Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter and DL coach Jay Hayes – Photo by: Getty Images
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. TO MAKE A PLAYOFF PUSH, BUCS MUST GO STREAKING
Tampa Bay head coach Dirk Koetter and his Buccaneers players need to go streaking.
No, I don’t mean running buck naked down Dale Mabry, I mean stringing several Bucs victories together this season – fully clothed.
If the Tampa Bay Buccaneers want to go to the playoffs in 2016, there’s a formula.
“If you win and lose every other game you’ll be 8-8,” Dotson said. “You and I both know that. Winning in the NFL is no easy task. In order to be one of those teams that can play in January you have to win more than one in a row. Over the years since I’ve been here, we’ve only won 10 games one time and that was in 2010 when we went 10-6. It will be good to get back to those days, but we need to get on a streak. I think we have the team to do it and the coach to do it. We have to go out there and do it.”
What Dotson means is that winning a game or even back-to-back games isn’t going to be enough to get to the playoffs. In Tampa Bay’s postseason history, the magic number to get to the playoffs is usually four – as in a four-game winning streak.
Warrick Dunn on the cover of SI
In the Bucs’ first playoff appearance in 1979, Tampa Bay started off 5-0 that year and had back-to-back wins at two other times during that year to help the franchise finish 10-6 and reach double-digit wins for the first time.
In 1997, a similar 5-0 start aided the team’s 10-6 record and another playoff berth. In 1999, the Bucs had a franchise-best six-game winning streak that propelled them to an 11-5 record – even after a 3-4 start.
The next year, Tampa Bay started off 3-0, lost four straight, then won three more in a row, followed by a loss, then a four-game winning streak followed by a loss in Week 17 to finish the 2000 season 10-6.
In the Bucs’ Super Bowl season in 2002, the Bucs ripped off five straight wins following a season-opening loss at home to New Orleans, and then lost at Philadelphia. After the defeat at the hands of the Eagles, the Bucs began a four-game winning streak en route to a franchise-record 12-4 season that ended with an NFL championship.
Tampa Bay’s next playoff appearance came in 2005 after a 4-0 start helped propel the Bucs to an 11-5 record. The team won back-to-back games three different times during that season.
In 2007, Tampa Bay’s last postseason appearance, the Bucs had a three-game winning streak and a four-game winning streak to help finish 9-7 and earn a home playoff game.
Outside of the strike-shortened season in 1982, the only time the Bucs made the playoffs without at least a four-game winning streak was in 1981 and in 2001. Tampa Bay did have two three-game winning streaks in 1981 to finish 9-7. In 2001, the Bucs also finished 9-7, but did have one three-game winning streak that season to help them reach the postseason.
Making the playoffs is still possible with a three-game winning streak, but much more probable with a four-game winning streak. In fact, the only time Tampa Bay hasn’t made the playoffs with a four-game winning streak within the season was in 2008.
After a 5-3 start, the Bucs won four straight to start 9-3 before a four-game collapse doomed Jon Gruden, who was fired after Tampa Bay missed the playoffs that year despite finishing the 2007 and ‘08 season with 9-7 records. A 9-7 record would be a welcomed sight in Tampa Bay these days as the Bucs have only posted one winning season – a 10-6 mark in 2010 – and have had no playoff appearances since Gruden’s departure eight years ago.
It turns out 10-6 wasn’t good enough to make the playoffs in 2010. And that year represents the only season the Bucs have had double-digit wins without at least a three-game winning streak. Tampa Bay won back-to-back games four times in 2010, but couldn’t string together at least three wins.
Winning three games in a row isn’t a magic ride to the playoffs, either. It’s been done before in 1981 and 2010, but Greg Schiano won three games in a row twice – once in 2012 that ended in a 7-9 season, and again in 2013 after a 0-8 start resulted in a 4-12 record.
Bucs SS Bradley McDougald – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Former Bucs head coach Lovie Smith, who was fired in January after just two years on the job, only managed back-to-back wins once in Tampa Bay. That came last year after the Bucs beat the Cowboys 10-6 at home and then went on the road to trounce the Eagles, 45-17.
So is there a four-game opportunity for the Bucs to go streaking? A quick look at the schedule suggests the best chance might be coming out of the bye week with a road trip to San Francisco followed by three straight home games against Oakland, Atlanta and Chicago.
In my game-by-game 10-6 prediction for the Buccaneers this season, I bucked the historical trend by suggesting they could make the playoffs with just a three-game winning streak at San Diego, home against New Orleans and on the road against Dallas.
In order for Tampa Bay to go streaking, the first order of business is to win a game, preferably this Sunday against visiting Los Angeles. Then it has to show it can win back-to-back games.
Again, that’s something that the Bucs have done just once over the last two years.
“The key to success in the NFL is to not lose back-to-back games and to win multiple games in a row,” Bucs center Joe Hawley said. “When you get on a streak in the NFL you get some confidence and some swagger and it almost gets easier as you go on week to week. You get confident and you loosen up. The coaches get looser and everybody comes to work a little bit happier and more confident. You build a confident attitude throughout the year, but you have to learn how to do that week to week. It’s early, but I think this team is capable of it. We definitely have the talent. We just have to get the confidence going.”
Hawley knows what he’s talking about. He was apart of two of the best Falcons teams in Atlanta history, going 13-3 in both 2010 and 2012.
