NFC South: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Film Don't Lie: Buccaneers

October, 21, 2014
Oct 21
A weekly look at what the Tampa Bay Buccaneers must fix:

A major reason Tampa Bay's offense ranks 30th in the NFL has been the lack of production from the running game.

Just look at what Doug Martin, who rushed for more than 1,400 yards as a rookie in 2012, is doing. Martin, who missed two games with a knee injury, is averaging only 2.9 yards per carry. He's gained only 139 yards on the ground, and his longest run of the season went for 19 yards.

A rebuilt offensive line that still is trying to get the proper chemistry undoubtedly is largely responsible for Martin's slow start. Watch the film and you don't see a lot of holes for Martin.

But some of the blame has to fall on Martin because the team's other running back, Bobby Rainey, is faring much better. Rainey is averaging 4.9 yards per carry, and he's doing it behind the same offensive line as Martin.

The Bucs have stuck with Martin as their starter, and that may pay off in time. Martin still is a talented runner, and maybe things will open up for him. But the Bucs can't wait too long for Martin to break out of his slump.

If Rainey continues to outplay Martin, it might be time to switch starting running backs.

Buccaneers still in NFC South race

October, 21, 2014
Oct 21
TAMPA, Fla. -- They're 1-5, which would have them out of just about every division race.

But the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are in the NFC South, a division that no one is running away with. The Bucs are only one game behind Atlanta and New Orleans in the win column. And they're not all that far behind division leader Carolina (3-2-1). The Bucs were on a bye Sunday as all three other division teams lost.

"I watched all of the games this week," Buccaneers coach Lovie Smith said. "I know what happened in our division. I realize how many games we're out of first place. We're in it as much as anyone with our record. That's what we're focusing on. Again, there's life when you take a little bit of time off to not play a game and end up in a better position than when we started the Sunday. We're in a lot better of a position now. We're excited about that.”

The Bucs could be a lot more excited if they could string together some victories. There is no denying their start has been dismal. But the rest of the NFC South has been unable to pull far away from the Bucs.

Tampa Bay didn't help itself by losing to all three division opponents the first time around. But the Bucs might be able to pull back into the division race if they can beat Carolina, Atlanta and New Orleans the second time around.
TAMPA, Fla. -- For the first time in over a month, Josh McCown practiced Monday. But coach Lovie Smith wasn’t about to say if the quarterback would step back into the starting job.

McCown suffered a sprained right thumb in the Week 3 loss to Atlanta and Mike Glennon has been starting since. There are no official injury reports on Mondays and Smith wasn’t about to break tradition.

“Wednesday I can talk a little bit more,’’ Smith said. “Monday is kind of an extra day. As we talked about (at the start of the season) on Monday practices I’m not going to talk about injuries. That part hasn’t changed. But Wednesday we’ll talk a little bit more.’’

Smith couldn’t have talked less about his quarterback situation. He gave a quick answer when asked how McCown looked.

“He was able to practice and get reps in today,’’ Smith said. “So he’s making progress.’’

You can make an argument that there shouldn’t even be a question that Glennon should remain the starter. The passing game has been much more productive with Glennon than it was with McCown.

But nothing would surprise me on this one. That’s because Smith is big on loyalty. In Chicago, Smith once boosted Rex Grossman into the starting lineup after Kyle Orton had played well in his place.

McCown was Smith’s hand-picked quarterback and he went through the entire offseason and preseason getting all the first-team work. I easily can see Smith going back to McCown. Smith wouldn’t shed any light on his intentions, but he did say the decision will take care of itself.

“I think all decisions are pretty easy in the end,’’ Smith said. “Guys tell you exactly what you need to do, who needs to start, who needs to play. There aren’t any tough decisions in the end, the way I see it. I can’t wait to get to the point where I can come in here and talk to you about both of our guys being healthy and ready to go. The rest of the stuff will take care of itself.’’
TAMPA, Fla. -- When the trade deadline starts to approach, there is always a lot of speculation about possible deals.

