Who: Bucs (3-4) at Panthers (5-2)
When: Sunday 1 p.m.
Where: Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte
Spread: Panthers by 7 points (Courtesy of VegasInsider.com)
Here’s what to watch:
Return of “Fitz-magic”
In need of being energized, coach Dirk Koetter called upon 35 year old veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick to rally his team last week in Cincinnati. And trailing by 18 points in the fourth, Fitzpatrick did just that throwing two touchdown passes and eventually getting the game tied with a minute to go. Even though the Bucs did not beat the Bengals, “Fitzmagic” was back.
So it made it easy for Koetter, with the Buccaneers at 3 – 4, to go back to the veteran, who had succeeded with two early outstanding performances in wins over the Saints and the Eagles.
Now, can Fitzpatrick summon the magic on the road at Carolina to get the Tampa Bay back to. 500?
Contain the Panthers 1-2 punch
Cam Newton is the unquestioned leader of the Panthers offense and he’s already having a tremendous 2018 season. Newton is completing 67% of his passes with 13 TDs and 4 INTs, to get the pass game rolling.
Newton can also make plays with his feet and is a huge running force at 6’5, 235 lbs. So, he’s not easy to bring down either. The Buccaneers will have their hands full with him.
Meanwhile, smaller in stature but equally as big in production, is Christian McCaffrey. McCaffery is a dual threat out of the backfield for new offensive coordinator Norv Turner. In fact, the Panthers may enjoy throwing it to the former Stanford Heisman Trophy finalists more than handing it to him. He has 44 catches for 300 yards in seven games.
Look for Bucs linebacker Lavonte David to shadow McCaffrey for a lot of this game.
Play a clean game
During the Bucs stumbles of October, a repeated theme was self-inflicted problems. Whether it’s turnovers, blown coverages or things like jumping off sides four times last week against the Bengals, you can’t have it if you’re going to win, especially on the road against good teams.
That’s the situation for Tampa Bay in this match-up in Charlotte. Lots of mistakes? Likely a one-sided loss.
However, if they get back to playing sound and mostly mistake-free football the Bucs may have a real shot at the upset.
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.