FAB 4. Bucs Preseason Recap

Tampa Bay’s starters were held out of Thursday night’s preseason finale against Washington. The Bucs vs. Redskins game featured perhaps a dozen or so players that will make the team’s 53-man roster in a reserve capacity in Tampa Bay’s 13-10 loss. Now that the preseason is over, here are some important things to consider.

• I spoke with several members of Tampa Bay’s starting offense this week and there wasn’t much concern over the fact that the unit scored only one touchdown in a combined six quarters of action over three games. The Bucs feel like they have the talent to flip the switch and put up points in Miami in the 2017 season opener.

“No, we’re not concerned at all,” Bucs wide receiver Adam Humphries said. “It’s preseason. We’re having a chance, an opportunity to work with the ones for one quarter or two quarters. We’re getting better each week we’re on the field and we know that September 10 is the real test to bring everything.”

Bucs WR Adam Humphries - Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Bucs WR Adam Humphries – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

For a team that scored 21 points or more just eight times last year and averaged just 22.1 points per game, which tied Tampa Bay with Seattle, we’ll have to wait and see if the Bucs have improved in that area or if they were being just plain vanilla in the preseason and holding their good stuff back.

• We saw the debut of Tampa Bay’s “13” personnel for an entire drive in Saturday night’s 13-9 preseason loss to Cleveland when the Bucs deployed one back – Jacquizz Rodgers – and three tight ends – Cameron Brate, O.J. Howard and Luke Stocker. Tampa Bay has played a good deal of “12” personnel this preseason, featuring one back, two tight ends and two receivers, but 13 is a personnel grouping that Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter likes to deploy, but couldn’t last year after the team abruptly released backup tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins after Week 2.

“You saw some 13 – that’s what we call it, 13 – out there,” Stocker said. “It’s always great to have that wrinkle in the game plan. Defenses are always going to have to struggle to find out how to line up to defend that. That’s something they have to prepare for in practice even if we only ran it five times in a game. The defense has to game plan for it and spend practice reps on it – whether we use it or not. It’s a good thing to have in our arsenal.

“Anytime you are in a three-tight end set it’s usually a run formation, so that sets up play-action perfectly. You’ve got three blockers at the tight end position that can slip out and become receivers at any time, and defenses have to account for that.”

Not only will Koetter run a lot of 12 personnel this year, but look for the Bucs to experiment with three tight ends in the 13 personnel set, too. Look for Tampa Bay to keep five tight ends on its 53-man roster. Brate, Howard and Stocker are locks, while Alan Cross and rookie Antony Auclair appear to be favorites for the final two spots.

“We have a really capable group of guys,” Stocker said. “It will be interesting to see how everything shakes out. We only have 53 guys that can make the team. I’m sure the guys upstairs are struggling with it just like you guys in the media are trying to figure out how it’s going to sort out. It’s a really good group of guys and throughout camp every one of us – from the oldest to the youngest – got better.”

Bucs S Justin Evans – Photo by: Clifff Welch/PR

• Bucs rookie safety Justin Evans played in the Bucs’ fourth preseason game, which is a clear indication that he needs more work on defense. It’s safe to say that Evans won’t be challenging Chris Conte for the starting free safety spot anytime soon. Evans was flagged twice for two personal fouls against Cleveland on the Browns’ game-winning drive. Evans, a hard hitter at Texas A&M, received a fine for one of the hits, but vows that it won’t change his aggressive playing style.

“I’m not going to let it change what type of player I am, but at the same time you have to modify it or you’re going to get called for penalties,” Evans said. “I thought the first hit I got called on, I didn’t think it was head-to-head. I slowed up because I didn’t want head-to-head. The second one, he made a call and he rolled with it, but I don’t think either one deserved a flag. I just have to look at things differently. If a guy is on the ground maybe just tag him off or go lower.”

Look for Evans to see significant playing time on special teams during his rookie year as he continues to learn the defense.

• The Bucs weren’t happy with their pass rush during the preseason as the starters only recorded two sacks – one by defensive end Noah Spence and another by blitzing linebacker Lavonte David.

“Any team that can get pressure with a four man rush is ahead of the game,” Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter said. “I wouldn’t say that we have wowed anybody in that area in preseason. Some of that is timing. Just like offensive lineman working side-by-side in our games, those are the guys they work with. We haven’t been how we would like to be. We did a good job in Jacksonville of getting pressure, not necessarily getting home, but last night [against Cleveland] was not as good.”

