TAMPA – Since the start of the 2016 season, the Buccaneers have had a runner gain 100 yards or more in a single game just three times. None of them are named Doug Martin, but there’s little to suggest that Martin is on the brink of losing his job as the Bucs feature back because of it.
Though Peyton Barber ran 23 times for 104 yards during his first extended look of the season last week, the Bucs do not appear to be ruling out the possibility of starting Martin ahead of Barber now Martin has been released from the league’s concussion protocol.
“It remains to be seen until he’s cleared (from the protocol), but it’s a good problem to have,’’ Bucs offensive coordinator Todd Monken said. “I mean, Doug’s a good football player. And Peyton had a good week last week. But I think we also blocked well last week and schemed it up well last week. All those things (were) a part of (Barber’s success).’’
Monken added that the Bucs have “knocked around’’ the idea of how well Martin would have run under the same circumstances Barber had, which suggests they’d like to see if Martin could indeed regain some of his old magic should the scheme and line play work in his favor.
“I know what Doug brings but it’s hard to say,’’ Monken said. “It just didn’t work out that way where Doug was out there (last week when we were blocking well). But the last few weeks I thought we’ve done a better job of getting push and creating some seams for our running backs and it started to show early in the Atlanta game.’’
Martin started that game and ran seven times for 33 yards (4.7 per carry) and also turned a short pass into a 9-yard gain that was wiped out by a holding call before leaving the game with the concussion that kept him out of the Green Bay game.
That kind production may have the Bucs believing Martin could put together a good day just as easily as Barber if he can get the same kind of blocking effort that Barber received. After all, Monken believes that may have been the Bucs best run-blocking effort of the year.
“It certainly felt that way,’’ said Monken, who also credited Barber with making a lot of yards after contact. Of course, that’s something Martin has usually done a good job of as well, so it’s possible the Bucs could go with either Barber or Martin and benefit either way.
The bigger question, though, is what do the Bucs plan to do at the position moving forward. Martin’s salary next year jumps to $6.75 million, which is a lot to pay for a back who’s as injury-prone and inconsistent as Martin is.
That’s one reason they might want to spend the last few weeks looking more closely at Barber, who might be able to give them the same kind of production as Martin but at a much cheaper price. Then again, if the Bucs were confident Barber would do that he probably would have started for them weeks ago.
The bottom line here is that the Bucs clearly have some evaluating left to do at the running back spot and that these next few weeks may indeed prove to be something akin to a training camp battle designed to determine just who the better option is going forward.
What is status of Bucs LB LaVonte David’s injured knee?
It’s been a rough enough last seven games for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, now comes word that another prominent defender may miss this week’s match-up with the Giants. A report Tuesday afternoon said that linebacker Lavonte David has been diagnosed with a knee sprain and his status is in doubt. That may not be the case, though. More on that in a moment.
Source tells me that Bucs' linebacker Lavonte David has a sprained MCL, jeopardizing his status for Sunday's game against Saquon Barkley and the Giants https://t.co/o1z9kUSbMj
— JennaLaineESPN (@JennaLaineESPN) November 13, 2018
David was injured in the third quarter of Sunday’s lost to the Redskins, while making a tackle. He was examined underneath the “mysterious blue tent” and was initially diagnosed as being questionable to return to the game. He did return and played in the fourth quarter of the 16-3 loss to Washington.
And, a source with knowledge of David situation told F.F.I. on Monday that David had been examined, and it was not believed to be a serious injury. Further, the source told us that David would wear a knee brace this week in practice and be able to play in the game on Sunday.
The seven year veteran and two-time Pro Bowler is one of the key players on the Buccaneers defense and currently has 71 tackles with nine of them for losses. And he’s being counted on more heavily after Pro Bowl middle linebacker Kwon Alexander tore his ACL in an October game with Cleveland and will miss the rest of the season.
The Bucs have also seen starters in the defensive backfield Vernon Hargreaves and Chris Conte already placed on injured reserve back in September. Also Pro Bowl defensive tackle Gerald McCoy missed two games with a calf strain and has not looked a hundred percent in the last two games with Carolina and Washington since coming back from the injury.
If David is unable to play or is limited on Sunday, the Bucs will count more heavily on reserve linebacker Devante Bond. Bond has seen more playing time after Alexander’s injury and will be asked to increase his responsibilities in the middle of the Buccaneers defense, as well.
Buccaneers revolving door of kickers turns to Cairo Santos
In what has become an all-too-familiar situation, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers once again got rid of a kicker on Monday afternoon and will, once again, try to get some consistency out of their latest signing.
Gone is former offseason free-agent acquisition Chandler Catanzaro, who missed two critical field goals in Sunday 16 – 3 lost to the Redskins. The latest misses were part of six missed kicks (either field goals or extra points) over the course of the last five Buccaneer games by Cantanzaro.
Enter free agent Cairo Santos, who kicked in two games earlier this year for the Los Angeles Rams. Santos has been well-traveled himself having kick previously in 2017 in both Chicago and Kansas City.
He originally entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent out of Tulane in 2014 with the Chiefs and made 89 of 105 field goals for 85% in his K.C. career.
Santos coming in the door as Cantanzaro leaves, is nothing new for the Buccaneers and their fans. This is the seventh kicking change Tampa Bay has made, since the start of the 2014 season.
