Scoring The Start

November 11th, 2021

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It’s time to hand out Tampa Bay’s midterm grades — and there’s no reason to mark on a curve.

The Bucs sit comfortably at 6-2, on top of the NFC South and heading out of a bye week with the promise of some key players returning from injury.

Todd Bowles has done an admirable job mixing and matching in a depleted secondary while Byron Leftwich directs the NFL’s top-scoring offense.

The 2021 Bucs deserve an overall A-minus grade at this point, falling short of an A because they were sloppy in New Orleans and wasted an opportunity to deposit the Saints well behind in the rear-view mirror. The Week 3 loss to the Rams was well deserved as Los Angeles played a nearly flawless game.

With the defenseless Washington Football Team dead ahead, here’s how the defending NFL champions break down heading into Week 10:

COACHING: Bruce Arians has been unwavering in his focus on Covid protocols and this organization has heeded the call. The relationship between Leftwich and Tom Brady continues to grow and the results are impressive, with the Bucs averaging an NFL-high 327.5 passing yards per game. Bowles needs to get more out of Devin White, who isn’t making enough impact plays. GRADE: A-minus.

QUARTERBACK: Brady is in the mix for league MVP, leading the league with 25 TD passes. He delivers the ball quickly and with conviction. On those rare instances when Brady throws a pick, every Buc fan can’t believe what just happened. GRADE: A.

RUNNING BACK: Leonard Fournette (4.3 average) and Ronald Jones (4.4) have capitalized on some big running lanes. Giovani Bernard has been a nice addition with three TD receptions, catching 20-of-23 targets. The Bucs run on only 33 percent of their snaps. Based on the production of the ground game, that’s not enough. GRADE: B.

RECEIVERS: Mike Evans is on pace for 17 TD catches and he’s got plenty of help from Chris Godwin (82.5 yards per game) and Antonio Brown (83.6 ypg). When Brown and Rob Gronkowski return, the Bucs will have an array of targets no team can match. GRADE: A.

OFFENSIVE LINE: Another year of startling continuity up front, which helps immensely. Brady has been sacked only 12 times, a testament to this group’s pride in keeping the franchise player upright. Run blocking has taken a major step forward. GRADE: A.

Shaq Barrett.

DEFENSIVE LINE: Opposing teams average less than 20 rushing attempts. Why bother when Vita Vea and Ndamukong Suh are shutting off the middle while Will Gholston crashes from the edge? Some more sacks from the interior would be nice. GRADE: A-minus.

LINEBACKERS: White hasn’t played up to the lofty standards he set down the stretch in 2020. The sacks and tackles for loss haven’t been there. Lavonte David has been steady while Shaq Barrett and Jason Pierre-Paul are a bit inconsistent off the edge. As a whole, tackling has been an issue. GRADE: B-minus.

SECONDARY: Bowles has played most of the way without his top corner, Carlton Davis, and reliable Sean Murphy-Bunting. There’s been too much soft coverage and the safeties haven’t made much noise, except for Mike Edwards late in the Atlanta game. GRADE: C.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Ryan Succop has missed three of his 11 FG tries and Bradley Pinion is averaging only 42.8 yards per punt, 3.4 yards below the league average. The return game remains pedestrian while the coverage units have been solid. GRADE: C.

OFFENSIVE MVP: Brady, of course. He makes it all go.

DEFENSIVE MVP: Barrett. Shaq leads the team with 5.5 sacks and 5 TFL. He’s tied for the team lead with 9 QB hits and only White and David have registered more tackles. Add in a pick and two forced fumbles and Barrett seals the deal.

REASON FOR OPTIMISM: Reinforcements are on the way, shoring up a secondary that has played under duress. The remaining schedule looks soft. Brady’s healthy.

REASON FOR CONCERN: Tampa Bay’s 61 missed tackles are tied with Philadelphia at the top. Only the Browns, with the benefit of an extra game, have been victimized for more penalty yards. No defense blitzes more often, yet the pass rush has been sporadic.

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Ira drives a 2020 Ford Escape (cherry red).

10 Responses to “Scoring The Start”

  1. zzbuc Says:

    100% agreed Mr Sage……Missed Tackles and Defensive Backs are main concerns, the rest if Very good….

  2. AL121976 Says:

    That is a sound assessment, hopefully an A+ in all areas after we win the Super Bowl

  3. Defense Rules Says:

    Only place we differ Sage is in the Defensive MVP. Shaq has been very average IMO, considering that he has Vea & Suh clearing the way for him. His 5.5 sacks & 9 QB Hits in 8 games is barely what I’d expect from a nearly $20 mil investment.

    My preference for Defensive MVP at this point would be Vita Vea. Our Front-7 hasn’t been all that impressive to date IMO, but without Vea they’d be much less impressive.

  4. NashvilleBuc Says:


  5. Leighroy Says:

    Yeah I agree, sound assessments. My only quibble would be special teams more at a B+. Succop missed a fg from 55, one in the driving rain, and another after the Bears game was in-hand. He’s otherwise been clutch and the kicking nightmares of bucs fans nationwide remain a thing of the past. Punter and return game, is incidental to me. Our offense scores 32 pts a game!

  6. Darin Says:

    Defense rules
    Definitely. And without Vea Shaq would have maybe 3 sacks. Maybe. Wheres the self proclaimed best linebacker in the game been Devin? Less talk more walk

  7. SB Says:


    Last yr Shaq had more sacks in the 7 games Vea played than he did in the 13 games Vea missed.
    Very telling.

  8. SB Says:

    OH and thank you for the missed tackles stat! I was quietly wondering that.

  9. Kalind Says:

    I’m sorry Ira. Defensive MVP is a tie between Vea and Dean. And it’s not even close.

  10. unbelievable Says:

    Waaaaay to high of grades for the defense.

    Where’s the pass rush when we play good teams? MIA.