Bucs WR Mike Evans - Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
SR’s Fab 5 is a collection of inside scoop, analysis and insight from yours truly, PewterReport.com publisher and Bucs beat writer Scott Reynolds. Here are a few things that caught my attention this week at One Buc Place and around the NFL:
FAB 1. EVANS IS PLAYING BIG FOR THE BUCCANEERS
While the success of the Buccaneers offense may first go through the legs of running back Doug Martin and the arm of rookie quarterback Jameis Winston, it has been squarely on the back of second-year wide receiver Mike Evans for the past three and a half games.
When veteran wide receiver Vincent Jackson went down with a knee injury just after halftime of the team’s 31-30 loss at Washington, Evans became the focal point of a Tampa Bay’s passing game that had been without tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins since halftime of a 26-19 win in New Orleans in Week 2.
After a rookie season that saw him catch 68 passes for 1,051 yards and a franchise-record 12 touchdowns after becoming Tampa Bay’s first-round pick last year, Evans had already become a marked man entering his sophomore campaign. Without Seferian-Jenkins, who has been battling a shoulder injury, and Jackson, the target on Evans’ back has gotten significantly bigger, especially with the lack of proven talent around him.
Tight ends Brandon Myers, Luke Stocker and Cameron Brate don’t possess the physical gifts and athleticism that Seferian-Jenkins has, although they have filled in admirably. Rookie wide receivers Donteea Dye and Adam Humphries lack the experience and size that Jackson has, but have tried hard and have made strides.
Bucs WR Mike Evans – Photo by: Getty Images
But the reality is that Winston has been throwing to Mike and the Miracles since the Washington game, and outside of a woeful second half against the New York Giants in which he dropped six rain-soaked balls, Evans has produced.
“He definitely has that target on his back and I think that’s why you’ve seen so many passes go his way,” Bucs cornerback Alterraun Verner said. “There is a lot on his plate and I think he’s handled it well. He’s been making plays to help us stay in games. There’s definitely a lot of pressure on Mike, but it’s something he can handle.”
Evans was held to three catches for 48 yards in a 23-20 overtime victory at Atlanta, but was targeted nine times.
In a 32-18 loss to the New York Giants, Evans had eight catches for 150 yards with six dropped passes and was targeted a career-high 19 times. Imagine how many yards he could have piled up had he caught the wet footballs he dropped in the second half.
In last week’s 10-6 victory against Dallas, Evans overcame a dropped pass or two to catch eight passes for 126 yards, including a career-long 68-yarder, in addition to drawing a holding penalty and a 45-yard pass interference penalty.
“I had a good day,” Evans said. “I had a big pass interference penalty on me and we had some holding calls that helped us. I can’t be mad about that.”
Against the Falcons, Evans drew three pass interference penalties totaling 62 yards, which are more yardage than he produced with his three catches in Atlanta.
“That’s what I do – I’m a big guy that works hard,” Evans said. “I think I’m one of the best receivers in the game and my teammates believe in me. I just go out there and work hard. It’s starting to show on those 50-50 balls. I’m starting to get some calls.”
Bucs WR Mike Evans – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Evans is also getting a lot of attention from opposing defenses, always drawing the opponents’ top cornerback. That has helped stifle his red zone production. After scoring a dozen times last year Evans only has one touchdown in eight games this year.
But last year was a different story.
Evans had Seferian-Jenkins draw attention for nine games last year. The two have only been on the field together for two quarters this year.
Evans had Jackson help him for all 15 games during his rookie campaign. This season, Evans and Jackson have only teamed up for four and a half games.
Yes, there have been some dropped passes – too many drops – this season, but Evans has remained confident throughout.
“Jameis keeps coming to me,” Evans said. “You saw against the Giants I had six or seven drops and he kept coming at me and I was making plays for him today. He and I grew up similarly, not having much and having to fight and claw for everything we’ve got. It’s good having two guys like that working together – two fighters.”
And fight Evans does. The 6-foot-5, 230-pound titan of a receiver is just as tough mentally as he is physically.
“He’s our playmaker and he’s the guy we rely on in situations where we need a big play to be made,” Stocker said. “He’s human. We all are. He did have some drops [against New York], but he did a phenomenal job of bouncing back from that to have a productive game last week. He keeps his head in the game and he’s always on to the next play. I’m proud of him for shrugging it off an not letting it get in his head.”
Bucs TE Luke Stocker – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
While the Bucs offense would perform at its best with a full complement of weapons, the fact that the passing game consists mostly of Winston-to-Evans connections has accelerated the chemistry between the two young, emerging stars.
“You see the trust between those two getting stronger and stronger each week,” Stocker said. “The trust that Jameis has to throw it up and the trust Mike has that the ball is going to be put where it needs to be. It’s a great thing to be a part of the team that has that duo.
“I get to reap the benefits of that as the ball gets distributed around. Any time you have a threat outside it takes away some of the attention towards the middle of the field and opens it up. It gives us a better matchups with safeties and linebackers in one-on-ones and not in bracket coverage.”