Seven. In just five seasons.
The Buccaneers very famously drafted Roberto Aguayo out of Florida State trading up in the second round of the 2016 draft to try to correct the kicking problems. However, Aguayo was erratic in his rookie season, including leading the NFL in missed extra points.
Aguayo was released after the first preseason game of 2017 when he missed two field goals against Cincinnati. The Bucs at that time gave the kicking job to veteran Nick Folk, but Folk only lasted four games himself-making just six of 11 field goals, as he had privately been battling a leg injury from the start of the season.
Tampa Bay then turned back to their 2014 kicker, Patrick Murray, who ended up making 19 of 23 field goals over the course of the final 12 games.
That led Bucs GM Jason Licht, who had drafted Aguayo, to go after Cantanzaro, who had kicked successfully for the Cardinals and the Jets. And, they gave him a $10 million dollar contract, including $3 million guaranteed in the first year.
Cantanzaro became more inconsistent, as the last few weeks wore on, and he had a three game stretch against Atlanta, Cleveland and Cincinnati, where he missed an extra point in each game. In the Browns game he missed the potential game-winning field goal in the last play of regulation, only to redeem himself with a 59-yard field goal for the win in overtime.
The final straw that ended his tenure with the Bucs was his two missed field goals in Sunday’s defeat. The first from near point blank range at 30 yards out (above) in the second quarter and then, a 48-yard attempt that would have tied the game at 6-6 in the third quarter.
Back to Santos, he kicked two games for the Rams in the absence of their kicker Greg Zuerlein who had a minor injury, making five of six field goals and also five of six extra points.
The Buccaneers coincidentally signed him on his 27th birthday Monday:
Thanks everyone for the birthday wishes and thank you @buccaneers for the birthday present!!
— Cairo Santos (@cairosantos19) November 13, 2018
If there’s one thing Buccaneer fans have learned, it’s don’t get too attached to the new guy kicking the ball towards the yellow goal posts.
That’s because, there’s been plenty of them over the last five seasons.
Bucs staying with Ryan Fitzpatrick doesn’t appear to be Koetter decision only
The Buccaneers are staying with veteran backup now starter Ryan Fitzpatrick for this week’s game with the Giants. But, the bigger story Monday was surrounding the announcement that coach coach Dirk Koetter made, and it appeared it isn’t only his decision.
That’s because, anyone with any experience in watching body language and how questions are answered, could tell that Kotter was not exactly convincing that it was only his decision. Judge for yourself, if you like early in the press conference here:
— Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@Buccaneers) November 12, 2018
“We’re going to go with Fitz this week. Yeah. That’s how it’s going to stay,” Koetter said with his voice trailing off at the end.
He was then asked to follow up of how long it was going to stay that way? And, his answer was unconvincing with a simple, “Til we change.”
Finally, he was asked about why he was sticking with Fitzpatrick? And Koetter said, “I just think he gives us the best opportunity, (to win) right now.”
Fitzpatrick was 29 of 41 for 406 yards with no TDs in Sunday’s 16-3 loss to the Redskins, but continued with the Bucs recent trend of turnovers from the quarterback position with three more of them Sunday. And, they were all killers.
The first interception came as the Bucs had moved in the red zone on their opening drive of the game. The 35 year old veteran overthrew his intended receiver and was picked off by Josh Norman.
Later in the second quarter, the second turnover was another bad interception thrown, while locking onto a receiver over the middle and it led to a Redskins field goal and a 6 – 3 lead.
Fitzpatrick could not not be completely blamed for the final turnover, when he was blindside sacked by Patrick Smith and fumbled in the fourth quarter after the Bucs have driven inside the 10-yard line trailing 16 – 3.
Nonetheless, if the primary reason that Jameis Winston had gone back to the bench after three starts was his turnovers, which were abundant, the same argument can be made about Fitzpatrick.
He has five turnovers in the last two games and both are losses.
Still, this seems to be an overall strategy by the Glazer family that owns the team and it may even have the input of general manager Jason Licht, too. A strategy that the team has moved on from Winston for the future and will utilize Fitzpatrick in the short-term. And then, perhaps they turn to young back up Ryan Griffin for some playing experience at the end of the year, if the Bucs are officially eliminated from the playoffs soon.
Again, Koetter did not get into those kind of details at this news conference, but it’s rather obvious that if the belief was that Winston had a chance to help them and had a future in Tampa Bay, they have all the reason you need to go back to the former #1 overall pick, now and stick with him.
Yet another complication in the decisions being made is: the Bucs have picked up the fifth year option on Winston rookie deal. That option is only guaranteed for injury in the event that he cannot pass a physical next March. And with Tampa Bay now 3 – 6, the discussion may be centered around “no need to risk it” in that scenario with a team that is not going to end up making the playoffs, anyway.
It’s entirely possible to Fitzpatrick could be really bad next Sunday in New York and if he is, we will very quickly find out whether Koetter alone can make a decision during the game to put Winston in. However, if that scenario plays out and he doesn’t bench Fitzpatrick during next week’s game, then you definitely have the answer that it’s not just “best chance to win” with Winston.
And it isn’t only Dirk Koetter’s decision.
No, the bigger question that would asked would be: have we seen the end of Jameis Winston, as a starting quarterback in Tampa Bay or not?
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