Koetter actually said Tampa Bay’s pass rush was “non-existent” against the Browns. Bucs defensive end Jacquies Smith, who has been sidelined after knee surgery in August, said that Koetter’s words ring true.

Bucs DE Noah Spence - Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Bucs DE Noah Spence – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

“You should take it to heart because your job description tells you that you need to get after the quarterback,” Smith said. “If your head coach is saying you’re not doing your job, then yeah, you should take that to heart. You should feel a certain way, get to work and do something about it. The guys we have in this locker room are for sure working hard. Sometimes you don’t get the results you want, but with the guys we have in here there is plenty of talent. Guys are working hard to get ready and preparing themselves to go out there and play an ‘A’ game.”

Smith said that while the Bucs have given their opponents some vanilla looks and will be more intricate on defense with stunts and games once the regular season starts.

“This is the time where you want to work on things and see what you want to use for the season and what you don’t, so in that sense, yeah, a lot of stuff is vanilla,” Smith said. “But you want to go out and work yourself up so Week 1 there is no doubt in your mind. You are just letting it go. If you play at a high level now in the preseason you can carry that over into the regular season.”

If the Bucs’ pass rush can’t get revved up with a four-man rush, look for defensive coordinator Mike Smith to blitz linebackers Kwon Alexander and Lavonte David regularly, especially since Tampa Bay’s secondary is more capable of man coverage in the second year in his defense.

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Scott Reynolds is in his 24th 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 son's Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: [email protected]

32 COMMENTS

  1. Bayless is a Cowboy hack that literally says things to mug for the camera and create controversy. One of the most important things I saw this preseason was that the team came out of it without any major injuries. I’m still stunned to see different sites having the Bucs finish fourth in the NFC South. I know it’s a damn tough division, but fourth? I think that as much that Jameis has improved, I also think that resigning Smitty was the best move of the offseason. I think that the D is going to surprise some people and this team should be sending PR into their “playoff scenarios” mode by December.

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    • No free-agent pickup or draft pick was as important as retaining Mike Smith. We desperately needed continuity in the coaching staff and front office (which we’ve only had one other time since Gruden was let go) after finishing 2016 on an upward trajectory. Thank goodness for Dean Spanos being a idiot and going through with the Chargers’ move to Los Angeles… if they do the smart thing and stay in San Diego, I don’t think we would’ve kept Smith. The timing on the decision-making on both sides was not a coincidence, IMO.

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  2. Skip Bayless is a pompous ass who knows nothing, absolutely nothing about the Buccaneers other than what he’s seen on Hard Knocks. No credibility whatsoever. I’d rather not spend a second thinking about him or his bogus opinions but here I am. Five minutes I’ll never get back.

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  3. Brian Anger is a WEAPON! A punter as a weapon? In Anger’s case, absolutely. He gives the Buccaneers great control of field position time and again.

    Good stuff Scott. Incidentally, it might be a good idea to allow comments after each individual Fab of the Five? Each one deserves individual comment and I really believe you’d get more if you took my suggestion.

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  4. We still need to bring in another QB and put Griffin on IR and let’s see where he is and several weeks. I still don’t see backup offensive tackle, the same for defensive ends. As of today I only see 8-9 wins if Winston stays healthy. Maybe we’ll get lucky and get those 10 to 11 wins, but that’s areach as of right now.

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  5. If Greeny ‘s on board with Winston and the Bucs then I’m not holding much hope for the season. Dude is the kiss of death if there ever was one.

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  6. Random thought, but isn’t time we revise the “downed inside the 20” stat considering teams now get the ball at the 25 after a touchback? And where did that term come from anyway? Why not “downed inside the 10” which is much more impressive and effective? Just a thought….

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    • Getting the ball at the 25 is only on kickoffs, punts and turnover touchbacks are still at the 20.

      And I think it’s the stat because most punters can kick it 60-75 yards into the endzone for a touchback, whenever they want to, the skill comes from hangtime, ball placement, and putting the correct spin on the ball to give your ST a chance to down it.

