The Buccaneers (0-8) are home on Monday night to host the Dolphins (4-4), and are still in search of their first win of the season. The good news is they will be facing a football team with more distractions than themselves. What are the six things PewterReport.com publisher Scott Reynolds is looking for in Tampa Bay’s Monday Night Football contest with Miami?
1. Keep James RollingRookie Mike James had a career game in just his third-career start last week against the Seahawks, rushing for 158 yards while also tossing a TD pass to tight end Tom Crabtree. But was it a fluke? Can a sixth-round draft pick, who was barely a blip on most team’s radar back before the NFL Draft, actually be a game-changing NFL running back? The jury is still out, but for the Bucs sake, they are most certainly hoping the answer is yes.
The Dolphins come into Raymond James Stadium with just the 22nd-ranked run defense, giving up an average of 116.5 yards per game, leaving the Bucs offensive coaching staff optimistic that they can continue James’ momentum from last week.
Rookie quarterback Mike Glennon had his best game of his brief NFL career, and it was not by accident. Having an effective James keep the Buccaneers in manageable third down situations will help increase the odds of the Buccaneers winning their first game of the season.
2. Survive The WakeDolphins defensive end Cameron Wake is one of the best and pass rushers in the NFL and the Buccaneers will need to account for him on every down, but particularly on passing downs.
Wake kicked off his 2013 season with a bang, collecting 2.5 sacks against the Cleveland Browns but was then held in check after that, as he did not register a sack in six straight games. But in the Dolphins last game, a 22-20 win over the Bengals on Thursday night, Wake awoke, nabbing three sacks against Cincinnati including a game-winning safety of Andy Dalton in overtime.
Even if the Bucs can mange to keep Wake away from Glennon, the rest of the offensive line will need to play at the top of their game, as the Dolphins have already notched 25 sacks as a team. Having Glennon get the ball out early is the best bet for the Bucs to have success, as there may be little time for long routes to develop down the field. Using the tight ends and backs out of the backfield should be part of offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan’s game plan on Monday night.
3. Find A Way To TannehillJust as the Bucs need to protect Glennon, the Dolphins will hope to keep the Bucs’ anemic pass rush from waking up. The Dolphins have surrendered 35 sacks so far in 2013 and that was before losing Jonathan Martin and Ritchie Incognito. The Dolphins offensive line wasn’t very good with those two players starting, and it can’t be any better with backups in the lineup.
If ever there was a game this season that is tailor made for the Bucs to have pass rush success from the front four, this is it. Da’Quan Bowers, Gerald McCoy and Adrian Clayborn should be salivating at the prospects, and if Tampa Bay is unable to record a sack like they weren’t able to last week at Seattle, it could be a very long night.
4. Win The Second HalfThe one thing that has frustrated Bucs fans perhaps more than anything so far in 2013 has been the inability to hold a lead. It happened in Week 1 against the Jets, last week against the Seahawks, and several games in between. So far Tampa Bay’s coaches have been outcoached after halftime and that has been part of the reason that the Buccaneers currently sit at 0-8.
The Buccaneers coaching staff didn’t necessarily need to make halftime adjustments last week as they held a 21-7 lead at the break, but after the Seahawks make their second-half adjustments, the Bucs didn’t counter with anything to slow down the Seahawks on offense, or adjust to anything Seattle did defensively that kept Tampa Bay from converting all but one third down in the second half.
If this coaching staff wants to start winning back the affection of Bucs fans, they can start doing so by getting a lead then adding nails to the coffin in the second half. Another second half meltdown could cause cause some players to begin doubting the schemes, and that is something that usually isn’t something easily won back.
5. Someone Other Than Revis Needs To ShineThe Buccaneers secondary was bad in 2012 – historically bad – and just a handful of yards from being the worst in the history of the NFL. So far in 2013 the Buccaneers are ranked 17th overall against the pass, and big part of it has been the play, and even at times just the presence, of cornerback Darrelle Revis being on the field. Teams are staying away from Revis. The problem with that is the other side of the field hasn’t been able to contain receivers on a consistent basis, leading to key-third down conversions and a handful of plays over their heads.
Rookie Johnthan Banks and second-year player Leonard Johnson have been victimized on a number of occasions and that is part of the reason the Buccaneers defense hasn’t been able to hold a number of leads. Last week Danny Gorrer and Michael Adams both took turns getting beat by Seattle’s Russell Wilson.
Revis is good, but even Revis Island can’t drift all over the field. Having Dashon Goldson back in the lineup should also help the Buccaneers secondary in need of some splash plays and consistency.
6. Feed Off The CrowdThursday Night Football is exciting, but it doesn’t hold the same significance and prestige as playing on Monday Night Football. The young Bucs will have an opportunity to shine and show the nation they are far from the worst team in the NFL despite being now being the league’s only winless team.
Add in the fact that former Bucs great and Hall-of-Famer Warren Sapp will be inducted in the Ring of Honor and this crowd should easily be the most excited – and loud – the team will play in front of at home all season.
There is no other game in town and the country will be watching. Can the Bucs harness some of the excitement and let it give them an emotional edge? The nation – and 65,000 Bucs fans – will be watching. If the players can’t get up for this game they need to find another profession.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
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