Buccaneers punter Bryan Anger had a fantastic game in his team’s win 26-24 win over the Giants on Sunday. Anger punted four times for an average of 49.8 yards, including two gems—he had a 53-yarder downed at the 3-yard line and a 62-yard boomer downed at the 11.
The NFL took notice of this performance and apparently wanted to make sure no funny business was going on. So, the league did what leagues tend to do when this sort of thing happens: they drug tested Anger the morning after the game.
As mentioned previously, this isn’t all that uncommon in professional sports. Pat McAfee, the former Colts punter-turned-Barstool Sports radio host whose tweet is embedded above, was himself “randomly” tested in 2013 after he delivered a crushing hit on then-Bronco Trindon Holiday.
It appears the NFL is watching for off-the-field activity that might suggest drug use, as well. Last year, McAfee was tested after he tweeted a fire emoji on 4/20.
This isn’t just limited to football, either. Milwaukee Brewers slugger Eric Thames hit 11 homers in his first 24 games of the season after spending three years playing in Japan. That raised suspicions—perhaps rightfully so, as there is, er, a history of steroid use in baseball—to the point that Thames was tested four times before he hit his 12th homer. And after he hit the 12th, you best believe he was tested yet again.
I don’t have an issue with testing someone who’s playing extremely well, particularly if the performance is uncharacteristic. Like, if a guy isn’t that good then hits 11 homers in the first month of the season (like Thames), those are the guys the leagues should be testing. Let’s just not pretend these tests are “random.”
At some point — and this is as hard a sell as hard sells get, I know — Twitter was good. It might’ve been, like, two weeks in 2009, but for some amount of time, it wasn’t an online Hell World, populated solely by ghouls, morons and dead-eyed media jackals.
That’s no longer the case. The morons have free run of the place, and they will until the blessed day the site boards up for good. Hopefully, it’s soon. Hopefully, it’s very soon.
For the time being, we still catch glimpses of Good Twitter in ephemeral morsels. They’re blips on a radar screen, but they count nonetheless. On Monday, for whatever portion of the population watches “Monday Night Football,” that happened. Vance McDonald stiff-armed Chris Conte to the Crossroads, and people enjoyed themselves for a little.
This made McDonald, the Steelers’ very-good-when-healthy-but-rarely-thus tight end, happy.
A few hours before, after the Steelers’ 30-27 win over Conte and the Buccaneers, McDonald was less charitable and much more funny.
“Just punish him. Inflict as much force on him as possible,” he told reporters. “It’s simple. Just crush him. That’s what I was looking for.”
Indeed. With that, imagine McDonald on the team plane headed home, looking through his phone and finding stuff like this.
Now, the ol’ “Wikipedia page edit” trick is as old as it gets. It’s an online roast standard. Seeing someone’s page locked as a result is a little more rare, though, so points are due.
Another semi-regular occurrence: Nashville TV reporter Chris Conte catching shrapnel after football Chris Conte’s yearly humiliation. TV Conte has fun with it …
Buccaneers cornerback Ryan Smith didn’t see a whole lot of playing time as a rookie in 2016 and notched only a single tackle in that season. The former fourth-round pick started off last year coming off the bench, but he came on strong enough that after former first-round pick Vernon Hargreaves continued his struggles as an outside corner, the Bucs decided to move Hargreaves inside to nickel and name Smith the starter in his place on the outside.
Smith went on to start 10 out of 15 games (the Bucs’ first game of the season was cancelled due to a hurricane) and racked up 62 tackles to go along with five passes defensed and two forced fumbles. That was a nice little bounce-back season, but I think he still has plenty of room to grow this year.
What Smith did really well last year was tackle.
Whether against the run, or when he had to take a guy down out in space, Smith came in under control with his feet underneath him, then exploded out of his hips and wrapped up his opponents. And he never seemed to hesitate no matter how big or small the guy with the ball was. Smith threw his body around with reckless abandon to get them on the ground, regardless.
He also appeared to have a really good grasp of where he was supposed to fit in the grand scheme of the defense. When he had to come up and play the run, he made sure to be in the right lane in relationship to his help. When he was dropping in coverage, he always seemed to keep his eyes in the right place, and he was rarely caught out of position. There is a lot to be said for a guy who doesn’t beat himself, one who consistently puts himself in position for success — and that describes Smith’s film to a T.
Where I believe he will really break out this year is in the interception and pass breakups department.
One of the things I hate about the Bucs’ coverage scheme under Mike Smith is how often the cornerbacks have to play off coverage. It’s one of the main reasons I think Hargreaves struggled on the outside in the first place: He was used to being more aggressive in challenging receivers at the line and trying to go after the football. Hargreaves looks like a brand new dude inside at the nickel position because he can play at the line of scrimmage a lot more when covering the slot receiver.
