There will be a tendency among Bucs followers to say that the catalyst behind Tampa Bay’s 26-23 overtime victory over the Browns on Sunday was the decision early last week to fire Mike Smith and make Mark Duffner defensive coordinator.
And perhaps there should be.
Despite their failure to defend short fields, the Bucs turned in what was easily their best defensive effort of the season Sunday, and they did so because they did something they seemingly refused to do under Smith: They simplified the defense.
Instead of running a ridiculously complex scheme that only works if the right pre- and post-snap reads are made and communicated properly and precisely across the defense, the Bucs “dummied things down,” significantly, for this game.
Longtime Bucs fans no doubt recognized that what the Bucs were doing most of the day on Sunday was playing a lot of old-fashioned cover 2, a zone scheme that greatly simplifies duties, especially for those struggling rookies patrolling the secondary.
Now, it helped that the Bucs were playing the Browns, and it helped even more that for at least half the game the Browns played some modified version a West Coast scheme that asked little of rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield in terms of throwing the ball downfield.
But give the Bucs credit for adjusting and for executing. Without Gerald McCoy and Vinny Curry and despite losing Kwon Alexander to a knee injury midway through, the Bucs allowed a season-low 305 yards, recorded a season-high five sacks and limited Cleveland to three third down conversions.
“This game was all about the defense,” Bucs coach Dirk Koetter said afterward. “Our defensive players really brought their pride and their passion today.” This was a day when most everything they did defensive worked in the Bucs favor.
For example, it was a day in which Jason Pierre-Paul, Carl Nassib (twice) and even Will Gholston all got home on blitzes to account for four of the Bucs five sacks. It was also a day in which Nassib not only dropped into coverage, but broke up a pass down the sideline against a running back.
It was a day in which Lavonte David forced a Baker Mayfield fumble that rolled out of bounds on fourth down inside the red zone. And, it was a day when the Bucs held on their ground on a fourth-and-1 at their own goal line to preserve a one-score lead late in the fourth quarter.
Sure, the Browns eventually tied the game anyway, but that was after the Bucs went three-and-out and had to punt from inside their own end zone, creating yet another short-field situation for the Browns. The Browns had three of those Sunday, starting drives at the Bucs 19-, 26- and 16-yard lines. They scored touchdowns on two of them. So, if you want to nit-pick, you can nit-pick that. After all, defenses will tell you they should at least hold their opponent to a field goal in those situations.
That the Bucs failed suggests there’s still work to be done here and that there is. The Bucs effort and performance Sunday does not suggest they have suddenly crossed the threshold and become a solid defense. They’re anything but.
But this was a big step forward. It’s just too bad that it took this long to make that step. After all, it was a simple step that could and should have been made weeks ago.
Bucs coach Arians again non-committal Tuesday on QB Winston
It’s become increasingly apparent, that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are ready to move on from potential free agent quarterback Jameis Winston. And Tuesday at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, coach Bruce Arians gave the latest example that he and the Buccaneers front office will look at the other options available first.
Arians spoke at a podium on numerous subjects, but the most prominent is what Tampa Bay will do in the coming days with Winston?
— Charlie Clifford (@cliffWISH8) February 25, 2020
Arians was asked directly about potential for a franchise tag for his starter a year ago and what the Bucs might proceed to do? But, he refused to endorse that option on the former number one overall pick Winston. And, the Bucs coach maintained that the team will possibly us the franchise tag for defensive end Shaq Barrett.
Further, Arians gave a pointed specific answer on Winston’s poor play last December as the team finished 7-9 and that has the team looking at other options,
Arians on Winston and why it’s still uncertain: “December wasn’t what I wanted to see.”
— Greg Auman (@gregauman) February 25, 2020
Arians has consistently refused back Winston since the off-season began. This included at an NFL coaching seminar earlier this month in Tampa. He said to the media at that time:
“Really nothing has changed,” Arians said. “What’s Door No. 2? You know? Can we make the one we have better? All those things you go through right now.”
“You’re just sitting there waiting to see is there someone available? … Is he a better option?
The Buccaneers faltered in the middle of the season to drop to 3-7 and then, Winston and Co. blew its final two games to finish 7 – 9 with Winston throwing a career-high 30 interceptions.
After their final loss at home to Atlanta in overtime, where Winston threw the game losing “pick six,” Arians was candid after the final game by saying about Winston’s play that it would have to be evaluated pass by pass and game by game in the off-season. Further, he told the media then, that there “was some great and some terrible…. and you have to decide, if the great outweighs the terrible.”
While Winston did throw for a career-high 5000 + yards in 2019, his interceptions and total turnovers continued to be his downfall throughout the season. The Buccaneers finished 1 – 6 in games against teams with winning records and Winston had 17 total turnovers in those seven games. He finished with the 30 picks that included 10 of them in the Bucs final four games.
Tampa Bay obviously will have the opportunity to go after a free agent quarterback or two, as there is much speculation about the likes of Tom Brady with the Patriots. Plus, Philip Rivers will not be re-signed by the Chargers and is available come March. And, now that Drew Brees has announced he wants to play at least one more year for the Saints, their backup Teddy Bridgewater will be in demand on the market.
The Bucs are also continuing the evaluating the QB class for the Draft the next few days in Indy, which could have some interesting names still available in the second and third rounds and beyond.
Bucs confirmed Monday they will have new uniforms in 2020
On Monday, the Bucs confirmed what they have been hinting at, they will have new uniforms in 2020. But the real question is: what does “new” mean in this instance?
We heard you!
New uniforms coming April 2020. pic.twitter.com/e7qNUsNWZb
— Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@Buccaneers) February 24, 2020
The Bucs also released a statement through their website confirming that April will be the unveiling of the new uniforms, as well as, potential new color scheme, logo, etc. and had these comments from co – owner, Ed Glazer:
“We have heard the feedback from our fans loud and clear and have been working with the NFL and our league partners at Nike to usher in a new look as we enter this next decade of Buccaneers football. We look forward to revealing more details in the near future about our official unveiling event which will take place later this spring.”
As we wrote earlier this month, the Buccaneers have been hinting at trying to enhance their uniforms and there is some belief there will be more orange, the original color of the franchise. There is also educated speculation that the team may go back to a white helmet, which will enable them to have “throwback uniform games” that they’ve not been able to have for the last seven seasons.
This is because under league concussion protocol, players must have the same helmet all season and the Bucs primary one has been pewter in color since their chance in colors and logo in 1997,
The Bucs last altered their uniforms in 2014 by brightening the color red and slightly changing the logo and making it bigger on their pewter helmet. Teammates Ryan Jensen and Mike Evans are shown in the current color scheme, etc. above.
NFL teams have to submit changes in their colors and logos a year in advance. So obviously, this has been in the works for the Glazer family that owns the team for some time.
It should be noted that the Buccaneers NFC South Rivals, the Atlanta Falcons, have already made mention that they are changing their uniforms and color scheme. And, it’s believed that they will go back in 2020 to their original base color of red including possibly red helmets and potentially, primarily gray pants that they wore for over twenty years.
The Falcons have had black helmets for the better part of 30 years going back to Jerry Glanville changing the color scheme to primarily black jerseys in his days at the Falcons coach in the early 1990s.
Back to the Bucs. There is no other team in the NFL that has orange as their primary jersey color. The Bengals Broncos and Browns have occasionally worn orange “alternate jerseys” but not full time.
So, if the Glazers are again embracing a change to mostly orange jerseys, it will be unique. The video Monday showed a red jersey on a sewing machine, which could be a clue or could be misdirection of what the team actually intends to unveil in April.