By: Joshua P. Mulvehill
Today’s game against the New Orleans Saints is an important game in the effort to regain that confidence that Freeman expelled in the early weeks. However, every line has our Bucs as a 1-2 point underdog. Now, I understand New Orleans is a great team and Schiano is in his first year a captain of the ship. So far, though, it has been rough seas. Here’s my report…
OFFENSE: Only 313 yards/game average, only 212 yards/game passing, and the last 101 yards/game rushing. Freeman is only completing 55% of his passes while Martin and Blount are getting 85 yards/game combined. This is lackluster compared to New Orleans 402 yards/game with Drew Brees averaging 326 yards of that. It has not been stellar, to say the least. Just check the stats at ESPN.com; Tampa is 25th in passing and 17th in rushing. Schiano and Mike Sullivan must encourage Josh Freeman to make smart throws, wait for routes to develop, and put some points on the board. He has two amazing wide receivers in Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams, with 7 touchdowns combined. Doug Martin and LeGarette Blount need to be able to pick up yards as well but in order to do this the blocking must be tight and productive; the possibility of having an outstanding offensive game is there. Overall though, I give Tampa Bay a C+ (the + is for effort).
DEFENSE: First and foremost, Drew Bees can dominate the field with quick, accurate passes, but also finding his receivers with the deep ball. We are 31st in passing yards allowed this season because we cannot pressure the quarterback enough. Rande Barber and his secondary must cover their receivers and dominate their zones. Ronde is the leader, but his two interceptions this season are not enough when the secondary doesn’t show up for the games. The saving grace her is the superior run-stopping defense led by Gerald McCoy and Michael Bennet who have 3 and 4 sacks, respectively. If these two can pressure Brees to make the errand throws on Sunday, then E.J. Biggers and Eric Wright can make a couple plays to get the ball back. The Bucs have 2 defensive touchdowns off of interceptions this season thanks to Barber and Wright. Continue to stop defenses at the line as well as the long ball and the Bucs can reroute themselves as contenders for a Wild Card bid. Overall, I give the Buccaneers defense a B. Good, but not great.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Beautiful! Connor Barth has made 10-11 field goals, 3-4 from 50 or more yards. Michael Koenen is averaging 44 yards a punt after 27 attempts with only 1 blocked punt this year. He has a boot that can get the ball downfield and 12 times this year has pinned the opponent in their own 20. To me, this is simple. I give the Buccaneers Special Teams unit an A-, the minus attributed to the blocked punt.
COACHING STAFF: I don’t want to be too harsh on Greg Schiano because this is his first year with the team. He has a great attitude and a very young group of guys, yet, it is visible that Schiano is a rookie coach with the lackluster play that was evident from week 2 to week 4. Bill Sheridan is doing a great job with shutting down the run but needs to focus some attention on sparking the secondary to provide ample coverage. To me, the problem here is Sullivan and his offensive unit. Freeman is agile and a great passer but there does not seem to be any unity when it comes to understanding what needs to be done on field. I believe the opportunity to control the flow of the game is in Sullivan’s hands if the offensive line can block for Martin and Blount and allow for the play-action to free up his receivers. There is much room for improvement here so I give them a C-.
Here’s what this comes down to. The Buccaneers are a great team (figures, the Bucs fan would say that) but their play so far has reflected the inexperience of Schiano. In this league, errand play calling will be taken advantage of. If the Bucs are unable to gain yards offensively…this is going to be a long season out at sea.