The Buccaneers fell to 2-11 on the season with a 34-17 loss at Detroit. The latest loss has brought some good news and some bad news to Tampa Bay. What’s going right with the Buccaneers and what is going wrong in Tampa Bay? Find out in this week’s edition of The State of the Buccaneers.
WHAT’S RIGHT WITH THE BUCCANEERS Smith Is On The Rise
Young Buccaneers defensive end Jacquies Smith has been quite the find for general manager Jason Licht. Smith recorded two sacks against the Lions – both of which were on third down, which is the money down for defensive linemen. That was the second two-sack game for Smith this year, who has six quarterback captures and ranks second in Tampa Bay behind defensive tackle Gerald McCoy’s 8.5 sacks this year. Smith has done a great job for the Buccaneers since taking over the left defensive end position and has been a real bright spot for the defense.
Lansanah’s Versatility Is Exciting
Danny Lansanah has started at all three linebacker spots in Tampa Bay over the past month. Since winning the starting strongside linebacker position, Lansanah has recorded three interceptions, returning two of them for touchdowns. When Lavonte David missed two games at weakside linebacker, Lansanah filled in and recorded 23 stops, including a career-high 14 against Cincinnati. Last week at Detroit, Lansanah notched a game-high eight tackles while playing middle linebacker for Mason Foster. With Foster’s contract expiring in the offseason, Lansanah may have successfully debuted at the Mike linebacker spot for the Buccaneers in 2015.
Evans Stating His Case For Best Rookie WR
It’s a three-way race for the honor of being the best rookie wide receiver this year, and Tampa Bay’s Mike Evans is in the lead. After catching two touchdowns at Detroit, Evans has 57 receptions for 935 yards and 10 touchdowns. That’s one shy of the Bucs’ team record, which was set by Mike Williams as a rookie in 2010. Carolina’s Kelvin Benjamin, who will face Tampa Bay this Sunday, is nipping at Evans’ heels as has 59 catches for 848 yards and nine scores. New York Giants rookie Odell Beckham, Jr. has made up for lost time due to an early-season injury, and has 59 catches for 829 yards and six touchdowns.
The Bucs Currently Have The No. 1 Draft Pick
Tampa Bay’s loss at Detroit combined with Oakland’s upset over San Francisco on Sunday allowed the Bucs to move into the driver’s seat for the number one overall draft pick in 2015. With the top overall pick the Bucs will have their choice of drafting either Oregon QB Marcus Mariota, Florida State’s Jameis Winston or possibly trading down to acquire more draft picks. This is an unexpected gift for a dreadful, losing season in Tampa Bay – and one the Bucs shouldn’t blow by winning a meaningless game or two down the stretch.
WHAT’S WRONG WITH THE BUCCANEERS Tampa Bay’s Offensive Line Is Abysmal
The Buccaneers’ offensive problems start at the offensive coordinator position where Jeff Tedford bailed on the team this year following his recovery from a heart procedure, but they continue along the offensive line. The unit was without left tackle Anthony Collins, who has underwhelmed this year, at Detroit and his replacement, Oniel Cousins really struggled. The offensive line once again had multiple penalties and surrendered six sacks and 14 quarterback hits to Ndamukong Suh, Ziggy Ansah and the rest of the Lions defensive line. Tampa Bay was only able to rush 14 times for 26 yards (1.9 avg.) against Detroit, too.
The Bucs Officially Don’t Have An Offensive Coordinator
The Buccaneers and Jeff Tedford officially parted ways on Friday. Tedford didn’t feel like coaching after his heart procedure and when he finally got healthy this fall, he wanted to coach elsewhere rather than stay in Tampa Bay and deal with the train-wreck he helped create. But when Tedford said he wanted to leave so he wouldn’t be an “obstacle” for play-caller Marcus Arroyo, head coach Lovie Smith and the other Bucs coaches that reeked of crap. Tedford’s return could actually help the Buccaneers, but considering how the offense has fared this year and how some of the talent hasn’t panned out, he probably didn’t want to ruin his reputation by staying in Tampa Bay. Don’t let the door hit you, Jeff.
Sims Has Had A Slow Start As A Rookie
Much was expected from rookie running back Charles Sims when he made it back from the injured reserve-designated return list in November after tearing a tendon in his ankle during a practice in August. Perhaps too much was expected of a young player that missed the final three preseason games and has been forced to play catch up. Sims has struggled while rushing for just 83 yards on 37 carries (2.2 avg.) with a long run of just 12 yards. After rushing for 22 yards on six carries (3.7 avg.) at Chicago, Sims has rushed for just two yards on 10 carries (0.2 avg.) over the past two games, including minus-4 yards on five carries at Detroit.
Johnson Is Bucs’ Biggest Bust Of The Year
Tampa Bay defensive end Michael Johnson would be perfect for the role of the Invisible Man as he’s been nowhere to be found on Sundays lately. Johnson has just 21 tackles in the 11 games he’s played in this season, and doesn’t have more than two tackles in any game over the past eight contests. After recording no tackles at Cleveland, he notched two tackles and a sack – his only QB takedown over the past eight games – Johnson has just four tackles over the past three games. While he has been struggling with an ankle injury, there have been plenty of plays where Johnson has been seen loafing on the field and not giving much effort against the run or the past. Johnson needs to be cut in the offseason, and it’s not even about the money – it’s about the roster spot Tampa Bay is wasting on him.
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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