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. SMITH SHOULD BE FIRED IF BUCS LOSE TO JAGUARS
Lovie Smith should be fired if the Tampa Bay Buccaneers lose to the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday.
Bucs fans can’t take another home loss. Not to Jacksonville.
This organization can’t withstand a home loss to the Jaguars, which is the worst team in football in recent history.
Jacksonville hasn’t had more than four wins in a season since 2010, a year they went 8-8 under Jack Del Rio, who was fired during the next season, in which Jacksonville went 5-11. Mike Mularkey presided over a hapless 2-14 season in 2012, only to be replaced by Gus Bradley, who has gone 4-12, 3-13 and 1-3 since.
At least Bradley has won three games in a season – something Smith can’t yet claim in Tampa Bay.
Since 2010, the Jaguars have a terrible record of 15-53. The Buccaneers aren’t far behind with a record of 18-50. To put that in perspective, Cleveland and Oakland both have a record of 21-47 from 2011-15.
Bad football will be on display at Raymond James Stadium on Sunday in the battle to see which team is the worst in Florida – and perhaps the NFL. Give the Jaguars a slight edge to beat the Bucs because they’ve already beaten Miami, another awful 1-3 team.
Without a miraculous playoff run to end the season, I don’t see how Smith could recover from a loss to the Jaguars. He would lose the fan base entirely with a defeat on Sunday – if he hasn’t lost them already.
A loss to the Jaguars might put a dent into the trust the players have in Smith, too. How could it not?
“Everything is on me,” Smith said. “I’m a head football coach on everything that we do here.”
Smith was talking about his decision to keep kicker Kyle Brindza around for an extra week after he missed three field goals and an extra point in a 10-point loss at Houston in Week 3. Brindza then missed two field goals and an extra point against Carolina last week.
But what about Smith’s other personnel decisions? After all, he has the final say on the 53-man roster when the season rolls around.
Smith already jettisoned his three hand-picked guys in free agency from last year. Quarterback Josh McCown, defensive end Michael Johnson and left tackle Anthony Collins were all disasters in Tampa Bay last year.
Let’s not forget that Smith was the one who hired offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford, who was in over his head in the NFL, and quarterbacks coach Marcus Arroyo, who had no NFL experience.
The free agents signed by the Bucs this year – safety Chris Conte, cornerback Tim Jennings, defensive tackle Henry Melton, nickel cornerback Sterling Moore and linebacker Bruce Carter – either played for him in Chicago or played in the Tampa 2 scheme in Dallas, which is run by his good friend, Rod Marinelli. Yet this is a defense that has is allowing an average of 25.75 points per game.
Despite showing improvement last year after the bye week, Smith took over defensive play-calling duties from defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier. In the final seven games of the 2014 season, Frazier’s defense only allowed opponents to score more than 23 points just once and allowed an average of 19.7 points per contest. Smith’s defense has already surrendered 30 points to the Panthers and 35 points to the Titans this year.
Two defensive players that Smith has continued to hype up – safety Bradley McDougald and cornerback Mike Jenkins – haven’t made many impact plays this year. Linebacker Lavonte David actually seems to be regressing in Smith’s Tampa 2.
David has just 12 solo tackles this season and 31 total stops with two tackles for loss to go along with a forced fumble. To put that in perspective, David had 31 solo stops through the first four games last year, and 38 total tackles and eight tackles for loss, in addition to two forced fumbles.
In his first four games under Greg Schiano in 2013, David had 30 tackles (20 solo), but also had five tackles for loss, four sacks and an interception en route to an All-Pro season. Even as a rookie under Schiano in 2012, David had 33 tackles (28 tackles) with six tackles for loss.
Smith was supposed to turn David into the second coming of Derrick Brooks in the Tampa 2 defense. That has yet to happen.
To be fair, David dropped an interception at the goal line that hit him right in the hands on Sunday against Carolina. So he has to take some responsibility for his less than stellar play after signing a contract that made him the highest-paid 4-3 outside linebacker in the NFL.
