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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs coach Arians laments “soft” secondary play

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Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports
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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

Report- Bucs aren’t trading tight end OJ Howard

Florida Football Insiders

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Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

There’s no doubt the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have begun to struggle with three losses in their last four games while on a bye week. However, a report Thursday says they’re not looking to sell off one of their premium young players before the trade deadline.

Despite inquiries from other teams, former first-round pick tight end O.J. Howard apparently will not be on the move.

That’s according to ESPN Buccaneers reporter, Jenna Laine, who went on Tampa Bay radio Thursday and said as much, and then repeated it on social media:

There have been numerous reports of teams inquiring about the third-year tight end from Alabama whose had a disappointing 2019 so far. Howard, known for his size and agility in the passing game, has only 13 catches for 176 yards and no TDs in the first six Tampa Bay games.

And in the last 2 weeks, Howard had only one catch in New Orleans and just two catches in London in the loss to the Panthers. In both games, he did not catch a pass in the second half.

Now, In fairness, Tampa Bay does have a lot of pass-catching weapons starting with receivers Mike Evans and Chris Godwin and Howard’s fellow tight end Cameron Brate. Brate is one of the personal favorite targets of quarterback Jameis Winston, especially on third down and in the redzone, where he caught a TD last week.

Howard, who was taken 19th overall in the 2017 draft, is in the third year of his deal that is paying him $1.5 million this season. He is slated to make $2 million next year and there is a fifth year option on his rookie deal, as well.

And while that makes him attractive to another team from a salary standpoint, it’s the same for the Bucs, their GM Jason Licht (who drafted Howard) and their long-term plans for the roster and the cap.

Howard has also finished his first two seasons on IR with ankle injuries near the end of them, as well.

The Bucs will come off the bye and play the Titans in Nashville, and a loss would drop them to 2-5 and only fuel speculation more that they might look to trade off a player or two before the end of the month.

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs repeated blunders lead to London defeat

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Steve Flynn-USA TODAY Sports

Despite traveling over 4000 miles to London, it was a day to forget for the Bucs in their rematch with the Panthers on Sunday. Tampa Bay and QB Jameis Winston had enough misuses for a month of football, including 7 turnovers, as they dropped a 37 – 26 defeat at the hands of Carolina.

Winston was the biggest culprit, as he threw five interceptions (a career high) and also lost a number fumble in what was one of his worst performances of his five year career. And, even though his final stat line showed a 400 yards passing, Winston, with shaky from the very beginning. He threw an interception on the first play of the game to Panthers DB James Bradberry. This while trying to hit WR Mike Evans (catchless last week) over the middle.

Carolina only got a field goal though to make the game 3-0. And, after two Bucs punts on the next two possessions, Carolina marched 99 yards and ended up with in a short Christian Mccaffery one yard TD and a 10 – 0 lead.

One of the few breaks the Bucs got at Tottenham Hotspurs Stadium Sunday came when Carolina punt returner Ray Ray McCloud fumbled early in the second and Tampa Bay recovered. A short time later, Ronald Jones got the Buccaneers on the board with a five yard score to close the Carolina lead to 10-7.

Little did the Bucs, Winston and coach Bruce Arians know that it would be the closest they would get the rest of the day.

Later in the second, Winston had his arm hit by the Panthers Bruce Irvin and his pass was picked, again. And, it set up McCaffery’s second TD, a 25 yard catch and run to make it 17-7 Carolina in the half.

Then, after halftime,  the Bucs punted on their first possession and then, after a Panthers field goal made it 20-7, Winston once again threw a bad pass over the middle for his third interception of the game. This one to Pro Bowl LB Luke Kuechley, who ran it down to the Bucs 8 yard line. Next, WR Curtis Samuel scored on a handoff and at 27-7, the issue was basically decided.

Yes, the Bucs continued to scrap and Winston actually got them in the endzone  twice in the fourth quarter and finished with 400 yards passing, on the number. However, most of that was against softer coverage while Carolina led big in the second half.

Besides the five INTS, Winston also fumbled away another red zone scoring opportunity after he was hit and sacked. Then, a fourth quarter Bobo Wilson muffed punt led to Panthers field goal and the game back to an easy double digit lead. Again, -6 in the turnover margin was as horrific as it gets for Tampa Bay.

The Panthers are now rolling, including second year QB Kyle Allen getting his fourth straight win in relief of the injured Cam Newton. Plus, Carolina got their revenge from a loss a month ago in Charlotte by winning in their first ever trip to the U.K.

However, this day was more about a Bucs offense, and Winston specifically, that both looked so good in a 55-40 win two weeks ago in L.A. doing the exact opposite for most of this Sunday in a bad defeat.

Tampa Bay now stands 2-4 headed to their bye and knows that the turnovers must stop, or the year will get more sour and very quickly.

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