We're getting closer to this week's game between the Minnesota Vikings and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers down in central Florida. We've taken some time to exchange some questions with our friends at Bucs Nation, specifically head blogger Sander Philipse, about the Buccaneers going into the matchup. We usually do these a lot earlier in the week, but it's late this week because I'm not terribly bright and have a tendency to not do things on time sometimes.
So, without any further ado, here are the questions.
1) The Buccaneers brought in a couple of defensive minds this off-season in Lovie Smith and Leslie Frazier, yet find themselves with the worst defense in the NFL thus far in 2014. Does this have to do more with scheme, personnel, or are they equally to blame?
I wouldn't blame the scheme as such, but I'd certainly blame coaching and players. It's not that their players are somehow physically incapable of executing this scheme, but for some reason they keep making basic, basic mistakes. Stephen White had a terrific breakdown of a lot of those issues against the Ravens. Basic message: players are constantly messing up in basic execution, making mistakes that should have been eliminated months ago. That's on those players, but apparently the coaches can't get through to them, either. The only hope they have is that more familiarity with the scheme will fix these problems.
2) On offense for the Bucs, running back Doug Martin is averaging less than three yards a carry this season, while his backup, Bobby Rainey, is averaging significantly more. What's slowing Martin down thus far?
The offensive line has been terrible and he was injured when the Bucs faced the St. Louis Rams' atrocious run defense and figured out (for one game) how to block someone. But he also seems to have lost the ability to make anyone miss, whether that's in the hole or down the field. His vision has deteroriated, and he doesn't have the lateral agility to sneak through small holes -- a key aspect of his success as a rookie. In short: he's just not a special running back right now, and the offensive line's problems are crippling his production as a consequence.
3) The Bucs brought in Josh McCown to run their offense this season, but injuries have forced them to go with young Mike Glennon. Which of those two guys do you feel the Bucs should ride with going forward?
I was fairly supportive of Josh McCown before the season, because I felt many of the circumstances that allowed him to be successful in Chicago were in place in Tampa. But then he actually played and...well, none of that came true. He looked horrible, refused to pull the trigger down the field, and threw some really ugly interceptions. With the season effectively over in terms of reaching the playoffs, the Bucs have to start Mike Glennon: he's not only been the better player this season, but they also need to find out what they have in him going forward. Can he be a franchise quarterback, or at least a solid starter?
4) Give us one "under the radar" guy on each side of the ball that you feel will play a big role for the Buccaneers on Sunday.
Tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins is the guy you want to watch out for on offense. He's struggled a bit so far this season, but the rookie has a massive amount of talent and was limited by a lingering ankle sprain. He's been playing nearly every snap in recent weeks, and he's going to have a breakout game sooner or later. I'm going to say it's this week.
On defense, watch out for Danny Lansanah. He's the team's strongside linebacker and he does come off the field on passing downs, but he's shown a tendency to create splash plays this season. He has two pick-sixes, and can be a disruptive element -- as long as he can limit the mistakes he seems to make every so often.
5) How do you see this Sunday's game going?
It's probably going to be pretty ugly. The Bucs have been a disaster this season, but they are coming off a bye week. That should help, as should being at home. They're going to try to run the ball (and they'll fail). The offense will struggle on both sides of the ball, and the key will be which team can win the turnover battle. Given Bridgewater's recent struggles, that almost has to be the Bucs -- but this should be a pretty close game throughout.
Big thanks to Sander for taking the time to answer our questions for us. Once we have the post from Bucs Nation where we answered some questions for them, we'll have it on the front page.