Bucs QB Jameis Winston - Photo by: Getty Images
Bucs fans and SR’s Fab 5 readers discussed Bucs middle linebacker Kwon Alexander’s rise to prominence and question whether quarterback James Winston is in a sophomore slump. What does PewterReport.com publisher and Bucs beat writer Scott Reynolds have to say? Find out right here.
Welcome to another installment of SR’s Fab 5 Reaction where each week 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.
Topics in last week’s SR’s Fab 5 include: General Alexander In Charge Of Bucs D; Reviewing The First Month Of Koetter Ball; Winston’s Day Vs. Denver Not As Bad As It Seems; Bucs Can’t Get Too Hyped For Monday Night
Good Fab 5, SR. I am at a point though that I fundamentally cannot give this team excuses anymore. Every team has a few great players. The problem is the “team.”
Gerald McCoy is always injured. Lavonte David seems annoyed, and the rest of our D line is average at best.
It’s easier to say draft this guy or that guy, wait three years things will be better, and my favorite – picking up the free agent thinking we resolved a weakness in one of our multiple positions. Jameis Winston gets three years to form a credible evaluation.
I mean look at the so-called weak QB class this year. Look at how well this “weak” quarterback class is doing this year. I see several young quarterbacks with the same amount of potential as Winston. I’m not throwing Winston under the bus. I’m just saying QB play by young quarterbacks is apparent in the league.
We need two impact players on this team. I’m not jumping on Kwon Alexander just yet, but I’m encouraged. We do not have an above average position of strength as it relates to comparison to the rest of the NFL. I’ve been down this road so many times now that I’ve become an expert with the term “potential.”
Bucs MLB Kwon Alexander – Photo by: Mark Lomoglio/PR
It’s in my blood to be a Bucs fan but quite honestly, I’m getting bored. I do not associate myself with losers, I do not think as a loser, and have always strive to be a winner in life. I find ways to overcome adversity, that’s how I’m built.
The Bucs? Well, not so much. It’s just excuses, and many of them are even really good ones, but in the end, the Bucs lose, lose, lose. I understand why I’m getting bored. I can only hope real change is coming. Change in how to build our team. I think for the first time we have a general manager in Jason Licht that along with Dirk Koetter, can evaluate talent.
Perhaps big changes are needed. What if we traded some of our talent we have for premium picks? My analogy is like what happened in Detroit. The best receiver arguably in NFL in Calvin Johnson retires and the quarterback and record are better. The Lions are forced to spread out the ball more, and just think if they would have traded him last year for a premium pick?
We need to be honest. There are so many talent gaps on this team that we need more picks in the first three rounds. It’s great to find gems, but honestly, it’s not a way to build a team. We need talent and we need talent big time. Talent that makes an impact, talent that brings attitude, talent that brings confidence, talent that brings a winning culture and talent that brings wins. – DBuc63
Thanks, DBuc63. There’s a lot to digest in this comment. I agree that this rookie quarterback class has surprised everyone, including myself. Jameis Winston needs to pick up his play and become a more accurate passer. He’s missing too many open receivers and it’s costing the Bucs the opportunity to extend drives and put points on the scoreboard. He completed 58.3 percent of his passes last year, and he’s completing just 58.5 percent of his throws this year.
As for the talent in Tampa Bay, it’s getting better. If my memory serves me correctly, former general manager Bruce Allen drafted one Pro Bowler in five years in guard Davin Joseph. Mark Dominik, his predecessor, drafted three in defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, running back Doug Martin and linebacker Lavonte David over the next five years. In three years, Jason Licht has drafted one in Jameis Winston, but it looks like wide receiver Mike Evans and middle linebacker Kwon Alexander have Pro Bowl potential from what we’ve seen so far. The hope is that cornerback Vernon Hargreaves, this year’s first-rounder, has that kind of ability, too.
