Gameday: Bucs @ Panthers

Sticks preview can be found here.

A Bucs win is desperately needed today, if for no other reason to protect my sanity. A Gators loss coupled with a Bucs loss is that rare occurence which sucks any pleasure from my weekend.

The first round of games is suckastic, NFL Sunday Ticket has no reedeming quality to me right now. By the way, Joey Harrington has 89 yards and a touchdown through one quarter. All that talk about the Falcon's receivers putrid play might have had more to do with Vick than anything else.

Inactive: G Dan Buenning, T Anthony Davis, CB Brian Kelly, QB Luke McCown, DT Ryan Sims, LB Jeremiah Trotter
Inactive: QB Jake Delhomme, DE Charles Johnson, G Evan Mathis, LB Dan Morgan, LD Adam Seward

Ouch, Brian Kelly is a last minute scratch. Kelly is very good player but you never know if he'll be healthy enough to play. Phillip Buchanon has stepped in nicely for Kelly but the Bucs should storngly consider picking up a corner next offseason.

Great move by the Bucs, as the entire team goes across the field to pay respect to a Cadillac Williams who is likely done for the season with what looks like an ACL tear. I hope I'm wrong but Earnest Graham will have to step up.

You can find my analysis at the Sticks.

+ defense, this was the third strait game the Bucs shutout their opponent though halftime
+ Ike Hilliard, coming out of no where with 114 yards, experience has won over youth in the receiving corp
+ Phillip Buchanon, who helped shut down Steve Smith today
+ the Bucs didn't have a penalty until the 4th quarter when they purposely took a delay of game to punt
+ firm #1 in the division, no question Bucs are team to beat in NFC South

- Cadillac, who is at the very least out for awhile
- Luke Petitgout, see above
- Gaines Adams, sure he's a rookie but teams are running plays to his side


BucStats loses a mancrush, Panthers gain a quarterback

First, a moment of silence for Scott who has lost his most favoritist player EVAH. Rookie safety Sabby Piscitelli is out for the season with a broken right foot. Which is a huge blow to the special teams.....and that's about it. The Great White Hype has been put on hold for another year.


Panthers quarterback Jake Delhomme is also likely out for Sunday's game, which should be a blessing in disguise for Carolina fans. The Carolina offense isn't all that complicated, all the quarterback does is toss it someplace close to Steve Smith and try not to get sacked. Hell, Brian Griese could do that. Stepping in for Delhomme is the highly underrated David Carr, who is still shell shocked from his experience in Houston. Behind the Texans offensive line (or lack thereof) Carr led the league in sacks during his tenure in Houston (249 in 5 years). If you give Carr time he will find open receivers downfield, but if you can get pressure on Carr he becomes a turnover machine. Fortunate for Panthers fans the Bucs have not been able to generate any thing resembling a pass rush through the first three games (note to Gaines Adams, this would be a good game to finally step up). Sunday is shaping up to be the first game in a long career in Carolina for Carr.


Recapping the NFC South

TAMPA BAY: 2-1 (DIV) 1-0
CAROLINA: 2-1 (DIV) 1-0
NAWLEANS: 0-3 (DIV) 0-1
ATLANTA: 0-3 (DIV) 0-1

Following up on yesterday's game Gruden has declared there is no tail back controversy to worry about. Which is pure foolishness on Gruden's part. It is obvious that Caddy's ribs have been bothering him and giving Cadillac 20 carries a game isn't going to do anything to improve the injury situation. Why not give Earnest Graham some carries to spell Caddy? At the very least Graham should be worked into a few series in the next game to see if he can replicate his performance from Sunday. I've been a Gruden fan but it is this kind of stubborness which makes it so hard to root for the guy.

DeAngelo Hall pulled a Milton Bradley yesterday and single-handedly lost the game for his team. The well written Atlanta blog BnB breaks it down, and Atlanta's dedication to drafting Hokies may not have been such a good idea. Worth noting is how easily the previously maligned Joey Harrington passed against the Panthers defense, ringing up 351 yards. This game was close much of the way until the Hall Breakdown essentially gave the Panthers the lead.


