This pains me to type, but the Chris Baker experiment in Tampa has not worked out this season. I don’t think it’s for a lack of talent or trying, but things have simply not clicked on the field for the veteran Baker, and he’ll likely be playing for another team next season. Against the Panthers, Baker made his presence known, but not in the way you want; with the Panthers needing six yards to convert a crucial late-game fourth down, Baker got caught off-sides and gave Cam Newton five free yards. On the next play Newton rushed in a short score after a brief fumble to give the Panthers the lead for good.
The idea when signing Baker was to create a disruptive duo with Gerald McCoy in the middle of the defensive line that could help free up the edge rushers and linebackers to get after the passer. That of course has not ended up being the case, and instead we’ve continued to see teams simply double team McCoy and then shut down the rest of the defensive line. Baker has played in fourteen of the Bucs’ fifteen games this season, but has only yielded half of a sack and 32 combined tackles. I would like to see what a new defensive coordinator could do with Baker next season, but general manager Jason Licht may just decide to cut his losses and move on.
Caleb, if you’re reading this, I’m sorry. This is your second time on the losers list this season, and I feel no less bad about it this time than I did the last. Thanks to Demar Dotson‘s knee injury, Benenoch, a natural offensive guard, has been placed in the starting right tackle role and is tasked with solo blocking some of the league’s best pass rushers. It’s definitely not fair to Caleb, but bad play is bad play and we’ve got to call it out. The Buccaneers surrendered six sacks against the Panthers, and much of the storm came on the right side of the line, including Winston’s first and third fumbles.
Benenoch’s guard-like frame sticks out like a sore thumb on the right side of the line, and his lack of quickness and consistent technique has been the leading cause of all the struggles. Still, I think that Caleb will benefit long-term from this experience, and he’ll bolster his value to the coaching staff as an emergency back-up tackle. The Buccaneer guard position is very much in flux entering this off-season, so I expect Caleb to compete heavily for either the left or right spot.
Who were your winners and losers from the game, Bucs fans? Did Winston deserve a spot on the winners even with his end of game meltdown? Should Mike Evans have taken his place? Sound off in the comments, and be sure to check back next week for one final edition of winners and losers!
"Locked on Bucs reacts to a Week 16 loss in Carolina."