Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter - Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
SR’s Fab 5 is a collection of inside scoop, analysis and insight from yours truly, PewterReport.com publisher and Bucs beat writer Scott Reynolds. Here are a few things that caught my attention this week at One Buc Place and around the NFL:
FAB 1. KOETTER’S “GO FOR THE THROAT” MENTALITY ON DISPLAY IN WEEK 1
Smart football coaches usually attempt to defer to the second half when winning the coin toss so that their team can start with the ball coming out of halftime.
That’s exactly what happened last Sunday when new Tampa Bay head coach Dirk Koetter won the toss and sent Mike Smith’s revamped Bucs defense on the field first to start the 2016 regular season at Atlanta. That was the first of many correct coaching decisions Koetter made that day as Tampa Bay’s defense went three-and-out and forced an Atlanta punt on the first series.
Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter – Photo by: Getty Images
The Bucs took over at their 38-yard line, marched down the field and took an early 3-0 lead against the Falcons on a 43-yard field goal by rookie kicker Roberto Aguayo. While those first three points were encouraging, the 14 points scored within the final 24 seconds of the second quarter and the first 126 seconds of the third quarter was what Sunday’s Tampa Bay victory was all about.
It all started with Koetter’s decision to want the ball first coming out of halftime.
If your team is down, it’s the perfect time to put those halftime adjustments to work and try to catch up.
If your team is tied, here’s the chance to take the lead.
And if your team is up, it’s time to step on the other team’s throat and finish them, and that’s exactly what Koetter and the Bucs did.
It’s a new attitude, and it’s refreshing. After two years of watching the madness of Lovie Smith being content to run out the clock in the first half or take a knee and get to halftime – even with timeouts in his pocket – Koetter’s go-for-the-throat mentality is a welcomed change.
When he’s not smiling, Koetter resembles Clint Eastwood’s famous character “Dirty Harry,” who showed little mercy towards the criminals he pursued in the movies. Koetter showed the Falcons little mercy too, unleashing 31 points against an overmatched Atlanta defense – and it all started with the coin toss.
New England’s Bill Belichick – you know, the guy with all of those Super Bowl rings? He employs the act of deferring until the second half every time the Patriots win the coin toss. His strategy is to score right before halftime – no matter how much time is left on the clock – and then score on the first drive of the third quarter.
That’s exactly what Tampa Bay did in Atlanta. Trailing 13-10 with 1:45 left, the Bucs went with a no-huddle offense and quarterback Jameis Winston hit tight end Cameron Brate with three straight passes covering six, 17 and seven yards down to the Atlanta 45. Winston then found running back Charles Sims for a gain of four yards down to the Atlanta 41 before using the team’s second timeout.
After an incompletion to Vincent Jackson, Winston came back to him twice for an 11-yard gain and a gain of seven yards down to the Atlanta 23 before Atlanta used its first timeout. On second-and-3 from the Atlanta 23, Winston checked down to Sims, who dodged six Falcons defenders and raced to the end zone with 14 seconds left to put the Bucs ahead 17-13 at halftime.
Bucs QB Jameis Winston and RB Charles Sims – Photo by: Getty Images
“I would have to say the no huddle,” Koetter said when asked about what swung the momentum in Tampa Bay’s favor. “We had to go to it. It was loud, we had terrible field position and we were backed up. It seemed like we were backed up the whole game. We shot ourselves in the foot a couple times with some penalties and those things we have to get better at. I think the real turning point was the drive before the half, the two-minute offense we did a good job with that.”
Winston echoed the sentiments of Tampa Bay’s head coach and play-caller.
“Coach Koetter … you know he’s always preaching that two-minute offense,” Winston said. “We had a great two-minute topped off by Charles. We just played good football.”
Sims made a highlight-worthy play that revved up the Buccaneers sidelines at halftime.
“It was a good play call, but a lot of it was Charles Sims’ running ability,” Seferian-Jenkins said. “Charles made a lot of guys miss on that score. Jameis had a look, made the check down and Charles made five guys miss. It was crazy.
While Sims made a dynamic play to get in the end zone, Koetter said that Winston’s correct decision helped put the Bucs in the lead at halftime.
“We talked about check downs all week,” Koetter said. “Atlanta is a zone-based defense, they take deep drops, they try to force you to check the ball down. We were preaching to Jameis Winston, ‘Check it down. Check it down.’ And he did it and what a run by Chuck. Charles must have broken four tackles. We were inching our way down the field on that drive. It was reminiscent of our game here last year. We kind of got the momentum in the second quarter.”
But that was only half it.
Tampa Bay really swung momentum by scoring on the first drive coming out of halftime. Winston hit receiver Mike Evans with a 15-yard strike and a 27-yard pass down to the Atlanta 30. That set up a beautifully thrown ball to tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins in the back of the end zone that gave Tampa Bay a 24-13 lead with 12:54 left in the third quarter.
