Monday, October 5, 2009

Talbuc's Take

Week 4 – Bucs @ Redskins

The Bucs took the field in Washington against a team coming off an embarrassing loss last week at Detroit, and the Redskins wouldn’t lose to a winless squad two weeks in a row. The Bucs blew a 10-0 halftime lead, surrendering all of Washington’s 16 points in the third quarter and failing to score more than two field goals in the final 58 minutes of the game. Although they fell to 0-4 on the season with the 16-13 loss and have a trip to Philly coming up next Sunday, there were some things Bucs fans can take from this loss and feel good about going forward. What caught my eye?

Buccaneer Offense
Tampa’s offense executed their best drive of the game late in the 2nd quarter. Starting on their own 21 with 4:34 left in the half, Josh Johnson led a 12 play drive that resulted in 3 points for the Bucs and more importantly kept the ball away from the Redskins for the remainder of the first half. 6 points would have been preferable, but Johnson led the Bucs to four 1st downs on the drive, completing passes to three different receivers, and running a keeper for a big 15 yard gain. This helped the Bucs head into halftime with a 10-0 lead and seemingly all the game’s momentum.

Josh Johnson
Following a timeout, the first time starter threw his initial pass of the game into the endzone for six points on 2nd and goal from the 8. It was put only where Antonio Bryant could catch it, out in front of him and far out of the reach of Carlos Rogers. That was Tampa’s first opening drive TD in nearly a year (since 10/19/08 against Seattle) and got Johnson off to a much needed good start.

On the second play of Tampa’s second series, Johnson dropped back to pass, avoided a sack, and ran up the middle for 4 yards. He ran for another 4 yards on the following play, but a holding penalty by Jerramy Stevens backed Tampa up and put then in an unmanageable hole. Penalty aside, good footwork by Johnson kept the Bucs ahead of the sticks in favorable situations.

The following series saw Johnson call an audible at the line of scrimmage on 2nd and 9, checking to a quick pass to Michael Clayton. It was well-read by the defense, and Carlos Rogers blew it up before Antonio Bryant could get in position to take him out of the play. Had Johnson not had to work so hard in getting Clayton’s attention (a subtle signal may have worked if Clayton was paying attention), that could have set up a decent gain. Instead, the Bucs went backwards, and Nugent kicked a 49 yard FG attempt off the right upright.

To open their 5th offensive series, Johnson hit Antonio Bryant on a 27 yards strike, again throwing the ball where only his receiver could get to it; away from Rogers and in front of safety LaRon Landry; great touch.

On Tampa’s final first half drive, Johnson did a nice job of reading a Redskin blitz on 3rd and 2 and finding Kellen Winslow in a mismatch against the undersized Justin Tryon. He was smooth in his setup and calmly threw a very catchable pass for the first down. Had he not converted that play, the Bucs would have been forced to punt from inside their own 30 with over 3:00 left in the first half. They would not have ended the half with FG, and there’s a good chance they head into halftime tied at 7 rather than up 10. Later in that drive, coming off the two minute warning, Johnson again connected with Winslow, throwing a perfect pass out of the reach of both Chris Horton and Carlos Rogers for a 15 yard gain. Very nice touch on key passes by Johnson.

On a 2nd and 10 with less than 90 seconds to go in the half, Johnson took off up the middle of the field for a gain of 15, eluding both Rogers and London Fletcher at the sticks and picking up an additional 5 yards. He did get away with one a couple plays later where he and Clifton Smith weren’t on the same page. Johnson was anticipating a stop/curl by Smith, but Peanut proceeded downfield. The pass should have been picked off by Rogers.

To start the second half, Johnson threw a sloppy (high) pass to Stevens. Instead of giving him a catchable pass and gaining 5 or so yards, the Bucs were in second in long. Carnell followed with a two yard gain, and then on 3rd down, Johnson threw a horrible pass into double coverage that was intercepted by DeAngelo Hall. It was a bad throw, a bad read, and a bad job of locking onto Antonio Bryant. Hall was playing zone and dropped off of Stroughter after reading Johnson the whole way. Johnson needs to review this play (defensive alignment and his reads) quite a few times this upcoming week. He also needs to watch the play on 3rd and 3 towards the end of the third quarter where he scrambled for what seemed like 15 minutes. He avoided a big loss on a couple of occasions and had at least three opportunities to get rid of the ball. Be smart with the football.