There just seems to be some kind of disconnect between Smith and his players for the Bucs to lose this many games. I don’t think they are tuning him out because they do respect him, but it’s obvious that Smith’s message is sinking in, either. That’s evident in the fact that Tampa Bay is one of the most undisciplined teams in the league, and is tied for the second-most penalties in the NFL this year with 38 – an average of 9.5 per game.
Smith is not a good game manager on Sundays, either. That was evident in Sunday’s 37-23 loss to Carolina. With Tampa Bay trailing 17-10 in the second quarter, Cam Newton was sacked by defensive tackle Gerald McCoy to set up a second-and-24 situation at the Carolina 21 with 2:35 left. Smith waited until there was 2:05 left before calling his first time out.
After an incomplete pass on second down stopped the clock with 2:01 left before halftime, the Panthers picked up 10 yards before punting the ball with 1:55 left after the two-minute warning. Tampa Bay took over at its own 45-yard line with 1:46 and two timeouts. Had Smith called the timeout earlier, the Bucs would have still had a timeout, the two-minute warning and about 20 more seconds to work with.
The Bucs had a first down at the Carolina 11-yard line, but only had six seconds on the clock. Had Smith managed the clock better, Tampa Bay could have 26 seconds left, which would have been enough time for Winston to throw two or three passes into the end zone to try to get a game-tying touchdown. Instead, Smith trotted the beleaguered Brindza onto the field for the first of his two missed field goals on Sunday.
“We wanted to get points at the end as much as anything,” Smith said. “We had a chance for momentum, where we were down by seven and at the very worst we were going to be down by four going in with momentum. Yeah, that’s what we were trying to do. We would like a touchdown, of course, in that situation, but we needed points and at the very worst we thought we would get three.”
There have been other instances of poor clock management, such as the St. Louis game last year in Week 2. The Bucs were trailing 10-7 with a first down at their own 32-yard line with three timeouts with 23 seconds left, but instead of going for a deep pass, the Bucs ran Bobby Rainey for eight yards to the Tampa Bay 40 and then didn’t call a timeout to try another pass play to get into field goal range.
Smith was content to let the clock run out in the first half and go into halftime with three timeouts in his pocket. The Bucs wound up losing 19-17.
Who was the quarterback? Austin Davis.
Austin Davis beat the Bucs a week after Derek Anderson did for Carolina. In fact, Anderson, Carolina’s backup, beat Smith’s Bucs twice last year.
It’s one thing to have Aaron Rodgers, Joe Flacco and Drew Brees – all Super Bowl winners – beat you, but to go 0-5 against Anderson, Davis, Ryan Mallett and rookie Marcus Mariota, who was playing his first NFL game in Tennessee’s 42-14 beatdown in Week 1, over the past two seasons is unacceptable.
In last Sunday’s press conference, Smith actually said, “You can get better without it saying it on the scoreboard.”
That’s true, but at some point, improvement has to show up on the scoreboard, which is the ultimate measurement of success in the NFL. Twenty games into Smith’s tenure as Tampa Bay’s head coach he has a record of 3-17. Smith’s predecessor, Greg Schiano, won more than twice as many games and was 7-13 in his first 20 contests with the Bucs.
Heck, even Raheem Morris was 6-14 in his first 20 games, and did it with a rookie quarterback in Josh Freeman and a far younger and less talented team in 2009 and 2010. Smith has a rookie QB in Jameis Winston, but that can’t be an excuse for losing given all of the veterans he has on defense.
“Even though there is disappointment behind this, that doesn’t have anything to do with us going forward,” Smith said. “Again, we just finished up the first quarter of our season and we’re behind and we’re disappointed. One win, but an opportunity to get a lot more the second quarter starting with Jacksonville.”
Smith means the second quarter of the season – not games. The Bucs need to focus on the first quarter where they have been outscored 38-6, including two pick-sixes by Winston against Tennessee and Carolina. Getting off to a quick start against Jacksonville is a must this Sunday.