Just because it has to be mentioned the NFC South looks fairly atrocious this season. It was just Saturday I was telling my dad on our way back from watching UVA somehow beat Georgia Tech how good the division had become. My basic argument was that with four good coaches for the first time in the history of the division this was bound to become the most competitive division in football. The NFL has become a coach's league, just look at the resurgence of the NFC East after the additions of Joe Gibbs, Tom Coughlin and Bill Parcells after Andy Reid had been able to run away with division title after division title. The NFC South looks like one of the more competitive divisions in the NFL but not because the teams are any good.

By the way, New Orleans sucks.


Gameday: Rams @ Bucs

My Sticks preview can be found here.

The Bucs have an advantage over the Rams, especially when we take a lot at the numbers for both teams. But this has trap game written all over for the Bucs, as the Bucs are coming off a big division against the Saints last week and the team may already be looking ahead to the trip to Carolina next week.

Questionable- CB Brian Kelly, WR Ike Hilliard, DE Patrick Chukwurah
Kelly and Hilliard will likely play while Chukwurah remains a question mark. As this is the best receiving corps the Bucs will have faced so far Kelly's return to the field will be crucial in shutting down Issac Bruce and/or Torry Holt.

Out- LT Orlando Pace, C Ritchie Incognito, CB Tye Hill

Ouch. Pace and Incognito are two of the better lineman in the game and the Bucs defensive line might actually get a pass rush going with these two guys out. Hill's absence should guarantee another good week for Joey Galloway.

RECAP: Bucs 24, Rams 3
Great job by the defense but it looks like we have the beginning of a running back controversy with a strong closing performance by Earnest Graham, formerly Mr. August for the Bucs. Cadillac Williams' rib injury took him out of the game Graham took full advantage. I will break down the game later but for now let's see what Gruden has to say about Caddy, who has typically been Gruden's guy.

+ Phillip Buchanon with a point saving interception and what should have been a fumble recovery for a TD
+ Barrett Ruud leading the team in tackles for the third strait game
+ Earnest Graham with 75 yards and 2 TDs on 8 carries
+ the defense holding the Greatest Show on Turf to 3 points

- Cadillac Williams was less than impressive, 12 carries for 46 yards a TD and a fumble
- @ what point can we label Michael Clayton a bust? Only one catch and he fumbled that.
- taunting call on Ronde Barber
- what was Phillips thinking when he tried to run the interception out of the endzone?






Times Fishes for Story, Catches Nothing But Cliches

Leave it to the St Pete Times to fabricate a story where none exists. From the ink rag which brought us proprioception, we now have Brooks-gate.

Background: After the Bucs win, the Times Bucs blog ran a story entitled "Is Brooks miffed?" In it the Times accused Brooks of harboring some deep seeded hatred against the franchise based on nothing more than a sports writer's hunch and a smile from Monte. Never mind the Bucs had just come off a win due in part to a great performance by Brooks.

Kudos to the Times though, much like the Philly papers they know how to play down to the lowest common denominator of fan. For what I guess are the same reasons certain people find Larry the Cable Guy funny there are fans who believe Gruden's only goal in life is to ostracize Brooks from the Bucs. These same people ignore that Brooks has lost a step, and can not play as many passing downs as he once did. And the Times, nevers ones to shy away from a little yellow journalism, play up the "Brooks miffed" angle in a desperate ploy to increase readership.

Is Brooks upset? Of course, no player ever wants to come off the field willingly. But Brooks is also a professional, and understands that he has to put the franchise before himself. There is no story here, only a desperate newspaper's shameless bid to save themselves from the rising tide that is reader indifference.


