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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs are on a roll starting 2-0

Roy Cummings

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Aug 18, 2018; Nashville, TN, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive back Chris Conte (23) tries to break away from a blocker for a tackle on Tennessee Titans wide receiver Taywan Taylor (13) during the first half at Nissan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

The Buccaneers are on a roll. They improved to 2-0 this preseason with a 30-14 victory over the Titans on Saturday, which prompts the question, are they peaking too soon?

The answer is hardly.

No, preseason games don’t count, but when you haven’t made the playoffs in a decade, any win helps you to develop a culture of winning, and that is job one for the Bucs right now.

What was encouraging about the Bucs victory Saturday is that it came despite the fact the Bucs struggled in the red zone early on and with penalties (10 for 100 yards) all throughout.

Those are the kinds of problems that have long derailed this team and kept it from winning consistently, but not on this night. With that in mind, here are a few observations to consider going forward:

Not that we needed it but we were reminded in this one of why the loss of quarterback Jameis Winston for the first three games of the regular season is so worrisome. After a strong performance in Week 1 of the preseason last week, quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick was quite ordinary during his one quarter of play against Tennessee.

Fitzpatrick failed to hit on two deep balls early and failed to connect on two short passes in the red zone during the second of his three series under center. For the night, Fitz completed just five of 13 passes for 46 yards, producing a 48.9 passer rating.

Winston, on the other hand, was spectacular. He played the second quarter again, just as he did last week, and completed 13 of 18 passes for 226 yards and two touchdowns for a 151.4 passer rating.

The first of Winston’s two touchdown passes came on a throw he never should have made (he was being tackled and threw a ball up for grabs on third down), but that’s Jameis being Jameis.

Aug 18, 2018; Nashville, TN, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston (3) escapes pressure during the first half against the Tennessee Titans at Nissan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Aug 18, 2018; Nashville, TN, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston (3) escapes pressure during the first half against the Tennessee Titans at Nissan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

In this case, however, Jameis was also quick to make mostly sound decisions and he was accurate both on the deep ball (he hit Mike Evans on a 38-yarder and Dexter Jackson on a 54-yarder) and the shorter throws.

Big game for rookie corner M.J. Stewart. He started at the slot corner spot on Saturday and before leaving the game early in the second half with a sore foot, he forced two fumbles, including one that set up the Bucs second touchdown drive. Stewart was one of the more impressive players on defense in the Week 1 game victory over Miami, too. If he can stay healthy and keep this up he’ll start the season as the Bucs nickel corner.

While the first teamers were in the game, the Bucs defense did a great job against the run. Jason Pierre Paul and Kwon Alexanders both had big stops early on and through the first quarter, the Bucs limited the Titans to just eight yards rushing. That’s what you call, getting the job done.

Bucs coach Dirk Koetter walked away from this one bemoaning all the penalties the Bucs committed, particularly in the first half, and rightly so. The Bucs were penalized seven times for 45 yards, and most of those penalties were committed by offensive and defensive linemen.

One of those penalties, a Brad Seton holding penalty, wiped out a touchdown pass on third down from the Tennessee 12 and forced the Bucs to settle for a 39-yard first-quarter field-goal attempt. That also got wiped out by – wait for it – a penalty. Kicker Chandler Catanzaro saved the moment by making the subsequent 44-yarder, but this was a sloppy effort that will have to be cleaned up.

Speaking of Catanzaro, he had a nice bounce back game in this one. Catanzaro missed a PAT and a field goal try in his first game in a Bucs uniform last week, but he was on the mark in this one, hitting on all of his field goals tries and PAT attempts.

The Bucs defense had little or no answer for the Titans short passing game earl on Saturday. A missed tackle by S Chris Conte and a key Titans block at the point of attack on Taywan Taylor’s 47-yard catch and run for a touchdown allowed Tennessee to move the ball 75 yards, including 73 through the air, on its second possession.

Another disappointing outing for rookie running back Ronald Jones. He ran four times for just 2 yards, all of which came on one carry, and failed to secure the only pass thrown his way.

Jones’ role may have to be increased if the injury that knocked Charles Sims out of game on the opening kickoff is serious, but you really have to wonder if Jones is capable of handling a bigger role.

Is it too soon to worry about the Bucs pass rush?

Probably, but the largely revamped first-team D-line has played the equivalent of a full game through two practice games now and has just one sack to show for it.

That unit would have two sacks but a penalty wiped out a takedown that Gerald McCoy started and Vinny Curry finished after Marcus Mariota left the game for the Titans.

