of A Breakout Game

The fact that the Buccaneers have four receivers with 200 yards receiving through four games reveals quite a bit. First, let’s set the table for this discussion by revealing the amount of targets, catches, yards and touchdowns each of Jameis Winston’s favorite weapons has heading into this week’s game at Arizona.

WR Mike Evans
40 targets, 24 catches for 276 yards (11.5 avg.), long of 31, 2 TDs

WR DeSean Jackson
29 targets, 14 catches for 249 yards (17.8 avg.), long of 41, 1 TD

WR Adam Humphries
25 targets, 17 catches for 207 yards (12.2 avg.), long of 38

TE Cameron Brate
22 targets, 15 catches for 205 yards (13.6 avg.), long of 35, 3 TDs

Let’s first look at the start that Evans – Tampa Bay’s primary weapon in the passing game – has had this season. While it’s no surprise that he’s been targeted 11 times more than the closest Bucs receiver, Evans is averaging just 69 yards per game and is on pace to hit only 1,104 receiving yards, which would be the fewest receiving yards since his rookie season (1,051), and 217 yards shy of last year’s career high of 1,321 yards.

Evans hasn’t posted a 100-yard game this season, although he came close in the season opener against Chicago with seven catches for 93 yards and a touchdown. Since then he hasn’t posted 70 yards receiving in the last three games. Evans had four 100-yard games last year along with three others in which he had at least 95 yards.

Through the first four games in 2016, Evans had 26 catches for 360 yards (13.8 avg.) with three touchdowns and a long of 45 yards, so he’s behind those numbers thus far in 2017.

Bucs WR Mike Evans - Photo by: Mark Lomoglio/PR
Bucs WR Mike Evans – Photo by: Mark Lomoglio/PR

Evans is due for a breakout game soon, although that might be tough to do at Arizona against perennial Pro Bowl cornerback Patrick Peterson. In last year’s loss to the Cardinals, Evans was targeted 18 times, but only had six catches for 70 yards and a touchdown.

“It’s surprising he hasn’t had that yet,” Humphries said. “He is capable of coming out and doing that (going off) every game. Also, he’s a big target and I think opposing defenses know that. Every game they come in preparing for Mike Evans. The Patriots doubled him a lot. That is something a big target like him has to expect. It’s only a matter of time for him to come in and have an eight-catch, 150-yard game. I expect him to do it.”

Despite the emergence of Brate at tight end last year and the acquisition of Jackson at wide receiver this season, Evans is still drawing double teams. While teams are doubling him and aren’t letting him get deep – evidenced by his 11.5 average, which is the lowest among Tampa Bay’s top for receivers – Evans is an unselfish team player that puts winning ahead of statistics.

“We have a lot of weapons,” Evans said. “Hopefully we can all keep up the good pace and do well at the end of the year. Hopefully it translates to a lot of wins. You know, keep the defense on their heels. They can’t double team just one guy now.”

Bucs wide receivers coach and offensive coordinator Todd Monken said that the team’s added weapons has helped simplify things for Evans this year.

“I think the more weapons you have, I think the more readily capable you are of designing things for others,” Monken said. “When you add in O.J. Howard to the mix, you get Doug back, you add DeSean, so you’re not constantly designing where can we put Mike. In the past that’s what you did. You said, ‘Okay, we need to move Mike over here and Mike here.’ We don’t have to do that nearly as much.”

Bucs WR DeSean Jackson - Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Bucs WR DeSean Jackson – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

Jackson has had a frustrating start in Tampa Bay as Winston has failed to connect with him on several deep balls, including one that would have been a 65-yard touchdown in last week’s loss to New England. The good news is that Jackson recorded his first 100-yard receiving day in Tampa Bay on Thursday night, and became the Bucs’ first 100-yard receiver this season, in addition to posting a 17.8 average through four games, which is in line with his career average. Jackson is also 26 yards away from being Tampa Bay’s leading receiver.

“The one slant he took, it’s not very often you get that look where the WILL linebacker kind of sucked up and there is all that space to really showcase his burst,” Monken said. “Then we had, at the end of the game, a couple of opportunities where he made some big catches for us. We’ve had those same opportunities. It just hasn’t come to fruition. I think he’s played well. I think with each week that he continues to practice with Jameis and I just think they continue to get on the same page.

