Josh Freeman

Posts Tagged ‘cato june’

Things People Said

September 24, 2009 at 09:59am by Scott   •  8 Comments »

What the photo doesn't show is that he ran around the building first to get to the dummy here.
Lots of defensive personnel got face time yesterday to talk about what their various problems, how they’re dealing with them and what they’re doing to solve them. I’ll warn you now, it’s not a happy story. First up, Gaines Adams:

“We’re 0-2, so it’s not just me that has to work harder,” he said. “The guys that are in the spotlight need to make more plays. The guys that are depended on, such as myself, they all need to make more plays.”

Ugh, this is depressing. This is probably like something that happened to him in elementary school. “Mr. Adams, were you talking in class?” “Yeah, but so was everyone else!” Except he’s doing it as an adult. If, two games in, he is trying to deflect responsibility to his teammates when Raheem Morris called him out by name, it’s a bad sign for the rest of this season. This may not end well.

Jim Bates:

“It’s awfully hard during preseason to tell where a team is at,” Bates said. ”You’ve got to get into the season, and we have to make adjustments. It isn’t like we have Deion Sanders out there that I was part of for years or that we have (former Dolphins cornerbacks) Sam Madison and Pat Surtain. I mean, we have to adjust a little bit to what I’m accustomed to doing in a lot of situations.”

Please leave your opinions on this in the comments. Is Bates really saying that he is having to change his scheme because his cornerbacks aren’t as talented as he’s used to? That’s just wrong on so many levels. What are Ronde Barber and Aqib Talib supposed to think about themselves now? How are they going to have faith in Bates when Bates has no faith in them? Deion Sanders was one of the most physically gifted athletes to ever play football… any position, any time. What purpose does it serve to compare your guys to a standard that they can’t possibly achieve? Imagine telling your wife that you have to adjust your boner because she’s not Angelina Jolie. Would she take it well? Would she be more inclined to try and please you?

And I’m not even done with Bates yet.

“I have to be able to adjust. … We put the plan together. It isn’t a Jim Bates game plan. It’s all bringing it in together and working as a defensive staff.”

Maybe I’m looking at this too negatively after the first quote, but it sure sounds to me like Bates is relinquishing ownership of the defense now. Bates has been the coordinator since February. If he didn’t think he had the players for his scheme, he had plenty of time to change them. Maybe Morris didn’t let him. Maybe that’s why Derrick Brooks and Cato June are gone. Bates couldn’t use them and that’s as many starters as Morris thought the fans and ownership would accept losing, so now Bates is stuck with players whose weaknesses he has to work around. This is all just thinking out loud here, but what else could he mean?

Now Raheem talks about it:

“We can always mix and match our coverage,” Morris said. “Like I (said) when I hired Jim, he was always pounding me down trying to figure out about the Tampa 2, and I was always trying to hound him down trying to figure out about quarters (coverage). Now we’re just trying to find a happy medium where our players can get comfortable and go out there and play as fast as they possibly can.”

There are any number of possibilities for mixing defenses; teams do it all the time. But they’re usually primarily one kind of defense that they can adjust out of from time to time as the situation requires. It sounds like Tampa Bay doesn’t have a defensive scheme right now. They have a hodgepodge of shit that they’re trying to mold into something cohesive using players that they don’t sound very confident in. Thus the #31 defensive ranking in both yards and points.

Morris tried to address the doubts.

“It would be if you were a mentally weak team,” Morris said when asked if players would start to naturally question the defense at this point. “This is not a mentally weak team, neighborhood, staff or locker room. I’m sure you guys remember that in 1996 Tony Dungy walked in here and had a defense with Derrick Brooks, Warren Sapp and John Lynch. They said Lynch couldn’t play safety and should be moved to linebacker.”

Move a safety to linebacker? No, that would be crazy.

“They said Brooks was too small to play linebacker, and they said Sapp was too fat and had too many off-the-field issues. Thirteen years later we can’t believe we got rid of them and that they’re no longer with the Bucs.”

You can’t believe you got rid of Brooks, huh? Were you being controlled by hypnosis when you cut him in February? Are you aware that he is still unsigned and that if you thought he could help, he could be made part of the team again very easily? What a fucking dumb thing to say. “I can’t believe we got rid of Brooks.”

But I think his point is that even the evolution of the Tampa 2 was slow even with the quality of players they had on board back then, so expect this to go slowly as well. It’s his way of gently lowering public expectations, which is a smart move at this stage. Between this and the local media predicting a winless season, I think we’ll all be happy if the team successfully finds their way to the stadium each week.

REAR ENTRIES: Musical Football Players

April 06, 2009 at 01:26pm by Scott   •  2 Comments »

I think the clicky will overflow the text to the right, and I have decided that I don't care.

GARCIA TO THE RAIDERS: The Tampa Tribune reported it as a possibility, but I can confirm that it’s a done deal and Jeff Garcia has landed with Oakland. So now they have one quarterback afraid to throw it short and another afraid to throw it long. Anyway, at least it gives us an encore presentation of his wife. I blew out the last remaining Carmella shots when the Bucs confirmed that they didn’t want Garcia back, so this is definitely a repeat, but I’ll go out on a limb and say that you don’t care.

JUNE TO THE TEXANS: Houston signed Cato June to a one-year deal, making him only the second of the big five that were purged in February. It’s a salary of $1-million, a $500,000 signing bonus and incentives for another $500,000.

PETER KING CAN DIE NOW: Peter King offered up his mumblings on where he thinks dog-murdering, bankrupt felon Michael Vick will end up. Hey, guess why I’m bringing it up.

