It’s obvious that the Buccaneers offense has some unanswered questions. First, and biggest, how will things go without suspended QB Jameis Winston for the first three games? Can the run game with Peyton Barber and Ronald Jones get established? Can DeSean Jackson make the impact with big plays that everyone thought he would coming in as a free agent a year ago?
And, still another question who becomes the leader/”play maker” for the offense this season?
Well, that question is very quickly being answered by fifth year receiver Mike Evans.
Interestingly. the team is using Evans as part of a promotional campaign on TV and the internet to show that Tampa Bay, who was 5-11 last year is ready to bounce bsck:
— Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@Buccaneers) July 25, 2018
Evans, who had a Pro Bowl 2016 season off his 96 catches, 1,300+ yards and 12 touchdowns, had a disappointing 2017. With Winston missing parts or all of five games due to a shoulder injury, his catches dipped to 71 and only five TD’s for the year had him frustrated.
However, he has looked every bit the part of an elite receiver, again, though the first week of Buccaneers camp. In fact, he’s been getting some praise from media and observers on the way he’s played.
That includes long time Bucs beat writer from the Tampa Bay Times, Rick Stroud, who observed and tweeted this late last week:
Three great days for Evans. https://t.co/5MOUmzcXL7
— Rick Stroud (@NFLSTROUD) July 29, 2018
The Bucs will need more of those “great days,” especially with the start to their schedule. Playing at division rival New Orleans week one and then, against the Superbowl Champion Eagles followed by Monday Night Football against Steelers, and all of those without Winston, it won’t be easy.
However, veteran QB Ryan Fitzpatrick is capable and during Thursday’s workout, where the team was simulating some game conditions even while not in full pads, he launched a ball early to #13.
— Kenny Morales (@KennyMoralesTV) August 2, 2018
Granted, this is a training camp setting, but still, that’s the kind of highlight that will get Bucs fans excited about the possibilities in the upcoming season.
And you couple Evans with Jackson, second year WR Chris Godwin, veteran slot man Adam Humphries and others, and the Bucs clearly have some weapons.
None bigger than though, than the potential game dominator that they know Mike Evans can be.
Bucs repeated blunders lead to London defeat
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.
Christian McCaffery is the most athletic white man in the world pic.twitter.com/DfYk6bHDUN
— NFL Humor (@NFLHumor) October 13, 2019
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.
Bucs in London leads our Sunday NFL primer
For one of the rare times this season, all three state NFL teams are in action on Sunday early and one of them very early.
First stop, the Buccaneers rematch the Panthers. This time in London at the newly rebuilt Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
— Carmen Vitali (@CarmieV) October 13, 2019
The Bucs come off of a tough loss 31-24 in New Orleans last week, but do have a win in week two at Carolina 20-14.
In that game, Tampa Bay’s defense took advantage of an injured quarterback Cam Newton and also stuffed running back Christian McCaffrey on their way to a division road win. Newton has been replaced the last three weeks by backup Kyle Allen and he has lead them to three consecutive victories, including road wins at Arizona and Houston.
Meanwhile, Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston (photo above) will try to ignite his connection with receiver Mike Evans, the Pro Bowler was held without a catch in last week’s loss at the Superdome.
Next up, the Jaguars will host those Saints at TIAA Bank Field. Jacksonville has performed well with rookie 6th round pick quarterback Gardner Minshew leading them That includes a week ago in Charlotte, as Minshew threw for two more touchdowns in a narrow 34-27 loss to the Panthers. Minshew is 2-2 in his starts.
Also, third year running back Leonard Fournette has rounded into form with back-to-back good games including over 100 yards and his first touchdown of the season in a loss to the Panthers.
The Saints come in with three consecutive victories under backup quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, who riddled the Buccaneers for four touchdowns last week. The Saints top target is wide receiver Michael Thomas and it’s unknown, whether Jaguars football defensive back Jalen Ramsey will be healthy enough/active to cover him in this game.
Finally, in Miami it’s a pair of winless teams, as the 0-5 Redskins visit the 0-4 Dolphins. Washington fired their coach Jay Gruden earlier in the week and replaced him with veteran assistant and former Raiders head coach, Bill Callahan.
Meanwhile, first-year coach Brian Flores and the Fins come out of a bye week with a chance at extra preparation in looking for their first win of the season. Flores maintained this week that second-year quarterback Josh Rosen has the starting job, not just for now, but for the foreseeable future.
In their last game two weeks ago, Rosen led a touchdown drive that actually gave Miami their first and only leader of the season at 10-6 against the Chargers However, L.A outplayed them in the second half to keep Miami without a victory.
Both of these teams have looked poor through much of the first part of the year, but one of them will get to celebrate, at least in the short term, with a Sunday win.
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