One thing Winston and Evans need to continue to work on is finding the end zone together. Winston is not quite adept at throwing accurate fade routes in the red zone that would allow Evans to use his big frame and leaping ability to come up with jump-ball touchdowns. Their only touchdown connection this season came on a beautifully thrown 40-yard bomb at Washington.
“That was all him – he threw a great ball,” Evans said. “I caught it, but any receiver could do that. The ball took me to [the catch] and it was all him. I didn’t have to out-jump the guy or anything. It was a great ball.”
Evans’ lack of touchdown catches this year and his notable dropped passes have prompted some fans to invoke the name of Michael Clayton – the Bucs’ first-round pick in the 2004 draft and a notable one-year wonder – but he is not mired in a sophomore slump. Evans had three 100-yard games last year in 15 games and already has four this season in the eight games he’s played in.
Bucs WR Mike Evans – Photo by: Mark Lomoglio/PR
Clayton followed up his 80-catch, 1,193-yard, seven-touchdown rookie season with a 32-catch, 372-yard, zero-touchdown effort the next year. After that, Clayton never had more than 38 catches and 484 yards and one touchdown in any season.
With seven games left in the 2015 season Evans already has 40 catches for 662 yards and is on pace to finish with 75 catches for 1,241 – both of which would be career highs. Having Seferian-Jenkins and Jackson return to the starting lineup would draw some attention away from Evans and perhaps free up more scoring opportunities for him down the stretch.
“Jameis is going to be even better when we get Vincent and Austin back,” Stocker said. “He already does a great job of spreading the ball around already. The more weapons he has at his disposal the better he’s going to be. When everyone is back the defense can’t focus just on Mike. That’s going to help Mike as well as open up opportunities across the board.”
Bucs offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter understands the pressure Evans has been under with the team being short-handed at wide receiver, but has seen him stand and deliver.
“Coach [Lovie] Smith talks to the team all the time about when we have guys hurt everybody has to do a little more,” Koetter said. “Mike is a traditional X receiver, who goes out there and gets single-covered. We’ve asked Mike to do a lot. We’re moving Mike. Mike is playing in the slot, he’s playing Z, he’s playing X. He’s had to do more in the injured players’ absence. He was also coming off maybe not his best game. He has a lot on his plate. Mike is a young player, too. Mike is only in his second season, so hat’s off to him for a job well down last week.”
FAB 2. EVANS WILL HAVE TO RISE TO THE OCCASION AGAIN IN PHILLY
Tampa Bay wide receiver Vincent Jackson, who has been sidelined with a knee injury since the Washington game four weeks ago, returned to practice this week. After three weeks of practicing in a limited fashion, this may be the week that talented tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins returns to action.
The Bucs could use both of them this week against a big, talented Eagles secondary they will face Sunday. Having only Mike Evans as the proven weapon with explosiveness could make going up against Philadelphia a tall order – literally and figuratively.
The Eagles have the league’s 16th-ranked pass defense, and its 12 interceptions are the third-most in the NFL. Philadelphia has three tall, physical, ball-hawking cornerbacks in 5-foot-11, 190-pound Walter Thurmond III, who also plays safety, 6-foot-1, 207-pound Byron Maxwell and 6-foot-1, 205-pound Nolan Carroll II.
Thurmond has three interceptions and four pass breakups, while Carroll has two interceptions and nine pass breakups. Maxwell has six passes defensed and an interception. Second-round pick Eric Rowe, another 6-foot-1, 205-pound cornerback, also has an interception and three passes broken up in limited duty.
“There are a lot of guys,” Evans said. “They all take the ball away great. After we catch it, we have to protect it. Their corners jump a lot, so we’ve got to be on point and we have to protect the ball. Their whole team is really good at getting the ball out.”
Bucs rookie quarterback Jameis Winston will need to be sharper with his passes than he was in last week’s 10-6 victory over the Dallas Cowboys. Winston was late on some of his throws and had two interceptions on passes that were behind his receivers.
Evans will also have to be more sure-handed as he has had at least two drops in each of the Bucs last three games, including a career-high six against the New York Giants two weeks ago.
“They forget the bad stuff pretty quickly,” Bucs cornerback Alterraun Verner said. “It’s a good trait for both of them, especially since they are bonding and getting that chemistry going. They both have short memories and that’s why they’re so successful. With some guys, if something bad happens they’ll tank. That’s something you don’t see with those two.”
Winston will likely continue to give Evans a few jump-ball opportunities in Philadelphia, as those instances have either proven to be big catches for Evans or huge pass interference penalties.
Bucs WR Mike Evans – Photo by: Andy Grosh/PR
“He’s a physical guy that is going to fight and compete for every ball that is in the air,” Verner said. “That’s the thing I love about any receiver – as a quarterback you can just throw it up to guys like Mike and he’ll go get it. Either he’ll get it or nobody is going to get it.”
