Cleat Geeks

A Much Needed Change

Photo from tampabay.com

After another embarrassing performance on defense, allowing 416 total yards of offense in a 34-29 loss to the Atlanta Falcons, the Buccaneers have fired defensive coordinator Mike Smith. The team will replace Smith with linebackers coach Mark Duffner. This was a much needed change for a historically bad defense through the first six weeks of the season, Smith’s defense ranks last in points per game allowed (34.6), last in passing yards given up (355.6), and second to last in yards allowed per game (439.8). This is a production business and we have to play better on defense. We have to play better as a football team, but we have to play better on defense” advised Koetter during Monday’s press conference. This move needed to be made to give a change to the players on defense and also to possibly save Koetter’s job.

Duffner’s defense will be on display Sunday when Tampa hosts the 2018 first overall draft pick Baker Mayfield and the Cleveland Browns. Cleveland comes to Tampa after a 38-14 loss against the Los Angeles Chargers. Tampa looks to get back to .500 and snap a three game losing streak behind another strong performance by Jameis Winston. Jameis ended any quarterback controversy in the Atlanta loss by throwing for 395 yards and 4 touchdowns. Jameis will need reduce his turnover though as he threw 2 interceptions including a costly redzone interception in the loss Sunday.

The Tampa Bay running game did show some life as Peyton Barber rushed for 82 yards on 13 carries which was a season high and also caught 4 passes for 24 yards and a touchdown. The Cleveland Browns rush defense was just gashed by Chargers running back Melvin Gordon for 132 yards and three rushing touchdowns which could bode well for Tampa Sunday.  Tampa needs this win to re-energize the fan base. Let’s fire those cannons.

Meet The Bucs

Photo from bucswire.com

This week’s Meet the Bucs segment focuses on Tampa Bay guard Ali Marpet. Ali, who played his college ball at Hobart College, was drafted in the second round of the 2015 NFL Draft. If you aren’t familiar with Hobart College don’t be embarrassed.  Hobart College is a small liberal arts College which makes them a Division III school. Marpet was the highest-drafted player in the history of NCAA Division III football. Tampa believed in Ali enough to trade up for him in the second round of the draft to make sure they obtained him. Ali has been a reliable and versatile starter for Tampa Bay. Last year, Tampa moved Ali to play center due to lack of depth on the offensive line. Ali was moved back to his normal guard position this year where he has excelled at making sure the Bucs quarterbacks stay upright. Tampa recently rewarded Ali for his hard work with a brand new five-year, $55 million contract extension

 

Mychal Warno

Follow me on Twitter @dynastydadmike for all things Tampa Bay and fantasy football advice. Also please follow @cleatgeeks for all things football.

Will The Bucs Be Blown Away In A Windy City Match-up?

Photo from thejacketonline.com

The 2-1 Tampa Bay Buccaneers travel to take on their former NFC North rivals Chicago Bears. Tampa Bay has a quick turnaround after battling the Pittsburgh Steelers in a Monday night loss 30-27. The 2-1 Bears lead the all-time series between the teams 38-20. However, Tampa has won the last two contests between the teams in 2017 and 2016. Tampa’s offensive line will have their hands full after allowing 3 Pittsburgh sacks and constant pressure on Ryan Fitzpatrick. The Bears come in leading the league in sacks with 14 sacks lead by pass rushing specialists Khalil Mack and Leonard Floyd. Buccaneer Tackles Donovan Smith and Demar Dotson will be in for a long day if they are unable to stop Floyd and Mack.

Tampa will need to get the run game going. Tampa goes into Week 4 ranked 30th in the league in rushing. Tampa lead back Peyton Barber is averaging just 2.9 yards per carry. The other half of the offense continues to click as Tampa continues to lead the league in passing following another 400 yard performance by Ryan Fitzpatrick. Fitzpatrick now owns the record for most consecutive 400 yard passing games with three. Another record set Monday was most receiving touchdowns (35) in Tampa Bay history which was achieved by Mike Evans passing Jimmie Giles.

Tampa Bay will also be without starting safety Chris Conte as he joins Vernon Hargreaves on injured reserve following an injury to his knee. If that name sounds familiar, he was the victim of a “get out the club” stiff arm by Pittsburgh tight end Vance McDonald which was taken for a 75 yard touchdown. The starting job will be turned over to rookie Jordan Whitehead. Whitehead was described by defensive coordinator Mike Smith as a” heat-seeking missile” in terms of going after the ball. Whitehead’s counterpart at safety Justin Evans continues to impress after interception Monday on a route he jumped on Big Ben.

