I hate early bye weeks.
Obviously, with a 17-week season, you'd love to have that bye week in the middle of the year to heal some bumps and bruises from the first part of the year and get ready for the homestretch. Instead, just as the season has gotten underway and the players are getting into the weekly grind of preparing for and playing a physical game each weekend, that routine is suddenly cut short for the Buccaneers in Week 4. Thus, the team will have to trudge through the remaining 13 weeks of the season without an offweek.
That said, there are certainly some virtues that can come from an early week off, especially with a young and developing lineup....
.....the first of which being time. After being pressed into action for the first time following Tanard Jackson's suspension for stupidity, Cody Grimm will be one of several young Buccaneers to have a wealth of time to get into the film room and take a look at some tape. Although Raheem said this week that Cody Grimm actually played well, he'll have a chance to take a look how Pittsburgh lined up, what route patterns they ran in his area, what his responsibility was on the plays that he missed, and how he can be better for Cincinnati. (I actually thought Grimm was ok in run support from what I saw, so I'm presuming he'll be focusing on his responsibilities in coverage). The same goes for Price, McCoy, and the rest of the defensive front, who were soundly whipped in the last two and a half quarters of the game. It's a great chance to recognize mistakes early in the season and hopefully fix them and make a noticeable improvement for the remaining bulk of the season.
It's also an opportunity for the whole team to soak in a loss that looked far too much like the disastrous performances of 2009 redux. 201 rushing yards allowed, 0 sacks generated, missed assignments in the secondary, a porous rushing ypc (on both offense and defense), poor tackling, a general lack of physicality, and a pedestrian net punting average. Mental mistakes. Poor execution. Pretty much the contrapositive of what we saw from the previous 6 quarters of high-quality football against Cleveland and Carolina. Can this team be that violent and physical bunch that Raheem has repeatedly preached? The extended time to ponder over the sting and embarassment of this loss will hopefully carry with this team and motivate them to play tougher and more focused football against Cincinnati.
Finally, the coaching staff will have time to make further evaluations on the RB and TE positional groups, and maybe at the flanker position. Raheem said on Monday that LeGarrette Blount will get short-yardage/goalline carries, but until LeGarrette fully grasps the rest of the playbook and blocking schemes, it'll be tough to get him on the field for both passing and rushing downs. An extra week of preparation will accelerate that learning curve. Also, Kareem Huggins is close to returning, so getting him an extra week to rest that groin will be a boon for establishing a speed element to the running game. After signing Erik Lorig this past week as a TE, the Buccaneers will have extra time to evaluate Gilmore/Stevens/Lorig in practice and determine which personnel they want to use in different packages, as Stevens/Winslow have been rather ineffective in blocking.
Thus, watch some football Sunday, Buccaneer fans, knowing your team will be doing some good things behind the scenes this off week. At least that's what I'm telling myself.