Tampa Bay may have sustained its most heartbreaking loss of the 2014 season on Sunday, falling to visiting Cincinnati, 14-13, in a game marred by 13 penalties on the Buccaneers. 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
Bucs Defense Continues To Improve
For the second straight game, the Buccaneers defense has held an opponent to under 300 yards of total offense as the Bengals generated just 288 yards and scored just 14 points – and that’s without star linebacker Lavonte David. Danny Lansanah has been a great fill-in at weakside linebacker, notching a career-high 14 tackles against Cincinnati. Tampa Bay’s defense has allowed an average of 14 points per game over the last three games. Several other players are playing well on defense including Tampa Bay’s cornerbacks (see below), defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, who leads the Bucs with 8.5 sacks, and middle linebacker Mason Foster.
Bucs Cornerbacks Stepping Up
Tampa Bay’s second-year cornerback Johnthan Banks continues to play well, and helped the Bucs start off a game with an interception for the second time this season (Washington). Banks has a career-high four interceptions and his seven interceptions are the most by any Buccaneer in his first two seasons. Cornerback Brandon Dixon, who had his first interception against Cincinnati, has played well for three weeks against the likes of DeSean Jackson, Brandon Marshall and A.J. Green as Tampa Bay has not allowed a 100-yard receiver during that span. Veteran Alterraun Verner also recorded a pick against the Bengals on Sunday and has played well since returning from injury.
No Gaffes On Special Teams
Lo and behold, the Buccaneers went a week without a special teams gaffe. No blocked punts, no blocked field goals, no muffed punts, no huge penalties in the kicking game like roughing the kicker or jumping offside on field goals. There was a holding penalty that negated a decent return by Bobby Rainey, but considering there were no disasters – and a couple of great punt coverage tackles on Adam Jones in addition to good kicking from Patrick Murray and good punting from Michael Koenen – it was a good week for the Bucs’ much-maligned special teams unit.
Tampa Bay Moves Up In Draft Order
As the losses continue to mount for the Buccaneers, their chances of securing a top 5 draft pick increase. Now at 2-10, Tampa Bay moved up to the second overall draft pick thanks to a surprise win by Jacksonville. Oakland, which is 1-11 after getting obliterated by St. Louis, 52-0, owns the top draft pick if the season were to end today, but out of the 2-10 teams (Jacksonville, NY Jets and Tennessee), Tampa Bay has the worst strength of schedule rating, which has them in the driver’s seat for the No. 2 spot if the Bucs don’t win another game in 2014.
WHAT’S WRONG WITH THE BUCCANEERS
Offensive Line Woes Continue
The Buccaneers offensive line continued its atrocious play against the Bengals. Five offensive linemen, including Oniel Cousins at tight end, were flagged with penalties. The only lineman that wasn’t was right tackle Demar Dotson, who is tied with left tackle Anthony Collins for the team lead with 10 this year. Collins had three penalties on Sunday, but it was Garrett Gilkey, who got his first start at center, that was the main culprit. Gilkey was flagged four times and had a couple of botched shotgun snaps. The offensive line did a poor job of run blocking in the second half as the Bucs rushed for just six yards in 10 carries.
Tampa Bay Winning The Division Nonsense Is Over
Tampa Bay’s yearlong dreams of winning the NFC South division were dashed with Sunday’s loss. It’s one thing for head coach Lovie Smith to use the farce of the Bucs making the playoffs as a carrot to dangle for the players, but to tout the team’s postseason hopes in press conference after press conference was just laughable for a squad that has yet to win a home game or win back-to-back games. Alas, the 2-10 Buccaneers will just have to settle for a high draft pick in 2015 rather than the playoffs.
Penalties Continue To Kill The Buccaneers
The Buccaneers were flagged 16 times with 13 accepted penalties on Sunday against Cincinnati. That was the second-highest number of infractions Tampa Bay has had all season (15 vs. New Orleans). The Bucs have now had five games with double-digit penalties all season, which is inexcusable. The team experienced a dip in penalties at midseason, but have averaged 10.9 accepted flags over the past four games and seem to be getting more undisciplined as the season goes on. With 102 infractions, the Bucs are tied with the Seahawks for the most penalties in the NFL in 2014.