I think I’m dying to know who’s going to try to sign Mike Vick when the Falcons release him. Two teams come to mind: Oakland and Tampa Bay. The Bucs are longshots, but I don’t think new GM Mark Dominick is afraid of him.

It’s not a matter of fear, dickweed. Why would anyone want him at all? Take all the legal shit out of it. He was never that good of a quarterback to begin with; he’s got a career rating of 75.7 and completion percentage of 53.8%, he’s been out of the game for two full seasons, and he lied to the faces of his owner and the commissioner. There is no way the Bucs invite that kind of circus into their locker room. No way. King acknowledged the Bucs are longshots, but there’s no chance they even pick up the phone on that one. If the commissioner makes the terrible mistake of re-instating Vick, his only hope is Oakland.

Tampa Media Really Hated Gruden

March 17, 2009 at 10:08am by Scott   •  8 Comments »

The one thing I did like about the Winslow press conference is that he called out Roy Cummings by name.
During the Jon Gruden/Bruce Allen era, Roy Cummings was one of the most negative voices in the local press. Four out of seven winning seasons, the last two back-to-back 9-7, a few division titles, a salary cap position that went from pathetic to the best in the league… Roy was there to tell you why it all sucked. And now that the old regime is gone and the new one has culled the experience from the field and left in their place players who are only a little more experienced than their head coach, well, Roy’s suddenly the president of the Tampa chapter of the Optimist Club.

The big winners in free agency, though, are not the teams that spend the most. They are the teams that spend the wisest. With many of their objectives already met, the Bucs appear to have spent very wisely.

If you had told him in early January that Gruden was going to cut Derrick Brooks, Cato June, Ike Hilliard and Joey Galloway and replace them with no one, essentially trade out Warrick Dunn for Derrick Ward, and fortify a tight end position that wasn’t a weakness with a malcontent that even the Browns didn’t want — spending a second round pick in the process — he would have worn out several keyboards with story after story that rode the line between editorializing and criminal hate speech. I realize Raheem Morris gets a honeymoon period as a new coach, and I’m willing to grant him that. But Roy was already blowing him in the limo as it left the church. I knew he hated Gruden, but man, he really fucking hated him.

Speaking of assholes changing their tunes, Steve Duemig said on his show last Thursday (which, for some reason, isn’t posted in his list of podcasts) that… fuck, I almost can’t say it. He basically gave his stamp of approval to Jerramy Stevens because he had kept his nose clean for two years. Remember, Duemig is the guy who wanted to run Stevens out of town on a rail because of shit he was accused of eight years ago. It all had to do with that Seattle Times article about shit that happened in 2000. After that article ran, Duemig said Stevens should never be allowed to play in Tampa (he may have even said the NFL; I don’t remember exactly.) Called him every name imaginable that the FCC allows. And now, one year later — coincidentally right after Gruden is fired — everything is okay. And why wouldn’t it be? After all, when Gruden signed Stevens, it was just another example of Gruden giving some criminal scumbag a chance to make loads of money. Gruden was the king of the no-character athletes, right? But now that Stevens was re-signed under the Morris administration, he must be a good guy.

It’s simple physics. When you swing your pendulum so far in one direction, it has to eventually compensate by going just as far in the other. And these guys spent so many years hating on Gruden and everything he did that now everything Morris does must look to them like unparalleled brilliance. “They signed a placekicker? What a stroke of genius!”

And while it didn’t jump out as a need, the Bucs improved their kicking game by signing Mike Nugent, who is five years younger than Matt Bryant and a lot more accurate from that critical range of 40 yards or more.

Except he’s not. For their careers, Nugent is 20 for 31 from 40+ (64.5%) and Bryant is 37 for 57 (64.9%). But Morris made the move, so it exists in the Reality-Free Zone where everything is happy and things like facts don’t matter as much. Actually, the Reality-Free Zone sounds kinda fun and sexy.

Here’s reality: Right now, the residents of Denver are pouring charcoal into a large pit at Mile High in preparation to barbecue Josh McDaniels for fucking up a Bronco offense that was working perfectly well before he got there. All he had to do was go in, deliver a new speech that players hadn’t gotten tired of, add some pieces to the defense, and he would have been fine. Raheem Morris had basically the same task. Come in, bring a new energy and spark to a team that may have been running on auto-pilot for a while, add a couple playmakers, and push his 9-7 team over the hump. Tampa fans aren’t digging the pit yet, but a lot of them have put shovels on their shopping lists. He’s betting his pot on a group of largely untested young guys that he hopes will show some progress in 2009. If he plays them, they gain some valuable experience and are noticeably better as a result, this Sartre-esque offseason will be forgiven. If they fall on their asses and continue to lose while not visibly improving, he should be held accountable.

It’s not all doom and gloom like they thought it was with Gruden, and it’s not all sunshine and unicorns like they seem to think it is now. It’s new territory, it’s unconventional, and it’s risky. No major additions are left to be made in free agency (which is why I’ll remove the tracker and Rumors page soon) and the only real additions before the start of minicamps will be the draftees. So we’ll go to camp with guys like Quincy Black and Geno Hayes and Luke McCown in the starting positions and hope that they rise above their obscurity and can manage some success. Christ, people, show some balance in your reporting.

UPDATED: The Apocolypse Is Nigh

February 25, 2009 at 01:28pm by Scott   •  21 Comments »

I'm pretty sure plays like this were why Brooks was released.

