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Tampa Bay Buccaneers Week 4 Report Card: Grading Every Unit

Basil SpyridakosContributor IIIOctober 4, 2011

Tampa Bay Buccaneers Week 4 Report Card: Grading Every Unit

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    The first quarter of the NFL season is in the books, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have improved to a gritty 3-1 record after defeating the Indianapolis Colts on Monday Night Football.

    Running back LeGarrette Blount stole the show, gaining 127 yards on 25 carries and giving the Bucs the go-ahead 24-17 victory in the fourth quarter on a 35-yard touchdown run.

    The running backs are one of the few units that grade well so far this season, thanks to Blount and Earnest Graham.

    Which units have done well and which need drastic improvement?

    Let's break down and grade each unit for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. 

Quarterbacks

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    Josh Freeman's stats look pretty impressive.

    His 969 passing yards and a 66.9 completion percentage would give anyone the impression that Freeman's dominating.

    But three touchdowns passes to four interceptions isn't pretty, and Freeman got away with one against the Colts when he fired one to tight end Luke Stocker in the back of the end zone, which should have been intercepted.

    Freeman's questionable decision-making and ill-advised passes make me wonder if he's shouldering too much of the offensive pressure.

    He's young, brash and an incredible athlete, but Freeman also needs to be smart and learn from his mistakes.

    He's the unquestionable leader and playmaker of the Buccaneers, but there are other players willing and able to help. Freeman just needs to allow them.

    Grade: C+

Running Backs

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    The Bucs are finally beginning to roll offensively, thanks to offensive coordinator Greg Olsen not giving up on Blount and allowing him the carries to wear defenses down.

    It doesn't matter if it's a one- or two-yard gain—Blount needs to run the football to keep defenses honest as well as wear defenses out.

    That's exactly what he did against the Colts, when he broke a huge run toward the end of the fourth quarter.

    Graham has started slow, but he's growing into an excellent third-down back. His pass-blocking skills need some improvement, but he has great hands and the ability to break nine-yard gains running the football from the shotgun formation.

    Grade: A-

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends

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    Wide receivers Mike Williams and Arrelious Benn have been no-shows more than once this season.

    I'm not exactly sure if the effort's not there or why they're struggling to get open, but Freeman's top two targets have to do a better job of helping their quarterback.

    Preston Parker has been a nice surprise for the Bucs, and he continues to get better.

    Parker may look good because Williams and Benn are garnering all of the attention.

    Regardless, the top wide receivers need to step up. Until the Colts game, neither had been visible.

    Tight end Kellen Winslow has always been consistent, but he needs to get his temper under control before he receives a personal foul penalty at an inopportune moment.

    Luke Stocker is an excellent blocking tight end, but his hands are awful.

    Grade: C

Offensive Line

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    Guards Davin Joseph and Jeremy Zuttah continue to grade well with Bucs head coach Raheem Morris, but both Donald Penn and Jeremy Trueblood have been inconsistent at the tackle positions.

    Although Penn did an outstanding job against Colts speed-rusher Dwight Freeney, he still receives his fair share of ill-timed holding penalties and will get beat at times.

    Trueblood continues to improve from an awful start, and you can see the majority of the runs are going to his and Joseph's side of the line, which ought to bolster his confidence.

    Center Jeff Faine is the rock of that offensive line unit and has been a great leader.

    Grade: B

Defensive Line

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    The defensive line started the season getting run over by the Detroit Lions, and panic ensued in Tampa.

    Shouts of, "Gerald McCoy is a bust!" and "Fire Keith Millard!" resonated throughout the area.

    The Atlanta Falcons game turned it around for the defensive line. Yes, the Falcons have arguably the worst line in the NFL, but it gave this unit confidence.

    McCoy got his first sack of the season against the Colts. Michael Bennett added two more to his resume. Adrian Clayborn is playing like a man possessed, racking up a sack also.

    The defensive line has become much more violent and physical. They've also been reacting more and constantly forcing offensive lineman to work, which wears them out.

    By the end of the season, this may be the best unit on the Buccaneers roster.

    Grade: B 

Linebackers

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    The linebacker unit is fast and extremely active, but they have had too many missed tackles and are out of position too many times for me to give them high marks.

    Quincy Black has no business playing ahead of Dekoda Watson. The only thing keeping Black in Tampa is the huge contract he signed during the offseason.

    Black is a weakness and liability in the Buccaneers defense, and it's something that has to be addressed and remedied.

    Rookie linebacker Mason Foster may be the best player in this unit, and he has only played in four games.

    Foster has learned from the mistakes he has made in past games and continues to play well in limited action.

    He allows his instincts to guide him to plays without losing his thumper mentality. Foster doesn't over-think, yet he makes plays.

    Geno Hayes is a good overall linebacker, but he's still lacking splash plays.

    Grade: C 

Secondary

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    This may be the most frustrating unit for Buccaneers fans to watch.

    I'm still baffled as to why Morris would put E.J. Biggers on the opposition's best wide receiver.

    He can't hang with elite competition and can barely keep up with the team's second wideout. 

    Before injury, Cody Grimm looked lost and his replacement, Corey Lynch, is faring much better.

    Ronde Barber still has the fire to play, but he's more of a blitzing corner now more than anything.

    He's too small to cover tight ends and certainly isn't physical enough to handle bigger wide receivers. Not at this stage in his game.

    Aqib Talib is the only consistent player in the secondary and the only one doing his job. There have been times when Talib thought he had safety help, but Sean Jones bit on a play-action fake, leaving Talib to fend for himself.

    The secondary is ranked 21st in passing defense and have only two interceptions to show for it.

    Not exactly dominating.

    Grade: D

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