The Buccaneers, like 19 fellow franchises, will watch the playoff starting this weekend. However, it wasn’t supposed to be this way in 2017 for them. No, not with HBO’s “Hard Knocks” giving football fans everywhere “24/7” training camp access all August long and headed into a what was supposed to be a next level season to the playoffs and more.
Well, that didn’t happen.
Even though the Bucs won their finale’ Sunday night with the Saints, that snapped a five game losing streak and they still finished a floundering 5-11.
Now, unlike the last two head coaches, Lovie Smith and Greg Schiano, who were fired after failing to take the next steps in their second year, the Glazer family brought back head coach Dirk Koetter for a third season.
But unlike his predecessors, Koetter’s work with QB Jameis Winston for three seasons (the first as offensive coordinator in 2015) has shown promise and improvement. Also, in his first season as head coach last year, the team won five straight games in the second half of the year to get to 8-5 and in playoff contention. So, you understand the “mulligan” for Koetter on the 5-11 season this year.
However, the Buccaneers defense, which excelled in the second half of 2016 and contributed to the five game win streak also, clearly regressed this season.
Mike Smith, the second year defensive coordinator (photo above) and former Falcons head coach, was “dealt a bad hand” with virtually no pass rushing defensive ends to help in 2017. Still, the Bucs suffered everywhere, including tackling, on third down, etc. They ended up being dead last in the NFL in yards allowed, worst in opponent’s 3rd down conversions (48.5%), worst in sacks (only 22) and 24th in points allowed (23.9).
As our Roy Cummings wrote Monday, at his end of the year news conference, Koetter said publicly he intends to keep his coordinators, including Smith. However, Clearly, there has to be some kind of change on defense, and maybe, eventually, Smith will be gone.
Then, there’s GM Jason Licht. Again, the Bucs were improved in 2016 and players like Winston, WR Mike Evans, OL Ali Marpet, and a few others he’s selected in the draft have helped/contributed.
However, names like TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins (released at the beginning of last season), K Roberto Aguayo (released after one preseason game this year), LT Donovan Smith who’s struggled the last two years and DB Vernon Hargreaves, who was picked in the first round in 2016 but has struggled and was demoted to slot corner this year, are all premium picks of his that have failed to live up to it, thus far. Or, in two of their cases were gone almost immediately.
Licht has also missed repeatedly on draft picks in rounds 5-7 over the last four years he’s been in Tampa Bay, most of whom either haven’t made the team or had no impact.
And, Licht is the guy who did not draft or sign a single free agent pass rusher this year, which contributed to those woeful defensive stats above.
The Glazers did pick up Licht’s 2018 contract option this past off season, but that doesn’t preclude them from making a change.
Which brings us back to the current situation. A situation where the Buccaneers have not been in the playoffs in 10 years, have had six 10-loss seasons in the last nine, and have all but stamped out the optimism for fans with this year’s failure to get anything going.
It doesn’t seem to us that you can stand pat with Koetter as head coach, Smith as defensive coordinator and Licht, as GM and say to your fans (who you want to buy tickets) “nothing needs to change.”
Something has to change. And it’s not going to be the head coach.
Let’s see what it will be, ….or not.
What is status of Bucs LB LaVonte David’s injured knee?
It’s been a rough enough last seven games for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, now comes word that another prominent defender may miss this week’s match-up with the Giants. A report Tuesday afternoon said that linebacker Lavonte David has been diagnosed with a knee sprain and his status is in doubt. That may not be the case, though. More on that in a moment.
Source tells me that Bucs' linebacker Lavonte David has a sprained MCL, jeopardizing his status for Sunday's game against Saquon Barkley and the Giants https://t.co/o1z9kUSbMj
— JennaLaineESPN (@JennaLaineESPN) November 13, 2018
David was injured in the third quarter of Sunday’s lost to the Redskins, while making a tackle. He was examined underneath the “mysterious blue tent” and was initially diagnosed as being questionable to return to the game. He did return and played in the fourth quarter of the 16-3 loss to Washington.
And, a source with knowledge of David situation told F.F.I. on Monday that David had been examined, and it was not believed to be a serious injury. Further, the source told us that David would wear a knee brace this week in practice and be able to play in the game on Sunday.
The seven year veteran and two-time Pro Bowler is one of the key players on the Buccaneers defense and currently has 71 tackles with nine of them for losses. And he’s being counted on more heavily after Pro Bowl middle linebacker Kwon Alexander tore his ACL in an October game with Cleveland and will miss the rest of the season.
The Bucs have also seen starters in the defensive backfield Vernon Hargreaves and Chris Conte already placed on injured reserve back in September. Also Pro Bowl defensive tackle Gerald McCoy missed two games with a calf strain and has not looked a hundred percent in the last two games with Carolina and Washington since coming back from the injury.
If David is unable to play or is limited on Sunday, the Bucs will count more heavily on reserve linebacker Devante Bond. Bond has seen more playing time after Alexander’s injury and will be asked to increase his responsibilities in the middle of the Buccaneers defense, as well.
Buccaneers revolving door of kickers turns to Cairo Santos
In what has become an all-too-familiar situation, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers once again got rid of a kicker on Monday afternoon and will, once again, try to get some consistency out of their latest signing.
Gone is former offseason free-agent acquisition Chandler Catanzaro, who missed two critical field goals in Sunday 16 – 3 lost to the Redskins. The latest misses were part of six missed kicks (either field goals or extra points) over the course of the last five Buccaneer games by Cantanzaro.
Enter free agent Cairo Santos, who kicked in two games earlier this year for the Los Angeles Rams. Santos has been well-traveled himself having kick previously in 2017 in both Chicago and Kansas City.