In 2010, the Falcons had an eight-game winning streak, including two wins over the Bucs, in addition to a four-game streak. In 2012, Atlanta had an eight-game winning streak to start the season.
Bucs DT Gerald McCoy – Photo by: Getty Images
“A couple of wins is one thing, but if you can get to that third or fourth win in a row, you not only get some confidence, but you get some mojo,” Hawley said. “Things start to fall your way. In the NFL most games are decided by less than a touchdown. You have to win some close games. You’re not going to blow everybody out. It seems like everything is going your way. You start getting all the calls and everybody plays looser. When you play looser and have fun with your teammates in the NFL it just comes together. It’s a special feeling. It doesn’t happen every year, but when it starts to happen you can feel it.”
Hawley experienced the other kind of streak – a losing streak – in 2013 when the Falcons started the year 1-4, losing three straight before beating the Bucs and then embarking on a five-game losing streak.
“It’s obviously harder to stop a streak when you’re losing than to start one,” Hawley said. “Work becomes harder and nobody is in a good mood and everybody is under pressure wondering what went wrong. Pressure is from all angles – the media, the coaches. That’s why you can’t afford to lose back-to-back games because going down that road gets real ugly. The good teams stop the streak before it starts at one and go out and put back-to-back wins together. We need to prove we’re a good team.”
Bucs reserve tackle Gosder Cherilus has been the victim of the worst kind of losing streak as a member of the winless 2008 Detroit Lions. Yet he was a part of the team’s turnaround three years later in Detroit in 2011 when the Lions went 10-6 and made the playoffs thanks to a 5-0 start and a three-game winning streak in December.
“Last week’s loss [at Arizona] shows you how hard it is to be good in the NFL, and I’m not talking about a win here or there,” Cherilus said. “I’m talking about going on a six- or eight-game winning streak.”
Cherlius went to the playoffs twice with the Indianapolis Colts in 2013 and ’14. In his first year in Indy, the Colts used two three-game winning streaks to finish 11-5. The next year, the Colts had a five-game winning streak and a three-game winning streak to produce another 11-5 record.
Do the Bucs have what it takes to be a playoff team in 2016? Both Tampa Bay and NFL history shows that at least a three-game winning streak is necessary at some point during the season.
“It’s very hard to do in this league,” Cherilus said. “You have to figure out who you are as a team and show up and work on the same craft each week until you master it to the point where you can do what you need to do in your sleep. Then you can get on a streak.”
FAB 2. BUCS’ BIGGEST CHALLENGE IS LEARNING HOW TO HANDLE SUCCESS
The Bucs made a sucker out of me after an impressive, 31-24 Week 1 win at Atlanta.
I thought this Tampa Bay might come out of the gates hot like it did in 1997 with an early season upset over a playoff team like San Francisco nearly 20 years ago by upending an Arizona team that was reeling from an opening day home loss to a depleted New England team.
Kwon Alexander and Gerald McCoy celebrate a sack at Atlanta – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
The Bucs also made suckers out of themselves, believing too much of their own hype and reading too many press clippings.
“That was our biggest thing after the Atlanta game,” Bucs veteran tackle Demar Dotson said. “It felt like we just won a game to get to the playoffs. It was good because it was Dirk Koetter’s first win as a head coach and we were starting off on the right foot, but we have to realize that we have 15 more of these things to go.
“I think that affected us. We have to stay on an even keel. You enjoy a win, but you realize you have to come back next week and get better and get ready for the next one. That humbled us, and it gave us a bad taste in our mouth. Now we have a Rams team that is coming in here trying to win two in a row.”
The 40-7 loss to the Cardinals was an eye-opening, humbling affair, but it can serve as an important lesson if the players listen to Koetter and the coaching staff and learn from their embarrassing blunder.
That starts in practice. Koetter admitted that the Wednesday practice wasn’t up to par last week prior to the Cardinals game with the Bucs still high on the fumes of a victory over the Falcons.
“We definitely didn’t prepare as well we needed to last week,” Hawley said. “We’re a young team and I think the mature players know how to handle success and be ready to come in and work the next week whether you win or lose. I think a little bit of immaturity showed. I think it was almost a good thing for the team to realize in the NFL there are no gimmes. We learned a lot. We learned we really had to prepare during the week because nothing is going to be handed to us. If we want it, we have to work for it. If we want to go out and get on a roll, we have to work for it and go get it.”
Koetter said Wednesday’s practice was much better than the previous week and was pleased about that.
Bucs WR Mike Evans – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
“Coach saw the tape – we all saw the tape and knew we could have been better,” said Bucs reserve tackle Gosder Cherilus, who is one of the older, wiser veterans on the team. “I don’t think it was, ‘Oh, we’ll win because we won last week.’ But I’m not a psychic. That being said, we have one job to do, which is to show up and be better this week.
“You just have to believe. You have to believe in the coaches and you have to believe in the system. Every time you have the chance to work on yourself you do it. If you do your work and do your homework and do what you’re supposed to do, it doesn’t matter what the other team does or the guy in front of you does.”
Getting too high after a win or too low after a loss usually leads to the same thing the following Sunday – a defeat.
The best – and only proven – approach in the NFL is to remain even-keeled and learn how to handle success.
