Thursday, October 8, 2009

Know Your Enemy - Tampa

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Tampa is 0-4. The good news is that they appear to be balanced...bad on offense and bad on defense. The problem is that former coach Jon Gruden put off rebuilding for so long that too many parts of the team got old at the same time. There is some talent in place, but the foundation isn't what it needs to be.

Take WR for example. In the last 4 years the Eagles had a young player like Reggie Brown and mixed in rookies like Jason Avant, Hank Baskett, DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, and Brandon Gibson. Free agent Kevin Curtis was also added to the mix.

Tampa had a duo of Joey Galloway and Michael Clayton to build around. What did they do? Gruden used early picks on Maurice Stovall and Dexter Jackson, but stifled their development with veterans like Ike Hilliard and Antonio Bryant. Fast forward to 2009. Galloway and Hilliard are gone. Jackson was cut. Bryant has come back to reality after an amazing '08 season. Stovall is completely unproven with only 24 career catches. Gruden kept putting band-aids on the problem instead of keeping an eye to the future as well as the present.

The defense is what transformed Tampa Bay from pretender to contender back in the mid-90s. They built a dynamic unit that lasted for more than a decade. They lost players to free agency or age, but always found someone to fill in. The defense does have some talent, but no special playmakers.

The Tampa defense has been dreadful this year. They are 31st in the league in yards allowed. I’m not sure if they got better last week or the Washington offense is so bad that the Bucs just looked better. Tampa came up with four takeaways, including three interceptions by cornerback Aqib Talib. There are two major problems for Tampa, covering receivers and making good tackles in the open field.

In the first 3 weeks Dallas, Buffalo, and the Giants had guys running free. When they did catch the ball no one was going to make a clean tackle. I think Dallas had 3 TDs of more than 40 yards. The Bills offense, with all of its problems, put 30 points up on Tampa. Ouch.

One word of caution before we all definitely count this as a W. Safety Tanard Jackson was suspended for the first four games. His absence really hurt the defense. Also, Tampa is learning a new scheme. The Tampa 2 is gone (shouldn't that be illegal or something?). They are learning a 2-gap scheme and adjusting to a new style of play. Every week the defense should get a little better, as they know their roles and have a better feel for what is going on. Let's just hope they wait to master the scheme until say...next week.

One of the reasons I've been so down on the Bucs this year is that I don't think rookie coach Raheem Morris is the right man for the job. I like Morris and I've been a fan of his since I watched him coach in the Senior Bowl several years ago. I could tell he'd be a HC some day. I just think he's a bad fit for a rebuilding team with so many questions. Young coaches tend to do better when there is a strong infrastructure in place (think of Mike Tomlin & Bill Cowher in PIT or John Harbaugh in BAL for example).

PLAYERS

* QB Josh Johnson --- He started last week and will lead the offense against us. He is talented, but is only a second year player and is only making his second start. Johnson came from a small college, San Diego (not to be confused with San Diego State), and his transition to the pro game is a work in progress. He played well last week for most of the game, but was really playing the role of game manager. He only threw for 106 yards. Wide receivers caught just five passes. Running backs had six catches. Young quarterbacks like to throw to running backs because those are shorter, safer passes. Johnson threw for one touchdown. He was picked off once and fumbled on the Bucs final drive of the game. I came away impressed with his potential, but Johnson has got to be more aggressive as a passer. He can’t be reluctant to throw out wide or downfield. He is a good athlete. Johnson ran 7 times for 41 yards. That’s something we’ll have to account for.

* RB Cadillac Williams --- Extremely talented runner who is one of the few guys that can compare medical problems with Correll Buckhalter. Cadillac is healthy now and averaging more than 5 yards per carry. The problem is that you can't feed him the ball when you trail by 20 points. Great combination of power and speed. Has good vision and can be elusive. Good receiver.

