Grading the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Their Win over the Buffalo Bills
Call them sloppy or lucky, but the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are winners after beating the Buffalo Bills on Sunday. Neither team was particularly good, but the Bills just could not stop shooting themselves in the foot.
The Bucs did head coach Greg Schiano a favor by screwing up just enough to win the game. While the score may indicate clear domination of the game, the Bucs offense were handed scoring opportunities on a golden platter.
While the Bucs defense enjoyed similar good fortune, they must be credited for shutting down the Bills offense. Bills quarterback EJ Manuel played one of his worst games as a pro thanks to opportunistic pass coverage and a hungry pass rush.
It appears that Schiano's seat cooled yet again, but the Bills are a bad team if Sunday's game was any indication. The Bucs cannot expect the same results next week against the San Francisco 49ers if they don't clean up their on-field production.
Grades are handed out to the Buccaneers' starters and key contributors. The better the performance, the better the grade.
Here is how the Buccaneers graded in their win over the Bills:
Mike Glennon: D+
This was the quarterback many expected to see when Mike Glennon became the Bucs' starting QB. He was inaccurate, made poor decisions and was generally ineffective.
Yes, Glennon threw two touchdowns, but he had a lot of help with both. He deserves some credit for the first touchdown as he was able to extend the play after the pocket collapsed. However, wide receiver Vincent Jackson was tightly covered and simply muscled his way into catching the ball.
The second touchdown to tight end Tim Wright was set up by excellent field position set up by the Bucs defense, a curious roughing-the-passer penalty on Bills safety Jarius Byrd and a great third-down conversion by Wright. Glennon completed all of two passes on the drive, though one was the touchdown to Wright.
Otherwise, Glennon was terrible. He went 9-of-25 and threw for only 90 yards. He was also picked off twice as he forced passes to Jackson. While Jackson is a talented athlete who makes plays on the ball as well as any other receiver in the league, Glennon's passes gave him no such opportunity.
While he was routinely flushed from the pocket, thanks to the Bills unrelenting pass rush, Glennon did not respond well to pressure. His throws were often off the mark, and he missed receivers who were wide-open, like WR Tiquan Underwood on the Bucs' third drive.
This was the first time this season that Glennon really looked like Josh Freeman from the start of the season.
He lofted deep passes that no one had any chance of touching. Glennon didn't complete a single pass for positive yardage in the second half. Worst of all, he wasted numerous opportunities granted to him by a strong outing by the Bucs defense.
Glennon was lucky the Bills insisted on laying an egg on Sunday, but he better not expect this kind of charity very often.
Bobby Rainey: B
"ONLY A 'B'?" I would wager that will be a common response to this grade for Bucs running back Bobby Rainey, who ran 22 times for 127 yards and a touchdown.
Rainey's 80-yard touchdown run on the Bucs' opening drive broke the Bucs' records for fastest score to open a game and the longest rush touchdown. He stiff-armed Bills linebacker Kiko Alonso and juked a safety deep to put the Bucs up 7-0 at the start of the game.
The problem is, that was pretty much all Rainey did. Take away the 80-yard run, and Rainey ran for 47 yards on 21 rushes, good enough for 2.2 yards per carry.
While poor run blocking limited Rainey's ability to break out, he also spent a little too much time dancing behind his blockers. Rainey deserves credit for patience and vision, but he needs to be more decisive at times. He can't expect big gains on very run.
There is no doubt Rainey proved himself worthy of a place in this team's future with his highlight-reel runs. Nonetheless, he still has room for improvement to become a more complete back.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
Vincent Jackson: B+
What does it say when your talent and reliability can be a detriment to your team's success? WR Vincent Jackson is so good that plays sometimes go wrong just trying to get Jackson the ball.
Jackson caught three passes for 70 yards and a touchdown, and boy what a touchdown. He fought his way out of Bills DB Nickell Robey's hands to catch the 38-yard pass in the end zone.
The problem is, that absurd reception may have put too much of QB Mike Glennon's confidence in Jackson to make a play for him. Glennon ended up tossing two interceptions trying to get the ball to Jackson.
