2008 Bucs' Schedule: PNG

Friday, September 29, 2006

Lack Of Posts

Well, it's pretty obvious that I haven't been posting a lot this week. Needless to say, I've been dealing with my back, and preparing to go up north for the company I work for. I'll be in Michigan for the next two weeks. I don't yet know if I'll be able to post to this site or not. If I can, then I will have quite a few posts to put up during the two weeks.

Due to timeliness, I've decided not to post a game review post, per say. I'll state that I would grade the team as follows: Offense C+, Defense C, Special Teams B+, and Coaching D+. It's clear that the team continues to lack discipline and proper aggressiveness in key areas of the team. Maybe, after the BYE, the team will snap out of this funk before the season is completely shot. A win against the Saints next week would go a long way towards picking this team up off the mat. But then they would have to follow that with a win against the Bengals. Unless the defense starts tackling better, and staying home more often, that ain't going to happen. With Gradkowski at the helm, the offense will either sink or swim. It's possible that Bruce might just be able to pick this offense up and get it going, seeing as he's a very smart QB with speed that clocked faster than Brooks when he came out of college. Or Bruce could murder us with turnovers. Too hard to tell now.

I like the direction of the Special Teams, for the most part. I think we are, finally, OK in that area. 0-3 is not an impossible hole to come out of, as it's been done before. 0-4, however, is forget about it territory. I hate seeing a season start out so bad. It's a real downer, and you just hope they pull something out of there hat. They've got the talent, but is the defense too old, and the offense to mistake prone? We'll see.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Bucs Lose 24-26

Well, let's get this over with. The Bucs, as is probably well known now, lost to the Panthers on a last second FG. The Bucs had fallen behind 17-0 and yet came back to take the lead twice. It almost seemed destined that the Bucs were going to pull it out. Unfortunately, on 4th and 7, the Bucs allowed Delhomme to run up the middle for 12 yards to put the Panthers in FG range. Had the Bucs kept the MLB near the line, they would have likely stuffed Delhomme and the game would have ended in our favor.

To make matters worse, Simms injured his spleen in the game, and had to have it removed last night. He's not likely to be football capable until the last month of the season, and it's unlikely the Bucs would want to risk bringing him back into the fold at that time. My sense is that his season is over. Whether or not his Bucs career is over is way too hard to say. Gradkowski has been named the starter, and appears to have all the tools needed to run the West Coast Offense the way Gruden wants it run. He's also a very fast scrambler, which is something Gruden really wants out of his QB's.

What was really disappointing, and is becoming clear, is that the Bucs look slow on defense, and can't really get the heat from the middle of the defensive line that they need. The Bucs clearly need to get someone better than McFarland to play Sapp's old spot. The missed tackles were way too numerous, as well. This defense needs to get right, or this team's got zero chance of making anything of this season. Right now it looks like it's going to be a long one.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Simms Has Spleen Removed

I wasn't planning on posting anything until tomorrow, but I just found out that Simms had to have his spleen removed. Not good. He's out at least 6-8 weeks, and may very well not play again this season. Unless the Bucs make a move to bring in another QB, it looks like the Gradkowski era will get an early look.

With the Bucs 0-3, and looking like they could easily go 0-5, this might be good for them, in the sense that, if they're going to suck this year, at least get Gradkowski some real playing time and see what he can do. This will allow the Bucs to better evaluate him to see if he's a long term possibility.

Man, this season is going to be long.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

The Talking Plank - Week 3

The Talking Plank - Week 3: Vs. Carolina:

Well, the start of the season has seen a QB regress, a RB grounded, and a defense that looked slow and undisciplined. Will this week continue this trend? With injuries piling up, will the Bucs be in big trouble this week?

On Offense, the Bucs will try to get things going against a Panthers defense that is banged up, but has a healthy front 4. With MLB Morgan out, and SS Williams doubtful, the Panthers' defensive woes may lead to some fruitful offense by the Bucs. The two biggest keys are: 1) Caddy, or someone, getting 25+ runs and 2) Simms not being asked to run too many 3 step drops. If both of those happen, I think the Bucs will be able to move the ball on the Panthers. They have the talent to do it, and not putting Simms in the position of having nearly every other pass batted down early would be big. It would be even bigger if the offense can get the running game going against the Panthers. If they can, that will open the intermediate routes and allow someone like Alex Smith to make some big plays in the middle of the field. This may also be a good game for Clayton to make some key plays. What it will ultimately come down to is whether or not the offensive line can handle the Panthers' front four. If they can, the Bucs offense will have success. If not, it could get ugly. I think the offense will have some success. Whether or not it will be enough...

On Defense, the Bucs will be trying to recover from what appeared to be a game in which the defense looked slow, confused, and out of position. Of course, the Falcons threw a lot of completely new looks and took advantage of some over pursuit. If the Bucs defense can get back to the fundamentals, they should be able to limit the Panthers' success on the ground, and get after Delhomme on pass plays. With their Center, Hartwig, suffering from a groin injury, the Bucs should be able to take advantage of him, or his replacement. The big problem will be just how healthy the Bucs' defensive line is going into this game. McFarland is still a question mark, but Hovan and Rice both practiced, and I think they will be fine and ready to go. On guy that might not is Nece, whose knee injury kept him out of practice. This might not be a big loss as the Bucs can either put Winborn in there at the Sam, or move Quarles over and bring Rudd in at the Mike. One injury that may be very difficult to overcome, however, is Kelly, who appears to have been ruled out for the game with a recurring turf toe injury. This may not be to big of a loss if Smith can't go, or if his hamstring is still bothering him during the game, reducing his speed. A healthy Smith, however, would make it really tough on the Bucs. Keyshawn will be a short to intermediate threat, but the Bucs' defense will likely be looking to put the hurt on him. The Bucs really need to get the pressure up front and stop DeShaun Foster and DeAngelo Hall from getting things going on the ground. If the Bucs can stop the run and put the pressure on Delhomme, then the Bucs should be able to pull this game out with any decent semblance of an offense. But I'm not convinced that the defense can really bring it, especially with all of the injuries.

On Special Teams, both teams are roughly even in the return and coverage games, though I expect the Bucs to have better success returning kicks than last week. Punting games are about the same, but the Bucs aren't showing as well in the field goal department, and that could be the portion of this team that bites us in the end of this game. Of course, the Bucs have blocked 2 field goal attempts, so you can never discount that possibility. Overall, though, I think the only area to be concerned with is the field goal kicking. Bryant needs to nail any kicks he gets, because points may be hard to come by. If he misses a kick or two, it will cost the Bucs this game.

