What: Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-11) vs. New Orleans Saints (11-4)
Where: Raymond James Stadium, Tampa
When: 4:25 p.m.
Latest line/Over-under: Buccaneers +6/49
Why you should watch
Dirk Koetter will be back as coach of the Buccaneers in 2018. The way his players have played for him the past month is probably one of the reasons. No, the Bucs haven’t won a game since November but they’ve lost their each of their last three by a field goal and their other December loss came in overtime on the road. That’s a strong indication this team has not quit on Koetter, so it’s worth a look to see if they can finish up with a win. Not only that, but Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston has played three of the best games of his career since he came back from his shoulder injury four weeks ago and is back to being worth the price of admission all by himself. Oh, and then there’s that little bit of business regarding the NFC South title. The Saints can clinch it with a victory, but a loss could leave them as a wild-card entrant. This then is yet another chance for the Bucs to derail, even if it’s just a little bit, some team’s playoff hopes.
Key on: Bucs DT Chris Baker
Baker has failed to consistently play at the level the Bucs were hoping he would when they signed him to a three-year, $15.75 million contract last spring. Making matters worse, he seemingly took far too lightly the consequences of the offside penalty he was slapped with on a key third down play in the waning moments of last week’s loss at Carolina. That led to a bit of a row inside the Bucs locker room after the game, which makes you wonder if Baker might be playing for his job today. The Bucs can actually cut ties with Baker after this year and not take a cap hit for it, so this may be Baker’s last chance to prove he’s worth keeping around for another year.
Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans needs only 54 yards to become just the third player in NFL history to gain more than 1,000 yards receiving in each of his first four years in the league. Only Randy Moss and A.J. Green have done that previously, so Evans can join a truly select group with what for him would be just a so-so game today. Of course, this has already been something of a so-so season for Evans, who will log the worst statistical season of his career if he is shut down completely today. And that could happen. Evans is likely to be matched against rookie cornerback Marshon Lattimore. The Ohio State rookie who limited Evans to just one catch for 13 yards and provoked Evans into a situation that cost the Bucs wideout a one-game suspension in the first meeting between the two teams has allowed a passer rating of 43.2 into his coverage area this year, the third-best mark in the league among corners, according to Pro Football Focus.
Buccaneers cornerstone player in 2018?
(This is the first look at all three state NFL teams’ roster and identifying a player that we at F.F.I. believe is the foundation starter for their potential success in 2018)
It’s still a couple of weeks before the Buccaneers gather for training camp at One Buc Place and there’s already uncertainty everywhere. Off a disappointing showing down the stretch with a 5-11 finish in 2017, both head coach Dirk Koetter and GM Jason Licht were already feeling warmth under their seats.
Now, the perceived team leader, QB Jameis Winston, is suspended for the first three games of the season for violation of the NFL personal conduct policy. And, this has called into question whether he Winston is going to be on borrowed time himself, once he comes back.
So, who is the player that the Bucs will look to for leadership, stability and to help them get through tough times this year? Well, it’s not clear cut in Tampa Bay, but we have a strong guess.
If we are talking cornerstone player for 2018, we are talking yearly Pro Bowl DT Gerald McCoy.
The reasons are apparent.
McCoy has tenure in the Bucs locker room and has played at the high level for the past six seasons (under three different head coaches) and made the Pro Bowl in each one.
Most importantly, he provides a veteran presence to what is an uncertain situation.
And with the additions of former Eagles DE Vinny Curry in free agency, a trade for Giants Pro Bowler and Superbowl champion Jason Pierre Paul and the drafting of Washington All American DT Vita Vea in the first round, McCoy has more help than at any point in his career.
This means the former #1 pick out of Oklahoma will have a chance to excel, especially right away, this season.
Sure, the Bucs have a “franchise receiver” in Mike Evans, and gave him a huge extension in March. And they have one of the top star defenders in the NFL that few on the national level talk much about in LB LaVonte David.
However, with Winston’s future with the Buccaneers uncertain, Gerald McCoy is the guy to count on for this and the next few seasons.
Hall of Fame WR Randy mentoring Bucs QB Jameis Winston in Tampa
Controversy has followed Jameis Winston throughout his college and NFL careers and now, former controversial NFL star receiver turned ESPN analyst Randy Moss, is trying to help.
As you probably know by now, the Bucs QB is suspended for the first three games this season by the NFL for violation of the personal conduct policy after he inappropriately touched a female Uber driver in Arizona in 2016. It’s the latest in a long line of personal missteps and problems that have dogged Winston off the field, since his days at Florida State.
Meanwhile, Moss, who will be enshrined at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, OH, later this month, has been in Tampa recently working with and apparently trying to help mentor Winston.
Tampa TV station, Fox 13 and reporter Kevin O’Donnell, got exclusive comments from Moss on helping Winston on Tuesday:
— Kevin ODonnell Fox13 (@ODonnellFox13) July 10, 2018
“He’s doing things right,” Moss told the station. “It’s a bump in the road…Man, just continue to fight. It happens…. What he did was wrong. You know. I’m not saying right or wrong. There was a woman involved. So, I’m not going to get into all of that. What he did was wrong. He know (sic) it was wrong. So, I think it’s up to him as a man to understand what he did wrong….to live and learn from it and let it go.”
