The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have been getting some national despite being 3-5 and finding ways to lose winnable games every other week. They've also been getting a lot of criticism for individual performances. And this week, we've got prominent examples of both in the national media.
Three Buccaneers among rookie Pro Bowl candidates
So here's the good news: Gil Brandt of NFL.com named Kwon Alexander, Ali Marpet and Jameis Winston to his list of rookie Pro Bowl candidates. That's hefty praise, especially given the fact that Alexander was a fourth-round pick, and Marpet is coming from Division III Hobart College.
None of these players are likely to actually be named to the Pro Bowl, though. Winston has been very impressive, but the NFL is filled with impressive quarterbacks -- he's unlikely to get into the top 10 this year, though he's certainly on a trajectory to get to the Pro Bowl in the near future. Marpet's played well, especially in the running game, but is now sidelined with an ankle injury-- and it's notoriously difficult for offensive linemen to get recognized for their play early in their career.
Finally, Alexander probably doesn't deserve to make the Pro Bowl. He's been impressive for a rookie and for his draft status, but he's still too inconsistent. He's getting better every week and he manages to make a splash play or two almost every game, but he also manages to frequently get beat in coverage over the deep middle and is frequently fooled by run-action, a persistent problem for the Bucs defense. Again: very impressive for a rookie, but not quite up to Pro Bowl level compared to NFL veterans.
Pro Football Focus ruins the party
According to Pro Football Focus, Kwon Alexander's even worse than that. In fact, he's on track to break the record for missed tackles this year. That's a surprising bit of film analysis, and not one I would have guessed given the film I've seen, but PFF's tracking of missed tackles is generally accurate.
Rookie difficulties are to be expected when thrust into a starting role in your first season, but Tampa Bay's fourth-round pick is moving headlong towards an unwanted record, which is shared by one of the 2014 rookie class (Anthony Barr) at present. With half of the season to go, Alexander lies only five missed tackles behind the PFF era record of 22 for a linebacker—Ryan Clark (S) holds the record for all positions at 24, set last season. Alexander has missed multiple tackles in all but one game this season, and at his current pace, may break this single season record by Thanksgiving.
Lavonte David has missed a bunch of tackles this year as well, with PFF noting that he has missed a tackle for every 3.4 attempts, the worst number among all 4-3 outside linebackers. Even Bradley McDougald gets into the fun with six missed tackles, sixth among safeties per PFF's tracking. All of that has contributed to the defensive struggles. There's no excuse for missed tackles, and it's just something that both Alexander and David have to get better at. This year.
Meanwhile, PFF also named Mike Evans as most likely to drop the ball. They have him at ten drops this season, compared to four all of last season. Five of those drops came against the Giants, and he's now leading the league with those drops. He's on track to set a record for highest drop percentage with 23.8 percent, ahead of Braylon Edwards' 23.7 percent in 2008.
It's indicative of the Bucs' season that they're getting so much praise and so much flak for individual play at the same time. This entire team has been inconsistent in every unit and at every position, with promising performances alternated by disastrous outings. It's weird. That is all.