[I'll be updating this post as I learn more. Page Last Updated: February 25, 2009 at 6:21 pm]

The Bucs release Derrick Brooks, Warrick Dunn, Ike Hilliard, Joey Galloway and Cato June. I gotta make some calls. I’ll update more when I know it.

Okay, I don’t really know any more than I did before, but I think the situation merits a swift response.

Cases can be made for each of these players being cut, mostly because of their age. Hilliard was a sure-handed third-down receiver, but lost his game-breaking skills years ago. Dunn wore down as the year wore on and his responsibilities increased. Galloway is getting fragile and has been replaced by Antonio Bryant. June didn’t turn out to be the playmaker at linebacker that everyone thought he was going to be. Fine. Despite all of their positive contributions, you can stand behind the reasons for letting these guys go.

But Brooks.

Brooks has earned the right to leave on his own terms. They could have chosen to not play him as much or use him as mostly a role player and a team leader and a mentor. But unless he asked for his own release, this wasn’t cool. One of the things I’m trying to find out is if Brooks did, in fact, ask to be released once he found out he was going to be riding pine for a lot of the season. I don’t think my contacts will know this, but I’m still trying. But if that’s the case you shake his hand, wish him well, and do as he asks. Otherwise, wow.

In politics, this is what new administrations call spending political capital. The new regime at One Buc inherited some capital of their own, and they just shot most of their wad in one big load. Remember all that change the Gruden haters wanted? Well, here it is! Hope it fits.

One thing that really surprises me is that Ronde Barber is still with the team. His Pro Bowl bid was on reputation and he was inconsistent for most of the season. If you’re truly purging the old, Barber should have been included. Did he survive because there’s no one better waiting to take his place, or because he’s a member of the secondary and Raheem Morris couldn’t stand to ax a guy he’s so close to?

So, does this put us far enough under the cap yet? What do you think? At least $60-million now, right? I really hope this doesn’t lead to some kind of Dan Snyder-esque free agency orgy where the Bucs sign a bunch of talented free agents for too much money that don’t play well together. We all know by now that you can’t buy a Super Bowl, right? Is it legal to trade cap space for draft picks? Son of a bitch, they better fucking re-sign Jermaine Phillips and Jerramy Stevens right the fuck now. There is absolutely no reason not to at this point.

I have to think that the Bucs have identified some players in free agency and the draft that they are going to aggressively target. There’s no way they cut these guys without a specific plan for who was going to replace them.

———-

Check out the banner on top of Buccaneers.com.

The old man in this picture is Earnest Graham.  Let that sink in.
None of those guys are on it anymore. Bryant, Barrett Ruud, Aqib Talib, Davin JosephJeff Faine got cut off by my screencap app, but he’s there, too. They wasted no time. Out with the old, indeed.

———-

Warrick Dunn released a statement:

“I am thankful for my Tampa Bay Buccaneer experience – in its entirety. It all started here and now in my second term I know I have been blessed to be a Tampa Bay Buccaneer in the NFL. I am thankful for the ownership, coaching, every teammate and especially the fans who have been with me through the highs and lows. It all adds up to an experience I often call “living the dream.” From here I don’t know what the future holds but wherever it goes I go with a full and grateful heart.” – Warrick Dunn

Not even a hint of a harsh word or even a sense of disappointment. What a class act.

———-

Yeah, Brooks had no idea this was coming.

“Right now, like all of you guys, I’m just trying to get a feel for it all, trying to come to grips with it,” Brooks said. “I don’t even know what to think. I’ll speak to all of you guys (Thursday).”

Yes, Brooks was getting slower and older. And there are definitely guys out there or even in-house that are better than him at this stage of his career. But this was flat wrong.

———-

Okay, umm… how can I put this? Is Raheem Morris… special? Like, you know, retarded-special? Did you see the press conference? I don’t expect him to be The Great Communicator in his first month on the job, but he really sounded unprepared, hesitant and completely lacking in confidence. Go watch it and see if you agree.

And Mark Dominik says he doesn’t know how these moves affect the cap? Oh holy fucking hell, tell me that’s not true. IT’S YOUR JOB TO KNOW EXACTLY THESE KINDS OF THINGS! I am scared for opening of free agency. My big concern is that they will drag their feet signing guys or they will fuck it up altogether.

Distant Early Warning: Linebackers

January 29, 2009 at 01:51pm by Scott   •  2 Comments »

Don't make me say it.
The good news is that the Bucs don’t need a whole lot of help at linebacker. The bad news is that this would have been a good year to need one since free agency and the draft are stocked with them.

Read the rest of this entry »

None And Done

December 29, 2008 at 02:20am by Scott   •  7 Comments »

Worth a thousand words.
I’ve been thinking for a few hours about what is really wrong with this Buccaneers team. What is it that makes a 9-3 team drop its last four games in a row and lose a playoff spot that they had really only had to have ten wins to clinch? I’ve gone back and looked at the game summaries for the season and came to the conclusion that this was never a playoff team. Instead of being a team that got screwed out of a couple games like Dallas and Denver, they actually were the beneficiaries of victories against Chicago and Kansas City that they probably should have dropped. And then as the season wore on, injuries mounted and linemen started getting sore, the team’s true colors came out and they shit themselves. This team was never good enough to get to the playoffs.

