Tampa Bay has yet to win two games in a row as the Bucs fell at Chicago, 21-13, after winning at Washington, 27-7, two weeks ago. 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 Continues To Shine As A Pass Rusher
Buccaneers defensive end Jacquies Smith has been a great free agent find and continues to make general manager Jason Licht good. Smith has been on a tear recently, collecting his fourth sack in the past four games with a takedown of Jay Cutler in Chicago during his first career start. With nine tackles, four sacks, two pass breakups, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery as mostly a part-time player Smith has outperformed starter Michael Johnson (18 tackles, three sacks, a forced fumble) down the stretch and is deserving of more starts this year.

Bucs Are Mathematically Alive For The Playoffs (Sigh)
Bucs head coach Lovie Smith continues to tout the mathematical truth that Tampa Bay is still in the running for the NFC South title. While most media outlets suggest the Bucs are two games back, the team is really three games out of first place because Tampa Bay is 0-4 in the division and was swept by Atlanta, which is 4-0 in the division and the NFC South’s current leader. For Bucs fans that want to see their 6-10 team win the NFC South and make the playoffs – albeit undeserved, I suppose this is a positive.

Bucs Offense Continues To Pass The Ball Well
Tampa Bay’s passing game continues to click, evidenced by the fourth straight game with a 100-yard receiver. Rookie Mike Evans did the honors against Cleveland, Atlanta and Washington, and both Vincent Jackson and Louis Murphy accomplished that feat at Chicago. Quarterback Josh McCown contributed three turnovers, but threw for a season-high 341 yards in Sunday’s 21-13 loss to the Bears. Tampa Bay’s offense has its challenges (see below), but to its credit, it has piled up at least 320 yards of total offense in four straight games – thanks to throwing the ball.

Evans Is Bucs’ Top Point Producer
At the start of the season the Bucs envisioned a run-first offense that would lead to play-action passes. But with a running game that has been nearly non-existent this year, rookie Mike Evans has emerged as the offense’s most potent weapon. With at least one touchdown in the past four games, and six scores in the past month, Evans leads the team with eight total touchdowns, which is six more than the closest non-quarterback in Tampa Bay, as running back Bobby Rainey, tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins and wide receivers Vincent Jackson and Louis Murphy only have two scores.

WHAT’S WRONG WITH THE BUCCANEERS
NFC South Title Could Cost Bucs On Draft Day
ProFootballTalk.com brought up a great point on Tuesday that could impact the Buccaneers on draft day. If Tampa Bay were to win the abysmal NFC South division with a 5-11 or 6-10 record, the Buccaneers wouldn’t pick until the 20s in the first round due to them qualifying for the playoffs. A 5-11 record would likely net a team a top 10 pick this year and could cost the Bucs a shot at a top quarterback or one of the better players in the draft with a much later draft pick. Besides, if the Bucs advanced to the Super Bowl the team would still have a losing record entering that game, which would be an embarrassment to the NFL.

Bucs Have No Running Game
Tampa Bay’s passing game is clicking in large part because the team can’t effectively run the ball. The Bucs own the league’s 29th-ranked running game, averaging just 84 yards per game. The Bucs’ 207 rushing attempts rank 27th in the NFL and the team has had just one 100-yard rusher this year (Bobby Rainey in Week 2). Tampa Bay doesn’t have any running back with at least 400 yards on the ground or a running back with more than one touchdown. The offensive line has struggled in run blocking all season and the team’s continual starting overrated running back Doug Martin, who has averaged 2.8 yards per carry and has yet to rush for more than 47 yards in any game despite six starts.

Tampa Bay’s Offensive Line Continues To Disappoint
Bucs head coach Lovie Smith admitted what we’ve all known for weeks – Tampa Bay’s retooled offensive line has failed the organization this year. The Bucs have gotten marginal play from left guard Logan Mankins and center Evan Dietrich-Smith and sub-par play from left tackle Anthony Collins and right guards Patrick Omameh and Garrett Gilkey. Right tackle Demar Dotson has adequately when he’s not committing penalties, but leads the Bucs with 10. The Bucs offensive line has failed in terms of pass protection with 32 sacks allowed and in run blocking as the Bucs have only rushed for more than 100 yards in a game just a few times this season. Don’t be surprised if this unit gets overhauled again in the offseason.