To be honest, with the state of these two teams, I can easily see the Bucs come out and get something going to win this game. In fact, I think that's a good possibility, and is why I will be there rooting them on. However, I just haven't seen enough from this team to be confident of that. I think this is a tight game that could easily go either way. In the end, I still see Carolina getting the best of us, though barely.

Panthers 16 Bucs 13

Quick Note On The Week

One might be wondering about the lack of updates during this past week. It wasn't because the Bucs fell to 0-2 or anything like that. No, unfortunately for me, my back started pinching some nerves on Tuesday, and I've been fighting the pain since. My prescription has helped reduced the problem over the last couple of days, but the pain kept me from being comfortable sitting in front of my PC putting posts up.

So, during this week, I didn't really get a chance to discuss things like the Mortensen article on his blog about what other GM's and coaches have stated about Gruden. Many of the things I agree with. I think Gruden needs to slowly work Simms from the 5 and 7 step drops down to the 3, instead of going 3 step all the time, as he did during the early drives of the Atlanta game. Getting Simms confidence up is priority number one, then you can slowly work back to the offense Gruden wants to run. One of the big keys this week will be in the running game where Gruden must get Caddy going. If his back is just limiting him too much, then Gruden needs to put Pittman and Alstott out there in that role, but keep running. If the Bucs run less than 25 times today (it's Sunday now!), then the Bucs will likely lose. Get the running game going and attack Carolina's banged up secondary. The Bucs' offensive line looked solid in pass pro last week, and I think they can hold up, though not as long, against the Panthers. If they can do that, then they have an excellent chance to win and get Simms going again. Stay tuned for the Talking Plank, coming up shortly.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Game Review - Week 2

The game against the Falcons seemed to be one of futility. In general, the Bucs just seemed to be a little off, whether it was on offense (QB, RB to the hole, etc...), defense (over pursuit, missed tackles, breaking down in containment, a little slow to the ball, etc...), and on special teams (missed field goal, missed blocks on returns, etc...). The end result wasn't very pretty. So here I'll breakdown the individual units in gut wrenching fashion.

Offense: D+

Well, unlike last week, the offense actually moved the ball at times, but either stalled or turned the ball over. Many have blamed Simms; many have blamed Gruden. So who's at fault? Both. Simms has his stake in this mess by continuing to have some problems with slow reads and passes thrown without confidence. The result was dropped balls, batted passes, interceptions, or just missing receivers outright. Some of this even happened when he had deeper drops and plenty of pass protection. So where does Gruden's portion of the blame come in? Well, it's simple really, and I'm basically going to repeat myself from my last post. If you QB is struggling with certain throws, you remove them from your offense and concentrate on what he does best. Gruden failed to do this until the last drive of the first half, meaning 6 quarters of play before he stopped with the plethora of 3 step drops.

But that's not all, Gruden also failed to stick to the running game. Everytime the Bucs used the run to setup the passing game, the Bucs had success moving the ball. Everytime Gruden had his QB come out firing the ball around, success was much harder to find. Quite frankly, this situation is something of a joke. Gruden needs to stop putting the square peg in the round hole. Simms can run the passing offense with the intermediate and long routes as key components. The short routes are off until defenses start playing the run more and start trying to rush the passer hader, instead of just stopping and jumping to deflect the passes. Gruden must concentrate on making defenses defend everything, only then can we expect to see some success with the shorter routes. What sucks, is that the running game was there. It wasn't tearing things up, but you could sense that Caddy was close to breaking that one last tackle to turn a 3 or 4 yard run into 20. And the line protected very well in the passing game, and got some modest push in the running game, where most of the tackles were from LB's not DL's. The offense stunk, and there's no getting around it.

Defense: D-

Ok, 306 yards rushing. Excuse me? 306? On the ground? Good grief. The defense looked slow. They also looked to be very poorly disciplined at times. Especially the DL, where Rice consistently rushed way too wide or Spires cut too close inside, allowing lanes for Vick to easily escape. And when he did, the LB's weren't in position to clean his clock. I still remember the home game in '02 when Vick saw an opening in the middle of the line and ran for it, only to get greeted by Mr. Brooks after a couple of yards. Where was that in this game? Is this defense too old? Too lacking of talent? Poorly coached? I don't know. I do know that blitzes up the middle were creating havoc for the Falcons, but Monte rarely used them. The bright side is that, despite all the yards on the ground, and a negligible amount through the air, the Falcons couldn't punch it in. This was the most obvious example of bend but don't break I have ever seen. Maybe that accounts for something because the Bucs were in this game until the end. Maybe there's hope? I don't know.

There was the return for a TD by Brooks that was taken away by a horrible call. There was the first Falcon TD that basically came after a first and goal given to them on a horrid pass interference call. I really don't know what to think of this defense right now. They shutdown the Ravens for most of the first game. They initially were shutting down everything the Falcons had except Vick running on broken plays. Then they appeared to roll over and nearly die for much of the game. Let's hope they fix whatever is going on. If they don't this season ain't going to be pretty unless the offense suddenly turns on and becomes Indy like.

Special Teams: C

They don't get the C for their return, nor their FG attempts. That for sure. Had they had those areas going for them, the Bucs would have had a better shot at winning this game. No. The grade comes from the coverage teams, the punting, and the outstanding blocks on two field goal attempts by the Falcons. Those 2 blocks helped keep hope alive. Really, that's pretty much all I can say about this part of the team. They did OK, but left 6 points on the field.

Coaching: D

Quite frankly, I was amazed at what I saw on Sunday. I couldn't believe some of the things that I watched, and the coaching, in my estimation, really let the team down. Now, I'll be the first to say that Gruden is one of the best coaches in this league. But is one main problem is his stubbornness. He needs to remember that Simms has only started 14 games and that this is a complex version of the West Coast offense. Simms is learning, and, at times, looks really good. At other times he can look really bad. I expect the light switch to turn on by mid-season this year, but hoped that Gruden would use the run more often to help take some pressure off of Simms. It doesn't help when you're constantly yelling at Simms, either. Granted that Gruden is right in his criticisms, but Simms confidence was shaken until they started dropping back 5 steps more often. Simms seemed to start to get his confidence back. Now Gruden needs to work to build up Simms' confidence while trying to get Simms to understand where his receivers are on every play. It's a growing process, and Gruden needs to stop fighting it and just work it. It took him a quarter and a half before he did that, but he still bottled up the running game when we were still close.