And I don’t care what any analyst says about Monte Kiffin announcing his intentions last month. That was not what caused the defense to meltdown. Any player that allows something like that to affect his play doesn’t deserve to be on the team. This is professional football. Really, were their minds so distracted by the idea of playing without Kiffin next year that they couldn’t concentrate on the last month of the season? Were they depressed and couldn’t muster the energy to tackle properly? These aren’t teenage goth girls. Give these players at least the credit that they can accept a change in coaching personnel and not forget how to play the game. I believe the timing of the announcement and the breakdown is coincidental.

Okay, onto the game. I predicted earlier today that Antonio Bryant would have a big day. I kind of assumed that Jeff Garcia would play better than he has been. I was wrong. Bryant was wide open several times during the game and Garcia either overthrew him or didn’t see him or did see him but chose to throw elsewhere. When Jon Gruden goes back to review this tape, he’s going to tell Bruce Allen to go out and find him a new veteran quarterback. A taller one; one that can see the entire fucking field.

I already noted my disappointment for Cadillac Williams and the knee injury he suffered as he was having one of the best games of his career. If anything caused the Bucs to lose focus, it was Williams’s injury. Williams was rushing for 6.5 YPC and was the game’s leading receiver, something you never would have thought last year. I don’t know if he spent part of his rehab time in front of a JUGS machine, but he caught everything thrown his way. That’s one of the most tragic aspects of this — he was actually on his way to being better than he was as a rookie.

Warrick Dunn has had a fine season and has been much more involved than he signed up for. But if Dunn comes back next season, it’s going to be as a very specific role player. His age plus the beatings he has taken throughout his career have added up and he’s simply not effective enough late in the season. After Williams went down, Gruden should have put Clifton Smith in behind center. He’s a playmaker and a rookie and can take some pounding from the defensive line. If Smith has his fumbling under control, he should be paired with Earnest Graham for that power/speed mix that is a staple of the most successful teams lately.

B.J. Askew‘s stuffing on third-and-one was all on Davin Joseph. He missed his block, plain and simple. I’m not really a fan of those up-back quick handoffs anyway because you’re basically playing 9-on-11 by taking your halfback and quarterback out of the play when the defense knows it can sell out to stop the run. But it’s even worse when it’s 8-on-11.

Hey, at least the offensive line had its best game in a long time. It started off kind of slow with the run-blocking, but picked up nicely in the second and third quarters. And Garcia’s protection was really very good for most of the day. Rich Gannon hit it right on the head when he said that Garcia scrambles around too much and he needs to trust his protection. Haven’t we been saying that for months now?

Specifically, Jeff Faine had an exemplary day. For a big dude, he gets downfield in a hurry. He knows when to take his protection to the next level and is really aggressive in making those later blocks.

So, how do you rate Michael Clayton‘s last game as a Buccaneer? A huge catch and run for a touchdown, but also a couple of catchable (but tough) balls dropped. It was pretty much more of the same thing that we’ve seen for years now. I really thought in 2005 that he would be the guy to build the new offense around. “Simms to Clayton — TOUCHDOWN! That’s their 100th connection for a score.” is what Al Michaels was going to say sometime in 2012. Oh well. It’s been nice, Michael. Whaddya think? Cincinnati?

Again, this game was not Antonio Bryant’s fault. Sign Antonio Bryant tomorrow, please. And consult him when interviewing quarterbacks. Seriously. He has to be frustrated with getting consistent separation and not getting thrown to. He needs to have chemistry off the bat with the new guy. I’m not saying to sign whoever he says, but you have to at least make sure he’s seen tape and feels good about the guy.

I also think Ike Hilliard spends another year in pewter.

Despite dropping another catchable ball, Jerramy Stevens needs to be re-signed and coached up. He had a pretty quiet day, but he’s a big, physical presence that can be a killer in the endzone. Alex Smith should be relegated to backup duty and rotate John Gilmore and Stevens depending on the situation.

The defensive line was abysmal. They started off stuffing the run pretty nicely, but that didn’t last long. Michael Bush had 177 yards rushing and everybody knew the Raiders were going to run the ball. I certainly did. Inability to stop the run plus no pass run equals a loss. Add in poor tackling in the fourth quarter and it turns into an embarrassment.

I really thought that the defensive line rotation with Jimmy Wilkerson and Ryan Sims and Greg White along with the starters would keep the line fresh and tackling well. But everyone just looked… tired. Listless. Is it possible that all these guys have small tanks and they’re all getting gassed by the fourth quarter? Or is it the scheme that’s keeping them from getting adequate pressure and penetration and they’re frustrated and sloppy by the end of the game? I’ve got to go with the latter. We’ve seen all these guys make plays at one time or another. Raheem Morris may want to consider making the defensive line his priority for the offseason — specifically, the coaching.

Would Derrick Brooks come back in 2009 as a part-time linebacker to help in the transition between defensive regimes? Because if not, this may need to be his last season. He’s had a decent year, but has been hurt and slow in the latter part and completely whiffed on a couple plays. Like, for instance, the long Michael Bush run. He didn’t come back after that play, but I’m not sure if it was because he was hurt or because he was benched.

This was Cato June‘s best game this year. That’s a sadder statement than you think.

You may think I’m going to start sucking Sabby Piscitelli‘s dick after his interception and long (and impressive) return. But the fact is that it was a very poorly thrown ball by JaMarcus Russell and Piscitelli was expected to make that pick. Still, good job, Sabby.

I never thought that Gruden was going to kick the 50-yard field goal on fourth-and-four. Matt Bryant is not reliable from that distance and he certainly shouldn’t have punted. He showed faith in his offense and was let down. The actual play call could have been better, but I don’t know if that should be pinned on Gruden or Garcia. Whatever. But the decision to go for it was the right one.