Following Talib’s 3rd interception of the game, Johnson led the Bucs on a 12 play 48 yard drive that resulted in Nugent’s second FG which pulled the Bucs to within 3 points at 16-13 with 4:30 left to go in the game. Johnson led the offense to three first down conversions, but once they got inside the 10, they sputtered with three runs (one each by Graham, Williams, and Johnson). I blame the end of that series on the play selection, but I want to see Johnson make progress and convert more of those FGs into TDs going forward. On that drive, Andre Carter beat Donald Penn pretty bad on a 2nd and 5, and instead of wilting under the pressure, Johnson stepped up and tried to hit Carnell on the move. The pass was incomplete, but I liked that he didn’t make a bad play worse.

He didn’t make all the right reads/calls, but he had a pretty good mental clock of when to run and when to get rid of the football. He did throw a lot of short passes, but that was more a matter of taking what the defense gave him rather than unnecessarily checking down. The one ugly Hall interception aside, he didn’t force any passes, and I really liked that. On a 2nd and 16 to start the second quarter, Johnson rolled left, looked downfield, and when he saw nothing there, he checked down to Earnest Graham for a 5 yard gain. It wasn’t a big play, but it was a smart decision by a first time starter. On the following play, Johnson was sacked for a 4 yard loss by Justin Tryon, the nickel corner who came in untouched. Josh saw him presnap, even pointed to him just before taking the shotgun snap. I believe that if he was more experienced he would have been a bit more decisive in adjusting his protection or at a minimum calling out defenders. That promising drive started at Tampa’s 46 but ended quickly in a three and out. They need to capitalize on field position like this, and I believe with more reps and more exposure to game speed, Johnson will extend more and more of these drives, resulting in more points on the scoreboard for the Bucs.

Gaines Adams
Have a day big boy! On the second play of the game, the much maligned DE sacked Jason Campbell. On the following play, he forced Campbell to step up into the pocket and into the arms of Jimmy Wilkerson. Wilkerson forced the fumble, and the Bucs recovered at Washington’s 10 yard line.

On Washington’s second series, on 3rd and 7, Adams did a fabulous job reading the QB, settling back in a passing lane and getting his hands on a Campbell pass. Very good attention to detail and execution by Adams on that play. In the second quarter, in a 2nd and 4 situation Adams was tackled by Casey Rabach, and the Redskins were penalized 10 yards. On that play, Roy Miller did a really nice job of rushing from the outside, disrupting Campbell’s rhythm and at least contributing somewhat to an incomplete pass.

On a 1st and 13 late in the second quarter, Gaines shed TE Fred Davis like he was nothing and stuffed Clinton Portis in the backfield for a loss of a yard. Early in the 3rd, he made a nice tackle on Portis in pursuit, holding him to 3 yards when the gain could have been significantly greater. Two plays later, on 3rd and 6, Adams again got good pressure on Campbell. He forced the QB to get rid of it early, and while Betts caught the pass, he was short of the first down.

It was a nice, nearly full effort by Gaines Adams and a performance many of us Buc fan have been waiting a long time to see. The Redskins offensive line wasn’t at its best, but as this game showed, there’s no excuse for Adams not being a consistent factor in each and every game. Let’s hope this was the start of a trend. Solid job by #90.

Geno Hayes
He had both positive and negative highlights to take from this game, but overall I was again pleased with his performance. On Washington’s second series, Clinton Portis got the ball on a draw on 2nd and 6, and he was met in the backfield by the Bucs WLB. Hayes showed great recognition and burst and completed a textbook one-on-one tackle on the strong back.

