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Grading out the Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Full team version

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Week 4 has come and gone.  It brought us another goose egg in the win column and more questions than answers.  The team seems to be pulling in different directions at different times.  We lack any sort of identity other than being one of the worst teams in the NFL this year.  You almost get the feeling most of us watch Bucs games just begging for it to be over.

That's the approach I'm taking with this column.  Rather than drag it out over two days and three columns, I'm going to conslidate it into one longer column.  Save you the trouble of having to skip three columns.  It's all about you, the reader.

We'll go position by position and take a look at each player's production and play in Week 4.  Remember, the overall grades are not a summation of the individual grades and we are grading performance, not expectations.  So Josh Johnsonmay get some nice things written about him, but his performance grade will be based on how he played.

Doesn't fill you with optimism does it.  Onwards we go.

Quarterback

Josh Johnson - This was the much hyped debut of JJ.  We all were interested to see how he played in his first NFL start against a real first team defense.  It started off great with a TD pass to Bryant and went downhill from there. It's not often the high point in a game is in the first few minutes.  Before I start in, I do realize he's essentially a rookie out there.  He appeared very tentative and was quick to pull the ball down.  There were pass plays were it looked like he never intended to throw, but merely wanted to wait the appropriate time before running.  He has an absolute cannon, but needs to ease off of it on certain throws.  His interception was a poor throw and was made worse by the delayed decision to throw it.

From that point on he appeared to be thinking too much and didn't want to risk another interception and stayed with the short throws and check downs.  Seemed to have a good grasp of the playbook and was able to direct traffic.  All fine and well until the 2 minute drill that saw him complete a short pass and scramble for a short gain.  It was good for him to get his feet wet, but needs to improve a lot of key areas. Final stats:  13/22 for 106 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT and a 67.6 QB rating.   Grade: C-

Running Back

Carnell Williams- Got the third start this year and ran with it.  He has the leg drive back, continually is falling forward for additional yardage.  Is able to find holes or alleys and make something out of nothing.  Caught the ball well out of the backfield, though he had trouble making the first guy miss in open space.  Blitz pick up and blocking have improved, but are still relatively average. Finished the day with 16 carries for 77 yards and 4 catches for 22 yards.  Grade: B

Earnest Graham - Went from starter to the forgotten one.  When he did get opportunities to see the field, the blocking wasn't there.  Hit in backfield several times.  Didn't have a chance to do much.  Final Stats: 5 carries for 8 yards and 2 catches for 9 yards.  Grade: C-

Clifton Smith - Let's get this over with fast.  The fumble was inexcusable, and at the same time, expected.  Not a good combo.  As a running back, the upside is negated by the very strong downside of fumbleitis.  Grade: F

Wide Receiver

Antonio Bryant - Nice to see him resurface.  Appeared to have some of the bounce in his step back.  Was able to create separation on a few plays, including the TD catch and long catch later in the game.  Was not targeted often, but it' unclear if it was due to QB play or inability to separate on Bryant's part.  Finished with 4 catches for 44 yards and 1 TD.  Grade: B

Michael Clayton - This is how you reward those who stuck up for you?  No catches and a drop?  Maybe he just felt bad that Gaines Adams was getting all the negative attention and is trying to divert it.  Didn't have a lot of opportunities, but he dropped the ones he did have.  Grade: F

Kellen Winslow - I expected a big game out of him.  Mainly due to the young QB/tight end connection that seems so prevalent.  Well it didn't happen.  He's a suspect blocker and disappears too often in the passing game.  Follows up a flash performance with two quiet ones.  2 catches for 20 yards  Grade: C

Offensive Line

This is tough to judge.  I thought they did a pretty good job early on in opening up lanes for the running backs.  They did a good job of keeping Haynesworth at bay.  They did give up two sacks, but those are pinned on the QB to a degree also.  Didn't blow anyone off the ball.  Probably their best performance without Faine.  Grade: C

Overall (Offense)

Outside of the gift wrapped field position on the first drive, there wasn't too much to crow about.  We did see a passing touchdown, we saw 4.3 YPC over all running plays. However, we only saw 229 total (net) yards.  The offense seemed to get away from what was working and seemed oblivious to down, distance, situation, what was working, what wasn't working and personnel.  There were a few points left out there, but with our defense giving up 16 points, I thought a win was in the bag.  Grade: C-

Defensive Line

This was much better play than the last few weeks, even if it only came in bursts.  Two sacks from our defensive line, including one from perennial whipping boy Gaines Adams.  Only 9 more to go to meet the head coach's goal.  Wilkerson also contributed a sack and a forced fumble.  They put pressure on the Redskins early on, but faded as the game went on.  They held up reasonably well in the run game as most runs went outside later in the second half.  Still not stout in the middle, but this was a step in the right direction.  Grade: B-

Linebackers

They seem to be everywhere.  They have speed instead of size, which can help or hurt depending on the situation.  Quincy Black was finally able to make some splash plays including some big hits as well as a sack.  Geno Hayes continued his rampage by being quick to the ball.  Needs to wrap up better.  Can get to ball quick but must learn to take on blocks and shed them.  Barrett Ruud had a decent day.  You didn't notice him, but he was quietly around the ball.  If the DL can make any progress, there three should be good ones.  Biggest concerns are getting worn down, size, and missed tackles.  Grade: B

Defensive Backs

The long play is still there, but it's gone from several per game to only one on Sunday.  Talib had three interceptions, and I bet he'd give them all back to shut down Moss on the deep touchdown.  That was a classic example of one play ruining a game.  As well as he played all day, when he looked back at the QB and lost Moss, it was game over.  Ronde had a few nice plays, including the blocked extra point.  He made a nice break up on a pass, good tackle in the backfield and didn't have a blown coverage, at least not one that cost us.  Sabby continues to frustrate.  He has apparently made strides in coverage, but has taken a Jermaine Phillips approach to tackling.  Come in as fast as you can and either blow them up, or miss completely.  Will Allen is back there, but you don't notice him.  I don't know if that's good or bad.  Grade: C+

Overall (Defense)

Outside of Moss' TD catch, a lot to be happy about.  There was pressure on the QB at times, less missed tackles (though they were still there), and an ability to get off the field by stopping a team on 3rd down.  This is still not a strong unit, but they gave up 16 points, which is half of what other teams were putting up.  277 total yards against, 3 sacks, 3 picks, 1 fumble.  Good stats, just one bad play that cost the team.  Grade: C+

Kicker

Mike Nugent - Missed two field goals.  Both were deep (48,49) but with an offense that struggles and a team that lacks any consistency, you need points when you can get them.  This is no different than what we saw in preseason.  Leaving 6 on the field hurt.  He had one touchback on kickoffs.  Grade: D-

Punter

Dirk Johnson - Dropped one inside the 20.  His biggest weakness is leg strength.  Each punt seems to carry between 38 and 40 yards in the air and the rest is in the bounce.  Hang time is below average.  If he gets a bad bounce or the return man fields the punt, it results in lost yardage overall.  Grade: C-

Returns

Clifton Smith - Nothing groundbreaking.  Did have a few nice, but short returns in the punt game but hasn't had a lot of room to operate.  Anytime you cleanly field the ball and move forward on a punt, it's a win.  Kickoff returns, it's been maddening.  The holes aren't there, but neither is the magic from last year.  Pretty standard.  Grade: C

Overall (Special Teams)

With two missed field goals and some short punts and no long returns on either side, it's tough see this group as an asset to the team.  I have to believe that other punters and kickers should be looked at.  Grade: D

There you go, the Week 4 grades.  What do you think?  Was I too easy on some players?  Sound off in the comments section below.