You know what else hurt the Bucs? Field position. Who knew Shane Lechler was going to be such a weapon? Oh, right, Gruden did. He’s the one who drafted him in Oakland. Between Lechler and Johnnie Lee Higgins, the Bucs were put in awful field position for most of the day.

Look, this team had a ten point lead in the fourth quarter. And in every game this month, they’ve either had a lead or been tied in the fourth. The Bucs have had offensive issues, but this entire month has been about the defense giving up big plays in the running game in the fourth quarter. It’s not a lack of effort and it’s not that Gruden has somehow just now lost the locker room. This is being physically overpowered.

Still, it is at least partially the head coach’s responsibility to get his team “up” for big games or to put the assistant coaches in place to do it. Gruden won’t be fired, but he’ll be in the hot seat yet again going into 2009.

Philadelphia bent over and gang-raped Dallas 44-6. You can argue that the Eagles might not have played that hard if they knew they were out of the playoffs, but that wouldn’t have made Dallas any better. Even if Philadelphia only gave 25% effort had the Bucs won, they still could have beaten the Cowboys. The playoffs were there for the Bucs to take. As I said, I don’t think the Bucs would have gone anywhere in the playoffs because this was not a team built for the long haul. In some ways, maybe it’s better that they lost out and avoided the embarrassment of (another) nationally televised pantsing.

We’ll have plenty of time to discuss what to do and who to get in the offseason. But the problems are evident and the solutions seem obvious. But for now, Go Titans.

So, Who Appreciates Jeff Garcia Now?

December 15, 2008 at 11:09am by Scott   •  3 Comments »

Jonathan Babineaux makes Brian Griese drop his torch and book.  BECAUSE HE'S A FUCKING STATUE -- GET IT?!?!
If you’re looking for the perfect Christmas present to get Brian Griese, buy him a gift certificate for a nice pressure-washing. That’s how you clean a statue, right? Holy shit, as soon as this guy takes his drop in the pocket, it’s like his feet grow roots into the turf. At first I thought Brian Baldinger was making too big a deal out of it, but if anything he didn’t say it enough. No quarterback can just stand back there and survey the field without any attempt to step up in the pocket or get out of harm’s way. I’ll take Jeff Garcia‘s happy feet over Griese’s anchors any day.

That’s quite a vote of confidence for Luke McCown, isn’t it? He’s gotta be pissed that Jon Gruden went with the gimpy Griese over him. I was thinking the quarterback competition for 2009 would involve McCown, Josh Johnson and some veteran, but I’m thinking now that McCown may not be part of the equation.

Seriously, this was the worst coaching decision from Gruden that I can remember in a long time.

The second-worst was the decision to, for some reason, forget about Antonio Bryant in the second half. I realize the Falcons adjusted to protect him better after halftime, but why would he ignore him altogether? Was that Griese’s call? Did Gruden not have enough faith in Griese to have him throw the ball to a receiver that is covered more tightly? And if that’s the case, why play Griese in the first place? Bryant can make plays. He makes quick adjustments and can catch poorly thrown balls. Everyone was clamoring for a playmaker this offseason. Now they’ve got one — one that had 200 yards last week and over 100 yards before halftime yesterday. I don’t get it.

Did you see the replay of the Domonique Foxworth interception where Bryant was running free well in front of his coverage? Griese threw it to a tightly-bracketed Michael Clayton instead. The only reason to have Griese at quarterback is because he makes better decisions than McCown. If that’s not the case anymore, Griese is nearly worthless to this team.

Joey Galloway was inactive and didn’t even dress for this game. He’s done as a Buccaneer. This was the biggest game of the year for the Bucs and if Gruden doesn’t trust him enough to put him on the field even as a decoy, there’s some kind of unfixable rift there. When he drops easy balls and doesn’t get separation, I can understand that his value as a playmaker are diminished, but shit, the defense would have had to respect him at least a little, right? Enough to at least free up Bryant a little in the second half?

Sorry, I have to go back to Griese for a second. Brian Clark and Sabby Piscitelli got the offense the ball back at the 22-yard line and the offense couldn’t score a touchdown in the last two minutes to win the game. First play: 10-yard completion to Clayton. Yeah! Second play: 3-yard run by Cadillac Williams. Fine. Then an 11-yard sack that could have been avoided with a little rolling out. I realize Donald Penn got beaten, but a few steps to the right and then throwing the ball away would have saved 11 yards. Then a holding penalty by Arron Sears, a penalty that probably wouldn’t have happened if they weren’t in third-and-18 because of the fucking sack. The more I write, the madder I get.

Hey, Cadillac Williams was the leading rusher yesterday! He really looks like he has his strength back and he has no problem going up the middle and pushing the pile. Things really got rolling for him in the second half when the offensive line figured out run-blocking. He’s always been a guy who gets better as the game goes on. Yesterday he had 14 carries, which is a nice number. But I think that if he gets up into the 20-ish range that he’s likely to break out a few really long ones.

Warrick Dunn may not have looked good on the stat sheet, but when you consider that some of his three and four yard runs should have been stuffed in the backfield and that his shiftiness and quick-cutting ability were the reasons why they weren’t, he didn’t do too bad. He also caught the ball seven times for 50 yards, so you have to add that into his production as well.

The offensive line was pretty bad yesterday. Everyone except Penn got hit for a penalty, some of them at the absolute worst times. Jeff Faine‘s false start on a third-and-inches that forced a long field goal that Matt Bryant missed was especially bad since it looked like he was the one that didn’t know the snap count. He knows he’s the center, right?

