TAMPA – Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Dirk Koetter wrapped up training camp this past Thursday by making a rather bold statement, saying this is the deepest Bucs team he’s been a part of.
We could find out tonight just how deep it really is.
Based on what we saw in practice this past week, it’s likely the Bucs will sit out at least half a dozen starters tonight in an effort to keep them from turning minor injuries into major ones.
Linebacker Kwon Alexander, right tackle Demar Dotson, cornerback Brent Grimes, defensive tackle Gerald McCoy and wide receiver Mike Evans are among those who may not dress for tonight’s “dress rehearsal.’’
With that in mind, here’s a look at three areas of play that will be most interesting to track as the Bucs potentially test their depth against the Cleveland Browns at Raymond James Stadium.
Red Zone Play
The Buccaneers first team offense has done a great job this preseason of moving the ball between the 20s. What it’s done a miserably poor job of so far is turning those long drives into touchdowns. The Bucs first-team attack has produced just one touchdown in four opportunities inside the 20 thus far, that on a 2-yard run by Doug Martin. The Bucs have a vast array of red-zone weapons, led of course by tall pass catchers such as Mike Evans, Cameron Brate and O.J. Howard, but poor execution and poor decision making by quarterback Jameis Winston has prevented the team from taking full advantage of those weapons where they’re needed most. It would be one thing if this were only happening in preseason games but the issue has been a constant in practice as well, so this is an area the Bucs really have to clean up before the regular season starts.
The Running Backs
If this is indeed a dress rehearsal for the opening game of the season then this will likely be the game in which the Bucs show us their plan for replacing Doug Martin, who still must serve out the last three games of the four-game suspension he earned last year for violating the league’s PED policy. The general consensus is that Jacquizz Rodgers will be the early-down back and that the team will then turn to Charles Sims as its third-down pass-catching option. Rodgers, though, had a rather quiet training camp and he’s had an even more quiet preseason, running just seven times for 15 yards and catching two passes for seven more. There’s a chance Peyton Barber could step up and take some of those early-down reps from Rodgers, but Rodgers can secure his role with a good outing tonight. If he fails, the Bucs may have to go to Plan C.
The bold decision to dump Roberto Aguayo didn’t solve the Bucs kicking issue. It simply placed it squarely on the foot of Nick Folk, who has yet to prove he’s a vastly better option. Folk, who was virtually matching Aguayo miss for miss before Aguayo’s departure, is coming off the kind of game that ultimately cost Aguayo his job, one in which he had a PAT blocked because he kicked the ball too low and missed a 47-yard field goal attempt. Folk had a big day in practice last week, going 5-for-5 including making a 56-yard try at the end, but it’s in games where he has to perform. Anything short of a perfect night tonight could put the Bucs back on the lookout for an answer to this dilemma. The Bucs do have a challenger in camp in Zach Hocker and while he did make a 61-yarder in practice last week, his history suggests he’s too inconsistent to be the answer.
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.