“He is a special talent. We need to continue to find ways to keep him involved where he can run after catch – that’s one thing he has shown is that burst when he gets in space.”

If there is a downside to Jackson’s production thus far is that he is only 42 yards and one touchdown ahead of Humphries, the team’s third receiver, who makes about $10.5 million less than Jackson does. In theory, you would like Jackson to be way ahead of Humphries in production given the huge salary discrepancy.

There was speculation that Chris Godwin, the Bucs’ third-round pick, was take away some of Humphries’ playing time this season, but Godwin is an outside receiver where as Humphries almost exclusively plays in the slot. Humphries is likely the most dependable receiver the Bucs have.

Bucs WR Adam Humphries - Photo by: Mark Lomoglio/PR
Bucs WR Adam Humphries – Photo by: Mark Lomoglio/PR

“Very consistent – that is his number one thing,” Koetter said. “Since that first year when he got here and came out of nowhere and made our team, Adam is going to be a hard guy to ever get out of there just because he is a good player. He doesn’t get the most pub or the most kudos, however you want to say it. But he is a really good football player. He is good for what he does for us. He plays his role really well.”

Humphries actually has a longer reception than Evans, in addition to having a higher yards per catch average than the Bucs’ Pro Bowl wide receiver. Humphries has only four fewer targets than Jackson does, which speaks to his reliability as a chain-moving receiver. Humphries and Winston came in together as rookies in 2015 and have a bond together going back to the team’s rookie mini-camp.

“I think that’s what it is really all about,” Humphries said. “The relationship with Jameis has grown over the years. Regardless of who we have on the team or the targets we have, which we have a ton, I think Jameis is talented enough to spread the ball around. It’s not surprising to see four guys over 200 yards in the first four games. That’s what we expected with the group we have. So far it’s been a good start passing-wise. We need to get off to a quicker start early. So far looking at those statistics, it’s pretty cool.”

Humphries had 19 catches for 205 yards (10.8) with a long of 31 yards through the first four games last year, so his start to the 2017 season is nearly identical to last year’s. In 2016, Humphries posted career highs in catches (55), yards (622) and touchdowns (two), and is on pace to match those numbers.

“He shows up every game,” Winston said. “If you watch the game, you’re going to see Adam Humphries show up and have a long run or break a tackle or make a fantastic catch. That’s just who he is. He’s a baller – similar to Cam – guys that just work hard as far as taking care of their body as far as getting extra reps after practice. Guys that are true professionals like Adam Humphries – you just love having them as a teammate. The guy gets open.”

Bucs TE Cam Brate – Photo by: Mark Lomoglio/PR
Bucs TE Cam Brate – Photo by: Mark Lomoglio/PR

Brate had a breakout season in 2016 with eight touchdown catches, which was tied for the league lead among tight ends. Like Humphries, Brate is off to an almost identical start to the 2017 campaign as he had through the first four games in 2016. Brate has 15 catches for 205 yards (13.7 avg.) and three touchdowns this season, and is the Bucs’ touchdown leader. Last year he produced 16 catches for 159 yards (9.9 avg.) with two touchdowns.

While Winston will take Evans matched up in single coverage every time in the red zone, that doesn’t happen very often and Brate is actually Winston’s favorite target in the red zone as a result. Brate’s 13.7 average is actually a few yards longer than Evans’ average this season, and he’s already hauled in a 35-yard grab, which proves he can be a dangerous weapon on intermediate routes.

Perhaps the most impressive stat regarding Brate is that he has 15 targets, which is six more than O.J. Howard, Tampa Bay’s first-round pick. While there was some speculation that Howard would supplant Brate as the Bucs’ starting tight end due to his draft status, Brate remains one of Winston’s most trusted targets, especially near the goal line. Brate’s 11 touchdowns over the last 20 games are second only to Evans’ 14 over the same span.

“There is only one ball,” Monken said. “That’s probably the hardest thing. … The more weapons you get and the more guys you want to get the ball, so it’s how many touches can you get Doug [Martin]? How many can you get some of your tight ends?”

