It’s November again, which means the Bucs are trying to make us think they’re turning a corner. Their win over the Cowboys was gritty and demonstrated Tampa’s ability to hang tough and get it done.
It was also a lucky win that could have very easily gone the other way. Jameis Winston’s goal-line fumble would have ended the game in a loss for the Bucs if not for a very ill-timed hold by Dallas safety Jeff Heath.
Winston struggled most of the day on approach to the endzone. He threw two interceptions within ten yards of the red zone in the second and fourth quarters, both times by Heath.
The missing piece of the Winston’s game is consistency. He throws a lot of errant balls and his decision-making still screams rookie quarterback.
Bucs Twitter went ablaze with fury when Winston received a poor grade from Pro Football Focus following the Giants game in Week 9. Yes, he endured an absurd number of drops by Mike Evans and lacks high-caliber weapons, but that shouldn’t excuse what was really just an okay performance (which is how PFF graded him).
A side note about PFF: there’s no sense getting in a huff about their grades. They’re a good resource, especially for the raw stats. Believe it or not, they do watch tape. That’s how they grade, but in the end those grades are just another opinion. Don’t take them as gospel, just as another perspective.
Despite his flaws, Winston is the reason the Bucs are in games late. He tends to just switch on in crunch time which is a key intangible of the top franchise QBs.
Consistency is not just a problem for Winston, but for his primary weapon Mike Evans. The second-year receiver dropped 11 passes in just eight games this season, an absurd stat for a supposed number one receiver.
A bad day for Evans may entail 150 receiving yards, but it also puts his team at risk of losing, especially with Vincent Jackson out. There’s no doubt he can put up gaudy stats, but his value will be limited if he continues to drop key third-down passes.
The defense had a good day, but one good game isn’t enough. Consistency. Good tackling, limiting coverage mistakes and stupid penalties helped the Bucs defense limit Dallas to just 6 points.
One thing the Bucs cannot expect is for their pass rush to improve much this year. Gerald McCoy is clearly struggling, possibly due to his lingering shoulder injury, but yet again he is the only pass-rushing option.
Both Jacquies Smith and George Johnson are banged up, but they weren’t doing a great job before that. Some might say Smith’s absence is a contributor to McCoy’s slump. If you look at Smith’s production after McCoy went on IR last year, the opposite conclusion could be drawn. Correlation is not causation.
It comes as no surprise that the pass rush is nonexistent. Even Warren Sapp had defensive ends who occasionally applied pressure. You don’t get consistent pressure by expecting one guy to do the work of four guys.
The Bucs now have twice as many wins as they did all of last season, but they’ve consistently failed to string wins together. This would be one habit Lovie Smith should try to break.