You guys didn’t pray hard enough. John Abraham beat both Penn and Jeremy Trueblood for sacks. Abraham had three sacks total, but then again, it’s a lot easier to hit a stationary target.

In a fun twist to the typical pattern of offensive line play this year, the guys changed it up a bit and were decent pass-protectors during the first half and decent run-blockers in the second half. Once again, they seem to not be able to do both simultaneously, but at least we’re getting both performances in the same game now. That’s progress, right?

Alex Smith is frustrating the shit out of me. Hold on to the fucking ball! I know he got leveled by Foxworth and it was a great hit, but shit, you’re only thrown to a couple times per game now. You’re expected to perform when you get your chance. Thrown to three times; one catch for two yards.

With Jovan Haye only playing a limited number of reps, Kevin Carter played a lot of under tackle and did a very good job. Much better than Jimmy Wilkerson did, who started at the position. Wilkerson looked like he got pushed around a lot.

In fact, Carter may have been the only real bright spot. No sacks by the defensive line and only one “QB hurry” — by Carter. Gaines Adams is playing the run pretty well (3 tackles) which is, you know, great and all. But he’s supposed to be the elite pass rusher that gets consistent edge pressure. But he takes his such shallow angles from so far away that there’s no way he can get to a quarterback with any kind of mobility no matter how fast Adams runs. Which means the only person he could possibly sack is Griese.

It’s entirely possible that Cato June gets cut after the season. He was repeatedly burned in pass coverage and he was lucky he wasn’t called for a taunting penalty after Aqib Talib‘s interception. He needed to be benched for a while to get his head straight.

Barrett Ruud and Derrick Brooks were a lot better at tackling than they were last week, but there were still a couple misses. Yes, Michael Turner is good, but so are most NFL running backs.

Note to Jermaine Phillips: Wrap up. He would have had Turner for a great tackle if he had just put his arms around him. Instead he bounced off him like he was made of rubber.

Tanard Jackson had the kind of game we’ve been expecting from him all year. He tackled solidly (seven tackles,) had the Bucs’ only sack and forced Matt Ryan to fumble.

Let’s be clear. Even though this still wasn’t a stellar defensive performance, they were not the reason for the loss. After starting slow, they held the Falcons scoreless for three straight quarters. They had three turnovers that the offense only managed to turn into seven points. The blame for this game comes down to Jon Gruden, Brian Griese, and offensive and special teams penalties. Special teams especially gave up a ton of yardage on kick returns, forcing the offense to start in bad field position. Not that it mattered much. Did I mention that they started at the 22-yard line one time and only got a field goal? Anyway, this was undisciplined and uninspired football from both of those squads. The defense tried to keep them in the game, but in the end the team couldn’t overcome its own shortcomings.

So, two weeks ago the Bucs were 9-3, had the second seed in the NFC and were in line for a bye week and a home playoff game. Now, if the season ended today, the Bucs would have choked away their playoff spot and would be sitting at home. As it stands, they need to win out and for Atlanta and/or Dallas to lose. If the Panthers shit themselves for the next two weeks, there’s still an outside chance at winning the NFC South, but I’m pretty sure that ship has sailed. Dallas plays Baltimore at home and Philadelphia on the road; both games they could lose. Atlanta plays at Minnesota and at home against St. Louis. There’s a good chance they win both of those. Of course, none of this matters if the Bucs can’t beat two losing teams at home over the next couple weeks. San Diego is a desperate team. This isn’t going to be easy.

Has ‘Epic Fail’ Ever Been More Appropriate?

December 09, 2008 at 12:48pm by Scott   •  1 Comment »

I'll tell the playoffs you send your regards.
It didn’t start off so bad. At the end of the first half it was only 10-3 and the Bucs had given up about 150 yards of offense, which isn’t all that bad. There was still hope even though the defense was showing signs of wearing out early. And then the whole thing just fell the fuck apart like the plot of a M. Night Shyamalan movie. Was there a strip club in Charlotte giving away free lap dances after 11:00 or something? What could have possibly been the defense’s excuse for the fourth quarter of that game?

The second half of this game was an old-fashioned ass pounding. The Panthers offensive line and running backs took the entire Buccaneer defense to the woodshed, beat the shit out of them, took their lunch money, kicked their dogs and slapped their mamas. There were no missed calls and this wasn’t one that “could have been if only”. They could have played this game ten times, and ten times they would have lost.

And forget Jake Delhomme. He made some plays that had to be made (especially to Steve Smith,) but he didn’t put on any kind of show. The fact that he was rarely ever pressured certainly didn’t help. The Bucs got their only sack of Delhomme in the first quarter (when they were still relatively fresh) and that drive ended in a field goal. A couple more of those throughout the game and this one would have been within reach in the fourth quarter.

The defensive line was ridiculous. They got zero pressure on Delhomme, failed to plug up running lanes and couldn’t tackle for shit. The Panthers rushed for 301 yards (the stat sheet says 299, but Delhomme took two kneeldowns at the end of the game) and passed for 173. Jovan Haye was out of the game, and maybe I’ve underestimated him. I haven’t seen him do anything so great throughout the season, but maybe he was some kind of weird glue that was holding the line together. Is it a coincidence that the line fell apart for the game that he wasn’t in?