As Winston and the Bucs are finding out, having a bunch of weapons is a great problem to have. And it’s only a matter of time before their biggest weapons goes off.

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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]

37 COMMENTS

  1. Why is most of your Article about the Offense and it’s the Defense which is clearly the main concern? Our offense is fine as long as Koetter utilizes all the tools he has and lets Winston loosen up with some short easy 5 yard passes with hooks and comebacks to help get him in sync.
    The Defense is a whole other story. We’re short on healthy DE’s from the get go and we don’t seem to put enough pressure to actually force the QB to throw earlier than planned; usually the QB has plenty of time and then some to find multiple targets. I know this is an unpopular opinion because it’s negative; well it is what it is. Wwhy do we have one DE on the PS; why not 3 or 4; this is where good scouting comes in to help when we have continue injuries with smaller, or past their prime, or pass rushing versus lack of run stopping or vice versus players. It doesn’t help when our CB’s are playing less aggressive. Not sure if any of the 4 who are questionable are going to play. Just my thoughts here, but Smith has to utilize his best players available for the game and make adjustments to his defesive scheme; in other words, get more aggressive and take more chances. What good is it to have a left DE who is a good run stopper, but no threat as a pass rusher; seems to me he might be more fit to be part of the DT rotation or in on obvious rushig plays, but definitely not a DE when it’s a passing situation. How on earth did we ignore our pass rushing issue in the last draft when it was a real issue; somehow the GM and Coach bought into the smaller Spense and Smith would be the answer.

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    • Horse,

      I share your sentiment, but as you know the kind of DE help you describe is not walking around out there. The Bucs have heard you. They’re trying to get DE help as DE Ryan Russell is hurt and will be MIA for a few weeks. They brought in Lamarr Houston for a look, but no deal, signed with Texans. There is DE Owa Odighizuwa, but he is coming off a 3 game PED suspension. Was a highly rated DE coming out of UCLA as 3rd pick, but has been released several times – worked out for the Pats, but not signed – too risky.

      And as you suggest, the Bucs have added 3 Beefy DEs to the PS:

      79 O’Connor, Patrick DE 6-4 270 23 R Eastern Michigan
      71 Ward, Channing DE 6-4 279 24 1 Mississippi
      78 Webster, Larry DE 6-6 276 27 4 Bloomsburg

      This pass rush problem has persisted far too long, but evidently not easy to fix. The 2018 draft is loaded with DE talent, but there’s no guarantee – Myles Garrett, picked #1 in 2017 draft just played his first game last week. We’re trying, just gotta try harder. Go Bucs!

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      • Macabee, thank you. It’s hard for me to let this go especially when Coach Smith isn’t taking more responsibility about his pass rush. I didn’t realize there were so many DE’s on the PS; I hope it’s a revolving door and we luck out and find someone. What’s your thoughts on Alexander, David, Ward, Russell actually being Active on Sunday?

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        • No harm Horse, just a devoted Buc fan that wants to win. I get it! Re LBs Alexander and David are back at practice although limited. I think David plays, Kwon a game time decision because of the excellent play of stand-in MLB Kendell Beckwith. LB Adarius Glanton is also playing at a high level. I’m not too worried about LBs our deepest position. Aside from CB Grimes, I’m a little concerned about cagey old QB Carson Palmer picking on the other CBs especially if they play off their man. Let’s hope VHIII has a good game.

          Here is Greg Auman’s tweet on DE Ryan Russell: Bucs DE Ryan Russell hasn’t practiced all week due to shoulder, so he’s safest bet to be not playing Sunday. Some big names still uncertain.

          Horse Keep an eye on newly acquired DE Will Clarke. The Bucs say they are impressed with his pass rush talent. Love your passion and fearless desire to express it. Go Bucs!

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          • Macabee; Thank you, I always enjoy your posts. I am a loyal fan since 1976, but I also know how difficult it is in the NFL to win. We need some luck at times and not wait for it to happen; sometimes we have to show we aren’t predictable in the game both on offense & defense. I know it’s easier to say than do. Surprised Marpet has an injury. I’ll keep an eye on Clark, thank you for the info.