Jackson actually did have a dropped pass, but he also nearly came up with a second touchdown. Unfortunately, it was reversed as Jackson's heel came down out of bounds before he could get his second toe down.
Tiquan Underwood: D
Grading a player's performance is a simple task because it requires the play of everyone around him also be taken into account. Underwood did not catch a pass on Sunday. While Glennon's awful play should be considered, Underwood did not make the most of his opportunities.
Underwood dropped a contested touchdown pass in the second quarter. While coverage was good, the ball hit Underwood in the shoulder. Had his concentration been better, he might have had a score.
He also dropped an easy pass on an underneath route later in the second quarter. It's not immediately clear where Underwood's head was at during the game, but it might have been hanging out wherever Glennon's brain was playing hooky.
Tim Wright: B+
Tight end Tim Wright could be a key player in the Bucs offense. He has a knack for getting open and making plays at key moments. He only caught two passes for 21 yards, but he essentially sealed the Bucs' win over the Bills.
His first catch came late in second quarter as he converted a third-down pass to put Bucs into the red zone. Two plays later, he caught Glennon's second touchdown pass.
Wright needs to play a bigger part in the Bucs offense. His ability to make big catches takes pressure off Vincent Jackson and opens up the Bucs' pass offense.
Donald Penn: B
Tackle Donald Penn bounced back from a terrible game against the Carolina Panthers with solid pass blocking. He did not allow a sack and for the most part kept QB Mike Glennon's blind side clean. His run blocking was not great, but the same could be said for the rest of the line.
Jamon Meredith: C
The magic guard Jamon Meredith brought to the Bucs' offensive line seems to have disappeared. The middle of the line received no push in the run game and allowed Bills' defensive tackles Marcell Dareus and Kyle Williams to penetrate and flush Mike Glennon from the pocket.
Jeremy Zuttah: D
Center Jeremy Zuttah was a near-liability for the Bucs on Sunday. Once again, he was flagged for penalties that cost the Bucs dearly.
First Zuttah was called for holding, negating a third-down conversion on the Bucs' third offensive drive. He was later called for a false start when the Bucs were on the Bills' 5-yard line. The drive ended in a field goal.
Zuttah was a non-factor in the run game and was often beaten by DT Marcell Dareus to get penetration on Glennon. The Bucs need to consider upgrading this position in the offseason.
Davin Joseph: C
Like Meredith and Zuttah, G Davin Joseph was not very good against the Bills. He just does not get any push run blocking anymore and is not a very good pass-blocker. Despite the leadership he brings, Joseph should also be evaluated in the offseason for potential replacement.
Demar Dotson: B
The Bucs tackles are the best linemen on the team, and T Demar Dotson played like it on Sunday. He was solid in pass protection as he has been all season and actually was decent in run blocking. Dotson may even be the best lineman on the team.
Gerald McCoy: A
DT Gerald McCoy deserves another trip to the Pro Bowl. Teams game-plan around him and still can't stop him.
McCoy batted down a pass on the Bills' first drive. He nearly had a sack on QB EJ Manuel in the second quarter and forced several bad throws which resulted in Manuel's four interceptions.
The Bills gained only 67 yards rushing, despite averaging 133 rush yards per game this season. McCoy's presence in the middle of the line was vital to this shutdown of the Bills' potent run game.
Adrian Clayborn: C
Defensive end Adrian Clayborn was a ghost against the Bills. He was easily handled by Bills T Cordy Glenn and got little pressure on Manuel.
Clayborn missed a sack opportunity on the first Bills drive by simply misjudging Manuel's location. At this point in his career, Clayborn has to make these plays.
Clayborn was also flagged for encroachment on the Bills' second field-goal attempt. The penalty moved Bills kicker Dan Carpenter from a 51-yard field-goal attempt to a successful 46-yard field goal.
William Gholston: A
So this is what Greg Schiano was raving about. DE William Gholston notched one-and-a-half sacks in a breakout game on Sunday.