Smith preaches fast starts to his team all the time, but it hasn’t happened. Now he’s preaching patience, especially with a rookie quarterback, to the Bucs’ fan base despite a 3-17 record.
Losing to the Jaguars at home on Sunday would mean hitting rock bottom as a franchise. The Glazers, who are still paying Schiano $3 million per year through 2016, likely wouldn’t consider making a coaching change until the offseason.
I think they should consider it because they have two former head coaches on staff in defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier, who coached the Vikings from for three and half years after taking over as an interim head coach in 2010, and offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter, who was a head coach for nine years at the collegiate level at Boise State (1998-2000) and Arizona State (2001-06).
I would actually prefer to see the well-liked and respected Koetter take over if Smith were to be relieved of his duties during the season. Giving him a chance to keep the continuity going with Winston past 2015 is important in the young quarterback’s development.
I would definitely keep general manager Jason Licht and the scouting staff on board, too. The Bucs have had two good drafts, have had some free agent finds like defensive end Jacquies Smith, and are upgrading the team’s talent. Talent is the key in the NFL and I think the Bucs are making some headway in that area. Keep in mind that Licht didn’t hire Smith, either. Smith was hired first and brought Licht on board.
Smith was supposed to bring credibility to Tampa Bay from Chicago having taken the Bears to the Super Bowl and the playoffs numerous times. But didn’t Sam Wyche take the Bengals to the Super Bowl before he was fired by Cincinnati and landed with the Bucs, too? We all know how that turned out in Tampa Bay and I’m afraid Smith is heading down a familiar path, especially if the team loses to Jacksonville on Sunday.
If the Bucs beat the Jaguars, the pressure is off Smith for now with what would be a 2-3 record and a much-needed home win. But the Bucs will have to show some real improvement and should get to at least six wins for him to see the third year of his contract. There’s still time for Smith to turn things around, but it has to start on Sunday against the Jaguars.
A loss to Jacksonville would be a clear sign that Tampa Bay is heading in a very wrong direction. Even though the Glazers don’t want to fire their third head coach in the past five seasons they’ll need to if that happens.
FAB 2. WINSTON’S PLAYMAKING ABILITY SETS HIM APART
Through the first four games of Jameis Winston’s initial NFL season he is on pace to throw for 24 touchdowns this season, which would be a rookie record in Tampa Bay and be the fourth-most TD passes thrown in team history.
On the flip side, Winston is on pace to throw 28 interceptions this year, which would be second behind the franchise-high 35 picks Vinny Testaverde threw in 1988. That would also match the same number of interceptions that Peyton Manning threw in 1998, so Winston would be in good company.
After throwing a career-high four interceptions and having a fumbled snap with center Joe Hawley in Sunday’s 37-23 loss to Carolina, Winston knows he needs to limit his turnovers.
“The letdown was just five turnovers,” Winston said. “You know, you can’t win football games with five turnovers.”
Bucs head coach Lovie Smith chalked up Winston’s bad day to being a rookie and not making the right decisions with his passes.
“You say the same thing about most picks,” Smith said. “It’s not a good decision on throwing the football. It’s as simple as that. He would like to have some of those back. We had some options, just some tough decisions that were made.”
Following the game, Winston’s teammates rallied around him, including wide receiver Vincent Jackson, who hauled in 10 catches for 147 yards and a touchdown in the final minutes of the game.
“We love Jameis,” Jackson said. “We’re going to rally behind him. He’s our guy, and there’s not going to be a blink in that locker room about that. We can do better things to make his job a little bit easier. There are things that are done that may seem like it’s his fault but there’s plenty of things that we can do to make him successful, and we all take the accountability for all those plays, those turnovers. It’s never a one-man show. Jameis is a young guy. He’s going to continue to learn.”