Evans is learning some new tricks of the trade in his second season in the NFL and is improving some of the techniques he learned last year as a rookie. On his 40-yard touchdown catch against Washington, Evans kept cornerback Will Blackmon at bay by running at 80 percent for most of the route and then turning on the jets and blowing by him to catch the ball and score.
“Most routes you are supposed to run full speed, but I love lulling them to sleep,” Evans said. “Some guys think because I’m so big that I’m not fast. I like to lull them to sleep and then roll right by them. I did that last year to the Redskins, although that was on a linebacker. Blackmon thought he was step for step with me and once the ball was in the air I just took off on him.”
Bucs offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter marveled at Evans’ blend of size and speed as the second-year receiver is on his way to his second 1,000-yard season.
Bucs WRs Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson – Photo by: Getty Images
“He is a tough match-up because of his size, number one, his power and he’s deceptively fast,” Koetter said. “He doesn’t burn it off the line of scrimmage like you think a real fast guy would, but when Mike gets going he can really run. He got in a good rhythm over there is in his last game against Dallas.”
If Seferian-Jenkins and/or Jackson return to action this Sunday in Philadelphia it would certainly take some of the pressure in the passing game off Evans. But even if Tampa Bay’s passing game continues to be Mike and the Miracles for another week, Evans is ready to rise to the occasion again.
“Whenever those guys are ready I would love to have them back,” Evans said. “As far as me, I’m just going to do what I’m asked to do and if that’s getting a lot of targets or a little bit of targets – whatever it is, I’m going to do it.”
FAB 3. WINSTON’S SCRAMBLING BRINGS ADDED DIMENSION TO RED ZONE OFFENSE
It wasn’t supposed to be like this, but rookie quarterback Jameis Winston is leading Tampa Bay in rushing touchdowns with four through the first nine games of the season, including last week’s 1-yard game-winner in a 10-6 triumph over Dallas.
After all Wintson is a quarterback. He’s supposed to throw for touchdowns like he did 65 times as a two-year starter at Florida State.
Winston did run for seven touchdowns for the Seminoles, including four as a redshirt freshman in 2013 while winning the Heisman Trophy and leading 14-0 Florida State to a BCS National Championship. But no one expected Winston to have more rushing touchdowns than Tennessee’s rookie quarterback, the mobile Marcus Mariota, who has yet to rush for a score in the NFL.
Bucs QB Jameis Winston – Photo by: Getty Images
Winston has had to improvise in the red zone and take matters into his own feet a few times this year for a couple of reasons. First, the Bucs have been without a couple of big red zone weapons in tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins, who is in 6-foot-6, and wide receiver Vincent Jackson, who is 6-foot-5.
“It takes away our pick-and-roll game, it takes away our alley-oops,” Bucs offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter said with a laugh at his weekly press conference. “We’re going to have to start going four corners with all those little guys out there. Take the height out of it, we’re down some good players. Tall guys, skinny guys, whatever they are you want your best players out there and we’re down two really good players. The height thing, in my opinion, is a little too overblown. I want good players, first, and if they are good and tall that’s a benefit.”
Koetter notes that fill-in receivers Adam Humphries, who stands 5-foot-11, and Donteea Dye, who is 6-foot, have played well for rookies, but what’s missing for Winston is the huge catch radius that Seferian-Jenkins and Jackson possess. That was evident in Tampa Bay’s failed two-point conversion attempt against the New York Giants when Winston’s high throw was brought in by 6-foot-1 receiver Russell Shepard, but he failed to get both feet in bounds near the back of the end zone like Jackson is famous for doing.
Winston has also struggled throwing the fade route inside the 10-yard line and has only hit that route a few times for touchdowns this season. Both of those factors have led Winston to scramble for touchdowns – first against New Orleans and then against Atlanta. His 10-yard touchdown against New York was capped off with a dive into the end zone in dramatic fashion to pull the Bucs to within two points of tying the Giants.
“It’s the ultimate game of cat and mouse,” said Fox color analyst Daryl Johnston, who called the Bucs vs. Giants game. “When you’ve got a quarterback on the perimeter it’s so hard on a defender. When do you leave your responsibility and make the play on the quarterback? Everybody is covered on this and it’s a great job by the Giants secondary. They have everybody locked down. Now you have the quarterback on the edge.”
In last week’s 10-6 win over Dallas, Winston appeared to be diving for another touchdown, but lost the ball at the Cowboys’ 1-yard line while in mid-air. A defensive holding penalty bailed Winston out and gave him the chance to score a 1-yard touchdown on a naked bootleg on the next play for the game-winner.
Winston’s four touchdowns on the ground are one more than Doug Martin’s three, and his ability to score with his arm or his legs in the red zone is presenting problems for opposing defenses and adding another dimension to Tampa Bay’s offense near the goal line.
