The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are fresh off an embarrassing loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. This dropped their overall record to 3-3 and the team looks largely directionless at the moment. Things are as bad right now as they ever have been going back to the start of the Bruce Arians/Todd Bowles era.
Following the game, Bowles had some choice words for his team. Among other things he said that some guys are “living off the Super Bowl and are living in a fantasyland” and that players and coaches need to “put up or shut up”.
These are strong words for a team that desperately needs a fire lit under them. However, this appears to be more than just coach speak. The fact is that this team has lacked urgency and attention to detail all year long. Perhaps some players are still drifting along with their heads in the clouds.
Obviously, Bowles did not name anyone by name. He wanted to send a message, but not blast specifically through the media. We are left to speculate at who he may have been referring to. Here is my best guess as to who that was.
In many ways, Devin White is the face of this Buccaneers defense. He is extremely talented, with the speed and physicality that lead to highlight reel plays. For most fans outside of Tampa Bay, he’s probably the most recognizable player on the defense.
Part of that is his big confident personality. White has more than enough swagger to go around. This has put him in a position to be a vocal and emotional leader for this franchise.
However, White can be a little more sizzle than steak at times. He has consistently missed his assignment during his time with the Buccaneers and hasn’t taken that big step forward since coming into the league. This is a mentality issue, not a talent issue.
There are also some questions with his maturity. He made comments last week about “being bored” with the game, which allowed the Atlanta Falcons to make a late comeback. This is not the mentality you want a leader to have.
We all remember how great White was in that Super Bowl run. He was a force to be reckoned with in every aspect of the game. Sadly, we haven’t seen that consistently since then.
If White wants to be a foundational piece and a leader on this team then he’s the first guy who needs to step up. If not, then he could find himself out of Tampa Bay at contract’s end.
The Buccaneers have had one of the most dynamic offenses in the NFL over the last few years. They have averaged point totals in the 30’s per game and could beat opponents in many different ways.
Former head coach Bruce Arians, a man who has made a brilliant career with his offensive mind, gave a lot of credit to his offensive coordinator for that. The great leader that he was, Arians deflected a lot of the praise he deserved to Byron Leftwich. He made the impression that Leftwich was one of the bright young minds in the game.
No Arians is gone and all we are left with is that promising young coordinator that he spoke so highly of. The mastermind that blended Tom Brady with Arians down field passing attack. Sadly, it seems we were sold a false bill of goods.
The play calling and game planning has been dreadful on the offensive side of the ball. A team full of All Pros and future Hall of Fame inductees are struggling to score touchdowns. This is an absolute failure on Leftwich’s part.
If this team is going to reach their Super Bowl aspirations, or even the playoffs, then Leftwich needs to start earning his keep. He can’t just coast along the praises of Arians and a Super Bowl championship any longer.
Shaq Barrett is one of the better pass rushers in the NFL. In terms of doing his job on a week in and week out basis, I have zero issue with what he is doing. He’s a plus player on this defense and we should all be very happy that he’s here.
Where I would like to see Barrett step up is as a leader. He has always come off as a quiet “lead by example” type of guy which is fine. However, his comments about the Chiefs offensive line a few weeks ago raised some eyebrows and not in a good way.
Barrett came to this team as a Super Bowl champion from his days with the Broncos. He had a chance to learn under Von Miller in Denver and be a part of one of the best defenses in the NFL. When he got his opportunity in Tampa Bay he immediately burst onto the scene with a 19.5 sack season.
He is now a two time Super Bowl champion. That is something that most players will never be able to say. It is time for him to use his experience and show this group of young Bucs how things are supposed to be done.
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