Written by Cody Manning, @CodyTalksNFL
Tampa is coming off a loss to the New Orleans Saints that gave nothing to show promise for the future or that the team could build upon. Jamies Winston threw 4 interceptions and the offense could never get in sync to help put the team in position to keep it close. The secondary continues to struggle and it has been nothing but playing catch for the opposing quarterback for the majority of the season. These repetitive self-inflicted wounds have been a detriment to the Bucs season and if they don’t turn things around then the team is destined to be picking in the top five picks of the NFL Draft. If they want to give their fans hope for the 2020 NFL season, then they need to finish the season strong. That starts Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons, so here are my Top 5 things I want to see from Tampa:
1. How long is Jameis Winston’s leash?
We are past the point of wondering if Winston is fixable and if he will be on the Bucs in 2020. He has proven this season that even the “quarterback whisperer”, Bruce Arians, can’t even turn around his career and help make him the franchise quarterback he was supposed to be. While Ryan Griffin isn’t the answer of the future, when is enough, enough? Winston continues to be a problem for the offense and it’s highly unlikely that he will ever get rid of his turnover habit. If he fumbles the ball away and/or throws multiple interceptions on Sunday, will BA finally pull the plug on the Winston era?
2. Can the secondary slow down Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley?
It has been a pretty easy task for the opposing quarterback to toss the ole pigskin against the Bucs secondary this season. They are the weakest point of the defensive unit and have allowed teams to light up the scoreboard because of their poor play. Atlanta will be without Austin Hooper and Devonta Freeman, so the two legit threats in their offense on Sunday will be Jones and Ridley. If Todd Bowles wants to give his team the best shot to win, then he will have to find ways for his secondary to keep the two wide receivers in check. If he can get them to get the job done then maybe Tampa can pull this one off.
3. Has the coaching staff moved on from OJ Howard?
After having his best performance of the season against the Arizona Cardinals, Howard completely botched a catch and bobbled the ball away into a New Orleans Saints defender’s hands last week that led to an interception. Not only it caused a turnover, but Howard ended up being benched for it and he saw Cameron Brate take his snaps for the rest of the game. Since the Tampa front office chose to not trade Howard, I assumed that they had a plan for him to be a crucial part of the offense going forward. It showed against Arizona but disappeared last week. Is his benching permanent or was it a message? I am interested to see how many snaps that Howard gets against the Falcons on Sunday.
4. Will the defensive front wreck havoc on the Falcons offensive line?
One of the brighter spots on the 2019 Tampa Bay Buccaneers is the defensive line. They are one of the better units at stopping the run this season and have found some success at getting pressure on the quarterback as well. With Freeman out, it will be an easier task to stuff runs, but they will be needed to help slow down the aerial attack of the Falcons offense. Atlanta’s offensive line has been subpar this season so this isn’t a daunting task for the Tampa defensive front. They should be able to eat up in the trenches and give their team a chance to find a way to win against the Falcons.
5. Just win.
No matter how the team performs on offense and defense, all Tampa fans want to see is a win. The organization hasn’t been to the NFL Playoffs since 2007 and it looks like the drought will continue, barring a miracle happening, which at this point appears highly unlikely. As I have alluded to on some past articles, some times a strong finish to the season can help push momentum into the following season to create something positive for the future. If the Bucs can finish this season strong and pile up some wins, then they can provide some hope to their fanbase and give them something to look forward to in 2020. A win against a divisional opponent can help the cause, so no matter what it takes, just find a way to win Tampa.