Bucs TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
“You know, that’s a big boost because we had the opportunity to get two scores up on them right then, and that’s how we kind of took the game away,” Winston said.
That’s exactly how Tom Brady and the Patriots do it. Jason Licht knows that from having been around Brady, Belichick and the New England franchise for years before coming to Tampa Bay.
That’s also how Arizona head coach Bruce Arians likes to play ball, and the Cardinals will make a concerted effort to try that same approach against the Buccaneers on Sunday. Whichever team wins the coin toss this week may very well have the upper hand in winning the game if it can execute the back-to-back scores that Tampa Bay was able to pull off on Sunday in Atlanta.
“That’s Coach Koetter for you,” Bucs defensive tackle Akeem Spence said. “It helps that we have one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. Those guys on offense have been running the two-minute drill all camp and we have the players that can get it done. I love the aggressive mentality we have with Dirk. Whenever we have the chance to go score, we’re going to go score. Then coming out of the half and get another score was big.
“When the Falcons finally got the ball again they were down two scores and then Matt Ryan had to start slinging the ball all over the field. Our guys did a great job of covering, especially covering up 11. We locked up the run in the first half, and then in the second half with the score the way it was, they were one-dimensional.”
The last time Spence and Tampa Bay’s defense was on the field, the Bucs trailed 13-10. The next time that unit took the field in the third quarter, Tampa Bay had a 24-13 lead, and Atlanta trailed by two scores.
That’s how Koetter helps the defense.
And that’s why the Bucs defenders love playing for him.
Dirk Koetter and the Bucs celebrate their win on opening day – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
“It’s a stomp on your neck mentality and a shock and awe mentality,” McDonald said. “In any game if you can put points on the board before guys really know what is going on, it will always give you the advantage. The way Dirk Koetter goes about his business is aggressive. He’s been this way since he’s been in the league and we love it.”
Bucs special teams captain and wide receiver Russell Shepard saw the team squander too many scoring opportunities in games over the past two years and wind up on the losing end too many times where a last second field goal or touchdown right before halftime – instead of taking a knee – would have made a difference in the outcome.
“It shows you that we have an offensive-minded, aggressive head coach in Dirk Koetter,” Shepard said. “The last few years I’ve been here, we’ve had defensive-minded guys. I’m not saying they don’t care about scoring, but they were content with what we had on the board at the time, and in reality, sometimes it wasn’t enough.
“That’s not the case with this guy. He’s going to put the pedal to the metal from an offensive standpoint. With the talent that we have with Jameis, with Mike Evans stretching the field, with Vincent Jackson, with all the weapons we have – why not? Dirk doesn’t shy away from anything. He attacks everything at full speed. I think it’s going to be something special if we continue like we are.”
The two keys from Tampa Bay’s Week 1 win at Atlanta? Executing the two-minute drill to perfection, and following Koetter’s plan to get a touchdown heading into halftime and a touchdown coming out of halftime.
“There were a couple of different momentum shifts throughout that game,” Bucs right guard Ali Marpet said. “The score before halftime was huge for us, and obviously scoring again coming out of the half was, too. We love it, and Dirk likes to take his shots. Obviously it pays off when we execute.”
Former Bucs head coach Jon Gruden once told me that there are on average between 10-12 offensive possessions per game. Teams that take a knee and head into halftime, especially with timeouts left, are squandering a precious scoring opportunity and are actually putting themselves at a disadvantage by not trying to score before halftime.
Of course it has to make sense. A team is probably better served taking a knee with 15 seconds left before halftime with two timeouts remaining and starting on its own 10-yard line rather than risk an interception with a hasty throw or a sack-fumble.
But there were too many times Smith wasted scoring opportunities over the past two years, and his poor game management and poor clock management was a big reason why I called for him to be fired last year.
“Dirk tells us to cut it loose,” Seferian-Jenkins said. “We’ve all worked so hard – the coaches included – so why not let it rip every single time we’re out there and try to get a touchdown? Why play with any fear? Play with your hopes and dreams – not your fears. That’s what Dirk tells us, and we believe it.”
FAB 2. DIVERSIFIED ATTACK MAKE BUCS OFFENSE HARD TO STOP
What made Tampa Bay’s offense so hard to defend last Sunday was the diversification factor. A total of nine skill position players touched the ball in Atlanta, and each offensive weapon played a significant role in the team’s 31-24 victory.
Wide receiver Mike Evans led the way with five catches for 99 yards and a spectacular 45-yard touchdown catch in the third quarter. Running back Doug Martin was next with a game-high 62 yards rushing and 34 yards receiving. Fellow running back Charles Sims had nine yards rushing, but 32 yards receiving, including a 23-yard touchdown.