“Maybe a little, but we’re not calling a bunch of runs for Jameis,” Bucs offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter said. “Some of those are just happening. Either a scramble or if we are on a bootleg play where it’s a pass-run option – and I say pass-run – pass first, and that’s what that was on that play. We’re not dialing anything up for Jameis to be the runner right now. A lot of teams run a quarterback bootleg on the goal line or run run-pass, pass-run options on the goal line. You only have to make one yard.”
Bucs center Joe Hawley believes the unexpected threat Winston poses with his legs will force defenses to change the way they defend Tampa Bay in the red zone.
“It doesn’t change our mindset on offense because none of those plays were called runs,” Hawley said. “They weren’t called draws or power plays for him. Even his run last week against Dallas had a pass-run option on it, but there was nobody there so he took it in. On the other touchdowns they were supposed to be passing plays, but scrambled in. He definitely showed off his athleticism and defenses are probably going to be looking for him. They’ll probably start having a guy spy him or stay in their rush lanes, which is going to help us out in pass protection. Having that extra threat is definitely important. So is having the confidence to run it in.
“Their defensive line coaches will be telling them to keep their rush lanes. That’s important because when you don’t maintain your rush lane that’s what creates holes and then quarterbacks step up and take off. Keeping their rush lanes will help us in pass protection because they won’t be doing a bunch of twists. They’ll want to keep him in the pocket.”
Winston’s longest run in college happened to be a dramatic, 28-yard rushing touchdown in the third quarter of Florida State’s 37-31 victory over Oklahoma State.
His longest in the NFL was a 21-yarder against Atlanta that preceded his improvised 4-yard touchdown run when the shovel pass to Martin appeared to be well defended by the Falcons.
Winston got scolded by both Koetter and head coach Lovie Smith for going airborne in back-to-back weeks against the Giants and the Cowboys, but believes the threat of him running the ball for a touchdown does add another dimension to Tampa Bay’s red zone offense.
“I think it can be, just for the simple fact that as a defense they don’t know what’s coming,” Winston said. “When you just have one or two yards to go, a split second can mean a lot.”
FAB 4. SMITH’S QUIET PLAY SPEAKS VOLUMES
The best offensive linemen are the ones you don’t hear from. Because if an offensive lineman is getting noticed there is usually a penalty flag associated with it.
That was the case on Sunday in Tampa Bay’s 10-6 come-from-behind victory against Dallas as rookie left tackle Donovan Smith was flagged for three false starts while attempting to block the Cowboys’ dangerous defensive end Greg Hardy. But outside of those infractions, Smith was invisible.
And the best part is that he made Hardy invisible, too. No sacks. One tackle.
Bucs LT Donovan Smith – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
“He’s young – he’s a rookie,” Bucs right tackle Demar Dotson said. “Those three false starts were crucial, but we still won the game. So it didn’t take away from our or his game. You still have to clean it up, but he’s a rookie. That doesn’t affect him as a player. Just learn from it, clean it up and move on. That’s what he’s doing.
Smith is playing like an assassin, and the way he handled Hardy the way he handled Houston’s J.J. Watt and New York’s Jason Pierre-Paul – nice and quietly. Watt and Pierre-Paul also went sackless against Smith.
“He’s played real well,” Dotson said. “It’s becoming evident the kind of player he can be in this league. The sky is the limit. He’s going to get better and better and right now he’s holding his own. He’s nowhere near where he’s going to be. He’s a great kid, a humble kid. He’s quiet. He doesn’t mind working. As long as he keeps that kind of attitude, he’ll continue to get better.”
Much has been made of Tampa Bay’s heralded 2015 draft class. First-round pick Jameis Winston has plenty of Pro Bowls in his future and he’s already become the Bucs’ emotional leader.
Fourth-round draft pick Kwon Alexander is the quarterback of the defense as the Bucs’ middle linebacker. He’s the most explosive, big-play player on Tampa Bay’s defense and he’ll only get better.
Right guard Ali Marpet, a second-round pick, has received rave reviews for his movement in the running game, and Smith, the Bucs’ other second-rounder, is just now starting to get his due praise and get noticed – for the right reasons.
“Donovan, just throughout the whole year, for a rookie to be thrown in at left tackle in the NFL and he’s going against somebody good every single week, and this last week was no exception,” Bucs offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter said. “Donovan – I think we said before – has exceeded expectations. We hit the jackpot – I’ve said that before – jackpot on he and Ali. Just couldn’t be happier with those guys. We talk about Jameis in here all the time that we expect Jameis to play like a five-year veteran, well we expect Donovan to as well. He had three false starts, he had some penalties, but the good things he’s doing are far outweighing the negatives.”
At 6-foot-6, 338 pounds, Smith is a massive left tackle in the mold of former Bucs left tackle Donald Penn – although not as heavy. But Smith’s quiet, humble nature is certainly more like Paul Gruber than that of the outspoken Penn.
“I feel like I am coming along well,” Smith said. “Just getting in a groove, a rhythm. Getting a good feel for the game, the speed of the game and everything. Just trying to stay with it.”
