Grading Tampa Bay's Positional Units at the 1st-Quarter Mark
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are off to an 0-4 start to the 2013 season despite having a seemingly productive summer, bringing in multiple All-Pro defenders to shore up an ailing defense. So what's gone wrong in Tampa Bay?
It's quite easy to point to the coaches, who seem to be the object of opposition from all sides. Consider this video from SB Nation's Matt Ufford, who calls for Schiano to be fired for creating an unhappy locker room and a public-relations nightmare in Tampa Bay.
But some blame can be placed on the players, who have not delivered on their promise and have failed to overcome the adversity set before them this season.
Let's take a look at the team position by position and see where the biggest letdowns have occurred. We'll also point out some of the positive performances so far this season.
The Buccaneers benched and then released quarterback Josh Freeman, as announced on the team's official website. He was replaced by Mike Glennon, a rookie third-round pick out of North Carolina State.
The results for both signal-callers? Awful.
The two quarterbacks have a combined completion percentage of 48.9 percent, with three touchdown passes and five interceptions in four games. The only starting quarterback in the NFL with a lower quarterback rating than either player is Blaine Gabbert.
And it won't be getting better anytime soon.
Teams know they can blitz Glennon with his slow footwork in his dropback and his lack of options to throw to outside of star receivers Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams. The Arizona Cardinals successfully put him under pressure in his first career start, and that tape will be available for every team to see and follow.
So things have been bad so far, with no hope of improvement. The quarterback position is the biggest on-field reason for the team's current 0-4 record.
An offense without a strong performer at quarterback is going to struggle to remain balanced, as defenses can focus on stopping the run. So even with the talented Doug Martin in the fold, the Buccaneers have yet to get their running game going.
He has taken 100 of the 111 rushing attempts for his team so far, which puts him on pace for 400 carries this season. He's been given no breaks and no help, and he runs into anticipating defenders ready to slice through gaps and take him down on virtually every play.
That said, he's done as well as he possibly could.
He is only averaging 3.4 yards per attempt this season, but that's not for a lack of vision or effort. Teams are stacking the box and not allowing him any room to run, so until the Buccaneers find a threat elsewhere on offense, Martin will continue to wear himself down on short runs.
He also needs some help or some paid time off. Martin is being overused, and it's irresponsible for an 0-4 team to run its best player into the ground in losing efforts.
Brian Leonard and Mike James must step up (and be put in the game by the coaches) over the remaining 12 games to make sure Martin is ready for 2014 and beyond.
The quarterbacks haven't done well in Tampa Bay this season, and the wide receivers haven't done much to help them, either.
Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams are the holdovers from a successful 2012 passing attack, but neither has hit the ground running in 2013. Jackson has dropped the football far too often in the first month of this season, and Williams isn't getting involved in the downfield passing game as he was last year.
Normally when proven starters struggle, it's a chance for unproven guys to make a name for themselves. But in Tampa, the opposite has happened.
The Bucs brought in Kevin Ogletree to be the third receiver, and he has already been released. That leaves unproven options like Eric Page, Russell Shepard and Chris Owusu. They also dug into their past to bring back the previously cut Tiquan Underwood.
None of them have yet to grasp the opportunity.
The starters are struggling, and there's no depth to help them out. It's been ugly out wide for the Buccaneers in 2013.
Last season, veteran Dallas Clark led the way at tight end for the Buccaneers, finding himself frequently targeted by Josh Freeman.
Clark wasn't brought back, and his "replacement" Tom Crabtree was injured during the preseason and has yet to suit up for a regular-season game in Tampa Bay.
That left Luke Stocker and Nate Byham as the top options at tight end, neither of whom has ever succeeded in the NFL on a regular basis. They're now both on injured reserve.
That's the story for the tight ends in Tampa, really. They're nonexistent.
Rookie Tim Wright has proved to be unreliable, and Crabtree, Stocker and Byham have been or are hurt. There's literally nothing going on at tight end for the Buccaneers.
For thoughts on the Tampa Bay offensive line, we can turn directly to one of the leaders for the Bucs in the trenches.
Davin Joseph, one of the most tenured Buccaneers and the leader of the offensive line, told Tom Krasniqi of 620 WDAE in Tampa that his fellow linemen are not happy with their performances so far, because they have high standards.