Bucs TE Brandon Myers – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Wide receiver Adam Humphries had 34 yards on three catches and seven more on a carry, and while tight end Cameron Brate only had three catches for 30 yards, that yardage came on the Bucs’ two-minute drive right before halftime to set up Sims’ touchdown.
Vincent Jackson only had two catches for 18 yards, but they came on Tampa Bay’s first drive in the third quarter and preceded tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins’ lone catch of the game, which was a 30-yard touchdown. Fellow tight end Brandon Myers only had one catch, but it was a 4-yard touchdown – Jameis Winston’s first scoring strike of the year.
And who guessed Myers – Myers! – would get Tampa Bay’s first touchdown of the 2016 season?
Seldom-used wide receiver Russell Shepard got into the action with a 9-yard gain on an end around, too.
“It makes it a fun offense to play in with everybody touching the ball,” Humphries said. “It’s fun to come back and watch film and see everybody make their plays.”
But it’s not fun for Arizona defensive coordinator James Bettcher, who has to be mindful of every possible target Winston has at his disposal. Take away Martin and the ground game? Double-team Evans in the passing game? Head coach Dirk Koetter has other ways to spread the ball around to capable receivers, backs and tight ends.
“That’s usually how it works with us,” Bucs cornerback Jude Adjei-Barimah said. “Anybody can have a big day out at practice and in the games, too. Jameis does a great job of distributing the ball to all of our weapons.
“I don’t know how they know who to stop. I guess that’s what defensive coordinators get paid to figure out. I’m just glad we have all of those guys on our team.”
Bucs QB Jameis Winston – Photo by: Getty Images
Start keying on Brate at halftime because he had three catches for 30 yards at the end of the first half? Then Koetter directs Winston to fire a 30-yard touchdown strike to Seferian-Jenkins to kick off the third quarter.
“That was something that we practiced all week,” Seferian-Jenkins said. “Kudos to the coaches and their schemes, and to No. 3 for putting the ball right where it needed to be. The O-line had great protection. If you watch that play, the protection is unbelievable. He’s sitting back there relaxed and makes a good, confident throw. When No. 3 is back there it’s easy to make plays.”
Concentrate on Evans and Jackson, and all of a sudden Koetter calls a tunnel screen to Humphries, who received a great block from Jackson and the left side of the offensive line, which pulled downfield.
“It was a good call and the receivers and the O-line got out and blocked for me down field just like they do in practice,” Humphries said. “It worked out perfectly. That was a huge play in the game and it’s great when you work on stuff over and over on the practice field and then it works perfectly in the game the way you drew it up. It was good to get that one.”
Koetter and the offensive coaches had all offseason to prepare for Atlanta. Now they have one week to prepare for Arizona.
Expect Koetter to review what worked from New England’s offense, which was without a pair of Pro Bowlers in quarterback Tom Brady and tight end Rob Gronkowksi, in the Patriots’ 23-21 victory at Arizona last week. What worked was rub routes in three-receiver sets that confused the Cardinals secondary and gave Jimmy Garoppolo open looks in his first NFL start.
Charles Sims had a TD catch against the Browns – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Remember when Tampa Bay came out in a no-huddle offense with a three-receiver set as they did against Cleveland in the preseason? I have no specific intel into Koetter’s offensive plan, but if I had to guess, I’m thinking the Bucs will come out with the same look against the Cardinals and pick on rookie cornerback Brandon Williams by rotating Evans, Jackson and Humphries his way, and even Seferian-Jenkins or Brate flexed out to try to create a mismatch.
“Our offense has a lot of weapons,” Adjei-Barimah said. “Our guys are big and strong and fast, and we’ve got a quarterback like Jameis that is getting them the ball. It’s a great situation for our team, and I know that defensive coordinators have their hands full to stop our offense.”
Diversification is the key.
FAB 3. BUCS LINEBACKERS RUN WILD IN SMITH’S NEW SCHEME
Tampa Bay’s linebacking corps – specifically middle linebacker Kwon Alexander and weakside linebacker Lavonte David – ran wild in Atlanta and combined for 28 tackles, five tackles for loss, and one sack. Alexander had a career-high 17 tackles (15 solo), two tackles for loss, and one sack, while David had eight stops, and three tackles for loss.
Bucs MLB Kwon Alexander and DT Gerald McCoy – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Meanwhile, the Bucs defensive line combined for just six tackles, three tackles for loss and two sacks. Pro Bowl defensive tackle Gerald McCoy had three tackles, two tackles for loss, one sack and two timely pass break-ups. New defensive end Robert Ayers had two tackles, one tackle for loss and one sack, while nose tackle Clinton McDonald had one tackle.
