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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. Is 2018 Mission Impossible For The Bucs?

A funny thing happened on the way to cover the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala.

I happened to read an interesting and quite revealing column called “Maybe Next Season For The Miami Dolphins? Reasons Not To Get Your Hopes Up” from one of the sports columnists I admire the most, Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald. Salguero has covered the Miami Dolphins for too long (read the column) and doesn’t mean to rain on the Phins parade, but is simply being real and honest when he tells his readers that the Dolphins are not going to beat the New England Patriots anytime soon until quarterback Tom Brady retires or head coach Bill Belichick leaves – or both.

In other words, expect a season closer to Miami’s 6-10 record last year rather than its surprise 10-6 season from two years ago in Adam Gase’s first year as head coach. Salguedo brings the bad news for Dolphins fans, but his informed opinions are raw, honest and backed up with facts – even if his readers don’t want to hear it.

Last summer, Tampa Bay Times columnist Tom Jones was criticized by some Tampa Bay fans for telling his readers to “pump the brakes” on the Bucs’ hype train during the offseason before their long-awaited appearance on HBO’s Hard Knocks. The Times, PewterReport.com and other Bucs media outlets generally predicted a 10-6 record for the team and a possible playoff berth in 2017 after the Bucs finished Dirk Koetter’s first season as head coach with a 9-7 record in 2016.

We should have known better and pumped the brakes ourselves, in hindsight, especially after Tampa Bay struggled to run the ball and pressure the quarterback in the preseason – two themes that continued during the entire regular season.

Bucs general manager Jason Licht said he cringed at the expectations of Tampa Bay’s newly acquired offensive weapons – wide receivers DeSean Jackson and Chris Godwin and tight end O.J. Howard – coming together quickly and becoming part of a powerhouse offense that would light up the scoreboard in 2017.

I’m telling you to cringe at any high expectations for the Bucs this year.

Don’t get your hopes up.

Don’t believe any hype.

Trust me, we at PewterReport.com won’t be serving any up this year.

Don’t expect a bounce back season to a winning record (or an ever elusive playoff berth) in 2018.

After nine years without a trip to the playoffs I’m done giving the Buccaneers the benefit of the doubt and creating any false hope for our readers.

With this team, I’ll believe when I see it.

The next time I hype the Buccaneers is after they’ve proven they’ve deserved it – not before. Like Salguero, it’s nothing but reality from here on out – not unintended fantasy. I’m telling you like it is – not how you want it to be.

In case you didn’t read PewterReport.com’s 2017 Pewter Player Awards, we predicted a 6-10 season for the Bucs in 2018. The lack of a consistent pass rush – who will be the edge rushers? – and the lack of a consistent running game – who will be the backs and the guards? – are the biggest reasons, but there are others, too.

Bucs QB Jameis Winston – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

Bucs QB Jameis Winston – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

I don’t think quarterback Jameis Winston will suddenly stop committing on average two turnovers per game. Winston is like Brett Favre, who was an interception machine at times during his illustrious NFL career. Winston entered the league with a reputation for turning over the ball, and unfortunately he’s lived up to it despite his immense talent. It’s up to Dirk Koetter to find a way to coach around those turnovers – like Mike Holmgren did in Green Bay with Favre – and do enough scoring-wise to negate Winston’s fumbles or picks. I don’t know if Koetter turns into a better play-caller in the red zone to make that happen.

I don’t know if Winston ever becomes a better and more accurate deep ball thrower. Several sources I’ve spoken with believe that he needs to throw to bigger receivers with wider catch radiuses like Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, as opposed to deep shots to DeSean Jackson. Koetter needs to realize that the short and intermediate throws that Winston connected on to the tune of 77 percent over the last few games, still contributed to over 400 yards of total offense.

The Bucs can create explosive plays with Jackson by using his speed and run-after-catch ability in the slot on slants, skinny posts and crossing routes on mesh concept plays. Throwing four or five deep passes to Jackson every too often resulted in wasted downs and contributed to punting situations due to all of those incompletions. Will Koetter change his ways and his play-calling to adapt or will he be stubborn and try to make Winston into something he’s not, which is an accurate downfield passer?

Will Koetter realize that the Bucs defense isn’t that good and finally stop punting the ball on the opponents’ side of the field? By being more aggressive in situations like fourth-and-1 at the opponents’ 42-yard and going for it instead of punting, the Bucs could put themselves into position to score far more points in 2018, which would cure a lot of ills in Tampa Bay as Licht tries to build a better defense with a lot of new pieces this year. The Bucs defense won’t get much better overnight. But will Koetter change his “play the percentages” coaching style in order to help?

