It was supposed to be a preview of what the 2017 Tampa Bay Buccaneers were going to be. If that’s it, then Bucs fans want a refund. In a rainy, pitiful performance against the Cleveland Browns, a team that lost 15 games last season, the Bucs basically crapped the bed in a 13-9 preseason week 3 loss.
Is the sky falling? Are the Bucs hype driven frauds? No, and I’ll tell you why in this edition of DLT’s Doubloons.
Pieces of Eight
1) Okay, let’s get a little perspective here. Yes, it was a downright crappy performance last night. Frankly, the Bucs looked more interested in getting out the game healthy than actually beating Cleveland. Maybe they were. Still, as I mentioned in our preview of this game – winning or losing the third preseason game isn’t really a barometer on the season. In the last twenty seasons, the Bucs averaged 7.4 wins on the year when they win the 3rd preseason game. What has happened when they lose “the most important preseason game of them all”? They average 7.6 wins.
Take a look at your preseason standings. The Browns are now 3-0 in the preseason. The Saints are 2-1. Meanwhile, teams viewed as top playoff contenders like the Falcons and Raiders are 0-3 in the preseason. The Bucs, Patriots, Giants, Chiefs, and Dolphins are all 1-2. Does anyone believe the Browns will make the playoffs while the Patriots won’t?
By the way, the 2002 Bucs lost their “most important preseason game” 40-10. They turned out okay.
2) That’s not to say there weren’t some concerning trends that have developed. For one, the Bucs simply can’t get the football into the end zone. For the second consecutive week, Jameis Winston had a receiver drop a touchdown pass (although I still say Dontae Dye recovered control quick enough to be counted for a touchdown). Once again, the running game seemed to sputter and the only way the Bucs seemed capable of moving the football down the field was on the arm of Jameis Winston.
Now, as we mentioned in our preview, the Browns have been pretty stout on defense. They came into the game as the 4th best scoring defense in the league during the preseason. They’ll likely improve on that mark after last night.
3) The Bucs defense still struggled to stop the run against a rather pedestrian Browns rushing attack. It’s pretty clear to me that Kendall Beckwith, at least at this point in his NFL career, is a much better SAM linebacker than he is at MLB. Beckwith missed quite a few tackles on Saturday, one springing a 37 yard run by Browns RB Duke Johnson. Of course, Beckwith made up for it by stripping Johnson later in the drive and that allowed the defense to escape without surrendering points.
In fact, if you really think about it, the Bucs defense, without the services of three key starters in Gerald McCoy, Kwon Alexander, and Brent Grimes, played bend-but-don’t break style of defense and made the plays in the scoring area that kept Cleveland off the board. The Bucs scoring defense has been okay, surrendering just 14.6 points per game through the first 3 outings.
4) One thing the Bucs have been desperately missing is a consistent pass rush from their starting defense. For the third straight game, the Bucs did little in the pressure department, getting just one sack by Noah Spence (and that was thanks to the quarterback be flushed due to a blitzing corner). In scrub time, George Johnson would add another against Browns’ third stringers.
For a team that was 9th in the league in sacks last season (38), the expected improvement just hasn’t happened yet. Noah Spence was mystified how to beat All-Pro LT Joe Thomas. A few times Thomas took Spence and body slammed him like he was in the WWE. If the Bucs can’t get a more consistent pass rush, even the likes of Jay Cutler and Mike Glennon can sit back there and pick them apart.
5) Jameis Winston threw an interception, ending a good scoring opportunity for the Bucs first team offense. In my opinion, it looked like Cameron Brate cut his route a little short rather than Winston missing him, but I’ll take another look when we do the After Further Review article later this week. Despite the interception, Winston had an overall solid night, completing 63% of his passes for 200 yds and the 1 pick, and that was without his two best weapons in Desean Jackson and Mike Evans.
Winston has been pretty terrific this preseason, throwing for the most yards of week 1 starters thus far. Sure, you’d like to see him with a touchdown pass on the board, but seeing he had two dropped, one shouldn’t be too worried that this will be a trend that carries into the Regular Season, especially with as many weapons as he’s got.
Have you seen too many deep ball attempts to Desean Jackson? Me either. I would expect to see plenty of those opportunities starting September 10th in Miami.
6) As much as we all love the story of Riley Bullough, Hard Knocks star of Joe Dirt fame, it’s not looking good for him right now. If you were on the football field for the final drive of the fourth quarter and you’re not a 2nd round draft pick (i.e. Justin Evans), odds are you are a longshot to make the final 53. As much as I love Bullough’s leadership and tenacity, it may end up being a numbers game for the Michigan State star.
7) One person who may have helped his stock tremendously last night was WR Bernard “Speedy” Reedy. Reedy was terrific on punt returns all night, having a huge one brought back and adding another 13-yard scamper later. Reedy also showed off some receiving skills by high pointing a Winston bullet, regaining his balance and blazing down the sideline for a big 25 yard gain. To be honest, Reedy has shown me a lot more than Josh Huff, whom the Bucs coaches seem to have a love affair with.
If it were me, I’d keep Reedy over Huff but that’s why they make the big bucks and I’m here typing away like I know what I’m talking about.
8) I found the reps at running back very telling last night. Quiz Rodgers played 31% of the offensive snaps to Doug Martin’s 11%. Peyton Barber would get 23% (even more than Martin), while Chuck Sims had 16% and Russell Hansbrough received a healthy 11% of the reps on offense. Hansbrough actually did something with it, breaking a run for a Bucs’ preseason long 27 yards. It could be the competition he faced on the football field but Hansbrough displayed some speedy wheels I didn’t realize he had.
Now that’s not to say the Bucs prefer Rodgers over Martin. The reality is Martin’s going to be gone for three weeks and the Bucs really needed to get a good look at what they will have Week One in Miami.
Jeremy McNichols, you ask? He was in on 2 offensive plays, rushing once for -1 yard. He also only played twice on special team. It’s not looking too good for Snoop’s protege at this point.
DLT’s Tweet of the Week
— JC De La Torre (@jcdelatorre) August 27, 2017
Dudes fight for jobs as the Bucs 3rd stringers take on the Washington Redskins 3rd stringers in the meaningless-to-everyone-but-them final preseason tilt of the season.
My next article will be the After Further Review article on Tuesday for last nights game. There will not be a DLT’s Doubloons or After Further Review article next week for the Redskins game because I will be at the nerd-a-palooza known as DragonCon in Atlanta promoting my film Seekers of the Lost Worlds and getting my drink on.
Expect to see me rev up into Regular Season mode after Labour Day weekend.