Photo from larrybrownsports.com

 

Jameis Winston is back from suspension and Dirk Koetter has yet to comment on who the starting quarterback will be Sunday against the Bears. Fitzpatrick was red-hot coming in Monday night’s game. Fitzpatrick struggled due to constant pressure applied to him which resulted in 3 turnovers in just the first half of the game. Fitzpatrick was pressured on over 40% of his throws. One of those turnovers was a costly interception in the red zone. Another was an interception which was returned for a Steeler touchdown. Fitzpatrick returned from halftime with a new fire which resulted in 17 unanswered points including touchdowns to Mike Evans and Chris Godwin.

I suspect Koetter will roll out Fitzpatrick Sunday and re-evaluate the position during Week 5 which will be Tampa Bay’s bye week. Tampa needs the win to maintain top position atop the NFC South. A 3-1 record going into the bye week will have energized a Tampa Bay fan base that hasn’t been there in many years. GO BUCS!

Meet the Bucs

Photo from bucsnation.com

If you want to watch the next player play in the Meet the Bucs segment, you’re going to have to wait till the 2019 season. Cornerback Vernon Hargreaves 2018 season ended abruptly after a shoulder injury against New Orleans in week 1. Hargreaves was taken with the 11th pick in the 2016 NFL Draft. The former Florida Gator was a two time first team All-American and also a three time first team All-SEC. After a rough 2017 season, Hargreaves started off 2018 season with seven tackles, one pass deflection and forced a fumble that was recovered and returned for a Tampa Bay touchdown.

Follow me on Twitter @dynastydadmike for all things Tampa Bay and fantasy football advice. Also please follow @cleatgeeks for all things football.

Monday Night Football Showdown

Photo from espnmediazone.com

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are 2-0 for the first time since 2010. After defeating the Superbowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles 27-21, the Bucs are sitting alone atop the NFC South division. On the first play of the game, Fitzpatrick connected to former Eagle Desean Jackson on a 75 yard touchdown pass. That would also become the longest play to begin a game in Buccaneer history. The Tampa passing offense would continue to stay on fire with touchdown passes to Chris Godwin, Mike Evans, and OJ Howard.

Let’s not forget about the defense as well. Kwon Alexander (last week’s player profile) strip sacked Nick Foles. Linebacker Lavonte David made a critical 4th down stop on Zach Ertz to force an Eagle turnover. The defensive line came up huge with sacks by Jason Pierre Paul and Gerald McCoy. The Tampa secondary also came up big. With injuries to Brent Grimes and Vernon Hargreaves, third year player Ryan Smith and rookie Carlton Davis got the start. Coach Koetter praised Smith saying “I thought that was Ryan Smith’s, easily his best game of his career,” Koetter said. “I thought he was aggressive all day. Not only that, but he made two really big plays on punt cover. And I’m just so, man, I’m so proud of him. Very proud of him. Because that kid’s taken some abuse. You know, for him to hang in there and keep battling.”

Up next, a Monday Night Football home match-up against the Pittsburgh Steelers (0-1-1). Pittsburgh leads the all-time series against Tampa bay 8-2. However, in the last meeting (2014) between the two teams, Tampa Bay defeated Pittsburgh 27-24. Tampa Bay should be welcoming back Pro Bowl cornerback Brent Grimes and it couldn’t come at a better time. Grimes first assignment will be to slow down the NFL’s best wide receiver in Antonio Brown. The Tampa secondary will also have their hands full with second year wide receiver Juju Smith-Schuster. The man throwing to these receivers will be 6 time pro bowler Ben Roethlisberger who has posted 5 touchdowns to 1 interception against the Bucs. However, a fact that cannot be ignored is Big Ben’s record on the road. Over the past 3 years, Ben is 17-6 while throwing 65 touchdowns compared to 20 interceptions at home. On the road, he is 15-10-1 while throwing 25 touchdowns to 27 interceptions. The Steelers will also be missing stud running back Le’veon Bell who continues his holdout over his contract.

Tampa Bay has a chance to make a statement Monday in front of a national television audience that they are a team on the rise. One thing is for certain, Raymond James Stadium will be rocking Monday night. GO BUCS!!!

Meet the Bucs

Photo from deadspin.com

Would it be anyone else? Ryan Fitzpatrick was drafted in the 7th round of the 2005 NFL Draft by the St. Louis Rams. Drafted out of Harvard University, the journeyman quarterback would go on to play for 5 more teams before signing as a backup in 2017. His Harvard intelligence was on full display when Fitzpatrick scored a 48 out of a possible 50 points on the Wonderlic test. That record is the highest ever score for a quarterback. Fitzpatrick would take over starting duties for an injured Jameis Winston and would finish the Tampa Bay season with a 2-1 record. Fitzpatrick has started his 2018 season for a suspended Winston with a bang becoming NFC Offensive Player of the Week in week 1 and week 2. He also became the first QB to pass for 400 yards and throw 4 touchdowns in first two games of the season. If “Fitzmagic” continues on Monday night and Tampa Bay is 3-0, head coach Dirk Koetter is going to have a tough decision on his hands with Winston available to return from his suspension.

