The Buccaneers defense is searching – searching for solutions after starting the season as arguably the worst pass defense in the NFL, and they have to find answers.
On Wednesday, veteran Pro Bowl defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul was trying to help come up with some of those answers, as the Bucs get set to take on the Browns back home on Sunday.
The first and most dramatic change this week is the firing of defensive coordinator Mike Smith on Monday. It really was not a surprise that the move was made, as the outcry had grown louder and louder for Smith’s dismissal with each passing week. And, when it was obvious the pass defense in particular, seemingly could not stop any quarterback for any extended period of time going all the way back to the beginning of 2017.
As for Pierre-Paul, he was acquired in March in a trade from the New York Giants- a place where he’d been to the Pro Bowl twice. And then, there’s something that should excite Bucs fans that JPP was talking about on Wednesday, the Superbowl:
"The main goal is trying to make the playoffs this year. That's the main goal."
— Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@Buccaneers) October 17, 2018
Pierre-Paul saying “I’m doing it for another Superbowl,” will undoubtedly be mocked by some, but it’s also a standard that is worth striving for in that Buccaneers locker room.
And what Pierre-Paul means is everyone being held to that standard to improve the pass defense in specific, and get the Buccaneers back on track.
For his part, Pierre-Paul has five sacks in 5 games to go along with six tackles for loss and 10 total quarterback hits. While none of that he’s going to replace how bad the Buccaneers pass defense has been overall, the point is jpp has been doing his part so far this season.
Will the elevation of linebackers coach Mark Duffner to defensive coordinator make a difference in terms of scheme and bringing the blitz more early and often in games? Pierre-paul addressed being more aggressive in games early on Wednesday, also:
“At times, we come out flat….and then, we change it up at halftime. I think we come out like we did (after) halftime last week, and stick to that, don’t care what the score is….we’ll be fine.”
Pierre-Paul also joked about Browns rookie number one overall pick Baker Mayfield coming to lead the Browns on Sunday:
“He’s a rookie quarterback, man. I love it. Grasping be in the NFL….and I’ll be chasing him this Sunday.”
The bottom line, as stats like these from Pro Football Focus show, the Bucs are at the bottom defensively in most measurable stats against the pass. And, veteran Pro Bowl defensive tackle is Gerald McCoy is nursing an injured calf and may not be able to play this week or in the short-term.
So, it’s an even bigger role for JPP to lead the defensive line specifically, get after Mayfield and get the Buccaneers pass defense some confidence back.
And, when he speaks of the playoffs, he speaks from experience, JPP has been there for previous times in his career, including the G-Man winning the Super Bowl over the Patriots in the 2011 season.
That should be the Bucs goal.
But, first things first, they must snap their three-game losing streak, get back to. 500 Sunday and then start worrying about the postseason, much less a Superbowl.
Report- Bucs have extended GM Jason Licht’s contract
Hoping to practice some form of continuity, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have reportedly extended the contract of GM Jason Licht.
This after a report Saturday morning from Bucs beat writer for the Tampa Bay Times, Rick Stroud, that Licht has been given a five-year contract extension to remain with the team:
Bucs signed general manager Jason Licht to a new five year deal https://t.co/g8fswc0gyJ
— Rick Stroud (@NFLSTROUD) August 17, 2019
A big part of the reason why the Glazer family, which owns the team, wanted to keep Licht is: his ability to lure former Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians to come out of retirement and join them this past January.
Further, Stroud reports that Arians made it a condition of his coming out of retirement that Licht remain with the team long-term and that the Bucs keep embattled starting QB Jameis Winston.
Licht had been given a one-year extension for 2019 before this offseason, and the Buccaneers had already committed to keep quarterback Jameis Winston for the fifth year option of his rookie contract. Then, once former coach Dirk Koetter was fired in January, Licht’s previous relationship with Arians helped the Bucs get their new coach.
Licht was the assistant general manager with the Cardinals, when Arians was hired in 2013 and led them eventually to the NFC Championship Game in 2014.
Licht became the Buccaneers general manager at that the start of that same season, but has had a rocky tenure of results. This includes only one winning season out of five and several free agent moves and draft picks that have backfired.
None bigger than when Licht traded up in the 2016 draft for FSU kicker Roberto Aguayo in the second round, only to have Aguayo falter and be released the following year in training camp.
Licht has also had free agent busts like former Redskins defensive tackle Chris Baker and last year, Eagles defensive end Vinny Curry. Both of whom we’re paid heavily but did nothing in their one season before being released.
Licht and his staff do deserve some credit for finding unheralded players like tight end Cameron Brate, running back Peyton Barber and former wide receiver Adam Humphries. All of whom were undrafted and have been quality contributors over the last couple of seasons.
The team had no official comment on Stroud’s report of the extension.
Bucs rookie PK Gay likely won job with clutch Friday night boot
It’s not over, but it’s almost over. For all intents and purposes, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers kicking competition ended Friday night with :06 remaining in their second preseason game against the Miami Dolphins. That’s when rookie Matt Gay hammered a 48-yard game winning field goal that almost certainly confirmed that he will be the Bucs opening-day placekicker.
Relive the moment here, as the Utah rookie put it through the uprights and gave Tampa Bay a 16-14 win over the Dolphins:
— Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@Buccaneers) August 17, 2019
“I owe it all to those game situations that we practice every day in practice. Bruce [Arians] does them for a reason and when you get out there in the game, it just feels like the practice situation because you’ve done it. So, you’re able to have the nerves calm to be able to go out there and do what you need to do,” Gay said to the media post game.
The Bucs were seemingly beaten when Dolphins backup quarterback Jake Rudock led Miami into the endzone in the final :45 and the Fins also got the two-point conversion for a 14 – 13 lead.
However, Buccaneers backup quarterback Ryan Griffin returned the favor, moving Tampa Bay into field-goal range quickly with a 27-yard completion to backup tight end Tanner Hudson that set up Gay’s game-winning attempt.
The rookie, who had made a Heinz Field record 55-yarder to end the first half in Pittsburgh in the preseason opener Last Friday Night, responded with a booming kick the curled perfectly down the middle. And, it gave Coach Bruce Arians a victory in his second preseason game as new Bucs head coach.
“We’ve done that 34-second one with two timeouts before and I thought Griff executed it to perfection and obviously Matty hit the field goal so it was a big win,” Arians told the media post game.
Gay, whom the Buccaneers drafted in April with 5th round pick, has been expected to win the kicking job from veteran Cairo Santos, who finished 2018 on the Buccaneers roster. Gay has the much stronger leg and Santos’ best hope to make the team was: if he continued to accurately knock field goals and extra points through and have Gay repeatedly misfire.
That has not happened.
And, it seems at this point academic that the rookie will be the Bucs opening day kicker.
However, what happens after the regular season begins is a whole other discussion.
As we have written repeatedly, the Bucs have been a revolving door of kickers over the course of the last five years. This includes, Tampa Bay infamously picking Florida State kicker Roberto Aguayo in the second round in 2016 only to have Aguayo falter badly in his rookie year.
And, he was cut after the first preseason game of his second year in 2017.
Gay does not lack for confidence, as he’s talked throughout the build-up to preseason that he embraces the pressure that comes with trying to solidify the Buccaneers kicking woes. Now, it appears that the only thing that would prevent him from having the chance in the regular-season to do that is, if he were to somehow get injured at the start of the year.
But, after Friday night’s finish, Gay looks like everything the Bucs and GM Jason Licht hoped he would be- a stone-cold clutch performer who can deliver, when is team needs him the most.