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    • Horse, I beg to differ with you on the current state of offense vs. defense.

      On offense, we may be top 10 in yards, but the scoreboard doesn’t count yards, only points. Being 17th in PPG is not sufficient given the offensive talent we have. We should be well up in the top 10 in points scored, but we’re far from it.

      The thing about piling up yards is that many or most of them seem to come in the second half or fourth quarter, as we’re scrambling to catch up. Just as it was last week vs. the Patriots … our offense was literally dead, except for Martin’s running, through the first three quarters. Opposing defenses tend to get tired by the fourth quarter, and if their team has a lead,as NE did, defenses also tend to let their foot off the gas pedal. So those late yards may look good on a stat sheet, but if they don’t result in points scored, then, literally, what’s the point?

      Sure, special teams gets a good share of the blame last two weeks for missed kicks … but remember, other than XPs, the only reason FGA matter is because we’re not scoring TDs. Through four games the Bucs rank only 20th in red zone scoring efficiency (50%). The top 9 teams all rate greater than 61% in RZE

      Defensively, we’ve been destroyed by injuries with large numbers of starters not suiting up or playing on hobbled ankles. It’s really hard to judge a team that doesn’t have its starters on the field. Last week against the Pats, we still had 4 of 11 starters not suiting up, yet we managed to hold the league’s best offense to only 19 points, less than 2/3 of their weekly total in the prior four games. Overall, even with all the injury absences, the Bucs still rank 14th in points allowed, which is several ranking positions better than our offense in points for.

      At this point our offense needs to focus on starting strong – as Coach Koetter keeps saying is necessary, to play all four quarters of every game – and finishing drives with touchdowns. If our offense had done that in the previous four games, we’d be 3-1 or maybe even 4-0. We also need a stronger commitment to Doug Martin and the run game. And our defense needs to get healthy again, particularly Kwan Alexander and Lavonte David, and get Will Clarke, our new DE replacing Jac Smith, to step up and deliver the sacks that Smith was supposed to deliver this season. The young defenders need to keep learning and getting better.

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      • Naplesfan, I hear you. I thought Pats had a good game plan: don’t make it an offensive contest when you don’t have to. Arizona will play the same way. This is the reason why I am suggesting to give Winston more short pass options in the beginning; Brady does it all the time. Do I think we are going to win? Yes I do. The reason is I don’t believe we will be out coached on offense and defense 2 games in a row. It’s the good to great coaches who adapt to the players they have for each game. Most teams have have injuries in key positions thru out the season; we’re not uniques in this area.

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      • Totally agree with you. People keep using yards to illustrate how effective Winston is. Bottom line- he does not put the ball in the end zone enough. It’s not just on JW, Koetter desires some blame as well. I think our defense plays ABOVE it’s talent level and our offense plays BELOW it’s talent. That falls on both JW and DK.

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        • I agree with that analysis.

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        • Yup, Bucnut.

          My analysis of the offense is not focused on Winston, though he is the leader and most important member of the offense. Last week it was a combination of his off target throws, dropped passes (inexplicably by Cam Brate, of all people!), not running Martin enough (that’s on Coach Koetter), penalties (that killer penatly by Gholston .. geez that was horrible). Just a lot of things not clicking on the offense for three of the four quarters. That’s not the kind of performance that anybody should settle for, let alone celebrate by pointing to total yards gained, but only14 points on the board.

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    • I don’t know what games you’ve been watching, but the defense has been doing their job. Regardless of who’s playing and who’s not playing. They just limited Tom fuckin Brady to 14 points while Winston played like a rookie, as he has all season long. This is going on 10 games now, including preseason, that he looks like crap. He had a messily 100 yards going into the fourth quarter against a garbage defense. The two glaring issues he still hasn’t improved on are the two more important traits for a QB: accuracy and decision making. How the hell do you keep overthrowing a 6’5 receiver? I mean, he’s been playing with him for a few years now, and he still continues to airmail the ball to everyone. The issue here is the offense and the QB. He has arguably some of the best weapons in the league! Goff would kill to have our weapons, and look how he’s performing.