Part of Winston’s appeal to the Bucs during their pre-draft scouting was his swagger and supreme confidence. Sunday’s loss and his five turnovers did nothing to faze him.
“You just snap and clear, and stay positive,” Winston said. “You can’t think negative. Just snap and clear.”
“I will never lose my confidence. No, I will never lose it. Confidence will never be an issue. I’ve just got to work harder. That was a wakeup call to my work ethic. I have to work harder.”
As Tampa Bay Times Bucs beat writer Greg Auman pointed out this week, there have only been five quarterbacks with more interceptions than Winston’s seven through four games. New England’s Drew Bledsoe and Dallas’ Hall of Famer Troy Aikman had six picks four games into their rookie seasons, while Manning had 11 interceptions in Indianapolis through the first quarter of his rookie year.
Conversely, Winston has six TDs in first four games and only Tennessee’s Marcus Mariota (eight) and Andrew Luck (seven) have had more. And don’t forget that Winston has rushed for a touchdown, too, so he’s accounted for seven touchdowns in Tampa Bay.
Winston came into the NFL with the knock of throwing too many interceptions after throwing 28 in two years at Florida State, including 18 as a sophomore. But offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter said it’s unfair to label Winston as a turnover-machine.
“Playing in college is not playing in the NFL,” Koetter said. “It’s just different animals. Did we throw too many interceptions in this game? Yes. Can we base the whole rest of Jameis’ career on that? No.”
It’s not uncommon for young, successful quarterbacks to see their interceptions decline with experience. Winston’s opponent on Sunday, Jacksonville’s Blake Bortles, threw seven interceptions through his first four NFL games last year and 10 threw his fifth game, but has just 10 interceptions in the 13 games since.
Here’s the big takeaway when it comes to Winston. It’s easier for a playmaking quarterback to reduce the number of mistakes and interceptions than it is for a non-playmaking quarterback to make more plays. Once a quarterback gets to the NFL level, he’s either a playmaker type or he’s not.
Winston has shown he can makes through the first four games. He just needs to reduce his number of mistakes and that can happen due to his level of self-confidence.
What separates Winston from former Bucs quarterbacks like Vinny Testaverde, Trent Dilfer, Chris Simms and Josh Freeman is his confidence. Those aforementioned quarterbacks would throw an early interception or two and not show the resolve that Winston did in leading the Bucs to a late-game touchdown.
“He’s a competitive guy,” Jackson said. “He never got down on himself on the sideline – I love this about him. He comes back in the huddle in the second half and he’s like, ‘Hey, let’s go get some points, let’s go win this game,’ and that has never changed since Week 1 and I really enjoy playing with the guy.”
Once those former Bucs quarterbacks started in the downward spiral they simply couldn’t get out. That’s not the case with Winston, and that’s why he has so much promise.
“It’s not a time to fall,” Winston said. “It’s a time to get better, a time to rise.”
The good news for Winston is that through four games the Jaguars only have one interception, which is the lowest total in the league. That’s a welcome stat, as the Bucs will likely be forced to throw the ball with greater regularity this week.
“They are excellent against the run,” Koetter said of the Jaguars. “The reason is that they always outnumber you by one. It’s the Seattle defense that Coach [Gus] Bradley brought from Seattle. Single high (safety), eight guys in the box if you have two backs or two tight ends, seven guys in the box if you have one back and one tight end. They are always going to outnumber you by one. In coaching terms, you are always running uphill. How do we get a hat for a hat?”
In last Sunday’s 16-13 overtime loss to Indianapolis, quarterback Matt Hasselbeck attempted 47 passes as Jacksonville held the Colts to just 60 yards on 24 rushing attempts (2.5 avg.) led by Frank Gore’s 17 carries for 53 yards.
“I’m adjusting to this game and trying to get better at something every week,” Winston said. “Last week it was third downs. We were way better on third downs. We struggled on third downs (in Houston) and we came back. Red zone touchdowns – we had (three) red zone touchdowns, so that was important.
