This week, Ryan Fitzpatrick is the polar opposite of what happened to Elon Musk after his appearance on Joe Rogan’s podcast. The bearded, Harvard grad known nationally as ‘Fitzmagic’ managed a performance on Sunday that can be called nothing short of actual magic. Viewers were struck by disbelief as Fitzpatrick slung one bomb after another to Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson, Chris Godwin and O.J. Howard.
When the dust settled, and the onslaught was finished, the Buccaneer offense had accounted for 41 points, with seven more coming from Justin Evans on defense. Fitzpatrick’s stat line was a remarkable 21-for-28, 417 yards and four touchdowns. He added a fifth touchdown with his legs, and in the game at large, he made several critical plays by taking off. As the Bucs attempted to run out the clock, Fitzpatrick scrambled to the left and converted a final third down to seal the victory.
For a 35-year-old journeyman, Sunday was as good as it gets. Everything around the quarterback was working in perfect sync, and the quarterback himself was locked in and on target throughout. We’ll see if it can carry over to next week against a Super Bowl-caliber defense, but for now, Fitzmagic deserves all the credit and praise in the football world. His stock is just fine.
One of the most talked about aspects of the Buccaneers all off-season and training camp was who would call the plays. For the last four seasons that duty has fallen on Dirk Koetter, who began his career with the Buccaneers as an offensive coordinator for Lovie Smith. Koetter’s time as coordinator saw a lot of production on offense, but when he was forced to balance play-calling with head coaching the results became a lot less impressive.
The team decided to try Monken out as a play-caller during the preseason and liked the results – unbeknownst to anyone but the group themselves, Monken called the plays against New Orleans. The results speak for themselves. Monken had the offense running up to its full potential, the level of play that everyone expected to see last season.
From a stock perspective, it’s hard to boost yours as much as Monken has in his four preseason games and one regular season game as offensive play-caller. He’s been exposing mismatches and taking advantage of his veteran quarterback’s strengths, while not trying to force the run game to happen as Koetter would often do. Monken’s stock will soar into the atmosphere if he can call an effective game next week versus Philadelphia.
Monken’s brilliant debut as an offensive play-caller and Ryan Fitzpatrick’s incredible day couldn’t have happened without their impressive group of pass-catchers. In that regard, it’s a shame that their stock is being celebrated last. Before the season even started the Buccaneer receivers already had the most lucrative stock of any unit on the team, but their performance against the Saints vaulted it out of this world. There are a lot of deep receiver groups in the league, but on Sunday the Buccaneers looked like they had the best.
Mike Evans led the group in a revenge match-up with second-year corner Marcus Lattimore, who shut Evans down twice last season. This time around it was Evans who came out on top, dusting Lattimore for a fifty-yard touchdown, and a total of seven catches for 147 yards. DeSean Jackson finished one yard shy of Evans on the day with 146, scoring two deep touchdowns along the way. Second-year prodigy Chris Godwin joined the fray as well, adding three catches for 41 yards and a touchdown.
Together this Buccaneer trio entirely lived up to the hype behind them. There aren’t many secondaries in football that are equipped to handle a group as talented as this one when their quarterback and play-caller are working in the perfect sync like they were against New Orleans.
This will not be the last game this season in which we see all three of these players explode in the same game, especially once they’ve got Jameis Winston and easier match-ups.