A chance at redemption looms...I might actually be more nervous about this game than I was for the season opener. I'm struggling to force myself to think about how things are going to go if we lose this...I just don't want to go there. But it's not just the Rams trying to right the ship. Tampa wants to get their first win of the season too.
So to fill in some of the blanks, I linked up with Sander Philipse from Bucs Nation, SB Nation's community for fans of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
So, I watched a solid chunk of yalls game against the Panthers, but I'd lean on your analysis of what went down. How much of the issue was the lack of a running game? Obviously, the two interceptions were painful. But you guys were relatively penalty-free. McCown pushed targets downfield. Did the offense struggle centrally because of a lack of a running game or was there another factor that determined the offensive issues through three and a half quarters that really defined the game?
The lack of a running game didn't help, obviously, but I don't think that was the deciding factor in that game. That was simply Josh McCown's play, and specifically his two ugly interceptions. But he had other issues, too: he waited too long to pull the trigger on throws, and tended to walk into pressure. He fixed those issues at the end of the game, which is why the Bucs scored touchdowns on subsequent drives, but he looked like a nervous rookie for most of the game, and that's the key reason why the Bucs' offense sputtered. Not the offensive line, though that had some issues, and not the lack of a running game: if McCown hadn't ballsed up and turned the ball over twice, they would have been fine.
On to the other side of the ball. Through three quarters, you limited the Panthers to just 10 points. Were things working well or, considering the state of the offense, really well? The Panthers had the ball more than you guys, so looking at yardage and time of possession, I wonder what the real story on defense was. Above average showing? Any concerns or units that didn't look up to the game?
The defense as a whole wasn't bad, but there were some problems. The biggest issue was the inability to pressure the quarterback off the edge. Gerald McCoy's a dominant player: the best three-technique in the NFL, for my money, and he was dominant against the Panthers, too. It's just that Michael Johnson, who suffered an ankle injury early in the game, and Adrian Clayborn couldn't help him out and consistently rush the passer. And this scheme cannot work if you can't get to the quarterback -- in fact, most NFL schemes can't work in those circumstances.
Michael Evans and Austin Seferian-Jenkins featured throughout. How do you feel about the 2014 rookie class after a season? Any late 2014 picks or UDFAs who either stood out in the preseason that could feature this week or made it to the field against the Panthers that Rams fans should know about?
Austin Seferian-Jenkins looked really good against the Panthers, until he suffered a lower-leg injury. It's not clear whether he'll be healthy this week, but if he can play he should play a large role on offense. Mike Evans wasn't used as much, and I thought he looked a little raw in his route-running which is to be expected, but he's the number two receiver: he'll see some targets, and he has the body control and size to consistently make contested catches without beating people with his route running.
As for late-round picks, the Bucs have been very hesitant to play rookies outside of Evans and Seferian-Jenkins. None of their other rookies even played against the Panthers. Apparently this coaching staff doesn't really trust those raw rookies.
Ok. I promise. No Greg Schiano jokes. No, maybe one. I have to...ok fine. No Schiano jokes. How do Bucs fans feel about the current staff? Obviously in HC Lovie Smith (Rams!) and Leslie Frazier (not Rams!), you've got tons of experience at that level. Is it all on the up and up?
Fans are really confident in the current coaching staff, at least on defense. Lovie Smith's track record of defensive success is incredibly impressive, and there's no real reason to believe that'll change this season. The offensive side of the ball is different. Jeff Tedford has a long history of success -- in college. Will that translate into the NFL? That's tough to say, but most people are at least optimistic. One problem limiting them so far: Tedford had to undergo heart surgery during the preseason and while his recovery is going well, he hasn't been able to participate fully in game-planning and didn't call plays last game.
Game prediction. Tell me how much the Buccaneers will win by.
I think it'll be a tight, defensive game. The Bucs will win, but not by all that much and the Rams will be in it until the very end. Probably 17-14, Bucs.
Thanks to Sanders for the time.