TAMPA – There will be rust. When they finally take the field for what is now their season opener Sunday against the Bears, the Buccaneers will be rusty. Gerald McCoy guarantees it.
“We’ve had three practices in 15 days,’’ the Bucs five-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle reasoned on Wednesday. “It’s not going to be perfect. But we’re professionals, so it doesn’t matter.
“But hey, let’s not skip to Sunday just yet. Let’s start with today. Today’s a day we can get a lot of that rust off. We can run around and hit a little bit, so let’s start with that and take it from there.’’
The Bucs have no choice but to start with that. The threat of Hurricane Irma, which forced the cancellation of their projected season opener last Sunday against the Dolphins, has created this situation.
To say it’s an unenviable one, particularly from a football standpoint, is putting it mildly. Especially for the host of Bucs regulars who sat out the team’s third and fourth preseason games.
McCoy is in that group. So too are wide receivers Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson and Adam Humphries, offensive linemen Kevin Pamphile and Demar Dotson and linebacker Kwon Alexander.
When game time finally rolls around Sunday at 1 p.m. it will have been 22 days since those players and a few others last took a snap in anger against anyone.
They’ve done their best to stay in shape, but not even that has been easy. Most of the players scattered in an effort to get out of the path of the storm so at best they got some cardio work in.
Evans, for example, said that he was only able to work out two or three times while the team was away and all he did then was run around the track a few times and lift some weights at his old high school.
“Just the whole thing of having to deal with the hurricane throws you off a little bit, too,’’ Humphries said. “But we still have tomorrow and Friday to get ready and so hopefully we can knock some of that rust off.’’
Evans believes they can. He noted that in addition to getting regular workouts in the rest of the week they also got a walk-through in on Tuesday night that helped serve as a quick refresher course.
“And it’s not like we forgot how to play football,’’ Evans added. “I mean, we’ve played a few seasons together (most of us), so I think that at the end of the day we’ll be all right.’’
Report- Bucs aren’t trading tight end OJ Howard
There’s no doubt the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have begun to struggle with three losses in their last four games while on a bye week. However, a report Thursday says they’re not looking to sell off one of their premium young players before the trade deadline.
Despite inquiries from other teams, former first-round pick tight end O.J. Howard apparently will not be on the move.
That’s according to ESPN Buccaneers reporter, Jenna Laine, who went on Tampa Bay radio Thursday and said as much, and then repeated it on social media:
For those who missed this yesterday…I’m told there’s no plan to trade O.J. Howard. Teams who have inquired are being told he’s not available. https://t.co/rYq4mugVPQ
— JennaLaineESPN (@JennaLaineESPN) October 17, 2019
There have been numerous reports of teams inquiring about the third-year tight end from Alabama whose had a disappointing 2019 so far. Howard, known for his size and agility in the passing game, has only 13 catches for 176 yards and no TDs in the first six Tampa Bay games.
And in the last 2 weeks, Howard had only one catch in New Orleans and just two catches in London in the loss to the Panthers. In both games, he did not catch a pass in the second half.
Now, In fairness, Tampa Bay does have a lot of pass-catching weapons starting with receivers Mike Evans and Chris Godwin and Howard’s fellow tight end Cameron Brate. Brate is one of the personal favorite targets of quarterback Jameis Winston, especially on third down and in the redzone, where he caught a TD last week.
Howard, who was taken 19th overall in the 2017 draft, is in the third year of his deal that is paying him $1.5 million this season. He is slated to make $2 million next year and there is a fifth year option on his rookie deal, as well.
And while that makes him attractive to another team from a salary standpoint, it’s the same for the Bucs, their GM Jason Licht (who drafted Howard) and their long-term plans for the roster and the cap.
Howard has also finished his first two seasons on IR with ankle injuries near the end of them, as well.
The Bucs will come off the bye and play the Titans in Nashville, and a loss would drop them to 2-5 and only fuel speculation more that they might look to trade off a player or two before the end of the month.
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.
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