After a crushing, 48-17 defeat at the hands of Baltimore, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are 1-5 on the year heading into a much-needed bye week. PewterReport.com continues its new weekly series called The State of the Buccaneers to inform fans about what is going right and what is going wrong in Tampa Bay.
WHAT’S RIGHT WITH THE BUCCANEERS
Running Backs Show Signs Of Life
Tampa Bay’s running game has been dismal this year, and Doug Martin has yet to rush for 50 yards in any of his four starts. Sadly, his best effort came against Baltimore in which he had 11 carries for 45 yards, and averaged over four yards per carry for the first time this season. Martin had a season-long 19-yard run against the Ravens, and Bobby Rainey, who is still leading the team in rushing, added 42 yards on seven carries (6.0 avg.), including a 21-yard run. After rushing for a dismal 14 yards on nine carries (1.5 avg.) in the first half, Tampa Bay rushed for 73 yards on nine carries (8.1 avg.) in the second half. The Bucs’ 87 yards are the second-most rushing yards the Bucs have had all season, so maybe this is something the team can build on, especially with a long run from both Martin and Rainey.
The Consistent Play Of Lavonte David
There haven’t been many positives at all on the defensive side of the ball in Tampa Bay, but David’s consistency should be recognized. David had 14 tackles against the Ravens, which tied his season-high, and now leads the team with 65 tackles. He’s averaging nearly 11 stops per game and has had double-digit tackles in his last five contests. David is also good for at least one tackle for loss per game, and has 11 tackles for loss on the season to lead Tampa Bay. David needs to live up to his All-Pro billing and create more takeaways, but his two forced fumbles lead the team and he also has a fumble recovery. On a defense full of problems, David’s play isn’t one of them.
Vincent Jackson Is Coming On
After starting off the 2014 campaign slow with just 10 receptions for 102 yards and one touchdown in the first three games of the year, Jackson has begun to come on. The 10-year veteran caught the game-winning, 5-yard touchdown at Pittsburgh to cap off an underwhelming, three-catch, 32-yard effort against the Steelers. Since then, his game has taken off. Jackson had a season-high eight catches for 144 yards last week and had another decent outing against Baltimore with four catches for 66 yards. With 25 catches for 344 yards and two touchdowns, Jackson is the team’s leading receiver and has the chance to record a third straight 1,000-yard season in Tampa Bay.
Mike Evans’ Development
Evans has gotten his rookie season off to a good start. The 6-foot-5, 235-pound Evans has already proven that he is worthy of the team’s first-round pick. Playing in five games this year, Evans has 21 catches for 258 yards and two touchdowns, including scores in each of the last two games he’s played in. Evans missed the Saints game due to a groin injury he suffered at Pittsburgh, but he bounced back nicely with four catches for 55 yards and a score against Baltimore. In each game he’s played in this season, Evans has recorded at least four receptions.
WHAT’S WRONG WITH THE BUCCANEERS
The First Half Of Nearly Every Game
The Buccaneers have been outscored 72-17 in the first quarter and 51-10 in the second quarter this year. That means Tampa Bay has been outscored 123-27 at halftime and doesn’t look like it’s ready to play at kickoff. Bucs head coach Lovie Smith said he is going to re-evaluate everything the team is doing in order to get off to a better start. That includes the decision to defer to the second half after winning the coin toss and putting the defense on the field first. Smith said he might be more inclined to take the ball first to help Tampa Bay’s offense be more productive in the first quarter. Something has to change.
Tampa Bay’s Third Down Defense
Tampa Bay entered the Baltimore game allowing a 48.4 percent conversion rate on third down. Against the Ravens, the Bucs allowed them to convert 7-of-13 third downs (54 percent), which is going in the wrong direction. To make matters worse, three of Joe Flacco’s five touchdowns came on third down in third-and-long situations. The answer from the front four is more pressure on the opposing quarterback and more sacks. The answer from the back seven is tighter coverage and more plays on the ball. Corners jamming and re-routing wide receivers is a must in the Tampa 2 defense, and that’s not being done consistently.