Why the discrepancy in tackles between units, and how much of it is attributed to Mike Smith’s new defensive scheme? I went looking for the answer in Tampa Bay’s locker room this week.
“I feel like the linebackers are making their reads better and faster this year,” McDonald said. “They are having the opportunity to make a lot of plays. This is the NFL and you get schemed every week regardless of what position you play. Our linebackers did a great job last week.”
In last year’s 41-14 season-opening loss to Tennessee, Alexander and David combined for 10 tackles, one tackle for loss, one forced fumble and one pass breakup. That’s a far cry from the numbers Alexander and David combined for on Sunday.
The biggest improvement is how quickly Alexander is diagnosing the play, running to the ball and making the tackle. The second-year linebacker’s tackling has also improved tremendously.
“Kwon is an exceptional athlete and he plays the game so hard,” Smith said. “We had guys that were running to the football, but when you compare them to Kwon, sometimes they don’t look like they’re going as fast as they need to because he was all over the football field. [It was] reminiscent of some of the great linebackers to have 17 hits and a sack, a tackle for a loss. He has a will and a desire and when you have that will and desire on the football field, it’s going to show up.
Bucs LBs coach Mark Duffner – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
“He’s a very good athlete and he also has a great desire off the field because he’s not only coming in and sitting down with me every morning, but he’s also getting extra time with [linebackers] Coach [Mark] Duffner. He just is a sponge right now and he wants to take as much as he can in and we’ve got to go through baby steps. I think he wants it to happen a lot quicker than it’s probably going to happen, in terms of understanding the defense, but he has a pretty good understanding of playing football and getting to the football.”
Tampa Bay reserve nose tackle Akeem Spence said the reason why Alexander and David made so many tackles is because Atlanta was doubling the Bucs defensive linemen.
“It was more the Falcons staying on us defensive linemen, especially on the inside,” Spence said. “Me, Clinton and Gerald were facing constant double-teams. They weren’t coming off on our linebackers and they were free to go make plays, and they did. Kwon had 17 tackles and a sack. As long as the guy behind me is eating, I can’t complain.”
Yet looking at the film, when Falcons linemen were getting to the second level they weren’t able to block Alexander and David, who dodged and sidestepped them with tremendous agility and made the tackle. That combined with the fact that Tampa Bay’s defensive linemen were shuffling sideways and occupying a blocker on run plays – rather than penetrating a gap and getting up-field in Lovie Smith and Greg Schiano’s former schemes – kept Atlanta’s offensive linemen off the linebackers.
McCoy said it’s all about playing as a team on defense, even if it reduced the opportunities for the defensive line to rack up the statistics.
“That’s really all I concern myself with,” McCoy said. “It’s not about what I do. The only reason I concern myself with what the D-line does is because when we play well, our team plays well. I really just concern myself with whatever it takes to win. When [Smith] first got here, they were asking me to do something I wasn’t used to. I went and talked to Coach Smith about and he said, ‘Just try it.’ I tried it and I love it. Whatever it takes to win and that’s my only focus. Whatever we’ve got to do to win and I feel like if we keep going the way we’re going, we have a pretty good shot to win a lot of games this season.”
Bucs defensive coordinator Mike Smith – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
In Smith’s scheme the days of McDonald getting eight tackles in a game, as he did against Houston last year, or defensive end Will Gholston getting 11 tackles, as he did versus St. Louis in 2015, might be a thing of the past as Alexander and David are designed to average at least 20 tackles between them each game.
That shouldn’t affect McCoy’s status as a Pro Bowl player as he only recorded 34 tackles – an average of two per game – last year, as long as he continues to get to the quarterback. But it could propel Alexander to his first Pro Bowl. The LSU product is currently on pace to record 272 tackles.
While he’s not going to average 17 tackles per game, Alexander could wind up hitting 200 tackles if he averages 12 tackles per game and stays healthy the rest of the season. To put that in perspective, Pro Bowl middle linebacker Hardy Nickerson set the Bucs franchise record for tackles in a single season with 213 in 1993.
FAB 4. THANKS TO HIS DAD, LICHT IS WIRED TO HANDLE PRESSURE
I encourage Bucs fans to read Tampa Bay Times columnist Martin Fennelly’s “I Am Not Afraid” Is Mantra Of Bucs G.M. piece on Jason Licht this week.
It offers a rare glimpse into the personal life of Tampa Bay’s top personnel man and how Licht’s upbringing influenced his decision-making process when it comes to taking chances in the draft, such as selecting players with questionable backgrounds like quarterback Jameis Winston, or rolling the dice and trading up for a kicker in Roberto Aguayo in the second round, which drew laughs from some in the media and criticism from others.
Licht went on the record to share a story with Fennelly that he had told me last year.