Poor Coaching Dooms Bucs
The Buccaneers appear to be tuning out Lovie Smith’s message about penalties because there has not been any improvement. There is no other way to say it. That’s a dangerous sign for a head coach that will be sitting on the hot seat entering the 2015 season. Bucs play-caller Marcus Arroyo called a bad game, especially in the second half as the team struggled to run the ball with just six yards on 10 carries after rushing for 69 and a touchdown in the first half. The fact that the Bucs entered the fourth quarter with just 15 pass attempts – when the passing game is what has led to a recent surge in offensive production – was disappointing. And last but not least, having 12 men on the field negate a 21-yard catch by Louis Murphy down to the Bengals’ 20-yard line with seconds left in the game is inexcusable.
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]
The Buccaneers had better be worried about the State of the FANS soon. Attendance is dropping fast, even among those who HAVE tickets aren’t going. This team needs hope and the worst offense in memory is not giving us any at all. Question is, do we really trust St. Lovie Smith to turn around an offense? WHO is our leader on offense? Hell, who is our offensive coordinator? Wish I knew something to feel positive about on offense other than a rookie WO and maybe a rookie TE.
There is no offensive coordinator. There is no game plan. Play calling is the worst. If we trade our young QB he will be a success in a pocket passing offense. Never saw such a mess, even in the first days of the francise. Ticket holder since 1976.
Hope the Buc’s are smart enough to treat the last few games as practice. Don’t get anyone hurt and don’t screw up the second overall pick. It would sure be nice going into the draft with the second overall pick. We can salvage something from a terrible season.
Keep your heads up Buc fans, there may be brighter days ahead! Having and maintaining the 2nd overall pick allows the Bucs to (1) pick a top-rated QB (2) pick a top-rated position of need – DE Randy Gregory or OT Brandon Scherff or (3) trade down for multiple needed draft picks.
I’m on record saying I would pick a QB. But I have recently read that Chip Kelley will be prepared to pay a king’s ransom to get QB Mariota. At this point, the Eagles pick 26th. The Bucs should seek the Julio Jones /Browns trade. The Falcons really coveted a receiver in the 2011 first round because they were eager to move up from the 27th spot. It was a blockbuster deal. In exchange for getting the sixth pick, Atlanta gave the Browns five draft picks: their 1st- (27th overall), second- (59th) and fourth-round (124th) picks that year and their first- and fourth-round picks in 2012. That would be hard to resist with the other top-rated and needed players that are still on the board.
Every mock draft I’ve seen so far has the Raiders obsessed with DT Leonard Williams/USC. That may or may not be true, but bodes well for the Bucs to hit the jackpot. If Winston or Mariota turns out to be the next coming, the Bucs win. If they take either DE Gregory or OT Scherff they got a top performer at a position of need. If they pass and take the picks, they can fill a lot of O-line positions and secondary positions that are sorely needed.
Bottom line – Bucs win!!!
Nice review of the options mac….the only thing that would really concern me about trading down, is that our QB next year is one of Glennon, McCown, or maybe a guy like Hoyer or The Sanchise…not sure how we could expect to win enough games with one of those guys at the helm, no matter how many other additions we had…QB is just too important in today’s NFL, and if we pass on this opportunity, we could easily become the perennial 8-8 team that never gets a chance to draft one. No, I would rather be the Saints, Chargers, Patriots, Pack with a great QB that makes a lot of other “average” look better, than be the Bucs, Titans, Jets with a lousy QB that makes a lot of above average look below average.
I agree with everything you said SR except that penalties are killing the Bucs. You yourself gave the reason why I disagree…the Seahawks. Are they tuning out their Super Bowl winning HC? I think not. What about the Patriots? They were #1 in penalties this year last time I checked so they are probably still in the #2 or #3 spot. Are they also tuning out their 3-time Super Bowl winning HC? The Bucs losing doesn’t have much to do with penalties. If we were near the bottom of the league in penalties we’d still be a lousy football team with a lousy record. The team is lousy because we have a lousy QB, a lousy offensive line and a lousy OC. The Seahawks and Patriots have none of those so they can easily overcome penalties. In short, saying penalties are killing the Bucs is an overstatement. The three things I named are killing the Bucs.