Follow me on Twitter @dynastydadmike for all things Tampa Bay and fantasy football advice. Also please follow @cleatgeeks for all things football.

Saints Vs Divisional Foe Buccaneers

It was a long offseason for all the teams in the NFL since February. It was an especially long offseason for the New Orleans Saints since their NFC Divisional Round 29-24 loss to the Minnesota Vikings in the Miracle of Minneapolis. One thing was determined last season was that they are back in the Super Bowl contenders after accounting for a 7-9 record in the 2016-2017 to accounting for 11-5 last season. The offense was always explosive with Head Coach Sean Payton and Quarterback Drew Brees leading the helm but the emergence of the defense was the turning point for the Saints. These past two NFL Drafts have been crucial for the Saints organization with the addition of many young and talented players.

With Super Bowl LIII in their sights, the New Orleans Saints have all the right characteristics and positions to be one of the few elite teams in the NFL. This task does not come easy though as they must face through a long season full of difficult opponents and potential roadblocks. The Saints kick their season off at home with an early NFC South divisional matchup against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. While the Bucs are a team that has many flaws, they are certainly a tough opponent to face and stay efficient. In the last week of the regular season, the Saints had lockdown the NFC South division and a playoff spot but they lost to the Buccaneers 31-24. Every week is crucial for all teams as they look to start the 2018-2019 NFL season off the right way.

 

With Bucs QB Jameis Winston suspended, who do the Saints defense need to watch out for?

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have many athletes on the offensive side of the ball that can make a difference. The Bucs are going to be without their franchise Quarterback Jameis Winston, who is currently serving a 3-game suspension from the NFL on his incident with a female Uber driver. This puts 36-year old Ryan Fitzpatrick as the Bucs starting Quarterback for the first game against the Saints. This is Fitzpatrick’s second year with the Bucs but has not played a full game since his last season with the New York Jets in the 2016-2017 NFL season. One of the Bucs’ 2nd round picks in the 2018 NFL Draft in RB Ronald Jones (USC) is listed as the 3rd string back as he is not ready to start or take the majority of the carries. Short-yardage specialist Peyton Barber is listed as the starting Running Back for the Bucs. DeSean Jackson is not listed as the main Wide Receiver as Mike Evans and Chris Godwin is taking a lot of the reps in practice and in the preseason. Last season in his rookie season, Godwin accounted for 34 receptions for 525 yards and a touchdown.

Last season, Tamp Bay was ranked 9th in the NFL in total yards per game (363.5) but were also ranked 18th in points per game (20.9) due to inefficient ability to spread out the ball in the red zone. The Buccaneers’ 4th ranked passing game (272.9 yards per game) will take a hit due to Winston’s suspension. This will leave the Bucs to spread out more with Fitzpatrick to spread the ball against the Saints’ defense. 2017-2018 NFL Defensive Rookie of the year in Saints star Cornerback Marshon Lattimore, now in his second season in the league, will have another highly-anticipated encounter with WR Mike Evans. Fitzpatrick is not a Quarterback who challenges the defense as often as Jameis Winston does. This will leave the Saints other Defensive Backs in Safety Marcus Williams and CB Ken Crawley to take the pressure on Bus WR in DeSean Jackson and Chris Godwin. The Saints Linebackers in Manti Te’o and A.J. Klein have a huge task of them to cover multiple zones for receiver screens or screen to versatile Running Back Jacquizz Rodgers.

 

RB Alvin Kamara, WR Michel Thomas, and rookie WR Tre’Quan Smith to have huge performances

Even though Quarterback Drew Brees is the heart and soul of the Saints’ 4th scoring offense (28 points per game) and 2nd total offense (391.2 total yards per game), the Saints offense have a wide variety of explosive, young talent. 2017-2018 NFL Offensive Rookie of the year RB Alvin Kamara was one of the biggest surprises last season as the most versatile and explosive playmakers in the NFL. Last season, Kamara accounted for 1,554 total yards (728 rushing, 826 receiving) and 13 touchdowns (8 rushing, 5 receiving) all as a backup. Kamara will have a chance to start the game as Mark Ingram will be suspended due to PED violations. He and the Saints talented Offensive Line, led by Tackles Andrus Peat and Ryan Ramczyk, will be facing a Tampa Bay defense that was ranked 23rd in the nation in rushing yards allowed per game (117.5 yards). The Buccaneers did try to make their Defensive Line more efficient beyond one of the best Defensive Tackles in the league in Gerald McCoy with the addition of former Philadelphia Eagles DE Vinny Curry and rookie big-man DT Vita Vea. The Bucs, however, are going to be without Vea as he will be out with an injury.

