NFC South: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

TAMPA, Fla. -- Todd McShay's first Insider mock draft Insider is out and it has the Tampa Bay Buccaneers making a big splash with the first overall pick.

McShay has the Bucs taking Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota. That's one pick ahead of where he has Tennessee taking Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston. So it looks like the early assumption by McShay is that the top two quarterbacks will go at the very top of the draft.

That's entirely possible and the Bucs may be choosing between Mariota and Winston. But I also think there's a chance the Bucs could go in another direction. Mariota has played in a spread offense and I don't see the Bucs changing to a spread offense. Winston has had some off-field issues and that could scare the Bucs away.

I can see Tampa Bay trading out of the top spot (assuming that's where the Bucs end up) for someone that's sold on one of the two quarterbacks. The Bucs have a huge need for a pass-rusher and McShay has five defensive ends going in his top-10 picks.

QB snapshot: Josh McCown

December, 16, 2014
Dec 16
A quick observation of quarterback Josh McCown and how he played in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ 19-17 loss to the Carolina Panthers in Week 15:

McCown was brought in to be an efficient, veteran presence. But he hasn’t been playing very efficiently lately. He had his third straight game in which he completed fewer than 50 percent of his passes. He completed 13 of 28 passes for 154 yards with one touchdown and one interception; he was sacked three times and lost two fumbles.

One of those fumbles was especially costly as it set up an easy Carolina touchdown that put the Panthers ahead to stay. McCown admitted to pressing too much earlier in the season. It looks like he’s doing it again in recent weeks.

If McCown was playing the type of turnover-free football he did in Chicago last year, the Bucs would have a much better record.
TAMPA, Fla. -- The competitor in Gerald McCoy didn’t want to let the knee injury he suffered in Sunday’s game end his season. But the rational side of McCoy knows it's best that he sits out the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' final two games.

“I believe this is the best decision because it’s more long-term,’’ McCoy said. “I think we have a lot of great -- not good -- great ahead of us with this team and this organization. A big part of that will be my health. I need to be healthy if we’re going to be successful.’’

McCoy suffered a sprained knee in the loss to Carolina and the injury will not require surgery. The Bucs are 2-12, so why is McCoy so optimistic about the future?

“We have a lot of great pieces in place,’’ McCoy said. “We’ve made a lot of great strides. But, in order to make all that happen, I have to get healthy.’’

There’s no question the Bucs and McCoy are making the right decision in shutting him down for the rest of the season. He’s the most valuable piece of the team’s foundation and there’s no sense in exposing him to further injury when the playoffs are out of the picture. McCoy will rest the knee for a few weeks, but he already is looking forward to starting the process of getting ready for next season.

“I’ve already talked to my trainer out in San Diego and told him to get his head together because he’s got a madman coming,’’ McCoy said.

Buccaneers on pace for No. 1 pick

December, 15, 2014
Dec 15
At long last, there’s a bit of good news for Tampa Bay Buccaneers fans. There’s an upside to being 2-12.

If the 2015 NFL draft was held today, the Buccaneers would own the first pick, according to ESPN Stats & Information. The Bucs are one of four teams with two wins. But they currently hold the tiebreaker, which is the worst strength of schedule.

Start the debate over quarterbacks Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston. Or point the Bucs in another direction and have them taking a defensive end or offensive tackle.

Here’s the projected order of the top 10 as it stands right now (through Sunday's games):

1. Buccaneers
2. Titans
3. Jaguars
4. Raiders
5. Redskins
6. Jets
7. Falcons
8. Giants
9. Saints
10. Bears
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- If you thought Doug Martin was washed up, think again.

With one run, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back showed that he still can be dangerous. That play came in the first quarter of Tampa Bay’s 19-17 loss to the Carolina Panthers on Sunday.

Martin, who has been quiet all season, broke off a 63-yard run that set up Tampa Bay’s first touchdown. Martin finished the day with a season-high 96 yards on 14 carries.

There might be a reason Martin looked a little bit like the player he was as a rookie in 2012, when he ran for more than 1,400 yards. It might be because Martin is fully healthy for the first time this season.

“Starting with the first game of the season, I’ve been battling with the knee,’’ Martin said. “After that, it was my ankle. But now I’m feeling the healthiest I’ve felt.’’

That’s why Tampa Bay’s running game looked better than it has all year in the first half. In the first two quarters, Martin gained 92 yards on eight carries.

“That’s what we wanted to do coming out was pick up the running game,’’ Martin said.

With Demar Dotson moving from right to left tackle, the Bucs came out running the ball effectively. They averaged 9.5 yards per carry in the first half.