Oct. 28 is the deadline and the Buccaneers are getting their share of speculation. NFL Network reported over the weekend that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have been fielding a lot of calls about wide receiver Vincent Jackson.

It’s important to note the report said other teams were calling. It did not say the Bucs were shopping Jackson.

On the surface, it wouldn’t make a lot of sense to trade Jackson. He’s the team’s best receiver and a captain. He’s respected in the locker room and in the community and seems to be the exact type of player coach Lovie Smith wants on his team.

But it’s not difficult to figure out where the speculation is coming from. Jackson would be a good addition to just about any team, especially one that’s in playoff contention. It’s pretty clear the Bucs probably aren’t going to the playoffs this season.

When a team is in that situation, it is often open to building toward the future, and that’s why Jackson’s name is coming up. He’s 31 years old and the Bucs have his heir apparent in rookie Mike Evans.

The Bucs likely don’t want to part ways with Jackson. But they at least have to listen to what other teams have to offer.

If they can get an early-round draft pick in return, this type of move suddenly could make a lot of sense.
TAMPA, Fla. -- The Tampa Bay Buccaneers return to practice Monday following a four-day break during their bye week.

They’re 1-5 and coming off a humiliating 48-17 loss to Baltimore. But coach Lovie Smith repeatedly has been preaching patience.

“The only message I can give is that it’s seven and a half minutes left to go in the second quarter and we’re behind," Smith said. “We understand that, but the games don’t decide the winner then, you have to play it out and that’s what we’re going to do. What we need to do these next two games -- starting with this next game -- is for us to just get better while we have time this week, which we’re doing. I would tell the fans that we are getting better and look at the overall picture of where we are. We’ve been very disappointed in our play two weeks (against Baltimore and Atlanta), there’s no way to sugarcoat that. The other four games, that was a decent football team that hasn’t figured out how to win consistently yet, but I would say I understand, we’re disappointed right now, but things will change.”

Smith’s optimism is nice. However, fans are getting a little tired of hearing how the Bucs are improving but continue losing. Some things have to change.

Smith has made it clear he’s not going to shake up his coaching staff or switch schemes. That’s good because you can’t make changes like that in the middle of the season.

But I think we’ll see some changes coming out of the bye. The one thing the Bucs can change is personnel. Smith is not going to put a whole new team on the field, but I expect there to be some changes in the starting lineup. There are numerous players who aren’t getting the job done right now. I’m expecting Smith to look at some alternatives.

Buccaneers at the bye: Offense

October, 16, 2014
Oct 16
It’s the bye week for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and that means it's time for a position-by-position analysis.

Let’s start with the offense:

Quarterbacks: Veteran Josh McCown opened the season as the starter, but never was able to get the offense into a rhythm. McCown suffered a thumb injury in the third game and remains out. Second-year pro Mike Glennon has stepped up and done a nice job. Glennon has given the Bucs a downfield passing game. Coach Lovie Smith might think differently, but I think Glennon should remain the starter even after McCown gets healthy. GRADE: C

Running backs: This was supposed to be a position of strength, but it hasn’t been anything close to that. Doug Martin returned from last year’s shoulder injury, but he hasn’t looked anything like he did as a rookie in 2012. Martin is averaging only 2.5 yards per carry. Most of the blame goes to the offensive line for not opening enough holes, but Martin deserves to be partly to blame. GRADE: F

Wide receivers: Vincent Jackson has been quiet by his standards. The Bucs need to do a better job of getting the ball to their top playmaker. Rookie Mike Evans has shown plenty of potential. Louis Murphy was signed off the street and has made a nice contribution. Rookie Robert Herron has been brought along slowly, but the Bucs gradually have increased his role in recent weeks. GRADE: D+

Tight ends: Rookie Austin Seferian-Jenkins has taken over as the primary tight end with Brandon Myers also playing a key role. Seferian-Jenkins has flashed some promise, but also has dropped some catchable passes. GRADE: D

Offensive line: This unit hasn’t clicked. The run blocking has been poor. The pass blocking was good for a few games, but it fell apart in a five-sack game against Baltimore. The Bucs have a lot invested in this offensive line and they should be getting better results from it. GRADE: D-
TAMPA, Fla. -- Since Josh McCown went out with a thumb injury, Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Lovie Smith has been very careful not to tip his hand to what the team will do when the quarterback his healthy.