The Tampa 2 Defensive Debacle
The Buccaneers defense has three huge problems. The first is not enough pressure on opposing quarterbacks, which is a critical component to Smith’s Tampa 2 defensive scheme. The Bucs are on pace to record just 24 sacks this year, which is 11 fewer than a year ago. The second problem is that the Bucs cannot defend the pass with Cover 2. New Orleans’ Drew Brees is the only QB to not complete at least 70 percent of his passes against Tampa Bay this year. The third problem is that it’s not just Cover 2. Three of the Buccaneers touchdowns on Sunday came against man coverage, too, which means Tampa Bay struggles to play both kinds of coverage well. Smith’s Tampa 2 defensive scheme has surrendered a staggering 151 points, a ridiculous average of 37.75 points per game.
The Play Of Bucs’ Offensive Line
Tampa Bay’s revamped offensive line is full of inconsistent play. The Buccaneers have struggled to run the ball, failing to eclipse the 100-yard rushing barrier in all but one of the team’s six games. The offensive line has not done a good job of consistently opening up holes for the Bucs’ running backs. Just when it looked like Tampa Bay’s offensive line might be better at pass protection after allowing just two sacks in two games at Pittsburgh and at New Orleans, the line surrenders five sacks and an incredible 15 quarterback hits to Baltimore. After Sunday’s loss to the Ravens in which Mike Glennon was constantly under duress, it looks like the offensive line has yet to find an area that it can hang its hat on through the first six weeks of the season.
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]
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I do like Rainey, he seems to have a nice lateral burst to juke the tacklers. David is not perfect, but very good and Evans will be ok when healthy. The what’s wrong seems pretty accurate and very scary. There is no quick fix for those problems, maybe December will be better.
Great article SR. I agree with everything you said. I’m glad you highlighted how our Tampa 2 has used both zone and man coverage and have been awful in both.
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State of the Bucs: Total clown show. Can’t stop anyone and can’t score until the other team is up by a bazillion points and backs off. Fans deserve an explanation for this [email protected] and a refund.
The last two years at least we were great against the run. I pointed out when they went to Tampa 2 that both Dungy’s Tampa 2 and our DC’s Tampa 2 in Minnesota gave up a lot of yards on the ground, and unless Lovie got a Urlacher Clone, we would be giving up big yardage on the ground. I also pointed out who Licht had to draft, Max, the MLB for Michigan State, to fix that problem but Licht stupidly didn’t get him. When we can’t stop the run, play action eats us up and makes the long passing game go for the opponent. I pointed out Foster could not play Tampa 2 and had to be moved to SLB where he can play well, but no, Lovie was all for Foster losing weight (major mistake!) and thought he could do it because Hardy told him so. Otherwise, Scott, good analysis. Warhop is the biggest problem on Offense and his failure to swap our starting tackles. Lovie needs to cut Warhop’s incompetent back up OLmen from the Browns, and find a new OL Coach NOW.
I’ve got my list of college QBs entering the draft this coming year. At this rate, the Bucs will pick in the top 5 or 6. There are some really good QB selections in those slots. I know the Bucs have a ton of holes, but Lovie wouldn’t be foolish enough not to pick a potential franchise QB with the first round pick…would he??!
In a rare moment of brutal honesty, Lovie Smith told us what the problem is. Following the disappointing loss to the Ravens, in his brief but required address to the media, he said “It’s going to be difficult to win because in some areas, we just don’t have the talent”.
Rick Stroud pressed him on that statement in the Monday presser and he watered the statement down by saying he had players out that were injured. In fact when I went back to the archives to review the Sunday presser, that statement had been edited out and reduced to a 46 second sound bite of the positives taken from the loss.
Now I’m not suggesting that Lovie is being disingenuous , but perhaps a statement made in the heat of the moment as Stroud suggested, and had second thoughts about the morale of his team going forward. But I heard what I heard and I believe him – we lack the talent on this team to win on a consistent basis.
I welcome Mark or Scott to tell me where I am mistaken or have misstated the facts! It could happen. After all I am a card carrying member of the Jack Daniels Appreciation Club!
I’m in the Makers Mark appreciation club, not as many members, but the perks are worth it.