Roy Cummings is a native of Chicago, Illinois who grew up in the suburb of Lombard. He and his family later moved to Lakeland, Florida, where Roy attended high school at Kathleen High. He graduated from the University of South Florida with a Bachelor's Degree in Mass Communications in 1983 and immediately went to work for the Tampa Tribune. After five years working in a Polk County bureau covering everything from high school sports to college football to the Orlando Magic of the NBA, Roy moved back to Tampa and became the Tribune's first beat writer for the Tampa Bay Lightning, covering the team from its inception through the first eight years on the ice. He was then moved to the Buccaneers beat, where he stayed until the paper was folded in May, 2016. A two-time Florida Sports Writer of the Year, Roy has extensive experience covering all Tampa professional sports teams, including the Tampa Bay Rays.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs DE Barrett basked in first Pro Bowl appearance Wednesday

Florida Football Insiders

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Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Off the best pass-rushing season in Buccaneers history, potential free-agent defensive end Shaq Barrett was soaking things in Wednesday in Orlando.

That’s where the NFC and AFC top players have congregated for the 2020 Pro Bowl coming Sunday.

Barrett, who set the Buccaneers single-season sack record with 19.5 this past season, ended up being the lone Buccaneer able to play in the game. This, after receivers Mike Evans and Chris Godwin have both had to bow out due to hamstring injuries.

Barrett got props on day one from one from Cardinals DE Chandler Jones, whom he battled for the sack title all the way down to the final Sunday of the season:

Barrett then got to hangout and sign autographs with the fans assembled at Disney’s Wide World of Sports. The sixth year player out of Colorado State, who was originally undrafted but signed with the Broncos in 2014, then told the media, he’s looking for a big-money free-agent deal. And, further, his preference is that he stays in Tampa Bay.

After all, Barrett surpassed anyone’s expectation in 2019, while playing for a modest one-year free agent deal and betting on himself to cash-in. And now, after his agent Drew Rosenhaus and Bucs GM Jason Licht are done, it appears he will be making in the neighborhood of $18-20 million per year just like the top pass rushers in the NFL.

The Bucs also have the possibility of putting the franchise tag for 2020 on Barrett which would also be valued around that same amount for just the one season.

One final cool moment came Wednesday, where Barrett got introduced to a young Buccaneers fan who’s enduring tremendous family hardship with one parent battling cancer and another suffering from the debilitating ALS disease. After signing an autograph for the young man, Barrett gave him the surprise of his young life with two tickets to next weekend’s Super Bowl in Miami:

And just like that fantastic reward, Barrett will soon be similarly rewarded for his fantastic year and upcoming potential. And most likely, it will be in Tampa Bay for a long time.

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs Evans got respect from LeBron James Saturday night

Florida Football Insiders

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Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

The new present day cliche’ for respect among athletes/opponents in sports is: “Game Recognizes Game.” And, there was a neat example of that Saturday night, as the Houston Rockets of the NBA hosted the L.A. Lakers. That’s when iconic NBA star LeBron James of the Lakers came over to acknowledge Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans in the seats behind him.

As you probably know, James is arguably the most recognizable and successful NBA hoops player worldwide in the last 10+ years. He’s a 15 time All Star, a four time MVP, and helped the Miami Heat win two World Championships. And, then came back to the Cleveland Cavaliers, who originally drafted him out of high school, and led them to the city’s epic first professional title in any sport in over 50 years back in 2016.

And, LeBron has the Lakers rolling at 34-8 with another win in Houston last night.

As for Evans, he is a Tampa Bay Buccaneers biggest offensive weapon and was having a tremendous 2019 season statistically until it was cut short with a hamstring injury in the Bucs early December win over the Indianapolis Colts.

That’s when Evans suffered a severe hamstring injury on a 61 yard touchdown catch from Jameis Winston and did not play another down in 2019. Still, he joined teammate Chris Godwin, as they both went over 1,000 yards for the season, which was the first time in Tampa Bay history that that happened.

Evans is also only the second player in league history, besides Randy Moss, to have 1,000 or more yards receiving in a season in his first six years in the NFL.

Further, it’s also well-known that Evan is a huge fan of the NBA and he’s originally from Galveston, Texas and play in college at Texas A&M. So, it’s only fitting that he would be courtside during the off-season and the Rockets game against the Lakers.

Evans has made mention earlier in his career that he had met and talked to LeBron James on previous occasions. One reason that Evans brought that up during the season, was his touchdown celebration dance when Tampa Bay outgunned the L.A. Rams in late September.

In that 48 – 40 win Evans caught this clinching fourth-quarter bomb touchdown from Winston and then, celebrated with LeBron James’s signature dance move

James has previously and frequently used that on the court after a big moment, a big win or a championship.

Again “Game recognizes Game,” and clearly James wanted to give some recognition to the Bucs star whiteout Saturday night courtside at his own game.

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