      I’m just tired of everyone sugar coating it for Winston. All these comparisons and these stats, etc etc. The stats tell you a totally different story then what’s happening on the field. If you didn’t watch the Thursday Night game but looked at the stats, you would say, Winston, played pretty good! No, he didn’t. He couldn’t even convert a third down until the fourth quarter.

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      • you are spot on! D- is not the problem. It’s the offense and our “franchise QB”!

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      • Another thing about JW is his play action has really slipped since last season. There’s 6-12″ air showing. He still doesn’t look off his receivers. His coach has 2 players !!

        1st three games, like yrs past, we ran on 1st down approx 3/4 time. 4th game, we actually passed on 1st down in 1st quarter. BUT, w/o play action. This is Pop Warner stuff.

        I really appreciate all the articles and the comments. My nephew and I have a bet on Cardinal game as he lives in Az. We’ll meet o’er Thankgiviang. I can taste my gin/tonic already

        Aloha from Big Island
        Glen

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    • D held the Pats to 19 points. That was a game on the Offense in general and QB in particular.

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    • horse- I agree with some of your comments, but here are some facts. 1- the Bucs have spent a ton of money and draft picks to buy “weapons for Winston” at the expense of investing in the defense. The D- is playing fairly well given the talent level and investment. The offense is 26th in the league in scoring. In my mind this is ALL on the offense, Koetter and Winston. They just have not delivered, period. The reason I am not optimistic about this team is because I don’t believe that Winston is an elite QB. He is an elite LEADER, but in my mind an average QB. I keep coming back to Andy Dalton. IMO that is what Winston’s career will look like, perhaps a little less. Actually Dalton was making the playoffs by his second year and IMO the Bucs will miss the playoffs again this year. By the way, I woudl love to be wrong with i just said. I think too many people including PR keep looking back to his college days and reading that into his career in the NFL. For all of the talk about JW changing the culture into a winning one, we are just an 8-8 team with really strong talent. JW has had the opportunity to lead many comebacks and by in large has disappointed. Bottom line- the guy is just an average QB and we need to change our focus and draft defense, let Winston hand off to a great running backs and manage the game. We should trade Djax/and invest in D talent, RB and O-line and turn JW into a game manager.

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      • I meant to say that we have the look of an 8-8 team. I have a question for PR and any other posters. Please name me 2 Winston signature wins. He’s been here 2 1/4 years and I can think of 1. On the other hand, I can think of 5 blown end of game opportunities. Is that elite QB play?

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        • He has 7 game winning drives and just one last week! But as usual, you’re invisible from the boards after those games. You’re trying too hard at this point, just pick another team.

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          • two weeks ago I meant.

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          • Sorry that’s just wrong. Look at his pedestrian play during the winning streak last year. In the two biggest games of the year at Dallas and NO he was horrible

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          • Just wrong? How do, because t doesn’t fit your trolling? You asked for two games I gave you 7 and then you want to focus on your specific two games. One of them when our right guard was getting thrown around like a rag doll. Jameis isn’t going anywhere get used to it or get a new team.

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  2. Speaking of DE has anyone head Gholston name called in a game this year? I know he is not counted on for sacks but I have not heard his name on a running play.
    He really needs to step up IMO.

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    • not his role

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  3. just goes to show turnovers & explosives are important but scoring & making your damn kicks is the most important

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  4. I would really love to see Winston hit some guys ON THE RUN. Lets get some YAC !!
    Like the one ball to Desean last week. YAC baby YAC.

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    • And Martin needs at least 20 touches a game.

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  5. We need to start using the phrase OVER RATED to talk about Winston. MOST of hi stat come in garbage time. Bottom line, he is a GREAT leader, but average QB. All Bucs fan should get ready for an Andy Dalton type of career for Winston.

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    • Bucnut, you are such a clown.He hasn’t been perfect, but you were invisible as usual after games like he had against the Giants. You can’t wait to throw complaints and bitch very sub par game he has. Move on already.
      And statements like your last one are clear troll attempts that fail.
      Average QB is your boy down in Tennesse, who probably won’t play again this week.