On Washington’s 2nd drive, Hayes again shot the gap on 2nd and 5, but this time he whiffed on Portis. Fortunately there was nowhere for Portis to run, and he was held to a gain of 1. Hayes again had good recognition, but he needs to be a consistent finisher. Two plays later, Hayes did just that, exploding through a crease and stuffing Portis in the backfield for a 1 yard loss. Very heads up play by the young LB.

Geno missed another tackle on Portis on 2nd and 14 late in the second quarter. Instead of holding Portis to a 3 yard gain and setting up 3rd and long, Geno couldn’t finish. Portis picked up another 5 yards after contact, and Campbell converted a 12 yard pass to Ladell Betts on the next play. In the third quarter, on a 3rd and 6, after Adams disrupted Campbell’s timing, Hayes was unable to take Betts down in the backfield. It could have been a 5 yard loss, but instead it allowed Betts to make it 4th and manageable. The Redskins converted a 4th and 2 on the following play and proceeded to score 5 plays later on a TD to Cooley, a play in which Hayes was beaten in coverage. Cooley ran an in and out route on the play, and, due in part to no help from Will Allen, Hayes was lost and beaten for the score.

It’s real simple with Geno. His athleticism and potential is very apparent when you watch him play. He’s always around the action and has shown the ability to consistently get free into the backfield. Now he just needs to finish more of those plays and help take pressure off the back of the defense. Lots of good stuff to work with here.

Carnell Williams
On Tampa’s 2nd offensive series (3rd overall play from scrimmage), Carnell took the ball and ran left; eluding London Fletcher on a gain of 15. I mention the play because of Carnell’s nice acceleration through the hole but also to point out that the play would have gone for a loss had Albert Haynesworth taken the right direction. He ran completely passed Jeremy Zuttah on the play.

Williams finished with 77 yards on just 16 carries and again demonstrated the determined running style we’ve come to love as Bucs fans. On the first play of the Bucs second to last drive of the game, Carnell took the ball off the right side and picked up 5 yards. It wasn’t a huge gain, but I loved the way he fought for additional yardage after having his forward progress initially stopped. Through no fault of his own, Williams didn’t touch the ball once on 17 second quarter offensive snaps, and I think his exclusion from those three series was a key factor in the Bucs not putting up more first half points. This was after compiling 38 yards on 7 first quarter carries (5.4 per). Williams was quieted in the third quarter, rushing for just 10 yards on 5 carries. He turned it back on again in the final quarter, contributing three very impressive carries of 7, 8, and 17 yards. Williams also added 4 receptions for 22 yards in the passing game. It was a solid, high effort performance from the 5th year back, and I couldn’t be more pleased with his contribution thus far in ‘09.

Offensive Line
In what I expected to be a one sided affair in Washington’s favor, backup center Sean Mahan did a fine job creating running room for Carnell Williams. On the opening play of Tampa’s 3rd offensive possession of the game, Mahan and Jeremy Zuttah double teamed Kedric Gholston off the snap, and then Zuttah got downfield ahead of Carnell and blocked tough veteran London Fletcher to the ground. The result was a 9 yard gain. On the following play, Donald Penn perfectly sealed Phillip Daniels, BJ Askew stepped into the hole and eliminated Brian Orakpo, and Gholston was again neutralized by the combo of Mahan and Zuttah. Carnell took the ball for 4 yards.

On Tampa’s second to last drive of the game, Mahan again produced some positive film. On a 2nd and 4, he got a nice initial seal on Cornelius Griffith and then headed downfield to take London Fletcher out of the play. Carnell took the carry for a gain of 7. Later in that drive on 2nd and 8 from Washington’s 28, Carnell ran off the right side and picked up just enough yardage for the first down. What was impressive about that run was the two blocks by Davin Joseph and Jerramy Stevens. Joseph did a great job of taking Jeremy Jarmon out of the play, and Stevens stoned the LE. Those were two very key blocks that setup an 8 yard gain. One last play is worth mentioning. After a Jeremy Trueblood false start set up 1st and 15, Carnell too the ball and headed off the right side. Manhan negated Griffith, Trueblood stood up Carter, and Clayton laid a pop on Reed Doughty. Carnell continued downfield, causing Landry, Hall, and McIntosh to look foolish attempting to tackle him. This kind of consistent execution is what Tampa needs to stay ahead of the stick and allow Josh Johnson to be in manageable situations.

