As I begin this article, we are nearly 48 hours removed from the beatdown at the hands of the mighty Chicago Bears, and to be quite honest, I think I’m even more pissed off now, than I was at this time yesterday. I kid when I say “mighty”, but that’s what it felt like on Sunday watching this Bears team. It felt like the Buccaneers were going up against one of the best teams in NFL history.
Every year, we as Buccaneer fans have become accustomed to witnessing at least one game similar to Sunday’s and it shouldn’t be this way. Seriously, enough is enough.
What a difference six days make, huh? Last Monday afternoon, “Fitzmagic” and the Buccaneers were 2-0 and the talk of the league. The team had a chance to make a statement on Monday Night Football, in front of a national audience, but ultimately classic Buccaneer football (four turnovers) in the first half and 30 points allowed (yet again) was too large to overcome. Fast forward six days and the Buccaneers currently sit at 2-2, after Week 4’s debacle.
How does a team with serious playoff aspirations, allow Mitchell Trubisky, who is an average quarterback at best, throw for six touchdowns in the first two and a half quarters? Before Sunday’s hall of fame performance, Trubisky, in 15 career games had a grand total of nine touchdown passes. Wow. Just to sum that up, in two and a half quarters of play, Trubisky threw ⅔ of the amount of touchdowns he had in his career in 40 minutes of football.
Let’s not kid ourselves either, if the Bears wanted to, they could’ve dropped 60+ points on the sorry Mike Smith defense. No adjustments, no communication, no fundamental football. Seriously, Alabama’s defense would’ve had a better performance than the Bucs did.
So, “where do the Buccaneers go from here”, is the question I ask myself after every game, win or lose. Right now, there are so many question marks surrounding this team, that I fear another 5-11 or 6-10 season is on the horizon.
First off, Dirk Koetter made it clear Monday that Mike Smith will not be fired, so we should probably get used to allowing average quarterbacks have career games against this Buccaneers defense. I’d be the first to tell you that I don’t think it’s entirely Mike Smith’s fault, but he certainly isn’t helping. The Buccaneers had their best defensive game in week two against the Eagles, because they were aggressive and played to the strengths of their players. Since then, it’s back to the same soft zone coverage that obviously every quarterback can pick apart and will continue to do so unless adjustments are made. The secondary has been awful, but injuries, age and rookie players have been a big reason why.
The defensive line outside of Jason Pierre Paul, who has four sacks on the season, has been non-existent. Where has Gerald McCoy been all season? Outside of his sack against the Eagles, I haven’t seen, or heard much from the $16-million dollar man. He would probably be the first to tell you that he needs to be better, but we’ve been hearing that for the better part of three years. Actions speak louder than words, and it’s time he starts playing like the highest paid player on defense that he is.
The linebackers have been exposed all season, whether it’s on underneath crossing routes or in the middle of the field, it’s been bad and it’s clearly not getting any better. Lavonte David and Kwon Alexander need to improve and do so quickly. Is this franchise positive that they want to give Kwon that extension he is looking for and pay him over $10 million dollars a season? His play this year isn’t matching up to that type of salary. Bad routes to the ball carrier, poor in coverage, teams are constantly attacking him in the passing game and it’s becoming a problem.
For the most part, the offensive side of the ball gives me hope. I still think the Buccaneers can be one of the best offenses in the league, but there are still some things that need to be improved.
The right side of the offensive line was a question mark coming into the season and it remains that way through four games. Demar Dotson is a shell of his former self, and Caleb Benenoch is getting beat weekly. As a whole, the offensive line has underperformed the last two weeks after an impressive first two weeks. With Jameis Winston now being the full time starter, the offensive line must protect better so he can work the ball down the field.
The running game is also something that needs to be figured out during the bye week. Whether it’s Peyton Barber or Ronald Jones, someone has to give the ground game a spark. Tampa Bay ranks 30th in the league in that department and that cannot continue. The offense needs balance, otherwise teams will do exactly what the Bears did early in the game this past Sunday, rush three guys and drop eight in coverage.
If you told me Tampa Bay would be 2-2 heading into the bye week at the beginning of the season, I’d have signed up for it any day, but the way the last two weeks have gone, it has reminded me so much of Buccaneer football from the last decade, that I can’t help but think the season is doomed.
If the defense doesn’t turn it around, this team may have trouble beating last year’s 5-11 record.