Hey there folks. I'm back, refreshed from a short vacation and I've watched my recording of the Bucs blowing another one in Cleveland.
Being on a boat headed to the Bahamas, you're pretty much cut off from what's going on in the outside world (I wasn't going to take those international charges on my phone and the wi-fi charges on boat were ridiculous), when we pulled into port yesterday, I purposely avoided all email and internet connectivity because I wanted to experience and react to the Bucs game as I would if I was watching it live.
What's funny is even though I didn't know the result, after watching a bit of the first half, I knew exactly how it was going to end.
Unfortunately, it lived up to my expectations.
Let's see what we learned this week.
1. Lovie said at the beginning of the season, give me a good defense and special teams, you'll will 8 games. Give me a decent offense and we'll win a lot more. Well, the offense was decent (except at quarterback, more on that in a minute), the defense was good and the special teams...well, to put it bluntly, they sucked. Once again, Tampa Bay invented new ways to lose a ballgame, having a field goal blocked by a guy who literally hurdled the offensive line, a punt blocked that gave the ball point blank range for the Browns offense to set up the go ahead touchdown and in general bad punting all day by Michael Koenen. You could add the 55 yard field goal that ended up short but that's not an easy kick, even though Patrick Murray has made those in the past.
All in all, you could place a lot of the blame for Sunday's loss on the special teams unit, who have been below average all season.
2. On the bright side, the defense again showed signs of coming to life. In back-to-back weeks, Tampa Bay held their opponent to an average of 331 yards, 17.5 pts, have forced 2 turnovers (both against Cleveland), 4 sacks, 17 tackles for loss, 14 QB hits, 12 passes defended and only 73.5 yards rushing per game. If the Bucs had been putting these type of numbers up all season, they would be in the top ten in defense in the league. Of course, they were abysmal the first six games and deserve their 31st in the league ranking.
With that said, there are signs that this defense may finally be coming around. Sure they still need to produce more turnovers and pressure (especially from the edge). 22 points is still too much to surrender to be called a good defense. You want to be around the 14-17 point range.
But its getting better. That's a positive.
3. Another positive from this week was the play of the offensive line. I was shocked that Oneil Cousins was starting at left tackle for the injured Anthony Collins. I was even more shocked that Mike Glennon didn't get killed because of it. In fact, for the most part, Cousins played pretty well. He was charged with one sack but Glennon typically had plenty of time to throw and Cousins opened up holes in the run game for Bobby Rainey to squirt through.
The rest of the offensive line followed suit, playing one of their better games of the season. It does make you wonder if the Anthony Collins experiment is about to come to a disappointing close.
4. Speaking of experiments coming to a close, folks I hate to say it but on this election day, the results are in and the Bucs need a quarterback. We've had every excuse for Glennon the last few weeks haven't we? Oh, give him protection, give him a decent running game, give him receivers who didn't drop balls...well, he had all of that this week and Glennon stunk up the joint.
Yes, he threw two touchdown passes to Mike Evans, but he could have had four if he had any touch on the deep ball. His two interceptions were inexcusable. The first, a badly underthrown ball with Evans behind the coverage that enabled Joe Haden to catch up to Evans, push him with one hand and play volleyball with the other. The second interception he missed a wide open receiver air mailing the ball to Cleveland safety Tashaun Gipson.
Glennon's accuracy was just as bad on short to intermediate routes as well, with his receivers having to make insane acrobatic catches or stop their routes and dive behind them to secure catches. Several times during the game, had Glennon hit the receiver in stride with accuracy it could have been a big explosive play.
Glennon is what he is, a decent back up quarterback. The old saying goes, if you have two quarterbacks then you have none. Lovie speaks of the Bucs' QB situation as a position of strength. He has two QBs he can go to. The truth is, neither quarterback should be starting games in this league.
It could be said that if Glennon played a little bit better the last two ball games, the Bucs could be 3-5 right now. The same could be said of McCown early in the season.
Truth is, even with all of their faults and issues, the Buccaneers could be a lot better than they are today if they had a decent starting quarterback. I'm not talking Andrew Luck...I'm talking Ryan Tannehill, Austin Davis, hell Derek Carr average QB play.
5. Okay, I'm pleased to admit I was completely wrong about Mike Evans. I hated his pick in last May's draft, thinking he would be a Michael Clayton type bust but the kid has proved me wrong. He's phenomenal. He is what Vincent Jackson used to be in his prime and its clear to me (and perhaps the Buccaneers) that he's passed Jackson as the number one wide receiver on this roster. The Browns with their much ballyhooed secondary couldn't cover Evans and only made plays when Glennon botched up the throw. When the pass was on target, Evans would snare it. Had the Bucs had a QB with accuracy, Tampa Bay's rookie wideout may have had four, even five touchdowns. Instead, he had to settle for two.
Jackson played well, too, showing signs of coming out of his funk and becoming the old Vincent Jackson again. Perhaps knowing he'll be here the rest of the season will allow him to relax a bit.
6. It was strange, around 2pm on Sunday we were pulling in to Castaway Cay in the Bahamas and the wind was roaring. Gayle force winds coming in from the north west. I had no idea it was the collective gasp of every Buccaneer fan in the Tampa Bay area when they saw Lavonte David injured, on the ground, grabbing for his knee. Upon reviewing the game, I gave out an "Oh no" myself (with perhaps a few expletives and prayers to God added in).
