We waited how many months for THAT? I know Bucs fans are pretty much shaking their heads this morning at the sloppy performance of their team. All the old hallmarks of what has consistently got the Buccaneers beat on a regular basis were there. Penalties. Special Teams gaffes and the turnovers...my gods, the turnovers.
As bad as it was last night, there were some encouraging signs.
But first, let's get through some diatribes.
1. Kenny Bell, I think we've seen enough. When Bell was drafted, I watched many a video on draftcountdown and fell in love with his skillset. He looked like a diamond in the rough, a kid who was saddled with a terrible quarterback. When he flashed in camp last year, I was excited that along with Kwon Alexander and the other top picks, the Bucs had one of the best draft classes in their history. Then the pads came on and Bell disappeared until being put on IR.
Well, Bell didn't disappear this time around. He fumbled the opening kickoff of the first pre-season game. He then added a penalty later (although the legitmacy of that one was a bit questionable). When he was in at receiver, he made little impact, rarely getting open.
While seemingly all of the other receivers did something (even camp meat Freddie Martino), Bell remains catchless.
Unless Bell channels his inner Julio Jones in the next two ballgames, I don't see him making this team.
2. When HC Dirk Koetter hired Nick Kaczor, a few eyebrows at the BucsNation Megaplex were raised. Kaczor's special teams units with the Titans were meh at best and you truly have to wonder if Coach K is second guessing himself this morning.
To say Special Teams was a mess would be a disservice to messes. Now, one could expect it to be a bit messy, after all you're running out future CFL and Insurance men in and out of the units. Still, special teams basically handed the Eagles their margin of victory.
That doesn't matter in pre-season - but after a season where special teams gaffes costs the Bucs one if not two wins, it needs to be fixed asap. I'm just not sure Kaczor is the man to get it done.
3. Of course Roberto Aguayo missed his first kick as a Buccaneer. Did anyone expect a different result...honestly? Roberto will be fine (at least I keep telling myself that).
4. The Bucs may finally have a pass rush. Man, was it not a thing of beauty to see the secondary blanket receivers and the Bucs pass rushers harass and beat up the Eagles' backup quarterback Chase Daniel? Tampa Bay sacked Philadelphia quarterbacks 4 times and forced a number of errant throws. The secondary kept the Eagles to 50% passing. By comparison, Minnesota quarterbacks completed 82% of their passes in the pre-season opener last year.
Tampa Bay would likely have had six or seven sacks had it not been for the nimble feet and escapability of second overall draft pick Carson Wentz. Wentz's debut was certainly impressive and you can see why so many scouts were excited about his potential.
Some are saying it was more about the Eagles' horrid o-line than the Bucs' improved rush, but I tend to disagree. Rookie DE Noah Spence has already gotten into offensive linemen's heads, causing one Eagle lineman to false start. Along with Robert Ayers and Jac Smith, the edge pressure kept funnelling the quarterback forward in the pocket and into the waiting arms of the defensive tackles.
If that can continue, it may be a banner year for Gerald McCoy.
5. One aspect that was a bit of a concern was the run defense, particularly in the red zone. I'm hopeful it was more a self preservation problem than a systemic one. Let's face it. Gerald and the guys were in the red zone after Kenny Bell's gaffe. Then in there again after Winston sufferred a strip sack. The last thing you want to do is risk an injury selling out in the first five minutes of the first pre-season game.
I hope that's it. Otherwise, its going to be a big concern for the Bucs going forward. In the end, the Eagles averaged just 3.4 yards a carry so perhaps it wasn't as dire as it seems.
It bears watching as we get closer to the regular season.
6. Jameis Winston, with the exception of the strip sack, looked solid and was accurate for the most part in delivering the football. He missed on the one deep ball to Evans but was able to find his outlet and keep the chains moving. Winston looked much more in control (although his footwork was definitely a little suspect on that sack/fumble).
Jameis looks the part of a second year QB. Progress, but not what he will be - but that's still pretty darn good for the Buccaneers.
7. As for Mike Glennon, year four to me doesn't look much different than year one. Still unable to sustain drives, holds the ball too long, doesn't find receivers deep and is Captain Checkdown. His panic throw downfield that was intercepted was a play you'd expect out of a rookie, not a vet going into his fourth year.
If you're wondering why no one traded for Glennon, maybe it's because the rest of the NFL doesn't think as much of him as Jason Licht does. Stay healthy, Jameis.
8. Russell Shepard will be on the Buccaneers 53 man roster. The question now is will he finally get some opportunities to play on offense? Russ Shep made some big plays last night, some of it coming against the Eagles' starters and was a weapon.
His speed was on display with the quick turnaround and score. He seems to have more sure hands than any of the other "potentials".
I would like to see more of him on offense.
9. Not sure if anything was decided on third running back due to the really subpar performance of the offensive line last night. Mike James, Peyton Barber, Storm Johnson and others each had their moments but I didn't really see anyone stand out.
Speaking of the offensive line, yikes. We can only hope the loss of Logan Mankins doesn't mean a steep regression for the Bucs. We need more from the offensive line and a lot less O'Neil Cousins type blocking.
Looking at you, Kevin Pamphile.
10. As crappy as this start was, here's one way to look at it. They had four turnovers and still had a chance to tie the game before turnover number five ended it. No team can win -4 in the turnover margin. The Bucs may be improved, but at least in pre-season week one, they still have some of those hallmarks of a losing squad that beats itself.
The most encouraging sign was instead of a "here we go again" type deflated attitude, the team got pissed off, played harder and kept the game competitive.
Remember last year after the terrible season opener when Lavonte David said that the one personal foul penalty at the beginning of the game deflated the defense so much they couldn't recover? Coach K isn't having any of that crap.
Bonus - Speaking of Coach Koetter. I love him. After years of having coaches shovel us coachspeak and expecting us to believe it as gospel, I love Koetter telling it like it is. I don't know if he'll be worth a darn as an NFL head coach, but I know he's not going to put up with stupidity. That's encouraging.
One last piece of advice for our beloved bumbling pewter clad Buccaneers.