Bucs DC Mike Smith talks with secondary coach John Hoke work to improve Tampa Bay's defensive backfield – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Welcome to another installment of SR’s Fab 5 Reaction where every Tuesday I take the time to answer your questions and respond to your comments from the previous week’s SR’s Fab 5 column. Due to time constraints from my responsibilities as publisher, I am unable to respond to every reader comment each week, but I do read every one of them.
Comments have only been edited for clarity and grammar. Now on to your comments.
The topics in this week’s SR’s Fab 5 include: Bucs Must Stop Beating Themselves With Penalties; Bucs Pass Defense Has To Be Tighter, More Aggressive; Bucs Need To Score More Points In Red Zone; Winston Must Make More Plays Downfield
Bucs DC Mike Smith – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Scott, thank you for another great SR’s Fab 5. I think the four points you make almost automatically get better with the firing of Lovie Smith, the hiring of Dirk Koetter, and Jameis Winston’s one year’s worth of experience. I feel Koetter will be more free with his play-calling now that he ultimately only has to answer to himself and not Smith.
Also I’ll be shocked if the defense isn’t better with the hiring of Mike Smith. The last two years of porous defense can’t be blamed on talent alone.
Also, now that Winston has seen it and done it he’ll definitely be more comfortable. I get a feeling the Bucs will be going to the playoffs because they will naturally improve on every point you made. Go Bucs! – Tassonedna
Thank you, Tassonedna. I think that one of the things helping Tampa Bay this year is that they are the most improved team in the division with the offseason acquisitions it made, especially at the cornerback position with Brent Grimes, Vernon Hargreaves III and Josh Robinson, and at defensive end with Noah Spence and Robert Ayers.
The Panthers get wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin back from injury and had a defensive-oriented draft class with defensive tackle Vernon Butler and three cornerbacks who will vie to replace Josh Norman, but Carolina’s offensive line was exposed in Super Bowl 50 and wasn’t really addressed.
The Saints were a mess defensively under Rob Ryan, but should be more stable with a 4-3 scheme under Dennis Allen, who got a stud defensive tackle in Sheldon Rankins and a great safety in Vonn Bell in the draft. The Saints offensive line has also taken some hits over the years, and left tackle Andrus Peat, a first-rounder in 2015, will likely be moved to right guard.
Atlanta is in a similar quandary as it has moved 2015 first-round pick Vic Beasley from defensive end to linebacker, which doesn’t help the Falcons’ woeful pass rush. Atlanta just doesn’t have enough defenders who can reliably get to the quarterback, and that will haunt head coach Dan Quinn for another season and stymie the team’s progress.
If Tampa Bay can steal a road win at Atlanta in Week 1 that would do wonders for this young Buccaneers team, and put serious doubt in the mind of the Falcons, who lost eight of their last 11 games, including six straight in the months of November and December.
Bucs QB Jameis Winston – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Penalties are part of the game but the pre-snap penalties are the worst. They display a lack of discipline, concentration and understanding. All three of those are an indication of poor coaching.
Also, although I am a fan of Jameis Winston’s, he has a lot of work to do on his mechanics, particularly his footwork and balance during his throws. He seems to have a great understanding and recognition of the defenses he faces and is great at looking off the safety on many of his throws. But he needs to get his completion percentage up and the only way to do that is to improve on his mechanics.
Red zone inefficiency last year was almost a certain given his rookie status, but the positive is was that he threw very few INTs in that very important side of the field. – drdneast
Good points, drdneast. I think Dirk Koetter has been emphasizing reducing penalties this offseason. He knows it’s a big problem and I appreciate his decision to have refs at training camp. I think that’s going to be a big help.
As for Jameis Winston, I do believe his mechanics will improve. He had to spend last year trying to learn a brand new offense, learn about new teammates and coaches, and also clean up some of his footwork and mechanical issues. This year, he knows the offense, the staff and his teammates, so he’s really been focusing on conditioning and his throwing technique. I think we’ll see improvement from him, especially in the red zone. Don’t expect a sophomore slump from Winston.