Bucs’ Return Game Has Struggled All Season
Buccaneers head coach Lovie Smith stated how the team needed to get impact plays in the return game from his first day on the job. But instead of signing former Bears return specialist Devon Hester, the best returner in NFL history, the Bucs went with rookie Solomon Patton, who was released in favor of Trindon Holliday, who was cut after he his season-long hamstring injury flared up. Marcus Thigpen was brought in as a replacement, but struggled to hang on to the ball. Bobby Rainey will get the chance to return punts and kicks, in addition to Mike James handling kickoff return duties as the team is on the lookout for its fourth return specialist(s) this year.

Previous articleMartin Still Confident In His Ability; McCown Agrees
Next articleBucs Facing Cincy’s Talented Backfield Tandem
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 protected]

16 COMMENTS

  1. Am I the only one who gets a good laugh out of every mention of the Bucs and playoffs? Really wish things would’ve panned out with Hester or Demps in the return game. If you watch any game where a big return happens, you realize it is such a momentum shifter. Hope to Martin dropped at some point, as well as Collins EDS and a few other busts. Better to go into next year with committed players than over-priced losers. Not sure why Incognito hasn’t come around, oh well. Hope for the best, expect the worst.

  2. “Bucs Offense Continues To Pass The Ball Well…Josh McCown contributed three turnovers, but threw for a season-high 341 yards…”
    C’mon, man! Integrity? Credibility? Bueler, Bueler..Bueler…? Freaking embarrassing.

  3. This season has been all too reminiscent of those mid-80’s to mid-90’s teams. Remember those JonnyG? Every once in a while they win a game and not all of the players deserve the dismal won-loss record they represent. But in the end, we will be looking to the next Draft for our savior. Who knew in 1995 that a lame-duck coach would select two risky players who would turn the franchise around for a decade? There’s always hope.

  4. I think the state of the Bucs right now must be “bewilderment”…seriously Scott, it must seem incredibly odd to be writing about a 2-9 team and using the word “playoffs” anywhere except to say “this team needs a lot of help to make a run at the playoffs next year”. Anyway, @scubog, I agree this team feels in many ways like the mid-90’s teams…we were bad, we knew it, but there was some small inkling of hope…I remember year after year saying “all we need is to get some offense now and we’re there”…it took a coaching change, a very good game-manager QB, and a few FA’s nearing the ends of their productive NFL lives to get us that offense…this time around I really hope we can just draft some serious offensive weapons…hope in the form of Mariota would be so much nicer to cheer for…

  5. I’m not concerned about how high we draft. We don’t need a bunch of rookies right now who will take 2 or 3 years to develop and commit rookie mistakes. We need to go out into FA and this time do a great job bring in talent. We especially need to retool our OL with the best talent we can fine. Use the draft to add quality defensive depth.

  6. We’re going DEFCON 1 in 2015 – the nuclear option. We’ve got to blow this thing up! The Bucs need draft picks and better performance at key positions. I don’t believe these players and cap numbers will not return next year.

    SALARY CAP

    DaQuan Bowers 1,226,000 not met expectations
    Jonathan Casillas 1,400,000 already traded
    Mark Barron 3,616,000 already traded
    Adrian Clayborn 2,612,000 not met expectations
    Oniel Cousins 635,000 too little, too late at LT
    Mike Glennon 776,000 traded/ 5th rd pick
    Dashon Goldson 8,250,000 salary exceeds performance
    Vincent Jackson 11,111,000 traded to Eagles/3rd rd pick
    Mike James 520,000 not enough production
    Mike Jenkins 1,875,000 injury prone
    Leonard Johnson 570,000 too slow, no instincts
    Mike Kafka 570,000 not an NFL QB
    Michael Koenen 3,250,000 short punts, long salary
    Logan Mankins 8,500,000 traded to Pats/4th rd pick
    Doug Martin 1,696.000 traded to Bills/5th rd pick
    Luke Stocker 775,000 too much tub, no plays

    Total Cap Savings 47,382,000

    Current Salary Cap 1,823,000

    Proj. 2015 Cap Incr. 10,000,000

    Proj. 2015 Cap Space 59,205,000

    NOTES:

    -Vincent Jackson could be traded to the Eagles. They made a big push for him before the trade deadline, but the Bucs held out for a 2nd round pick. He will be 32 in January and has a 12.2mil cap for 2015. At minimum, he will be asked to restructure to remain with the Bucs – too many drops.

    -Doug Martin could also be traded to a RB needy team. The Miami Dolphins or Buffalo Bills are likely targets. Bobby Rainey has already displaced him as starting RB. Since Charles Sims has returned, Martin has become the 3rd RB. No more Smurfs, the Bucs need a big power RB in the stable.