David leads a defense that set all time records for futility. Twenty eight points in a quarter, thirty eight by half. Was one of David’s tackles a sack on third down? Did he break up a pass, or god forbid intercept one? Two forced fumbles don’t get you to the pro bowl, no splash plays, no game changing plays. He’s a solid linebacker that’s all. This defense is supposed to be tailor made for the WLB to make plays. Just racking up tackles isn’t making plays. I’m just tired hearing from the local media how great he is. He’s been part of every bad defense we’ve had going on four years. He’s a good player on a very bad team that’s all. When his play starts turning the out come of games like Mr Brooks use to do, then give him some accolades, until then enough already.
Macabee, you are correct. We have one player from the 2010 draft and that’s McCoy. This team has less talent than before, but Coach Smith tried to make the changes to make us better because what he saw he didn’t like. Obtaining more draft picks at this point is what is important. Trade players now because some teams are hurting for back ups that are play off bound and are willing to make a trade. I would take my first round pick which will be somewhere between 2-5 and trade further down because we need a lot of good players, not one outstanding player.
RB is an OKay spot – but we have like 5 or 6 backs on the roster and practice squad and can’t find a running game that works
The state of the Buccaneers’ defense is comatose and I’m just not buying it’s because of the learning curve. But if it IS I damn well expect dramatic improvement throughout the rest of the season.
Mike Evans IS coming on IMO. He looks like the real deal, a force for years to come.
The OL is a disaster and could be a major problem for quite some time. We need draft picks, lots of draft picks to build on. I’m not optimistic but REALLY want to be again.
In the picture, Glennon looks like he got off the wrong freeway ramp and ended up in a tough neighborhood!
This Tampa 2 criticism has really gotten ridiculous when Scott Reynolds himself refers to the Tampa 2 and man coverage in the same breath. The Tampa 2 is a pass coverage within a defense, not a defense itself. It is based on two safeties covering the deep secondary with the Mike LB covering the deep middle and the two CB’s covering their quarter. It’s a zone scheme designed to limit the areas in which a QB can find an open receiver before the defensive linemen get to the passer. It’s been run since the Steelers devised in many years ago, It’s only been coined the “Tampa 2” because the late 90’s and early 2000’s teams perfected it. Why don’t we listen to people who have a clue, like #55 instead of letting this false perception spread like MRSA? Horse wants to trade all of our players for different players and take a chance that the 5th round pick we’d gather for # 22 as an example would be better. I’m all for ridding the team of over-priced free agent blunders for drafting and developing our own. But good luck finding a sucker to give you a 2nd rounder for a Gaines Adams clone in Michael Johnson. Remember, we’re the team who virtually gave away Talib and Blount who are doing pretty well on the Broncos and Steelers. Those teams have a history of winning and the Bucs tradition is well…..you know.
scubog – Tampa 2 does not mean Cover 2. It is not a pass coverage. Cover 2 is a zone coverage to defend the pass and relies mostly on rushing four defensive linemen at the QB and dropping the back seven into pass coverage. Tampa 2 is a broad term used to talk about the defense Tony Dungy brought to Tampa Bay in 1996 to use with Monte Kiffin as the coordinator. The premise of the Tampa 2 is to more often than not give the QB a Cover 2 look prior to the snap and then either run Cover 2 or transform into another coverage just prior to the snap out of the Cover 2 shell. You CAN run man coverage and zone coverage within the Tampa 2 defense. It’s been done for years. I’ve covered the Bucs since 1995, so I’ve got a pretty good understanding of what the Tampa 2 defense is.
Scott, I think the Tampa 2 has evolved into the “Chickens with their heads cut off 2”!!!
Without a pass rush this defense will never be productive. McCoy is good but he really was ineffective against Ravens. We are going to have tough choices in next draft. So many positions need upgrading. Getting rid of Revis, Talib are coming back to haunt us. Our effort at building a DL is a huge failure. And our Offensive line is a joke. Can we pass on a franchise QB next year ?
The overall problem is rather simple: lack of talent. We have some talented players. We also have some players who probably should not be starting. In the middle, we have a big group of players who are mid to low level talent players. These are the guys who are capable of occasional strong play but cannot sustain that play and cannot elevate the play of the players around them. The OL is a good example. Individually, any of them could be plugged into an existing OL with good talent and would likely be competent such that you might not notice their talent deficit. But when you put those guys together, the collective talent deficit is too much to allow for consistent and productive play. Lets be honest- there is a long term rebuilding project underway and it will take several strong drafts to replenish the talent level, particularly on the lines.