Bucs GM Jason Licht – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
“I love pressure,” Licht said. “My entire life, since I grew up as a kid, been through a lot of pressure situations. I have great parents, a great foundation. Been through tough times growing up. Don’t want to get into it. The more pressure, the better, so bring it on.
“I’ll give you a quick story. I’m at Nebraska on the freshman team. My dad didn’t miss a single game. He would drive seven and a half hours. Get up super early, drive, see the game, then we’d get something to eat, then he’d drive on back. Well, my dad had this prized silver dollar collection that his dad had passed on to him. As kids, we’d look at them. They were in like a bait and tackle box, and inside were all these silver dollars. I found out my dad sold the collection, the whole thing, for gas money just to see me play my whole freshman year. I don’t think they were worth much more than regular dollars, but he had them all and used them for gas so he could watch me play. I’m more appreciative of that than if he had been able to pay for my college.”
When I saw Fennelly’s column, I told Licht that I was glad that he decided to go on the record with that story because it gives Bucs fans some insight into the development of Licht’s bold, “go-for-it” mentality. Licht’s father, Ron, is his hero, and the two are best friends.
This week, Licht shared another story with me about his dad’s boldness and decisiveness that’s worth telling.
“I was invited to Nebraska’s “preferred walk-on” recruiting weekend,” Licht recalled. “It was most exciting thing to ever happen to me and my family at the time. The day before my father and I were set to drive, we find out the heater didn’t work in the car. My dad spent all day trying to get it to work. It was going to cost an arm and a leg for us to fix it. I assumed we weren’t going to be able to make it.
Ron Licht (far left) is Jason’s hero – Photo courtesy of the Licht family
“It was the coldest week we had seen in years. Minus-10 degrees wind chill. That next morning, my dad woke me up. He had assembled a bed of every sleeping bag and blanket for me in the back seat to keep warm. He bundled himself up and wore two pairs of gloves and said, ‘Let’s go!’
“We braved the elements and made to Lincoln in time for the recruiting visit,” Licht said. “I think my Aunt Alice, who lived in Lincoln, helped us out with her mechanic and got the heater fixed while we were there. We have rarely talked about that journey. Not because it was a dark time financially, but only because it was just another day in our lives. Looking back, I think the way I grew up completely wired me for this industry because there is a daily crisis you have to get through in the NFL.”
The lack of gas money or a broken heater in the middle of winter didn’t phase Ron Licht one bit. He persevered and found a way. And that’s a key trait he’s passed along to his son, who now leads the Buccaneers.
FAB 5. SR’s BUC SHOTS
• Bucs wide receiver Russell Shepard was impressed with the way Dirk Koetter not only managed the game in his first game as an NFL head coach, but also the way he called a masterful game.
“That’s a tip of the hat to our head coach,” Shepard said. “To be a head coach and still be so involved in the offense says a lot about him. Calling plays is a talent. Dirk has been calling plays since his mid-20s, so for him to be as successful as he is and throughout his coaching career he has to be considered one of the best play-callers in the league – if not the best, in my opinion.”
Shepard noted that since Koetter is the head coach and the play-caller, he now has no one he has to answer to on game day, and can be as aggressive as he wants to be.
“Yes, the handcuffs are off,” Shepard said. “With him being the head coach now and not just the coordinator, they are off him. Now he can do everything that he wants to do.”
• Our @PewterReport Twitter account is on the path to 24,00 followers, which makes us one of the most popular media outlets on Twitter when it comes to covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. If you haven’t done so already, click here to follow @PewterReport, the official Twitter page of PewterReport.com. And you can also follow PewterReport.com on Facebook by clicking here.
Tampa Bay’s OL didn’t allow a sack in Atlanta – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
• While Tampa Bay’s offensive line didn’t surrender a sack against Atlanta in Week 1, that wasn’t good enough for right guard Ali Marpet.
“Obviously, that’s a goal of ours – to not give up a sack – but Jameis [Winston] was hit a few times,” Marpet said. “He was hit five times, and that’s too much for us. Even though he wasn’t sacked, he was hit, and that’s too much. We can play better.”
There are even higher standards in George Warhop’s room this year.
• Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston had a slow start to Sunday’s 2016 season opener at Atlanta, completing just 4-of-8 passes for 19 yards with one interception in the first quarter. That computes to just a 10.7 QB rating.
But when Winston heated up in the second quarter, and completed 19-of-24 passes (79 percent) for 262 yards and four touchdowns, his QB rating soared to 148.4 in quarters 2-4. Winston finished the game completing 23-of-32 passes (71 percent) for 281 yards with four TDs and one INT, while picking up FedEx Air Player of the Week and NFC Offensive Player of the Week honors in a 31-24 win over the Falcons.
