This week we get to revisit Editor Josh Hill of The Pewter Plank for our five questions. I try to sneak a two-parter in there a couple of times so you actually get more like 7 questions for those of you scoring at home.
But if you’re “scoring at home,” what are you doing reading this in the first place? Don’t answer that, please.
Here’s what Josh had to say:
1) Just as I started to wonder if the “young Bucs” would ever really gel as team this season, they did. I know Greg Schiano is a stricter coach than Morris was, but what do you see as the biggest difference in coaching that has led this team to being one of the rising teams in the NFL?
Well the biggest difference, as you alluded to, is Schiano football vs. Rah-Rah Raheem football. I liked that Morris had the element of motivation, but he was a one trick pony and he ended up trying to be one of the guys too much. Schiano doesn’t care if you don’t like him — which has been made evidently clear by the general distain the rest of the NFL feels towards him for the kneel-down and various other “college” gimmicks. But what Morris didn’t have was a vision, and Schiano has that. Morris sort of used what was here and told them to play football. Schiano grabbed other pieces to add to what was here and told them to win at playing football. Not many people in the NFL like Schiano or how he coaches, but the Bucs are 5-4 and no one is complaining here.
2) The one glaring weakness Tampa Bay has is the pass defense. They are dead last in the NFL in passing yardage and got rid of talented but troubled Aqib Talib just before the trade deadline. Who is filling his shoes at corner, and you used that high pick on Alabama safety Mark Barron. How well or how poorly is he living up to expectations?
Well there is a lot of Wild Card talk around Tampa and it seems I’m the only one cautiously drinking the Kool-Aid. This is a great offensive team, but as I’ve said increasingly in recent weeks, put this team up against a real NFL offense that defense gets shredded. Talib was a problem child and it’s great to be rid of him, as this team is not going anywhere this year so moving him now was the right move. Tampa’s proven they can build through the draft and they’ll focus on the secondary this year. I mean look at Mark Barron, he’s John Lynch 2.0 and that’s exactly what this team needed. Had they drafted Morris Claiborne, we’d likely be talking about how weak the safety spot is, so it’s not like drafting Barron set the team back. The safety spot is set, the secondary will be next and come net year or the year after that you might be looking at a Bucs team that’s returning to 2002 form — if not better.
3) If memory serves, the Bucs have the youngest roster in the NFL…at any rate, it’s a very young team overall with some great-looking young talent on both sides of the ball. How are things different this year?
Well last year it had the moniker “youngry” which I dug at the time but ended up being the motto of a failed regime. The team is young, it’s hungry but it’s still growing. Like I said, the team is 5-4 and in the thick of the NFC Wold Card chase but that’s a dream I’ve wanted to ease people off for a while now. I cover the Chicago Bulls, and back in 2011 when there was no expectations and a new head coach and the team exploded through the season behind Derrick Rose, I was not only drinking the Kool-Aid, I was mixing it and serving it up. I thought the Bulls would sweep their way to a seventh title, but when they got destroyed by the Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals, I still haven’t recovered. I don’t want Bucs fans to fall in that trap as that was an incomplete Bulls team and this is an incomplete Bucs team. That’s not to say it’s not a good team but because it’s so young has has such a high ceiling, we need to hold off on popping any bottles just yet. The major flaw in Raheem Morris’ regime was he led a culture of falls–accomplishment and misplaced entitlement. I don’t want that to happen to what has become a much better team.
4) Tampa Bay was probably the most active team in the NFL this past offseason with the free agent additions and with a number of rookie draft picks contributing on both sides of the ball. Doug Martin aside, who has been the most pleasant “surprise” among the new additions? Who, if anyone, isn’t holding up their end of the deal?
When we broke the news that Vincent Jackson had been signed, I was elated and everything I thought would happen has happened. Mike Williams struggled last year because he was the lone deep threat target getting mobbed by double teams. The passing game was therefore closed off and the rest crumbled from there. With VJax, defenses now have to account for two deep threats in addition to slot guys like Tiquan Underwood. Plus there’s the Doug Martin effect which only makes VJax’s presence all that more valuable.
As far as who hasn’t stepped up, the obvious answer is Eric Wright, just because he’s now the No. 1 corner on the worst ranked pass defense in the league. Plus, he’s been hobbled by injuries all year long which has held him back, so while it’s kind of unfair to peg him as the guy who hasn’t stepped up, given his contract he’s looking more and more like the Chris Bosh of the Buccaneers Big 3.
5) I’ve not heard much talk about the specific but unique matchup this week – two rookie sensations going head-to-head: RB Doug Martin vs. MLB Luke Kuechly. Will Martin get over 100 yards from scrimmage this week, and what do you think the final outcome of the game will be?
I personally thought this would be a bigger deal but maybe it’s the Panthers record that’s scaring away the mainstream media from this. Kuechly is going to be great, especially since Jon Beason appears to be done in Carolina after yet another season lost to injury, so we’ll have a lot of years to live this matchup up. But as for this week, Kuechly might get the better of Martin by keeping him under 100 yards, but the thing is Martin may stay under 100 yards rushing but make up for it receiving. It all comes down to this patchwork offensive line that’s being held together with mud. If the Panthers can break this so-so line down, then the Bucs will have to look away from Martin and it might actually stunt the offense a bit. It’s going to be a good matchup but I’m going to wait for games down the road for this to be as epic as I one day hope it will be.
As far as who wins on Sunday, I honestly think it’s going to be closer than people are expecting. Yeah, the Panthers are kind of down in the dumps and there’s turmoil within the club but this in an NFC South matchup and if there’s a team the Panthers want to stunt right now it’s the Buccaneers. Carolina has historically played NFC South opponents tighter going back to the win over the Saints and near win over the Falcons. Heck, they only lost by six points to the Bucs in week one, so if Cam Newton can exploit this secondary it’s going to be tight. I still think the Bucs win but don’t expect a blowout by any means.