For those of you that have you heart set on a QB in the draft (me), I don’t think that is going to happen. It simply is not the weakest position on the team. It will be a lot of defensive picks with an offensive lineman or two thrown into the mix.
I think the biggest problem with the Bucs is that our expectations(including mine) were simply out of whack. Every former player that talked about the defense said one thing consistently, that it takes time and there will be a learning curve. Granted no one assumed it would get this bad but the players who perfected this scheme gave us fair warning of the growing pains we should expect and we ignored them. The biggest problem im seeing with the defense is that we have Schiano’s type of players attempting to play Lovie’s scheme which calls for faster players on defense. Once Lovie gets his type of players on defense then I think we will see the improvement necessary for us to compete weekly. Now for the offense lets take a realistic look at the side of the ball new QB, Doug Martin coming off an injury, Vincent Jackson the only returning CONTRIBUTING WR, all new TE’s, 4 new starters along the offensive line and a new OC who by the way hasn’t called a single play in the regular season. Does this look like a recipe for instant success?? Lets use this bye week and the second half to get the offense on the same page, see what we have in Charles Sims, allow the offensive line to grow and see what we have.
I have figured out the real problem, Lovie lost the magic he created last year, because he moved to Florida and now he doesn’t have his basement! Let’s buy Lovie a basement.
quit sugar coating everything this team is terrible and it will take years to fix this mess domindork really screwed us fans and we are the ones that really pay, not the glazers they still make money, the coaches and players still make money just us fans name one positron group that is strong on this team there is none and the bears fans were right lovie is no head coach dc is about all he is capable of doing well, these retread coaches are just that retread coaches
Well then Scott. Explain to me and other ignorant fans just how this Tampa 2 “Defense” (emphasis on the 2 as in 2 deep safeties) is any different than the other 4-3 base defenses and why it’s now antiquated and ineffective while the others are still in vogue. And furthermore, why is that Tampa 2 defense given a name that infers a type of “coverage”? Right now I think the Tampa 2 means two good players. When we have eleven good players maybe the Tampa 2, that must be written on a scroll, will be raised from the dead.
We can talk about the players and the coaching, but the most persistent problem that this team has had is the lack of a great general manager. Ever since Bruce Allen was here, our drafting has been abysmal. The reason Gruden is calling Monday night football is because Allen never could draft. Domink got a few selections right, but mostly failed at getting solid mid level players to build upon. The only way out is for Licht to start hitting on his picks, especially in the mid rounds to bring in quality depth.
Per John McKay, “we can’t block, we can’t tackle, can’t rush the passer, and we can’t cover. Other than that we’re pretty good.”
One thing is certain with Tampa 2: You have to have a fast MLB to provide coverage up the seam, who is smart enough to distinguish between a pass play from a running play, and it helps if he is as big as Urlacher too, so he can stop the run and even knock down passes with his height and wingspan. We don’t have that essential player. However, I just learned today that Max Bullough is on the Houston Texans’ Practice Squad. If you read what the Texans said about him, they thought he could stop the run but found out he can cover too–AH HAH!!! So Licht does not even have to trade a draft pick for him–just take him for free off their Practice Squad. That is just how easy it would be for us to fix that major problem with our defense if we had a GM worth what we are paying Licht, the Nomad who has drifted from one team to the next.
Remember how many times Rhonde would move into the box to help stop the run or help rush the passer? That is called a Cover 3 and another thing the Tampa 2 can do. That is what Lovie should also be doing when our front 4 are not stopping the run, but he isn’t doing it. We know our strong safety is better at that than covering passes from his Schiano days, so we do have a player to execute the Cover 3 with but instead we are getting gouged in the running game. You saw all the effective blitz packages the Ravens used on us and Dungy’s Tampa 2 had a lot more blitzes to use when they were least expecting it, but you don’t see Lovie using that like we used to. I have little confidence in Frazier because I saw his defenses giving up way too many yards on the ground. I think we would be better off letting him go and having Lovie to run the defensive play calling and force Licht to get the right players he needs like Max Bullough.
The Bucs have a bad case of Dominickitis. Generally not fatal, but quite debilitating.
Contacts in stadium seats get a general malaise if they are Buc fans – and euphoria if they are visitor fans.
Possibly curable with several years of good drafts.
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