Bucs P Bryan Anger – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
As a youngster I remember going on vacation with my parents sitting in the back seat of the 1956 Buick, choking on the smoke of my dad’s Pal Mal when I first uttered the words we all know well, “Are we there yet?” In just one week I’ll tell my wife what I have for the past 47 years as a new football season begins with training camp – “See you in February.” Once in 40 years of Bucs football my “This is the year” prediction was accurate, so I now refrain from such dubious forecasts.
I’ll be at training camp every chance I get. It’s sure a lot better than the old days at One Buc Place standing in the bed of my truck peering over the fence hoping I didn’t get run off. Only once (during the Sam Wyche era) was I told to leave.
Scott only listed four things on which the team needed to improve but we all know there are many. Here are four more.
No. 1: Improve the punting that was one of the worst in the league. Hopefully the addition of Bryan Anger solves that problem.
No. 2: Make getting inside the opponent’s 35-yard line a 3-point certainty. Too often last year we all were deflated like a Tom Brady football by those missed field goals. Hopefully the addition of Roberto Aguayo makes us raise our hands instead of sit on them.
No. 3: Take back our “home” stadium. Since the end of the playoff run in 2007, our home turf has once again become a vacation destination for our opponents’ fans and a reunion destination for the transplants that, due to the Bucs decline, have rekindled their affection for their former team.
No. 4: Take on a Popeye attitude of, “I took all I could stand and I can’t stand no more.” Too often when something bad happened the team and some fans took on a defeatist attitude and cowered down to the opponent. The Redskins debacle is an example, as were the Titans and Panthers games.
Just maybe our team, which has little respect and expectations, will sneak up on some unsuspecting foes. Here, after being down so long, we hope for 8-8. I guess the team motto should be “Make the Bucs Mediocre Again!” – scubog
You make some great points, scubog. I agree with all of them. The one thing I’ll add in defense of Jake Schum, he was asked to do some things with his hang time that really shortened his punts and hurt his average. I think he’s a better punter than he showed last year, and the addition of Bryan Anger will provide great competition.
It will be interesting to see if Roberto Aguayo can continue to have the same type of success he had at Florida State. The Bucs need him to after what happened last year with Kyle Brindza.
I think the Bucs will fare better at home this year – at least .500 – and Dirk Koetter will extinguish any defeatist attitude at One Buc Place. He simply won’t stand for it. I could see Tampa Bay finishing with an 8-8 or 9-7 record this year. We’ll see how healthy the Bucs are coming out of the preseason.
I think it could be cool if you revisit the four areas of improvement for the Bucs after the season. You could give a grade at the Bucs did at each area, and draw conclusions on how it did or did not result in the final record. Great stuff as always, Scott! – Bucs Capacitor
Thank you, Bucs Capacitor. Great idea. I will revisit this SR’s Fab 5 topic in January to see how the Bucs fared in those areas.
Bucs QB Jameis Winston and QBs coach Mike Bajakian – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
The discipline and sharpness that the receivers are having to learn because of the way the DBs are playing will also help the red zone woes as they will make sharper cuts and get open for Jameis Winston. The key for Winston will be to anticipate those cuts and get rid of the ball sooner.
The other thing he and the receivers need to work on are the fade and back shoulder throws which will allow his taller receivers to use their height and girth to block out and out-jump the DBs. A couple of things that I noted on his deep balls last year was that they didn’t give the receiver the opportunity to adjust to the ball because they were either thrown out of bounds, or they didn’t have enough air underneath them. A little more arc on the throws allows receivers to make adjustments whereas bullet throws have to be perfect. These two improvements would allow his receivers, who have pretty big wingspans to contest more balls and make more catches. – JayBuc52
Good analysis, JayBuc52. Jameis Winston and quarterbacks coach Mike Bajakian have been working on ball placement, accuracy in the pocket and accuracy throwing on the run, and his footwork all offseason. Winston has been working on his downfield throws with Mike Evans and Tampa Bay’s other receivers. I think we’re going to see more long pass plays and deep touchdowns this year as a result.