“Every week I’m trying to work on something, and for now until the rest of the season I have to work on not turning the ball over. That’s an easy thing to do because if I don’t … it will be bad.”
Smith is confident that his sharp, young quarterback will rebound from last week’s game with a better performance against Jacksonville.
“Jameis had a tough day,” Smith said. “Jameis will be fine. A tough day at the office [Sunday], but he’ll bounce back this week.”
Sunday and a chance at redemption can’t come soon enough for Winston. The last time he threw four interceptions was in a 24-19 win against Florida last year. He came back the next week and he completed 70 percent of his passes for three touchdowns and no picks in a 37-35 victory in the ACC Championship Game against Georgia Tech.
“I have to play better,” Winston said. “It’s not a mystery. It’s a learning curve and it’s learning for me. It gives us a chance to bounce back.”
That’s what playmakers do.
FAB 3. PATIENCE PAYS OFF FOR RAINEY THE RETURNER
Tampa Bay’s return game was a mess last year as the Bucs rolled through several return men – Solomon Patton, Trindon Holliday and Marcus Thigpen – last year before settling on reserve running back Bobby Rainey at the end of the season. Rainey finished 2014 with a 26.3-yard kick return average, which led the team and a 7.9-yard punt return average, which left little to be desired.
That prompted the Bucs to draft a return specialist in Utah’s Kaelin Clay in the sixth round, and give several other rookies, including Adam Humphries and Rannell Hall, a shot at returning punts and kicks in the preseason. Rainey was also in the mix, but the Bucs had an idea what he could do and wanted to get a closer look at the team’s newcomers.
He had to be patient.
“I’ve been learning to be patient since I went to college,” Rainey said. “I’ve learned how to be patient and wait my turn. It’s been tough, but as the years went on I’ve gotten better at being patient. Whenever the opportunity presents itself, I know to take advantage of it.
“It’s very hard when they bring guys in to do your job and they draft a guy to return kicks and punts and take your position. It was frustrating, but at the same time, patience is a virtue.”
His patience paid off, and when the newcomers didn’t sizzle, the Bucs opted for Rainey’s steadiness in the return game. But he’s done more than just be steady.
Rainey is starting to excel as a returner. The Bucs rank fifth in the league and Rainey’s 29.5-yard kick return average ranks 11th in the NFL. Among players with at least six returns, Rainey ranks fifth overall.
Tampa Bay ranks 14th in the NFL in punt returns and Rainey ranks 21st in the league in punt returns with a respectable 9.5-yard average. That’s an increase from last year.
“Bobby’s doing a great job,” Bucs running back Charles Sims said. “He’s an explosive player. His returns get us going. They are a huge advantage for us. He’s picking up another first down or two for us [when he takes the ball past the 30.]”
Rainey has ripped off a 23-yard punt return this year and had a 38-yard kickoff return last week at Carolina in which the kicker had to make the tackle.
“I was so close on that one,” Rainey said. “It’s been frustrating to me as a returner because I’ve been close to breaking a few returns. In the Texans game I was pressing too much and had a couple of bobbles there. I got too excited because I saw some openings, but now I’ve calmed down and let it come to me.”
Despite having a revolving door at the return specialist job last year, the Bucs ranked eighth in punt returns, so the scheme worked and Tampa Bay could be even more productive with a more explosive returner.
“I think that’s where it starts,” DePaola said. “Our blockers know the kind of guy they have back there in Bobby. They try to give all they can to help spring him one. I feel like we have some momentum going and it all starts with Coach O’Dea, who puts together our scheme. He studies harder than anyone else I’ve ever seen. Our guys trust him and his schemes and they do their job to the best of their abilities and Bobby sees the hole. That’s what he does best. He hits it and he hits it hard.”
Rainey is capable of ripping off big runs and had an 80-yard touchdown dash against Buffalo in 2013 as a running back. Tampa Bay’s last kickoff return for a touchdown was an 89-yarder by Micheal Spurlock in 2010. The Bucs’ last punt return TD came on a 77-yarder by Spurlock in 2009.
