We’ve made it quite clear that while the preseason generally doesn’t mean much, this preseason does have some meaning for the Buccaneers. The Bucs, we believe, needed to establish a culture of winning during this preseason and they can still do that, but it’s going to take some work now.
After winning their first two games of the preseason, the Bucs dropped a 33-30 decision to the Lions at Raymond James Stadium on Friday night. What’s really bad about that is that at one point, the Bucs led 27-6.
This is one the Bucs let get away. With that in mind, let’s look back at what stood out about the Bucs play against the Lions.
Running back Peyton Barber just seems to get better every week. He went into Friday night’s game having run 10 times for 53 yards through the Bucs first two preseason games and he continued to chalk up yards at that pace, running five times for 34 yards and a touchdown on the Bucs first drive.
Barber, who was running behind a largely makeshift offensive line, was responsible for keeping that opening drive alive, turning an early third-and-1 into an 8-yard gain. His 14-yard touchdown run came on a third-and_1 play as well.
Barber has been one of the best players in a Bucs uniform all preseason and there’s nothing to suggest he can’t be that during the regular season as well.
The Bucs got a little of the old FitzMagic out of quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick in this one. The projected starter for the first three games of the regular season was razor sharp, completing six of seven passes for 82 yards during his lone quarter of play.
Fitzpatrick, who struggled a week ago after performing splendidly in the preseason opener led the Bucs to their first score of the game and was sharp even on his lone incompletion, opting to throw the ball away after scrambling out of the pocket.
If Fitzpatrick can play like this during that three-game stretch to start the season the Bucs won’t have any complaints.
Another strong outing from quarterback Jameis Winston. He was under pressure a lot during the second quarter of play but still managed to complete six of 10 passes for 60 yards, a touchdown and no interceptions for a 110 passer rating. Winston has now thrown three touchdown passes against no picks this preseason.
This is as sharp as he’s looked since coming to the NFL. It’s just a shame he has to miss the first three games of the season. The Bucs can only hope that he plays this well when he comes back, If he does, he’ll eliminate any concern the Bucs or their fans might have about sticking with him as their franchise quarterback.
How about that Bucs return game?
Not only did rookie running back Shaun Wilson return four kicks for 113 yards (a 28.3-yards-per-return average), but Adam Humphries finished off the first half by returning a 63-yard missed field goal attempt for 109 yards and a touchdown. That return by Humphries was worth the price of admission, and we all know admission prices for preseason games are ridiculously high.
You have to hand it to the Bucs first-team defense. They were strong when they had to be yet again in this one. Despite allowing the Lions to reach the red zone during each of their first two possessions, the Bucs forced Detroit to settle for field goals on both of those drives. Not only that, but the pass rush came to life.
The Bucs first-team D generated very little pressure in the first two preseason games but recorded three sacks of Matthew Stafford in the first half alone in this one. Rookie safety Jordan Whitehead, defensive tackle Gerald McCoy and Will Gholston scored the takedowns for a unit that has looked stronger than it’s been given credit for this preseason.
Ronald Jones’ struggles continued Friday. After running 12 times for 11 yards through the first two preseason games, the rookie running back out of USC ran six times for just seven yards against the Lions.
You could argue that Jones struggles aren’t all his own doing. After all, he was hit at or behind the line of scrimmage on nine of his 12 carries prior to Friday, per ProFootballFocus and that trend continue against the Lions.
That said, Jones is not running with any authority whatsoever. He’s feeling his way and while it still seems unlikely that he’ll be cut, there’s a growing possibility that if this continues, the Bucs will pick up a running back off the street to back up Barber.
Another missed PAT for kicker Chandler Catanzaro in this one. We remind you that he was a perfect 29-for-29 on PATs last year.
Former Bucs coach Dungy- “You can’t make that move”
It remains a huge topic for now in Tampa Bay, what happens when former number 1 pick and franchise quarterback Jameis Winston comes off of suspension after Monday night’s game with the Steelers?
For now, the answer appears to be simple, Ryan Fitzpatrick has played tremendous football for two weeks. This includes being named the NFC offensive player of the week for both weeks to start the season as the Bucs are 2 – 0.