How do linebackers Kwon Alexander and Lavonte David wind up with a combined zero sacks in 2017 when the Bucs needed as much pass rush as possible? Where were the double A gap blitzes for Alexander and David that defensive coordinator Mike Smith so effectively dialed up in 2016?

Why did Smith have young cornerbacks Vernon Hargreaves and Ryan Smith play more off coverage than man-to-man coverage when the game film clearly showed that Hargreaves and Smith are far better man coverage corners and produced better results when using press technique? Can Smith be trusted to make these necessary adjustments in 2018?

Bucs DL coach Jay Hayes - Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

Bucs DL coach Jay Hayes – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

Why did five of Jay Hayes’ defensive linemen – Gerald McCoy, Will Gholston, Robert Ayers, Noah Spence and Sealver Siliga – have fewer sacks in 2017 than they did in 2016? What’s to suggest this will turnaround in 2018?

Have the Bucs finally solved their kicking situation with Patrick Murray, who is expected to be re-signed this offseason, or will the field goal nightmare continue as Tampa Bay is haunted by the ghosts of Kyle Brindza, Roberto Aguayo and Nick Folk?

Coming off a disappointing 2016 campaign, this Tampa Bay team has far more questions than answers. This team is not one or two players away from the playoffs. The Bucs were actually farther away from the playoffs at 9-7 in 2016 than any of us truly realized, and that became evident with the 5-11 record last year.

For those of you out there that are ever optimistic about your Buccaneers, don’t let me persuade you otherwise. Keep the faith and hope I’m wrong.

I don’t want to be a Debbie Downer. I’m simply being a Realistic Reynolds.

This team has one offseason to make all the right moves from a personnel standpoint, and one season to press all the right buttons from a coaching standpoint. Otherwise it’s regime change and hitting the “start over” button once again in Tampa Bay.

It’s a daunting task.

Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter - Photo by: Getty Images

Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter – Photo by: Getty Images

Right now, this is a 6-10 football team in my opinion. Licht will add some players in free agency and the draft and that record might tick up a bit to 7-9 by the time training camp rolls around. Keep in mind that the Bucs play in the rough and tumble NFC South where New Orleans, Carolina and Atlanta all made the playoffs last year.

Bouncing back won’t be quick or easy for the Buccaneers in their division.

Until this team changes the losing culture that exists at One Buccaneer Place and ultimately proves it by making an unexpected postseason run I won’t believe in the Bucs and won’t overhype this team again.

There will be a day when that ultimately happens and the Bucs make the playoffs again, but it seems like mission impossible to think that’s going to happen in 2018.

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About the Author: Scott Reynolds

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: sr@pewterreport.com
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surferdudes
3 years ago

Trust me Scott, my expectations will be real low this coming year, I wouldn’t want to make Licht cringe again! Besides, why expect better results with no coaching changes, and maybe bringing guys like Sims back?

TBAtlas
3 years ago

Scott I feel you are swinging way too hard to the negative side now this year, but I suppose that’s fine :P On a bigger note, if we really are going to a 3-4, don’t be surprised if we keep guys like Barker and Siliga. While the draft is filled with a lot of guys that project as 3-4 OLB pass rushers, the only reason those kinds of guys are able to do work is because they have fat guys in the middle eating up blocks and shedding them to capture RBs. McCoy is wasted in that role, and I… Read more »

GrafikDetail
3 years ago

fixed that for you SR: Until this team changes the losing, stubborn, trust my system, never make any adjustment coaching that exists at One Buccaneer Place and ultimately proves it by making an unexpected postseason run I won’t believe in the Bucs and won’t overhype this team again.

seat26
3 years ago

My expectations were reasonable last year and I think overall we will be better this year. I never thought we were a 9-7 Team the year before and I don’t think we are a 5 and 11 team this year. We have a few obvious holes on both sides of the ball but with some good drafting and aggressive Free agency picks, we can be a playoff team in a year or two.

DrT1066
3 years ago

Surferdudes is right.
Einstein said the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over again and expecting a different result.
IMO Desean Jackson should be released and Chris Godwin should replace him. Far too much money (like Baker) with little to show for it.

DrT1066
3 years ago

Bucs, how did passing on Calais Campbell and signing Jackson and Baker work out for you?