He originally entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent out of Tulane in 2014 with the Chiefs and made 89 of 105 field goals for 85% in his K.C. career.
Santos coming in the door as Cantanzaro leaves, is nothing new for the Buccaneers and their fans. This is the seventh kicking change Tampa Bay has made, since the start of the 2014 season.
Seven. In just five seasons.
The Buccaneers very famously drafted Roberto Aguayo out of Florida State trading up in the second round of the 2016 draft to try to correct the kicking problems. However, Aguayo was erratic in his rookie season, including leading the NFL in missed extra points.
Aguayo was released after the first preseason game of 2017 when he missed two field goals against Cincinnati. The Bucs at that time gave the kicking job to veteran Nick Folk, but Folk only lasted four games himself-making just six of 11 field goals, as he had privately been battling a leg injury from the start of the season.
Tampa Bay then turned back to their 2014 kicker, Patrick Murray, who ended up making 19 of 23 field goals over the course of the final 12 games.
That led Bucs GM Jason Licht, who had drafted Aguayo, to go after Cantanzaro, who had kicked successfully for the Cardinals and the Jets. And, they gave him a $10 million dollar contract, including $3 million guaranteed in the first year.
Cantanzaro became more inconsistent, as the last few weeks wore on, and he had a three game stretch against Atlanta, Cleveland and Cincinnati, where he missed an extra point in each game. In the Browns game he missed the potential game-winning field goal in the last play of regulation, only to redeem himself with a 59-yard field goal for the win in overtime.
The final straw that ended his tenure with the Bucs was his two missed field goals in Sunday’s defeat. The first from near point blank range at 30 yards out (above) in the second quarter and then, a 48-yard attempt that would have tied the game at 6-6 in the third quarter.
Back to Santos, he kicked two games for the Rams in the absence of their kicker Greg Zuerlein who had a minor injury, making five of six field goals and also five of six extra points.
The Buccaneers coincidentally signed him on his 27th birthday Monday:
Thanks everyone for the birthday wishes and thank you @buccaneers for the birthday present!!
— Cairo Santos (@cairosantos19) November 13, 2018
If there’s one thing Buccaneer fans have learned, it’s don’t get too attached to the new guy kicking the ball towards the yellow goal posts.
That’s because, there’s been plenty of them over the last five seasons.
Bucs staying with Ryan Fitzpatrick doesn’t appear to be Koetter decision only
The Buccaneers are staying with veteran backup now starter Ryan Fitzpatrick for this week’s game with the Giants. But, the bigger story Monday was surrounding the announcement that coach coach Dirk Koetter made, and it appeared it isn’t only his decision.
That’s because, anyone with any experience in watching body language and how questions are answered, could tell that Kotter was not exactly convincing that it was only his decision. Judge for yourself, if you like early in the press conference here:
— Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@Buccaneers) November 12, 2018
“We’re going to go with Fitz this week. Yeah. That’s how it’s going to stay,” Koetter said with his voice trailing off at the end.
He was then asked to follow up of how long it was going to stay that way? And, his answer was unconvincing with a simple, “Til we change.”
Finally, he was asked about why he was sticking with Fitzpatrick? And Koetter said, “I just think he gives us the best opportunity, (to win) right now.”
Fitzpatrick was 29 of 41 for 406 yards with no TDs in Sunday’s 16-3 loss to the Redskins, but continued with the Bucs recent trend of turnovers from the quarterback position with three more of them Sunday. And, they were all killers.
The first interception came as the Bucs had moved in the red zone on their opening drive of the game. The 35 year old veteran overthrew his intended receiver and was picked off by Josh Norman.
Later in the second quarter, the second turnover was another bad interception thrown, while locking onto a receiver over the middle and it led to a Redskins field goal and a 6 – 3 lead.
Fitzpatrick could not not be completely blamed for the final turnover, when he was blindside sacked by Patrick Smith and fumbled in the fourth quarter after the Bucs have driven inside the 10-yard line trailing 16 – 3.
Nonetheless, if the primary reason that Jameis Winston had gone back to the bench after three starts was his turnovers, which were abundant, the same argument can be made about Fitzpatrick.
He has five turnovers in the last two games and both are losses.
Still, this seems to be an overall strategy by the Glazer family that owns the team and it may even have the input of general manager Jason Licht, too. A strategy that the team has moved on from Winston for the future and will utilize Fitzpatrick in the short-term. And then, perhaps they turn to young back up Ryan Griffin for some playing experience at the end of the year, if the Bucs are officially eliminated from the playoffs soon.
Again, Koetter did not get into those kind of details at this news conference, but it’s rather obvious that if the belief was that Winston had a chance to help them and had a future in Tampa Bay, they have all the reason you need to go back to the former #1 overall pick, now and stick with him.
Yet another complication in the decisions being made is: the Bucs have picked up the fifth year option on Winston rookie deal. That option is only guaranteed for injury in the event that he cannot pass a physical next March. And with Tampa Bay now 3 – 6, the discussion may be centered around “no need to risk it” in that scenario with a team that is not going to end up making the playoffs, anyway.
It’s entirely possible to Fitzpatrick could be really bad next Sunday in New York and if he is, we will very quickly find out whether Koetter alone can make a decision during the game to put Winston in. However, if that scenario plays out and he doesn’t bench Fitzpatrick during next week’s game, then you definitely have the answer that it’s not just “best chance to win” with Winston.
And it isn’t only Dirk Koetter’s decision.
No, the bigger question that would asked would be: have we seen the end of Jameis Winston, as a starting quarterback in Tampa Bay or not?
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