On the other side of the ball, Monte simply didn't have an answer for the plays the Falcons were running and it made the defense look slow while they over pursued or missed tackles. This was probably one of the poorest games, adjustments wise, that I've seen from Monte. I don't think it's a long trend, though. Monte needs to make sure the defense comes out firing on all cylinders this Sunday, or the Bucs are going to be in a hole that might be too tough to climb out of.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Bucs Lose 3-14

Well...that was certainly ugly. I'll give up a detailed analysis in the Game Review, but I think a few key comments here are worth noting. First, the defense gave up 300+ yards rushing. That was absolutely ridiculous. They over pursued, miss tackled, and generally looked slow and out of place on numerous occasions. Of course, Derrick scored a TD only to have the refs take it away for a totally BS block in the back call. That score would have made this a game and the Bucs might have had a shot at winning this game, but we'll never know. Also, the first TD scored by the Falcons came after a BS pass interference call that set them up around the goal line. That's a 14 point swing.

On offense, the Bucs really sucked at times. Simms looked horrendous early, but managed to get it back together enough to help drive the Bucs down into scoring range several times only to have bad things happen (a pick, missed FG, arghh!!). Simms continued to have batted balls early in the game, mostly occurring on 3 step drops again. The line played well, especially in pass protection. But what really irks me is the play calling. First, we only ran the ball 15 times while throwing it 53 times, despite the fact that the final score was the same at half-time. Then, it took too many drives before Gruden finally stopped calling so many 3 step drops and started letting Simms drop back further and letting his OL do their job. Simms had protection all day, and was able to move the ball well with the deeper drops. But then Gruden stopped calling runs, and the Falcons just started dropping more guys in the secondary to tighten up the coverage. The bigger plays Simms had came after a run or two by Caddy. This makes two straight games that Gruden has abandoned the run too early in the game.

Simms is getting a ton of heat for this game, and it's mostly justified, but Gruden didn't put him in the best of position to win for much of the game. This is despite the fact they came out running and had success moving down the field, only to stall and then miss the field goal attempt. Then Gruden's commitment to the run faded. What can you do? Gruden needs to go into the Panthers game with two goals: 1) run the ball 25+ times in the game no matter what and 2) limit the number of 3 step drops allowing Simms a chance to burn the secondary without having the ball batted back down or tipped into the air. If he doesn't do those two things, we aren't going to win, and we'll be in a deep hole right off the bat, with, really, no realistic chance at the playoffs. Ugh.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

The Talking Plank - Week 2

The Talking Plank - Week 2: Bucs At Falcons:

After such an ugly game last week, many have been ready to string Simms, Gruden, or both, from a tree. However, let us not forget that the Bucs have historically come back from brutal beatings to win the following week, including twice last year after the Panthers and Patriots games. Both times the Bucs were soundly beaten and looked to be going nowhere, only to come roaring back and continue on to the playoffs. With the Falcons having spanked the Panthers, both teams looked poised for reality checks. One team isn't as bad as they looked, and the other isn't as good. So what will the result be this week?

On Offense, the Bucs will be going against a defense that's a little banged up. And while the Falcons' defense has always given the Panthers problems when the cats couldn't run effectively, the Falcons' defense has never been stellar against the Bucs. With the pick-up of John Abraham, the Falcons looked poised to maybe turn that around. They also added big (but starting to slow) Grady Jackson to the DT spot. But they still have Coleman, at 285 lbs. at the other DT spot, to go with Kerney at the other DE. Abraham hurt his groin and hasn't practiced all week. Since it's the same groin muscle he pulled in '03, I don't think he will play, and would struggle if he did. Even if he played full strength, he wasn't very effective against the Bucs last year with the Jets. Coleman is too small, and Jackson has been ineffective against us with the Packers last year and the Saints in '02. Davis is likely to replace Abraham, and he was ineffective against us two years ago. I just don't see the Falcons getting great push against our line when we attempt to run the ball. Caddy appears to be ready to go, having returned to practice on Friday stating he felt fine. Back spasms can quickly go away if there's no actual muscle or nerve issues, which the MRI did not show. If he can't go it will be up to Pittman, Alstott, and Graham to get the running game going. The Bucs must make a concerted effort to run against the Falcons, since I think they can. The Falcons also look to be without Hartwell at MLB. And, while DeAngelo Hall looks to go, he did fail to practice on Friday with a thigh injury, and that could slow him down, allowing Galloway to beat him deep. The Falcons did pick up Lawyer Milloy at Safety, but he wasn't very effective against us last year (with the Bills), and Crocker plays next to him. With Buenning likely ready to go, the Bucs should be able to run left again. Whether or not they can go right is hard to say. If Terry is still in there, I say yes, but that may effect the pass protection. I see Gruden running the ball 30+ times in this game and letting Simms get time to hit the bigger plays with Galloway and Clayton taking advantage of a hobbled back 7. With Hartwell out, Smith might find some good space in the intermediate middle to really force the Falcons to spread wide, and that will only feed the running game more. The offense should be much more effective this week.

On Defense, the Bucs will be looking to tighten up against the Falcons and show that last week's opening drive was just a bit of a fluke. The Bucs' defense knows the Falcons quite well, and, without Duckett to pound the Bucs in the middle, they'll be able to concentrate on flying to the ball and shutting down Dunn and Vick in the running game. The Bucs will also be prepared for the cut-blocking of the Falcons' offensive line. In the passing game, the Bucs will be looking to put a lot more pressure on Vick this year than last, when the Bucs pass rush was one of the worst in Monte's tenure here. Against the Ravens, the Bucs got a lot of pressure at times, but just had problems getting all the way to McNair and taking him down. The Falcons' offensive line is much, much smaller than the Ravens (where only the Center was under 320 lbs.). The Bucs should get a lot more pressure on the Falcons, and Vick only completed 45% of his passes against the Panthers, despite not being pressured a ton (though he was sacked once). And while Roddy White fooled the Bucs' defense in the first game last year, the Bucs clamped down on him in the second. Price is gone, leaving the Falcons with, really, just 2 wide receiving threats (White and Jenkins). The other main threat in the passing game is Crumpler, who killed us in the first game last year, but who was then shut down with just 1 pass for 5 yards in the second game. Look for the Bucs to really clamp down hard on him. The biggest key for the Bucs is to shut the running game down early and get a lot of heat on Vick in the passing game, while making sure Crumpler doesn't run around freely. If they can do that, it will be a long day for the Falcons' offense.