New Orleans has been known to get on the board quickly through their efficient and tenacious passing game. Wide Receiver Michael Thomas has accounted for at least 1,000 receiving yards in each of his two seasons in the league. The Saints added WR Tre’Quan Smith in the 3rd round (91st pick) in the 2018 NFL Draft to give QB Drew Brees another fast, deep-threat Receiver as well as relieve pressure from Thomas. So far in the preseason, Smith has been a mirror image of Michael Thomas in terms of speed, reliability as a Receiver for Brees, great hands, and durability to last throughout the entire game. This is a huge boost for the Saints offense, especially this week when they face off against the Tampa Bay defense that has yet to fix their problems in the Defensive Backs. Last season, the Buccaneers were ranked 32nd (dead last) in the league in total yards allowed per game (378.1) and passing yards allowed per game (260.6). This Saints offense, specifically in the passing game, can generate a high-amount of yardage, output, and points from this Buccaneers defense that will continue to have problems stopping high-power offenses. Kamara, Thomas, and Smith can all can create a lot of input for the Saints offense but don’t be surprised if you see Ted Ginn Jr. or new Saints Receiver Cameron Meredith tearing this defense apart.

Can Fitzpatrick Keep The Bucs Ship Afloat?

 

Photo from Bucsnation.com

The 2018 Tampa Bay Buccaneers kick off the season by traveling to New Orleans to take on the 2017 NFC South champions. Tampa Bay will be without their starting quarterback Jameis Winston who will begin serving his three game suspension for off-season issues. Enter Ryan Fitzpatrick, who was 2-1 in games which he started in 2017. Fitzpatrick is joined by a backfield containing third year player Peyton Barber and rookie Ronald Jones. Jones has struggled during the preseason which could impact his playing time. Barber appears to have the starting job going into Week 1.
Tampa is 2-2 vs New Orleans under the supervision of current coach Dirk Koetter including a week 17 win vs New Orleans in a meaningful game for the Saints. If Tampa plans to be successful against New Orleans, they must bring pressure at Drew Brees. In 2017, Tampa was dead last in the league in sacks with 22. This off-season, quarterback pressure was a priority. With their first round selection, Tampa took 6’4 347lb DT Vita Vea. They also signed DE Vinny Curry and Beau Allen as free agents from the Superbowl champion Philadelphia Eagles. Tampa also traded for former New York Giants DE Jason Pierre Paul to pair with their All-Pro Gerald Mccoy.
Tampa Bay is going to need that pressure to help their secondary. Tampa still has ageless Brent Grimes at one corner position. The other is up for grabs with Ryan Smith, Vernon Hargreaves, along with second round rookies Carlton Davis and MJ Stewart all competing. At this point, I believe Hargreaves appears to be utilized best as a slot corner.

Tampa is going to need a strong year, I to save head coach Dirk Koetters’s job. Coming off a disappointing 5-11 season, the third year head coach has a record of 14-18 with no playoff appearances for Tampa Bay. Tampa also only extended the contract of General Manager Jason Licht one year.
Do I think Tampa Bay goes into New Orleans and scores a win? No, but I don’t think it’s out of the realm of possibility. One thing I know for sure, is that I am glad football is back.

Meet the Bucs

Photo from TampaBay.com

In the third round of the 2018 NFL Draft, Tampa Bay selected OG Alex Cappa. Cappa comes from a Divison II school in Humboldt State. NFL Draft expert Mike Mayock was quoted saying “he had some of the nastiest tape of any D2 offensive lineman he has ever seen. Cappa is currently backup but looks to have some of the same success as another smaller college lineman from the Bucs in Ali Marpet. Cappa is currently behind Caleb Benenoch on the depth chart so a chance for action could depend on a strong showing in preseason.  Cappa has the size and athleticism to compete but only time will tell if he can compete against elite NFL talent.

 

Follow Mychal on Twitter @dynastydadmike for all things Tampa Bay and follow Cleatgeeks for all things football!

2018 NFL Drafting Needs; NFC South

Nothing beats a bit of draft speculation straight after one of the best Superbowls of all time, right? I’ll be going through the draft needs of every NFL franchise, and this is the penultimate one; the NFC South.