    -There are others on this team, picked up in the off-season who do not belong on this team. Too many Crezdon Butlers, Marcus Thigpens, and Brandon Dixons to name a few. They should be gone too!

    -Cap increase due to CBS and DirectTV contracts.

    FREE AGENCY

    -The Bucs need to make 4 free agency moves. They will have the dollars to make it happen.

    -Bucs should pursue a defensive game changer in FA. Put DE Greg Hardy on the left side. The one big FA move.

    -Bucs need a strong run blocker to secure the O-line and improve the run game. Put All-Pro OG Mike Iupati on the left side to replace Logan Mankins. Iupati can be had for what Bucs are paying Mankins and 6 years younger.

    -Bucs should add a veteran CB with man coverage skills – veteran CB Brandon Flowers will be a UFA in 2015. He is the 2nd ranked CB by ProfootballFocus.com and has 23 tackles, 2 INTs, and 7 pass break-ups this season. Move Alterraun Verner to the slot to replace Leonard Johnson. Verner can tackle but hasn’t shown that he can play on the outside.

    Bucs should add a big MLB (another Urlacher) and move Mason Foster to the strong side. WLB/MLB K.J. Wright/Seahawks will be a UFA and can fill the ticket.

    2015 DRAFT

    -Round 1 – Draft QB Marcus Mariota/Oregon or Jameis Winston/FSU

    -Round 2 – Draft 6-5 WR Dorial Green-Beckham/Oklahoma to replace Vincent Jackson.

    -Round 2 – Trade back into the 2nd to draft FS Gerod Holliman/Louisville or Cody Prewitt/Ole Miss. We need a big hard-hitting FS that can cover deep to replace Mark Barron and/or Dashon Goldson. Or sit still and take SS Durell Eskridge/Syracuse in the 3rd round.

    -Round 3 – Draft CB Cam Thomas/W. Kentucky. Need a long speedy CB to back up Johnthan Banks on the outside.

    -Round 4 – Draft OT Tyrus Thompson/Oklahoma. OT Kevin Pamphile is developing on schedule. Move FA bust OT Anthony Collins inside to ROG.

    -Remaining rounds – Draft DE, MLB, a big power RB, and C. Get punter from UDFA class.

    • wow mac…you usually have such short, poignant posts…I really like the Mankins to NE for a 4th rounder (but wonder if we would get our 4th back, or theirs)…and “short punts, long salary” is a classic…like it!

  7. What I do like is that the Bucs seem to be playing better and competitive. However, the penalties are killing me as a fan. We get something going then a penalty or back-to-back penalties kill us. Offensively, defensively, special teams too many penalties.

  8. Here’s the State of the Buccaneers Scott. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are an unwatchable embarrassment of an organization. Bucs pass the ball well, what games are you watching? Throw in the fact that Lovie Smith is the most clueless Head Coach since………..Rich Kotite.

  9. macabee…..
    I hope you don’t mind but I am going to use your above analysis as one of my possible contingency plans for the 2015 offseason. When I set up my war room each offseason I always like to compare different fan idea with what actually develops. You’re scheme is very thorough and well thought out. I would never hav considered the Mankin move nor the Dorial Green Beckam pick. I agree we need a QB and regardless of the 1st round history I’m all in on Mariota. And Winston.
    Appreciate your insights…… Go Buc’s

  10. Good stuff macabee. You obviously have a lot of time on your hands to come up with such a thorough and well thought analysis. But there are more players to be as Ted Webb used to say, “Given a copy of the Home Game.” Might fetch a draft pick for Glennon. Need to replace Dietrich-Smith with a more stout center. I’m not a big fan of free-agency for reasons proved out this season, but we might not have a choice but to make another run at it. No more one-year wonders and back-ups please.

  11. Playoffs?? Does any self respecting Football fan really want the entire country watching the Bucs play football right now? The NFC South is doo doo this year and that’s a great thing. It means that the Bucs have a very weak schedule. When their draft position is determined they will go to the head of the line between any other 2 win teams they are tied with. Lovie’s playoff talk better just be coach speak. Winning at this point is just plain stupid. The Colts pulled a “Major League” the year Payton left. 16 painful games earned them Andrew Luck, and a return to the playoffs this season. So far, through 3 coaching changes, 16 painful games has earned me a lot of false hope followed by bitter disappointment. I want some restitution for all this pain and suffering.