When asked if Sunday’s performance against Hardy was his best of the year, Smith acknowledged it might be – after some prodding.
“I’m always hard on myself so it’s hard to say, but it could be,” Smith said. “I just go out there and play.”
Smith’s play has grown by leaps and bounds since becoming the starting left tackle in training camp.
“I would just say that just learning that he has to be on top of his game every week because at the position he plays, he’s always going against the most elite pass rusher they have,” Koetter said. “When you come in here and you come from college I don’t think you really realize the guys you are going to be going against every week how good they are.”
Smith isn’t boastful in front of the Bucs beat writers, but he has taken to social media and proclaimed his desire to be the best on his Twitter account. Over the past nine games Smith’s coaches and teammates have seen that quiet, burning desire to be great come out.
“He’s big and strong and he’s agile,” Dotson said. “He has everything it takes to be a great left tackle. He has good feet and good hands. He has everything you look for in a left tackle. He has a good attitude, too. I think he’s going to be a great player in this league, and he wants to be great.”
What’s great is the fact that Bucs general manager Jason Licht not only got a franchise quarterback in this year’s draft. It looks like he also got a franchise left tackle in the same draft with the selection of Smith in the second round. Finding a franchise quarterback is tough. Finding a franchise left tackle is tough. It looks like the Bucs found both in the same draft, which is ultra-rare.
Typically, teams have to spend a top 10 pick on a franchise left tackle. But like Koetter said in his press conference, Tampa Bay hit the jackpot with Smith in the second round – quietly.
FAB 5. SR’s BUC SHOTS
• The Buccaneers really emphasized their running game this week after two weeks with Doug Martin rushing for less than 65 yards. Martin ran for 63 yards on 18 carries (3.5 avg.) in last week’s 10-6 win over Dallas, but totaled just 31 carries for 11 yards (2.8 avg.) against New York in Tampa Bay’s 32-18 loss the week prior. Charles Sims’ career-high 78 yards rushing helped the Bucs run for 136 yards against the Giants, but 59 of those yards came on one carry.
Bucs RB Doug Martin – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Look for Tampa Bay to come out with a renewed sense of purpose in the running game this week at Philadelphia.
“Just focus on details,” Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston said. “We go over things, make sure we do it when we get out there and execute it and just get it done. We’re physical, but it might be minor things that we are missing. We’re a hair away from splitting one or something like that so just focus on the details.”
Bucs offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter said that the team has really gone over some of the technical issues this week that are holding the team back in the running game.
“We have not run it as well the last two weeks as we had,” Koetter said. “In fact, that is one of the things we are addressing starting [Wednesday] morning. We hadn’t seen the players since the game. We have some clips we are going to show them after practice today when we watch the film. Coach [George] Warhop, our [offensive] line coach, all of our coaches, we have some things that we think are mainly in the details. It’s not that our running backs are running any differently.
“Again, these teams just don’t sit there in one defense. They’re changing their looks. They’re changing their pressures. They get paid too. They get coached, too. We have not been quite as sharp. We’ve been very physical. It’s not a question at all of effort or physicality. We just have to iron out a few details. Like most plays, if we are all on the same page then we have a lot better chance to be successful.”
Some of those issues are finishing runs downfield on the second level.
“It’s hard to play like that because it wears you out, but when you play with that extra effort to finish to the ball and making sure you are getting your [running back] up after taking all of those hits the rest of the team really feeds off that and brings the energy of the team up,” said Bucs center Joe Hawley.
• While second-year Bucs receiver Mike Evans wants to put up big numbers and be known as one of the best receivers in the game, he would gladly sacrifice statistics and touchdowns for wins. Evans is thrilled that Tampa Bay, which is 4-5 on the year, has doubled its win total from a year ago when the Bucs went 2-14 during his rookie campaign.
“It feels great to get more wins than last year and have a chance at the playoffs,” Evans said. “Guys are just working hard. Last year Lovie [Smith] laid the foundation down and we’re building on that. We’re a young team. We could be good for a really long time.”
Bucs CB Jude Adeji-Barimah – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
• PewterReport.com has been right about several things that have been featured in my SR’s Fab 5 column this fall. We documented the rise of Donteea Dye and Jude Adjei-Barimah from the practice squad and detailed why the Bucs made the right choice at quarterback with Jameis Winston in previous editions of SR’s Fab 5.
We also took a look at why Tampa Bay’s defense hadn’t been playing well, especially in pass defense. PewterReport.com discussed that the Bucs were having to play too much Cover 2 because the cornerbacks weren’t doing a good enough job in man coverage. Cornerbacks Mike Jenkins and Johnthan Banks (and departed cornerback Tim Jennings) weren’t using proper technique and jamming and re-routing receivers when the Bucs were playing Cover 2 and they lost their jobs as a result.
