Tampa BayWatch – My Thoughts on the Bucs

Bucs 1st Quarter Review

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So four weeks are already in the books and its been a surprising few weeks for the teams in the NFC South. The Saints have gone 0-3 and must be glad of the early bye week, the Bucs are 3-1 and I’m happy with the progress of the team, however the injuries to Cadillac Williams and Luke Petitgout have cast a real shadow over this week. The Falcons are 1-3 and could quite easily be 2-2 , the Panthers are 2-2 and have a lot of questions hanging over the team. Here’s my take on the first 4 weeks for the Bucs and what the next 4 weeks has instore.

Garcia has sparked life into the Bucs offence (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

The Bucs stand proud at the top of the NFC South with a 3 -1 record and the rest of the teams in the division facing all sorts of problems. Before the start of the season the first 5 games looked very tough and I had us pegged at 1-4 or even 0-5. The season started with a tough trip to the Pacific Northwest to face the Seahawks. There were sparks in that game but nothing to suggest the revival that would happen under Jeff Garcia. The Bucs dominated an out of sorts Saints, toughed out a win against the Rams and eased past the Panthers with the minimum of fuss. I’ll look at all three sides of the ball and see what the major improvements have been made on last years 4-12 Bucs.

Offence:
What a difference a year makes, last years number 7 was thrust into the team far too quickly, this years number 7 has more experience than most QB’s in this league. It all starts with the QB and the 37 year old Jeff Garcia has been a revelation. Showing poise in the pocket, able to avoid the pass rush, accurate with his throws, able to avoid dumb turnovers, a leader on the field with veteran smarts Garcia has transformed the offence. I have to admit I was in the “WTF” camp when we brought Garcia in free agency due to our abysmal record with veteran Free Agents (Todd Steussie anyone !). But I’ll put my hand up and say I was wrong. The ability of Garcia to find the open man and not turn the ball over has seen the Bucs rack up 771 yards through the air and 538 yards on the ground.

The WR core has had 2 stand out performances from the veterans Joey Galloway and Ike Hilliard, Galloway single handedly destroyed the Saints secondary and Hilliard did the same to the Panthers. Michael Clayton will be worried about his lack of catches but his downfield blocking has been key and the block to release Galloway for his first TD against the Saints was top drawer. I was hoping to see more of Maurice Stovall but his time will come and he has been contributing on special teams. Alex Smith and Anthony Becht have been solid at TE and Smith seems to be seeing the ball more with Garcia at QB.

The RB core have been racking up the yards and have worked well as a trio. Earnest Graham had a game winning performance against the Rams, Cadillac had been solid and was starting to look more like Cadillac from his rookie season and Pittman has provided a nice change up with his recieving skills out of the backfield. However the focus will be on Pittman and Graham to produce now that Cadillac is on IR.

The offensive line has been gelling nicely and Arron Sears at LG has been superb in his rookie season, having a veteran in Petitgout outside him has allowed him to settle in. Joseph and Trueblood have been solid on the right and were able to make Julius Peppers a non factor in the game against the Panthers. Having lost Petitgout to injury, Donald Penn will really need to step up at LT and this places pressure on Sears to maintain his high level of play. There are tougher tests ahead for this young O-Line and none tougher than the Colts DE’s, Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney who the Bucs face in Week 5.

Defence:

The defence has started to show some of it’s former self this season led by Barrett Ruud. Ruud has started to deliver on the promised he showed at Nebraska. Solid against the run and the abilty to make “splash plays” Ruud has been the star of the LB core overshadowing somewhat the high profile FA Cato June. However, June has been settling into the Bucs defence and I started to notice him more i the game against the Panthers. Derrick Brooks made a few mistakes in the Seahawks game but his performances have returned to his usual pro bowl level.

The biggest surprise has been the play of the safeties. The new partnership of Tanard Jackson and Jermaine Phillips have been a revalation. Phillips was clearly motivated by the drafting of Sabby Piscitelli and Jackson and has, according to Ronde Barber finally “got what Bucs defence is all about”. These two at the back have provided solidity, big hits and an ability to cover that has helped the secondary no end. Phillip Buchanon has stepped in well to cover for the injured Brian Kelly and we seem far better as a secondary unit. The fear that we would give up big plays when Juran Bolden was on the field has somewhat eased and we seem more solid in nickle and dime packages.

The front four have been solid if unspectacular. Certainly they got sacks against the Panthers but to be a top notch defence again we need to generate a pass rush from those four guys. Gaines Adams has had a slow introduction but I like what I have seen so far but he will need time to develop. The other positive for the defensive line is that the guys stepping in to the rotation such as Greg Peterson haven’t looked out of their depth. The Colts offence will provide a true test of this defence especially with their plethora of star recievers and their penchant for using the slot reciever. The Colts use Dallas Clark the TE  and Anthony Gonzalez, the rookie WR from Ohio St in that slot role and these two will really test Barrett Ruud in coverage

I have seen a lot of positives in the first four games for the Bucs and feel that we are slowly starting to rebuild this team. There are still holes to be filled and players needed to step up but the team are certainly moving in the right direction. Hopefully last seasons 4-12 effort was the bottom of the barrel and we are slowly working our way up. The next two games will be a real test of this team. I fully expect to be given a shallacking by Peyton Manning and the Colts but feel that we have the defence that can stifle Vince Young and the Titans. That would bring the team to 4-2 heading into games against the Lions and Jaguars. It’s hard what to make of the Lions but I feel that the Bucs should have enough on defence to overcome the Lions. The Jaguars will provide a stern test and if we can make 4-4 after 8 weeks i’ll be a happy Bucs fan.

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Written by UK Bucs Fan

October 4, 2007 at 8:58 am

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