But Smith came a little closer than usual Wednesday. He talked glowingly (by Smith's standards) of replacement quarterback Mike Glennon.

"I made the statement that Mike's our quarterback of the future, saying he has a future with us," Smith said. "That came a little sooner than we thought. His play, he's played well. Yeah, we'd like to have a couple of plays [back]. But looking at the overall picture on what Mike Glennon has done, he's given us a lot of hope. As far as our relationship, 'Mike, you have a big role in leading us back.' And he's accepting that challenge."

Smith stopped well short of saying Glennon will remain the starter even when McCown is healthy. Part of the reason for that is McCown still is a long way from being recovered. He has yet to throw a football.

But I think that part about Glennon "giving us a lot of hope" is highly significant. Let's be honest. McCown didn't play well while starting the first three games. The passing game has been much more productive since Glennon's been playing.

Smith is known for his loyalty, and he and McCown were together in Chicago. But, if Glennon continues to play the way he has, I think it's going to be hard for Smith to yank him when Glennon does return.

Gerald McCoy takes on his critics

October, 14, 2014
Oct 14
TAMPA, Fla. -- While putting the blame for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' 1-5 start on himself Tuesday, defensive tackle Gerald McCoy suddenly switched gears and took on critics.

McCoy has been criticized on local radio for helping opponents up after plays.

“While I’m talking about aggression, let me address something real quick,’’ McCoy said. “This is the last time I’m going to talk about it. If anybody has a problem with me helping people up off the field, that’s a personal problem, something you’re going to have to deal with.’’

McCoy said he’s not about to change his ways.

“If people really pay attention you would also notice that when the opposing team gets hurt, most of the time there’s one person who walks on the field every time and says a prayer,’’ McCoy said. “It’s me. That’s who I am. That’s who I’m going to be. If you don’t like it, get over it. I’m going to help people up because I’m a good sportsman.

“Football is temporary. Sports are temporary. People have families, people have kids and wives and 10 years down the line, the next guy is going to be here and there’s going to be another guy to talk about. What about that guy that you were so concerned about how hard he’s going and he can’t play with his kids because he’s out there killing himself? That’s what I’m concerned about. I give it everything I have out there. July 15, I had twins. July 16, I’m up here in the rain, running gassers, hitting the bags. You name another person who’s doing that and then you can talk to me about how nice I am. I give it everything I’ve got. If you’ve got a problem with that, then so be it.’’

'Gerald McCoy is not an All-Pro'

October, 14, 2014
Oct 14
TAMPA, Fla. -- Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive tackle Gerald McCoy went the third-person route Tuesday and gave a scathing critique of his play.

Let's get out of the way and go straight to the tape.

"You know, 2013 is over and Gerald McCoy is not an All-Pro," McCoy said. "That was in 2013. Sunday [in a 48-17 loss to the Baltimore Ravens], he didn't play like an All-Pro. It's easy to make excuses. You could say I got double-teamed most of the passes, which I did. Or you could say it was a quick pass, which it was. But there comes a point in time where all the greats figure it out. Me, personally, I work to be one of the greats."

"Sunday, I'm just kind of disappointed in myself. It's unacceptable. The way we lost, I put it all on me because my performance was not up to par. Right now, you're only as good as your last performance and right now Gerald McCoy is very average."

