Lovie Smith has never been one to use injuries as an excuse, but even he couldn’t get around the issue that was the Bucs’ depleted linebacker corps on Thursday.
Already without its defensive leader in Kwon Alexander, who was suspended four games for violating the league’s substance abuse policy, Tampa Bay was also down a backup in Bruce Carter. This left Danny Lansanah to slide into the middle while Orie Lemon took over at strongside and former practice sqauders Josh Keyes and Jeremiah George each saw snaps.
Bucs head coach Lovie Smith – Photo by: Getty Images
“That’s a factor, of course it is, especially at the middle linebacker position – it’s like a quarterback,” Smith said. “(Thursday) night we were to our fourth guy. That’s hard. You’re going to expect bad plays from that. That’s just a small part of some of the things that have gone wrong with us. You have to adjust throughout but that has hurt us.”
Other than Lansanah’s dropped interception before half, there weren’t any glaring mistakes from the linebackers on Thursday. But one has to wonder if Alexander, with his elite speed and instincts, could’ve stopped a couple of those reverses for short gains and spared the Bucs’ defense from a devastating blow.
The negative effect of injuries didn’t end with the linebackers, either. With everyone moving up a spot on defense, new players had to also step in on special teams, an area where Tampa Bay allowed kick returns of 43 and 103 yards on the night.
“In this case, when you move up, yes, it’s going to [have an effect] and it should be that way” Smith said. “The special teams should hurt, just like the rest of your football team should. We haven’t given up big kickoff returns – it’s hard, nowadays, to have that type of success that [St. Louis] had. So, yes, you do see it a little bit on that, but again, for some of the players, they have a couple more opportunities to kind of play better in those roles. Hopefully that will be the case.”
And ultimately that’s what it comes down to – players’ performances. While their struggles against trick plays and on special teams can be attributed in small part to injuries and inexperience, the Bucs were their own biggest enemy Thursday. From nine penalties – a stat they now lead the league in with 134 – to a flat start, this team still has growing to do and Smith knows it.
The head coach is confident in a strong finish and quick maturation process.
“We acted like, in some parts, a young football team that makes young football team mistakes,” Smith said. “You have to go through it – get your hand burned, so to say. What I’ve seen from our young football team is that we do learn from these situations. We haven’t handled some situations well, but I’ve seen improvement.
“Of course this will be a learning experience for us. We have a couple of opportunities to make it right. When you have a game like that, you do want to get away. Players are able to get away a little bit. Then we’re going to get a chance to make it right against the Bears next time at home.”
Zach is entering his 3rd year covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as a writer for PewterReport.com. Since 2014, he's handled a large part of the beat reporting responsibilities at PR, attending all media gatherings and publishing and promoting content daily. Zach is a native of Sarasota, FL, and a graduate of the University of Tampa. He has also covered high school football for the Tampa Tribune and the NFL for Pro Player Insiders.
Contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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“Trick Plays?” Excuse me Coach, that was executed plays for a Defense that couldn’t react to it. I might call that more of a scheme problem. It’s up to Lovie if he wants to keep his job by beating Chicago. I hope he doesn’t play vanilla defense again in the first quarter.
i believe it was PR who called it a trick play not Lovie
grafikdetail, no it was from Lovie’s mouth at his last Press Conference. Go to Buccaneer.com and watch the press conference. I was pissed when he said it. For me, it was a confirmation that he is behind the times in the NFL.
Strange how people with an agenda see and hear what they want to.
I sure don’t consider a WR reverse as a “trick play”. It’s not like the Rams never used their weapon from WVU like that before. It’s not the fumblerooskie.
Drdneast, don’t get your love for Lovie. We have been out coached the last two winnable games. A guy I never heard of hit 70 percent of his passes, with two T.D.’s. The game was so over, they took the whole second half off. No one is making anything up about Lovie, don’t have to his record speaks for itself. If you are what you’re record says you are, Lovie is 8-23! Maybe he get’s a pass with you, but stop bashing the rest of us for wanting him gone.
I’m not in love with Lovie, surferdudes, but perhaps I recognize more than some of you how bad his team was when he got here.
I to have expressed a lot of anger towards Lovie at the beginning of the season, but as Winston improved, so did the team.
The defense is still in a shambles though and I’m osrry, I can’t pin that all of Lovie.
This team wasted countless high draft picks on defensive lineman and all we have to show for it is Gerald McCoy. For all the ones and twos we used on the DL, we should have the steel curtain playing for us, not the shower curtain which is what we have.
People said Lovie would never draft a franchose QB when he got here and then he went out and proved everyone stupid.
Everyone wanted him to draft Manzell or Bridgewater last year and neither have developed in their second year.
I actually spend good money on season tickets so I am invested in this team monetarily, can you say the same surferdude.
I have the patience to wait one more year and then I will see if I need to change course.
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