You know, I briefly thought of just cutting and pasting last week’s Doubloons article and changing a few names here or there.
It’s basically the same story. Offense starts slow. Defense gets obliterated in the first half, the Bucs make a hellacious comeback in the third quarter, only to see the defense give up a soul killing drive that results in the final margin of defeat. Rinse. Lather. Repeat.
Pieces of Eight
1) Apparently, it doesn’t matter who the quarterback is. If your quarterback can’t be perfect and your offense doesn’t score on every single drive, before you blink, you’re gonna find yourself down 4 touchdowns. I continue to be dumbfounded as to how with a defense that has Gerald McCoy and Jason Pierre-Paul on the line, Lavonte David in the linebacking core and Brent Grimes in your secondary, that this happens every single week. Honestly, they shouldn’t be this bad. Yes, the safeties and other corners are young, green and getting picked on. Yes, Cam and Christian McCaffrey are hell to defend. The Panthers offense under Norv Turner is unique, inventive and can make you look bad if you’re not on your assignments or tackle poorly (which the Bucs are terrible at both).
I know GM Jason Licht has to be pulling out his hair. He’s spent millions of Glazerbucks at the defense, especially along the line, and a lot of draft capital in the back seven, only to see this defense fail on a historic level. Is it the scheme? Is it the talent? The answer is yes.
2) So, by halftime, you’ll know the outcome of the game. If the Bucs are ahead at the half, they’ll most likely win the ballgame, but make it harder than it should be. If they’re down 28 or more points, they’ll rally, make it close but the defense will let them down late in the fourth quarter and it will end up being another loss. So there you go.
3) At 5-3-1, the Minnesota Vikings are in possession of the last wildcard spot, which puts the Bucs 1 1/2 games out of a playoff spot. Usually, a team off to a good start and in playoff positioning at mid season will falter and come back to the pack, while a team off to a poor start will rally and surprise everyone by making the playoffs. At 3-5 after a brutal first half of the schedule, Tampa Bay has 5 of their last 8 at home, where their defense has played much better. One of those home games is against the 2-7 San Francisco 49ers. On the road, the Bucs will face the 1-7 Giants, a 4-5 Baltimore team that like the Bucs has lost 4 of their last 5 games, and a Cowboys team that heads into tonight’s Monday Night match-up at 3-4.
Could a Bucs resurgence happen? Perhaps, but as a microcosm of their games, it will probably be too little, too late. The Bucs would need to go 7-1 to stand a solid chance at the post season. With this defense, does anyone truly see 7-1 out of this football team? 6-2 might get them in with help. Anything less and you’re basically done.
Personally, barring a complete meltdown or a Raheem/Schiano type quitting scenario, I think the Bucs will likely finish somewhere around .500, 8-8 or 7-9. Will a strong finish be enough to save Koetter and Licht? I honestly don’t know.
4) The Times’ Thomas Bassinger said it best –
The #Bucs are not. Not even close, sorry to say.
✅ Pass offense
❌ Rush offense
❌ Pass defense
❌ Run defense
❌ Special teams in every phase except kicking touchbacks https://t.co/eJWLw33O6i
— Thomas Bassinger (@tometrics) November 4, 2018
Right now, the Bucs have one really good facet of their game. The rest of it has been, to say the least, subpar. The defense used to be able to hang their hat on at least being decent against the run, but the last few weeks without Kwon Alexander has been abysmal. Beau Allen, Mitch Unrein and Vita Vea were supposed to keep teams from running up the middle at will. Unrein never recovered from a training camp concussion and his career may be over. Allen has been injured and Vea has been both injured and a disappointment when he’s been in there. So the defense essentially is a sieve no matter what an offense does to them. The Bucs running game has been horrible. Ronald Jones has been ineffective when active and is now injured. Peyton Barber has shown heart, but is pretty average. The Bucs spent a lot of money to bring in Ryan Jensen and paid Ali Marpet a ton of money to remain a Buccaneer, but the offensive line’s run blocking has been subpar to say the least. Caleb Benenoch has been one of the worst guards I’ve seen in a long time, and I’ve seen some bad guard play in Tampa Bay. If he’s that bad, how bad is Cappa, who can’t even get active on game day?
So the Bucs are bad running the ball, stopping the run, stopping the pass and on special teams. They’ve benched their 2015 number one overall draft pick for a journeyman QB, essentially giving up on the kid while the coach tries to save his job.
Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?