I think the Bucs need to hang on to their talent and not trade it. Licht has to be in the talent acquisition business, and needs to have a mix of youth and veterans. The additions of defensive end Robert Ayers, cornerback Brent Grimes and linebacker Daryl Smith look so far, with Grimes and Smith contributing to the win in Carolina with big interceptions.
You are right that talent wins in the NFL, and it may take another draft and another year of developing the talent currently on the roster before this team takes the next step. That’s what Tampa Bay’s 2-3 start tells me. – SR
Kwon Alexander has definitely been great this year. In fact, I have really liked the play of the Buccaneers’ front seven on defense. Thanks for the great read, Scott. – arizonajoe
Thank you, arizonajoe. The play of Tampa Bay’s front seven has actually been okay despite all of the injuries to the defensive line. As I pointed out in my SR’s Fab 5, middle linebacker Kwon Alexander has been the star of the show thus far up front. I’ve also been impressed with the play of defensive end Will Gholston, who is in a contract year. Gholston has 17 tackles, half a sack and a fumble recovery this year with 14 of those tackles coming in the last three games. – SR
Another interesting SR’s Fab 5. If Kwon Alexander is the defensive general maybe we can hang the handle on him of “Alexander The Great.” Now that was a good general. I have been keeping an eye on the defense of late and can only say this. We will have to draft D-line and safeties in the draft.
There I go again harping about upgrading the lines – offense and defense. That’s just how it is. If you can’t control the line of scrimmage you’re toast in this league, or any league for that matter. Jameis Winston will get it sooner or later. He’s still just a kid after all.
Bucs QB Jameis Winston – Photo by: Getty Images
Sophomore slump? What horse hockey. Teams just figured out how to defend him. All in all, I believe he is the man to carry this team. It might not be pretty for a while but it will materialize.
Just like Winston will get it, so will Dirk Koetter. There are growing pains abound on this team. It’s interesting that offenses are picking on Brent Grimes and not Vernon Hargreaves. Either way these guys need to step it up.
I truly thought that Chris Conte would be playing better than he is. He also needs to get his act together.
The silver lining here is that Carolina is as banged up as we are. I hope that fact levels out the playing field. Go Bucs. Still love ya – warts and all. – chetthevette
Legendary Bucs defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin once told me that you’re either getting better or getting worse in the NFL. You never really stay the same. Is Jameis Winston getting better? I can’t say that he is from a statistical standpoint. He’s thrown nine touchdown passes and rushed for a score, and he has eight interceptions and two fumbles during Tampa Bay’s 2-3 start.
Charles Sims forced one of those fumbles, and he also had a pass bounce out his hands and into the arms of Rams linebacker Mark Barron for one of those picks. Winston also had an interception on a Hail Mary in garbage time at Arizona. Take away those three turnovers and he still has seven through five games, which is too many.
With Winston’s completion percentage currently at 58.5 compared to 58.3 percent from last year, there hasn’t been any noticeable improvement in that area, either. So is Winston getting better? No. So he’s getting worse. That defines a sophomore slump. With a year’s worth of experience under is belt Winston should be getting better, but that hasn’t happened yet.
As for the Monday Night Football game, both the Bucs and Panthers were banged up, and I think the team with the better backups, which proved to be Tampa Bay, won. Chris Conte has disappointed thus far. Bradley McDougald had a good game against the Panthers, which helped. – SR
Good critique of what is going on and about what the problems of this team are and how they affect Jameis Winston. Also, I am no apologist for Winston and will lay blame at his feet when I see it.
Yes, he threw a couple of bad interceptions against Denver, but even they could have been overcome if we had a decent running game and a back who was more decisive when he was given the ball.
Bucs RB Charles Sims – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
If anyone is in a slump, it’s Charles Sims. Sims has been the direct cause of four turnovers in four games and three that were attributed to Winston. Sorry, but when the ball clangs against your hands and into a defenders grasp. I can hardly call that an interception.
Only a fool or someone with a jaundiced outlook would think Winston wasn’t pressing matters and trying to carry the whole team on his back since the loss of Doug Martin and the defense’s inability to keep opponents from scoring.
