The Juxtaposition of Reality and Hope

Now that we’ve all come down from the high that goes along with such a big win, I thought we would initiate a little reality check before the Miami game. Now many will say that I am being a negative Nancy, but don’t get it twisted, I was screaming along with all the other Buccaneers fans on Sunday at RayJay. In fact my throat is still sore, and no, it’s not from eating all that crow as Bucem user Danny 180 so eloquently put it yesterday. The fact of the matter is, that despite the first and long awaited win, there are many problems that still plague this team. As the resident pessimist here on Bucem, I feel that it is my duty to point out these disturbing trends and recognize them for what they are, a detriment to winning more games. Read all about it after the jump...

I won’t get into Freeman’s play. It has already been discussed quite a bit over the past couple of days. I will simply say that I was more than happy with his first outing. It was extremely surprising, and I hope that he can continue to perform at a high level.

With all of that being said, here are 5 things that concern me going into Miami this week.

1.       Our linebackers inability to cover the short to intermediate routes. Is it just me or does it seem like every time the opposing team needs to convert a 3rd and short that all they have to do is run some type of crossing route right past the first down marker. Our young linebackers are constantly getting torched on these type of routes. Hayes and Black have shown promise at some points this season, and they are both undersized and fast. Logic would lead you to believe that this fact would translate into them being better than average in pass coverage, not worse. Odds are that one or both of them will be back on the special teams unit next season. This leads me to my next point.

2.       Barrett Ruud. What’s his deal? He is currently tied for 6th in the NFL with 68 total tackles. This stat actually seems pretty good, until you take into consideration that our defensive "scheme" is designed to filter  everything back towards the middle of the field, where Ruud will clean everything up. I was more than a little surprised to see Ruud get absolutely trucked on the goal line Sunday by none other than…… Aaron Rodgers?  I don’t know if his contract situation has got him down in the dumps or what, but in my opinion he is a shadow of his former self. He just seems to lack any fire while on the field. Are we going into the offseason looking for two or three new linebackers?

3.       The secondary’s bad habit of giving up the big play, especially early. Luckily we were able to quickly answer the 74 yard TD pass given up to James Jones on their second play from scrimmage. Is it just too much to ask that these guys get some safety help every now and then? The refusal of Bates to adjust his scheme in regards to the secondary is extremely frustrating. Every time the opposing QB is looking downfield I find myself holding my breath and praying that they make a bad throw. Now, it is a given that the defensive line hasn’t done the secondary many favors, but they actually had a decent game on Sunday, dragging Rodgers down for six sacks. The fact that we held the vaunted Green Bay aerial attack to 234 yards is all for naught when you give up one or two big plays. It only takes one as they say. Talib and Jackson are the lone bright spots in the secondary. Talib is currently tied for 2nd in the NFL with 5 interceptions on the year. At least we’re competitive in something I suppose.

4.       Before we start handing out awards to the defensive line, let’s examine the porous run defense. They are still allowing opposing running backs to get through to the second level far too often. Green Bay, who is not exactly known for running it down anyone’s throat, managed to put up a startling 170 yards rushing on us, for 5.3 yards per rushing play. This does not bode well for the game this week vs. the "Wildcat" (A clichéd term that I could honestly go the rest of my life without hearing and still hate it). I don’t think it would be out of the realm of possibility that Miami puts up 300 rushing yards on us. Let’s just say that serious adjustments need to be made in practice this week, or we mightbe covering our eyes by the 3rd quarter.

5.       The kicking game. Dirk Johnson punted a ball on Sunday that I honestly think went about 25 yards. It wasn’t even high. I can kick it further than that consistently. The return teams have been doing a phenomenal job all season. Heck, the guys covering Johnson’s punts should love him, they don’t have to run nearly as far as they would with a real NFL punter. He needs to go. There has got to be someone better out there than him. Barth made one and missed one. As I watched him miss the 45 yard FG on Sunday, I remember thinking to myself that maybe it’s not such a great idea that we picked up a guy that got cut by the Kansas City Chiefs. He did make his 38 yarder. As a fan, I appreciate the fact the team is bringing in new guys who can hopefully get the job done, but isn’t there anyone out there better than these guys?

Like I said at the beginning of the post, I appreciate Sunday’s win vs. Green Bay just as much as any other fan. But now that I’ve got a taste of winning, I want more, lots more, and that isn’t going to happen unless something is done to address the issues above. Some of these things are probably not fixable during the rest of the season. Some of them are. All I ask is that the team takes steps to fix what is wrong.

I’m excited to watch the rest of the season now. Freeman showed me something last week, and I hope that it was a standard to which I can expect from him every week. The defense and special teams showed up in a huge way. Opinions differ on just how many wins Raheem needs in order to keep his job, but even with just this one, I think he may have bought himself another year. Whether or not that will be a good thing remains to be seen, but for the first time in a long time, I feel the slightest twinge of hope creeping up my spine.

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