But, I digress …
But, I digress …
On the other hand, I will concede that when you have corners who are comfortable playing off a lot, there are opportunities to make plays on short passes because they can see everything coming. Being comfortable means they don’t bail out of there every time on the snap of the football. They have a feel for the route combinations they are about to see, and that allows them to pounce on short passes at times and make some big plays.
Having that kind of confidence and technique playing off coverage usually takes time, however, because nobody wants to end up on SportsCenter for getting Moss’d. And if you get caught flat-footed on a slant-and-go or any variation of that route, that’s exactly what would happen.
Smith seemed to be very concerned about ending up on the Not Top 10 list last season, even in off coverage.
He made sure to stay over the top of his guy in coverage, which was good when it came to protecting against deep balls, but pretty lame when it came to taking calculated risks to try to make big plays rather than just settling for tackles.
To his credit, after a pass was thrown to his man short, Smith was really good about sticking his foot in the ground and hauling ass and unloading on the receiver in an effort to dislodge the ball before it was secured. In fact, that’s how he got several of those five breakups last season. But waiting to break until after the ball has already been thrown isn’t likely to result in many pass breakups, let alone interceptions.
Now after almost a full season as the starter, Smith should be ready to start taking a few more chances. I believe that Smith will start to trust his own instincts more, especially because he showed he had enough speed to run downfield with most NFL wide receivers.
Last year, Smith proved he has the talent to be a starting corner in this league. This year, I think he will show that he can be a good starting corner in this league. And it starts with creating more turnovers and getting his hands on more footballs. I believe when it’s all said and done, Ryan Smith will lead the Bucs in interceptions this season.
Bucs re-signed RB Peyton Barber to a one-year, $2.125 million contract.
A restricted free agent, Barber was not tendered but received a contract worth slightly more than the original-pick designation. The Bucs’ ho-hum starter last year, Barber managed 3.7 yards per carry with only 20 catches. He would be better off as Tampa Bay’s top backup in 2019.
Peyton Barber rushed 15 times for 66 yards and caught his lone target for a gain of two in Tampa Bay’s Week 17 loss to Atlanta.
Starting all 16 games, Barber managed 963 total yards with six touchdowns, holding off second-round disappointment Ronald Jones for primary back work but losing passing-down opportunities to Jacquizz Rodgers. Barber has fallen below 4.0 yards per carry in back-to-back years. An impending restricted free agent, Barber should have to compete to keep his starting job in 2019.
Peyton Barber rushed 17 times for 43 yards in the Bucs’ Week 16 loss to the Cowboys.
He caught all three of his targets for 13 yards and had several other touches called back on penalties. Barber is about as useless as they come if he doesn’t score touchdowns because he cannot break any big plays. Finding a playmaker running back should be a top order of business for the Bucs in the offseason if they have decided second-round rookie Ronald Jones is not the answer. Barber will round out 2018 with the Falcons in Week 17.
TAMPA, Fla. — The Tampa Bay Buccaneers acquired Jason Pierre-Paul to bolster an anemic pass rush. However, the former New York Giants star wants to be a lot more than a one-dimensional player.
The two-time Pro Bowl end believes he can be part of the solution to a leaky run defense, too, in addition to stalking opposing quarterbacks.
“I want everybody to know that I’m still capable of playing the run,” the 29-year-old said. “They already know I can play the pass. But if you can’t stop the run, there is no pass rush.”
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The Bucs traded for Pierre-Paul in March after having one of the NFL’s least-effective defenses a year ago, when they went 5-11 and ranked last in passing and total yards allowed, as well as sacks with 22.
The team hasn’t had a player with 10 or more sacks in a season since Simeon Rice had 14 in 2005.
The 6-foot-5, 275-pound Pierre-Paul had 58 1/2 sacks in eight seasons with the Giants, including a career-best 16 1/2 in 2001 and 12 1/2 in 2014.
He hasn’t come close to posting double-digit sack totals since suffering a serious hand injury in a Fourth of July fireworks accident three years ago. Still, his numbers have improved each season from one in eight games in 2015 to seven in 2016 and 8 1/2 in 2017.
The Bucs feel Pierre-Paul, who played in college locally at South Florida, is an ideal fit for what they want to do with a revamped defensive line also featuring Pro Bowl tackle Gerald McCoy, offseason acquisitions Beau Allen, Vinny Curry and Mitch Unrein, and first-round draft pick Vita Vea.
Coach Dirk Koetter likes what he’s seen in training camp.