New Orleans Saints – TE, LB, QB

New Orleans were one of my favourite teams to watch in 2017; Kamara, Thomas, Brees, Ingram on offence and Lattimore, Williams, Rankins and Jordan on defence. Wonderful. Other than the Kenny Vaccaro contract situation (looks like he’s on his way out despite a VERY slow safety market in free agency), the Saints don’t have many pressing concerns so onto the draft!

Potential picks:

27 – Mike Gesicki, TE, Penn State

One thing the Saints are lacking is a natural pass-catching tight end. Coby Fleener has been okay, but not spectacular and I think Josh Hill could overtake him on the depth chart soon. Not only is Mike Gesicki an athletic freak, he can also play. He can create separation, works hard on his route running, fakes well. He’s an excellent pass-catcher. Doesn’t drop the ball. He’ll never be a guy you want to rely on as part of the running game, but that wouldn’t be why you drafted him. He’ll need to work on the physical side of the game a little as his strength isn’t his top attribute but he’ll beat linebackers and safeties to the ball given the chance. I can definitely see a scenario where Josh Hill and Mike Gesicki line up together regularly in two tight end sets.

2017 stats – 13 games; 57 receptions for 563 yards and 9 TDs

91 – Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, LB/DE, Oklahoma

We’ve seen flashes of NFL strength in college from Okoronkwo. If the Saints choose to draft him, they will have themselves a guy not afraid to take on a challenge and somebody who will improve and work hard every single day. A good tackler, and not afraid to get after the quarterback, there is plenty of work to do in order to have him as a starter but has the upside to be drafted as a project. His technique and consistency need work, and will need to have a lot of practice time in coverage.

2017 stats – 14 games; 76 combined tackles (17.5 for loss); 2 passes deflected; 3 forced fumble; 8 sacks

127 – Nic Shimonek, QB, Texas Tech

I’ve seen plenty of articles this offseason linking Shimonek with the New York Giants, but I’m including him here with the Saints. Unlike current starter Drew Brees, he stands tall in the pocket and can throw the football from various positions. He’s patient and will get through his reads if he feels it necessary. Has ability to make big plays whilst scrambling and impressively, after being benched for some poor performances at the end of last season, he came back under centre to lead a game-winning performance in the last game of the season. He has had difficulty performing, particularly late on in games. Ball placement needs improvement, although the mechanics are there so hopefully NFL-level coaching will help this. He has typical NFL size and arm talent and a couple of years under the tutelage of Drew Brees could make him worthy of a roster spot in New Orleans.

2017 stats – 13 games; 3963 passing yards; 33 TDs; 10 interceptions; 152.1 rating;

66 rushing yards; 1 TD

Carolina Panthers – DE, CB, WR

It’s hard to predict what the Panthers will do in the draft although I’m sure things will be much clearer once free agency is over. As I write, they lack depth at wide receiver, have no power back, and just resigned 791 year-old Julius Peppers to a new deal. So for what it’s worth, here is my take.

Potential picks:

24 – Sam Hubbard, DE, Ohio State

Sam Hubbard will be a solid player. Nothing leaps out at you necessarily but some coaches like that. He’s consistent, intelligent and has great awareness of what’s going on around him, both from his teammates and the opposition. Stamina is great and this sees him making plays others might give up on. Tackles regularly and is a great blitzer, causing no end of grief of opposing quarterbacks. Speed is average and he’ll need coaching to convert the speed he does have into optimal levels of power. I think he’ll be a solid starter in the NFL.

2017 stats – 14 games; 42 combined tackles (13.5 for loss); 7 sacks; 2 forced fumble

55 – JC Jackson, CB, Maryland

Good in press coverage, as well as solid ability to read the quarterback, JC Jackson could become a very good player in cover-2 and cover-3. If he gets beaten underneath he has the ability to get back on track. He’ll tackle with good force. Physicality is his key strength and NFL coaching will help him make the most of that. His ball skills will need work, but Jackson will be known in the NFL as a guy who is very good at what he does well rather than a versatile playmaker. He needs to avoid the penalties against him, and find other ways of making up for his general lack of speed.

2017 stats – 12 games; 40 combined tackles (0.5 for loss); 7 passes deflected; 3 interceptions

85 – Deon Cain, WR, Clemson

Deon Cain has good size and movement for a wide receiver and will take to the NFL pretty comfortably. He doesn’t lose pace when running routes and has quick burst for deep plays. His size allows him to win the physical battles against defenders. Good feet allow for receptions to be ruled inbound near the boundary. After the catch, Cain is aggressive, stiff-arming defenders away if he needs to before gaining extra yardage. I don’t ever see him as an out-and-out WR1, but he will be a very good WR2 alongside Devin Funchess. NFL coaching will hopefully expand his route tree.