“It’s been a while since our team has had a kick or a punt return for a touchdown and that’s something we want to do,” DePaola said. “We definitely feel Bobby is that guy. He’s done an awesome job. He’s a special returner.”
Rainey’s confidence in the return game is at an all-time high, and he’s coming off a game in which he averaged 30.7 yards per kick return against Carolina.
“I think our momentum is building,” Rainey said. “We’re putting our offense in good field position. There have been times when our return game has given the offense great field position and they went down and scored. It’s going good, but it can be even better.”
FAB 4. MASIFILO MASTERING THE TRANSITION TO GUARD
He has yet to play a down on offense and has been inactive for two games this year, but one of the more amazing stories is that of guard Matthew Masifilo, who made the successful switch from playing defensive line to offensive line this offseason. The fact that the Hawaiian-born Masifilo beat out more experienced players like Kadeem Edwards and Patrick Omameh, who have been playing offensive line since high school, in the preseason is quite remarkable.
A season-ending injury to veteran offensive lineman Garrett Gilkey likely aided Masifilo’s cause, but he had a very good preseason in his first action as a blocker as opposed to being the guy charged with the responsibility of beating the blocker.
“Everybody needs to remember that he just started doing this in April,” Smith said. “I’m pretty sure he was told beforehand, but he wasn’t getting coached by Hop (Bucs offensive line coach George Warhop) until late April or May when we actually took the field. The strides he’s made are enormous. He’s done a great job, and coming over from defense he’s got a high motor and aggressiveness. That stuff translates to the offensive line and it’s easy for him. It’s just the technique stuff that he’s never practiced or performed before. He’s been doing a really good job of listening to Logan [Mankins] and Hop. I think it’s impressive. I’ve been very happy for the guy and he continues to do an outstanding job.”
Masifilo said that having a former Pro Bowler and Super Bowl champion like Mankins on the team playing the same position he’s trying to learn is an enormous advantage.
“It’s huge as I’ve always admired Logan’s intent to try to finish guys,” Masifilo said. “Since my first day I’ve tried to pick his brain and mimic everything he does. I’m always asking him questions, especially on the field when I’m getting coached up. If I don’t understand what’s being said I just line up behind him and see how he does and mimic him.”
A product of Stanford, Masifilo’s intelligence has aided his transition to playing guard. He played nose tackle and defensive end in the Cardinal’s 3-4 scheme in college and was signed as an undrafted free agent by San Francisco in 2012. The Bucs signed him off the 49ers’ practice squad in November that year and he bounced between Tampa Bay’s active roster and the practice squad as a defensive tackle for the last three years before the switch to guard was made during the offseason.
The Bucs had signed defensive tackle Henry Melton in the offseason and the defensive line room was getting crowded, especially at defensive tackle, so Masifilo, who is physical and quick, was moved to guard to help the team’s depth on the offensive line.
“I’m going to say it was a staff decision,” Smith said. “As we’re looking at it, we had some guys we liked on the defensive side and maybe Matt wasn’t quite what you were looking for at that position, but all the other things you loved. Nobody works harder – he’s strong, tough, smart. He’s not the first defensive lineman to make that adjustment, so it’s not surprising what he’s being able to do.”
Bucs center Evan Smith appreciates how far Masifilo has come in such a quick period of time.
“He came in our room with a blank slate, so you can kind of get all the bad stuff corrected before it starts,” Smith said. “He didn’t have any bad habits because he’s never played offensive line before. It’s like trying to teach someone how to play golf. It’s best if they have never tried to play before because there aren’t any bad habits. He’s been doing a great job learning because unlike the defensive line, there are so many more nuances you have to learn playing offensive line.”
One advantage that Masifilo has to help him adapt so quickly to playing guard is that he is going against the position he used to play.