That’s where this young Buccaneers team has to exhibit the most growth behind the scenes this year. In order for Tampa Bay to string together enough wins to make a playoff push, it has to learn how to win in the NFL and handle the success, notoriety and accolades that come with it.
“Winning games is so hard in the NFL,” Cherilus said. “When you do, you’re allowed to celebrate. As true competitors when you lose, you don’t feel great.
“But every week has to be the same. We have this thing called ‘The Cycle.’ Whether you win or lose you show up on Monday and do the same thing. You don’t want to get too low when you lose and you don’t want to get too high when you win. That’s the NFL. Coach Koetter has been the same. He tells us exactly what he wants and it’s our job to do it exactly the way he wants it. We have to keep working to the point where we are perfect and the wins will come.”
Bucs offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach Todd Monken indicated that the coaches have been driving the point home that the regular season in the NFL is simply 16 one-game schedules.
“I expect us to bounce back,” Monken said. “It’s a one-week league and we’ve got good players and good coaches.
“Last week is over. We’re not focused on last week. We’re focused on playing better this week and having better practices this week.”
Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston, who threw four interceptions and lost a fumble in Arizona, has bought in to the week-to-week mentality that has been drilled into this young Bucs team by Koetter and Co. this week.
Buccaneers QB Jameis Winston and HC Dirk Koetter – Photo by: Getty Images
“Like I said last week when we were happy because we got the win, you’ve got to move on to the next week,” Winston said. “It’s a week-to-week league and my job as a teammate to our guys is to put us in a situation to win. Last week I did not do that and my job, my individual goal, is to get better every week. So I know if I’m getting better, I should play better.”
No one went from hero to zero quicker than Tampa Bay’s Pro Bowl quarterback. Last week, Winston was the NFC Offensive Player of the Week with a four-touchdown performance. This week, he’s coming off four picks.
It’s time for this young Bucs team to grow up in a hurry.
“We’re a young team,” Cherilus said. “We are hungry and we want to win now and win very badly. I understand that. Certain guys will probably show up differently compared to older guys. At the same time, you can’t take winning in the NFL lightly. Especially a guy like me. I know what it’s like to try your hardest for a whole season and not having a win.
“For whatever reason we didn’t give it our best effort last week. Great effort is something we can control. As a player, when you get called out and a coach tells you that you’re not going hard enough, it’s kind of shameful. You have to look at yourself. It’s a pride thing. I always have this mentality. It’s easier for a coach to have this mentality: it’s easier for a coach to tell you to slow down in practice than it is for him to say you need to pick it up.”
Players have been called out, including the team captains on offense, Winston and Vincent Jackson, who was singled out two weeks ago for not playing up to standards in Atlanta.
“At the end of the day it has to start in-house,” Cherilus said. “We have to show up Wednesday, Thursday and Friday to be the best we can be. On Sunday you don’t start doing new things. You do exactly what you’ve been practicing. That’s where good habits and consistency comes into play. Then you can do it with your eyes closed.”
FAB 3. BUCS GUARDS VS. DONALD IS THE MATCH-UP TO WATCH
Forget Los Angeles Pro Bowl running back Todd Gurley versus the Tampa Bay defense.
Forget Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston matching wits with Rams middle linebacker Alec Olgetree.
Forget Tampa Bay receiver Mike Evans dueling downdfield against Los Angeles cornerbacks Trumaine Johnson and Coty Sensabaugh.
Rams DT Aaron Donald – Photo by: Getty Images
The key matchup on Sunday between L.A. and Tampa Bay is in the trenches where Pro Bowl defensive tackle Aaron Donald will battle against guards Ali Marpet and Kevin Pamphile with some help from center Joe Hawley.
Donald recorded his first ever NFL sack in the Rams’ 19-17 win at Raymond James Stadium against Tampa Bay in Week 2 in 2014. He finished his rookie season with nine sacks and his first Pro Bowl appearance. Last year, Donald topped that number with 11 QB captures and another trip to the Pro Bowl.
Despite not recording a sack in the Rams’ 31-23 win over the Bucs in St. Louis last year, Donald was incredibly disruptive with five tackles and a career-high three tackles for loss.
“Experience is huge,” Marpet said. “When you see a guy on tape – when you see yourself go against him – it’s helpful, I think, because you see things that you can clean up.”
Bucs offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach Todd Monken spoke about Donald’s pass rushing prowess.
“He’s a tough guy to leave singled,” Monken said. “He’s stout, he’s powerful, he’s quick and he plays hard. He’s a handful. He’s one of the best in the league.”
Despite the notoriety, Donald has struggled a bit to start the 2016 season. He was ejected for touching an official in the Rams’ 28-0 season-opening loss at San Francisco and has only seven tackles on the year and has yet to collect his first sack of 2016.
Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter, who also calls Tampa Bay’s plays on offense, knows Donald is itching to get to Jameis Winston and the problem he presents up front for the offensive line.
“If you recall, when we played them last year, we played them on a Thursday night, so a short preparation week,” Koetter said. “But Donald and Gerald McCoy arguably could be the two best three-techniques in the league. A little bit different in size, but in production? Wow. I’ve told you guys many times, when I was in Atlanta and we played the Bucs with Gerald, we doubled him every play. You try to do the same thing with Donald, but sometimes what the Rams do on defense makes it difficult.
