Can the Bucs delay you from talking about the draft?

by Gary Shelton on October 19, 2017 · 0 comments

in general, NFL, Tampa Bay Bucs

Harbreaves is off to a tough start with Bucs./CARMEN MANDATO

Hargreaves is off to a tough start with Bucs./CARMEN MANDATO

Thurssday, 3 a.m.

At a time like this, a guy walks gently to the phone.

He dials the number carefully. He asks to talk to Mel. He orders his NFL draft book.

Maybe some hair mousse while he's at it.

It is halfway through October.

Is it time to think about the NFL draft already?

Through the years, there have been a lot of disappointing seasons for this Tampa Bay Bucs franchise, a lot of year where delivery is several first downs

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Kwon Alexander set to return for Bucs./CARMEN MANDATO

Kwon Alexander set to return for Bucs./JEFFREY S. KING

short of what was promised. There was 2003, when the team managed a losing season following a Super Bowl. There were the Raheem years, and the Schiano years, and the Lovie years. There was Leeman and Perk and Wicky Wacky. There was 2008, when the team had the playoffs all but clinched with a month to go and fell off of a cliff.

Still, this season has a particular sting to it. We all saw the playoffs coming. And since the season started, we have seen them going.

So is there any way to right the ship? Or will we see the season fade into the sunset?

Think about it like this: All 11 teams remaining on the Bucs schedule – every one of them – has a better record than Tampa Bay. Only one team in the league has a worse pass defense. Only one team in the league has a worse overall defense. No one is worse in sacks. Two teams are worse in rushing the ball.

So how good are these Bucs?

Oh, Dirk Koetter told us what he thinks after the loss to Arizona on Sunday. “We're not a very good football team right now,” he said. And no, they aren't. Sunday, they looked like little more than roadkill.

Look at the league's power rankings. I checked out SI, ESPN, NFL.com, CBSsports.com, SportingNews.com and Bleacher Report. None of the sites had the Bucs in the Top 20. NFL.com had them 27th. ESPN and Bleacher Report had them 25th.

With those kinds of rankings, yeah, it's time to fire up the mock drafts.

Vernon Hargreaves has been exposed. The defensive ends have been AWOL. The tackling has been abysmal.

“We did not come close to being consistent,” said defensive coordinator Mike Smith. “We did not fit the run very well. Our run fits were horrendous in the first half of that game. Our tackling was horrendous. We did not want to put our pads on the runner.”

Start with Hargreaves, the most targeted cornerback in the NFL last year. This year has been no better. If you watched the Giants' game, you heard Eli Manning yell to his teammates that No. 28 was the guy they were going to work on “all day.” If you're going to nickname anyone “Toast” from their play so far, well, Hargreaves has been burned on both sides.

"I think his preparation has been solid; I don't think that the performance has been what it needs to be,'' Smith said. "Again, we don't want to make this a one-player situation, because there's a lot of responsibility to go around in terms of why we've not been consistent.

We have to level the playing field. We have to get him whatever help we can.”

Then there were the run fits. Smith kept stressing how players have to stay in their lanes. Funny. The opponents don't seem to stray out of theirs.

Then there is the pass rush. A Bucs' defensive end hasn't had a sack since the season opener.

We're very concerned about (Hargreaves') play and the other 10 guys who were out there on the field,” Smith said. “We've addressed it. You don't go out and play the kind of football (we did) and it's one guy. He's one of many concerns. We're up and down like a freaking yo-yo. Between series and between games, we've got to get it fixed.”

How good are they? The early signs are “not very.” Ask yourself this: What unit of the Bucs has played so well that you can see it spurring a turnaround?

Now answer this:  If you were betting your house, how many games would you bet on the Bucs to win? The Jets? Maybe. One of the Panthers game? One of the Saints? Buffalo? The correct answer is “not many.”

Hey, it isn't that the Bucs lost to the Cardinals in a game where their quarterback was hurt. It's that the Bucs came off the field looking like poor tacklers, poor coverage guys, poor run defense, poor pass rushers and poor runners. And that's the thing that bothers you the most. They didn't look like a team that can simply get back into the race even if they beat Buffalo.

If they lose, of course, it's time to get new stopwatches for the scouts.

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