The Tampa Bay Buccaneers play the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday. Here's everything you need to know about the game.
The NFL has announced that defensive end Da'Quan Bowers will be suspended for two games for violating the NFL policy on performance enhancing substances. Bowers is the second Buccaneer to be suspended under this policy, as Jorvorskie Lane's two-game suspension was announced just before the bye week.
Bowers was a second-round pick in 2011, but has been a disappointment throughout his career with the Bucs. Injuries have hampered his performance, but he hasn't turned into the consistent pass rusher the Bucs thought they were getting. He has just 6.5 sacks in his career, one i this season.
Bowers' suspension will hurt the Bucs most at the three-technique position, where Bowers was backing up Gerald McCoy. Defensive end William Gholston can also play that position, and Clinton McDonald can slide over as well, but that would create issues at other spots along the defensive line where they don't have a lot of depth, either. With Bowers in the final year of his contract, this two-game suspension may signal the end for him in Tampa.
The Bucs have been a mess on defense so far this season, so how do they slow down the Minnesota Vikings this weekend?
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have been nothing short of a total disappointment on defense this season, as they've been unable to stop any opposing offense despite bringing in a head coach known for his defensive prowess.
This weekend the Bucs will take on the Vikings, who have been struggling on offense as of late, and are struggling to find an identity without Adrian Peterson in the lineup. So how do the Bucs win against the Vikings when Minnesota has the ball? Here are three key matchups to watch.
The Vikings may not have Adrian Peterson, but they do have an exciting young athlete who is starting to settle into his new role as an NFL running back. Jerick McKinnon played quarterback and triple-option running back at Georgia Southern before posting ridiculous numbers at the NFL Combine and getting drafted by the Vikings.
He's not a complete running back yet, but he's working his way into the rotation every week, and has overtaken Matt Asiata as the lead back. McKinnon has a crazy combination of speed and strength, and will be a difficult player to chase down for the Tampa Bay defense.
That's where Lavonte David must shine, and track down the rookie whenever he's in space and looking to make a play. David is one of the few athletes on the Tampa Bay defense who can keep up with McKinnon, and that means he'll be as important as ever to the Bucs defense this weekend.
Matt Kalil has been one of the worst left tackles in football this season (considerably worse than even the Bucs' Anthony Collins), but Michael Johnson and the Tampa Bay defensive ends have been equally disappointing so far this year. So which side of this matchup of letdowns this year will win out?
If the Bucs hope to win, they'll have to keep Teddy Bridgewater under pressure without blitzing, and that means Johnson must create consistent pressure from the defensive end spot. Getting a one-on-one matchup with a struggling left tackle makes that an easier task in theory, but Johnson must follow-through with a solid on-the-field performance against a tackle who is clearly capable of better than his 2014 performances so far.
More important than any individual matchup this weekend will be the Bucs' ability to remain disciplined, play fundamentally sound football, and take advantage of Minnesota mistakes. Tampa Bay has been burnt by screens, misdirection plays, play action and end-around runs all season, and the Vikings have the playmakers to use any of those types of plays to torch the Bucs in Week 8.
Keeping contain on Teddy Bridgewater will be vital, especially if he's scrambling away from a pass rush, while tackling speedsters like McKinnon and Cordarrelle Patterson on the first try will be crucial in avoiding big plays.
The Bucs have committed countless unforced errors on defense this season, and cannot afford to continue to shoot themselves in the foot in what should be an easier matchup on defense than recent matchups have presented.
For the first time this season, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are almost completely healthy.
Lovie Smith said that backup linebacker Brandon Magee would be the only player ruled out for Sunday's game, while every player that needed to improve, did. That includes cornerback Johnthan Banks, wide receiver Vincent Jackson and tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins.
Smith also said that Josh McCown was throwing the ball well, but once again did not state whether he'd start, or even whether he'd be active on Sunday. It does sound like he should be ready to play, but it seems more likely that the Bucs will stick with Mike Glennon as their starting quarterback for at least one more game -- and probably longer, given the fact that Glennon has comfortably outplayed McCown this season.
Overall, the Bucs are set to be healthier on Sunday than they've been all season. All of their starters should be good to go, although a few will be playing through nicks of varying severity -- as happens for every NFL team throughout a full season. With the team taking on the floundering Minnesota Vikings, this is as good a chance at a win as the Bucs have had all season long.