But the weird thing is the running game went silent in the second half. Martin got only six carries after halftime. Part of the reason for that was because the Bucs fell behind and had to start passing.

But maybe the Bucs should have stuck with the running game more because it looked like Martin finally was playing up to his potential.

Buccaneers need offensive overhaul

December, 14, 2014
Dec 14
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Take a look at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' first four possessions of Sunday's second half. They tell the story of the season.

After taking a 10-9 lead into halftime, the Bucs came out firing blanks in the third quarter. They went three-and-out on four straight possessions.

"I think that's what tilted the game was the third quarter, the slow start," quarterback Josh McCown said. "The third quarter killed us."

Tampa Bay's offense went cold when it mattered most and it cost the Bucs dearly in a 19-17 loss to the Carolina Panthers. That should come as no surprise. It has been happening all season.

[+] EnlargeJosh McCown
AP Photo/Bob LeveroneJosh McCown hasn't shown he's good enough to be part of the Bucs' long-term plans.
The only good thing you can say about Tampa Bay's offense is that we only have to watch it for two more games. After that, the Bucs need to blow it up and start from scratch next year. The offense just hasn't worked and it's time for an overhaul. New offensive coordinator. New scheme. New quarterback.

"We started Day 1 in the offseason talking about being balanced and being able to do both," McCown said of running and passing. "It feels like we've done both effectively at times. But we've got to be able to do it in the same game. We just have not done that."

Early in the year, you could cut the Bucs some slack because they were without offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford. He had heart surgery at the end of the preseason and took a leave of absence that eventually turned into a permanent departure from the team.

Quarterbacks coach Marcus Arroyo was thrust into a tough spot as the new playcaller. But this season is 14 games old and the offense hasn't shown any signs of improvement. Arroyo might be fine as a quarterbacks coach, but the Bucs need a new coordinator for next year. A new scheme also would help. Arroyo still is using the outline of what Tedford put in, but that's not working. That's largely because the plays aren't being called properly.

The Bucs ran the ball well in the first half against Carolina; Doug Martin ran for 92 of his 96 yards, including a 63-yarder, before halftime. But they went away from the running game in the second half. The passing game didn't come to the rescue: McCown completed less than 50 percent of his passes, going 13-for-28 for 154 yards with one touchdown, one interception, three sacks and two fumbles lost.

Those aren't the type of numbers you would expect from a guy who was brought in to deliver a savvy, veteran presence. But McCown, 35, hasn't been playing like a savvy veteran. He has been turning the ball over way too much, with 11 interceptions in the nine games in which he has played.

No turnover was more costly than the sack/fumble of McCown early in the third quarter. It gave Carolina the ball on Tampa Bay's 4-yard line. Two plays later, the Panthers punched in a touchdown to take the lead for good.

"It was unfortunate," McCown said. "It hurt us bad."

The Bucs (2-12) have put themselves in position to have a very early draft pick. They need to use it on a quarterback, such as Marcus Mariota. This season has shown McCown isn't the long-term answer and the coaching staff already has given up on Mike Glennon.

McCown can stick around as a veteran mentor and backup. But this offense needs a fresh start all the way around, and that includes a new quarterback.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Seen and heard in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' locker room after Sunday's 19-17 loss to the Carolina Panthers:
  • McCoy
    Defensive tackle Gerald McCoy suffered a hyperextended knee, coach Lovie Smith said. McCoy left the game in the first quarter and did not return. Smith didn't know how serious the injury was, but it's not too much of a stretch to think that McCoy's season probably is over. The Bucs have only two games left, and there's no sense in exposing their best player to further injury.
  • Smith and quarterback Josh McCown both said they were perplexed by a call by the officials at the start of the fourth quarter. After an initial ruling that McCown had thrown an incomplete pass, the play was reviewed and the ruling was changed to a fumble on a ball that traveled about 15 yards in the air. Smith said the explanation from the officials was that the ball already was out and moving before McCown's arm came through.
  • Smith confirmed that left tackle Anthony Collins was indeed a healthy scratch. Collins was benched as the Bucs moved Demar Dotson from the right side to the left side. Smith said the move was a coach's decision. He also said Dotson is Tampa Bay's best tackle and the coaching staff wanted a look at him on the left side.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- A few thoughts on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' 19-17 loss to the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium on Sunday:

What it means: This one was typical of the season. The Bucs played decent defense, but the offense couldn't get anything going with any consistency. A third-quarter fumble by quarterback Josh McCown was disastrous, as it set up a quick Carolina touchdown. The Bucs are now 2-12 and remain winless in the NFC South. On the bright side, they remain in the hunt for the No. 1 overall pick in the 2015 NFL draft.