* LT Donald Penn --- Solid LT. Not an ideal pass protector. He's been credited with allowing 17 sacks in his first 32 NFL starts. Pretty good run blocker.

* RG Davin Joseph --- Very good OL. Outstanding run blocker. Powerful enough to battle DL and athletic enough to be very good on the 2nd level. He and Mike Patterson will be a fun battle to watch.

* TE Kellen Winslow --- Sarge is as talented a TE as there is in the NFL. He just doesn't always play to that talent. He's got 17 catches and 2 TDs so far this year.

* DE Gaines Adams --- He has been somewhat of a disappointment in his young career. The Bucs spent the 4th overall pick on him expecting an impact player. They haven't gotten that level of play. He had 12.5 sacks after his first 32 games. Numbers aside, he hasn't been a difference maker. Adams certainly isn't a bad player, but you want a guy taken that highly to be special.

Sunday he looked like a stud DE vs Washington. He had 4 solo tackles, a TFL, a batted pass, and a sack in the game. He looked like the guy I saw at Clemson that could do special things. There were a couple of plays where Adams just threw the TE out of his way and blew up runs. He got a TFL on one and disrupted the other. He played both LDE and RDE. He got pressure on 3rd downs. He batted the pass away on 3rd down. Top DL make their living on 3rd down. That is the money down in the NFL and Adams played accordingly on Sunday.

The question now becomes...what's next? Will Adams build on that or will he let up? The problem so many young players have is understanding that consistency is what makes guys special. You have to play the same way all the time. If you do, the results will show up. You can't have a sack every week. But you can have significant impact. Gaines was quick off the ball. He mixed in inside moves with his speed rushes. He played strong and physical. He didn't do anything that can't be repeated. Now it is up to him to play like that on a regular basis.

* DT Roy Miller --- He is playing well for Tampa. Miller has the upper body strength to handle the new 2-gap scheme. He's also quick enough to get penetration and be disruptive. He drew a penalty on an OL when trying to get to the QB Sunday. For the year, he's got 9 solo tackles and a sack.

* MLB Barrett Ruud --- Very good young player. Leads the team in tackles. Also has some coverage ability. The leader of the defense. Last year had 3 sacks and 2 INTs.

* LB Geno Hayes --- Only in his 2nd season. Active, aggressive 'backer. Leads the team with 4 TFLs and is 2nd in tackles.

* S Sabby Piscitelli --- Big guy (6'3, 224) who can really run. I am not a fan, though. Poor instincts and a bad tackler. Size/speed guys are overrated at Safety. Give me a guy who has a feel for the game and who will make sure tackles.

* CB Ronde Barber --- I don't seem to recall him having much success against the Eagles. Or maybe I'm forgetting the last dozen years.

* CB Aqib Talib --- Had a career game Sunday with 3 picks. Big time potential. Will also take chances and get burned. Good size/speed combo. Has 7 INTs and 15 PDs in 19 career games. If he can keep his head on straight, Talib could be an outstanding playmaker for a long time to come.
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9 comments:

T_S_O_P said...

Ironic that one of Gruden's previous bandaids might be the starting Mike for us on Sunday! Has he really had enough time to shaker off the rust to make that a possibility?

Stephen said...

If Trotter drops the axe, I might shed a tear on Sunday.

On another completely offtopic note that I always love to throw in here, have you seen those 2 pass interference calls against the Ravens from this past week? The league is truly falling to new depths with the way they will protect some quarterbacks but not others. My favorite one was the one where Suggs barely grazes Brady, the official is staring at it and seems to be unsure what to do, so Brady turns to him and says throw the flag, so the official nods and throws the flag. Appearantly when Tom Brady tells you to do something as an official, you do it.

Maybe if my quarterback hadn't just lost 2 weeks from fractured ribs suffered on a late hit I might not care as much, but really? Brady gets grazed and its 15, Mcnabb gets broken ribs and nobody cares.

When they say the NFL is a business, they aint kidding.

izzylangfan said...