The Bucs didn't even get a hit on Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco, who threw for five touchdown passes. The Bucs are 1-5 and McCoy, who has two sacks this season, has been relatively quiet at times. He said there's no one to blame except himself.

"I can accept all the scrutiny," McCoy said. "I can accept all the criticism because criticism and stuff only comes when it's earned. Right now, I've earned that. Outsiders are looking for leaders and my performance on Sunday was not the performance of a leader so I have to do some real soul searching and some heavy evaluation on myself because I have to improve."

McCoy said it's difficult to stomach the fact the Tampa Bay defense ranks last in the league in yards and points allowed. Again, he said the blame is on himself.

"Yeah, it is, especially when you're the quote unquote leader," McCoy said. "You look at a stat like that, everybody looks to the head guy. And on the defense that's me. If that's happening, I've got to just accept fault on that whether it's not bringing guys with me, whether it's not doing enough myself. Whatever it is, I really don't care what people say about me and I'm going to tell you why. I've been getting scrutinized since I was a rookie, telling me I wasn't good enough. I got injured, I was a bust.

"It wasn't until I made my first Pro Bowl that I even got anyone to say anything positive collectively. People are going to say what they want to say. But I can put the load of it on my back because that's what I'm built to do and, as a leader, I have to do that. Whatever our numbers are, whatever it is, it's not the scheme. Please stop saying it's the Tampa 2. Carolina was the No. 2 defense in the league last year with the Tampa 2. It can still work. We've just got to step up and make some changes."

The Film Don't Lie: Buccaneers

October, 14, 2014
Oct 14
A weekly look at what the Tampa Bay Buccaneers must fix:

The list is long, but pass protection might be the top priority as the Bucs head into their bye week.

They need to do a much better job of protecting the quarterback when they return to action against the Minnesota Vikings. The pass protection was horrible in Sunday’s 48-17 loss to the Baltimore Ravens.

Quarterback Mike Glennon was sacked five times. He was sacked or under duress on 63 percent of his dropbacks. That’s the highest pressure percentage for any quarterback with at least 40 dropbacks in the past five years.

What’s puzzling about this is that the Bucs used a lot of resources to rebuild their offensive line in the offseason. They let veterans Donald Penn, Davin Joseph and Jeremy Zuttah go. They spent good money on center Evan Dietrich-Smith and left tackle Anthony Collins in free agency. After guard Carl Nicks left the team because of a lingering toe problem, the Bucs traded for Pro Bowl guard Logan Mankins.

Right tackle Demar Dotson is the lone holdover from last year’s unit and Patrick Omameh has been the starter at right guard, but no one on the offensive line is playing well.

The Bucs could look to make some lineup changes during the bye. Garrett Gilkey already has been rotating in for Omameh, but there’s not much other depth on the offensive line. Rookies Kadeem Edwards and Kevin Pamphile have been inactive for every game.

The Bucs need to block better up front, but that might not be enough. The Bucs need to ask their tight ends and running backs to be more involved as blockers to make up for the deficiencies on the offensive line.
TAMPA, Fla. -- The Tampa Bay Buccaneers apparently have given up on one of their biggest projects.

Former Olympic sprinter Jeff Demps was released from the practice squad Monday. Coach Lovie Smith had repeatedly called Demps "the fastest man in the NFL" and the Bucs had visions of him filling a role, like Darren Sproles. While Demps' legs were his strength, his hands might have been his downfall. He struggled to catch passes in the preseason. Apparently, he wasn't showing any improvement.

The Bucs also released wide receiver Kevin Cone from the practice squad. The Bucs filled the two spots on the practice squad by signing fullback Lonnie Pryor and defensive end George Uko.
TAMPA, Fla. -- A day after his team lost, 48-17, to the Baltimore Ravens, Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Lovie Smith continued to preach patience.

He’s aware the 1-5 Bucs are taking heat on talk, radio and he was asked what he would say to the fans.