On Special Teams, the Bucs and Falcons are pretty even on kick and punt returns as well as in the kicking and punting games, though we have the better punter. Pittman, despite not yet getting into a groove and finding the running lanes, managed to return kickoffs at nearly 25 yards a clip, and the Bucs rarely started from inside their own 25, a far cry from last year. Jones was pretty effective in the punt return department, getting 9.4 yards a return. The Bucs will have to stop Allen Rossum who averaged 29 yard per kick, and 9.7 yards per punt. If the Bucs can lay the wood into him, they'll slow him down, but they can't afford to have a breakdown here and let the Falcons get good field position. This area of the game could decide the winner. I'll say this, if Pittman can learn to stop running into the pile, and just cut into the voids, he could break some long returns.

What I see in this game is a Bucs' team desperate to get back to winning, and they are about to face a team that traditionally doesn't match-up well against them, and one that's missing some key players. As a result, I expect the Bucs to really stand up and take it to the Falcons and walk out of their with a victory. If, however, Gruden abandons the run, the Bucs will lose again. I don't think that will happen this week. I'm sticking to my earlier score prediction.

Bucs 24 Falcons 17

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Buenning Practices/Abraham Likely Out

Well, it appears that Buenning has practiced and that he looks more likely to go, though he's still listed as questionable. If he can play, it will make a big difference in that line, as he's a much better pass blocker than either Mahan or Terry, and one of the best run blockers on the team. The Bucs need to get back to establishing the run, as well as laying off the max protect sets and try to get more weapons out into the patterns.

What may help is that Abraham appears to be Out for this game, and possibly out until week 5. If Abraham is out, that will help a lot. In addition to that, Kerney is probable to play, but that triceps injury is likely to really limit is effectiveness on the field. With Kerney not 100% and Abraham out, the OL should be able to handle the Falcons smallish d-line. If not, we are in trouble.

The only thing that does concern me is Caddy's on-going back spasms. I don't think it will really stop him, but it could limit his touches and that's not a good thing. Look for my Talking Plank tomorrow or Saturday.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Game Review - Week 1

Ugh. OK, I'm done. Just kidding. Unlike the extensive game reviews I used to do at the old site, these will be a little more general rating the Offense, Defense, Special Teams, and Coaching. And what a lovely game to start out with. So here we go:

Offense: F

I think it's pretty obvious that this unit, as a whole, deserves a failing grade for its obvious lack of ability to put any points on the board. What was clear was that the offense never really attacked the Ravens defense, and never bothered to try to establish the run. But the real failures come from the lack of protection without maximum protection sets, and the failure for targets to get open more than 2 or 3 yards down field for most of the game. The offensive line, with two starters out, had all kinds of difficulty containing defenders in the middle of the line. When pressure wasn't getting to Simms, there were only 1 or 2 threats running routes with blanket coverage. The fact that the Ravens could put pressure on 1 TE sets with just 4 guys, says something.

The offensive line is clearly the big problem. Yes, Simms had batted balls, but trying to get him to change his mechanics is like asking him to start throwing with his right arm. The simple fact is that the offensive line is simply too passive in its pass pro. They need to take a step back then fire into the defenders. Stop letting those guys push you back without a lot of resistance. And when they stand there ready to put their hands up at the count of 3, knock 'em on their rears or hit them so hard in the gut that they stop putting their hands up. Overall, this unit's combined effort stunk.

Defense: C

This unit would get a higher grade if they had done two things: 1) not let the Ravens eat 10 minutes and score a TD on the opening drive, and 2) get at least one turnover. Neither happened, and it meant the Bucs were in deep trouble from the get go. A turnover in the game, especially in the first half, would have been huge and might have changed the outcome. A few sacks might have helped too. For the most part, though, the Defense shut the Ravens down, forcing a lot of punts. So I can't get too down on them.

One thing I did notice was a lack of fire from the defense. Brooks missed tackles. The DL failed to really apply any constant pressure. The DB's were playing soft a lot. It was a flat defense and they seemed to set the tone that the offense would gladly pick up and run with. Need a better effort against the Falcons; a much better effort.

Special Teams: B-

Overall, I thought the Special Teams did well. There weren't any field goal attempts, nor extra points, so Bryant can only be rated on his kick off (yes, the one), which was solid, but not spectacular. Bidwell punted well, as usual. Jones did alright on punt returns. And Pittman regularly got the Bucs to around the 30 yard line or beyond after each Ravens' kick off. That was a big improvement over the other returners from the last couple of years.

Better yardage, or breaking a return for a TD, would have been nice, but this unit played well enough to give the Bucs every chance they needed to try to win this game.

Coaching: F

I rarely give this coaching staff such a low grade, but this game deserved it. From not having the team fired up for this game, to being unprepared for what the Ravens were bringing on both sides of the ball, it was ugly all around. The defense was passive, and allowed too much room for a solid but not fear inducing set of Ravens' receivers. I thought Monte's plan was just too much of a "don't lose it" type of plan as opposed to the "take it to 'em and win" plan.

Gruden's offensive coaching was probably the worst I have seen from him. While I understand his reasoning for coming out with the three straight passes, I thought they were simply uncalled for, especially when your defense was just on the field for 10 minutes. The least they could have done was run three times, and use a couple of minutes of clock time. Needless to say, when you play an elite defense like the Ravens, you must, at all cost, stay committed to the running game, no matter what. If you don't, you become dog food. Our defense specializes in this. Gruden should know better. Hopefully he'll stop falling back on the max protect sets, which don't work that well anyways, and start spreading defenses out and attacking them. Being passive is for losers. The one drive where the offense opened it up a little, Simms led the team right down and had a shot at a TD, except the play calling went to snit again. Where was an Alstott run with 3rd and three from the 5? Get that first down and have 4 more cracks!

Overall the Team gets a D for this game. Let's hope that the coaching staff stops acting like their team can't win, and starts using its weapons on both sides of the ball. Stop backing off receivers on D, and start spreading defenses with 3 and 4 wides with a TE and back. I think we'll see more of that style against the Falcons, at least I hope so.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Joseph Out Until Game 4

It appears that RG Davin Joseph will be out until after the BYE, likely starting against the Saints. That's not really good news all things considered, but it does look like Buenning will be back for the Falcons game.

It also looks as though the Falcons' defense will be without Abraham and possibly Kerney. Although Kerney has said he will go, we also heard Quarles say that he would definitely play. Kerney injured his triceps, and that's not a good injury for a DE to have. It would basically make him highly ineffective. Abraham's injury is a groin. Those don't just heal overnight. Even if he can go, and keep in mind he injured his groin in 2003, it's likely that the injury would greatly affect his ability to rush the passer and hold up against the run. In any case, if one or both of these guys are either out, or play injured, and, therefore, ineffectively, it will greatly aid the Bucs offense.