Now he knows how Dress Brees feels. Unfortunately Winston isn’t as good as Brees – yet. Give him time. Also, if you look at Winston’s stats compared to Brees over the first 20 games of their careers, they are very similar. Of course San Diego let Brees get away in order to keep Phillip Rivers. Bad decision, bad move. – drdneast
I agree that Jameis Winston is pressing too much due to the loss of Doug Martin, and Dirk Koetter was wise to recognize that have the Bucs come out running the ball against Carolina to make sure Winston isn’t still trying to carry the offense by himself. Winston threw just 30 passes instead of 52, 58 and 35 as he did in the team’s three straight losses and that was a big reason why the Bucs won on Monday Night Football. – SR
No one is more tired of losing than I am, but I think you have to take a few things into consideration. We are a young team with marginal-at-best depth. When a Doug Martin and or Gerald McCoy and Robert Ayers – and now Charles Sims – go down they are hard to replace.
Add to those losses a common sophomore slump from our quarterback and a early schedule of four playoff teams, including the two Super Bowl contenders, and a first-year coach and new defensive coordinator and I submit that no team should be expected to run the table.
Who starts their season two games on the road? Like anyone else I hate to make excuses for a team that has had 10 playoff-less seasons, five head coaching changes in seven years and blows a (in hindsight) second-round pick on a place kicker who thus far can’t hit the side of a barn.
But, hey we haven’t played Carolina yet, and though anyone who can spell football is picking us to lose, let’s take a deep breath and pray for a miracle. Maybe after the bye we can regroup and salvage this season. – martinii
You got your miracle, martinii. The Bucs did win in Carolina and salvaged their season. You present some valid reasons to explain why the Bucs are where they are at 2-3. Now let’s see how a healthier Tampa Bay team performs after a much-needed bye week with several starters expected to return to the field in San Francisco in two weeks. – SR
SR is sticking to his “sophomore slump” cliché on Jameis Winston. Statistically, that’s not the case. Through the first four games, Winston is about the same as his first four games last year. His passer rating is down some compared to his full season passer rating last year, but his QBR is up compared to his full season QBR last year.
Beyond stats, it comes down to the fact that Winston has had two very good games and two very bad games, which averages out to average. And without the benefit of his star running back, and without the benefit of our most experienced offensive lineman from his rookie year.
No excuses, Winston should be showing distinct improvement over last season, and he’s not. Now, if the “good Jameis” from the first and third game show up with regularity, especially the upcoming Monday Night Football game in Carolina, then he can show distinct improvement over his Pro Bowl rookie season.
If the “bad Jameis” of the second and fourth game keeps showing up, either routinely, or alternating half the time with “good Jameis”, then that would be a performance worthy of being judged as a “sophomore slump.” – Naplesfan
You said it yourself, Naplesfan. “No excuses, Winston should be showing distinct improvement over last season, and he’s not.” I agree with you, and I label that a sophomore slump because he’s not performing better than he did a year ago from a production standpoint and a winning standpoint.
Thankfully for the Bucs we saw “good Jameis” in Carolina on Monday Night Football. He wasn’t prolific, but he stayed away from turnovers, protected the ball – even recovering his own fumble – and threw a touchdown pass and a two-point conversion when it counted.
I still have a lot of faith in Winston and believe he will continue to develop into a perennial Pro Bowl quarterback. Slumps usually don’t last long. – SR
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@example.com
I believe that part of the Bucs overall problems have to do with the turnstile management of coaches and GMs. The only common thread through all of this inconsistency since the Superbowl is the Glazers. They’ve hired and fired at will. New coaches, mean years of installing new systems. New GMs with different philosophies. Each time, tearing it down and trying to build it back up again. If you look at the successful teams, you see consistency on all levels. I really believe that if Gruden was still the coach, that we’d have a stronger team today. I believe that if Raheem was still the coach, we would have a stronger team today… Yes, even Schiano and Lovie as well… So, here’s Koetter manning a 2-3 team. If this continues for rest of the year and then into next year, are the Glazers going to pull the chain again? I hope that’s not the case and I hope that fans can take a longer view of what it takes to have a consistent winner in the NFL; patience.