"Well a couple of things," Smith said. "I would say first off, I’m disappointed, too. That’s what I would say to them."

But Smith also tried to put a positive spin on things.

"We’re disappointed right now also," Smith said. "But let’s let it all play out. And yeah, I’ve said that before, but the game isn’t over yet. That would be my statement. Give us time, we’ll continue to get (injured) guys back, and there’s a lot of football left to go. If we were 6-0 right now, would you start buying your Super Bowl ticket? You have to just hold on a little bit is what I would say. And I don’t listen to talk radio, but I don’t have to. I know what’s out there, and we’re all disappointed right now. But I’m going to keep going; I’m going to finish. We’re all disappointed right now. That will change."

Smith pointed out some past experiences with bad starts, and that he is going to stay on course. He provided a good reminder that the Bucs didn’t get off to a great start when he was an assistant coach for Tony Dungy in 1996. But Dungy’s Bucs eventually turned the corner and became a regular playoff contender.

"We started off 0-6 here," Smith said. "I held onto some things there. After the Super Bowl in St. Louis, we started 0-5, 0-9 counting the preseason games. You draw on all those experiences. What you come to is what I came to then, is you stay the course. What we’re doing has a proven success rate. So we’re going to do it better. And eventually there will be a good product that we’re going to put on the football field."

Smith admitted he’s not off to the start he hoped for, but implied that fans should be patient.

"When you’re starting off, there’s a reason why you’re starting off new," Smith said. "You do have to crawl before you can walk. We didn’t want to do it as much. Part of the master plan wasn’t for us to be in this situation right now. But that’s normally what you do when you start something new. It’s not ready right away. You have to build that foundation and that’s what we’re doing right now."
TAMPA, Fla. – The play of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' offensive line in Sunday’s 48-17 loss to the Baltimore Ravens was more than bad. It was historically bad.

Makes you wonder if Jeremy Zuttah, Donald Penn and Davin Joseph, offensive linemen who were let go in the offseason, were all that bad. Tampa Bay’s overhauled offensive line allowed quarterback Mike Glennon to be sacked five times on Sunday.

But, thanks to ESPN Stats & Information, there’s even more to the story of how bad things were.

Glennon was sacked or put under pressure on 26 of his 49 dropbacks. That’s 63 percent. That’s the highest pressure percentage of any quarterback with 40 dropbacks in the last five years.

In other words, Glennon didn’t have a chance. He completed just 6 of 21 passes when he was under pressure. When he wasn’t pressured, Glennon completed 18 of 23.

Tampa Bay's defense fell apart

October, 12, 2014
Oct 12
TAMPA, Fla. – In the same stadium where it was made famous, the Tampa Two defense got picked apart Sunday.

Quarterback Joe Flacco threw for five touchdowns as the Baltimore Ravens defeated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 48-17 at Raymond James Stadium.

“Our defense didn’t get anything done,’’ Tampa Bay coach Lovie Smith said.

That’s an understatement. Baltimore put up 28 points in the first quarter and 38 in the first half. Flacco threw for 306 yards in th egame and it would have been a lot more than that if he wasn’t pulled in the fourth quarter.

None of that is supposed to happen. Smith is supposed to be a defensive guru and the Bucs have some good individual talent on defense. This was supposed to be the second coming of the Tampa Two zone defense, which coach Tony Dungy brought to town in the 1990s. But the defense looked nothing like the Buccaneers glory years. Cornerback Crezdon Butler started in place of the injured Johnthan Banks, but that's no excuse for the entire defense flopping.

It makes you wonder if the Tampa Two may have outlived its shelf life. With the Bucs heading into their bye week, Smith, who began his NFL career as Tampa Bay’s linebackers coach under Dungy, said some changes will be made. But the defensive scheme won’t be one of them.

“Absolutely not,’’ Smith said. “We’re not going to change our scheme. We’ve been doing this scheme every year I’ve been in the league. I believe in it. We’re not coaching it and we’re not playing it as well as we need to. Zero chance that we change our scheme.’’

