The week three match-up between Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay was a brutal game to watch. I can only imagine the disappointment felt by the fans who attended and even more so by the players and coaching staff. After our 2-0 start it was easy to starting believing things were beginning to change for the better. Not to take anything away from those two victories, but the Steelers exposed the Bucs defense and completely shut down our offense. With the bye week upon us, it’s easy to spin a positive like... at least we have an extra week to correct our mistakes... or... we'll be able to all our players back healthy... but the truth is we have a lot of problems. While they were masked in the victories, a common tendency, they are now just as apparent as the 1 in the loss column.
1. We still have no running game.
Last year the Bucs were ranked 22nd in rush yards per game with a 101.7 average and tied for 25th in yards per attempt at 4.0. Through the first three games of 2009, it was even worse averaging 86.33 yard per game but a surprisingly higher 4.3 yards per attempt. Thus far in 2010 the Bucs are averaging 96.3 yards per game and a dismal 3.4 yards per attempt, ranking them 21st and 25th respectively. We brought in Vincent to compete with Jeremy Zuttah in hopes of improving the run blocking from our line, which obviously has not been the case. Perhaps the north-south running style of LeGarrette Blount will improve our running game. However, if he is in line to get more snaps, there may be an even greater risk.
2. We still can't stop the run.
Through the first 3 games of the 2010 season the Bucs have allowed an appalling 141.3 yards per game and an average of 4.8 per attempt, ranking them 28th and 27th respectively. In 2009 the Bucs finished the year ranked dead last against the run yielding 158.2 yards per game and their average of 4.8 per attempt was also dead last. The additions of McCoy and Price were supposed to shore up our interior and improve the run defense. However, Price has been banged up since we drafted him and while McCoy has shown flashes, he still has to improve on being consistent. Last week Pittsburgh had a lot of success running the ball to the right. The tackling on those plays was horrible, that needs to improve or teams will continue to shove it down our throats on the right.
3. The secondary has major holes and the lack of a pass rush isn't helping.
Different players, different scheme, different defensive coordinator, same results. The Bucs have allowed 4 pass plays of 40+ yards through the first 3 games this year. In 2009 they also gave up 4 plays of 40+ yards through the first 3 games. In total last year they were beat 40+ yards deep 11 times. Similar to last year, I hope we can shore up our coverage on the back end. It's scary that I am referencing hope for something from last year to reoccur. However, with the suspension of Tanard Jackson the Bucs are very thin at safety. Cody Grimm is very green, coming out of Virginia as a linebacker; it’s not fair to expect him to perform at such a high level so soon. But this is the NFL, life is not fair and the reality is we need him to improve in coverage and fast.
Through the first three games of last season the Bucs averaged just one sack per game, so far this year they have 4 sacks and are ranked 23rd. The per game average in 2009 was 1.75, ranking 26th. To put this into perspective, Clay Matthews Jr. has 6 sacks himself through 3 games. The addition of McCoy and Price, as previously mentioned, was also supposed to improve our pass rush; it looks like we'll be waiting for a while longer. As the season goes on our younger players such as McCoy, Grimm and Price will continue to develop but we already knew that coming in and it’s not a valid excuse.
Heading into the season us Bucs fans had very realistic expectations of improvement from last year but still a few years away from contending. The 2-0 start had a few fans dreaming of more and now reality has set in. I have always believed that you learn more from a loss than you do from a win and we now have a much better idea of who the 2010 Bucs really are. We are who we thought we were and this fan won't let them off the hook!