Stock watch: Left tackle Anthony Collins' stock has hit rock bottom. He was a big signing in free agency and was supposed to solidify the offensive line, but he has been nothing but a disappointment. Although he practiced all week, Collins was inactive for Sunday's game. The Bucs shifted right tackle Demar Dotson to the left side. It makes sense to take a look at Dotson on the left side to see if he could be the answer there next season. If not, the Bucs will have to either draft a left tackle or sign another free agent because it doesn't look like Collins is in the future plans.

Playing it safe: A week after drawing lots of praise for returning after injuring his knee, defensive tackle Gerald McCoy got banged up again. McCoy injured his right knee in the first quarter and did not return. Keeping him on the sideline was a smart move by the Bucs. McCoy has nothing to prove, and there was no sense in exposing him to further injury.

Game ball: This goes to running back Doug Martin, who had his best game of the season. Martin gained 96 yards on 14 carries.

What’s next: The Bucs host the Green Bay Packers (10-4) next Sunday.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Lovie Smith hinted during the week that there could be some lineup changes, and he followed through.

Demar Dotson, who normally starts at right tackle, will start at left tackle Sunday against the Carolina Panthers. Oniel Cousins will start at right tackle. Anthony Collins had been the starting left tackle most of the season, but he missed last week’s game with an elbow injury. Collins, who has not played well, appears to be a healthy scratch from the starting lineup and is listed as inactive Sunday.

The other inactives for Tampa Bay are receiver Robert Herron, receiver Solomon Patton, safety Major Wright, linebacker Mason Foster, tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins and defensive tackle Clinton McDonald.
TAMPA, Fla. -- For a change, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers might have an edge on an opponent.

They’ve seen something out of the Carolina Panthers that no one else has this season. They’ve seen Derek Anderson as the starting quarterback.

Anderson led the Panthers to victory against the Bucs in the regular-season opener. Anderson has been limited to mop-up duty since then. But he’ll get his second start of the season Sunday when the Bucs play at Carolina.

[+] EnlargeDerek Anderson
Andrew Weber/USA TODAY SportsDerek Anderson has led the Panthers to a victory over the Bucs already once this season.
“If any team is going to have the best chance to know what he is, it’s going to be us since he did play against us," cornerback Alterraun Verner said. “We’re probably going to rely heavily on what we saw in the first game. They’re going to have some tweaks obviously. They’re not going to come in with the same game plan. To prepare for him, you’ve got to know he did the job really well the first time. He threw the ball where his players could make plays and he ran a very, very efficient game. I think they’ll probably be a little bit more aggressive and try to attack us in the running game with people being more healthy because I think their offensive line was a little banged up when they played us in Week 1."

Anderson is starting because Cam Newton suffered injuries in a car accident earlier this week. And the Bucs aren’t taking Anderson lightly.

“I think people forget that just because he’s the backup now they forget that he has made a Pro Bowl before," defensive tackle Gerald McCoy said. “So he knows how to play the game. He can pick apart a defense because he has played at the highest level before."

Anderson previously was a starter in Cleveland and Arizona. In the opener against Tampa Bay, Anderson completed 24 of 34 passes for 230 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions.

“I don’t think there’s any drop off with Derek Anderson," Verner said. “I think he is a very capable quarterback and I think he’s very good. He showed it the first game, so I expect more of the same."

The change might be bigger for the Panthers because they’ll have to switch offensive styles and abandon the read-option that they do so much of with Newton.

“It is a different offense with Anderson versus Cam Newton at quarterback," defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier said. “They changed from the time we played them up until (this week). The offense we will see, more than likely, will be more like what we saw the first game of the season as opposed to what we saw a week ago against New Orleans. It’s a different style of offense."

That’s because Anderson is a different style of quarterback than Newton.

“He’s a quarterback that has started in our league and has had a good career," Frazier said. “But he’s more of a pocket passer than Cam is. You kind of know where he’s going to be. But he’s shown he can escape as well. Like with all quarterbacks, whatever their strength is, you want to take that away from them. His strength is being in the pocket, being able to see things and making throws on rhythm. So we’ve got to find a way to get him out of rhythm."

TAMPA, Fla. -- Tampa Bay Buccaneers receiver Mike Evans needs to set the recording device on his television for Sunday afternoon.