• We have some new times to share with you about PewterReport.com’s regular radio appearance schedule on 620 WDAE, the official flagship station of the Buccaneers Radio Network:
Mondays at 9:30 am – Scott Reynolds with Ronnie “Night Train” Lane and Tom “TKras” Krasniqi
Mondays at 1:30 pm – Mark Cook with Ron Diaz and JP Peterson
Fridays at 9:30 pm – Mark Cook with Ronnie “Night Train” Lane and Tom “TKras” Krasniqi
Fridays at 1:00 pm – Scott Reynolds with Ron Diaz and JP Peterson
• Remember when Clemson defensive end Vic Beasley was being discussed as one of the top pass rushers in the 2015 NFL Draft? Beasley was drafted eighth overall by Atlanta, and after one year as an undersized defensive end at 6-foot-3, 246 pounds, he was moved to strongside linebacker because he could not hold up at the point of attack in the running game.
Beasley was somewhat productive as a rookie, finishing with 26 tackles, four sacks two forced fumbles and one interceptions, but suffered shoulder injuries due to his penchant for making arm tackles. Concerned that he might wear down as an every down defensive end, head coach Dan Quinn moved him to strongside linebacker after just one year, a clear sign that Beasley is on the path to being a potential draft bust.
Want another sign? Beasley split time between strongside linebacker and rush end in nickel defense and registered zero sacks and zero tackles in the 2016 season-opening loss to Tampa Bay. Ouch.
Bucs DE Howard Jones – Photo by: Getty Images
• Losing veteran defensive end Jacquies Smith to a torn ACL early in the Week 1 victory over Atlanta was a huge blow to Tampa Bay’s defense. Smith, who was going to rotate with Will Gholston on third downs and obvious pass-rushing downs, led the Bucs in sacks in the preseason with four. I had gone so far as to predict that Smith would lead the Bucs in sacks this year and reach double digits.
Now the attention shifts to second-year end Howard Jones, who has more experience rushing from the right side than the left. Jones, who had five sacks, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery for a touchdown last year as a rookie, will have to step up in pass-rushing situations.
“Absolutely, Howard’s going to get more snaps,” Bucs defensive coordinator Mike Smith said. “Howard’s had some production in this league. People like to designate him as a ‘DPR’ [Designated Pass Rusher], and he’s going to get an opportunity to rush the passer. For us, the big thing that we’ve got do to each and every week is we’ve to get our opponents in those third-and-5 pluses, where it’s advantage defense. We can’t be in third-and-2s and thirds-and-3s because when we’re in those situations, we’re not going to get an opportunity to put our pass rush players out there or we’re not going to be able to do the schemes that we like to do in those down and distances.”
• This week’s Pewter Watch Party takes place at Sports Legends Bar & Grill in Clearwater, Fla. before the rest of our away game watch parties revert back to Hard Rock Cafe at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino for the rest of the 2016 season. Sports Legends Bar & Grill is located at 2571 Drew Street in Clearwater, and the Pewter Watch Party begins at 3:00 p.m. for this 4:05 p.m. kickoff between Tampa Bay and Arizona. Come watch the game with yours truly and the PewterReport.com staff.
Sports Legends Bar & Grill will have plenty of specials available on all day on Sunday, including:
• 20 wings plus a pitcher of domestic beer for $20
• Buckets of beer (Bud, Bud Light, Coors Light and Miller Lite) five for $10
• Buccaneer shots (Sailor Jerry Rum, Peach Schnapps and fruit punch) for $4 – but only $2 after every time Tampa Bay scores
• Buccaneer crab nachos for $12.99 – Tampa Bay’s all-time favorite ingredient – lump crab – combined with red and black tortilla chips, mango salsa, three kinds of cheese, lettuce, jalapenos all topped with lemon aioli and sweet Thai chili sauce.
Two Henrys Brewing Company, the official beer of PewterReport.com, will be on hand to give away FREE beer samples of its Belleview Biltmore Vanilla Blueberry Wheat beer, and Gilded Age Golden Lager. Both beers are available on tap at Sports Legends Bar & Grill.
Come watch Tampa Bay try to go 2-0 at Sports Legends Bar & Grill, which features over 40 TV screens in Clearwater’s newest sports bar. For more information, visit them on the web at SportsLegends.biz
• And finally, I encourage you to check out the new PewterReport.com message boards, especially the Red Board, which focuses on Buccaneers-related content. Myself and the PewterReport.com staff will be chiming in with our opinions on the Red Board throughout the week, and the Red Board is the place to be for Bucs discussion on game days. Registering is free, quick and easy.
Scott Reynolds is in his 23rd 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 enjoys 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]
I get the strange feeling Noah Spence is not going to play much this year. With Smith out for the season I thought we would hear his name being talked up this week, and I don’t get the feeling he is even in the mix. What gives ?