I'm going to try and do a Game Review post tomorrow to give a general grade for the three team areas and for coaching. I won't be doing positional breakdowns like I used to, as it takes too much time. Till then.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Bucs Lose 27-0

Well...that was ugly. I'll keep it short for now, but plan to rant and rave later on. Needless to say, I think the Bucs were unprepared and basically mailed in this game. This one was nearly identical to the effort (if you can call it that) that the Bucs put up against the Patriots last year against a similar defensive scheme. Right off the bat the Bucs' defense put us in a hole, though I think that the TD would not have happened if not for the BS pass interference against Barber. Needless to say, Gruden then promptly abandoned the run against a team that you do NOT want to abandon the run against. The result wasn't pretty. Simms made his share of mistakes, and he needs to correct the batted balls, but the OL also needs to start body punching and leveling these DT's and DE's that stop rushing on the quick drops. The OL knows where the ball is going and when. Time to step up and punish the DL for stopping to put their hands in the air.

The receivers dropped some balls. The OG's sucked, big time. The DL didn't get a lot of pressure. The secondary played way too soft in their zones. Monte's calls were too tentative. Gruden's calls just flat out sucked at times. It was just an all around crappy performance by the entire team. Some want to put the full blame on Simms, but he doesn't make the play calls, nor block up front, nor catch the ball down field. Nor does he play defense. He came onto the field down 7 points from the get go.

Let's hope the coaching staff can get this team focused on the Falcons, and get Buenning and Joseph healthy. Ironically, Davis and Walker actually played well (not great). Ehh.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

The Talking Plank - Week 1

The Talking Plank - Week 1: Ravens at Bucs:

With the opening of the Bucs' 2006 Season, they host the Baltimore Ravens, a team that went 6-10 last year despite having the 5th rated defense. This year, the Ravens hope to improve their offense in the hope that they can turn their team into a playoff contender. The Bucs, having won the NFC South last year, but bowing out in the first playoff game, would like to improve their team enough to go deep into the playoffs and possibly push for the Super Bowl. Now both teams get their first real assessment of how they have done this off-season.

On Offense, the Bucs look to face a tough defense that primarily lines up in a 3-4, but adjusts frequently to 4-3 and 46 alignments. The Ravens basically tend to line up their guys in a way they feel gives them the best match-ups. Even their depth chart currently lists their players in a 4-3 defensive front. The Ravens did lose Michael Boulware, which will hurt them at linebacker, and that will cause them some issues in their run defense. The Bucs will likely need to run at the edges as often as possible, and get Ray Lewis out of the area of the ball carrier. Simms will need Caddy to have a good game or he will be facing an array of blitzes when he steps back to pass. With Joseph out, and Buenning likely out, the Bucs will find it hard running and protecting up the middle. If the Ravens have a weakness on defense, it's the passing game, though I wouldn't call them weak. If the Bucs can get a decent running game going, Simms will be able to take advantage of some of his talented receivers. To be honest, I wouldn't be shocked to see the Bucs take a deep shot to Galloway very early to try and force the Ravens to play the whole field. Should the Bucs get some semblance of an offense going, it could make all the difference in the world. We could also see the Ravens' defense pull a Bills D, and melt in the second half. It will be hot, and I expect the Ravens defense to have problems if we can establish a running game. As it is, I expect the offense to struggle at times, but get just enough plays to score a few times.

On Defense, the Bucs will be facing a big offensive line, but one that isn't tremendously athletic. The last time the Bucs played the Ravens, 3 of the 5 were playing, and the Bucs defensive line was able to use it's speed to cut by and around this offensive line. I expect the same, however, the Bucs offense must hold the ball for at least 30 minutes or the defensive line could get worn down. With Jamal Lewis banged up, I expect the Bucs to be able to handle him, assuming the linebackers get clean looks. The receivers that McNair will have to throw too, will have a hard time catching balls against the Bucs corners. Generally, the small quick guys usually have problems against Barber and Kelly, unless they can burn by them. Since I expect McNair to be under pressure when he throws, I don't think the Raven's receivers will be very effective. The key, of course, will be shutting Lewis down with the front 7. If the Bucs can do that, then they will make it very difficult for the Ravens to get open. One factor the Bucs defense must account for is Todd Heap. He's a very good TE, even though he's struggled mightily in the prior two meetings with the Bucs ('01 and '02). Overall, I expect the Bucs defense to be very stout and keep the Ravens offense in check for most of the game.

On Special Teams, the Bucs will be starting this season with Pittman returning kicks, which should help the Bucs get much better starting field position, which will be key in this game. Pittman has the perfect style of running for this type of return. He just needs to keep the ball in his hands, and the Bucs should have an advantage here. Mark Jones will field Punts, while Bidwell and Bryant will be doing the punting and kicking. The Ravens' return teams haven't been all that great in Preseason, and we'll see if that carries over into the regular season. Their coverage teams were mixed; solid on kicks and poor on punts. So there should be some opportunities.

This game should be a good defensive battle with just a smattering of offense here and there. in the end, with the heat, assuming it doesn't stay overcast or rain a lot, and with the home field advantage, I expect the Bucs to pull out this game in the end. As such, even with the injuries to Joseph and Buenning, I still expect the same result and score as I predicted a couple days ago.

Bucs 16 Ravens 10

Boston Cut/Jackson Signed

In a shocker, Boston was cut to make room for Scott Jackson, since Buenning is still questionable for Sunday's game. Quite frankly, I think the Bucs' front office has really screwed up the 53 man roster. They were thin at OL and DL, yet they cut some reserves there, and kept 7 linebackers and receivers. Then, they cut the one receiver I thought had a chance to cement himself as the third receiver, while leaving the utterly useless, and market valueless Warren on the team. They could have cut Warren and placed him on the practice squad. Warren isn't someone who's skills can't be replaced on special teams, so WTF?!

Nevertheless, it appears, from what Boston's agent is saying, that the Bucs may bring him back next week if the injuries heal up. Let's hope so. I like Hilliard, but he doesn't have the speed that Boston does. I also like Stovall, but he's a rookie. He could become a force, but we'll see. Let's just hope we don't start having a rash of injuries at either Tackle position on the defensive line.

Bucs 2006 Season Predictions - 4th Quarter

Last, but not least, we'll close out my prediction series with the Bucs' 4th quarter games. This quarter could be the make or break one for the Bucs. I have them coming in at 8-4, and likely needing at least two wins to secure a playoff spot. So, on with the predictions.

