Monday, September 14, 2009

Bucs Film Review: Dallas Cowboys Week 1

Here is my critique of the Bucs yesterday in their game against the Dallas Cowboys.

General Thoughts:

I thought the team fought hard all game including all the way up till the end. I think we have a lot to build on and a pretty good foundation. I think that from top to bottom though there are some areas that need to be addressed if we want to be competitive in the NFC South.


I thought the game plans on both sides of the ball left something to be desired. The offensive game plan was ok but I couldn't for the life of me understand why we didn't just keep running the ball down Dallas' throat. I think the way we came out running the ball was close to making them question themselves but then for whatever reason we kind of got away from that.

On defense however I have a lot of questions. For one we weren't especially prepared for the Cowboys splitting out Martellius Bennett out as a wideout. That seems to me like something that would have been obvious that they would do. And yet just about every time that Dallas went with that formation our guys looked confused and we had coverage break downs. Our blitzes also left quite a lot to be desired in terms of their design. More than once it looked like one or more guys were confused on what their responsibilities were. The Cowboys also ran an unbalanced line twice on their last touchdown drive and it didn't appear that we did anything to adjust to that.


Quarterback: Byron Leftwich had a pretty good game in my opinion. Its true that he missed on some relatively easy throws on a couple of third downs, but he also made some big throws on the money down the field. The biggest thing to me is that Leftwich was hit cleanly by my count at least 7 times and yet and still he stood tall in the pocket for the most part and kept delivering the football. The last touchdown drive when the game was pretty much out of hand showed me a lot about the guy as a player and a quarterback. I still worry that he won't make it very many games because of the hits he takes but there is no doubt that he isn't scared.

Offensive Line: I thought the O Line was outstanding yesterday, especially considering the talent they were facing. Donald Penn in particular had a big game effectively neutralizing the reigning sack champion, DeMarcus Ware. Up until the last drive of the game Ware didn't even sniff Leftwich when he rushed the left side of our line and to my trained eye he definitely looked frustrated by the end of the game. I think its time to start pumping Penn up for a Pro Bowl slot.

The rest of the line also brought it. Jeff Faine may have had the roughest game but he was dealing with a Pro Bowler also in Jay Ratliff. Still Ratliff didn't exactly have a stellar game either. Jeremy Zuttah did give up some rushes to Jason Hatcher but for the most part the O Line kept Leftwich clean and also did a helluva job in opening up holes in the running game.

Running Backs: Cadillac Williams is definitely back. He ran the ball violently yesterday and set a tone early on. He also showed that he is back to being able to make really hard cuts on a dime. I was a little worried after he got horse collared on one long run but he got back up and kept toting the pill. Derrick Ward also had a nice game. His running was a little smoother but still very effective and he caught a few balls out of the backfield. As I suspected the Bucs put Earnest Graham back on special teams and he only ended up getting one carry. I guess its hard to complain about it all things considered but I think had the Bucs went with more running Graham would have gotten more carries and there would have been a greater opportunity to wear down the Cowboys defense which started cramping up some in the second half.

Tight Ends: I didn't think either of our tight ends blocked particularly well yesterday. I realize that most of the time they were matched up against big athletic rush linebackers but still I kind of expected more from Jerramy Stevens especially and to a lesser extent Kellen Winslow Jr. In the passing game Winslow had some nice catches as did Stevens but both also had big drops. Winslow on a sure third down conversion at a crucial point of the game. Stevens down close to the goalline when it appeared he had alligator arms.

Wide Receivers: By far Michael Clayton was the bell cow yesterday. He showed his famous toughness but also a renewed ability to make tough catches. I have no reservations about saying that this kid benefited the most from the firing of John Gruden. If yesterday was any indication he is poised to have a big year. Rookie Sammie Stroughter had a catch that was initially called a touchdown but came up just short on replay and had another nice catch for a first down. Antonio Bryant had two catches but was mostly a non factor in his first live action since preseason knee surgery. The rest of the group were good but not noteworthy.


Defensive Line: Lets start with the guy who has a target on his chest, Gaines Adams. I don't think Gaines had a good game. That is not the same thing as saying he had a bad game which he didn't. But with the spot light on him in his third year after being selected 6th in the draft overall, having a not bad game just isn't good enough. I thought he had at least 2 good pass rushes but that was about it. He didn't show up in the stat sheet and as hard as I tried I couldn't even find a way to credit him with an assisted tackle. There were times when he looked as if he wasn't sure where to go and he lined up way off the ball when he rushed from the left hand side. He also had the off sided during the two minute drill by the Cowboys before the half which gave them a first down and the very next play was the long TD pass to Miles Austin. Ironically he had one of his best rushes on that play and Romo just barely got the ball off before he got to him. But close only counts in horseshoes.