Adjei-Barimah and Sterling Moore were inserted as replacements because they were willing to listen to the coaches and be physical in Cover 2. Once they proved themselves there, the Bucs went on to play more man-to-man, which is what head coach and defensive play-caller Lovie Smith prefers to play, and Moore and Adjei-Barimah shined, especially against Dallas. By being able to play more man coverage, the Bucs can do more blitzing, and that was the case last week with linebackers Kwon Alexander and Lavonte David getting sacks against the Cowboys.
• Join PewterReport.com’s Mark Cook and myself for some football fun this Sunday at the Hard Rock Cafe at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino. PewterReport.com has partnered with Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino to host Pewter Watch Parties for Tampa Bay away games this season and it continues with Sunday’s game at Philadelphia.
Fans will enjoy watching Tampa Bay battle Washington on a huge, 18-foot projection TV or on various smaller TVs throughout the Hard Rock Cafe. All NFL games will be shown. Parking is free at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino.
The fun begins at noon in advance of the 1:00 p.m. ET kickoff where the PewterReport.com staff will be giving away Hard Rock gift bags, which include a Hard Rock Classic T-shirt, Hard Rock Energy Drinks and other prizes to the first 100 Tampa Bay fans that check in at the “PewterReport.com Command Center” in the Hard Rock Cafe.
Click here to RSVP for the Pewter Watch Party and reserve your Hard Rock gift bag.
Cook and I will also be on hand to answer your Bucs-related questions and dish out some inside information prior to kickoff and hand out a few PewterReport.com t-shirts.
Fans can enjoy a special menu curated by Executive Sous Chef Michael Balles and food and drink specials in the Hard Rock Cafe. Pints of draft beer will be available for $3 each, a bucket of select beers for $15 (which is connected to the beer of the month), wine by the glass for $5, chilled shots for $4 each and mixed drinks for $5 each.
Additionally, Hard Rock Cafe Tampa will offer its famous “Rocketizers” for $5 each, to include Popcorn Chicken Bites, Bang-a-Gong Popcorn Shrimp, Onion Rings, Pot Stickers, Twisted Mac and Loaded Fries. One-dollar wings will also be on the menu.
Seminole Hard Rock will also be holding a football-themed silent auction for each game with all of the money benefiting PewterReport.com’s charitable partner, the Mike Alstott Family Foundation.
Pewter Watch Party Schedule
Tampa Bay at Indianapolis – Sunday, November 29 – begins at 12:00 p.m.
Tampa Bay at St. Louis – Thursday, December 17 – begins at 7:00 p.m.
Tampa Bay at Carolina – Sunday, January 3 – begins at 12:00 p.m.
Owned and operated by the Seminole Tribe of Florida, this electrifying casino destination is one of the most successful and largest casinos in the world and is located in Tampa, Florida off of I-4 at North Orient Road and Hillsborough Avenue, between I-75 and I-275, about 10 minutes east of downtown Tampa.
• Is it just me or has the decline of Tampa Bay defensive tackle Gerald McCoy’s production coincided with the rise of Jameis Winston’s leadership? Winston took on more of a vocal leadership role following his great day as a passer in a 38-31 win over Jacksonville and went four games without throwing an interception while the Bucs have gone 3-2 in their past five games.
McCoy, a three-time Pro Bowler, was the face of the franchise before Winston’s emergence, but has notched just five tackles in the past four games since the bye week and has not produced a sack. It was team captain Logan Mankins that addressed the team and gave Kwon Alexander the game ball following the Bucs’ 23-20 overtime win in Atlanta – not McCoy.
And in the Bucs’ 10-6 win over Dallas last Sunday, it was Winston who gave an inspired post-game address to the team, and also rallied the team with a pre-game hype routine. Take a look at this video on Buccaneers.com and notice nearly the entire team rallying around Winston except for McCoy, who is standing off to the side in the background to the upper right of the screen. Even fellow team captain Vincent Jackson is getting in on Winston’s action. Perhaps McCoy is just getting focused on his own.
Bucs DT Gerald McCoy – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Maybe it’s nothing, but after being the center of attention in Tampa Bay since being the team’s first-round pick in 2010 perhaps McCoy is having some difficulty sharing the spotlight with the charismatic Winston. The Bucs are becoming Winston’s team, and that’s what happens when a team has a franchise quarterback.
New England is Tom Brady’s team, New Orleans is Drew Brees’ team, Pittsburgh is Ben Roethlisberger’s team, and Carolina is Cam Newton’s team. I love McCoy, but if he’s feeling this way he needs to get over it, realize he can still be the leader on defense, step up his play and sack the quarterback.
• While I would love to see a pewter jersey to go with the pewter pants and the the pewter jersey for Tampa Bay’s “Color Rush” Thursday Night Football game against St. Louis Rams in December, I’m hearing the Bucs will be sporting a red jersey with red pants for the game. Stay tuned to see if this rumor is true.
• I wanted to welcome two new advertising partners to PewterReport.com that I feel will be of great benefit to our audience of Bucs fans. International Diamond Center, the official jeweler of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, is the place to shop for engagement rings, anniversary jewelry, and birthday or holiday gifts.