Vs. Atlanta:

With the possibility likely that the Bucs could sew up the NFC South crown again, the Bucs will be ready to take on a desperate Falcons team. But, as with the first game, the Bucs will be able to overpower the Falcons' small defensive line, and force them to play the run, as they do that, Simms will start hitting receivers all over the field, and likely hit some big plays. The Bucs' defense will continue to shine as they will get after Vick, and force some key mistakes. In the end, this looks to be a mismatch that could lead to a runaway victory, similar to the one the Bucs had late in the 2002 season.

Bucs 35-20

At Chicago:

Da Bears...in December...brrrrr! If this game was held during a warmer time period, I would have a better feeling about a win, but this game is going to be tough as it is. While the Bears' offense isn't likely to do much, the Bear's defense is likely to make life difficult on Simms and Co. Since the weather will be cold, and the conditions will likely be non conducive to an effective passing game, I expect the Bears to stack up against the run, and make it very difficult for the Bucs to move the ball. In the end, I expect a few key mistakes to cost the Bucs the game by giving the Bears points, or the field position to score without difficulty, much like the game here last year.

Bears 10-7

At Cleveland:

After one cold road game, the Bucs get to finish their stretch of 3 in 4 weeks by playing the Browns in late December, Christmas Eve, no less. But when it comes to this game, the Bucs are going to be receiving. The Bucs defense will simply shutdown and ineffective Browns offense. The Browns offensive line has several stinkers (C, RG, RT, and LT), which includes a Bucs' favorite (not!) Cosey Coleman. They will simply be no match for the Bucs' front four. The Browns have a decent RB in Droughns, but he's not stellar enough to be able to beat the Bucs defense. The Browns also have a bad QB situation with mistake prone Charlie Frye and Ken Dorsey leading the pack at No. 1 and 2. While the Browns do have Jurevicius and Northcutt at WR, they have an unsettled Winslow at TE, and not enough weapons to keep the Bucs from stacking the box and blitzing the QB on passing situations. Defensively, the Browns run a 3-4, something the Bucs offense is getting used to seeing, and better at beating. McKinley is a decent DE, but NT Ted Washington is now 38 years old, and nothing more than a big blob of man in the middle. And while the Browns do have McGinest at Linebacker, the rest of the unit is not that great, especially against the run where the Browns were 30th last year. The Bucs should be able to run the ball at the Browns, but, if the whether permits, the Browns could be in serious trouble if the Bucs can pass the ball, as they have too much talent for a poor Browns secondary. Really, the only concern I have in this game is the weather. If we get a mild game (say in the 40's without snow), this could get really ugly for the Browns. But that's not likely, which will keep the score down, and require the Bucs to limit their mistakes, especially turnovers. In the end, they'll win, and likely sew up a playoff spot.

Bucs 13-6

Vs. Seattle:

With the last game being played against the Seahawks, a lot of factors could come into play, including whether or not the Seahawks or Bucs will be playing all of their starters. It will greatly depend on playoff positioning as both teams are likely to be going further than this game. Offensively, the Seahawks will be a little less explosive without Jurevicius. The Bucs will focus, defensively, on stopping Alexander and forcing the Seahawks into 3rd and long situations where they will come after them hard. The Bucs defense should be able to slow down the Seahawks, but it's unlikely they will stop them. Offensively, the Bucs will find the running to be hard, but not impossible. But where they will be able to take advantage is through the air, where the Seahawks' defense is weakest. With the Bucs offense in high gear, they should be able to move the ball pretty well in the air, which could open the running game up some. In the end, the team with the fewest mistakes is likely to be the winner of this game. With the game being at Raymond James, I expect the Bucs to be that team.

Bucs 24-21

And that does it. I predict the Bucs will finish 11-5, again, and win the NFC South for two straight years. I think this Bucs team will be better than last years, but the schedule is harder. In the end, I think the Bucs may have enough firepower to make a run at the SB, but it will depend greatly on injuries and the offensive line. With Joseph out for the Ravens game, it's going to be tough if he can't get back soon. Terry should fill in well, though. Look for the Talking Plank post later tonight, or very early tomorrow.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Bucs 2006 Season Predictions - 3rd Quarter

Continuing with the series, here's a look at the 3rd quarter of the season.

NOTE: I had to correct some errors in the 2nd QTR post, mainly dealing with the record. It's fixed, and will now make sense.

At Carolina:

Once again the Bucs get to face the kitties, and, just like last year, I expect the teams to split the series, winning at each other's place. The Bucs' offense will be in full mid-season form, as will the Bucs' defense. Expect a nasty, hard hitting game, with the Bucs pulling it out in the end.

Bucs 20-17

Vs. Washington:

Well, I think you can be well assured that the Bucs will have been waiting for this game after the refs helped the Redskins win the playoff game. Needless to say, the Bucs' defense will be looking to put the hurt on Portis, whom they shutdown in the playoff game. The Redskins picked up Antwan Randle-El, hoping he will help their receiving corps be more dangerous, but Brunell's not getting any younger, and I expect the Bucs to have a much better pass rush from the front four than they did last year. Offensively, the Bucs should be better able to take advantage of the Redskins' defense, something Simms did in the first game, and nearly did in the playoff game, except for a slight bobble reception by Shepherd in the endzone that the refs turned over, costing the Bucs the game. The Bucs, at least through the air, appear to have the Redskins' number. By the time this game comes along, Simms will have pretty much seen every thing the Skins can through at him. Revenge is sweet, and it's coming.

Bucs 27-14

At Dallas:

After a short week, the Bucs have to travel to Dallas to play the Cowgirls...err...Cowboys. Both teams play the prior Sunday, so despite this being a Thursday game, both teams will have to deal with it. While the Cowboys have T.O., Terry Glenn, and Julius Jones, they also have Drew Bledsoe, a QB that has been creamed by our defense every time he's played us. The Cowboys have a decent offensive line, but it's not good enough to hold up against the Bucs' defense. I expect to see Drew running for his life, if you can call that running, and having a rather tough time of it. Offensively, the Bucs will be facing a 3-4 defense, which Gruden has had a lot of success against. What makes matters worse, for the Cowboys, is their size up front, which is rather small. I expect our offensive line to be able to open holes, and let Caddy break off some big runs against the Cowboys' Linebackers, who lack elite speed, but have size. The Cowboys' Secondary is a group that the Bucs' wideouts should be able to take advantage of. Really, except for home field, the Cowboys will be over matched, talent-wise, against the Bucs. Parcells is a very good coach, however, and this game won't be easy. In the end, I think the Bucs take 'em.

