Do the Bucs need more time before the season?

by Gary Shelton on August 27, 2017 · 0 comments

in general

Winston still hasn't thrown a touchdown pass in his play./CARMEN MANDATO

Winston still hasn't thrown a touchdown pass in his play./CARMEN MANDATO

Sunday, 4 a.m.

Call a time-out. Take a penalty. Push it back. Get the commissioner on the horn and tell you him need to take a break.

Whatever it takes, delay the coming season at all costs.

There are 14 days to go, and from the looks of it, from the feel of it, the Tampa Bay Bucs are going to need every minute of it. From the sight of it, and from the sound, this team is not ready. However you want to measure it, any way you wish to weigh it, this team needs about a month's work before things come together.

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Folk kicked three field goals, easing concerns about the kicking./CARMEN MANDATO

Folk kicked three field goals, easing concerns about the kicking./CARMEN MANDATO

Perhaps it has been the hype. Perhaps it has been Hard Knocks. Perhaps it has had too many players talking about so much greatness around them.

On the other hand: Cleveland 13, Tampa Bay 9.

Furthermore, yuck.

The Bucs – scorers of 33 whole points in three games, and how is that for a dynamite offense? — fizzled again Saturday night, getting only three field goals in a 13-9 loss to

Reedy had a good night for the Bucs./CARMEN MANDATO

Reedy had a good night for the Bucs./CARMEN MANDATO

the undefeated — you read that right – Cleveland Browns. Jameis Winston still hasn't thrown a touchdown pass, and the team seems to think that it's not a red light you stop at, it's a red zone.

“Blah,” said Bucs' coach Dirk Koetter, summing up the evening as succinctly as possible.

Blah, indeed. This team has struggled to score as it is swimming upstream.

"It's going to concern me if it happens on Sept. 10," Koetter said. "Tonight, it is what it is."

No, the Bucs aren't using a full playbook. Still ...

Anger punted seven balls inside the 20./CARMEN MANDATO

Anger punted seven balls inside the 20./CARMEN MANDATO

"That doesn't mean you're not trying to execute," Koetter said. "We're trying to execute. When you have turnovers and penalties in the red zone, it doesn't matter what plays you call."

Look, at a time like this, a team wants to be sharp and crisp. It wants to feel dangerous. It wants to wear out the turf around the goal line. It does not want medium-sized drives to nowhere.

The lampoonable Browns came into Tampa, and their starting quarterback hit one-third of his passes, and still, the Bucs teetered and fell. Bucs' punter Bryan Anger booted seven punts, all landing inside the 20, and it didn't matter. Nick Folk hit all three of his field goals, it didn't mean a decent scoring night.

The Bucs still failed to move the needle. Granted, the team played without eight starters, and it played in the rain, and it was preseason.

Still, the Bucs averaged just 3.4 yards per rush, and Winston threw an interception on an admitted “bad throw” and the pass rush was, in the words of Koetter, “non-existent.” On the night, the Bucs had four drives of more than 40 yards; they ended up with two field goals from them. In three preseason games, the first-team offense has scored one touchdown.

Humphries makes a catch for the Bucs./CARMEN MANDATO

Humphries makes a catch for the Bucs./CARMEN MANDATO

Just asking, but is that the way you want to see this team go into its first game against Miami?

"It's a practice game," Winston said. "It's the preseason."

True. But for Bucs' fans, who have seen offenses get stuck in the mud before, it still is a reason for concern.

“Ten carries was enough,” said Jacquizz Rogers. “I've got to take advantage of my opportunities and get my yards per carry up. That's something I would like to do. I try to stay about 4.5 (yards per carry).”

Uh, Saturday night, Rodgers gained 34 yards, or 3.4 yards per carry.

Of course, it wasn't going to be easy for the Bucs, who were without starting receivers Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson. Or without offensive linemen Demar Dotson or Kevin Pamphile. But shouldn't a team show some glimpse of its promise? Shouldn't it suggest the coming attractions?

Naturally, most starters aren't expected to play in the fourth preseason game on Thursday night, so this seems to be what you will get. It is still an offense that hasn't found its rhythm in the red zone. Winston has been fairly sharp (47 of 69 for 495 yards, an 82.7 rating), but he hasn't found a receiver in an end zone. It is still a team that

Barber can't find daylight./CARMEN MANDATO

Barber can't find daylight./CARMEN MANDATO

seems average running the ball. It is still a team that nibbles and sips instead of stretching things.

Perhaps all of that is to come. Teams don't fully game plan for the preseason, so perhaps the team will be sharper when it counts. But so far, there have been no flashes of it. Bucs fans are taking it all on faith.

Oh, no one is suggesting the sky is falling, despite that crack in the corner. Preseason games are practice. Everyone is supposed to work up a sweat and try not to let linemen fall on your legs. The regular season changes everything.

But if you were one of the people who paid for this game, and who sat in the rain for hours, how disappointing must it have been. For three weeks, you've been waiting to see the guys perform under the bright lights, and instead, the end zone is dark and scary.

Ayers helped the defense limit the Browns to a late TD./CARMEN MANDATO

Ayers helped the defense limit the Browns to a late TD./CARMEN MANDATO

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