Bucs QB Jameis Winston – Photo by: Getty Images
“They play some fronts where they cover all three of your inside guys so it makes it difficult to get that double team unless you’re bringing it from the outside or bringing it from somewhere else besides the guy right next to him. [Robert] Quinn, as I mentioned, number 94 coming off the injury and Donald – they have two really good pass rushers. But Donald is one of the best in the league. Him and Gerald are right up there.”
The fact that Marpet and Pamphile have gone against an elite defensive tackle like McCoy in practice all during training camp only aids their preparation in facing Donald.
“It’s a huge help going against one of the top defensive tackles in the league every day during training camp and even the OTAs,” Pamphile said. “Gerald is a great player. It helps when you deal with a guy like 99. They are different styles and different body types, but it helps.
“Aaron is disruptive and quick. Don’t let his size fool you. He’s pretty strong. He’s good with his hands like Gerald is. You can’t lost in all that. You have to attack him and go at him. For me, I’m excited to go against a good player and a good defense.”
Donald primarily lines up on the left side of the Rams defense and will face Marpet for a majority of the snaps, but St. Louis defensive coordinator Gregg Williams will move him around at times to look for the best match-up. That could be against Pamphile, who will be starting just his fourth game at guard in the NFL.
“I understand that they are trying to get us one on one and get their guys – 99 and 94 – singled up,” Pamphile said. “Most offensive coordinators want to double those guys, but they make it hard. I’m excited to take on the challenge of taking him on one-on-one each snap.”
Getting Donald isolated on a guard is what the Rams will be trying to do as much as possible through several looks while rushing four defensive linemen and blitzing a linebacker either up the middle to occupy center Joe Hawley, or off the edge to take on a tackle and create one-on-ones on the inside that way.
“They’re good and they’re athletic, and they make it a one-on-one game like last week,” Monken said. “They like to bring five, which puts you in one-on-one pass pro, and they like to challenge you on the perimeter playing man. We’ll have our work cut out for us.”
Donald is everything Rams head coach Jeff Fisher thought he would be when he drafted him in the first round in 2014.
Bucs LG Kevin Pamphile – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
“It’s a combination of everything,” Fisher said of Donald. “He’s got tremendous strength, quickness, leverage. He’s a quiet player. He’s very, very smart. He understands stances and protections and all of that stuff. He’s very, very difficult to block one-on-one, so it’s our job to try and create those one-on-one matchups and it’s the opposing offense’s job to create the two-on-ones and so we understand that. Someone else has to win when Aaron gets the double, but he’s a special player, he’s a great teammate, he’s just a really special player.”
Marpet went against Donald last year and struggled. Pamphile has yet to face him. But the fact that they spent the summer going against McCoy will help them prepare for one of the quickest and most explosive young defensive linemen in the league.
“It definitely helps going against one of the best when you have prepared against one of the best,” Hawley said. “It has helped our guys to go against Gerald. They are definitely different types of players, though. Aaron has a different kind of quickness to him. He’s so sudden. He can shed blocks and get off blocks with the best of them. You’ll have him locked down and the next thing you know he’ll be right by you in a flash.”
FAB 4. TAMPA BAY MAY DRAFT A QB NEXT YEAR
One of the reasons why the Glazers agreed with Lovie Smith’s recommendation to hire general manager Jason Licht in 2014 was his background with New England. The Patriots are the class of the league, and Bill Belichick might go down as the NFL’s best head coach when all is said and done.
What makes Belichick so special is not just his X’s and O’s wizardry on game days, but also his personnel decisions and roster management. Even though the Patriots drafted a quarterback in Jimmy Garoppolo in the second round in 2014, Belichick spent another high draft pick – a third-rounder – on Jacoby Brissett this year.
All of this despite having a future Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady, who is one of the NFL’s all-time greats, on the roster. But Belichick had the foresight to see that Brady may lose his appeal over the “Deflategate” scandal and be suspended for the first four games of the season.
That proved to be true and despite the Patriots racing out to a 2-0 lead this year behind Garoppolo, he sustained a shoulder injury and missed this week’s game against Houston. Just three games into his rookie season, the talented Brissett started on Thursday night for New England and got the win to push the Patriots to 3-0.
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick – Photo by: Getty Images
With just 16 games on the schedule and Brady out the first four, Belichick knew that going at least 2-2 during the first month of season was critical to things like the Patriots making the playoffs, winning the AFC East and possibly getting homefield advantage in the playoffs. Even if Brady came back sharp, digging out of a 0-4 or 1-3 hole might only result in a 10-6 season.
With Brady now 39 and likely playing no more than four more seasons, Belichick can groom and develop Garoppolo and Brissett, who could be the Patriots’ future starter and backup after Brady retires.
In Tampa Bay, Jameis Winston looks like the franchise quarterback the team has been seeking for the past 40 years. Last year’s number one overall draft pick made the Pro Bowl after a 4,000-yard season as a rookie. But the Bucs’ backup situation behind him is in flux.
Mike Glennon is entering a contract year, and despite a lackluster preseason with the Bucs’ backups, he has some good film from the 2013 and ’14 seasons that could warrant a team signing him to compete for a starting job in 2017 next year in free agency. The Bucs will make a push to re-sign Glennon, but feel that him remaining in Tampa Bay to be Winston’s backup is a 50-50 proposition at best right now.