Recapping the NFC South

Tampa Bay: 1-1 (DIV) 1-0
Carolina: 1-1 (DIV) 0-0
Atlanta: 0-2 (DIV) 0-0
New Orleans: 0-2 (DIV) 0-1

One more thing about yesterday's game which I found interesting. The Football Outsiders DVOA Projections predicted that Tampa Bay would win the NFC South while New Orleans would finish last. And while the FO guys did everything they could to explain why that would not happen yesterdays results would indicate the numbers don't lie. Quite simply, the Bucs are for real and opposing teams underestimate them at their own risk.

Chalk the Panthers loss up to a Texans team which has sleeper written all over them, and much like the Bucs will finish better than most people expect. The Swashbuckling Steve Smith notched three touchdowns and 153 receiving yards but the rest of the Panthers offense failed to show up, which is nothing new for Carolina. What is surprsing was the defense giving up 34 points to what had been an inept Texans offense. Maybe it wasn't such a bright idea for the Falcons to trade away Matt Schaub (227 yards, 2 TDs).

I don't know if the Falcons defense is that good or the Jaguars offense is that bad but one thing is for sure, Joey Harrington is not the answer at quarterback for Atlanta. Harrington was sacked seven times and Warrick Dunn scored the first and only touchdown of the season for a Falcons team which appears ready to hit rock bottom. Carolina travels to Atlanta next weekend in what should be a rebound game for the Panthers.


Bucs 31, Saints 14

Most people expected complete domination of one team over another today. What was unexpected was that Tampa Bay was the team doing the dominating.

At no point today did New Orleans look like they could win the game. And while the Garcia to Galloway Connection (135 yards, 2 TDs) put points on the board it was the defense which I found impressive. This was the swarming, playmaking defense we have come to expect in Tampa Bay. One of the hallmarks of the Bucs defense has been their tackling and the way defenders swarmed to the ball. These hallmarks were the backbone the defense's "bend but don't break" philosophy, which was missing last year. But through just two games it is obvious this team is playing with more fire as evidenced by the number of defenders flying to the ball. Barrett Ruud in particular had an outstanding game, forcing two fumbles and recovering one of those while also totaling a team high nine tackles. No question Ruud was the MVP of today's game, even more so than Joey Galloway and his two touchdowns.

+ Ruud, who as I mentioned above was all over the place
+ Garcia to Galloway, almost half of Garcia's 444 passing yards have gone to Galloway (207)
+ the rest of the defense: Derrick Brooks, Cato June, Ronde Barber, Phillip Buchanon, Jermaine Phillips all looked good
+ Cadillac, who picked up 2 TDs, more than he had all last season
+ that block downfield by Michael Clayton which leveled the Saints safety and freed Galloway to get to the endzone
+ 110 degree heat, which seemed to affect the Saints more so than the Bucs
+ #1 in the NFC South!

- O-line run blocking, sure the Saints have a good d-line but the Bucs invested a good deal in their o-line to open up holes for Caddy. Today they struggled to do that
- Pass rush, which is still not up to par for the Bucs. The Hawks and Saints have done a good job of taking Gaines Adams out of the game but once Adams gets comfortable this defense will be scary
- Garcia diving head-first to gain a first down when he just suffered a concussion last week

Overall this game will be a great boost on confidence for a young team heading into a difficult part of their schedule (St Louis, @ Carolina, @ Indy). To be honest, I did not think the Bucs would win today, not because I don't believe the team is talented enough but because I thought they needed more time for both the offensive and defensive units to gel. It's only one game but if they can improve on today's performance (which they should) this is a team which can compete for the division title with Carolina. It's 2005 all over again!

The next three weeks (St Louis, @ Carolina, @ Indy) will be important tests for this team. Obviously the Panthers and the Colts will be tough and the Bucs would be lucky to come away from that road trip with one win. But the Rams are a very good offensive team who are better than their 0-2 record would indicate. The Bucs defense will need to play with the same passion they brought today if the team expects to win next week.


Rambling Predictions

A bit belated but here is my NFC South Preview, in the order of how the teams will finish...

