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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs coach Arians laments “soft” secondary play

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Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

As the Tampa Bay Buccaneers stare in the mirror at 2 – 3, one of the glaring common denominators in their recent games is the pass defense continues to be riddled for yards and points week after week. And, first-year head coach Bruce Arians has zeroed in on one of the reasons he believes it’s happening.

After allowing veteran Teddy Bridgewater to throw for four touchdowns and Pro Bowl wide receiver Michael Thomas to catch 11 passes for 171 yards and two of the scores, Arians told the media after the game at the Superdome his defensive backs are just not physical enough right now:

“We’re too soft. I don’t really have another way to put it….we have some guys that are ‘getting after it.’ We have some guys that are soft.”

Clearly, the cast of corners that new defensive coordinator Todd Bowles has to work with are young, include former first round pick, Vernon Hargreaves, who has the most experience at four years in the league. However, when second-year DB Carlton Davis was ejected for a targeting call in the second quarter Sunday, the Buccs had to replace him with a rookie Sean Murphy-Bunting, who they drafted in the third round earlier this year.

And, combining Murphy-Bunting with second year DB M.J. Stewart, things did not fare much better as the second half wore on, and Bridgewater led the Saints on two more touchdown drives to help put the game away 31 – 24.

The common thread is lack of experience and Arians believes, toughness at the line of scrimmage.

Alarmingly, as the pass defense gave up 500 yards and 40 points to Jared Goff of the Rams last Sunday and two weeks ago second half were they gave up one big pass play after another to rookie QB Daniel Jones and the New York Giants in their 32 – 31 comeback win.

It’s a theme that the coaching staff and fans of the Bucs are seeing all too often.

Will the Bucs back off a playing as much man to man “press coverage” starting this week, and will they use more zone coverage to make up for the lack of physical toughness?

Could we see a veteran defensive back be brought in via the waiver wire to be groomed and challenge some of the younger guys for playing time as the season wears on?

All of that appears to be up for discussion.

What’s not up for debate is the Bucs have one of the worst pass defenses in football right now, and that has to change.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs DE Barrett basked in first Pro Bowl appearance Wednesday

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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

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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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