Bucs 20-13

At Pittsburgh:

In one of the league's cruel jokes, the Bucs get to go on the road for 3 of the next 4 games to places that are generally not really nice places to go in the month of December. This gaggle of cold road games starts in Pittsburgh, where the Bucs will face the defending champions. The Steelers typically have had the right kind of team to beat the Bucs, but, without Bettis, the Bucs should be able to control the Steelers' run offense to some degree and force Cheeseburger...uhh...I mean Roethlisberger, to beat them through the air. If that happens, the Steelers' offense will have a tough time getting anything done. All that said, with the weather, the crowd, and the Steelers' tough defense, I expect the Bucs offense to sputter at times, and to have a turnover or two that will swing this game. While the Bucs will have a pretty easy time against the Cowboys' 3-4, the Steelers' is a different animal. They have a huge nose tackle, and faster linebackers. That will make it tough on Caddy, who will be needed in a cold weather game. All of the factors place the likelihood of a Bucs win at low odds. At Ray Jay I would give this game to the Bucs, but not it Heinz Field in December.

Steelers 17-10

With the 3rd quarter over, the Bucs should be sitting pretty at 8-4 with 4 games left. With a win against Atlanta (assuming the other division games go as I predict) the Bucs would likely have a shot at wrapping up the tiebreakers for the South, and may likely win it with an additional win. The Bucs would likely need to finish at least 2-2 to be safe for a playoff spot under the season scenario I've painted thus far. I should have the final post up in the morning, with the new Talking Plank up sometime later on Saturday. Stay tuned!

Bucs 2006 Season Predictions - 2nd Quarter

This is the continuation of my Preseason picks. In this post I will discuss the 2nd quarter of games on the Bucs' schedule.

NOTE: I posted this without checking some things, including their record after the predicted wins/losses, DOH! Please forgive me. I have corrected the errors.

Vs. Cincinnati:

The Bucs come home for game 5 to face a tough Bengals team that looks poised to do some damage in the league. They come with an improved defense and a high powered offense with Palmer throwing the ball around to guys like WR Chad Johnson. One thing you can expect is that the Bengals will move the ball and they will score often. This early in the season, I think the key will be how well the Bucs' offense can get it going. I think it will be a little too early in the season for the Bucs' offense to hang with the Bengals. While the Bucs' defense will do a decent job of slowing the Bengals down, I don't think it will be quite enough to win this game. This is a toss-up, in my mind, but I think our offense just needs a little more seasoning before they can win games like this.

Bengals 27-24

Vs. Philadelphia:

After a poor season last year when everything went wrong for the Eagles, they are poised to try and recapture some of their lost glory, and try to make another run at the playoffs, minus T.O. Offensively, however, they aren't as talented as they were during prior contests against the Bucs' defense, and I think this year we'll see McNabb having to run around a lot and trying to make plays on the run. Without the supporting cast, however, it will be more difficult for him to make plays. I fully expect to see Rice shine in this game and take it to McNabb. Defensively, the Eagles have lost a lot of talent over the last 3-4 years. Their defense is still good, but it's not the same one that stymied the Bucs two straight years in the playoffs. As such, I expect the Bucs to have better success on offense than they have previously. Caddy will be a big part of this game, as he must be able to force the Eagles to either respect the run or sell-out blitzing all the time, where the Bucs can hit a quick pass for a big gain (think Jurevicious - NFC Championship). The Bucs offense will finally start gelling by this game, and we should start seeing explosive plays with more frequency. In the end, the Bucs will win a regular season game against the Eagles for only the second time in 10 years.

Bucs 27-13

At New York Giants:

The Bucs will take another rare trip to the Meadowlands to face the Giants, where they have had little success. The Giants, who looked poised to do some damage last year, but fell just short, will be back with a solid offense, headed by QB Elie Manning, RB Tiki Barber, and TE Jeremy Shockley. The Giants offense is the type that will power over the Bucs defense at times, and be stymied at other times. Hit and miss is the best way to look at it, and the results will likely be just a couple of scores from them. The Giants defense, which features DE Michael Strahan, will come after Simms and try to force the Bucs to beat them passing the ball. The Bucs weapons will be tough for the Giants to suppress, but the swirling winds of the Meadowlands have an affect on opposing teams. This battle looks to go down to the wire in a defensive slug fest. And while this game can go either way, and though I believe the Bucs would win more easily here at Ray Jay, I think the Giants will eek it out due to the home field advantage.

Giants 13-10

Vs. New Orleans:

Finishing up the first half of the season, the Bucs get to host the Saints. As with the first game, the Bucs should still enjoy the same advantages, only, the offense will be much improved by then, but then, so will the Saints' offense. This game could turn into a bit of a shootout, but the Bucs should prevail at home and sweep the Saints, especially with them coming off the Bye week.

Bucs 28-21

With the second quarter over, along with the first half of the season, the Bucs should be sporting a 5-3 record which will bode well for them going into the critical 3rd quarter of the season, where they will likely need to go 3-1 again to be reasonably safe that they can make it into the playoffs, as the 4th quarter will be brutal with 2 road games in the middle of December, and the final regular season game against the Seahawks. All in all, 5-3 would be a good start to a really tough schedule. Anything less, and the Bucs could be in trouble. Stay tuned for post #3 later tonight or early tomorrow, followed by the final post.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Bucs 2006 Season Predictions

As it is my custom, I will provide, starting with this post, a preview of all 16 games and my predictions for them. As with every year that I've done this (on a separate page at my old site), I can't really factor in injuries, or change of starters that occur during the season. I try to factor in how I think the team will play based on the match-ups as I see them today. These views may change during the year, which is why I always had a Talking Plank article to preview each game a day or two before it occurred. I will probably still make such write-ups, though they won't have the nice little position match-ups that my old site did. Simply takes too much time. In order to keep this post from being too long, I will preview the season in 4 posts, with 4 teams per post (wow! I can do math!). So, without further adieu, here's the first 4 games, aka the first quarter of the season.

Vs. Ravens:

With the pick-up of Steve McNair, the Ravens are hoping to finally get their offense going again. Of course, opening the season against the league's top defense is not exactly the best way to show off your new QB. The Bucs defense will primarily focus on shutting down Jamal Lewis, who hasn't been up to par recently. Should the Bucs stop the Ravens' rushing attack, which I believe they will, then they should be able to expose a McNair who's skills are on the decline. Where the Bucs will have the biggest test will be against the Ravens' unique defense. With Ray Lewis in the middle, it will be hard to run straight at them. With Caddy, however, the Bucs can run at the Ravens' edges, especially with LB Peter Boulware gone. More importantly, the Ravens lost a number of secondary players, leaving them vulnerable to the Bucs' talented corps of receivers, especially if a starter goes down. If the Bucs can get some semblance of a running game, and hold up against the hoard of blitzes that the Ravens will use, then the Bucs offense should have some success in the passing game. Overall, though, I expect a defensive battle, that the Bucs will pull out.