I predicted Carolina to win the NFC South back in July, and after one week I see nothing to shake me from that prediction (although it should be noted I also predicted Vick would NOT be suspended and we all know how that turned out). The NFC has some of the best coaching in a coach’s league, which makes it one of the more difficult divisions in the league. I’m still not sold on their offense, as good as Steve Smith is Jake Delhomme is the definition of running hot and cold, but the defense should be up to snuff. I had to go back and check but the Panthers had the 7th rated (by yards) defense in the NFL last season, and to be honest I figured it would be much worse than that. The Panthers have a hole at safety with Mike Minter retiring and as the Bucs can attest to last season the last thing you want is a weak secondary. But then again the Panthers had no problem holding Marc Bulger to 167 passing yards on 42 attempts.

I have no idea what to make of Jake Delhomme, the guy vacillates between Favre-in-his-prime-esque and the current interception prone version of Favre. Considering how good their defense is it makes a good deal of sense to follow Chicago’s game plan from last season and give 40 carries a game to their two backs, DeShaun Foster and Deangelo Williams. Instead I get the feeling John Fox will continue to put the ball in Delhomme’s hands and hope Steve Smith can make enough plays for an inexperienced receiving corp. I really like the quarterback backing up Delhomme and I don’t look forward to the day Carr becomes the starter. Carr’s a guy who’s been sold short but Peyton Manning would look like Eli Manning if he had to play behind that offensive line in Houston.

Everyone had fallen in love with the Saints in the preseason ignoring their fairly obvious weaknesses on the defense. Last year the Saints were able to sneak up on people but this year every team in the NFC is going to spend more time looking for ways to beat the Saints. As the Colts proved last week the Saints secondary, especially the corners, is the best way to do that. With the exception of the defensive line the Saints defense is largely cast offs from other teams or young guys still struggling to make an impact. Last season, the leads given by the offense and the pass rush from the d-line covered up the deficiencies in the back seven. This year, I expect teams to pass early and often against the Saints.

As bad as the defense may be the offense should make sure this team competes for the division title. I think people are underselling the Joe Horn loss, sure he was getting older and slipping in skills but great offenses (i.e. Rams with Isaac Bruce or Vikings with Chris Carter) keep that veteran receiver to help take the pressure off of the younger guys.

We’ve learned a few things from the Boston DUI fiasco. First, GHB is a steroid (who knew?). Second, Boston is an idiot (we knew). Third, Bruce Allen is a liar (nothing new). Bruce Allen claiming he is releasing Boston for injury reasons is about as hollow as Jessica Simpsons acting career. If you released players for injuries reasons Chris Simms would be a Falcon right now. The Bucs released Boston 'cause he is being prosecuted for a DUI.

And speaking of negligent driving what the hell is going on with Donald Penn? Between Penn, Boston and Stevens the Bucs may want to offer a remedial driving course.

It will be a dogfight between the top three teams with Atlanta at the bottom of the dog pile considering Vick has been sent to the dog house. Woof.

Atlanta is going to truly horrendous unless they can get some semblence of a running game going. The Falcson haven't had a passing game since Vick came to town but at least with Ron Mexico opposing defenses had to worry about the possibility of the quarterback run. The Falcons used the shotgun option (for lack of a better term) extensively and with a good deal of success last season. With Joey Harrington opposing defenses have nothing to worry about.

Although on the bright side the Falcons defense could be much improved considering all the young talent they have added to the team. Throw in the your defense and the Petrino coaching up the offense and the Falcons have the potential to be a dangerous team in two years. Assuming they can find a quarterback.


Hawks 20, Bucs 6

Different quarterback, same offensive results for the Bucs. Although for once the quarterback is not to blame. Once again we saw Cadillac pulled out of the game early because of injuries (ribs) and the Bucs were forced to piece meal together a rushing attack out of Michael Pittman and Earnest Graham. When Cadillac was in the game the Bucs had a considerable amount of difficulty getting the running game going although much of that blame appeared to fall on the o-line's shoulders. Bottom line, if Cadillac is going to be nothing more than china doll in a Bucs uniform the franchise may want to draft a back to split carries with Caddy, a la Julius Jones and Marion Barber in Dallas.