Guys, with Black Friday coming next week and the holiday shopping season upon us, make IDC your one-stop shop for your jewelry needs for you or for the lady in your life. Visit their website ShopIDC.com for a full selection of jewelry and holiday gift ideas.
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• Due to the Thanksgiving holiday (and my daughters’ Pop Warner cheer competition) there will not be a SR’s Fab 5 column next week. I’ll resume my weekly SR’s Fab 5 columns on Friday, November 27. You draftniks won’t want to miss the next one! Enjoy some football, family time and turkey next week and have a Happy Thanksgiving!
Scott Reynolds is in his 23rd year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds enjoys giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Nice article Scott. I don’t know about the McCoy thing though. He is a pro and he knows the defense depends on him up front. I still believe he is not close to 100% but knows he needs to be in there getting those double teams to free up the other linemen. I just think he is down on himself some for not being the dominate player he can be.
Saw McCoy get flattened a couple of times last week, and it wasn’t from a double team. Since we don’t have a legit D end I wouldn’t mind seeing McCoy get a few looks there. He’d see less double teams, and he has to have a better first step then any D end on our roster.
That’s the thing Surfer, watching him play, his “get off” is the fastest I’ve ever seen. He just launches off of the snap. The problem is, and I think Horse has mentioned this a couple of times, is that he lost all of that weight this offseason. I love your idea of throwing him out there at D-end for a play or two. Move him around and get him out of double teams.
Another home run Scotty! Dude these have been some of the best, informative, and easy to read FF’s since back in the day. Dawg, I don’t know what you’re drinking these days, but I’ll see you at the Hard Rock and buy you a couple. Very Nice! Now you just need to get Cookie doing the same, lol. Just kidding Mark.
Not much to comment on with this one. I’m still trying to figure out what kind of players all these guys mentioned in the article will turn out to be. They all need to be more consistent, particularly Winston. But this is Evans’ 2nd year so I expect a little more out of him in terms of the drops and injuries. He’s going to need to tweak his training regimen this offseason to figure out how to avoid soft tissue injuries and how to maintain his concentration through the catch.
I agree with Pinkstop. Most of this stuff was available on Buccaneers.com with Scott Smith’s Articles and video discussions. I will say I hope McCoy becomes the player he needs to be. I doubt we will see ASJ or VJ so I hope we can run a lot in this game. I’m more concerned about a four man pass rush against Philly because we have to hold back on the blitzing this time and LB’s have got to cover their areas. Go Bucs! Get this win!
Couple readers out here tried to make the comparison between Clayton and Evans earlier in the year which I shot down.
The biggest reason was that Evans still trusted his hands and makes the overwhelming large majority of his catches with his big mitts.
Clayton began to distrust his hans and started trying to catch or pin everything against his body.
Even when Evans had all those drops against the Giants you could tell it was from concentration and not looking the ball into his hands which he easily solved.
I heard that rumor about McCoy a couple of weeks ago and honestly I’m not sure I buy into it.
For one thing I never thought of McCoy as that dynamic of a leader in the first place.
Not sure anyone on the team thought so either.
I do know the front four need to put more pressure on the QB and it shouldn’t all be on McCoy’s shoulders, one of which is hurt.
There are three other DL who need to start pitching in and contributing. McCoy can’t do it all by himself.
Hell, I would be happy if George Johnson would just equal his sack total from last year by the end of the season.
Good Fab as always.
I’ve been saying the same thing about Smith all season as he has played fantastic all season long. He is a rookie so like the others there will be bumps in the road, but this is a rookie left tackle. We hit the jackpot in this draft offensively. We just need to do it again next year on the defense.
It’s great to finally see our DB’s actually touching receivers at the line of scrimmage and allowing us to actually blitz for a change. The defense has been night and day since the move. Kudos to Lovie and the guys for finding the right guys.
As for Jameis, he is doing just fine from all fronts, it’s hard to judge a QB when he’s throwing to Evans and a bunch of no names. I’m glad he’s taken the leadership role on this team because we needed it.
As for the mccoy reference finishing things Scott, I said the same thing three weeks ago after the Atlanta game. Personally it’s clear as day to me that Mccoy is bothered by Jameis taking “his” team over.
I also said the same thing about the video to my brother the first time IO saw it as well. Couldn’t see Mccoy anywhere. Mayeb it is just us Scoot, but I think it’s affecting Mccoy a little. He needs to worry about his job and not worry about who the leader is.
I’ve been hard on Mccoy and he is a damn good D-tackle, but when you’re the highest paid player on the teamn, that heat comes with that paycheck. Three tackles in three games is horrible. I don’t care about him “disrupting” things. Make a play.
I got no complaints about nobody when we win. And last week we won. Every week when the Pick 6 predictions come out, I always pick the Bucs to win. I do that out of sheer loyalty, not because I think they have “the” best chance to win, but because I think they have “a” chance to win.