@Stephen

Why the league has not penalized those guys for the McNabb hit is totally baffling. The angle they took was certain to result in no contact until McNabb had crossed into the end zone. He did cross into the end zone and and was tackled to the ground. It was then with McNabb on the ground and defenseless that the two players pounced on him.

The consistency of the officiating is non existent and the league has not the will to admit mistakes nor own up to its own stupidity. Roger Goodell is so concerned with his primacy that he is constantly defending his right to be arbitrary.

Unfortunately this right to be arbitrary was upheld by the courts in the StarCaps case where one court held that the NFL was within his legal authority not to tell the players or the Union that the StarCaps were tainted and still penalize the players who unwittingly took them. The court also indicated that it could not understand why an organization would treat the players this way.

A lot of people lauded the way Goodell met with Vick and suspended him for two to six games while he got to asses Vicks moral character and progress before finalizing the terms of his suspension. To me it was an arbitrary excursion into mind f---ing- Goodell sitting at the other end of the table and assessing the degree of remorse and character of a player. There are no rules to deal with people who were convicted like Vick. And the league wants it this way so they can do whatever they want on a case by case basis.

Goodell wants the players to be bound by a bunch of rules. But he is making up the rules as he goes along and heeds none himself. How then is he going to demand that the rules and officiating be fair and consistent. He can't and he doesn't.

Tommy Lawlor said...

The more I've watched the hit on McNabb, the madder I get. Late hit. I don't think it was dirty in the sense that Lewis was trying to hurt him, but it was late. No flag for that?

Protecting the QBs has gone too far. I'll write some about that in today's post.

izzylangfan said...

@Tommy

I have seen the tape quite a few times. The two late hitters were in the endzone and were running at a backwards angle inside the endzone. Thus they could not possibly hit McNabb until he had already scored. This was not the case of a pass play where they could hit him and potentially jar the ball loose for an incomplete pass. Once McNabb was tackled to the ground both players were able to adjust their approach to hit him on the ground and made no apparent effort to avoid him.

Maybe it wasn't a dirty play but it had every indication of the desire to punish the quarterback. Every team does this, but there are supposed to be limits.

izzylangfan said...

Paul Domowitch reported that seven of the Eagles 10 sacks have come from the nickel. And I imagine that most of those seven were blitzes.

This still points out a weakness that the Eagles have in their starting front four. They are good against the run but are vulnerable to the pass. Then when they blitz good, quarterbacks with savvy offensive coordinators are able to take advantage.

Hopefully they have shored up the run defense with the addition of Trotter. But this could make them more vulnerable to the pass on first and second downs.

Clearly Cole is great, and the Eagles love their two two gap tackles Bunk and Patt. So they have to hope that Albiamiri becomes a better pass rusher on from the LDE- fast. Is there anything else they can do this year? What do they do next year?

Stephen said...

Abiamiri hasn't broken through in the pass rush department yet, you really need 2 ends who can bring the heat, like the Colts with Freeney and Mathis or the Giants with Tuck and Umenyora to make rushing 4 work consistently. Or have Jared Allen and be playing the Green Bay Packers OL, that group is going to put some pass rushers in the hall of fame this year.

I felt that was our biggest weakness last year, that we relied too much on the blitz to get pressure, too often when we rushed just 4 the QB would have all day. Our D is not built around rushing 4 and playing coverage, its just not what we do well, which makes our strategy against the Saints even more confusing. I had a sinking feeling that game the very first Saints play, completion to a wide open reciever after rushing 4 and appearing to be in zone coverage. I think blitz and man coverage is really what we should live and die by this year.

izzylangfan said...

@ Stephen

I agree, but still think better pressure from the starting front four alone is necessary.

Tommy Lawlor said...

I lied. I'll be writing about protecting QBs on Saturday.

I'll also talk about the integrity of the game. I've heard some real good stuff from John Lynch and William Henderson recently that stuck with me.