I’m looking at the stats and I can’t believe that Chris Hovan leads the defensive line in tackles with five. Hovan was getting run down all game long. He looked slow and weak and out of shape. He eventually left the game with an injury. Was it something he was playing with all game and it was hindering his performance, or was it the result of not enough time in the weight room? Hovan has consistently been one of the best linemen for the Bucs for years, so I’m going to assume that some kind of injury was keeping him down last night.

Gaines Adams does not show up on the stat sheet. Not a sack, not a tackle, not a “QB hurry” — nothing.

I was going to give some props to the Carolina offensive line for this performance, but fuck that. Even if the Buc d-line had been stood up on the line of scrimmage for every play and never gotten a bit of penetration, they still could have tackled well after the initial push. At least it would have kept the big runs down to a minimum. But they didn’t. Broken arm tackles, poor form cuts and outright whiffs were what we got.

The linebackers were no better. Cato June, Derrick Brooks and Barrett Ruud all missed tackles. DeAngelo Williams must have thighs made of kryptonite because linebackers just kept bouncing off them. A couple of Brooks’s misses were especially visible and made him look old and busted.

Hey, two interceptions on the night. Not bad, right? Jermaine Phillips‘s pick was a pretty sweet display of concentration and Ronde Barber‘s interception was perfectly timed. But that was it as far as good news in the secondary.

Every member of that secondary missed at least one tackle. And coverages were blown on multiple occasions. I don’t know if that’s the result of poor decisions by the players or Monte Kiffin making some stupid coaching choices, but it was just embarrassing. There is absolutely no excuse for having Steve Smith single covered at any point ever. Delhomme only completed 14 passes. NINE of them went to Smith. Muhsin Muhammad had three grabs, but he was a last resort on two of them. Their entire passing game is all about Steve Smith. How can he still gash the Bucs for 117 yards and a TD if they know it’s coming?

I’ll tell you how. All the cutsie trends in football are meaningless. The spread offense or the interminable pre-snap shifting… it’s all just window dressing. If a team can run the ball and stop the run, they will almost always win. Why? Because the run game starts at the line of scrimmage and requires a physical presence to be successful. If your line physically dominates your opponent and you are able to impose your running game on them, you will break their spirit. Carolina’s complete dominance of the Bucs was no magic trick. There were no trick plays and no one was outcoached. They just executed better and beat the Bucs into submission. Vince Lombardi is looking down and shedding a tear of pride at the Carolina performance last night. This was his kind of game.

Okay, how about the offense, though? Not bad. Jeff Garcia actually pulled the trigger on some long passes last night and it paid off. It turns out that if you give your best players a chance to make plays on the ball, they’ll come up with it a lot of the time. Despite the risk taking, Garcia still had no interceptions and a passer rating over 100. He misfired on a couple throws, but was also let down by a few of his receivers in the second half. He could have had a completion percentage over 75% without all the drops.

Somehow, I’m not sure how, Warrick Dunn wound up with a 4.9 YPC average on ten carries. Cadillac Williams had a touchdown but was stuffed at the line quite a few times. He had a nice reception, though. B.J. Askew was the superstar who got a first down every time he touched the ball. Clifton Smith dropped the only pass he was thrown.

Dunn’s drops were so frustrating. He had room to run on every play if he had just be able to make the catches. With some shifty moves and acceleration, a couple of those might have gone for some serious yards. I lost count of how many he dropped. Four? Five? Something like that.

And don’t think I forgot about that weak ass chip on Richard Marshall that did nothing and allowed a sack.

The offensive line did a pretty good job, although Jeremy Trueblood got beat for a couple sacks. Donald Penn handled Julius Peppers pretty well most of the night. That tripping penalty was unnecessary, but overall it was a pretty clean game for them. Jeff Faine and Arron Sears had a few nice blocks, too, that helped out Dunn and Williams on their more successful runs. But the running game never really opened up for the Bucs in a big way. At the end of the game, they were looking as gassed as the defense.

And I would be remiss if I left out some clutch Jerramy Stevens catches (and one ridiculously easy drop) and a sweet Alex Smith catch. When they stayed in to block, though, it didn’t seem to make much difference. The edges just weren’t getting sealed.

Now for the good news of the day: Antonio Bryant. His second touchdown alone would have been enough to make him the highlight player of the game, but he just kept making big catch after big catch. First downs, touchdowns, speed, crisp routes, timely adjustments — Bryant had it all last night. Sometimes Garcia laid the ball in perfectly, other times Bryant had to make some adjustments and come back to it, but he caught just about everything. It was a 200 yard game for Bryant, only the second one in Buccaneer history. How good was he? The Bucs lost the game in a miserable fashion, and people are still talking about his performance. Awesome.

Between this and last night’s live chat, I’ve probably written about 2,000 words on this game, so I’m done. The Bucs are 9-4 and currently the top wildcard team. They still control their own playoff destiny if they win out, but they may not get a home game now, which could be fucking disastrous. If things keep shaking out like this, they could find themselves playing at Arizona or at Minnesota in the first round of the playoffs. I think I’d prefer the Cardinals because their running game is weaker. But can the Buccaneer corners match up against Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin? You know what… forget it right now. I’m taking a break.

And, hey, thanks to everyone who participated in the live chat. It was definitely the highlight of the night.