Ryan Griffin, the Bucs’ third-string quarterback, is also in the running to be Winston’s backup in 2017 and beyond.
“I’m a restricted free agent,” Griffin said. “I’d love to be here for a while, but I’ve learned that crazy stuff can happen and stuff you never see coming. I’d love to be here long-term, but you never know.”
Griffin was acquired last year after the Saints let him go following the 2015 preseason. After playing catch-up with the Bucs’ playbook last year, Griffin finally got to run something other than the scout team offense during the offseason. He and Bucs quarterbacks coach Mike Bajakian worked together running Dirk Koetter’s plays and the team got its first look at Griffin in game action during the preseason.
“I feel very comfortable in the offense now, and having an offseason to dive in and understand the plays and get reps was huge,” Griffin said. “I feel if called upon I can run this offense and make it be successful on Sundays.”
Just two weeks in and two NFL teams are already on their third-string quarterbacks. New England knew it would be without Brady, but it’s a different story in Cleveland where Robert Griffin III is already lost for the year with a broken shoulder and backup Josh McCown is out too with a shoulder injury. That means rookie Cody Kessler, who was a third-string quarterback two weeks ago, will start for the 0-2 Browns this week against the 0-2 Miami Dolphins.
Bucs OC Dirk Koetter & QB Ryan Griffin – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
“Jacoby’s case was a little bit different because he was really the backup and one play away (from playing) knowing that Tom was going to be suspended the first four games,” Griffin said. “But in Cody’s case, he’s preparing himself, but he’s not getting reps to even be the backup. Now he’s going to start. That’s why you have to be a professional in this league as a No. 3. You have to prepare and always be ready to be play even you probably are not going to.
“You never know when Jameis wakes up on a Sunday and he’s really sick. Then you’re active and you’ve got to go. Then you are one play away from playing. It’s a tough way to go about it, but you have to be ready. You hope nothing happens to where you have to play, but you usually only get one shot, so you have to be ready.”
The Bucs will be set at the quarterback position for some time if they can re-sign Glennon and Griffin. But if Tampa Bay can’t – and it will know by April if Glennon is gone or if he’ll return – look for the Bucs to use a mid- to late-round pick on a quarterback to compete with Griffin for the right to backup Winston in 2017.
One name to keep in mind is Central Michigan’s Cooper Rush. The 6-foot-2, 230-pound Rush, who is slated to be a fourth or fifth-round pick, completed 20-of-33 passes for 352 yards with six touchdowns and 0 interceptions in a 44-21 win over UNLV last week.
He’s best known for completing 31-of-43 passes for 368 yards with four touchdowns, one pick, and a successful game-winning Hail Mary in a 30-27 win at Oklahoma State a few weeks ago. Rush, who has thrown for 10,311 career yards with 78 touchdowns and 42 interceptions in his career, has 11 TDs and only three INTs on the year.
A couple of others to consider are Nick Mullens, who was Todd Monkens’ quarterback at Southern Miss, and Eastern Washington’s Jordan West, who is the quarterback for Cooper Kupp, who is one of the most intriguing wide receiver draft prospects. Both Mullins and West are Day 3 draft picks.
FAB 5. SR’s BUC SHOTS
• The editorial line of the week has to go to the Tampa Bay Times’ Rick Stroud, who wrote this about Doug Martin’s penchant for getting injured in 2014 and 2016, sandwiched around a healthy, Pro Bowl campaign last year:
Bucs RB Doug Martin – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
“The Bucs’ $7.15 million running back, the NFL’s second-leading rusher last season, is hurt again, which seems to happen to Martin every even-numbered year. How odd.”
• Here’s what concerns me about Tampa Bay’s run defense this week with Robert Ayers potentially out. If Mike Smith starts rookie Noah Spence at right end, his backup is Howard Jones. Both Spence and Jones are pass-rushing specialists and weigh under 250 pounds. Rams left tackle Greg Robinson is 6-foot-5, 335 pounds and is a mauler in the run game. That’s a size mismatch the Bucs have to avoid on the perimeter.
Don’t think that Smith can hide Spence or Jones on the left side, either. The Rams have 6-foot-7, 321-pound right tackle Rob Havenstein over there. Don’t be surprised if rookie DaVonte Lambert or Channing Ward gets some reps at right defensive end, especially on run downs if Ayers isn’t available. Lambert is 6-foot-2, 282 pounds, while Ward is 6-foot-4, 279 pounds, and that 30-40 pounds of added size may help Tampa Bay’s defensive end position hold up better against the run.
One thing is for certain. Six-foot-6, 286-pound defensive end Will Gholston will get plenty of playing time in this game. Gholston recorded a career-high 11 tackles last year against the Rams and will need another big game to help his team this week.
• Here are a couple of interesting stats courtesy of the Bucs’ public relations staff heading into a pivotal Week 3 game against Los Angeles:
Bucs DE Will Gholston and MLB Kwon Alexander – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Since entering the league in 2014, wide receiver Mike Evans ranks 10th in the NFL in receiving yards (2,426), while his 25 catches of 25 or more yards stand as the ninth-most in the league during that time. If Evans and Jameis Winston are clicking, he could be in for a monster day against St. Louis.
Tampa Bay’s run defense is limiting opponents to just 3.02 yards per rush this season, the third-lowest mark in the NFL. That’s good news for a team that will be facing Pro Bowler Todd Gurley, who is itching for a breakout game.