5) In the pre-game show, former Super Bowl winning coach Jimmy Johnson called the Bucs, “The most exciting losing team in the NFL.” I wonder, when the Glazers told GM Jason Licht and coach Dirk Koetter to give them an exciting offense to sell to the fans, could they ever envision this? Really, who could? Look at the top scoring offenses in the NFL –
1. Kansas City 8-1
2. New Orleans 7-1
3. LA Rams 8-1
4. New England 7-2
5. Chicago 5-3
6. Indianapolis 3-5
7. Tampa Bay 3-5
8. Atlanta 4-4
9. Pittsburgh 5-2-1
10. Cincinnati 5-3
Only two of those teams have a losing record. 7 of the 10 have no less than 5 wins. Bottom line, the Bucs are wasting a historic offensive effort.
6) Speaking of historic, the Bucs are looking at another infamous record. The most points surrendered in a season is 533 by the 1981 Baltimore Colts. The Colts, who went 2-14 that year, surrendered 33.3 points per game. Don’t look now, Bucs fans, but your 2018 Tampa Bay Buccaneers are giving up 34.4 points per game. Tampa Bay is on pace to obliterate the old record and surrender 550 pts this season.
Those Colts, by the way, gave up 40 points or more four times that season. Tampa Bay has done it 3 times already. Remember when Warren Sapp told the offense just give us 17 points and we’ll win? The offense is telling this defense, just hold them to 27 and we’ll win.
7) It might be a little premature, but looking ahead to the off-season (yeah, we’re about there), the Bucs have a lot of difficult decisions to make, and not all of them are about Jameis. While Desean Jackson has had a good season, $11 million is a pretty high number. Gerald McCoy is definitely in decline, his sack numbers have gone down every season and he has a $13 million dollar cap charge in 2019. Cameron Brate is on the books for $7 million next year and has lost his starting gig to O.J. Howard. Demar Dotson could be cut for a cap savings of $4.7 million. Mitch Unrein’s contract was guaranteed for 2018, in 2019 he can be released for a savings of $3.7 million. Kicker Chandler Catanzaro is only guaranteed $750,000 in 2019, so he can be a cap savings of $2.5 million.
Is Ryan Jensen worth $10 million on the cap next year? He can be cut with no dead money. Is Vinny Curry worth $8 mill a year? Beau Allen is on the books for $5 million next year with $1.5 guaranteed.
Honestly, if you’re the worst defense in the history of the NFL – should anyone be paid in double-digit millions?
Without cutting Jameis Winston – Tampa Bay can create over $60 million in cap space by cutting under performing veterans.
If regime change is coming, usually roster turnover comes with it. And that’s not even considering a scheme change. If the new Bucs coaches decide to go with a 3-4 defense, would Lavonte David still be a fit? Would Jason Pierre-Paul (it’s why the Bucs got JPP from the Giants for a song-and-dance)?
So if the new regime chose to try to save Jameis Winston, the Bucs have ways to survive it, still be active in free agency and have plenty of cash to re-sign their own guys. They’ll just have to balance value versus production. Some familiar names may no longer be Buccaneers next year.
8) Should a 5-3 or 4-4 finish save Koetter and Licht for another season? Does it show enough progress to warrant one more shot at it? While the offense is the best it’s ever been in Tampa Bay, even with the instability at quarterback, subpar running game and crappy play on the offensive line, I really have to wonder about the direction of this football team. I honestly don’t know if I can take another 3-5 or worse start, which is how every season has started while Dirk Koetter has been here. Jason Licht has an eye for offense, but defensively he’s failed miserably with both his free agency choices and draft selections. If you look at it, only the trade for Jason Pierre-Paul has worked out for the Bucs. While Kwon Alexander is solid, he’s not elite and he’s not worth what he wants in a contract. Like I said before – NONE of them are worth a big contract right now on defense. The defense needs a massive overhaul – just about every selection the Bucs have will need to be spent on defense (which doesn’t bode well for right guard or right tackle on the offensive line). If they could swing a couple deals for veterans like McCoy and Jackson, that might help, too. Still – it’s been five years for Jason Licht and he still hasn’t delivered a playoff team. If Koetter does go but Licht survives, it will have been two coaches he’s gone through. There’s only some many times you can say, “Hey I brought in the talent, the coaches blew it.”
Allowing a player at a desperately needed position like saftey Eric Reid to go to and strengthen a division rival is inexcusable. I don’t care what his political leanings are – and if Ed Glazer vetoed any deal for a player that could help his team because of a political motivation, then the Bucs are doomed to the basement of the NFC South for years to come.
I’ve said, the Bucs have to be 9-7 or better for this regime to survive. Time is running out, and now they’ve given up on the one piece that they were hired to get right. You tell me what they should do.
DLT’s Emotional Tweet of the Week
And this is where the #Bucs defense breaks our heart. #GoBucs #TBvsCAR pic.twitter.com/0rVDFsHLhp
— 👽JC De La Torre ☠️ (@jcdelatorre) November 4, 2018