My Twitter handle isn’t @cynicalbucsfan for nothing. I am incredibly cynical entering every season, and to be honest this week 1 outing versus the New Orleans Saints did nothing to turn that cynicism around.
As we all saw, the Tampa Bay Bucs lost to the New Orleans Saints by a score of 34-23, yet it turned out that in reality, the Bucs really beat themselves.
Drew Brees threw for a measly 160 yards and 2 TDs with no picks, and Tom Brady threw for 239 yards, 2 TDs, and 2 picks. While results like this may deem a closer game, we all know the Bucs aren’t going to make it that way.
WHAT TO WORRY ABOUT
I think the biggest area of concern for this Bucs team is the play from their long time left tackle, Donovan Smith. Smith was given a 3 year, $41.25 million contract extension, with $27 million fully guaranteed before the season even started last year.
In terms of year to year average salary, Donovan Smith is the 9th highest paid tackle, according to Spotrac.com. When looking at a salary this high, you really expect to receive more return on your investment.
While you may expect more, you’re really not getting it. Smith was beaten all game by Trey Hendrickson who pressured Brady more than his fair share of times. If this name doesn’t ring a bell, it’s because he’s not a highly paid pass rusher, nor is he even usually a starter.
Donovan Smith has to PROVE that he is the player that he is paid like or else I don’t see how the Bucs could justify extending his contract yet again. Since I’ve been saying something to the same effect for years, I won’t hold my breathe on it. However, I guarantee you that Brady is, seeing as he has to look to his left before looking downfield every single time he drops back to pass.
Oh man is this special teams unit baaaaaaad. I feel like I’ve been saying this year after year, and it doesn’t look like I’ll be stopping anytime soon. Despite the fact that the Bucs have a brand new coaching staff, this continues to be an area of concern for them.
Without even discussing the absolute SNAFU that they displayed when attempting to field a pooch kick that ended up being recovered by the saints, this unit played terribly.
To begin, the first non-PAT field goal that Ryan Succop took as a Buccaneer was blocked, and it wasn’t even close to being partial. If you saw the replay, you’d remember that it went straight into the chest of Margus Hunt.
To continue, the punt coverage was abysmal as the Saints averaged 14.75 yards per return. However, on the other side, the Bucs had one return that was absolutely blown up and surprisingly not fumbled. I wouldn’t necessarily say that this was Jaydon Mickens fault by any means, but there has to be some better blocking on returns to free him up so he isn’t forced to fair-catch it every time.
Luckily for the Bucs coverage units, Bradley Pinion has an absolute cannon on kickoffs, meaning that they aren’t forced to cover any kickoffs, most likely leading to the same kind of returns we see on punts.
This was a terrible outing from the Bucs as they attempted to establish the run early and often. While Ronald Jones averaged 3.9 yards a rush, this isn’t telling the whole story as he had a long of 21 yards. Take that away, and he’s averaging 2.8 yards per carry.
I don’t know if I’d even blame Ronald Jones II here. The blocking was suspect, and the play calling was HIGHLY predictable. Every time Brady lined up under center on first down, we all knew where the ball was going. And if we knew, the Saints definitely did too.
The Bucs, and especially Byron Leftwich, have to be much more creative in their play calling from here on out, or we’re going to see a lot of abysmal running performances like that in the future. The only time I was surprised was when Brady threw off of his back foot after play action to get Chris Godwin a first down. What a toss that was though, right?
WHAT TO BE EXCITED ABOUT
I don’t think I’ve seen a Buccaneer secondary play like that in a long time. Drew Brees was held to just 160 yards on 30 attempts, meaning that he was averaging about 5.3 yards per attempt.
How awesome to see that, right? In my recent post reviewing the film, I said that Michael Thomas had to be stopped, and he sure was. He caught 3 passes for 17 yards on 5 targets. Not a great showing on his part, however, Carlton Davis III had a lot to do with that as he played very well for the majority of the game.
The only area of concern for me was truly the baffling blown coverage on Jamel Dean where he let Jared Cook run right by him en route to a 46 yard gain. My favorite corner let me down, but there’s still hope as I don’t think he’ll play like that again once Bowles rips into him.
Sean Murphy-Bunting was yet another bright spot as he seemed to really cover well, and he started to show that he isn’t afraid to lay a hit.
The safety play was alright. Jordan Whitehead was okay in coverage, yet once again fantastic when playing the run. Newcomer Antoine Winfield Jr. also showed a lot of promise in coverage and while blitzing, which is often something to be incredibly excited about when a rookie starts in week 1.
Lavonte David and Devin White
I don’t think you need me to tell you how good these guys were. They played lights out, period.
The man who seemed to get a lot of buzz during training camp ended up playing a big role in this Bucs offense. While he didn’t necessarily play the Julian Edelman role as many had thought, he definitely got involved early and often.
When he did get his chances, he didn’t let us down, either. He racked up 5 catches for 73 yards, and a long of 37. This kind of production from a second year receiver who is the third option for an air-it-out offense is something to be excited about, I don’t care what you say.
Another year beginning 0-1. How disappointing. I don’t know what else to say other than the Bucs really shot themselves in the foot over and over and over and over again.
Between the penalties, turnovers, special teams miscues, and the rest, this team didn’t look ready to take the field in week 1. We can only hope that they’re ready come week 2.
One thing to look at though is that the Saints are a very good team, and the Bucs only lost to them by 11 after playing like a team that wants to lose games. On to the Panthers in week 2, a team that lost to a questionable Raiders team. If they lose next week, then I’d REALLY start to be concerned.