2017 stats – 14 games; 58 receptions for 734 yards and 6 TDs;

Atlanta Falcons – G, DT, WR

Despite having much the same roster in 2017 as the one which made it to the Superbowl the year before under Kyle Shanahan, Steve Sarkisian was not able to produce even close to the performance levels of his predecessor – and the pressure will be on him early in 2018. Key additions will be required on both sides of the ball if the Falcon are to make it through this competitive division. Guard, defensive tackle, as well as a receiver to replace Taylor Gabriel are my picks.

Potential picks:

26 – Will Hernandez, G, Texas El-Paso

He’s a big, strong guy with excellent natural movement. He’s agile, can unlock his hips and really force himself into opponents. His balance on contact and control over his body are elite. He plays every snap as if the game depends on it. Will Hernandez lives and breathes the game and will stop at nothing to ensure he is amongst the very best at his position in the NFL. One key thing which could put a lot of scouts off are his short arms and small hands. If coaches can get around that, they will have a player with a very high ceiling on their hands.

58 – Nathan Shepherd, DT, Fort Hays States

Potential is the key word here. I think a team would have to be patient in developing Nathan Shepherd but the talent is certainly there. Since high school he has added nearly 100 lbs to his frame and is always working on his strength. He’s a good athlete and although very raw he will excite many coaches. Most blocking schemes are too much for him currently but with experience and some work on his technique this could change.

2017 stats – 11 games; 38 combined tackles (12.5 for loss); 4 sacks

90 – Trey Quinn, WR, SMU

Slot receiver, allowing Sanu to use a wider variety of routes and opening up more space outside for Julio Jones. Consistent speed; executes routes well and with good intelligence. In 2017 he saw a large uptick in targets (35%) and rarely drops the ball. Will perform particularly well against zone coverage. It may be that he’s a one season wonder but he coped very well with the increased production so several scouts and evaluators will like what they saw. After the catch, Quinn leaves a lot to be desired but if you’re looking for a reliable slot receiver, this could well be your guy.

2017 stats – 13 games; 114 receptions for 1236 yards and 13 TDs;

5 punt returns for 13 yards;

5 kickoff returns for 113 yards

 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers – S, RB, CB

Tampa Bay were woeful in 2017; and their moves in the offseason so far have left a lot to be desired. After drafting OJ Howard last year, a highly touted prospect, Cameron Brate was tied up to a large contract, leaving fans somewhat bemused. I happen to know that Brate is very good, and I also happen to know that the Buccaneers actually had success on two TE sets. So maybe they haven’t gone totally crazy. After Doug Martin was sent away to Oakland, they will need to find a replacement. The secondary could use new faces as well.

Potential picks:

7 – Derwin James, S, Florida State

Leader. Derwin James is the guy who will come in early and stay late to assess footage from his own games, as well as opponent’s games. Ticks every physical box for a leading NFL safety. He’s a versatile playmaker who focuses on the ball first, and the player second. Blitzes well on top of his ability against slot receivers and his tackling ability in open play. His only blemishes are his small number of games (26 in college) and the fact that he has a previous ACL injury. Other than that, a very exciting prospect.

2017 stats – 12 games; 84 combined tackles (5.5 for loss); 1 sack; 11 passes deflected; 2 interceptions (1 returned for a TD); 1 blocked kick

38 – Kerryon Johnson, RB, Auburn

I’d say there are Tevin Coleman similarities when I look at Kerryon Johnson. He has fast feet, good initial burst which allows him to break the line and a multitude of speeds. Can take on a heavy workload and play an every down role. Plays well both on the inside and on the outside. He isn’t the biggest back so durability may be a concern. It also remains to be seen how he will cope against stacked boxes in the NFL as he tends to like a cleat point of entry.

2017 stats – 12 games; 1391 yards rushing on 285 attempts (4.88 YPC); 18 TDs

194 yards and 2 TDs on 24 receptions;

1 pass for 3 yards and a TD

69 – Duke Dawson, CB, Florida

Very intelligent and able to mirror a receiver, Duke Dawson plays superbly against slant routes but is capable against receivers running a variety of routes. Over the last two seasons, he has allowed less than a 40% completion rate. Despite being used, as you would expect, against the pass, Dawson can chip in against the run too, making a nuisance of himself and preventing quick getaways by runners. He isn’t the greatest athlete amongst the 2018 prospects but could become a very good nickel cornerback in the NFL.