“It definitely helps in the fact that I’m seeing things I’ve done before as a defensive tackle,” Masifilo said. “It’s not like I’m staring into a black hole. Whenever things are going too fast for me, I slow my thinking down by asking myself, ‘What would I try to do to me as a defensive tackle?’”
With Mankins and rookie Ali Marpet entrenched at both starting guard spots, Masifilo has the luxury of developing behind the scenes without the pressure to play right away. Much more effective as a run blocker at this stage of his NFL career, Masifilo understandably needs some work as a pass protector.
“I think the tape would tell me that my pass pro needs the most work,” Masifilo said. “For the last eight years I’ve been going straight forward as a defensive tackle, so obviously pass pro is an unnatural movement for me. Now I’m going backwards, and it’s a completely different ball game learning the athletic movements of pass protection. It’s a 180 from playing defense. Run blocking is more like defense because you are going straight ahead.”
Some NFL players might have looked as a switch to the other side of the ball where they may not have had any playing experience as career suicide. Not Masifilo, whose effort and work ethic helped drive him to master the guard position enough to earn a 53-man roster spot with a breakthrough training camp and preseason.
“Not at all,” Masifilo said. “I saw the position switch as a great opportunity and I embraced it with a want-to, can-do attitude. I did my best to seize the opportunity and I made the roster, but I have miles to go to be where I want to be. It’s an every day battle to get to where I want to be.”
FAB 5. SR’s BUC SHOTS
• One of the big question marks about Matthew Masifilo’s switch from defensive tackle to guard was his weight. At a listed weight of 280 pounds on the Bucs roster, would he be big enough to hold up against defensive tackles weighing in excess of 320 pounds?
“The lightest I’ve been here in Tampa is 290 pounds,” Masifilo said. “I think the roster has me listed at 280, but the last time I was at 280 I was in college. I think it’s a misprint. Before I came here I was a 3-4 nose tackle and defensive end in San Francisco. I’m around 300 pounds now, which is a typical offensive lineman weight.”
Masifilo gained a few pounds to help his transition, but he was never lower than 295 pounds in the offseason.
“Not much weight,” Masifilo said. “It’s been five months or so since I made the switch, so I’ve put on maybe five pounds. These days in the NFL the offensive linemen are smaller because we need to move. It’s not like the 1990s where the linemen were 340 pounds. As far as altering my training, it wasn’t too drastic. But I’m around 300 – not 280 like I’m listed as.”
• Look for the Buccaneers to go to a more up-tempo style of play on offense against Jacksonville. Tampa Bay offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter likes what he has seen from Winston when the Bucs have used a no-huddle offense.
“Jameis is definitely playing better in no-huddle,” Koetter said. “Obvious next question is, why aren’t you going no-huddle more? You can’t do everything you want to do game plan-wise out of no-huddle. It’s harder to do some of the things you want to do, especially with this being everybody’s first year in the system. We probably should be doing no-huddle more. We are playing better probably in no-huddle than when we’re not.”
Winston feels more comfortable with the rhythm of his throws with a faster pace and that could help him avoid turnovers against Jacksonville this Sunday.
“I just have to make the right decisions more consistently,” Winston said. “In no-huddle it’s easier to make the right decisions because it’s quicker. You have to make a quick decision because you have to get the ball out of your hand.”
• Speaking of offensive linemen, Tampa Bay has a real weapon in new center Joe Hawley due to his ability to pull. Hawley, who played for Dirk Koetter in Atlanta, pulled on a fourth-and-1 play in the second half of last week’s game against Carolina and made a block that helped spring running back Doug Martin on a 24-yard gain.
“I think pulling plays to my strengths,” Hawley said. “I’m pretty quick for a lineman and they like to get me on the edge. I enjoy it. When Dirk was in Atlanta we ran a lot of similar schemes and we pulled the center a lot. As a lineman you don’t get credit for a lot of things, but to be out on the edge leading the way it feels good when you make a good block.”
So it is better to go up against a 185-pound cornerback on the edge instead of banging heads with 300-pound defensive tackles in the trenches?