Really nice article Scott. I think the Tight End group is going to be the key this week against the Cardinals and I’m going on record to say that ASJ is going to have a monster game this week. I look for the Cards to slide additional coverage over to better protect their rookie corner and that’s going to leave the middle open for a big target like ASJ. Say what you like about Austin, but he appears to finally be taking the game seriously and this is the week he is the big dog!
We DOGS! We ain’t no puppies no mo’!
The Pats did a nice job of gameplanning for the talent they had available and I dont think those are necessarily the strengths of our team. We can win playing our brand of football bc honestly we have more weapons on offense than the Pats did on Sunday. Smart, disciplined football on both sides of the ball should give us a chance to send the Cardinals to 0-2. I foresee a few more FG attempts so hopefully Aguayo keeps delivering. Go Bucs as always!
I don’t think the Bucs played their best game last Sunday against the Falcons. Jameis missed some TD passes in the 1st quarter. There were a few blown coverages. Which is understandable with a new defense and being on the road. The interception due to a mis-communication due to the noise on the road (and being the 1st game). So, there is a lot of work to do. If the Bucs did play better football, this game could of easily been a blow out. But, winning a division game on the road to open up the season is very encouraging.
Scott, the Fab5 is one of the reasons I look forward to Friday. Keep up the good work. Thanks also for the insight on Jason Licht and his Dad. Go Bucs! Beat Cards!
Your Fab 5 had very little new information Scott; a lot of quotes repeated from other articles. I keep reminding myself the Cardinals could have still beaten the Patriots except for the fact they kept shooting themselves in the foot. This is going to be a very tough game for us to win, but still winnable. Pass rush is what this game will be abou, plus fumbles and interceptions. We need a big game from the defense! Go Bucs!
Nice read Scott. On FAB1, I am glad to hear that Koetter wants to have that approach. No doubt, the forward mentality will bite us at some point, but I firmly believe it to be the better approach. The confusing thing for me is, why then did we switch to “run out the clock” mentality towards the end of the 3rd quarter. That’s Greg Schiano football and it bit us way more often than the “go for the throat” approach. Maybe it was Koetter’s first game, maybe he thought we had more than enough points that it didn’t matter (I suppose we did, just barely, in the end), but I would love to see us keep the foot on the throttle a little while longer before we fight the clock.
On FAB5 – well said by Marpet…5 hits is too many and these guys need to keep raising the bar, which I’m sure they will do.
@eastendboy I completely agree. Koetter coached himself into an actual game last Sunday with the vanilla playbook once we got the lead. Im hoping he had a case of the first game jitters but the score def shouldnt have been that close. Our defense is improved but not to the point where we can mail it in for a whole quarter like the 4th qtr in ATL.
I agree EEB. Play fight the clock with 4 minutes left.
Pretty good reading in the Fab 5 today. Also props to PR for pumping out quality articles all during the week. I don’t remember so much output as we have been seeing this year. KUDOS
In my opinion the hiring of Dirk K is the best thing that has happened for the Bucs since 2002. To quote Scott “When he’s not smiling, Koetter resembles Clint Eastwood’s famous character “Dirty Harry,” Make my day PUNK. That, to me tells it all, here is man doing what he loves and enjoying every minute. Not to mention getting paid quite handsomely to do it. I’ve got no problem with stealing strategies from other teams or emulating great coaches. I just hope Koetter keeps his positive outlook and keeps the team having fun, and winning of course. This team seems to really like the head coach, very refreshing. Taking plays from other teams is cool. I think Belichik looks like he sucking on a lemon most of the time. I’ve tried to think back of him smiling, after winning the Super Bowl is the only time I can think of.
Going for the throat. Love it.
Weapons galore, this is fantastic. Dougernaught catching passes excites me a lot. If we can get teams to fear Charles Sims running game it will confuse them greatly. What are the Running backs going to do, catch or rush? It should cause some consternation in opposing teams heads. I remember watching the Eagles when Randall Cunningham was playing and thinking, what is this team doing next. This week let us freak every one out and complete a TD to LUKE STOCKER. Hell yeah.
They are going to have to account for Kwon, that’s all there is to it. Then Lavonte steps in and gets his. With McCoy and Alexander occupying multiple blockers I look for Otrher members of the defense to have good games.
I don’t know anything about Mark Duffner, maybe sometime Scott could give us some insight on him. We all enjoyed the last coaching profile he did.
I’m taking that Jason Licht has a Germanic background. Being German descent and from the mid west has got to have something to do with his toughness. He just seems to me to be rock steady and dependable. Reminds me of all the guys who I’ve known over the years from the mid west, Go to work, work hard and get it done.