Aqib Talib & Ronde Barber
One play after nearly being intercepted by Will Allen, Jason Campbell went to Malcolm Kelly matched with Talib out to the right. The Redskins went for it on 4th and 4, and Campbell tried to hit Kelly on a short crossing route over the middle. Aqib made a great diving catch, jumping in front of Kelly, and then he alertly got up and ran the ball back 16 yards. Also deserving recognition on the play was Ronde Barber. The veteran corner was manned up with Antwaan Randle El but broke off coverage when he read Campbell’s eyes. Barber was right there to make a play if Talib hadn’t.

Coming off a timeout, with 10:15 left in the second quarter on a 3rd and two, Campbell again tested Talib against Kelly and again was intercepted. Kelly attempted to beat Talib’s press coverage outside deep, but Talib had no problem playing the bump, turning his hips, running step for step with the receiver, being in perfect man-you-ball coverage, and turning to play and pick off the pass in stride. He then got up and streaked down the sidelines 32 yards giving him 48 return yards on 2 first half interceptions.

Following Cooley’s TD, Barber lined up on the right side of the line and came flying in to block Shaun Suisham’s extra point attempt. Another big play by the veteran. He’s looked FAR better than I expected so far this season.

It wasn’t ALL positive for Talib. Near the end of the third quarter, Santana Moss got him to bite on an out and up, and once he did, Talib was trailing him all the way down the sidelines on a 59 yard score. Aqib got caught in his turn, and Santana executed a perfect pattern. It wasn’t pretty, but that doesn’t happen often.

What’s most important is that Talib responded. On the following Redskin drive, Campbell tried to pick on Talib with Moss deep again, but this time the corner didn’t buy the fake and stayed in perfect position to get the turnover. Great job of going up and grabbing the football out of the air like a receiver. He got up and added another 13 return yards, giving him 61 for the day on 3 interceptions. Bravo big man!

Sammie Stroughter
He only caught one pass, but it’s quality over quantity in his case. The rookie receiver nabbed a quick pass from Johnson and muscled himself past the bigger Rocky McIntosh to pick up 10 yards. Stroughter was decisive and physical in his running. Hopefully he’ll start drawing Michael Clayton’s targets going forward.

Defense (general)
With under five minutes to go in the first half on a 3rd and 10 from Tampa’s 34, the Bucs perfectly executed their defense with Mack, Talib, Ruud, and Barber all having excellent coverage on their receivers. Campbell was flushed to his left, and sacked by Quincy Black for a loss of 4. Black played it perfectly, staying in position and attacking Campbell at the proper time. The four man rush, which included Geno Hayes, did its job flushing Campbell from the pocket. That was nice all-round execution.

What didn’t I like?

Sabby Piscitelli
I’m really sick of putting this guy’s name here, but his play isn’t getting much better. On the first play of Washington’s 4th offensive series, Chris Cooley split the seam for a 17 yard gain. On the snap Sabby ran up to the line of scrimmage like he was going to take Ladell Betts in the flats, but when he saw the Geno had him, he circled back around and met up with Cooley 15 yards downfield where he whiffed on a weak tackle attempt. Another missed assignment for the often overmatched safety.

Late in the second quarter, on the play where Campbell’s pass went off the Umpire’s dome, Talib was going to the ground ready to cradle in his then 3rd interception of the day until Sabby ran in front of him and fumbled the ball to the ground. It’s becoming very frustrating to watch him play, and I cringe whenever I see him as the only defender in the frame. Bad things usually happen.

Offensive Line / Blocking
On the Bucs first offensive play, Antonio Bryant missed a block on Rocky McIntosh, and Jeremy Trueblood struggled to move Phillip Daniels out of the play, holding Carnell to a 2 yard gain on a play that could have resulted in a score. Tampa was in scoring position on their 3rd offensive series, when they were called for delay of game on 3rd and 9 at Washington’s 26. Mahan wasn’t able to get the ball off in time, and the Bucs were backed up. 2 plays later, Nugent kicked a 49 yard attempt off the right upright.