Without knowing the full NFL schedule, Evans said he was anxious to see former college teammate Johnny Manziel make his first NFL start.

"I hope they don't play the same time as we play," Evans said. "I want to see that."

Evans is out of luck as far as seeing Manziel live. Manziel and the Cleveland Browns play at the Cincinnati Bengals at 1 p.m. ET Sunday. That's the same time Evans and the Bucs play at the Carolina Panthers.

Evans and Manziel were a prolific duo on the Texas A&M football team, and they remain close friends. Evans said they talk often and Manziel hadn't voiced any displeasure over not starting earlier in the season.

"He hasn't shown any frustration, but I'm sure he was [frustrated]," Evans said. "His time's here. Make something of it."

Evans said he has no doubt Manziel can be as good in the NFL as he was in college.

"I think he'll do well," Manziel said. "When I played with him, some of the things he did were magical."

Evans has had a magical rookie season. He already has 10 touchdown catches, but he wishes Tampa Bay's record was better than 2-11.

"It's been frustrating," Evans said. "It's been tough. But I just want to win."

Evans has been his own biggest critic. Despite the fact he had two touchdown catches against Detroit on Sunday, Evans said he played his worst game of the season.

"Usually, I'm going to make the play percentages better," Evans said. "I thought I was being held, but I didn't get the flag so I should have made the play. That and my blocking wasn't as good as it's been. I think it was probably my worst game all year besides the touchdowns. I should have made more plays. I had a couple more opportunities to make plays and help my team get in better position to win the game. I didn't make the plays and blocking bad in the run game, too."
TAMPA, Fla. – All indications are that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will start quarterback Josh McCown on Sunday at Carolina.

That’s a pretty strong sign that Mike Glennon’s time as the “quarterback of the future" is over with the Bucs. There had been some speculation that the Bucs might go with Glennon for the final three regular-season games now that they officially are out of the playoff race. But it doesn’t sound like playing the second-year pro was even a discussion.

“The only discussion that was had was [if] Josh is going to be physically ready to play,’" quarterbacks coach Marcus Arroyo said.

McCown took a pounding in Sunday’s loss to Detroit.

“I did not feel very good Monday," McCown said.

But McCown said he was feeling better Wednesday and he was the quarterback the Bucs trotted out to meet with the media. That’s another indication the Bucs plan to finish the season with McCown, who said he was told things would stay status quo. McCown said he doesn’t want to read too much into the decision to stick with him and the Bucs’ intentions for the future.

“If you look back through my career, I’ve learned to just take it year to year," McCown said. “But I did come here for a reason and I’ve said this before. I had opportunities, but to work with [coach] Lovie [Smith] and to build something with him and to be a part of that is something that I want to do. I’m behind him 100 percent in whatever he decides to do. If that’s to take a look at another player at my position, I’m fine with that because I want to help him build this team. Until they say, 'Hey, you’re no longer a part of that,' then I’m going to do that. That’s kind of my mindset. I understand moving forward, if they’re going to stick with me right now, where that leaves me. Obviously, it’s encouraging to have another opportunity to go at it and kind of build momentum heading into 2015."

I’ve said before I think the Bucs should play Glennon in the last three games and I still believe that. I think the Bucs need to take one more look at Glennon before going out and drafting a quarterback or signing one as a free agent.

But I think this closes the door on Glennon, who Smith once called his quarterback of the future. If the Bucs don’t want to take a look at Glennon now, it is unlikely they ever will.

The coaching staff hasn’t shown a lot of faith in Glennon. The latest slight only confirms that. When you really look at it, this coaching staff has benched Glennon twice already.

He was the starter as a rookie most of last season. But the Bucs went out and brought in McCown to take over as the starter. Glennon did get five starts this season when McCown was sidelined with a thumb injury. Glennon didn’t play great, but he wasn’t horrible. He ended up getting benched once McCown was healthy.

This week, the Bucs had one last shot to play Glennon, but it doesn’t look like they’re going to do it.

QB snapshot: Josh McCown

December, 9, 2014
Dec 9
A quick observation of quarterback Josh McCown and how he played in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' 34-17 loss in Week 14:

McCown took a horrible pounding from one of the league’s best defensive fronts. He was sacked six times and hit a whole bunch of other times.

McCown had no chance because the Bucs were one-dimensional, with almost no running game to speak of. The Lions knew McCown was passing on just about every down and they came after him hard. McCown clearly was hobbling in the locker room after the game.

He completed 20 of 39 passes for 250 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. He also lost a fumbled snap, but center Evan Dietrich-Smith took the blame for that. McCown had enjoyed good chemistry with rookie receiver Mike Evans this season. But Evans caught only four passes Sunday.