Gholston's first sack was shared with DE Da'Quan Bowers. Gholston got good pressure and took advantage of a bad snap to Manuel. He later batted down a pass in the second quarter.
His next sack stopped an advancing Bills drive in its tracks. At the start of the third quarter, the Bills offense appeared to be building momentum when Gholston blew up the Bills' offensive line and sacked Manuel.
Gholston is seeing more and more playing time each week. Given the results, the Bucs need to keep Gholston on the field as much as possible.
Lavonte David: A+
It's official. The Bucs have the heir apparent of Derrick Brooks. All LB Lavonte David does is make plays. Not only did he lead the team with nine total tackles, David also added a sack and two interceptions.
Though both picks came off tipped or dropped passes, it is no coincidence that David consistently finds himself in the right place at the right time. He even returned the second pick 32 yards to the Bills' 12-yard line.
David continues to make plays in the run game. He deserves any accolades coming his way.
Mason Foster: B+
Though overshadowed by David, LB Mason Foster turned in a solid game against Buffalo. He also notched nine total tackles and added an interception.
Foster is a force in support. He laid some serious wood on Buffalo's running backs with his stops coming near the line of scrimmage. QB EJ Manuel will be feeling Foster's fourth-quarter hit on back-to-back blitzes.
Foster did miss a tackle on Fred Jackson in the third quarter, but it was his only glaring mistake on the day.
Dekoda Watson: C
LB Dekoda Watson did not distinguish himself much following LB Jonathan Casillas' trip to injured reserve. Watson was flagged early for a 15-yard penalty for roughing the punter.
The penalty extended a Bills drive that later ended in a punt. It is no secret that Schiano places a premium on punt blocks, but Watson fulfilled the inherent risk and kept the Bills offense on the field.
Watson recorded only two tackles on Sunday, but he made some good stops in the run game.
Darrelle Revis: A
Cornerback Darrelle Revis showed a side of his game that he doesn't often unsheathe. He notched a rare sack against Manuel in the second quarter. Revis came off the edge unblocked and rolled Manuel up for the play.
Revis also demonstrated how physical he can be by laying Bills WR Robert Woods out, resulting in a tipped pass to an interception by LB Lavonte David. Revis didn't even seem to move as Woods hit the turf.
Johnthan Banks: B+
CB Johnthan Banks had a good game as well, recording two tackles and an interception.
Banks' interception came in the second quarter as he applied strong coverage to Bills WR T.J. Graham. Manuel threw an ill-advised pass which Banks hopped in front of and picked off.
However Banks did struggle with missed tackles in the fourth quarter. While he had some good tackles, too, he needs to work on his tackling consistency.
Leonard Johnson: C-
CB Leonard Johnson continues to be the weak link in the Bucs' CB corps. He was called for a pass-interference call in the second quarter and a facemask personal foul in the third quarter.
Like Banks, Johnson missed some tackles in the fourth quarter. He has not made much progress this year and is clearly a limited player.
Mark Barron: B
Safety Mark Barron was relatively quiet on Sunday. With the front seven doing so much good work, Barron didn't need to make much of an impact. He was credited with a sack on the Bills' third drive, thanks to a Bucs blitz forcing Manuel to attempt a run.
Dashon Goldson: B
S Dashon Goldson also had a relatively quiet day. His play of the day was the recovery of a muff Leodis McKelvin punt, giving the Bucs possession deep in Bills territory in the second quarter.
Rian Lindell: A
It was a special day for kicker Rian Lindell as not only did he see his former team defeated, Lindell also made both of his field-goal attempts.
While it appeared Greg Schiano had lost his mind calling for Lindell on a 53-yard field-goal attempt, the gamble worked as Lindell put it through the uprights. Lindell also hit a 32-yard chip shot.
Michael Koenen: B+
Punter Michael Koenen was instrumental in keeping the Bills in bad field position most of the day. For most of the first half, the Bills toiled deep in their own territory, thanks to a strong Bucs defense and well-placed punts by Koenen.