How To Hand The Skeptics A Middle Finger

September 8th, 2023

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If the Bucs want to make a dynamic statement about their new offense, they couldn’t have picked a better opening-day opponent.

Dave Canales has had plenty of time to study Minnesota’s defense and write down areas to exploit. He may have run out of ink.

Let me sum it up for you — this is one lousy defense.

The Vikings won 13 games last season, despite a defense that ranked 28th in points allowed. Only the Lions yielded more total yards, so it was little wonder when coordinator Ed Donatell was jettisoned in favor of Brian Flores.

And while Flores has a solid reputation around the league for his emphasis on innovation and physicality, he simply doesn’t have much to work with heading into Week 1.

The best thing Flores has going for him is the raucous crowd at U.S. Bank Stadium, which could be a challenge for Baker Mayfield.

If the Bucs can hear Mayfield and execute the play calls, Canales should have a banner afternoon.

“I’m aggressive by nature,” says Flores. “Philosophically, that’s something I believe in.”

That sounds like a challenge for Canales, but Flores doesn’t have enough play-makers on his side. The front seven on Minnesota’s depth chart combined for all of 16 sacks last year and the Vikings are now operating without two of their better defensive players.

Minnesota released linebacker Eric Kendricks, who averaged 115 tackles in eight seasons. Edge rusher Za’Darius Smith, who posted 10 sacks in 2022, was traded to the Browns.

Big-money, big-time Vikings edge rusher Danielle Hunter.

The one impact player remaining is Danielle Hunter, who returned from an injury-riddled 2021 season to register 10 1/2 sacks. The Vikings wisely held on to Hunter, one of the league’s premier pass rushers, retaining him with a new contract.

He’s got power, speed and guile coming off both sides. It would make sense to line Hunter up on the left edge and have him test Luke Goedeke rather than take on Tristan Wirfs, one of the NFL’s elite tackles.

Job 1 for Mayfield and Canales is to keep constant tabs on Hunter and prevent him from wrecking the game plan. Hunter’s a very good player, but he’s one guy.

If Goedeke needs help, give him help. Minnesota’s No. 2 pass rusher might be Marcus Davenport, a former first-round pick by the Saints. After five seasons and only 21 1/2 sacks, New Orleans had seen enough of Davenport.

Last year was a disaster as Davenport was limited to half a sack in 15 games.

Vikings coach Kevin McConnell was masterful in close matchups last season as Minnesota became the first team in NFL history to register at least 12 wins despite a negative scoring differential. He’s not about to take the Bucs lightly.

“What a challenge I believe this team is going to be for us,” he says. “I’ve got so much respect for Todd Bowles.”

Like Bowles, Flores is adept at disguising coverages and unleashing blitzes from all angles. Unlike Bowles, he doesn’t have enough impact players to suit his aggressive style.

All eyes on new Bucs playcaller Dave Canales in this winnable Week 1 game, writes Sage Ira.

Canales and Bowles have no intentions of asking Mayfield to match Tom Brady’s all-out aerial assault. Tampa Bay led the NFL in pass attempts in each of the last two seasons and that strategy backfired in 2022. Mayfield averaged only 30 throws in 2020 while leading the Browns to an 11-5 record and a postseason berth.

Canales sounds determined to restore offensive balance in Tampa, but the Vikings have a porous secondary and Mike Evans and Chris Godwin are both healthy and hungry.

Evans, who shockingly went 11 consecutive games without scoring a touchdown last year, is eager to regain his reputation as a premier threat in the red zone.

While it’s a long season, Week 1 results matter. Teams that win their season opener are more than twice as likely to make the playoffs as Week 1 losers. The Vikings went 8-1 at home last year, so this is a glorious opportunity for the Bucs to give the middle finger to their many skeptics.

It won’t happen unless Mayfield and Canales lead the way.

Join Ira Kaufman and Bucs fans on opening day at the Big Storm Brewing Co. taproom in Clearwater, on 49th St. just south of Ulmerton Road. It’s a 1 o’clock kickoff and Ira will be hanging out starting at 11:45 a.m. 

Beautiful covered patio with strong sightlines and audio. Indoors, too! Cocktails, Florida’s best craft beer and more.


Huge covered and comfortable outdoor patio at Big Storm Brewing Co. in Clearwater.

Click on through to check out their website.

Fun time ahead.

Indoors, too! Joe highly recommends the Nashville Hot Chicken sandwich and fries.

17 Responses to “How To Hand The Skeptics A Middle Finger”

  1. dls5492 Says:

    Amen, Ira!

  2. Voice of Truth Says:

    To me The key to this game will be not letting them get a jump start early and put us in a 14 point hole – defense has to start fast and let the O find their rhythm

  3. Rod Munch Says:

    All they got to do is win to shut people up.

    I hope they do, but I certainly don’t expect it, as I’m taking the under on the 6.5 win total.

  4. HC Grover Says:

    Evans and Godwin v 2 rookie corners. Go deep and often. Evans should have more than 1 TD. The problem may be the Bowles keep it close game plan. It could be a shootout if Mayfield can hit his WR’s. The Boys will be open downfield deep. Throw it at them and let them dominate.