The Vikings are also relatively healthy, although Kyle Rudolph will once again be out this week. Beyond Rudolph, the biggest issue is Vladimir Ducasse's participation -- but the starting guard is still likely to suit up, despite being listed as questionable.
|Player||No.||Pos.||Injury||Wed. Participation||Thurs. Participation||Fri. Participation||Game Status|
|Johnthan Banks||27||CB||Neck||Full Participation||Full Participation||Full Participation||Probable|
|Jonathan Casillas||52||LB||Hamstring||Limited Participation||Limited Participation||Limited Participation||Questionable|
|Anthony Collins||73||T||Knee||Limited Participation||Limited Participation||Limited Participation||Questionable|
|Dashon Goldson||38||S||Ankle||Limited Participation||Limited Participation||Full Participation||Questionable|
|Vincent Jackson||83||WR||Rib||Limited Participation||Limited Participation||Limited Participation||Questionable|
|Brandon Magee||53||LB||Knee||Did Not Participate||Did Not Participate||Out|
|Josh McCown||12||QB||Right Thumb||Limited Participation||Limited Participation||Full Participation||Questionable|
|Keith Tandy||37||DB||Hamstring||Limited Participation||Limited Participation||Full Participation||Questionable|
|Player||No.||Pos.||Injury||Wed. Participation||Thurs. Participation||Fri. Participation||Game Status|
|Vladimir DuCasse||62||G||Knee||Limited Participation||Full Participation||Full Participation||Questionable|
|Antone Exum Jr.||32||S||Ankle||Limited Participation||Did Not Participate||Full Participation||Questionable|
|Chase Ford||86||TE||Foot||Full Participation||Full Participation||Full Participation||Probable|
|Sharrif Floyd||73||DT||Ankle||Limited Participation||Limited Participation||Full Participation||Probable|
|Gerald Hodges||50||LB||Hamstring||Did Not Participate||Limited Participation||Limited Participation||Doubtful|
|Jabari Price||39||CB||Hamstring||Limited Participation||Limited Participation||Full Participation||Probable|
|Josh Robinson||21||CB||Ankle||Limited Participation||Did Not Participate||Questionable|
|Kyle Rudolph||82||TE||Abdomen/Groin||Did Not Participate||Did Not Participate||Did Not Participate||Out|
|Harrison Smith||22||S||Ankle||Full Participation||Full Participation||Full Participation||Probable|
|John Sullivan||65||C||Concussion||Did Not Participate||Limited Participation||Full Participation||Probable|
|Corey Wootton||99||DE||Low Back||Limited Participation||Full Participation||Full Participation||Probable|
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers suck because they're playing poorly. It's not really more complicated than that.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have arguably the worst defense in the NFL right now, a shocking development for an experienced defensive coach like Lovie Smith. And of course, this has led to some chanting that the Tampa 2 scheme is now outdated. That the Bucs can never again have a good defense under this scheme.
Bullocks. The Bucs defense sucks, welcome to everything since week 13, 2008.
The problem isn't the scheme. The Carolina Panthers have run the same scheme throughout Ron Rivera's tenure, while the Dallas Cowboys play the Tampa 2 philosophy about as straight as any team. The Panthers had the second-best defense in the NFL last year, while the Cowboys have one of the best this season. Even the vaunted Seattle Seahawks defense is based on those same principles.
That's because the Tampa 2 is a coverage, but it's also a philosophy. The Bucs run many, many different coverages in a game. Variants on Cover 2 are an important part of what they do, but so is Cover 3, as is man-free, as is quarters, as are a variety of blitzes. The Bucs have the same range of defensive play calls as basically every other NFL team.
The important thing isn't which specific coverage is called on every play, but the overall philosophy: eliminating the big play, forcing opposing quarterbacks to be perfect and patient, and capitalizing on the inevitable mistakes they make. It's a philosophy that works, but also one that relies not just on the offense's mistakes, but on the defense's ability to play disciplined, mistake-free football.
That's something the Bucs haven't been able to do this year. Linebackers don't get enough depth in coverage. Every level of the defense has made simple gap mistakes in run defense. Cornerbacks drop to the wrong spot, and safeties are late because attempts to disguise the actual coverage slow them down too much. It's a mess of an undisciplined group that doesn't trust the scheme.
It's the same thing we saw in Dallas last year -- and they solved it this season. It's the same thing we saw at the start of Tony Dungy's tenure, and it took them most of the 1996 season to fix those issues. And now we're seeing it in Tampa, again. Hopefully this time it won't take a full season to fix these issues.
Here's your open thread for today.
Breaking Madden, Week 8: The quest for 511 touchdowns in a game - SBNation.com
Peyton Manning is now the all-time leader in touchdown passes with 510. Brett Favre's mission: to surpass that in a single game. We realize how impossible this sounds.