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      • Look at some facts, like his QB rating. go back and look at the games, which I have and he picks up a lot of his yards during garbage time. The guy is an ok QB, GREAT leader but NOT someone who can carry a team on his back. My point is that we need to forget about more weapons on offense and build a GREAT D, get a GREAT RB and O-line and turn JW into a game manger. We should limit his decision making, have him hand off a lot, and use play action with the great tight ends we have. We should trade D-jax to a team with a QB that can utilize his skills. We should run a bunch of 2 and 3 tight end sets and take decision making out of his hands.

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  6. Here I am chiming in from the back of the train again. I am late to the party again. Maybe someone will read this on Saturday. :-J

    I just listened here on the internet to the last couple of sessions Dirk had with the press. Here are a few thoughts to throw out.
    ________________
    On the game against the Cards:

    Mike Evans will do much better against Patrick Peterson this year.

    The 100+ yards from DeSean Jackson bodes well for this week. Also, we now have four receivers with 200+ yards in the first four games. This is a first in Buccaneer history.

    Doug Martin is back and will contribute much to the balance in our attack. More running plays will happen unless we are not somehow behind by a bunch early in the game again.

    Hopefully, we won’t need more than one or two field goals this week. Our “new” field goal team only has had three days together. They are all pros …but …

    Our O-line is doing better than last year at this point. Yes, this means they are improved.

    Actually, there was some improvement on our D-line last week. Good push up the middle, two sacks and the Patriots were held to 19 in our loss. (Of course a loss is unacceptable.)
    ___________________
    Other:

    I suspect that when we get Alexander and David back starting (not this week), we may see Beckwith, Bond, Glanton and Lynch thrown in to the mix more often. I look for the 3-4 to be used more frequently. I see this happening at least for the interim until our DEs get up to speed. If this does happen it will be after this week.

    I know that Koetter did not actually say all of this. I am trying to guess by what he does not say and by what hints he gives in what he does say in reply to some of the questions.

    __________________
    Go Bucs!!!!!!!!

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  7. Winston is fine. People are seeing what they want to believe and not what is in front of them. Winston’s progress is remarkable given the circumstances.

    People saying defense isn’t an issue are ignoring the Bucs pass defense is ranked 31st in the NFL and total defense is 30th. Bucs are also ranked 32nd in the NFL in terms of sacks with four. The 31st ranked team (Jets) have seven sacks.

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    • He’s not fine. That’s the thing! The people who are looking at it realistically, and not with bias can see exactly what the issue is here. Winston is holding this team back. There are no excuses for his play this year. All the weapons he has, the oline has done a good job of keeping him clean and giving him time to find open receivers, and the defense has kept games manageable for him to win the game for us. He just hasn’t done it. We should’ve blown out the Giants and the Pats, but Winston barely got it done against perhaps the worst team in the league, and a bum defense.

      An overwhelming amount of Bucs fans are seeing what they want to see. Like you, they just look at the stats and think stats mean everything and he’s doing a good job. “Remarkable given the circumstances”??? What are you getting at? The circumstances that our defense has kept us in it to win it, yet he can’t get it done? The fact that he has a pretty good oline this year that’s given him plenty of time to go through reads and find the open guy? The weapons on offense he has at his disposal? Which is it, cause I’m getting tired of this bias talk that he can’t do anything wrong. Wake the fuck up.

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      • you are spot on. An average NFL QB( think Case Keenum) with these weapons would be putting up 28+points per week

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    • Bucs D is 14th ranked in points against, which is the ONLY meaningful stat for defenses. Bucs O is ranked 17th in points for, and that is the ONLY meaningful stat for offenses.

      Ws and Ls are the only meangful statf for teams, and points for being more than points against, game after game, is what delivers Ws. Everything else is just explanation for the points for and against., and fodder for internet argument.

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  8. “Winston already has had three consecutive 300-yard games over the past three weeks”

    ….and played poorly to below average in two of them. It’s not just numbers.

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    • Right- he gets most of his stats in garbage time.

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      • It’s good to see the WInston haters in full force stroking each others comments.

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        • I have no hate for JW. If he starts playing like an elite QB, I’ll be leading the parade in saying so. At this point, he is nothing more than an average NFL QB

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