  5. PC Says:

    The X-factor is Bowles. Is he a good head coach or just a solid D coordinator? History suggests the latter. He’s an old school coach in a changed NFL and is lousy in close games. On the road with too many unknowns and if’s = Vikings 28-16

  6. Dewey Selmon Says:

    I think the x-factor is Trey Palmer. Everyone talkin about #13 & #14 and Palmer might be well known by 4:25 pm Sunday.

  7. HC Grover Says:

    Palmer Godwin and Evans should have a field day against the rook cornerbacks if Bowles steps on the gas. But he will prolly try to keep it close.

  8. Defense Rules Says:

    You couldn’t have picked a more appropriate title for this piece Sage. It’s getting tiring listening to all these talking heads & nay-sayers bad-mouth the Bucs to no end. And as we all know, there’s only 1 way to shut them up: WIN.

    One thing that you wrote definitely caught my attention … ‘Mayfield averaged only 30 throws in 2020 while leading the Browns to an 11-5 record and a postseason berth.’

    That season, Cleveland rushed for 2,374 yards on 495 rushing attempts, for an average of 4.8 YPC. Yes Baker did great that year, but I have to think that it’s largely because everyone else did their job & carried their share of the load. He only had to throw 501 times on the season, so the Browns ran on over 48% of their plays. To Mayfield’s credit though, he did throw for 26 TDs that year (over 5% TD percentage) & only threw 8 INTs. And 11-5 is very good considering that the Browns’ defense stunk that year, giving up more points (419) than their offense scored (408).

  9. TDTB2023 Says:

    Glorious Sunday can’t be here fast enough.

  10. HC Grover Says:

    Bowles game plan will decide this game. Can the Bucs win…heck yes if the plan is a good one. How many oints will Bowles D allow? He better put the petal to the metal with his O game.

  11. Rod Munch Says:

    Defense Rules – The Browns defense didn’t stink that year, they were just streaky – but they also weren’t as good as I remember.

    But you’re right, on a team with a fantastic offensive line, and the best running game in football, when Mayfield wasn’t asked to do much, he was fine.

    I will say, in addition to the horrific stats put my by Mayfield the last two years, if you go watch his highlights, he’s at his worse, by far, when under pressure (which is the case for most QBs). For him to be good in Tampa, he’s going to have to have a great running game and at least a great offensive line.

    Personally I think White is going to be a great RB, but the line I’m not so sure about – although if the Bucs aren’t so ridiculously predictable on offense, that should help them out. But with all the changes on the line, I’m thinking it could be ugly, early.

    But, again, I’m not rooting against the team — not until we’re late in the year and in play for the #1 pick, at that point I’m rooting against the team. But until then, I hope Mayfield does great, and the Bucs come out of the gates hot.

    Plus, regardless of anything, I still think the Bucs will beat the Eagles on MNF. It’s just the way things are – bad Bucs teams beat some SB-caliber team ever time – and that’s the game. So we do have that to look forward to.

  12. TDTB2023 Says:

    Bucs 21
    Eagles 20
    Like last night. I’ll take that.

  13. Mostly Peaceful Trask Fan Says:

    No excuses, right? Porous 28th ranked defense that lost key players – if Baker plays up to the hype should score 24+ right?

  14. Mostly Peaceful Trask Fan Says:

    Defense Rules

    I’m embarrassed the Bucs have Baker Mayfield. I watched him play last season. He sucks. I looked at the numbers. They aren’t good – like really not good. Everything says he’s trending in the wrong direction.

    People assume with Canales and our star WRs he’s going to be a great QB. It’s all this eye test stuff and talk about mox-i-e and the 6 months sales job we just got – but the historical result on the field just doesn’t match that reality. We’re talking about a guy who had a falling out with OBJ because he doesn’t throw to WRs. What’s the point of having of the top WR duo in the league if the QB is a career 6.5 yds per attempt guy PFF lampooned as Captain Checkdown?

    I feel insulted as a fan now I’m expected to support this fiasco. I hate the entire idea of it. I’m not going enjoy this season.

  15. Defense Rules Says:

    Mostly Peaceful Trask Fan … I guess I’m taking the opposite approach. IF Mayfield does good, the Bucs do good & I’m happy. If Mayfield does poorly, Trask will surely replace him. IF the Bucs then do good, I’ll be happy again. If Trask does poorly, we’ll end up drafting a QB in the 1st Rnd in what promises to be a superb QB year. Once again, I’ll be happy.

    So no matter how poorly Mayfield, Trask or the Bucs do this year, I’m gonna end up happy. May take a lot of Big Storms to get there, but I’ll make it.

  16. garro Says:

    Good stuff Ira!
    We need to punch em in the mouth from the start. On both sides of the ball. Slow starts will not cut it this year!

    Go Bucs!

  17. Mostly Peaceful Trask Fan Says:

    DR I don’t know. Bowles is stubborn. Mayfield won’t be benched. They think they got the next Geno Smith. It’s going to be like watching a slow motion car wreck.

    My prediction is Trask goes elsewhere and becomes a good starter and we’ll once again be talking about how we talent go elsewhere to flourish.

    Knowing the Bucs the guy they draft next season will be a bust too.

    It’s a Bucs Life.