“Just a real impressive veteran player that’s willing to share with the younger guys,” Koetter said. “His ability to work in the heat — sometimes those veteran players don’t want to come out and work as hard as we ask them to in training camp, but he’s been out front all the way.”
Like Pierre-Paul, the coach believes the ninth-year pro is versatile enough to help the Bucs slow opponents on the ground, as well as through the air.
“When we played (the Giants) last year, just from our standpoint, we probably feared him more in the running game than we did in the pass game,” Koetter said.
“That’s not a downgrade to him because we see good pass rushers every week,” the coach added, “but a lot of those speed rushers can’t play the run. I mean, he’s 280 pounds.”
Pierre-Paul won a Super Bowl with the Giants in 2011, while Allen and Curry signed with Tampa Bay in free agency after being part of a deep line rotation that helped Philadelphia win it all last season.
The Bucs are counting on them to bring a championship mentality to a team that’s missed the playoffs 10 straight seasons — the second-longest drought in the league.
“It’s been great. We just keep creating chemistry out there. Everybody pass-rushes differently; everybody plays the run different,” Pierre-Paul said.
“As veterans on the team, we’re teaching the young guys how to come up and how to do things correctly,” he added. “We were all once in their position, so we are (building) great chemistry together. That’s a great start for us.”
-The last time these two teams tangled was Week Three of last season when the Buccaneers hosted the Steelers on Monday Night Football. It was a close game featuring a second-half comeback by the Bucs that fell just shy of the victory, the game ending with a 30-27 final score. It was the Bucs’ first loss of the season.
-This will be just the second time the Bucs and Steelers will meet in the preseason. The last time was in Tony Dungy’s first year as head coach in 1996. Dungy had also been a coach with the Steelers prior to his position with the Bucs, just like current head coach Bruce Arians (thanks to Scott Smith for that little tidbit).
-It means Arians will make his Bucs’ head coaching debut at Heinz Field, where he was the offensive coordinator of the Steelers from 2007-2011 and the wide receivers’ coach before that.
Week 2 vs. Miami Dolphins
-The Buccaneers will hold joint practices with the Miami Dolphins here at AdventHealth Training Center in the week leading up to it the game.
-This will mark the second consecutive year the Buccaneers will play the Dolphins in the preseason and the 32nd time in the last 44 seasons. Last year the Bucs won on the road in Miami during Week One.
-The Bucs will see a familiar face in quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick who is now on the roster for the Dolphins. Fitzpatrick was the Bucs’ backup quarterback for the past two seasons and will presumably be competing for the starting job in Miami for 2019.
Week 3 vs. Cleveland Browns
-Perhaps no one has been more active this offseason than the Cleveland Browns. Not only do they have a new coaching staff, but they now boast a receiver corps that added Odell Beckham Jr. from the Giants in a blockbuster trade.
-The matchup will mean a reunion for the Bucs’ offensive players with former offensive coordinator Todd Monken now in the same role in Cleveland directing that group of receivers.
-This will be the fourth time in five seasons that the two teams will meet in the preseason. The only year they didn’t was this past season in 2018. The Browns instead came to town in Week Seven of the regular season and suffered an overtime loss at the hands of the Buccaneers and Chandler Catanzaro’s 59-yard field goal, a Bucs Raymond James Stadium record.
Week 4 @ Dallas Cowboys
-This will be the first time the Buccaneers and Cowboys will meet in the preseason.
-The last time the teams met in the regular season was this past year in Week 16. The Buccaneers lost another close game on the road, 27-20. It was the second time in three years the Buccaneers and Cowboys had played in Dallas.
I’ve got to disclose the potential for bias on this one. Tampa Bay Buccaneers center Ryan Jensen and I have something in common. We’re both from and love the great state of Colorado.
Oh, he was also my personal favorite as an off-season target in 2018, and I don’t think I imagined I’d ever get as excited as I was when the Bucs brought him over from Baltimore last summer.
All that said, we’re going to stay as objective as we can. Here we go.
2018 CAP EXPENSE: $12M
TEAM RANKING: 4TH
NFL RANKING: 65TH
POSITION RANKING: 2ND
Being the second-highest paid center in the NFL is a lot of pressure. It’s also a big accomplishment.
The fact Jensen is where he is today makes him more successful than just about anybody expected he’d be coming out of powerhouse college…..Colorado State-Pueblo.
He’s not the first Thunderwolves alumn to make it to the NFL, but he’s definitely climbed the league ladder higher than any before him.
In the five years following his selection in the sixth round by the Baltimore Ravens, Jensen went from playing in one game with no starts in his first two seasons, to playing in eleven and starting six in his third.