There also is zero chance the Bucs (1-5) will win any more games if they keep playing defense like they did against Baltimore.

“What happened today was a lot of guys just doing their job,’’ defensive tackle Gerald McCoy said. “But, in the NFL, it has to be more than that. Doing your job is good in Little League. As the talent level goes up and the competition goes up, you have to do more than that. We’re doing too much being in place. No, be in place, shed a block and make a play. Don’t just be in place.

“It’s unacceptable. Any fans that are angry, hey, what are we going to tell them “don’t be angry?’. I’m angry too. We’ve got to be better.’’

Honeymoon has worn off Lovie Smith

October, 12, 2014
Oct 12
TAMPA, Fla. -- The summer of Lovie is over.

It ended Sunday afternoon as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers lost, 48-17, to the Baltimore Ravens. If you want to get even more specific, you can point to when the Ravens made the score 28-0 with one second remaining in the first quarter as the breaking point. Or maybe it was when Baltimore reached its high-water mark with a 38-0 lead in the second quarter.

Whenever, it now is safe to say Buccaneers coach Lovie Smith no longer is the most popular guy in town. Many of the same fans that applauded Smith’s hiring back in January were booing him as Baltimore’s lead got out of hand.

[+] EnlargeLovie Smith
Cliff McBride/Getty Images"We're not a good football team," coach Lovie Smith said. "It's kind of as simple as that."
Smith’s honeymoon period is over. The guy that was supposed to turn the franchise around has it off to a 1-5 start and the natives are getting restless. You could hear it in the noise coming from the stands.

“[A record of] 1-5 says we’re not a good football team and we're not a good football team," Smith said. “It’s kind of as simple as that."

Even the die-hards that point to the fact that Tony Dungy got off to a miserable start in his first season in Tampa Bay have to be starting to wonder if Smith really is the answer. Take the 56-14 loss to Atlanta in September and put the Baltimore loss on top of it and you’ve got convincing evidence that the Bucs are a bad football team.

It’s significant to remember that the Bucs were very aggressive in free agency. Smith and general manager Jason Licht said several times over that they were aiming to win right away because it wasn’t fair to ask the fan base to be patient any longer. That made fans think the losing was over. But the Bucs on Sunday didn’t look any better than the product former coach Greg Schiano put on the field the past couple of years.

"We're not as talented as we need to be in some areas," Smith said. “But, at the same time, in the areas where we are talented, it’s all kind of snowballed a little bit. We're taking our moments not to play our best ball. It's a combination. It starts with coaching. It starts with how we’re playing, but you don’t change course. We have been very disappointed in two football games that we’ve played, where we just haven’t looked like ourselves. Besides that, there still are good things looking at the overall picture."

Yeah, but it’s hard to get excited about close losses to Carolina, St. Louis and New Orleans and a victory against a Pittsburgh team that got shellacked by Cleveland on Sunday. It’s hard to get excited after you’ve seen Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco throw for five touchdowns and barely get touched by the Tampa Bay defense, which was supposed to be a strength under Smith.

"We took a step back today," defensive tackle Gerald McCoy said. "Just being honest, being one of the leaders, here’s the thing, people are going to try to say it’s this or it’s that. No, no, no. We have to stop thinking and being one way. We have to just say what it is. We’re just not as good as we should be at this point. That’s the facts. We’re just not as good as we should be."

No, the Bucs aren’t as good as they should be. They’re not even close. It doesn’t help that Smith spent much of the past week talking about how improved his team was. He still stood by it even after the loss.

"I can’t explain what happened today," Smith said. "I’m going on what I’ve seen in practice, how we played last week, how we played the week before. That said, we’re getting better. Today, we didn’t take a step forward."

The Bucs better take a step forward soon or else Smith’s autumn is going to turn to winter in a hurry.