Bucs 16-10

At Atlanta:

Unlike last season, the Bucs will start playing their division foes early. In the second week they will go up against Atlanta. What has become clear is that Vick appears to have hit his plateau as a passer. I don't think he will get any better than he his now, and was last season. Last year, due to a lack of pressure up front, he was able to burn us with some long passes. The Falcons' running game also was a triple threat, but is now reduced to Vick and Dunn with Duckett having been shipped off. Without that big bruiser up front, the Falcons will find it much harder to establish a running game against the Bucs. And with an apparently improved pass rush from the front four (at least by Preseason example), the Bucs should be able to keep Vick uncomfortable and more prone to making a killer mistake. The Falcons' defense, however, brought in some players, including Abraham, to try and make their defense better. I don't think it will be enough to counter our talent, and I think their defensive line will simply be way too small to handle our offensive line in the running game. I expect the Bucs to pound the ball early, and often, and then hit the play action pass. In the end, I think the Bucs will be too much for the Falcons.

Bucs 24-17

Vs. Carolina:

Carolina comes to town in the third week with a reduced running threat, but an improved passing threat. They also come with a defense that has its entire defensive line back intact. The Bucs defense will likely make life difficult for the Panthers' offense, and we should see Keyshawn taking a few nasty hits and making little impact of note. Smith will be a little harder to contain, but the Bucs should be able to do enough on defense to hold the Panthers' offense down for most of the game. Where the Bucs will have real problems is on the offensive side of the ball, where a young offensive line will have its hands full with the Panthers' front four. I expect to see Simms running for his life and going down more than I would like to see due to the Panthers' front four. Caddy will also find it hard to get an real room to run, though, if he makes it past the defensive line, he could rip off some big runs against a depleted set of linebackers. In the end, though, a tough defensive battle will come down to points off turnovers, where I think the Panthers will have a slight edge.

Panthers 13-12

At New Orleans:

With a new year comes renewal for the Saints as they should be back in the Superdome for their season opener. As such, expect the Bucs to play there and have to deal with some new threats on offense. The Saints will be gunning at the Bucs with new QB Drew Brees, with Reggie Bush running the ball with Deuce McAllister. The Saints have, however, lost TE Boo Williams, C Bentley, and G Jacox. All of which gave the Bucs defense some fits. Needless to say, the Saints have a revamped offensive line that may or may not hold up against the Bucs. With a new QB, the Saints offense should still be feeling itself around when they face the Bucs. It will also help that the Saints lost WR Hakim as well. The Bucs defense must key on the running game and get after Brees. I expect to see the Bucs' defense make life difficult for Brees. The Bucs offense will also be going against a defense that has lost some key players, including Safety Dwight Smith and DE Darren Howard. The Bucs offensive line should be able to deal with the Saints' Tackles. The Ends are may or may not be a problem for the Bucs. Grant wasn't very effective last year, but Smith was. I expect Smith to continue to be strong at DE, but Grant either had a slip for the year, or he's declining fast. If the Bucs can consistently run at the Tackles, where I think Caddy can do some serious damage, then Grant and Smith will be less effective against the pass, and that will allow Simms to take advantage of a weakened Saints secondary, especially the Safeties. In the end, I expect the Bucs will have too much firepower on offense for the Saints' defense to handle.

Bucs 27-17

By my predictions, I look for the Bucs to go 3-1 during the first quarter of the season. I will add additional quarters in the next couple of days to round out the season, and give my overall outlook.

Special Teams

The last group I wanted to look at was the Special Teams unit. With the roster set, we have a general idea of who will play special teams, but that will change based on who's getting the job done, and who's not. However, their are a few individuals that are known factors for this group. This includes the Kicker, Punter, Punt Returner, Kick Returner, and Long Snapper.

Matt Bryant will continue to perform place kicking duties and looks to be ready to perform as well as last season. I suspect his range will be slightly improved, now that he's had a year of play combined with a full off-season conditioning program. That should allow us a range of closer to 50 yards for field goals, when last year it was under 45. That could mean the difference in a game or two. The punter, Josh Bidwell, has returned to continue punting as well as last year. He seems to be ready to keep pinning teams back, so there should be no significant change here. And with Dave Moore continuing to long snap for the punt and field goal units, there should be no surprises here as well.

Returning punts appears to be in the hands of Mark Jones again, who did well last year, despite poor blocking on the punt return teams. This year's punt return unit may be a little better, and we may see a little more excitement in this area, but it's to early to tell. Where the real excitement should come is in the kick return area where last year's end-of-year kick returner will get a chance to start from day one with the duty. Pittman should be able to continue to deliver the yards, as his knack is getting straight up the field quickly, an art sometimes lost by those guys who like to dance around and make something "special" happen, which is usually a loss of yards that could have been gained. I fully expect Pittman to break several very long returns, and maybe, finally, end that stupid "no kick returned for a TD" streak. Even if he doesn't, he should be able to provide us several short fields this year, as his style of running is perfect for kick returns. Let's just hope he hangs on to the ball.

The only real question marks will be in the return teams, blocking wise, and in the coverage units. So far, during the Preseason, these units seemed to perform well, though not stellar. As long as they can continue to at least perform on an average unit, the Bucs should be OK. Overall, I expect the Bucs' Special Teams to provide a lot more short fields and to be a more consistent longer range field goal threat.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

The Cuts

Well, I finally had time to sit down and think about the cuts the Bucs made to get down to the 53 man roster. Some of them made no sense to me. But what do I know. I figured Shepherd would probably get whacked because he simply seemed unable to cleanly catch the ball on a routine basis. I didn't think Gruden would want to have games slip away because of that this season. Gessner ended up not doing anything during the games, which is why he got cut. But what surprised me was when the Bucs kept 7 receivers, including Warren and Jones. I didn't think Warren was worth keeping, and Jones is one dimensional.

The other cuts that surprised me were Bradley and Bryant. Those cuts left us thin at DT. While the two didn't exactly shine, they were serviceable and made plays. Now if Hovan or McFarland go down, we have to rely on Wyms to fill the void, or moving White or Spires inside.

The rest of the cuts weren't surprising. The final roster is now set, and the Bucs prepare for the Ravens next Sunday. Can't wait to go to Ray Jay at 1:00pm and fry my a** off! Hopefully, the Bucs will give us the win. I expect the Ravens to really have a big problem with the heat, but we'll see.