2017 stats – 11 games; 34 combined tackles (2 for loss); 9 passes deflected; 4 interceptions (1 returned for a TD)

 

 

 

 

*2017 stats from www.cfbstats.com

Dawg Pound Scoop: Progress

In preseason Game #3 of the year for the Browns, the team took a trip down to Tampa to take on the Buccaneers. The Bucs, a 9-7 team last season, look to be on the rise this year and hope to crack the playoffs for the first time since 2007.

The scoring got started for the Browns when they went up 3-0 on a Cody Parkey field goal in the first quarter, which capped off a demanding and impressive drive by newly named starter for Week 1 in QB DeShone Kizer. Kizer showed great poise throughout this game, and although he didn’t provide as much of a spark as he did in previous games, he still proved he is worthy of the #1 QB job come week 1.

Image result for cody parkey browns

Tampa knotted up the score at 3 in the second quarter off of a Nick Folk 31 yard field goal.  Folk recently took over the kicking duties for the Bucs after former second rounder Roberto Aguayo struggled and was released last week.

Folk cashed in again in the third quarter, after a defensive explosion in the first half, on a 42 yarder that put the Bucs up 6-3. The placekicker added another 3 points to his total at the beginning of the 4th quarter when he chipped in a 43 yarder to make it 9-3.

Image result for kevin hogan browns

The Browns weren’t finished, though, as QB Kevin Hogan led two explosive drives in the 4th quarter that closed out the game. The first one led to another Cody Parkey field goal, this one from 47, that made the score 9-6. And after a fantastic defensive stop, Hogan led the Browns all the way down to the end zone and punched in the winning score on a 5 yard TD pass to WR Jordan Leslie.

The Browns were able to close out yet another game, this one with a final of 13-9, and move to 3-0 on the preseason. With the quarterback situation now solved, the Browns can get to work with one preseason game remaining before a tough regular season schedule gets put into play.

The Red Flag: Season Finale

The loss to the Saints was as devastating as it was infuriating, while it effectively knocked the Bucs out of the playoffs, it also was given to the Saints on several bad calls by the referees. Going into halftime on Saturday, 13-6 isn’t a horrible deficit. But, for the second time in a row against the Saints, a bad opening kickoff hurt the Bucs badly and this time they weren’t able to recover. The defense missed Gholston severely as Mark Ingram ran up and down the field with ease. The referees did fail to call several penalties against the Saints and also failed to rule the clear forced fumble by Kwon, a fumble. But regardless, the Bucs didn’t play good enough to win and the ball didn’t bounce their way. All things considered, the Bucs still have a chance, the slimmest chance imaginable, but a chance to make the playoffs. That being said, let’s assume the season is over and check out a few things that would be good to see in the season finale.

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The Defense Succeeding

In the past 2 weeks the defense, in my opinion, hasn’t played terribly. The game against Dallas they were on the field a ton and held Dallas to 26 points even though the offense turned the ball over 4 times. Two field goals were also missed due to the defense forcing long distance attempts. Against the Saints, they didn’t play as well as they had, the loss of Will Gholston was evident as the defense struggled against the run. Most of the time struggling against the run will lead to struggling as a unit against both run and pass, that’s what you saw on Saturday. With both of these games in mind, seeing a strong defensive performance to close out the year gives us hope that the defense will be back next year. A strong showing against a division opponent in an essentially meaningless game is encouraging. With a few pieces here and there this unit could be a top 5 defense in the NFL.

 Photo by Matt May/Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Photo by Matt May/Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Jameis

In the final game of the season it would be nice to see the young quarterback have a good performance. He has had several “ok” performances this year, but a great performance on Sunday heading into an off-season again gives us hope for next year. I do believe Jameis is a franchise QB, but his accuracy and decision making have been questionable at times. This game shouldn’t have very much pressure to perform, so I expect to see a strong showing from the Bucs future. Closing out the year with a 2 touchdown 250+ yard performance with no Picks, bodes well for the future. At times this year, it has looked like Jameis has tried to put the team on his back and attempted to make too many plays, hopefully next year he has more weapons and an Oline to help him out.

 

In the last game of the season you don’t want to see a bunch of injuries, but seeing the players play for their lives would be ideal. This team is young and has shown the drive and will to compete all year. Putting their best foot forward against a division rival at home, would be a great way to close out what has been a season of growth. Next week I’ll do a general review of the season, but 9-7 seems a whole lot better than 8-8

The Red Flag: Saints x2

A loss is always disappointing but for me, I thought the loss on Sunday was slightly (like very slightly) encouraging. The Buccaneers traveled to Dallas and lost to what many are saying (I disagree) is the best team in the NFL. Regardless, if they aren’t the best team in the NFL, they are one of the better teams in the league and now have the number one seed in the NFC locked up. The loss was tough to swallow but we did see a resilient Tampa team that came back down 17-3 to make it a game. That’s something we wouldn’t have seen from any Bucs teams in years past, previous Bucs team would have laid down and called it a day. Couple that with the fact we turned the ball over four times and still only loss by six, that’s a good sign from a young team. As Mr. Bill Belichek would say, onto the Saints. Here are some Keys to a victory against the Saints for the second time this year.