By the time he got to his fifth-year, he was a sixteen-game starter for the Ravens. Which he turned into a nice payday and sixteen more starts in 2018 for the Bucs.
Which leads us to here and now.
Playing on the offensive line makes it difficult when you’re trying to measure statistical success.
If you look at NFL.com’s player stats for Jensen, it’s fairly simple. He played in sixteen games. He started sixteen games. Tying for the most started games in the regular season for the 2018 season certainly justifies the $12M in cap space surrendered by Tampa Bay, right?
Pro Football Reference isn’t much better, but they do give us a penalty log, on which they credit Jensen with 11 penalties worth 120-yards total. Up from his 2017 total of four called and two accepted penalties.
In fact, Jensen had more penalties called and accepted in 2018 than he had in his first five years in the NFL combined. He also doubled his career total in unnecessary roughness penalties getting flagged four times this past season compared to just two in his time with the Ravens.
These numbers tied him for the team lead in penalties called – Demar Dotson also had eleven – but Jensen stands alone at the top with penalties accepted and yards accrued.
Nobody on the team had more than eight penalties accepted outside of Jensen.
Of course, penalties aren’t the only measure of a lineman.
Moving over to Pro Football Focus (dodges tomato) we see that Jensen was third in pass protection and third in run blocking among the starting offensive linemen.
It gets better. Of the 25 sacks credited to the Bucs offensive line, Jensen surrendered just one. The only starter with just one sack credited to him.
He was also only responsible for two quarterback hits, and his 25 total pressures allowed on the year placed him with the fewest. Again, this is among starters.
The biggest thing he might have brought to the Tampa Bay frontline though, is attitude. Jensen is a fighter. A scrapper. He doesn’t lose willingly, and he doesn’t take it well.
Sticking with PFF, Jensen’s eleven penalties called and accepted placed him alone at the top of the list among all NFL centers. Mike Pouncey from the Los Angeles Chargers came in second with eight penalties called and accepted.
Of centers who played on at least 80% of their team’s snaps (21) in 2018, Jensen finished 14th in pass blocker grading and 18th in run blocking.
However, he finished forth in sacks allowed. Three centers didn’t catch the blame for a single sack in 2018 despite playing over 1,000 snaps. They were Rodney Hudson (Oakland Raiders), Jason Kelce (Philadelphia Eagles) and Cody Whitehair (Chicago Bears).
Snap count is an important statistic as well. When you’re looking at value versus performance, the fact Jensen was one of just seventeen centers on all 32 NFL teams to play over 1,000 snaps is pretty important as well.
The question here though is, did it mean enough to justify the second-largest cap hit in the league for 2018?
I think most would argue the Bucs offensive line just didn’t get the job done in 2018.
Ali Marpet was the best of the group, and while many people felt he was a Pro Bowl snub, even he finished 23rd in pass protection and 26th in run blocking when compared to other offensive lineman who took at least 80% of their team’s snaps.
Demar Dotson had the fewest pressures on the Bucs offensive line, and he finished 29th in the league. Deshaun Watson was sacked more than any quarterback in the league, and even he had a lineman finish better than that.
So, yes. The Bucs gave up more than they got in return when comparing the impact of cap space versus the production of Ryan Jensen.
The most glaring stat on here to me was the penalties. And I look at Jensen’s penalties the way I look at Jameis Winston’s turnovers to a certain point.
There are the unacceptable ones. False starts mostly. I don’t think any lineman would even try to excuse themselves of a false start penalty. Jensen had two of those.
Holding penalties are extremely subjective. Some, like clothesline tackling of a defender, are just obvious. But really, you show me a hold against one player, and I’ll show you a no-call that looks the exact same on another.
The unnecessary roughness is where I’ve honed my focus. Like I mentioned in the team portion of this, Jensen is a fighter. It’s the only way you get to go from CSU-Pueblo, to the NFL, to the highest paid center in the game.
His first two personal fouls came in the first two games of the season. I remember them, and I remember your reactions to them. Everyone loved them. It was so nice to see a lineman with a mean streak who stood up for his teammates – and more importantly – his quarterback.
His second-two, well those were much less better received. The season had gone downhill fast. The Bucs were on the playoff line or out of it completely. And frustration was at an all-time high.
But, as with Winston, with Jensen we’re going to have to take the good with the bad. The good: we have a center in Tampa Bay who is going to fight for every thing on every play. The down: sometimes that fight is going to get him in trouble.
More so in 2018 than ever before, but his team was also losing in 2018 like never before – to him. It’s good that he’s not used to losing, and it’s good that he doesn’t want to get used to it either.