• Bucs left guard Kevin Pamphile is preparing to face Pro Bowl defensive tackle Aaron Donald in just his fourth career start at guard. While he has made strides as both a run blocker and a pass blocker, the area in which Pamphile has improved the most is mentally, according to his teammates.
“I think he’s gotten a lot more confident in his ability,” Bucs center Joe Hawley said. “That’s big in the NFL. Going against guys like Aaron you have to have confidence you can do it or you are going to lose the game before you even go out there. I think he’s worked and honed in on his technique. He’s worked very hard in practice to improve. I think he’s going to have a good game.”
• If you aren’t following PewterReport.com on Twitter, please do so and join the 23,000-plus Bucs fans who follow us. Click here to follow @PewterReport.
• According to Pro Football Focus, Bucs cornerback Alterraun Verner is one of the best in the league so far this year, allowing a 28.6 percent catch rate. Verner has had seven passes go his way and only allowed two to be caught. Verner also has a pair of pass breakups that came at Arizona last week.
SMU WR Courtland Sutton – Photo by: Getty Images
• If you’re looking for an exciting wide receiver draft prospect to scout, check out SMU’s redshirt sophomore Courtland Sutton as he goes against TCU on Friday night on ESPN at 8:00 pm ET. The 6-foot-4, 215-pound athletic receiver excites me with his big play ability. He has 13 catches for 336 yards (25.8 avg.) and four touchdowns with a long play of 88 yards. Last year as a redshirt freshman, Sutton posted 49 catches for 862 yards (17.6 avg.) and nine touchdowns, including four catches for 115 yards (28.8 avg.) and one touchdown in last year’s loss at TCU.
• Austin Seferian-Jenkins continues his pattern of taking one step forward and two steps back with the Buccaneers. He was arrested at 4:00 a.m. on a DUI charge by Florida Highway Patrol, according to The Tampa Bay Times. Seferian-Jenkins likely won’t play on Sunday as a result of the arrest. Seferian-Jenkins, the team’s second-round pick in 2014, has underachieved in Tampa Bay due to injuries and immaturity.
Seferian-Jenkins’ arrest hurts the Bucs as blocking tight end/fullback Luke Stocker is also expected to be out with an ankle injury he suffered last week. The Bucs could look to promote Alan Cross or Danny Vitale from the practice squad to bolster a unit which features just Cameron Brate and Brandon Myers.
• We had a great time at Sports Legends Bar & Grill in Clearwater for last week’s Pewter Watch Party – despite the outcome of Tampa Bay’s 40-7 loss at Arizona. The food is tremendous and the beer is ice cold. The menu is incredibly diverse and the meals are restaurant quality and not your typical sports bar fare. With over 40 big screen TVs there isn’t a bad seat in the house. I highly recommend you give Sports Legends Bar & Grill a try. Check out their menu at SportsLegends.biz.
• And finally, we wanted to let you know about Just Grillin’s Eggs By The Bay charity event coming up on Saturday, October 1. If you love grilling out and eating BBQ you need to bring your appetite to the Eggs By The Bay event, which takes place from 9:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. at A La Carte Event Pavilion. Just Grillin’s Eggs by the Bay Egg Fest and BBQ Cook-Off benefits the Shriners Hospital for Children – Tampa, and is the best barbeque party in the Tampa Bay area.
Imagine Big Green Eggs lined up beside beautiful Tampa Bay. Now imagine you get to sample every delicious bite that is being cooked on those Eggs. Well stop imagining and get your tickets now. The “Tasting Ticket” includes entry to the event, samplings, entertainment and Big Green Egg demonstrations! We have some of the best Big Green Egg chefs coming from all over to enjoy a cold beer and eat some delicious food!
Visit Just Grillin before you tailgate this weekend for all of your grilling rubs, sauces and accessories – or maybe a new Weber grill or Big Green Egg. Just Grillin is located at 11743 N. Dale Mabry Hwy. in Carrollwood just north of Raymond James Stadium. You can purchase your Tasting Tickets in-store or online by visiting JustGrillinFlorida.com.
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
In my best Jim Mora voice; PLAYOFFS, you want to talk playoffs?? I just don’t think they are ready yet. Lack of depth and serious lack of WRs after Evans. Watching the Cardnials smoke the Bucs should be cause for great concern. This offense which had firepower against Atlanta’s lower echelon defense was near harmless against playoff ready Arizona. With defenses like LA, Denver, Carolina in the future, I hope they can figure it out quick. They need players like AJS to step,,,,,,,,, ugh! Never mind. How long is Doug out for?
PS, A QB after rd4 would probably be a good idea. Please no more Aguayo surprises!
If managing success is wining one game, then we have set a pretty low bar for our team. I’d like to think we lost to the Cardinals because they have a very good team and could not afford to go 0-2 at home. Their performance this week against the Rams is predicated on the individual efforts of key back-up players, coaching, and the ability to ignore all the intangibles such as managing success, four straight losses to a team, and the myth that a team that has failed to score a touchdown this season is somehow vulnerable. When you are a Buc you play each game like it’s your only game of the season.
The problem is that bookies give home teams +3 points; except the bucs who get -3. WE have a home team disadvantage!