At midfield on a 2nd and 6 in the first quarter, Josh Johnson scrambled right and picked up first down yardage, but Davin Joseph held Cornelius Griffith on the play. Instead of possibly having their second scoring drive of the opening quarter, the Bucs were backed up to 2nd and 16, and two plays later the Bucs were forced to punt.

Barrett Ruud
He looks too hesitant or indecisive too often. One example was on 3rd and 13 for Washington early in the game. The Bucs blitzed both Hayes and Ruud, but while Hayes was fighting to get into the backfield, Ruud sauntered up the line of scrimmage and took himself out of the play. I want to see him play with more decisiveness and aggression.

3rd Quarter Defense
The 3rd quarter is where things fell apart for Tampa, where they allowed the Redskins to score all of their 16 points. The defense started the quarter by allowing Washington to convert one of two 3rd downs on their opening drive which resulted in a 42 yard Shaun Suisham FG. On the second play of that drive, Campbell completed a short pass to Cooley, and Quincy Black, Geno Hayes, and Sabby Piscitelli all proceeded to whiff on the tackle.

The Skins second drive, which started on Tampa’s 41, was the Bucs D’s worse showing of the game. On that drive, the Bucs stopped the Skins on a third down conversion attempt but yielded a 13 yard run by Jason Campbell on 3rd and 11. Following a false start penalty, Campbell found Chris Cooley for a 17 yard TD. They capped things off in the 3rd by allowing a 59 yard score to Santana Moss.

Other than that poor 3rd quarter performance, I have no huge defensive gripes. They overpursued at times, Chris Hovan overran a play or two, and Ryan Sims was single handedly taken out of a play on 2nd and 10 by RG Chad Rinehart that led to an 8 yard pickup by Ladell Betts. Sims was bailed out by Talib’s 2nd interception of the game.

Michael Clayton
On a 3rd and 10 in the second quarter, Josh Johnson threw a nice ball in front of Rocky McIntosh that hit Clayton in the hands in stride. Predictably the pass fell to the ground. Clayton would have likely been a yard short of the sticks, but the extra yardage couldn’t have hurt things. On the following play, Nugent missed his 4th field goal of the season. Hasn’t he done enough to get benched yet?

Mike Nugent
The kicker made only 2 of 4 field goals. The ones he did convert were of the short variety (37 and 22), but his two misses should have been makes. The first miss had plenty of leg but clanked off the right upright. The second miss, the 48 yard attempt, started with an “imperfect snap”, but the kick still should have been made.

I’m certainly not blaming the loss on them, but I wanted to point out a key play they missed. On 3rd and 7 early in the second half, the Bucs pressured Jason Campbell, and as he scrambled, Derrick Dockery reached out as far as he could with his right hand and grabbed Stylez G. White’s facemask in what appeared to be clear view of Ed Hochuli. Campbell picked up just enough yardage on the run, and 4 plays later the Shaun Suisham kicked a 42 yard FG, bringing the Redskins within a score at 10-3.

The Bucs had a long way to go in under a minute, but you hate seeing the game end on a fumble. It was a disappointing end to a contest that gave Bucs fans some hope. The 3rd quarter changed the entire game. The Bucs allowed all 16 points during that frame, and the offense was held to just 22 total yards. I want to see better red zone play calling, as I believe the three run plays called inside the Washington 10 yard line in the 4th quarter was weak. You’d like to get more than 13 points in a game where you create 3 interceptions, but the offense wasn’t able to make the necessary play often enough. Your kicker missing two kicks which were the difference in the game doesn’t help either.

There was plenty to take away from this game, both positive and negative, but I was very impressed with the overall effort from the team. It was a nice starting debut for Johnson, and if they play with similar focus and effort going forward, that first win won’t elude them much longer. Maintain perspective. Not many fans were expecting much this year, but as I said in my preseason preview, I just want to see guys playing with heart and making positive strides. Today was a start.


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