The Tampa Bay Buccaneers hosted the Philadelphia Eagles for Monday night football last week and it did not go well for the pewter pirates. The defending NFC champion Eagles came in and controlled the game from start to finish. The final score was 25-11, but it really could have been a wider margin of victory for the birds than it already was.
We knew that this was going to be a tough test, but the outcome was still disappointing. After all, these teams were both 2-0 coming into the game and have both looked good to this point in the season. Even in a loss, you would have hoped this game was more competitive than what we saw.
The sad truth is that it wasn’t and it’s a reflection of where these teams are right now. The Bucs are a team that is restocking their talent pool and trying to develop a new identity under Todd Bowles. And while the Buccaneers can find success doing this, there is an obvious gap between them and the upper echelon of the conference.
Here are some things to keep in mind after this prime time reality check.
The Offense Is Still A Work In Progress
Coming into this game, the Bucs had scored 37 points on offense. This was in two games against a pair of teams that were two of the worst offenses in the NFL last season in the Minnesota Vikings and Chicago Bears. It was enough to win those games, but far from an impressive offensive showing.
The biggest thing that stands out is the offensive line play. The positives have been the transition of Tristan Wirfs from the right side to the left and how smoothly that has gone. Even more surprising, Luke Goedeke has taken to the right tackle job extremely well and has played three strong pass rushers to begin the season.
It has been the interior of the offensive line that has struggled. Cody Mauch is a rookie and we always knew that there would be growing pains along the way this season. Likewise, knowing that Robert Hainsey was a backup force into action with the Ryan Jensen injury we had limited expectations. Sadly, these two have struggled the way that we expected them to so far.
This has led to a direct correlation with an underwhelming rushing attack. Rachaad White has found minimal success as the starter so far this season. The biggest reason as to why is that more often than not there simply isn’t anywhere for him to run. The same can be said for rookie running back Sean Tucker.
Once this offensive line begins to jell together and these young players continue to develop, the entire offense will run much more effectively. If there is no change by the back end of the schedule, then we might be looking at a bigger problem, but for now it is just a matter of patience.
Depth On Defense Being Tested
The Bucs have played the last two games without two starters on defense in cornerback Carlton Davis and defensive tackle Calijah Kancey. On top of that, Devin White and Vita Vea were both questionable with injuries going into the game against the Eagles. We also saw Jamel Dean go down with a shoulder injury in that game.
In short, the Buccaneers defense is a bit banged up right now. For a team that is lacking in proven depth, which the Bucs are, this can be a big problem. We saw that on display as the Eagles moved the ball at will on the ground and through the air.
This has given us a look at some of this youth on the depth chart. Cornerback Zyon McCollum and defensive tackle Mike Greene have had some nice moments. However, the problem with young players is often that they are inconsistent and inexperienced.
For a team that wants to hang their hat on defense, having half the defense banged up is problematic. Unfortunately, that’s the reality of the NFL. Players get hurt and the best teams have the quality depth to compensate. We are still learning if the Buccaneers have those depth players in place.
Overall, I think Todd Bowles and Dave Canales have done a nice job this year. Monday night, that was not the case. There was plenty to be critical of and both deserve a lot of blame for that outcome.
In short, our biggest fears were on display. Bowles can be too conservative. His unwillingness to be aggressive with in game management and his bend but don’t break approach to off coverage hurt the Bucs this week. As did Canales’ inexperience as a play caller after choosing to run face first into the buzzsaw known as the Eagles defensive line.
These were the big questions we had coming into the season. And while I still believe both can be better, especially Canales, these are uncertainties that will hang over their heads all season. Until they prove otherwise on a consistent basis, the coaching staff isn’t one of the strengths of this team.