The Buccaneers defense is under-performing. Despite reloading with established talent across the board this off-season their results through three games look a lot like last season and the season before it.
They’re being effortlessly shredded through the air, and not tackling well enough in open space. Though their run fits have been stronger than the rest, they weren’t able to stop Pittsburgh’s James Connor with the game on the line. The players surely must get some blame, but the one constant over the last three seasons has been the coordinator, Mike Smith.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Pittsburgh is a tough taskfor even the best defenses, so cut Mike Smith some slack, but he himself made the match-up more difficult than it needed to be by not playing his hot hand at corner, Ryan Smith.
The third-year Buccaneer strung together two straight encouraging performances against the Saints and Eagles, but with Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster on the schedule, Tampa Bay curiously didn’t employ Smith at all. It was a strange tactic, and one that Mike Smith surely regrets today.
The maligned Buccaneer defensive coordinator has thirteen more games to figure things out, but I would start selling your stock now as he looks destined to be heading elsewhere next season.
Buccaneers Running Game
This bit of Buccaneer stock has been on the decline since Week one. There was hope in the preseason that perhaps Peyton Barber could carry the load behind an improved offensive line, but that appears to be a pipe-dream at this point.
Barber is a fine player but not the type that can carry the weight of a team’s entire running game, especially behind an offensive line struggling to block for it.
While the Buccaneer offensive line has held mostly true against some ferocious pass rushes over the last few weeks, they haven’t been able to pave enough roads for Barber to scamper through.
Because of this soup of poor blocking and inconsistent running, the Bucs have one of the lowest yards-per-carry averages in the league, with little hope that it can get much better.
The Bucs clearly don’t have faith in their second-round pick Ronald Jones, so I’m not sure how much we really should have. Perhaps the blocking gets better as the unit gains chemistry together, but I’m not holding my breath. The Buccaneers will likely remain a pass-heavy team for the rest of the season, so sell any remaining stock you have in their run game.
This is a very minimal drop in stock, but it’s worth documenting nonetheless. Fitzpatrick threw for his third straight 400-yard game, an NFL record, and included three touchdowns and came very near to pulling off a 21 point comeback. He even missed out on a few bigger plays that ended up as drops. Overall it was a solid game, especially given the complete lack of running game.
Unfortunately, Fitzpatrick also added in three interceptions (one of which coming on a tipped pass where he wasn’t at fault) and a few untimely sacks from holding the ball too long. Fitzpatrick also flashed a little inconsistency on a few routine passes, skipping them in the dirt.
The longtime vet has set the bar extremely high over the first two weeks of the season making this game a disappointment when it perhaps wouldn’t have been otherwise. Had Fitzpatrick cut down the turnovers this week against the Steelers, I think that there could have been a real conversation about him starting after the bye. In that regard, his stock has dipped a little bit, but it’s nothing to be concerned about.
That’s it for the week three stock report. I didn’t expect to struggle to find stock down candidates all season, but it’s a good problem to have! Be sure to check back next week for another report following the contest with the Chicago Bears.