Jensen has three years left on his deal and he turns 28 this May. He may not have lived up to the contract status in his first year, but we can all bet he’ll be doing everything he can to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
And if it doesn’t work out again in 2019, the Bucs can get out with no dead cap space next off-season. Here’s hoping it doesn’t come to that.
Allen has agreed to take a $1 million pay cut, setting his contract at $4 million for 2019, Annie Sabo of NBC Tampa Bay reports.
The 27-year-old was solid as a depth defensive tackle in 2018, recording 20 tackles (15 solo) in 14 games. The change in contract terms will free up some money toward the cap for the Buccaneers, while Allen figures to fight for a solidified spot on the defensive line in 2019.
Allen (foot) was a limited participant in Thursday’s practice, Carmen Vitali of the Buccaneers’ official site reports.
The fifth-year defensive tackle has been dealing with a troublesome foot the majority of the season, but he’s managed to suit up for the last five games. Allen logged 27 snaps against the Redskins in the Week 10 loss, which marked his lowest total since the second game of the season. His back-to-back limited sessions to open the practice week could well be part of a maintenance program at this point of the campaign, so the expectation is that the veteran is trending toward an active status Sunday against the Giants.
Allen (foot) is listed as questionable for Sunday’s game against the Falcons, Jenna Laine of ESPN.com reports.
Allen returned to full participation Friday after logging limited sessions Wednesday and Thursday, so he’s trending in the right direction. The defensive tackle is slated to return from a two-game absence, having been sidelined since Week 2 due to a foot injury.
Allen (foot) will be sidelined for Monday night’s tilt against the Steelers, Jenna Laine of ESPN.com reports.
Allen came out of last week’s victory over the Eagles with a foot injury. His absence in Week 3, along with first-round pick Vita Vea still being out, means Gerald McCoy and Jerel Worthy will be the only healthy interior linemen available.
Caleb Benenoch has been the weakest link on a Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive line which hasn’t become what many hoped it would in 2018.
To get a closer look at this situation, I dove into some of Pro Football Focus’ (PFF) premium stats to see just how he stacks up against other guards in the National Football League up to this point in the 2018 regular season.
Here’s what I found.
Benenoch has been in the game on 548 snaps this season for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Of those, 381 snaps have come in pass protection and 167 have called on him as a run blocker.
The amount of pressures allowed by Benenoch in pass protection. Among guards in the NFL with at least 381 pass protection snaps this puts him sixth among those allowing the most this season.
Of the five players ahead of him, only Lane Taylor (Green Bay Packers) and Dan Feeney (Los Angeles Chargers) have gotten the majority of their snaps at left guard. The rest are right guards, with perhaps the exception of Connor McGovern (Denver Broncos) who has 96 snaps at center after recently moving over due to an injury suffered by Denver’s regular starter, Matt Paradis.
Sacks allowed by Benenoch in 2018. Second most behind Taylor in Green Bay and most in the NFL among right guards with the same or more pass protection snaps as the Bucs’ guard.
Up to this point in the season, the third-year guard is one of only three right guards who have allowed five or more sacks this season.
Benenoch’s five penalties from the right guard position make him one of five players in the NFL with that total or more who play predominantly at the right guard position.
The Buccaneers’ lack of cap space did not stop them from making big time moves in free agency. In fact, they made one of the shrewdest deals of any team this offseason by signing former Broncos linebacker Shaquil Barrett to a one-year, $5 million contract.
The former undrafted free agent was a steal for Denver in 2014. Though he was typically used as a rotational pass rusher, Barrett made the most of his time on the field, recording 14 sacks and 35 quarterback hits in the past four years and 75 total quarterback pressures in the past three seasons according to Pro Football Focus.
Barrett’s production dipped last season as he lost playing time to fifth-overall pick Bradley Chubb. In addition to recording just three sacks, Pro Football Focus noted Barrett had just 13 pressures on 127 snaps. The Bucs would likely also rely on Barrett as a rotational player while balancing sufficient opportunities for his pass rush to be effective.
In any case, the Bucs got a true bargain in Barrett. By comparison, the LA Rams paid Dante Fowler more than double what the Bucs paid Barrett though their statistical production over the past three years is comparable. Fowler has 16 sacks and 27 QB hits in 47 games to Barrett’s 8.5 sacks and 23 QB hits in 45 games over the past three seasons.
Quality pass-rushers are hard to find in the NFL and even harder to find when shopping on a budget. The Bucs plundered free agency for a valuable depth piece in Barrett who could help rejuvenate the Tampa Bay defense without stretching the salary cap in 2019.