Silver lining to today's game, Jeff Garcia is going to be a hell of a quarterback for the Bucs. He was consistently able to find open receivers down the field, somthing which doesn't sound that toughuntil you take into account some of the Bucs recent quarterbacks. Plus, Garcia had that certain je ne sais quoi on the field. When other quarterbacks would have been flustered playing from behind Garcia appeared confident in the team's abilities up until the last few minutes of the game. Additionally, Garcia's ability to buy time with his feet will lead to more plays even if it does lead to a better chance Garcia will be injured (as we discovered today).

The defense seemed to play with more passion, especially early in the game which can be tough when you have flown across the country to play. The new assistant coaches must be doing their jobs since this was the swarming Bucs defense we are used to seeing. Give them credit, this is a damn good Seattle offense which will likely average someplace well in the area of 30 points a game. Throw in the number of new starters on the defense and by mid-season we can expect good things from this defense.

I've written it before, this team will struggle coming out of the gates. They are not only breaking in a number of new starters on the defense but they have several key new starters on the offense and it will take the team some time to gel. It doesn't help that many of the Bucs most difficult games come in the beginning of the season. So don't sell this team off if they start out with a losing record through their six or seven games, they should rebound down the stretch.


Let's Get This Started


As you have already noticed the layout has been changed a bit. Get used to it. Besides being visually superior the new design features a constantly updated Buc News (for when I'm on sabbatical) and all kinds of Bucs Bits. And the excitement doesn't end there, I'm by no means done with the designing, which means expect new shiny things to come. But on to real news...

It's gameday bitches, that special time of the year when we consume massive amounts of buffalo wings and ignore loved ones. Our Bucs open the season against the Seattle Supersonics Seahawks, a team which figures to be much improved this season. But before a preview of the game.....

Go check the Sticks preview for THE BUCCANEER 2007 SEASON. Many gracias's to both Scott from BucStats and John from BoltsMag for their contributions to THE BUCCANEERS 2007 PREVIEW, sure to be THE definitive preview you will find. In fact, it's so definitive it had to be broken into two parts, PART ONE and PART TWO. Read them, and be wiser for the experience.

It should come as little surprise but I like the Bucs to rebound this season. Let's rundown the checklist.....
+ Jeff Garcia is better than Bruce Gradkowski
+ Monte has new weapons on the defense
+ This is the best o-line in the Gruden era
+ Easy schedule
+ Gruden's job is on the line

I've predicted the Bucs to rack up 9 wins which may be a bit overambitious. But factor in the above mentioned factors and you understand where I'm coming from. I lost count of the number of times last season Joey Galloway was wide open last season only to be underthrown by Gradkowski. Garcia should not only correct those sins but will provide a degree of leadership not available since Brad Johnson left town. Throw in the new additions on the defense (Gaines Adams, Cato June, Kevin Carter, Sabby Piscitelli, Tenard Jackson, Patrick Chuckwara, Greg Peterson) and the additions to the o-line (Luke Petigout, Arron Sears) and the Bucs have the most talent since they made their run to the Super Bowl.

People are throwing Cadillac Williams under the bus this season, which is plain foolishness considering Caddy finally has a decent o-line and a competent quarterback. Sure, everyone knows Gruden loves to the throw the ball but what Gruden is secretly in love with is running the ball. Gruden and company have been beefing up the o-line the past three seasons, and expect Cadillac to be the primary beneficiary of the beefcake line.

And don't underestimate the pressure on Gruden to win. Gruden's best performances have come under pressure, two years ago his job was on the line and all he did was win the NFC South again. And the pressure, not to mention the expectations placed on the team by the media, was through the roof during Gruden's inaugural season. We all remember how that turned out.