Earlier in the week I was skeptical when I heard speculation that some Bucs players were riding high after the win in Atlanta and that somehow affected their preparation for Arizona. Professional athletes letting their own press affect the next game? That seems incredibly unprofessional to me. It seems more like just an excuse at this point. I think we all know that the Bucs didn’t lose in AZ just because some players may have been riding too high on their own perceived greatness. It may have been a small contributing factor though. If so, I hope they didn’t read too much press this week. Because the consensus is “You suck again”. My advise to the players is this; don’t pay attention to any of it. Get your head in your preparation, do your job, go in there with the attitude that you CAN win if you play well and you WILL lose if you don’t. That’s it. Forget about ASJ, Martin’s injury, etc… and do your job right. Just win and then win again. Is that too much to ask?
The Pats have a saying that work…just do your damn job! Twisted, these guys are young and just learning to be professionals.
It’s time the Bucs players look in the mirror. If Coach Koetter is everything the players say then the effort needs to increase and remain consistent. We have seen scheme changes, personnel changes, coaching changes but the one thing that still is the same is our attitude. I see players that when it’s going bad, like week 1 last yr against Ten and last week against AZ, mail it in and quit. This team has to learn how to fight through adversity and start winning games where things are going as planned. I remember Lavonte David said last year after the TN loss that the team was deflated after a penalty call early on and never recovered. That type of thing is exactly what I saw last week and it’s getting pretty old. They expect fans to show up and cheer but dont consistently deliver a product worthy of fans dollars. I can handle a close loss or even a missed FG in the last seconds but being blown out with this much talent is only about heart. Until this team finds some we will continue to spin our wheels and dollars on players that dont have what it takes inside to man up when things arent perfect. I hope im wrong bc this group could be special but I see some of the same tendencies that have plagued this team for years.
Great Fab 5 SR!
Fab 1. Based on what I saw last Sunday, it is far more likely the Bucs go streaking down Dale Mabry than win 4 games back-to-back. I just hope the linemen don’t participate:) I know it was only one game; understood, but that lose was even worse than the lopsided score-it was ugly, no worse , it was fugly. I just hope the Glasers give Koetter time. They are known as the Donald Trumps of the NFL (YOU’RE FIRED!). If they win 4 it will be in the back half of the season.
Fab 2. First they have to have some success to handle.
Fab. 3 They practiced against GRM last year and it didn’t help. I I agree that GRM and Donald have different types of quickness, but it’s difficult to explain. I think Donald is more cat like quick, whereas Gerald is explosively quick. I didn’t like that Dotson came out this week saying he thinks Donald is the best tackle in the league. I wonder how that made his teammate feel?
Fab 4. I agree we need a QB. Ryan has not set my heart on fire and we need 2 good back ups. I think they will get more than one qb from somewhere. We need a burner WR, the best safety we can find, and lot’s of DL and 1 good OL. However, the first pick should be the BPA.
Fab 5. Why won’t that idiot ASJ play. You don’t think he’ll be somber by then? My buc shots: I hope we don’t go for the WR Mike Williams coming out of college next year. That’s almost as bad as drafting a Clemson pass rusher. All the Mike William’s WRs have been big and slow in the NFL.
Ok cool aid time. Any one who believes the bucs are a playoff team, please seek help
Okay I am going to put this game on Coach Koetter and Coach Smith? Here’s what I believe should happen. Coach Koetter; put an OL in place of Stocker and get the ball out quickly for 5-7 yard passes and throw deep. We might have to gamble here and let Jameis run when needed. Coach smith; we know you don’t have a pass rush so go to blitzes and also let N. Spence play in a 3-4 defense from time to time. D. Smith is so slow I wouldn’t play him and just go to the Nickel the whole game and let one of those guys blitz from time to time too. Right now we just don’t have the talent and I’m a little concern about Meatheads choices of draft picks and free agents.
Pewter Report, Do you know how not easy it is to go back a few articles when something like ASJ happens? I bet you don’t get that many comments on your Fab 5 because it’s already off the radar? Just saying you have to improve this web site. You’re losing hits. I’ve talked to a few pewter report fans and they are going to other sites because the information is not easy to get to. Just letting you know.
Well Horse, you didn’t call me.
I still find PR has the best information and honest analysis of any site out in internet land and believe me I have read them all.
By the time I write this ASJ has been cut.
My main concern going into the Rams game is because of Ayres injury we have virtually the same defensive front that didn’t get any pressure on Case Keesum last year.
Clinton McDonald did not play last year and I may be wrong but I don’t think Alexander did either.
Whatever the case, it is imperative the Bucs put consistent heat on Keesum this year.
Another SR Fab 5 with great insight. That was an intriguing point w/ facts to back it up about having to go on a streak to make the playoffs. I never looked at it like that before. I always broke the schedule in to 4 quarters and felt if there were two quarters of the schedule where they go 3-1 and then the other two quarters of the schedule they can go 2-2 then the playoffs should be almost be a lock. As I look at the schedule the Bucs need this Ram’s game so they can go at least go 2-2 these first four games and then hopefully 3-1 the next four games which would then put them into position the last half of the season to have a chance.
As for your Fab 2 I don’t buy that the Bucs lost the game to the Cardinals because they couldn’t handle success from week 1. I just think they paid the price for having to go face the Cardinals after their disheartening loss to the Patriots. Thanks for the insight about how the Rams will try to use Donald and how that might be a key to the game. I will definietly watch to see how that goes! Again, Pewter Report is the best in the business and I absolutely love the new design of the website! Keep up the great work!