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  7. One thing I have noticed about Jameis in the preseason is that he starts to the game faster, or better. The last two seasons, and even in college, he started off slow. That is one of the benefits of him being more accurate this year. Great stuff on Jameis!

    I am proud to say I have never watched a show Bayless has been on. I wonder if him, and Tom Jones, have any self respect as men, to even try to get it right.

    Anger is everything we hoped Aguayo would be. It looks like it’s a lot of fun to be a gunner when he is punting!

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  8. Seahawkers podcast has a whole segment at better at life than Skip Bayless, one of the funnier segments out there. There Prisco World segment is absolutely x10 better at life than Skip Bayless though.

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  9. Could’ve stopped the headline at, “Bayless is clueless”

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  10. SR………”If there is one thing about today’s world of sports reporting and news reporting in general that I detest is the supposed need for hot takes – the more controversial and attention grabbing the better.”

    SR……..Gruden will be returning to coaching!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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  11. If Skip doesn’t like Dirk who cares, keep winning games and he will get on board. Feel the Bucs should’ve taken the gamble on Cameron Irving due to his ties with Jameis and talent coming out of college. Hopefully our line stays healthy but we can never have too many talented big guys used to playing in the FL heat.

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  12. The less said about Skip Bayless the better. May his name never pass our lips and keyboards again.

    I love our coaches,as well as our players. Don’t give a rat’s rear end for pre-season games as anything more than scrimmages designed mostly to figure out who makes the cut to 53. Other than that, they’re irrelevant to regular season expectations.

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  13. Scott, I’m not sure why you guys have been pushing the re-signing of Evans all off season as if they are running out of time. I am not surprised at all. When the bucs re-signed McCoy and David, they both had one year left on their contract and not two like Evans does. That is why the contract talks have not picked up steam. Neither side is in any rush. Why should they be? Evans option year is going to pay him $15 million. Last time I checked, that is still top 5-6 in the league at his position. Evans will get paid his worth in due time. No need to rush.

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    • The rush isn’t to get him signed, The rush, although there obviously isn’t one, would be to sign him for less. Because obj is going to get signed too. So we either let obj set the market and end up paying more or we set the market with Evans and probably pay less. Well almost certainly. That’s the incentive.

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      • Look, you are talking about pennies at this point. Antonio brown makes about 17 mil a year. Hopkins just signed a contract that put him in that ball park. Evans and obj will be in that ball park. Its not like the bucs are going to save 30 mil by signing evans now. The market is already set. Again, evans option year next year pays 15 mil.

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        • I think we’re basically both agreeing that there is no rush. But all the intel I’ve heard leading up to now was that they preferred to set the market. I agree though nickels and dimes at this point.

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  14. If Skip Bayless predictions held any salt Tim tebow would have multiple Super Bowl rings, RG3 would be starting QB for the Dallas cowboys, and… I probably don’t have to say more. You can youtube compilation videos of everything he’s gotten wrong, it’s pretty great.

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  15. Koetter is the best thing that has happened to this team in a long time. So is Smith. When we make it to the playoffs, there will be a lot Crow to go around for skeptics. The Defensive line is a little sketchy, but if we are lucky and keep healthy, good things are going to happen.

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  16. Right now I’m picturing Skippy bleeding out on a cold castle floor. Lord Skip Balesh, not bad Scott.
    Basically Bayless is a dickhead. Always has been. Excuse my potty mouth Scott but sometimes you got let it fly.
    8 more days and we shall see if the BUCS are for real.
    I haven’t been this juiced at a start of the BUCS season for awhile.
    GO BUCS
    GO RAYS
    GO LIGHTNIG
    HELL, GO TAMPA

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  17. I’m often amused and frequently just baffled at what I overhear fans in the stands blurt out loud enough so those around them can, in their minds, be educated by their utter nonsense and ill-informed rhetoric. This past game (?), the idiot behind me, who obviously received the tickets as a gesture of sympathy from the true season pass holder, actually found fault with punter Bryan Anger when the cesspool (field) of players was filled with a collection of turds floating around until today’s scheduled cuts.

    That fan might well have taken his cue from Skip Brainless who always tries to portray himself as a bit of an intellect when in reality we all know he’s just another pompous Cowboy fan still living in the past.

