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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Which Florida NFL team is likely to get back into contention?

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Sep 16, 2018; Tampa, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick (14) throws a touchdown pass in the first quarter in the game against the Philadelphia Eagles at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports
Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

There’s no question that October was unkind to all three State NFL teams. Consider that the Bucs, Dolphins and Jaguars only won one game each last month and all now have .500 or worse records, and all three are searching for who and how to help rebound in 2018.

The Jaguars have a bye week after being beaten for the fourth straight time, last Sunday in London. So, for the moment will give them a pass on trying to regroup for the future.

For the Dolphins, as we’ve documented, their tailspin has coincided with quarterback Ryan Tannehill shoulder injury and overall underachieving play from their defense and their 3 – o start is a distant memory. Now at 4 – 4 facing a difficult stretch of games, you have to be concerned that backup quarterback Brock Osweiler and a depleted receiving corps can lead them back into contention.

Further, former pro bowl veteran defensive end Robert Quinn, who the Dolphins were hot after when they traded for him in March, has not delivered. Only one sack on the season and in the last four games only one tackle for loss and one quarterback hit. Yes he’s had some injury, but that was a knock on him with the Rams, too

You couple this with underachieving and also now injured second-year defensive end and former number 1 pick Charles Harris, and the Dolphins have lacked any punch pass rushing off the end consistently.

They have veteran players like Frank Gore, Danny Amendola and Cam Wake that can help lead them back with some wins. But it’s probably 50-50 at best that happens at this stage.

Meanwhile, there is returning optimism for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and specifically their offense. As 14-year veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick takes back over the helm for the benched Jameis Winston.

Fitzpatrick was spectacular in the 4th quarter rally last week in Cincinnati throwing for nearly 200 yards in the final quarter with two touchdowns and got the game tied after the Bucs trailed 34 – 16. You couple what “Fitzmagic” brought the first two weeks with 400 or more yards and four more touchdowns in each of the Bucs wins over the Saints and the Eagles, and there is great optimism that things will turn around immediately in Charlotte this week.

Tampa Bay may have the deepest most talented receiving Corps in all of football. Names like Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson and O.J. Howard have been killing the opposition weekly. And that gives further optimism that Fitzpatrick will be able to succeed.

Clearly, the Bucs defense has not been good and defensive coordinator Mike Smith was sacrificed a couple of weeks ago because of it. It hurts big time that middle linebacker and leader Kwon Alexander is out for the rest of the year with a torn ACL. However, another one of the Bucs leaders, Gerald McCoy may be back this week from a calf injury that has cost him the last two games.

If the Buccaneers can upset the Panthers Sunday and even their record at 4 and 4, their next three games are Washington at home, at the awful Giants and even though they won Thursday night, the floundering 49ers, both at home. It is conceivable that the Bucs could be 3 – 1 or 4-0 in this November stretch, because of the schedule and Fitzpatrick getting them back on track.

However, just like in the cases of the Jaguars, who will play in Indianapolis next week and Dolphins who host the Jets this week, the Bucs have to get started winning and do it now.

Or, the season will be lost.

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Report- Bucs have extended GM Jason Licht’s contract

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Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

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:

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.

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs rookie PK Gay likely won job with clutch Friday night boot

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Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

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:

“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.

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