I can't say I disagree.
The Buccaneers haven't been bad on the offensive line, as they've largely kept their quarterback upright and provided occasional room to run. But with such a massive amount of money invested at the position, the O-line needs to be dominant.
Carl Nicks is returning to health, and the unit is finally playing with the five men who were supposed to start all along. But so far, they're not living up to expectations.
The Buccaneers have 13 sacks on the season, which would lead one to believe that they have received good play from their defensive ends, right?
Unfortunately for Tampa Bay, that isn't the case, as Adrian Clayborn has chipped in with two sacks and Daniel Te'o-Nesheim has one. The remaining 10 sacks have come from other positions.
Clayborn has been solid this season, going quiet as a pass-rusher a bit too often but playing the run well and getting after the quarterback on occasion.
Da'Quan Bowers has been an incredible disappointment, as he was set to replace the departed Michael Bennett and rush the passer opposite of Clayborn. Instead, he's barely seen the field and done nothing when he's had his chances.
The defense gets better from here, Bucs fans.
Gerald McCoy is a superstar at defensive tackle, and his presence is setting the tone for the much improved Tampa Bay defense.
He is the focal point for offensive lines, who double-team and hold the Oklahoma product on almost every play, which opens up room for the other Tampa Bay defenders.
One of those defenders who has benefited from McCoy's dominance is Akeem Spence, a rookie tackle who has made some big plays in his first four games as a pro. He doesn't consistently hold his gap, but he's capable of getting penetration and making an impact.
The tackles for the Bucs are one of many bright spots on a defense that deserves a better offense.
Lavonte David made a huge mistake against the New York Jets by committing a personal foul that set up a game-winning field goal, and that's what he's likely most known for by fans around the league.
But he should be known for being the best 4-3 outside linebacker in the NFL so far this season (admittedly because Von Miller has been suspended so far).
David had a fantastic rookie season in 2012, and he's added even more to his game in 2013. He's getting after the quarterback, notching three sacks so far this season after earning only two in his inaugural campaign.
He's also continuing to defend the run well. He's being called upon to cover receivers and backs in the passing game more than last year and has improved in that area as well.
Mason Foster is following in David's footsteps, showing improvement in 2013 after a decent 2012. He's been active against the run and better against the pass.
The linebackers have continued to key the incredible run defense that we saw last season, and they have improved against the pass as well. This unit may be the silver lining on the dark cloud over the Buccaneers these days.
Remember Darrelle Revis?
He's still Darrelle Revis. He's the best corner in the NFL.
But the corners other than him are worth talking about as well. The All-Pro recently acquired from New York locks down his side of the field, which puts extra pressure on young corners Johnthan Banks and Leonard Johnson.
They've responded well, and the statistics prove it. According to Pro Football Focus's Yards per Cover Snap statistics (subscription required), all three of the Buccaneers corners are in the top 11. They also all find themselves in the top 15 in PFF's Cover Snaps per Reception.
What does all that mean? The Tampa Bay corners aren't allowing many catches, and when they do allow a catch, it's not for many yards.
The Buccaneers have two safeties who' have had very different seasons.
Mark Barron has enjoyed improved play compared to his rookie season. He's playing closer to the line of scrimmage and is proving to be better against the pass than he was in his first year.
He leads the Bucs in tackles and has chipped in as a pass-rusher as well. He's become a well-rounded strong safety worthy of the high draft pick used to select him.
Dashon Goldson, on the other hand, is a veteran safety known for his hard hits. Those hits have caused him more harm than good this season, however, as he's earned multiple personal fouls for helmet-to-helmet contact.
He's cost his team on multiple occasions by making an unneeded, dangerous strike on an opponent to extend drives. So despite his fairly good play otherwise, his penalties have hurt his team more than his good moments have helped.
Rian Lindell isn't a reliable kicker, and that changes how the team behaves on fourth down in the red zone. He's a veteran kicker, but all his track record proves is that he has questionable accuracy.
Michael Koenen has one of the best legs for kickoffs in the NFL, but his punts are nothing special.
The Buccaneers have returned the ball fairly well and covered returns well, too. Nothing stands out, as the team has yet to see a game-changing play in the return game. But there is improvement compared to last season.
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