Nice wishful thinking. The Rams will beat the Bucs on Sunday
So I will be the negative post here. SR both you and Mark the most experienced and knowledgeable writer on this site predicted a win last week and we were blown out. Here is my take on this team an this season. DK is an average NFL coach, JL is an average NFL GM, we have average overall talent and an average NFL caliber QB. JW is an excellent leader and and average QB. So with this group we will be a AVERAGE team. Think Bengals, Cowboys,Charges etc…JW is NOT a franchise QB, they don’t play the way he does. I predict medirocrity for 10 years. We will need to move on from JW, it si just a matter of how long it takes. 5 years from now fans will be making Josh Freeman comparisons
SR- PLAYOFFS???? this team is somewhere between 4-12 and 8-8. IF we make playoffs we are out in round 1
aren’t we negative
Let me ask you this Bucs fans, would you rather have a head case TE who can’t stay healthy or a (hopefully) solid kicker for 10+ years Im very disappointed in ASJ i will admit i got my hopes up for him and got burnt waste of a 2nd round pick
Good Fab 5.
Streaking? We are putting the cart way before the horse with this line of thought. I get it that winning some games in a row is vital to making the PO’s, but let’s just win Sunday.
This game will be just as tough to win as Denver in 2 weeks. In spite of having Jim Fisher as a coach. It’s amazing he is still employed.
Glad you talked to Cherilous this week, he is a big key in winning this game. The O Line needs to step it way up. I know I sound like a broken record about the O Line but, you can’t win a football game if you can’t block. Period.
I spent years playing and that was drilled into our heads every 10 minutes.
Dallas competes every game because of serious talented linemen.
Market and Phampille will be tested Sunday.
Yes the BUCS got the big head last week, many that smack down will open their eyes.
On the ASSJ situation, boy o boy am I disappointed. How can someone be this irresponsible. Not only is he in Dutch with the law but, losing a job that pays in the millions must be heartbreaking. I’m tempted to call him a butt-nugget but I’d rather say to this young man, go to rehab now, on your own, don’t wait until Goodle tells you.
Trust me you’ll feel better. Good luck to him.
GO BUCS. STILL LOVE YA
Well Scott, in spite of Horse complaining about the difficulties he has navigating the FREE Pewter Report site, I for one, look forward to reading it every morning and have even figured out how to work my way through the succession of articles.
Fab 1 made me recall the Bucs 5 game winning streak to start the 1979 Worst to First season. I still have that SI magazine “Unbeaten, Untied and Unbelievable”. But more often than not over the years our streaks have been more of the “Don’t look Ethel” variety.
It’s going to be interesting to see how this team reacts to the beat-down, injuries to key players, ASJ and the added pressure of playing an opponent against whom you are expected to defeat. They can’t start singing Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen. Need something good to happen early this week.
scubog, I have found the way too, but it’s not an easy flow. Also PR is free and yes they have good Articles. Us older guys have more patience to go through the motions to find the older articles from a day or two ago if we want to post something else, but not most younger people. I just threw my 2 cents out there.
You are literally the only person I ever see around here complaining about the quality of content or the ease of navigating the site. Stop being dramatic and saying that you and other people are going to other sites because you can’t find the articles that are coming out. A monkey could navigate this site. The homepage scrolls through the 5 most recent articles posted. Besides that, all the Fab 5’s have their own section on the homepage just below that most recent article screen. I know you’re an older person but it really can’t be easier than it is. Any other article is shown under the menu button under “news”. If you have a problem why don’t you email or message Scott or Mark privately instead of trying to get attention by complaining about it in the comment section. I’m sure that they would be happy to answer any of your complaints. Some people just can’t be happy with receiving FREE and amazing coverage from an independent source I guess. One thing I’ve learned from working in the service industry is that some people just can not be pleased no matter what you do. Don’t complain because YOU aren’t competent enough to navigate a basic website layout. This is 2016, this is the Internet, adapt or die. (Or go to Buccaneers.com) which uses a much more complicated web server.
Now enough about that, how about these first two weeks? What a rollercoaster. I’ll admit I drank the Kool aid after that first win. I think it is easy to get so high after a week one win like that because we have been so starved for wins these past few years, especially season openers. However, this week is not a must win but as close to that as you can get in week 3. The game will be won in the trenches. If we can control the line of scrimmage and contain Donald and Quinn and keep Jameis clean we should get out of Ray Jay with a W. If we can move their QB off his spot and not let him get comfortable then he shouldn’t shred us like he did last year. We have an awful history of letting these career backups kill us these past few years and if we ever want to get out of the NFC South cellar then this trend has to end now. Jameis has to protect the ball and we have to do something we haven’t done yet and TAKE THE BALL AWAY. If we can get a +2 turnover margin and win the battle of the trenches then this should be a sound win for us that we can build upon. Look for big bounce back games from Jameis and Lavonte as this team shows that this is not the same old Bucs. I can’t wait for 4:05PM tomorrow, show me something Tampa, let’s not be the same old Bucs of the past 10+ years.
Its been 15 years since the Superbowl season. We have not played well since then against tough, physical football teams. I am going to guess that there is more to last weeks loss than players reading press clippings.
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