I agree with the comment about Defensive Line and Safety. We need a ball hawk at safety and Conte is terrible. We still don’t put enough pressure on opposing QB’s. Our strength when we won the Super Bowl was our front 4 who dominated the line of scrimmage. IMO the best defense we’ve ever had was not our SB defense, It was the one the year we lost to the Rams 11-6 in the NFC championship game. We need to swing a playmaker (free agent) in the off season who we know produces and get off the JR Sweezy type free agents, then draft another defensive lineman/safety and perhaps a corner because Grimes is not the youngest of corners and Verner is suspect IMO. I think we have great run plays at times in reference to our blocking assignments and scheme but our pass blocking is inconsistent to maintain and hold blocks long enough, in particular on the edge. These next two games will really define this season with the 49ers and Raiders coming up. By that time, I hoping like hell that Gerald Mccoy is back and also Robert Ayers and Doug Martin. It was also nice to see VJ catch a few balls last week against Carolina but Winston, if anything, needs to just learn to go to his check downs at times and not always look for a home run ball to Evans unless it is there and wide open (like the one in Carolina).
Michael – looks like a safe bet that the Bucs will try and draft a quality safety in the early rounds next year. In the meantime, the ball-hawking is going to have to be handled by our linebackers and corners … seems like between Alexander, Smith, Grimes, and Hargreaves, we’re pretty well covered by ball-hawks at those positions.
As SR wrote, “good Jameis” showed up on Monday night, so that makes him 3 out of five. If after the bye week, good Jameis shows up at the 49ers – and as we Bucs fans all know, those west coast trips haven’t been good to us over the years – then Jameis will have achieved the “Meat loaf” standard of performance (“… and two out of three ain’t bad”).
If the rest of the team gets healthy for the 49ers game, especially Doug Martin, as aided and abetted by Jacquizz Rodgers as the change of pace back, AND if the D-line gets noticeably better with the return of McCoy, McDonald, and Ayers – then this could set up very well for us to achieve the Meat Loaf standard by Jameis. Wherein Jameis doesn’t unlearn the lessons his head coach tried to teach him about not trying to win it all by himself.
Two unmentioned but persisten problems: no pass rush, which makes the whole defense look bad, and no pass protection, which makes Winston look bad. The first problem is injury-related. The second one is that the starters they have are not developing well as a pass blocking unit. Dotson is ok, if overly penalized. Donovan Smith only has a good game every once in a while. Hawley gets beeten often. Marpet is getting better, but not quite average yet. Pamphile is doing ok for a second stringer, which is to say, he’s really part of the problem, too, because he’s doing a below average job. Evan Smith is not an upgrade or he would have replaced Hawley or Pamphile by now, plus he’s still on his pricey veteran free agent contract. Perhaps the worst FA signing of a veteran FA is Sweezy. He may just turn out to be an expensive zero.
Winston needs to go back to going through his progressions instead of anticipating who is going to be open two seconds into the play because he knows his linemen are going to lose their battles. If he could play pitch and catch like opposing qbs have in every game we’d be calling him a genius now.
Without a pass rush we are doomed.
It doesn’t take a lot of words to say what is wrong with Buc’s. Horse nailed it!!!
Penalties, kicker, turnovers. You’re right. It really doesn’t take a lot of words.
Jamies’ two bad games were against two of the best defences in the league. How did Matt Ryan’s stats fare vs DEN after all? Our QB is getting better with experience, even if it doesn’t show in PR’s supposedly all knowing stats. Stats don’t show his command of the offence, command of the huddle, leadership, etc. His stats will improve now that we’re past those two defences, and then the critics will have their beloved stats to back a new opinion.
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