The Bucs will lose today. Which seems like an odd thing to write after I ranted about how good the Bucs will be. But keep in mind that the Hawks are a very good team and the Bucs have to travel all the way across the country. Sure the Bucs are six point underdogs and are being underestimated.....but so are the Hawks. Shaun Alexander should rebound this year and the Matt Hasselbeck should gel with his relatively new group of receivers.

Garcia is not yet 100% comfortbale with the offense, which is to be expected. Sure Garcia is comrfortable with Gruden's play-calling (being west coast and all) but from what I've seen in this exhibition season Garcia still looks out of synch with the rest of the players on the offense. And considering how tough the beginning of the Bucs schedule is they could very well end up with a losing record in their first 5 games. But fear not, the last two months of the Bucs schedule possess little difficulty and should ensure our Bucs finish on a strong note.

yours truly: 9-7
Scott: 8-8
Roy Cummings: 7-9
Ira Kaufman: 6-10
Anwar Richardson: 6-10
and more to come as i find them....

Bring It~
Consider the gauntlet thrown, boys and girls. BucStats, Buccaneer Harbour, Buc 'Em, Red Tide News, Pewter Plank, Buccaneers Locker, Red Tide News, every other contender for the throne......you are all on notice. You all got off easy last season, I had other distractions. But this season I'm back with a vengence and ready to lay claim to the title "BEST BUCS BLOG."


Welcome Jeremiah Trotter

Consider me a fan of the Jeremiah Trotter signing, especially since the Bucs linebackers could use some veteran leadership to replace Shelton Quarles. Trotter was a leader on the Eagles, even Donovan McNabb questioned his release. Although to be fair Trotter was cut because he had become a liability in pass coverage, which is why he will remain at most number two on the depth chart, behind Barrett Ruud. What Trotter gives the Bucs, in addition to even more veteran leadership, is linebacker who can play the middle backer in the 3-4 and help stuff the running game. This is the deepest linebacker corp the Bucs have had......well, ever.

On a completely seperate note, what the hell happened to the David Boston drug test? I assume everyone remembers the Boston/DUI stop/Superman video from about two weeks ago? The test results were supposed to be released a week ago but I have not heard a peep about the results. I thought maybe it was just me but the Pewter Report message board is asking the same question. If Boston is innocent then the Times and Tribune should give equal time to that story that they did to the DUI stop.

(ToH to Johnnie for the pic)


You're SOOOO Cut

The Bucs announced their final round of cuts yesterday and surprisingly Chris Simms made the roster. Gruden made the unusual move to keep four quarterbacks thus proving the notion that Gruden has never met a quarterback he didn't like. Although Simms potential (he's only 27) and higher contract (2 yrs, $7 M) likely played into the decision. Supposedly Atlanta, which only kept two quarterbacks, was eyeing Simms and Byron Leftwich. If for no other reason holding onto Simms helps keep the Bucs audibles and play calling out of the Falcons' proverbial hands.

Since the Bucs are keeping Simms they only have room for four runningbacks, which means promising rookie Kenneth Darby was cut. Which leaves the Bucs with precious little depth at the position. Keeping the versatile Michael Pittman helps but Gruden is likely hoping Darby is not claimed by another team and the Bucs can place him on their practice squad.

Who gets to return kick now that Mark Jones, the worst player in Madden, has been cut? The updated Bucs depth chart leaves the kr/pr positions empty. Pittman has returned kickoffs before and Joey Galloway could pull punt returns duties if push comes to shove, but the Bucs desperately need a to get a kick return specialist.

On defense three cuts surprise me: Ellis Wyms, Jamie Winborn and Alan Zemaitis. Wyms was a starter last season but depth at the undertackle position pushed Wyms out. Winborn had the same problem as Wyms, despite showing potential depth at the linebacker position forced the Bucs to cut Winborn. And a forth round draft pick from last season Zemaitis never really caught on with the defense.