Gerald McCoy says Bucs defense has earned title of being 'soft' | Tampa Bay Times
TAMPA — Gerald McCoy says the Bucs defense is soft. Worse yet, he says, it's on tape for all of the NFL to see.
Vincent Jackson on trade talk: 'I'm happy here in Tampa' | Tampa Bay Times
TAMPA — Bucs WR Vincent Jackson has reportedly drawn interest from other NFL teams before next week's trade deadline, but the 31-year-old said Thursday he wants to help turn around his team in Tampa Bay.
Scouting Report, Week 8: When the Bucs play the Vikings, things could get messy | Tampa Bay Times
A new defensive-minded head coach, an early season change at quarterback, shaky offensive line play and five losses — sounds like the resume of the 2014 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, doesn't it?
Hot Reads: WR Jackson wants to stay with Bucs | TBO.com, The Tampa Tribune and The Tampa Times
Bucs WR Vincent Jackson has heard all the trade rumors involving his name, but hasn’t heard anything from Bucs officials to suggest there’s any truth to them.
Bucs notes: QB dilemma is whether to activate McCown | TBO.com, The Tampa Tribune and The Tampa Times
The biggest decision Buccaneers coach Lovie Smith has to make regarding QB Josh McCown this week is not whether to start him, but whether to activate him.
Bucs' McCoy: We're playing soft, just have to be tougher | TBO.com, The Tampa Tribune and The Tampa Times
There might be no worse insult for a football player than to be called soft, but All-Pro defensive tackle Gerald McCoy says the Bucs have all but earned that moniker through their 1-5 start.
Minnesota Vikings game has extra meaning for Leslie Frazier - ESPN
TAMPA, Fla. -- Leslie Frazier wouldn’t say it, but Lovie Smith did.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers' coach Lovie Smith doesn't dispute Gerald McCoy - ESPN
Coach says if captain call defense soft, there is probably something to it
Former Minnesota Vikings coach Leslie Frazier supportive of Percy Harvin and Adrian Peterson - ESPN
During his time as the Minnesota Vikings' head coach, Leslie Frazier had contrasting relationships with the two star players on his offense: Adrian Peterson and Percy Harvin.
Meet the man who fixed the Dallas Cowboys defense - SBNation.com
It was supposed to be another down year for the Dallas Cowboys defense. Instead, they're a top-10 unit and a big part of the team's 6-1 start. Defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli provided SB Naiton with some insight in a one-on-one interview.
Matchup Index: Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Daily Norseman
The Daily Norseman dives deep into statistical trends and player grades to find possible matchups to exploit.
Here's your open thread for today's game. Chargers at Broncos! Should be a good one.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have a crime-fighting fullback.
Apparently, Lane caught a car burglar while he was...burgling a car in his hometown of Houston, Texas. According to a KTRE 9 report, the fullback saw the lights on his car turned on, saw a teenage burglar and tackled him to the ground -- after making sure he didn't see any weapons.
Lane wasn't very sensitive to the apparent sweet-talking either. "He tried to get me to let him get away but I said, 'You made your mistake, now you have to be punished.'"
So what did he try to steal from Lane's car? Cleats and some gloves. That sounds more like someone out for some mementos than a malicious burglar, but still.
Ironically, Lane is currently serving a two-game suspension for violating the NFL policy on performance enhancing substances.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are bringing in punter Brock Miller for a workout, as first reported by Aaron Wilson. Now you may think that's to replace Michael Koenen -- but according to Greg Auman, it's just to see if they'd like to sign him to an offseason contract after the season.
The Bucs should be looking at new punters, though. Because Michael Koenen has been horrible this season.
Michael Koenen ranks 31st out of 32 punters in net punting average, and 32nd in gross punting average. That is really, really horrible. And it's not a short-term thing, either. Koenen was ranked 26th and 24th respectively last year, 28th and 21st in 2012, and 7th and 17th in 2011. That's a pretty clear downward trend.
There are reasons for those horrible stats, of course. Koenen told the Tampa Bay Times that the Bucs were looking for more fair catches, which is why he's punting the ball high and short. I have a newsflash for these coaches: this strategy sucks, and you need to stop it. The Bucs now have the third-worst special teams unit in the NFL -- and their punting strategy is league-worst. By quite a margin, according to Football Outsiders' analysis.
Of course, Michael Koenen is still very good at one thing: kickoffs. He consistently booms it out of the endzone for touchbacks, which is pretty valuable. And since he's a vested veteran, his contract this season is effectively guaranteed, so cutting him won't do anything in terms of cap space.
Still, the Bucs should really look at replacing Michael Koenen. Because this punting is getting slightly ridiculous.