“Yes, getting out in space is something I like to do, but sometimes those guys are ruthless and they go right at your legs,” Hawley said.
Hawley is playing very well in place of the injured Evan Smith, who might not get his starting job back when his sprained ankle heals.
• There has been a lot of roster turnover in Tampa Bay over the past two years, but running back Bobby Rainey was one of a few Buccaneers that were on the team the last time it won a home game. That victory came on December 8, 2013 in a 27-6 beatdown of the Buffalo Bills. Rainey had an 80-yard touchdown run and the Bucs defense had four interceptions and sacked E.J. Manuel seven times.
Since that day, Tampa Bay has lost 11 straight games, including going 0-8 last year at home. That marked the first time since the inaugural season in 1976 that the Bucs have gone winless at home. The streak needs to stop this week against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
“It’s very frustrating because we have the guys to win games, but then to be close and in games and find a way to lose it – it’s frustrating,” Rainey said. “It’s just like last year, being close in games and not finding a way to win it. And we’re a much better team than last year.”
Rainey knows about losing streaks. His alma mater, Western Kentucky, went 0-26 before beating Louisiana-Lafayette in 2010, which was Willie Taggert’s first year as head coach. The Hilltoppers would finish 2-10 that year, but made a big jump the next season thanks to Rainey’s running, and finished 7-5 with a bowl berth.
“I had a tough first two years in college,” Rainey said. “We were 0-22 or something like that. When we got our first win we just went on a winning streak after that. That would be huge for us to get a win at home [against Jacksonville] – not just for us, but for our fans. That would mean a lot to us. Everybody’s happy when you win.”
• After three straight games with double-digit penalties to open the 2015 season, the Bucs had their lowest penalty output of the year against Carolina. Tampa Bay was flagged five times for 48 yards.
The Bucs’ penalties and penalty yardage has dropped each week, but Tampa Bay is still averaging 9.5 flags per game and is on pace to record 152 penalties this season, which would be the most in franchise history.
• It’s been four games and the Bucs only have two interceptions – one each by safety Chris Conte and linebacker Kwon Alexander. Despite all of the man coverage the Bucs are playing and the talent the team has at cornerback, the cornerback position has been shutout through the first quarter of the season. That needs to change on Sunday if the Bucs want to win.
• Congrats to former Heidelberg College wide receiver Donteea Dye, a Division III player, for being promoted from the practice squad to the active roster this week. We forecasted the move two weeks in a previous edition of SR’s Fab 5.
• A big thank you to Tampa Bay nose tackle and team captain Clinton McDonald for coming to talk to my South Pasco Predators Pee Wee Pop Warner team on Tuesday night. McDonald talked about playing nasty and physical and that was a message our 4-1 team needed to hear coming off a 25-0 loss last week after three straight shutouts. Our Predators will take on the New Tampa Tigers this week. A win and we’re in the playoffs. Let’s hope McDonald’s message delivers a victory for both us and the Buccaneers this weekend.
• Before our tackle football season began, several boys on our team played in the Under Armour Under The Lights flag football league in the spring and won the championship game. You may have seen the Under Armour Under The Lights banner on PewterReport.com. It’s a great flag football league for kids with a fall/winter season and a spring season.
If you are interested in having your son or daughter play flag football and are looking for a league to join, or if you would like the Under Armour Under The Lights league to come to your football organization, I strongly encourage you to click on the banner or click here to visit the website for more information.
The Under Armour Under The Lights league has their games played on Friday nights at Tampa Bay area recreation fields – rather than on Saturday afternoons, which means parents don’t have to spend half of their weekend baking in the heat at a field. Former Tampa Bay Storm quarterback John Kaleo runs the Under Armour Under The Lights and brought the flag football league to our Predators organization this past spring. It was so much fun and such a hit that we will be doing it again next spring. Sign up today for Under Armour Under The Lights!
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: email@example.com
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