In reality, it is hard to win football games when you have every man on the field. It is next to impossible to win with only two weapons on the field and the Bucs found a way to win. Last week Scott Reynolds’ after game headline read “Finally, A Penalty – And Luck – Was on Bucs’ Side”. The word “Luck” stood out. That is not going to happen every week – may not happen again! Some fans hesitant to bask in the sunshine of a win called it an “ugly” win. What’s wrong with that? I’d marry an ugly woman who just won the lottery and father owns a liquor store – but that’s just me!
Now I’m not dissing the fans who do point out the idiosyncrasies and lambast the players who could have done more – that’s to be expected in the theater of the absurd (sports websites) and there’s nothing wrong with it. It’s just not where I am, especially when we win. If the Bucs win I’m going to revel in it and without hesitation move on to the next nail biter.
There are a few things that must/should be taken into consideration. When we play without our full offensive complement of weapons everybody is trying harder and some people are genuinely playing hurt. Not making excuses, but that is a fact. Some of the people playing hurt will heal and some of the people who obviously are not helping out will not be here next year.
Jameis Winston likes to praise all of the people who did play and doesn’t lament the fact that key players are missing. That’s great for his “never give up” mentality and encouragement for the other players to step up. But the reality is Winston is human and extremely competitive, and like a natural vacuum he tries to fill the void. And when he does that, he sometimes tries too hard and presses a little bit, and when he presses, he’s likely to make an error – understandable behavior but not the recipe for consistent success. So I expect some errors here and there and is just a bit forgiving under the circumstances.
The Bucs may win Sunday out of sheer “want to”, but it looks like they will again be without V-Jax and ASJ. We really need every man back and then some to tie a nice bow around this season and until then it’s going to be tough sledding. Given that, when the Bucs do win, we ought to be happier than a pig in that stuff (wishful thinking). As usual I will be picking the Bucs to win and if they don’t win I will understand why. I would even bet on them with your money! Lol.
I agree with Pink. Consistency is required to excel. Evans has yet to show it, his #s are a result of there being no one else to throw to and Winston’s habit from college of locking onto one target for much of a game. It has been good fortune that has kept Winston’s turnover #s from being quite a bit higher, his consistency leaves a lot to be desired. The Dallas game was painful to watch, two bad teams fighting for the right to lose – one of them with a third string QB barely got it done. Let’s be realistic, we are a year behind where we should be in the turnaround due to bad drafting in year one and bad coaching mostly throughout.
Winston made it happen at the end. Some QB’s can’t handle the pressure at the end of a game; Winston has no fear. Bucs by 2.
Consistency is important Matador, but you’re asking consistency from a rookie QB. You’re not going to get it, that’s why he’s a rookie. As for the tipped passes and the amount of picks he could have, well he could have about 5 more TD’s too if his receivers could hold onto the ball so that works both ways.
As for Winston locking on, who do you want him to throw it too? He’s giving his best play maker a chance to make a play. We’re playing with two rookies and Evans as our receivers.
I do agree we are a year behind where we need to be, but I think we are getting there. We have the right team in place to start something and we have the most important pieces in place with young talent.
Winston wasn’t consistent, which is largely expressed in a QB’s decision making and accuracy, in college either. And he admitted to locking onto his WRs in college also which was a big contributor to the large # of INTs he threw. It’s hard for a cat to change its stripes. You can get away with poor footwork (which I see on many/most of his throws) and a lack of accuracy in college when your team is physically superior to many of your opponents but not in the NFL. No doubt he is a gamer but that’s not enough in this league. His game needs a lot of work. If he can polish it up over the next 2 hrs we’ll really have something
Yrs not hrs
Macabee; your comparison to Luck and ugly was funny than heck. I’m still laughing.
I had my doubts about Smith being able to pass block in the NFL while I knew he would excel as a run blocker. I am very happy he is developing into an outstanding LT. I loved Hawly from the start and he has been great at shoring up the middle of our OL.
As to McCoy, I was appalled to see how much weight he had lost at the start of the season and knew that was a huge error. That was the start of the end for Freeman when he tried the same loss of weight. At 250 pounds he could still get off passes when being hit. But slimmed down he hit the dirt like a rag doll every time he was hit and he could not use the QB sneak anymore either. McCoy could not absorb hits like he used to and messed up a shoulder and now his confidence in himself has dropped like a rock and confidence is paramount to success; notice how Winston never loses his self confidence and that is the key to being a winner. I am all for using McCoy as an edge rusher the rest of this season to get his confidence back but Lovey needs to have a stern talk with him at the end of the season and tell him to get back to last year’s playing weight, don’t ever dye his hair again, and get back to the All Pro DT we are paying for. We can draft a great DE with our first pick next year!
I’m convinced that McCoy is injured but still trying to do his part. I suspect he realizes how ineffectual his play has been since the injury and perhaps is feeling he has less right to lead when his contribution to the team’s success has been minimal. Hard to go to the forefront when you’re embarrassed about yourself. McCoy isn’t jealous of Jameis at all; right now he is feeling unworthy.
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