FAB 5. SR’s Buc Shots
• How did you like Super Bowl LII? The most combined yards ever in a Super Bowl or any postseason game occurred between Philadelphia and New England. And did you see the 41-33 final score? It used to be that defense won championships, and I suppose you could say that’s still the case because the game came down to defending a last-second Tom Brady Hail Mary, which the Eagles did. Yet offense now rules the day in the NFL as the Super Bowl featured two teams tied for second in the league in scoring at 26.8 points per game.
Just in case you were wondering how Tampa Bay’s offense measures up, there is still plenty of work to be done in Dirk Koetter’s and Todd Monken’s offensive meeting room as the Bucs were ranked 24th in scoring offense, averaging just 20.9 points per game. Tampa Bay’s offense scored 30 points or more in just game last year – a 31-24 triumph over New Orleans in the season finale due to a last-second touchdown pass from Jameis Winston to Chris Godwin.
The only other times the Bucs put up 30 points or more came in a 38-33 loss at Arizona and a 30-20 win at Miami. But linebacker Lavonte David forced and recovered a fumble for a touchdown in the loss to the Cardinals, while Tampa Bay’s offense only generated 26 points in that game, and the Bucs scored a special teams touchdown on a fumble recovery by Adarius Glanton against the Dolphins, which meant that the Bucs offense only scored 23 points in Miami.
Meanwhile, the Bucs and special teams defense gave up 30 points or more in five games, so those areas also need to be improved or increasing scoring to 25 points per game or so won’t matter too much.
In last week’s SR’s Fab 5 I wrote about how Monken’s number one mission is to increase red zone touchdown production. There’s no faster way to boost point production that to score touchdowns rather than field goals – especially with the Super Bowl champion Eagles coming to town in 2018.
• In a bit of scheduling quirk, the Buccaneers will have hosted the Super Bowl champion in each of the last three seasons when the 2018 regular season schedule comes out. In the two previous years, Tampa Bay has actually hosted both Super Bowl participants, as the losers of both of the previous Super Bowls were NFC South rivals Carolina and Atlanta. The Bucs lost to both of the teams that prevailed in those Super Bowls – Denver and New England – and will now face this year’s champion, Philadelphia, and will try to change their fortunes.
• Mark Cook is back! After a two-week hiatus, Cook re-joined the Pewter Nation Podcast this week and discussed several Bucs-related topics with Trevor Sikkema and yours truly. The PewterReport.com team talked about what the Bucs can learn from the Eagles winning their first Super Bowl championship, we delve into some draft stuff and also talk a bit about free agency. Here is a link to that Pewter Nation Podcast – Episode 60: Return of the Mark
If you haven’t listened to this week’s podcasts yet, it’s the perfect way to enjoy your lunch on a Friday afternoon or battle rush hour traffic on your way home from work. In addition to listening to the Pewter Nation Podcasts on PewterReport.com you can also subscribe to the free podcasts at PodBean by clicking here and on SoundCloud by clicking here.
• As I previously mentioned in this edition of SR’s Fab 5, Alabama defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick has been one of the more popular players linked to the Buccaneers in some recent mock drafts. But there is a chance that Fitzpatrick may not even make it to Tampa Bay, which has the seventh overall pick. That’s because Cleveland, which has two first-round picks in the Top 5, may select the Crimson Tide All-American before the Bucs have the chance to.
The Browns have the first and fourth overall picks this year, and one of those selections will be for a quarterback. Cleveland already has two stud defensive ends in Myles Garrett, the first overall pick in 2017, and Emmanuel Ogbah, who was a high second-round draft choice in 2016, so that means the Browns won’t take North Carolina State defensive end Bradley Chubb. With high-priced guards Kevin Zeitler and Joel Bitonio as starters, Cleveland won’t take Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson. That leaves either Penn State running back Saquon Barkley or Fitzpatrick for the Browns at No. 4.
Cleveland is not expected to re-sign running back Isaiah Crowell in free agency, and despite having Duke Johnson as a replacement, Barkley would be an upgrade. But the Browns could also use an upgrade at free safety over Derrick Kindred, and Fitzpatrick would be an ideal pairing with strong safety Jabrill Peppers, who was selected near the bottom of the first round last year.
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• I wouldn’t count on Tampa Bay pursuing New England cornerback Malcolm Butler in free agency. Butler will be among the biggest available names in free agency, and will likely cash in on a new contract – but I don’t think it will come from the Buccaneers. Butler’s career has been defined by two Super Bowl appearances. The first came in 2014 when he picked off Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson at the goal line in the final seconds of the Patriots’ dramatic win over the Seahawks. The second Super Bowl moment came this year when Butler was active for the game, but didn’t play a single snap on defense in New England’s loss to Philadelphia.
That is a glaring red flag that the Bucs took notice of, in addition to the fact that the Patriots let him visit New Orleans last year as a restricted free agent and there was talk of a potential trade, but it never materialized. Bucs general manager Jason Licht, who spent several years working alongside Patriots head coach Bill Belichick and surely picked up on the fact that Belichick doesn’t think much of Butler.
Even more proof came before the 2017 season when Belichick opted to give a big-money contract to free agent cornerback Stephon Gilmore instead of locking up Butler. It’s all but certain that Butler will be signing with the Saints in March, and don’t expect the Bucs to make a run at him.
I get the sense that Butler is like Alterraun Verner 2.0 – a decent, but not great cornerback that wound up being overrated and overpaid by his second team. Verner’s second team was, of course, the Bucs, and I get the feeling that the team feels the same way about my comparison of Butler to Verner.
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