Moss had early controversies and arrests in his own college career, as he was denied entry at Notre Dame and later kicked off the FSU football team while red-shirting for arrests and probation violations that led him to being back behind bars.
He later thrived at Marshall University, was a Heisman Trophy Finalist, a first round pick by the Vikings and had a 14 year career as one of the most explosive NFL receivers of all time. Moss, who caught for 1,000 or more yards in 10 NFL seasons and is second all time with 156 TD receptions, was voted into the Hall of Fame (above) in his first time on the ballot back in January.
Winston was shown by the station running sprints and making throws to some other prospective NFL receivers at the workout Tuesday, but refused to talk on camera. He has not spoken publicly, since the NFL suspended him two weeks ago. He told the station he will talk at Bucs training camp later in July.
As for Moss, he further said Tuesday that he’s trying to give Winston and other young players advice from his own experiences and failures off the field.
“One of the things that I always told my people: ‘Don’t be scared or shy to tell me no, because I check my pride in at the door….I’ll thank you later, you know, when I’m not behind bars, or when I’m still on a football team.” Moss continued, “A lot of these guys don’t realize that they’re being watched under a microscope and they don’t realize it until it happens to them and they’re out of job.”
At this point, the fourth year Bucs QB Winston, has to realize that he is on the verge of being out of a job in Tampa. That’s if he doesn’t respond well from the suspension by staying out of trouble and performing well on the field.
New Bucs DE Jason Pierre Paul still great reminder of July 4th safety
The Buccaneers are excited to see what former USF and New York Giants star Jason Pierre-Paul can do on the field in Tampa Bay this fall. After being acquired in a trade with the G-men in March, Pierre Paul hopes to energize an almost non-existent Bucs pass rush from last year.
One thing is for sure, as much as he’s known for being a star on the field, Pierre Paul has become a reminder of “what not to do” and specifically fireworks safety on July 4th.
It was three years ago Wednesday night that Pierre Paul’s decision to celebrate and ignite amateur hand-held fireworks in South Florida led to a horrific and potentially, career threatening right hand injury.
But, out of what could have been football tragedy involving his hand, Pierre-Paul has made a comeback and is now a national PSA symbol for firework safety.
The beginning of Pierre Paul’s football story is the Deerfield Beach, as a native of Hatian immigrant parents playing as a Juco star in both California and Kansas. Then, he was brought back to Florida, by coach Jim Leavitt and staff, as USF’s dominant pass rusher in 2009. That year he attained All Big East honors with 6.5 sacks and 16.5 tackles for loss for the Bulls.
This fast tracked Pierre Paul to the NFL after only one season in Tampa and he was drafted 15th overall by the Giants in the 2010 NFL Draft.
After a rookie year with 4.5 sacks, he burst on the pro scene in season two with 16.5 sacks for the G-men leading to a Pro Bowl selection and was part of the New York Superbowl victory over the Patriots that February.
Pierre-Paul continued to be regarded as the Giants most consistent pass rushing threat and had another double digit sack season with 12.5 in 2014.
Then came the off season of 2015, where he chose not to sign his one year Franchise Player free agent tender (the Giants still had his exclusive rights) seeking a longer term deal. And, he remained unsigned as of July 4th that year.
That night in 2015 he loaded up a van with handheld amateur fireworks and with friends and neighbors began shooting them off until one obviously malfunctioned and mangled his right hand. Pierre-Paul was hospitalized and eventually had multiple surgeries on the hand and his right index finger amputated.
The Giants stood by him, when they could have dumped him for non-football injury, and he eventually made his way back onto the field in November of 2015. Signing a “pro rated” week to week one year deal, his debut came as New York traveled to Raymond James Stadium (Pierre-Paul’s USF home for a season) and he played with a padded “club” protecting his right hand against the Bucs.
He would play in eight total games that season with one sack and then, as further proof of the Giants being in his corner, they re-signed him on a one year $10 million deal for 2016. Pierre-Paul then worked a year ago with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission on a July 4th fireworks safety video:
The gnarly image and video of Pierre-Pauls right hand is obviously the deterrent the agency is looking for with the PSA campaign about safety. He played 2016 with a special padded glove to protect the hand/fingers registering another seven sacks before being placed on I.R. with a sports hernia.
Finally, and happiest of all financial endings after the fireworks disaster, Pierre-Paul inked a four year $62 million deal with $40 million guaranteed in March of last year to stay, so he thought, in New York.
So, while it all worked out in the end, obviously, the Jason Pierre-Paul July 4th fireworks mess could have had a much different ending all the way around for he, the Giants and now, the Bucs.
It’s a reminder to stay safe Wednesday night. Leave the handheld fireworks to someone else.
Jacksonville Jaguars6 days ago
Jaguars DT Marcell Dareus involved in two sexual assault allegations
Tampa Bay Buccaneers7 days ago
Hall of Fame WR Randy mentoring Bucs QB Jameis Winston in Tampa
Jacksonville Jaguars5 days ago
Why is Jalen Ramsey Twitter feuding with NFL Network analyst?
UCF Knights6 days ago
Groundwork laid for UCF QB McKenzie Milton to be part of AAF Spring league?