Pessimism or Realism?
Last year, the mantra of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers was "the race to 10". 10 wins will usually get you into the playoffs as a wild card if nothing else. Sadly for the Buccaneers although we made our goal of 10 wins, we did not make it into the post season.
Now while many people believe in the statement "you are what your record says you are" in the case of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers over the past 2 seasons I don’t think that statement can apply. In 2009 the Bucs went 3-13. That season while atrocious wasn’t nearly as bad as our record reflected. Lest we forget that in 2009 there were 4 games other than the 3 games we won, in which we were tied or leading in the 4th quarter with under 2 minutes to go in the game.
In 2010 it was well documented how the young and talented quarterback Josh Freeman led the Buccaneers on 5 4th quarter comebacks. Each game was thrilling to no end however just like we really weren’t as bad as our record said in 2009, I don’t think we were as good as our record said in 2010.
We greatly benefited from an ultra soft schedule in 2010. We did not beat a team with a winning record until week 17 when we beat the New Orleans Saints in a game that held little meaning for them in the second half. While there aren’t many easy games in the NFL even against teams with a losing record, it concerns me that the Bucs struggled so mightily against less than stellar teams.
The Browns were scrappy last year however only ended up winning 5 games. It took us a late game pass from Freeman to pull that game out. The Bengals were pretty lowly last year. It took multiple late TD drives and a very silly Carson Palmer interception for the Buccaneers to walk out of Paul Brown Stadium with a win. A last second TD against St. Louis, a LGB hurdle and Regis Benn bomb against the Cardinals, and a missed extra point by the Redskins were needed in order to pull out each of those games. While all those games were fun to watch and gave us something to cheer about let’s think for a minute what happens if Palmer doesn’t throw that INT? What happens if the Skins actually make the extra point?
Some people might say that as long as we continue to execute late in games we should be ok however in at least 2 of those games it wasn’t our execution, but the implosion of the opposing teams that made the difference. This is the reason for my concern. With a much tougher schedule this year I don’t think we can count on other teams to implode again. I also don’t think that we can continue to start slowly and depend on late game heroics to bail us out.
I believe that we have the team, both players and coaches to make our 2011 run a special season. However with the 2011 preseason in the books, I have some real concerns with our team.
First and foremost is our running game. Our switch to and from the zone blocking run game has been well documented. It’s pretty obvious that the zone scheme was not our forte but now having hired a new offensive line coach and a shift back to a power scheme which is supposed to perfectly fit our personnel I expected to see something, ANYTHING, during the pre season. Through 3 games our leading rusher was backup quarterback Josh Johnson??????? So far our running game has looked atrocious. We haven’t been able to beat anyone at the point of attack.
Secondly is our secondary. The fact that Aqib Talib will not be suspended this season for his recent off field indiscretions helps greatly, however the rest of the secondary really scares me. Can Biggers be a solid corner against top flight competition? If his performances against Calvin Johnson and Brandon Marshall are any indication he is a liability that opposing quarterbacks will look to exploit. Will Ronde show his age? He is 36 after all. At some point you have to know that even his experience will not be enough to compensate for an age eroded skill set. Then there’s our safety situation in general. Will Grimm return to the form he achieved before he was injured last year? Will Tenard Jackson be re-instated? If so when and has he kept himself in playing shape? The commissioner suspended Jackson for a year so he would technically be eligible as of week 3 however the commissioner is under no obligation to let him come back right away. As we have all learned by now Rodger Godell is beholden to no one and will do things as he sees fit.
Last is Josh Freeman. I don’t know about you but after watching the game tape on Freeman throughout the pre-season he looks a lot more like 2009 Josh Freeman than the 2010 version. He has been inaccurate, inconsistent, and tentative. The few times he has taken risks he’s made poor throws while trying to force balls to covered receivers. Another stat that caught my eye was the fact that Freeman has not thrown a touchdown pass this pre season. Freeman threw a total of 46 passes and not one got into the end zone. Our success depended very heavily on Freeman last season. While I can appreciate the confidence he’s shown when getting questioned by the media when I see him missing wide open receivers with no pressure on him it makes me a little worried.
I don’t mean to say we’re in deep trouble or anything like that. I think our run defense and pass rush look MUCH improved. I also think that we will be much better both passing and rushing than we have shown in the pre season.
I can’t presume to know how the season will unfold however I am trying to take off the Pewter colored glasses and really look at our team for what it is. My prediction is that we will go 9-7 and miss the playoffs for 1 more year. What do you think after the pre-season Bucs Nation?
The Original Franchise Player
Usually this is the portion of my column that I reserve for the more entertaining sections Totally Untrue Rumors Yet to Be Started, Buc Blogging Entertainment, and Buc Banter, however this week I want to take a moment to talk about Mr. Lee Roy Selmon.
Selmon was the original Buc. The very first draft pick of the franchise and the only Buccaneer to be enshrined in the pro football hall of fame, Selmon is the very essence of the franchise. He was dominant and iconic on the field. However one could argue his contributions to the Tampa area since his playing days have eclipsed even his hall of fame football career.
On September 4, 2011 Mr. Selmon suffered passed away after suffering a very serious stroke. I have never had the privilege of meeting Mr. Selmon though I have seen his influence both within the Buccaneer organization and the Tampa area.
It seems fitting that the unheralded football team from the University South Florida which Selmon helped found would upset the number 16 team in the country just one day after Mr. Selmon fell ill.
It just goes to show how wide reaching his influence was that it was not only those in the Tampa area that mourned his passing, but football fans and sports writers across the country. Although we all did not know him personally his passing has affected us all. Despite this I cannot imagine the sense of loss being felt by his family. Our thoughts and prayers are with you all during this dark time. I hope they can take solace in the fact that he touched so many lives many of which he never even meant to.
Lee Roy Selmon
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