That’s because Detroit was throwing more coverage at Evans and less at Vincent Jackson. That allowed Jackson to turn in his best game of the season, with 10 catches for 159 yards.

Even if McCown is healthy after all the hits he took, he still might not finish the season as the starter. Coach Lovie Smith has been vague about the possibility of the Bucs taking a look at second-year pro Mike Glennon in the final three games.
DETROIT -- It's a misconception that an offensive line doesn't have statistics.

You can measure a line in several ways. Rushing yards and sacks are a good place to start. Those indicators weren't good for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Sunday's 34-17 loss to the Detroit Lions. An offensive line that hasn't been very good all season had its worst outing yet.

"At the end of the day, this offensive line hasn't performed well at all," right tackle Demar Dotson said. "We're playing as a poor offensive line. We're not getting the job done."

That was evident on a day when the Bucs ran the ball only 14 times for 26 yards and allowed quarterback Josh McCown to be sacked six times and hit countless other times. Give Detroit credit for having a good defense, but put most of the blame on Tampa Bay's offensive line.

McCown was so beat up after the game that he was limping around the locker room and had his back wrapped.

"They got too much pressure on our quarterback," coach Lovie Smith said. "We know that. It's reasonable to say that. We have to do something to give ourselves a chance. We couldn't protect the quarterback, we couldn't run the ball. Didn't get anything going throughout. We had a couple of long throws that got us a couple of points and allows you to look at the score and say, hey, they were able to do something, but we never really got anything going on the offensive side to give us a chance."

That's because the line was sputtering. And let's not use the fact that left tackle Anthony Collins didn't play due to an elbow injury as an excuse. A high-priced free agent, Collins hasn't come close to living up to his billing. It's not like he would have made a difference Sunday.

The line didn't do anything well and that started with a running game that was non-existent. Detroit came into the game with the league's top-rated rushing defense and the Bucs pretty much abandoned the run from the start.

"In hindsight, especially with how we ended up passing the ball and not being able to protect it, no we weren't committed enough to the run early on," Smith said. "Not that we were getting a lot from our run. I think they dominated us in all phases today, whether we were running or passing the football we didn't get anything going."

Without a running game, there was added pressure on McCown, who completed 20 of 39 passes for 250 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions.

"That's the toughest thing," Dotson said. "You're asking, especially the tackles, to go out there and pass protect when everyone in the stadium knows it's going to be a pass. You hate those situations as tackles, but they're part of the game."

A part of the game that the Bucs aren't very good at.
videoDETROIT -- In the locker room after Sunday's 34-17 loss, Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Josh McCown finally looked 35.

And he walked like he was 75. That's out of character for a guy who likes to say he still feels young because he hasn't been a starter through most of his career.

But that's what happens when you take the kind of beating McCown did Sunday against the Detroit Lions. He was sacked six times and hit a bunch of other times. McCown was limping visibly in the locker room and had his back wrapped.

Looking at him, I wondered if McCown is going to be able to finish the season.

Maybe he shouldn't.

Let's face the facts: The Bucs are 2-11 and going nowhere fast. They need to find out if second-year pro Mike Glennon is in their future plans. The Bucs should let him play the last three games of the season.

Coach Lovie Smith sounded like that's possible.

"These last three games, we'll consider all things," Smith said. "There are a lot of things we want to do, but No. 1 is we want to win football games. You start with that. If there is someone we feel like we want to see a little bit more of, we'll do that. Right after a tough loss like this you don't make those kinds of decisions, but we'll start that process."

The rest of the season should be used to determine if the Bucs need to draft a quarterback or bring in a free agent. That's where Glennon comes in.

Smith has called Glennon the quarterback of the future, and it's time to find out if he is. Glennon got five starts earlier in the season when McCown was out with a thumb injury. Glennon didn't look great during that stretch, throwing for 1,296 yards with nine touchdowns and six interceptions, but he didn't look bad.

The jury is still out on Glennon and it's time to get some final answers. The Bucs know what they have in McCown, who can be a solid backup or a borderline starter on a good team. But the Bucs aren't a good team.

"We didn't get anything going throughout," Smith said of his team's offensive performance.

In fairness to McCown, who completed 20 of 39 passes for 250 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions, he had no help from the running game and the offensive line played its worst game of the season.

I don't know that Glennon would have fared any better against the Lions' defense and I'm not saying he's better than McCown. But the Bucs need to play Glennon to find out if he can be a solid starter.