    As the host of Iron Chef says, “Let the battle begin!” Thankfully, our favorite team came out of these meaningless games(?) relatively unscathed. The goal was to evaluate the players and improve the roster from a year ago. I believe that was accomplished. Other than the questionable back-up QB, I think the team has better talent at each position group than at the start of the 2016 season.

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  18. Regarding Bayless–The national medial largely ignores the Bucs, which means they do little homework and there is usually not much depth behind the statements they make. Bayless has followed Jameis a little closer, but is off base with his assessment of Koetter, imo. He is correct with his facts, but wrong with his conclusion.

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  19. JW has indeed looked more controlled and accurate so far. If he can maintain that in the regular season it would be huge. Cutting down his total turnovers to something below the 20+ he has averaged could alone be enough for two more wins. Fingers crossed…

    The most telling line in the FF came from one of our own starters on offense:

    “If he has time in the pocket he can deliver a good ball every time,” Bucs wide receiver Adam Humphries said.

    If, indeed. He certainly has the weapons. Will he have the time…? It’s all guesswork at this stage. Again, fingers crossed

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  20. Bayless along with most ESPN talking heads is the result of the failed Disney?ESPN upper management brain trust, and their PC SJW warrior mentality is turning off viewers every where. It seems they have little understanding of why most America watches sports especially football. They need no lessons in “group think” from those idiots.

    Their NEW World order of programming leaves much to be desired.

    I seldom watch any of them anymore. Their schtick has grown tiresome. They have completely lost touch with most Fans.

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  21. Runole, thanks for amusing us with your inner Donald Trump. Political correctness used to be called being polite and civil until the uber right made such civil behavior a dirty word.
    ESPN is having a tough time not because of what you perceive to be their political leanings, but because they sunk huge amounts of money into the NBA and it isn’t paying off.
    Now for some football.
    Scubog. as usual, you nailed it.
    Skip Bayliss knows very little about anything except for his beloved Cowboys.
    I would love to see Bayliss step into an elevator with Troy Aikmen and see what he looks like when he comes out.
    If you remember Bayliss was the one who was spreading unfounded rumors around about Aikmen possibly being gay.
    Aikmen almost quit Fox when he found out they hired him.
    The guys is just a complete no talent jerk with a big mouth which is what keeps his name in print. See Howard Stern,

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    • Drd. At least Howard is somewhat funny. Satire and dumbass not equatable.
      GO BUCS

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    • Drdneast

      He probably got that idea from ron and jp who always spew that slant on reality. The fact that many stream their tv now has nothing to do with espn numbers i guess. Its all about politics according to them as why viewership is down. I love how they constantly bash espn about their “left” leaning views and how they do not tune into sports for politcs but yet all they do is spew their right leaning views. Very hypocritical.

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  22. Trey Wingo’s comment wasn’t moronic. It was right on the money. Taking Roberto Aguayo in the second round was the worst draft pick ever. Aguayo was the only kicker drafted the year he was drafted. If one of Conner Barth’s misses in 2015 would have been a make, his field goal percentage for the season would have been better than his career percentage. I find it hilarious that the Bucs waived Barth when Aguayo was drafted, but the Bears decided to keep Barth instead of Aguayo. Kicking the most extra points is as indicative if not more of making the playoffs than FG accuracy or making the most 50-yd FGs (reasons why the Bucs drafted Aguayo in the first place). There is a large percentage of teams that have undrafted players as their starting kickers. At the time, more weapons for Winston were needed more than a better kicker.

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  23. Calvin Boaz, can you say Ryan Leaf, Bo Jackson that big steroid tackle Green Bay took years ago, Booker Reese etc, etc. Any first or second round pick that doesn’t make the team is a mistake, it doesn’t matter what position he plays and the draft is littered with wasted first and second round picks.
    Did you know I believe it is 50 percent of the players chosen in the first round aren’t in the league after four years. What makes those better picks.
    If Aguayo had kicked in the pros like he did in college he would have been a weapon.
    BTW, I didn’t like the kick either but I have moved on. I suggest you do the same.
    Give it a rest.

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    • Tony Mandrich. That’s the big steroid using tackle you refer to.
      He actually had a some what decent career with Indy.
      Hands down Bo Jackson is the worst ever. At least all those other bums show up to camp.
      Go Bucs

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  24. Skippy is like a hemroid that needs to be removed!

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