David escaped serious injury and appears to be okay but that would have made a very bad season for the Buccaneers all the more unbearable.
7. Until Charles Sims proves otherwise, Bobby Rainey is the best running back on the Bucs roster. Rainey's vision, ability to make something out of nothing and being able to squirt through the tiniest of holes gives him the edge right now. I know the Bucs are high on Sims and want him to assume the mantle as Tampa Bay's version of Matt Forte and if he can, that's just great. But right now, if I'm Marcus Arroyo, the offense runs through Bobby Rainey.
8. Speaking of Arroyo, I've laid off of him because lets face it, we all know and understand he's overmatched here. He was brought in to coach quarterbacks, not coordinate an NFL offense. I thought in the first half, he was coaching a great game plan against the Browns. The Bucs offense was moving the ball, churning up 228 yards and owning nearly 19 minutes of possession time despite Glennon only completing 44% of his passes.
Then, after the Bucs dominated on the ground for 96 first half yards, Arroyo decided to hand the game over to his inaccurate and erratic QB. Bobby Rainey, who had 80 yards on the ground in the first half, touched it 4 times in the second half. Suddenly an offense that could only be stopped by their QB and special teams miscues began to sputter, managing just 137 yards and a single scoring drive in the second half.
I don't understand it. Cleveland is one of the worst teams in the league at stopping the run and the Bucs were dominating in the run game. The strength of Cleveland's defense is their pass defense and ability to force turnovers in the passing game. Yet you decide to throw the ball 18 of your final 24 plays (including Glennon's three scrambles)?
I don't get it. I just don't. Apparently neither did Lovie, who to his credit decided that he doesn't know enough about offense to tell Arroyo what to do an allowed the young coordinator to sink or swim on his own. Even the head coach believed they should have run the ball more in the second half.
9. I'm not really sure what's going on with Austin Sefarian-Jenkins. I don't know if last week sapped the rookie's confidence, if he's injured or if he's just not into it anymore, but ASJ doesn't look like the player he was in the pre-season and minicamps. He looks like he's lumbering when he goes into motion, his blocking continues to be suspect, he looks confused with play calls and his route running has left a lot to be desired. I think he's just lost right now and it's going to be up to tight ends coach Jon Embree to get him back on track or we may lose this one. I don't want to bring up the "B" word. Its way too early for that. Still, ASJ is at a crucial point in his career where he's lost as a rookie and he can go either way. Let's hope he can shake himself out of it. Tampa Bay needs him to become a weapon.
10. At 1-7, the Bucs are again out of the playoff hunt at the start of November. It's the 3rd time in the last five years that Buc fans had nothing to do but watch draft positioning for the final 8 games of the season. I know as a collective fanbase, the Bucs fans are fed up with the losing. Many have jumped ship already. Most fans and pundits like our folks here at BucsNation believed that Lovie Smith finally gave the Bucs a shot to be relevant again. It still may happen, although not this year. Smith, better than anyone, knows he doesn't have a lot of time to get this right. It's not his fault the Bucs haven't made the playoffs since 2007 or have had just one winning season in their last six. He wasn't here for any of that.
Yet, he and his coaching staff are feeling the brunt of it. They gutted this roster, turning over more than 50% of it from the previous regime. He can't point to Schiano and Dominik when most of those guys were dumped in favor of free agents and their own draft picks in one off-season. There's only one player starting on the offensive line that started last season. Only two of the four defensive linemen on the starting defensive line were Buccaneers last season and one of them didn't even start. Most of the secondary is new, the receiving core was remade.
No, this is Lovie and Licht's baby right here and it's failed miserably. A five year contract is Lovie's only security blanket right now. Still, he didn't have to look any further than across the sideline to see that even a long contract doesn't guarantee anything. Rod Chudzinski had a four year deal but after a 4-12 campaign, the Browns fired him after one season and went another direction. Cleveland was lambasted in the press for giving up on Chud after one season but today, under Mike Pettine, they've surged to 5-3 and relevancy...with perhaps one of the most exciting backups in the league Johnny Football picking bench splitters out of his backside.
The Glazers have to take a look at that and wonder. They were hoping for an Andy Reid styled resurgence under Lovie. Perhaps they would consider looking for the next Mike Pettine.
This is what happens when your fanbase is fed up with losing, your owners have spent a ton of cash and received empty seats and a lot of losses to show for it.
It's an important time in this franchise's history folks, make no bones about it. Lovie needs to keep his team dialed in, improving and believing. It wouldn't surprise me at all to see him call the Glennon ride over and go back to the QB he believes in, Josh McCown, for the remainder of the season. Its a matter of comfort level for Lovie. Glennon got one coach fired already (yes, it was more Freeman than Glennon but let's face it, it was Schiano's love affair with Napoleon Quarterback that was partially responsible for unsettling the troubled mind of Freeman and sent him spiraling out of the league), I'd be surprised if Lovie decided to bet his own coaching life on Glennon this year.
Let's face it, if the Bucs finish 3-13 or worse and doesn't show any sort of improvement, what is the case for him to stay? A five year contract? A plan? The offensive coordinator situation torpedo'd the season? They wanted to see what they had in Glennon (and the answer was not much)?
I don't believe Smith's job is in jeopardy right now but if the team checks out in the second half of the season like they did to Raheem and Schiano, then the seat will progressively grow warmer as the season stumbles to a close.