DrT1066
3 years ago

Scott, The Bucs PASSED ON KAREEM HUNT!

Darin
3 years ago

I think just about everyone bought in. It was hard not to. It wont happen with me again next year either. I also dont care if they go 3-4 or 4-3. Either way they must stop playing so much cover 2 zone. Theyve gota be more aggressive and play more man and blitz more or it wont get much better. Yeah where were the double a gap blitzes? Same thing i said all year. Well that and where were more slants to djax? First went for 41. And more draw plays? First went for 36. Then they dissapeared. The lack… Read more »

BucFanInNC
3 years ago

All this chatter about Baker getting a Half a sack and being released but nothing about our high priced defensive end Gholston and his zero sacks getting the boot.

Darin
Reply to  BucFanInNC
3 years ago

He may get the boot if they feel it would be an upgrade. Depends on who they think they can sign and draft. You can bet this year there will be alot of change on the Dline. Its apparent to licht that smith is not going to adjust, so he either gets a new crop of linemen or loses his job…maybe both.

macabee
3 years ago

I been a Buc fan too long. I remain optimistic and have high hopes for the Bucs this year – wouldn’t have it any other way. I’ve been a glutton for punishment so long that I now consider it a badge of honor. We never give up or retreat, we simply advance to the rear! Go Bucs! However, there is something that I would like for anyone to clear up for me. Where/when did the Bucs ever say they were changing to a 3-4 defense? Where did that talk come from? Last I heard from our still DC Mike Smith… Read more »

FLBoy84
3 years ago

Seem to recall Smith tried to run more 3-4 during his last year in Atlanta and it didn’t go well, though I could be mis-remembering that. Hoping the results are different if he decides to go that route in 2018.

Pick6
3 years ago

welcome to the no-hype zone, Scott. when schiano’s 7-9 team with a horrible secondary landed revis and dashon goldson, i thought we had ourselves a steady playoff contender. freeman on the rise, doug martin projecting as a stud, lavonte looking like an MVP type player….what could go wrong? that was the last time i allowed myself to get optimistic about this team prematurely

since then i’ve been resolved to not get excited about the bucs until they are relevant around thanksgiving. at least i had 2016….

FLBoy84
3 years ago

And I just don’t get the love Sims gets from Licht and the coaching staff. I understand he’s evidently a great guy and all, but come on, when he’s in the game he might as well wear a sign that reads ” we’re running a pass play”. There’s tons of other “receiving” backs out there that can actually returns kicks and punts and offer more production in the run game.

scubog
3 years ago

To all of the Pewter Reporters. Thank you for so much insight into the players at the Senior Bowl. Your hard work is much appreciated. In the “bad old days” all we Bucs fans had was hope and the Senior Bowl always served as the beginning of the Season of Hope. We checked out the college draftees and knew just one or two of those guys would be the saviors that would elevate our team to well…………mediocrity. We knew in a few weeks we’d get Mel’s Big Blue Book in the mail so we could figure out which players we… Read more »

TBChucky
3 years ago

What could the coaching staff have going on that’s more important than going to the Senior Bowl practices? Considering the thin ice below their feet, you’d think they’d want to get a really close look at these prospects.. i also think the idea of a 3-4 base defense is a good idea.

ahenneke
3 years ago

I would trade two high draft picks for a local fan base that could fill our stadium with BUCS fans and would cheer our team through thick and thin. We seem to have the opposite of a home field advantage. I am so jealous of the huge advantage that the Patriots, Eagles, Cowboys, Seahawks, Steelers, etc, have. Regarding local sports writers who are so good at pointing out team weaknesses and dampening fan enthusiasm, I know lots of people who have ugly, under-performing kids, but it rarely does any good to point that out and rub it in. On the… Read more »

Darin
Reply to  ahenneke
3 years ago

Ahenneke. Im glad youre not the GM. Its a bandwagon city buddy. Trust me Ive been going to games since about 82. The place was packed when they won around the time of the new stadium. The waiting list drove up the prices. I paid 6 bucks in around 1990. The bandwagoners drove up the prices then never went because the play fell off. Its a shame. Im one who believes a losing team needs the fans much more than a winning team. Too bad it doesnt work that way with most. Also the local writers have nothing to do… Read more »

surferdudes
3 years ago

Scubog, hope, and expectations are to different things. With this team moving forward, I’ll be hoping for the best, but expecting the worst. My UCF Knights lost all their games two years ago. When they hired Scott Frost, and old man O’Leary retired I saw he had that it factor, and my hopes were rewarded with progress then a once in a life time perfect season. Sorry to see him go. Frost quickly changed the culture, the offense, the attitude, you could tell things were going to be at least different if not better. I’ve seen enough of Licht the… Read more »

