Bucs still waiting for impact from top two choices

by Gary Shelton on September 28, 2018 · 2 comments

in general, NFL, Tampa Bay Bucs

Vea hasn't made his NFL debut yet./CARMEN MANDATO

Friday, 3 a.m.

Finally, the Tampa Bay Bucs might be on the verge of getting some help from its top two draft picks.

And isn't it about time?

Vita Vea has missed most of training camp and the early season with a leg injury, but he will be active soon in a limited role. Ronald Jones II, who had a dreadful preseason, has been inactive so far, but he's been working on playing special teams.

"Trust me, there is hitting in practice even on days when we’re going in ‘spiders’ like we did today," Bucs coach Dirk Koetter said Thursday.

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Jones has been inactive for three weeks./CARMEN MANDATO

"There’s still — none of us in this room would be able to go out there and survive including and especially me. It’s still physical in practice, especially for those guys up front on both sides. You’re exactly right though — there’s no better way to get in football shape than to play football. There’s a fine line though between training camp, preseason, practice football, and real NFL football. Some of that is medical decisions made by the guys that make those calls. After they’re cleared to play, then it becomes our call a little bit. Those are hard decisions.”

The Bucs have been beaten up at defensive tackle, so they could obviously use Vea. Jones has been unable to help a rushing offense that is among the lowest producing in the NFL.

“As I’ve said, he’s playing a different position on special teams than Shaun (Wilson) is, so some of that falls on who else we have up for that game — who else is in there," Koetter said. "I’ve said it multiple times – RoJo’s day is coming. This has nothing to do with anything he’s not doing well. It’s on me — it’s on us. His day is coming. Guys can get drafted where they get drafted, but my job’s still to put the 46 guys out there that give us the chance that week to win and that’s always what we’re going to do.”

Offensive coordinator Todd Monken said he wasn't concerned about the Bucs' inability to take advantage when in the red zone.

"The sample size is still small, so it’s frustrating, it’s disappointing," Monken said. "You’re not going to be perfect. If you are, we come out victorious no matter what the turnover situation was. It’s tough because some of the things we did down there were self-inflicted. We’re first-and-goal on the 6 (yard-line), and we get and illegal shift. That puts you first-and-goal at the 11– not good. We miss a protection so we don’t slide, hits a defender in the helmet and the ball gets deflected and gets intercepted. Disappointing.

"Again, those aren’t excuses — we’ve got to do it better. There wasn’t really anything — looking back, sure, running the football probably helps that. I’ve got to do a better job of that. We’ve got to do a better job collectively. That’s a part of it and at the end there isn’t a call that came up that I want to take back or something — it’s the execution that we’ve got to do better and that’s the way it is. We’ve got good players — we’ve just got to do — better when we get down there. Now, part of that is if you get down there and try to score touchdowns, we’ve been explosive and that’s added to that without actually getting there. We’ve got to do better down there.”

Whoever starts at quarterback for the Bucs will have to contend with an excellent defense starring Khalil Mack.

“First of all, they were really good before up front and really good schematically," Monken said, "and then you add a first round pick linebacker and you add Khalil Mack to the mix and they added [Aaron] Lynch to the D-line, so they’ve added some pieces there that forces you to — whenever you’ve got a game-wrecker type player, you’ve got to know where he’s at all times and do everything in your power that he doesn’t change the game because so far he has. So far, he’s been a weapon so it’s our job to figure out a way he isn’t that type player against us.”

Added quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick: “Obviously, there’s been a lot that’s been written up and talked about Khalil Mack and what he has added so far to that defense. He’s been awesome, but even before he was there, this is a talented group, especially up front with the problems they present. Statically, early on with the turnovers they’re creating in the big plays that they’re making on defense, they’re difficult on opposing quarterbacks and opposing offenses because of the pressure that they can create. I think they do a great job with their scheme and mixing things up. It’s a tough challenge every week, but this in particular will be a tough challenge for us.”

Receiver DeSean Jackson also warned about Mack.

“They fly around, man," Jackson said. "They’ve got a dude by the name of Khalil Mack – one of the best in the league right now what he’s doing. It’s just exciting to be able to go against some talented guys like that and a defense like that and just kind of see where we’re at on our end.”

The Bucs face a mortal quarterback for a change in former No. 1 pick Mitch Trubisky, who is only 26th in the NFL in passing yardage. In their first three games, the Bucs faced the Super Bowl MVP (Nick Foles) and two future Hall of Famers in Drew Brees and Ben Roethlisberger.

The Bucs will counter with a secondary that includes rookies Carlton Davis, M.J. Stewart and Jordan Whitehead and second-year pro Justin Evans.

"With all three of those rookies, I think that probably the thing that’s jumped out the most is the way they’re not afraid to go out there and compete and not back down, no matter who it is," Koetter said. "Think about it, these guys were all in college last year and they’re going against guys they watched on TV – now that’s the same for every new player in the league. All of a sudden we’ve got three of them out of the five when we’re in nickel defense out there at the same time and they’re going against guys that they dreamed about going against and now they are. "

The game begins Sunday at 1 p.m. at Soldier Field in Chicago.




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