1: Pressure Drew Bees

Brees is a first ballot hall of famer and one of the best to ever play the game. His accuracy is unmatched and his competitive drive is underrated, that being said, he doesn’t perform as well as we are used to when he’s under pressure. With Gholston out, it probably means we will see more Noah Spence in those in between distances. Hopefully Spence and Ayers can get some pressure on Brees early and often to force him into some bad decisions.

2: Stop Cam Jordan

The Bucs coaching staff describes Cam Jordan as a “Game Wrecker.” In his last game against the Bucs the defensive end had five combined tackles and a half sack, but his presence on the field means much more. He routinely blows up plays and has to be constantly accounted for, and most of the time, doubled. Now that we know we are going to be missing Cherilus (don’t really miss you, #SorryNotSorry) and Dotson (please come back), it could be worse than the first time we played the Saints.

Mike Evans

Please, for the love of the Lord almighty, throw this man the ball. Mike needs to get involved this week. The passing defense of the Saints is weak to say the least. Mike has now been MIA for 3 straight weeks. The Bucs offense will look to get their playmaker the ball often. The Saints will also be missing Delvin Breaux again, not that it matters much seeing as they didn’t have him last game either.

 

Photo by: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Photo by: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

All that being said, I really don’t know what to expect from this game. It could be a scorefest and it could also be a slugfest. Regardless of the style of the game a loss in this game essentially closes out our hopes for the playoffs. The Packers are streaking at the right time and the Falcons have it easy from here on out. Hopefully we can squeeze out a win in the dome. Win ugly or pretty, or whatever you want, just win baby.

The Red Flag: Going for 6

That win on Sunday was as exciting as any win we have had all year. Keith Tandy stepped up in a big way to provide the game sealing interception, again. The fact that the Bucs held Drew Brees without a touchdown, and forced 3 interceptions in of itself, is quite the feat. This week instead of talking about the Saints game, I want to discuss the Keys to a victory in Dallas.

Will Gholston and Robert Ayerswilgholston

I expect to see a heavy dose of these two on first and second down. Gholston is big enough to seal the edge and is clearly our best run defender besides Mccoy. Ayers is best combination of pass rush and run defense we have one the line. The 2 of them, will be key in holding the best running back in the league (statistically). The Defensive ends will be tasked with forcing Elliot into the waiting arms of Mcdonald and Mccoy. That offensive line is no slouch, so it will be a tall order.

Dallas Cowboys Defense

I’ve said it before and ill say it again, I don’t believe this Dallas defense is as good as the stats say. When a team has a rushing offense to control T.O.P, the defense will statistically look great on paper. This defense ranks 16th in total yards per game and 28th in passing yards per game. They are ranked 2nd in the league against the run, but this statistic is also a farce seeing how most of the time, this team plays with the lead. The team has only 5 interceptions and 26 sacks, with a plus 2 turnover margin on the season. The turnover margin is plus 2 but Dak has only thrown 4 interceptions, that in of itself, is a red flag.

Mike Evans

Due to the Cowboys weak passing defense, the Bucs should look get Mike Evans involved early and often. Mike has been a ghost the last 2 games, not his fault, teams are game planning to stop him. We cant shy away from using our best threat on offense though. The offense has struggled of late, mainly I think, because they haven’t put the ball in the hands of the playmaker enough. The gameplan should be to

Photo by: Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports

Photo by: Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports

get Mike going early.

Linebacking Core

Lavonte, Kwon and Daryl Smith, will look to slow down Dak’s favorite target, Jason Witten. Their speed from sideline to sideline is key. Although Beasley and Dez get a lot of attention, Witten has only 4 targets less than Beasley (the target leader) and 1 less than Dez. Dak, like many young quarterbacks, love to target Witten as his safety blanket. Cole makes the big plays, Witten gets the first downs. Kwon has been the best of the 3 in coverage this year and the Bucs will need all of that to hold Dallas.

 

All in all, Sunday night in primetime, is one of the Bucs most exciting games in 10 years. I really do think the Bucs have what it takes to beat Dallas, but it remains to be seen if they can show up in primetime. One thing is for sure, the young Bucs are hungry and full of confidence.

 

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