Good day, Who Dats and the EOSB legion.
It’s time again for that one thing I know you all can’t wait for each week. In fact, you probably wake up early on Friday morning’s because you know it’s coming.
View from the Other Side is back and this week, we welcome in Jenna Laine who covers the Bucs for multiple media outlets in Tampa.
Laine has covered the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for the last five seasons and is in her first year writing for The Sports Xchange and Reuters. Her work has been featured on NFL.com, Yahoo Sports, CBS Sports Radio, and a number of other online, print, radio, and television outlets. She hosts a weekly Bucs show on Spreecast and tweets nuggets of Bucs and NFL news @JennaLaineBucs. You can also read her blog at SassySideofSports.com.
Please give your undivided attention to Jenna, who was kind enough to answer questions this week.
WWLTV.com: “What is the one area that you see Tampa Bay needs to improve to become more successful; i.e. play consistently like it did against Kansas City?”
Jenna Laine: “As a defense, the Bucs have made vast improvements against the run. They went from having the 32nd ranked rushing defense in the league last year, giving up an average of 156 yards per game, to 4th, now surrendering just 75 yards per game. Last week, they limited Jamal Charles, the league’s top rusher, to just 40 yards on the ground. In Week 1, they limited Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers to just 10 yards total rushing.
“But they still give up big plays in the passing game. That’s a big concern, especially considering the way this league has evolved into a ‘passer league.’ In Week 2, Eli Manning and the Giants exposed the Bucs’ deficiencies as a secondary – Victor Cruz, Hakeem Nicks, Martellus Bennett – those guys were just too much.”
WWLTV.com: “Has quarterback Josh Freeman progressed or regressed in your eyes under Greg Schiano?”
Laine: “I don’t believe he’s regressed. But I also think the playbook of new offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan is unlike anything Josh or this offense has ever had before. It’s far more complex, so there’s a bit of a learning curve.
“I actually had a conversation with receiver Tiquan Underwood about the criticism Josh has faced, especially after the Dallas game, where he only completed 10 of his passes. His advice to the naysayers – Don’t judge too quickly. Sometimes when you’re learning a new offense, it takes time. Things aren’t gonna happen overnight, but us as players inside our locker room, we believe in Josh Freeman.
“There are also a lot new components to this offense – Vincent Jackson; Underwood, who I think will become an even more important part of this offense with defenses focusing on how to stop Jackson; and Mike Williams. They’ve also got tight end Dallas Clark, and running backs Doug Martin and D.J. Ware. So lots of new pieces to the puzzle.
WWLTV.com: “Ronde Barber seems to defy the whole concept of aging. He has started 221 in his Tampa Bay career, which started when he was drafted in 1997. Why has his move to free safety helped him this season?”
Laine: “He’s an ageless wonder, that’s for sure! His longevity in the league is a true testament to the way he takes care of his body and stays in shape year-round, his work ethic and the time he spends in the film room studying. He’s just the ultimate pro. Still, some questioned whether he’d be able to make the transition to free safety considering he’s undersized, even for a cornerback (he’s about 5-foot-9, 180 pounds) and he’s 37, so he’s no spring chicken. But he’s been able to do it because of his instincts and how technically sound he is.
“He’s got some of the best ball skills I’ve ever seen out of a defensive player. Fundamentally, he’s up there. You never see him miss tackling. He has such a great feel for the game and where he needs to be at all times, which is imperative at safety, a position that relies heavily on precise angles.
“So even though he may not be as fast as he once was in a downhill foot race (we saw that against Victor Cruz), because he’s rarely out of position, 9 times out of 10, he’s able to make the play. Plus you can do a lot of things with him – blitz him (28 career sacks), use him to stop marquee running backs, he can still hang with plenty of receivers…he covers tight ends too.
WWLTV.com: “The Bucs defense is 31st in the NFL against the pass. The Saints offense leads the league in passing. How do you see Tampa Bay attempting to stop New Orleans’ passing game?”
Laine: “Gosh, and Drew Brees does such a tremendous job spreading the ball out to all his weapons – Marques Colston, Devery Henderson, Jimmy Graham, Lance Moore, even Pierre Thomas and Darren Sproles in the short passing game – he’s got incredible pinpoint accuracy. The Bucs have their work cut out for them, especially considering their best cover corner, Aqib Talib, is out on a four game suspension.
“I think the Bucs look a lot better in their base 4-3 defense, but in their nickel and dime packages, which I expect to see a lot of against the Saints, need to improve. The Bucs’ third cornerback, E.J. Biggers, will step in for Talib at left cornerback, while Brandon McDonald is expected to play nickel.
“One thing that will help the Bucs is if they can run the ball effectively. If they can get Doug Martin and LeGarrette Blount going, they’ll control the clock and keep Drew Brees off the field.”
WWLTV.com: “Folks here in New Orleans go bananas about the Saints’ uniform combination. Tampa Bay will go with the old-school orange uniforms on Sunday. What do the fans in Tampa think about this combination and does it hold any mystical power?”
Laine: “It’s funny how the city’s disdain for those old creamsicle uniforms has turned into somewhat of a fondness, and now people actually really like them! When I was growing up here in Tampa Bay, that was not the case! For so long, people associated those uniforms with losing and did their best to forget those days which is unfortunate considering there were some good players on those ‘Throwback’ teams – the late Lee Roy Selmon, the late David Logan, Doug Williams, Richard “Batman” Wood, Jimmie Giles, Paul Gruber, Lawrence Dawsey, Scot Brantley, James Wilder.
"For a long time, this team didn’t feel like it had any roots. Now that the Bucs have begun honoring those old teams with the annual ‘Throwback Game,’ there’s a much greater sense of continuity in the organization.”