The Bucs led the NFL in penalties last year – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Nothing is a more sore subject to me than penalties on the Bucs. Every time there was a big play for the Bucs, I kept waiting for the yellow flag. Sure enough, there it was. Then I kept hoping against hope it wouldn’t be on the Bucs. Sure enough, it was. It usually was something due to lack of discipline. Goodness gracious! It looks like Dirk Koetter is doing something about it.
I am also glad you addressed another sore subject – opponents’ 70 percent pass completion percentage. Lovie Smith made career back-ups look like all-pros. Good Lord! I am very happy Mike Smith is here. It looks like he is mixing coverages and fronts. This will only help the defense and Winston, too.
If Jameis Winston can have the same red-zone stats as Matthew Stafford, that would be fantastic. So it does look like this coaching staff is addressing these issues. I will be nice and say Lovie also addressed these issues. But, the way he did it didn’t work. Another fantastic SR’s Fab 5, Scott! Go Bucs!!! Training camp is almost here! – Iabucfan
Thanks for the kind words. I appreciate it. The Bucs have been their worst enemy over the last three years when it comes to get penalties. My fear is that they have earned a bad reputation in the eyes of officials and it may take some time before this team gets the benefit of the doubt in that regards. I do expect penalties to be drastically reduced this year, though.
I’m staking my professional reputation on the fact that I believe the cornerback unit will go from being the worst squad on the team in 2015 to the most improved area in Tampa Bay in 2016. I really like what I’ve seen from Jon Hoke and Brett Maxie and their defensive backs. Be prepared to see a big turnaround in the secondary.
As I’ve mentioned before, I do expect Jameis Winston to make strides as a red zone passer this year. You might see a touchdown run or two fewer this year, but maybe three to four more red zone passing touchdowns instead. Winston has worked hard in this area.
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick – Photo by: Getty Images
Scott, thanks for another nice SR’s Fab 5, especially in the football black hole of July. I completely agree on your four-point plan, and any Bucs follower has seen all four areas of weakness in action over the last four or five seasons. I really do think Mike Smith fixes the defense, and Dirk Koetter will address deep balls and scoring, especially since the offense and Jameis Winston will be in Year 2 of the system.
The Bucs have been horrible in the area of penalties. Not just the number of penalties, but the number of critical game-changing penalties has been disheartening. I really believe that penalties cost them two games last season – coupled with the porous defense.
I have lived in Boston for four years, and by force of nature, learned more about the Patriots than maybe I wanted. The one thing about Bill Belichick is his focus on fundamentals, especially in the preseason, and consequences for players who couldn’t play fundamental football. I’m talking about ruthless, draconian consequences or demotions or the release of good players that even frustrated the most diehard New England fan or media member.
However, his team responds (fear can be good), and plays crisp football and obviously wins. Do you see Jason Licht – a Belichick guy – and Koetter being more blunt, forward and ruthless in their approach to penalties? It was certainly refreshing to see how Koetter handled Austin Seferian-Jenkins in OTAs – it sends a message. As always, thank you, God Bless, and in Licht we Trust! – Knight
Thank you, Knight. I too think the defense improves under Mike Smith, especially the pass defense, which was ridiculous and poorly coached last year. Dirk Koetter is handling the penalties and I expect a big change in the team’s discipline.
Koetter is a no-nonsense coach, as we saw with how he handled Austin Seferian-Jenkins during the OTAs. I think he’s a very positive coach by nature, but he’s serious about putting the best 11 players on the field at a time – no matter their salaries or draft status. He’s all about winning, and that’s a much-needed attitude in Tampa Bay after all the losing seasons fans like you have had to endure recently.
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]
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