Former Buccaneers coach and 2016 Hall of Fame inductee Tony Dungy weighed in on the Winston debate Friday morning on “ProFootballTalk Live” and NBC Sports Network:
“If Ryan plays like he played these last two games, if he does it again Monday night, how can you say ‘we have a better chance to win with a quarterback who hasn’t been in the building for three and half weeks….You can’t make that move.” Dungy continued, “Right now, you have to say ‘Ryan Fitzpatrick gives us the best chance to win.'”
Dungy, who’s the commentator now in the studio for NBC on Sunday nights, will actually be at the Monday night showdown between the Bucs and the Steelers. This is because he’s being placed in Tampa Bay’s Ring of Honor, acknowledging Dungy having turned around the Buccaneer franchise in the late 90s and early 2000s.
Dungy went on to reference the example in the early 70s of the Dolphins and Don Shula facing this dilemma when Bob Griese had broken his ankle at the beginning of a season. And veteran journeyman backup Earl Morrall replaced him, and ended up being the MVP of the NFL regular season that year. Morrall played all the way until he was ineffective in the AFC Championship Game. Griese replaced him and the Fins won it all with a perfect season.
Dungy’s point was the Shula chose to “ride the hot hand,” even with a great player and established quarterback waiting in the wings, and Miami ended up making history.
Dungy, the former Super Bowl coach of Colts, then even told Florio how he would handle the situation in his locker room and with the media after Monday night, if Fitzpatrick leads the Bucs to a win:
“I don’t think you can say with Ryan, ‘you’re our guy no matter what.’ … You’ve gotta say, ‘I’ll make the decision, when I feel like Ryan doesn’t give us the best chance to win, we’ve got a great player (Winston) ready to play. But, for now? Don’t ask me any questions, Ryan Fitzpatrick’s playing. I’ll let you know when he’s not gonna play.'”
It’s obvious that if Fitzpatrick just plays decently and the Bucs win, he’s going to remain their quarterback. Also, if FitzPatrick plays well and the Bucs narrowly lose, he more than likely is going to remain the quarterback, for now.
However, few believe that this situation is going to remain the same throughout the 16-game schedule and more than likely, the Bucs will turn back to Winston at some point and maybe soon.
However, as Dungy put it out there Friday, that time just isn’t right now.
Bucs got good injury news Thursday starting with rookie DT Vea
Despite their 2 – 0 start, the Buccaneers have been battling early-season injuries, but they got good news on Thursday. In particular, mammoth rookie defensive tackle Vita Vea returned to the practice field for the first time, since injuring his calf in the first week of training camp in late July.
The former number 1 pick out of Washington was on the practice field with a helmet and shoulder pads during the time period that the media was allowed to view and film practice. There is eager anticipation on Vea being able to get in the lineup and be paired next to Pro Bowler Gerald McCoy on the Bucs defensive why.
Tampa Bay officially listed Vea as “limited” in Thursday’s workout, as they prepare for Monday night’s match-up with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The good news on the defensive side of the ball, has lockdown defensive back Brent Grimes also returned to practice for the Bucs Thursday. Grimes has missed the last two weeks after injuring his groin just before the opening game at New Orleans. He was also officially listed as limited by the team on their injury report.
Grimes will be counted on even more heavily now that the Bucs have lost another starting Corner in Vernon Hargreaves, who’s out for the season with a shoulder injury. Last week, Tampa Bay played a mix of rookies and a veteran, whom they had just picked up during the week.
Second round picks M.J. Stewart and Carlton Davis played significantly in last Sunday’s 27 – 21 win over the Philadelphia Eagles. Tampa Bay was also forced to use veteran free agent Marcus Williams for a couple of series, who they had picked up off of waivers during the game onSunday. Third-year veteran Ryan Smith played significantly, as well in the game and will also be counted on moving forward.
The Bucs also listed QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, who’s won the NFC Offensive Player of the Week back to back to start the season, is also on the injury report with a knee, but he was able to practice.