Horse
3 years ago

Sorry Scott, but I see us better than your win prediction of yours. Yes we need DdE’s, but if there are no worthy players in the 1st or even 2nd round then we can fill those two spots with other needs or trade down and draft those DE’s in 3rd and 4th rounds. I will agree we have seen enough on the DL that Baker, Ayers,Silgva, and yes Gholston should go too; let younger players try to become starters. The Buc world has not come to already predicting another awful season; it actually is just starting for us in another… Read more »

rrsrq
3 years ago

Bucs fell in love with Kareem Hunt at the senior bowl last, hopefully they continue to do due diligence, I know early on you guys were on Rashad Penny, then the switch to Sony Michel, however, I can’t see how Penny’s senior bowl will move him up or down, his film hollers loudly as a big play back, watched him in the bowl game where he went crazy and a few other games during the year, hoping he would stay under the radar even though can’t, I would love to see this guy in Pewter, but I do not think… Read more »

Devasher
Reply to  rrsrq
3 years ago

You know what’s hilarious? The spin that the Bucs loved Kareem Hunt. Sure they did, they loved him so much the passed on him THREE times and let him fall to the 86th pick (they had the 84th pick). If that doesn’t show you Licht and Co loved a player in the draft (after he becomes the leagues leading rusher) then what does? It’s almost as bad as the “rumor” that ownership comandeered the draft room to take Aguayo. Ignoring the fact that the GM paid a heavy price to trade up in the 2nd round to draft him. Now… Read more »

rrsrq
3 years ago

Rashad Penny showing up in the senior bowl so far in the second quarter. 73 yard TD reception and a plus 40 yard run

GoldsonAges
3 years ago

I cant believe the OL staff didnt even attend the Senior Bowl. If they stick with this OL and they dont sign any free agents or draft any OL AND they extend the awful Donovan Smith, then I will stop wasting my time watching them.

Philly was just named the PFF OL of the year and they’re in the Superbowl with Nick Foles as their QB.

If they are that stupid, fire them all after next year. Lame ducks is what they are. Extremely lame

maarnold1775
3 years ago

The only reason they’re going to win any games this year, is because of the weaker schedule. Roy Cummings hit the nail on the head, when he said that they were just going through the motions during training camp last year, lethargic etc. Most Buc fans are foolish optimist, but hey, what else do you have as a Buc fan. The Glazers are the real problem. They need to sell the team to someone who can run this team the right way!

Devasher
3 years ago

On one hand Scott has finally come around to the idea that the roster is full of holes and limitations that keep it from being a playoff team.

On the other hand, Scott refuses to assign any accountability to the GM who is in his 5th year building said swiss cheese roster. Instead Scott writes that he doesn’t “envy” the man who is most resposible for being in the position he is in.

You’re a funny guy Scott.

owlykat
3 years ago

Licht needs to draft down and get two second picks, then take Oklahoma’s Brown LT in the first round; then Cherry in the second (feature back and break away run back specialist both) and then Okoronkwo DE also in the second round, Stephen Shepherd as your nose tackle in the third round, Michigan State’s Center falls to the fourth round with all the controversy at his college and we take him so we get our All Pro RG back. If any undersized DEs are left take one of them in the fifth round, Pinero from FL Gators in the sixth,… Read more »

owlykat
3 years ago

That way you don’t need to draft a top LG, just shift Smith to LG and he will be an All Pro there. Save money cutting backup Center Smith, Sweezy, our pudgy Free Agent DT Bust, our old DE, and have McCoy as the three technique DE in the new 3-4 and put our 6’8” DE for the 5 technique from Michigan State who is solid against the run despite no sacks as the DE on the other side. Put our two LSU MLBs in the middle and David on one side as an OLB and Okoronkwo as the OLB… Read more »

martinii
3 years ago

Thought provoking SR5

cheveliar
3 years ago

You are rounding back into style SR. 3 in a row, albeit late, but good. You know I am the ever optimist. And It sucks not to have hope. But with all being considered I’m kind of waiting for the shoe to drop and we go hunting for a new front office…ugggghhhh

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