Wet Cheerleaders

December 01, 2008 at 11:51am by Scott   •  5 Comments »

I'm hoping a few more pictures like this will turn up in the coming days.
I said on Forecast Radio last week that Jeff Garcia was just good enough to get the Bucs to their first playoff game and lose it for them. After the New Orleans game, I’m sticking by that assessment. Garcia had some good moves, kept some plays alive with his feet and did not throw an interception. And his touchdown pass to Antonio Bryant was pretty sweet, if a little underthrown. But 9 of 23 for 119 yards and several missed opportunities can’t be good enough if the Bucs are going to go anywhere in the playoffs. You saw Michael Clayton wide open in the endzone, right? Clayton could have caught that ball if it wasn’t thrown so far behind him. That was a four-point throw he missed.

I realize the weather had something to do with his inaccuracy, but Drew Brees was over 53% Can we not have the accuracy and zero interceptions?

The good news is that the average yards per completion was 13.2, which is pretty high. Of course, that average might have been a little lower if more catches had been made, but I’m trying to see some sunny side here.

There’s also no doubt that Garcia was the most valuable rusher of the day. His ability to scramble really puts linebackers in a bind when they have to decide whether to play the run or the pass.

Speaking of runners, Cadillac Williams looked about ten times better yesterday than he did last week. His cuts were sharper and he hit the holes with more authority. His recovery couldn’t come at a better time, either. I expect to see him get a larger share of the load as the season continues on. Seriously, with Earnest Graham out, Williams could be the difference between a long playoff run and a one-and-done.

Warrick Dunn looked a little gunshy after he slipped the first couple times. He started taking his cuts a little slower and didn’t have the same burst he usually has. I’m chalking this game up to weather for him. His average was about the same as Pierre Thomas‘s yesterday.

Unless something happens to Antonio Bryant, I don’t see Joey Galloway playing a major part in the rest of the season. The pass to him was low, but certainly catchable. It hit him in the hands, for chrissakes. That was on a 2nd and 6 in a drive that ended in a punt with the game tied. That kind of shit infuriates Jon Gruden. He was the only receiver in on single-receiver sets and defenses are going to get the point real fast that he’s not getting the ball.

I was really surprised that Clayton allowed a pass to get ripped out of his hands. I never saw a clear angle on it and he may have been bobbling the ball, but Clayton’s biggest attribute is his physicality and strength. Jonathan Vilma must be a beast.

You want to know something funny? In a game where the Saints had four sacks, I think the Bucs offensive line had one of its better games. Only one of those sacks was really the fault of a lineman (Jeremy Trueblood) and the pass-protection and run-protection were both pretty solid — a rarity. Edge blocking was pretty good and it allowed the Bucs to continue to run the ball when it was obvious that Garcia wasn’t having his best game.

I’ll say it again: Jeff Faine is SO much better than any center the Bucs have had in years.

What happened to Jimmy Wilkerson and why did Ryan Sims get the most playing time after Jovan Haye was injured? Don’t get me wrong; Sims did a great job. But Wilkerson has been on fire for the last several weeks. He didn’t play very much at all yesterday, though.

Both Cato June and Derrick Brooks whiffed on tackles early on in the game, but then made up for them with big plays later. Still, Barrett Ruud is currently the best linebacker on the team.

Same with Ronde Barber. He was caught sleeping on a Marques Colston catch early in the game, but was excellent for the rest of the game. His deflection into June’s hands was a heads-up play that wasn’t easy to make.

And that illegal contact penalty on Barber was total bullshit. Barber got mugged and Jeremy Shockey should have been called for offensive pass interference.

I was saying how Sabby Piscitelli would probably take over as the starter after the season when Jermaine Phillips hits free agency. But now that Philliips is back and you see what he does for the team, it’s a hard position to defend. He absolutely drilled dudes in the first half and his interception in the second half set up the game-winner. How do you let that walk away?

Special teams coverage was just — just awesome. This week it was Elbert Mack and Brian Clark that stepped up and made Reggie Bush lose yardage on his returns. Each week it seems like someone new gets into the kick coverage mix.

Clifton Smith didn’t fumble! And he still had a fantastic return average. I don’t think the Bucs have ever had this explosive a return game.

Speaking of not fumbling, look at what else didn’t happen. Trueblood didn’t get penalized, Matt Bryant didn’t miss a kick in the rain, Garcia didn’t throw an interception, Gaines Adams didn’t go offsides. This was relatively mistake-free football. The Bucs didn’t beat themselves and, as a result, was able to squeak out a win by doing what they do — playing good defense and having the offense do enough to win. It’s a tricky formula because it really requires that they don’t screw up much. This is the kind of game that would have slipped away from them in earlier years, or even earlier this year. After getting through this game, I don’t see any reason why the Bucs can’t make it to 12-4.

Matt McCoy May Be Staggering Back To Tampa

November 18, 2008 at 01:53pm by Scott   •  No Comments »

Geno Hayes was hurt pretty bad in the Vikings game last Sunday. He left the stadium on crutches and it’s looking like he’ll go on injured reserve. To take his place, the Bucs will work out Matt McCoy for his second stint in Tampa. If you remember, McCoy was arrested for DUI the same day he was released.

I feel bad that Hayes was hurt, but I have to applaud the renewed interest in McCoy. If you ask me, this team has far too few drunks on it. When was the last time we had a really good booze scandal in Tampa? Cato June was arrested last year, but those charges were dropped and it wasn’t even much fun to report. Now look at Matt McCoy.

You have to EARN a number, asshole.

Does this look like a guy who won’t punch a bartender in the kidneys for cutting him off at 2:00AM and trying to call him a cab? Fuck no. Cabs are for pussies, everybody knows that. Are you calling Matt McCoy a pussy? Cuz if you are, he’s got an ax handle behind the drivers seat of his pickup with your name on it.