It’s a plus that he is a drafting Ninja.
Vic Beasley, another Clemson defensive player maybe not panning out. How unusual. Besides Humphries, I can’t think of any player from Clemson succeeding in the NFL. I did not even realize that Humphries was from Clemson until someone pointed that out to me. Glad he’s not on our team.
Never,ever, ever, never……draft a pass rusher from Clemson!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Help me out. Has there ever been a great player from Clemson?
maybe William “the refrigerator” Perry….?
Great eater for sure,
I’m glad Humphries is on our team:)
I think Lovie’s approach in managing time outs is obvious and the rest of you don’t understand. Time outs are cumulative and if you don’t use them they are added to the amount you will have available for the next game!
Speaking of Luke Stocker brings to mind jongruden. I miss his post (seriously-never a dull moment). He lives in Arizona so he may be conflicted this weekend; or maybe he is a cards fan now. lol
Timeouts are cumulative. At least Lovie thought so!
Another good Fab 5 Scott.
Koetters go for it mentality is such a refreshing change of pace from Lovie’s bullshit take a knee approach. You know just from watching one game that he will be the kind of coach that takes his shots. I also think he’s got this swag or arrogance about him that I really like. He just looks like he knows his offense is better than your defense.
We have some special weapons on this team and we will need them this week for what could turn into a shootout. Id like to see even a few more two tight end and two back sets to really throw them off. But I agree that we will see some 3 and 4 wide sets to get Arizona out of that traditional 3-4 scheme.
I love Lichts ability to take calculated risks. I mean in hind sight, trading back in the first and still getting Hargreaves was another well calculated risk.
Great to see Jameis not only getting his offensive player of the week award, but also his Fed ex player of the week as well. I’m sure Bucnut is completely surprised that someone with so little talent could do that.
My prediction for this week end? Bucs upset Arizona 27-24. Go Bucs!
Couldn’t agree with you more about Clemson pass rushers 76Buc and William Perry was one of the most over rated DT’s to ever play the game thanks to the media who loved him because he was fat.
When I saw Beasley’s height and weight I said he would never hold up in the NFL as a defensive end.
I would be surprised if the Bucs run a lot of rubs this week although it would be great if they did. The main reason is because I rarely see them running rubs anyway.
Besides; New England’s offense is designed for short to intermediate routes that lend themselves to rubs/
The Bucs are designed for more intermediate and long passes and the only time Winston goes for short passes is when he is dumping the ball off because the receivers downfield are covered.
To be honest, Lovie also liked to defer receiving the ball till the second half for the same reasons but unfortunately was never gutsy enough to do anything with the philosophy.
Again, in his defense, it wasn’t like he had Peyton Manning, Tom Brady or even Andy Dalton around to toss the rock. Josh McClown sure didn’t instill a lot of confidence and last year Winston was a rookie.
If the Cards play like they did against New England, the Bucs have a good chance to beat them but I never predict W’s and L’s. I’m much to superstitious for that sort of existential meddling.
Don’t know if I’d call Perry fat while he was playing. Lets say weight challenged. That was one big strong dude. I’ll say he could choose the salad bar more often though.
Forgot to mention that really love it when someone complains about the content of the stories in Pewter Report like Horse did.
How much does it cost you to read it, Horse?
Like complaining about the free lunch your company or a friend bought you.
Good point Dr. D. When something is free, the recipient always gets his monies worth. I get a lot of free lunches and they are always quite tasty.
Looking forward to this game. Playing opponents against whom few “experts” give us a chance is always a bit more relaxing than facing a foe we are expected to defeat. I suspect the Cardinals are on edge. How they collectively handle the added pressure is key. I suspect the Buccaneers are going in with a “why not us” mindset that we have not witnessed in recent years. If the “good guys” can hang in there and weather the Cardinals best efforts early their confidence will continue to soar and frustrate the red birds even more. Stand up to the bully and take his ass down in the end with a TD pass to Luke Stocker. Bucs 20 Cardinals 17.
Arizona Joe will be so excited wagging his finger in the face of the nearest Cardinal fan who only two years ago was probably rooting for the Cowboys. JonnyG will be ripping off his Cardinals jersey to expose his old Josh Freeman # 5 underneath. All of us ols school guys and gals here will dig up the words of that 1979 fight song from our memory banks. Sing along folks. Hey Hey Tampa Bay, the Bucs know how to shine!
I hope Palmer will try and pick on VHIII because of his rookie status, with VHIII nabbing a couple out of the air. That would be sweet! I think Hargreaves is going to be a special player in this league. Go Bucs!
Egads, Scubog, I love you like a brother but I always hated that song. Much preferred the pirate, “Ho. Ho, Ho I’m a Buccaneer.”
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