Also, defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul is battling a knee injury and was not able to work out on Thursday. Pierre-Paul hurt the knee in New Orleans, but played that entire game and all of the Philadelphia game.
It’s cool to be a Bucs fan, again
(Please welcome a new contributor to F.F.I. Jeff Pantridge is a long time resident of the Tampa Bay area who has formerly hosted on the Tampa Bay sports radio scene, and also most recently in Virginia Beach, VA. He will be giving us his unique humor and insight into everything involving Florida’s college and NFL teams. Welcome “Pants!”)
In a country that’s as divided as ever; we don’t have many things that we agree on in 2018. Despite all of our differences though, there is one thing that we share. We all want to be cool.
This is how life works. You’re born. You learn how to walk. You learn how to talk. You run around the playground for a few years and once you hit 8 years old or so; you figure things out. You want to be cool. You realize that the cute sweater with the sailboat on it that mom got you when you were 7 sucks and you want to start picking your own clothes. From that point on, pretty much until we die, while we may have a few more meaningful purposes; we’ll always on some level, just want to be cool.
I’ve been a Tampa Bay Buccaneers fan, since I was 7 years old. I started watching and listening to their games with my dad in 1984. I loved my Bucs and I would go to school every morning and let all of the other kids know it. They weren’t impressed. The Buccos finished 6-10 that year and 7 year old kids don’t like losers. Then 1985 hit. I ditched that stupid sweater and got me a brand new orange Tampa Bay Bucs shirt. I traded in my sailboat for a menacing pirate ship. I had to be cool at this point, right?
Nope. The Bucs went 2-14 that year. Unfortunately, 8-year old me had no idea that my football team hired a former used RV salesman (Leeman Bennett) to be their head coach. Meanwhile, the coolest team ever assembled shuffled their way to a Super Bowl by dismantling everyone in their path. They also danced, they rapped, they appeared on TV shows and redefined what cool was. Just about every 8-year old kid in my class and in every other class, was a Chicago Bears fan. After that 2-14 season, the Bucs had another 2-14 season. And then 10 more losing seasons after that. The Bears would go on to wear out their welcome at the cool kids table too.
The thing is; coolness is fleeting. Trends fade over time. For the rest of my youth, many teams sat at that cool kids table. The Giants were cool. Then the Redskins were cool. Then the 49ers were cool. Then the Cowboys were cool… It seemed like every team was getting to eat lunch at that table except my beloved Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Then it happened…
In 1997; everything changed. The Bucs had just hired a new Head Coach (Tony Dungy) in the previous year. (This guy didn’t sell RV’s.) They were led by Hardy Nickerson and 2 first round draft picks in their 3rd year who were destined to become first ballot Hall of Famers. They ditched those comically uncool creamsicle uniforms and they were off and running.
While most people will tell you that 2002 was their favorite Tampa Bay Buccaneers season for obvious reasons; I will always lean towards 1997, because that’s when my football team became cool. They started 5-0 that year, and to this day; I’ve never seen The Bay Area buzzing like that.
Not when the Lightning won The Cup. Not when The Rays got to the World Series. Not even when the Buccaneers themselves brought the Lomabardi trophy home 5 years later. EVERYBODY was talking about the Bucs!
21 years later; everybody is talking about these Tampa Bay Buccaneers once again. It might be a new cast of characters, but your Pewter Pirates are the coolest team in America, led by the coolest athlete in America; Ryan Fitzpatrick. Who would’ve thought that a guy like him would ever fit that title? He’s a 35-year old backup quarterback that went to Harvard. This is 2018 though. Nerds are cool now. Marc Zuckerberg (another Harvard nerd) is worth more than the entire NFL. LeBron James wears glasses, when he doesn’t need to wear glasses.
Heck, I just watched SportsCenter do 10 minutes on some dude that plays video games for a living. By the way, this nerd also hangs with Drake, Paul George and a bunch of other really cool people that don’t hang out with any of us.
Do we know how long this ride is going to last? No. Will it be a long ride? Probably not. Like I said… coolness is fleeting. I’m just happy to be sitting at that cool kids table once again.
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