As for the rest of the group, I thought Jimmy Wilkerson had a couple or 3 nice pass rushes and Greg White had a great rush once on Flozell Adams which is the reason Tony Romo is walking around with a limp today. I felt like the inside guys played well but didn't do a whole lot of note. Ryan Simms had a couple of good rushes and the rookie Roy Miller was active. I personally don't like the way our guys are lined up nor that they have to have their outside hands down but that is just my personal opinion. It didn't win or lose the game yesterday but I do think it hinders pass rush on early downs. The Bucs also tried their small line up for pass rush and as I predicted Wilkerson got stoned by Leonard Davis more than once. I did see the line attempt pass rush games on two different third downs. On one they tried a game on both sides and it was an EPIC FAIL. Nobody really sets up pass rush games anymore. The second time they ran a TOM game with the two defensive tackles which was actually pretty decent and effective.

But ultimately there were no sacks out of the group yesterday and with 27 passes that is unacceptable.

Linebackers: There was some drama before the game because starting LB Geno Hayes showed up late to the stadium and was benched as a punishment. That meant Matt McCoy ended up getting the start. McCoy definitely wasn't ready and it showed. When Hayes did get in the game it took him awhile to get it going too but he ended up having a pretty decent game. He had the most tackles of the backers thats for sure.

Barrett Ruud had a good game too and made some good plays. The Cowboys offense just wasn't set up for him to make that many tackles. But his run fits were usually right on and he was good in his pass drops as well. Quincy Black was pretty quiet yesterday. I didn't notice him making a whole lot of plays and it was kind of surprising because the Bucs played a whole lot of base defense yesterday.

Defensive Backs: Where to begin? I guess I'll start off with Sabby Piscetelli as his bad plays were so obvious. Now the thing of it is Sabby had a decent game overall. He was good in his run fits and his run support and he had some good open field tackles when in coverage on the Cowboys' tight ends. However he got caught at least twice looking in the backfield and allowing Patrick Crayton to get by him, once for a touchdown. Now to be fair we have to remember that Tanard Jackson was out with a suspension yesterday, and its likely that on those plays he may have been the guy playing Sabby's position because he is the better coverage safety. Still Sabby has to learn from those mistakes. As a safety you are the last line of defense and you just can't let guys get behind you like that.

Similarly Jermaine Phillips took a horrible angle on Roy Williams' long touchdown catch in the seam. I could also throw out the caveat that Flip was practicing at linebacker most of the off season but in the end it doesn't matter. If you are on that field you have to make that play and he didn't. He also left his ankles and his jock on the field yesterday when Miles Austin shook him on the way to that long TD reception right before the half. Now he did make some great plays in run support and as usual he was physical as all hell. But unfortunately in the league you don't get a pass on your bad plays just because you made some good ones.

Ronde Barber had a helluva game for the most part. He set the tone early for the defense on two blitzes where he came up with a tackle for loss one one and a sack on the other. He also battled Martellius Bennett close to the endzone and broke up a fade stop to him even though he was going up against a guy much bigger, stronger and taller than he was. He also had a nice pass break up as well.

Aqib Talib didn't look like he same guy that we are used to yesterday. He didn't really get any good jams at the line of scrimmage. He consistently let Roy Williams get inside on his quick slant routes and his run support was anemic. He did have an outstanding play where he ran Williams' out route for him but he couldn't secure the interception. If you want to be a big time player in the NFL that is a play that you have to win on and winning is not just breaking it up. On a break like that winning is nothing less than an interception. I was honestly expecting a lot more from the guy than I saw yesterday.

Elbert Mack and Will Allen got some burn yesterday too but not enough to really make a difference either way.

Special Teams:

As much as I love the Bucs, I have to say that I felt a sense of karma yesterday with the blocked field goal and the the miss right before the half by kicker Mike Nugent. Now I don't have anything against Nugent, but I think a lot of us felt like the team kind of did Matt Bryant dirty. And that was kind of like poetic justice.

Just remember that if we have either of those field goals yesterday the its 13-10 at the half instead of 13-7. I think that would have made a huge difference.

Oh and since I don't mind calling folks out, that was a piss poor effort by Jerramy Stevens on the blocked field goal. It almost looked like he was just in a hurry to get off the field or something. I mean he had two guys to block and I don't think he got either one of them. Just not a good look at all.

As for the other phases of the kicking game, I felt like we were on point for the most part yesterday except for the fumbled punt by Clifton Smith. But all in all the coverage and return units did their jobs.

Well that is the recap for the game. Hopefully we can fix some of what ails us before next week when we have to go up to Buffalo and face the Bills. We definitely don't want to be 0-2 and facing the Giants back here, thats for sure.

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