I concur with that…
That’s it in a nut shell Pinkstop.
Good article pretty much hits in all positives and negatives lately. Not Lovies fault we lost Tedford and that sucks, but Lovie is to blame for the worst problem with this team which is the offensive line revamp. What a colossal failure. Lot of other things need addressing but that is the biggest problem along with QB. Now we have to trust he can fix this colossal mess he created. Have to wait and see I guess. Not real optimistic. Hope we get a coordinator that can use our strengths, fix this horribly broken O line, and for God sakes a good QB for first time in over a decade.
Way to go Scott, I see you have finally come around to the fact that the coaching just might be a tad of a problem. “a head coach that will be sitting on the hot seat entering the 2015 season”. That is a very discouraging statement Scott. The only thing Coach Smith should be entering for the 2015 season is his basement back in Chicago. Garv makes a very good point with regard to the fan base. No hope equals no fans. Nothing gets a coach fired more than empty seats, that’s the hope this long time season ticket customer has.
Execution by the Offensive Line would be helpful. Macabee; I agree with what you have said except you know my thoughts on Winston has gone way down. At this point in time I can’t pick him; he needs to improve immensely in being consistent. I would trade down in a heart beat because I think this team with a good draft are over the hump.
I agree with you horse. Winston’s play of late and his character risks are taking him off lots of draft boards. Contrary to what JG says, I am no Noles fan. I’m an IU graduate and all I get to cheer about is RB Tevin Coleman.
My position on Winston is like any potential draft pick without bias – let the vetting, due diligence, and the athletes performance from school thru the combine either qualify or disqualify him. As I said before, the cream usually rises to the top.
Go Big Red! lol.
Mac, I love Coleman. I’m in the minority but I think Coleman is the best RB in the upcoming draft class. I thought that before Gurley got suspended/hurt and I still think that despite what that Wisconsin RB did vs. Nebraska. Coleman does it week in, week out with absolutely no QB and no fantastic run blocking Wisconsin O-line in front of him. I would love to get Coleman with a 4th or 5th round pick.
I am pulling for Oakland, Jets, and Jags. We need the very first pick and Marriota and the Glazers better order Licht to take him and then three OL in a row. Warhop needs to walk the plank with his Brownie Pets, and if we could add Jay Gruden as OC next year if he comes available, we could win a lot of games next year and turn it around.
Agreed. I’m not sold on Jay Gruden because I’m not a fan of the WCO and I think Jon would talk his brother out of coming here like he did Chip Kelly, but I’ll take anybody over what we have now. Except Brian Billick or Mike Martz.
I like the cut of your jib @owlykat…all for that scenario!
All good points. Sure would rather be discussing play-off scenarios than the Draft. But I enjoy all of the Draft scenarios too. How about this one? Winston continues to be less impressive than his freshman year performance due to the off-field issues swirling in his head and falls out of favor with teams. The Bucs trade the #2 pick to the Eagles and garner a slew of draft picks and maybe QB Nick Foles or even more draft picks and we take Winston at #26. Or we “Suck for the Duck” and acquire as many draft picks as we can and as Owlykat suggested, draft an offensive lineman in every round.
I can’t get away from Winston going to the Bucs talk apparently, sigh That idea is about as exciting as having Glennon under center again
This is not even close to 1976, or 1977. We didn’t score our first offensive TD at home until week 14 of 1977…
Its not Lovie’s fault Tedford had a heart attack. I don’t understand all the pessimism “lovie can’t develop an offense” the guy went out and got a damn guru. But he had a heart attack. and then wussed out. Ive read everywhere the same procedure is good enough for two weeks off, THATS IT! Tedford QUIT on Lovie, don’t you quit on him too. Because i n a year or so your going to be calling him the next Dungy. You don’t want to l look stupid
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