Five questions with Josh Hill of Pewter Plank…
1. The Bucs are 2-4 but my impression is that they’re actually better than their record. Is this the case or are they a legit 2-4 team?
It’s still hard to say at this point. I’m well aware that this is not a playoff team, which would lean towards the 2-4 because they deserve it theory, but they have looked solid at times. They’re better than a 2-4 team but just barely at this point. Of the games they’ve lost, the average margin of defeat has been 5.5 points, so there is a lot of fight in this team and the talent is there but is just hasn’t been pulled together yet. This is a team that won’t be 2-4 in years to come, but right now it’s a fitting record.
2. Looking at the rankings, the Bucs’ big weakness appears to be the pass defense. What’s going wrong with that element of their game?
Well ever since that Week 2 shootout with the Giants, it’s been painfully apparent that this secondary needs work, but that’s really nothing new. Last season the talk at the draft was about Morris Claiborne so the Bucs could update their secondary, so this has been an issue dating back to last season. Aqib Talib gets a lot of heat for underperforming and he is to blame for the problem, but with him out the secondary is even weaker. Talib is supposed to be their elite corner and he consistently gets burned by top receivers, and beyond him there is really only minor talent. The Vikings can share the Bucs pain, as this Tampa secondary is only slightly better than the skeleton crew they were running with in 2011.
3. How is Josh Freeman doing this year? Seemed like he fell on hard times last season after being considered a hot young QB.
Bucs fans were really down on Freeman to start the year, but after two solid performances, he’s starting to win folks back. His problem is getting comfortable in the pocket. He tends to rush throws not because he’s afraid of getting hit, but because he feels he needs to take an opportunity when it’s there, even if it’s not. But in that same breath, he’ll take a horrible snap, escape collapsed protection and hit something called Tiquan Underwood with a beautiful pass. He’s still developing and is working with a brand new system, but as long as he keeps growing his confidence, he’s going to leave the 2011 hard times well behind him.
4. Greg Schiano is developing a bit of a bad reputation for some of the stuff he pulls (bull rushing during the victory formation, having his linemen yell out during a field goal try). What’s your feeling about these moves? Cause to me they seem kind of bush league.
Schiano’s a guy that’s polarizing people and that’s awesome. It’s been boring for Bucs fans coming out of the Rah-Rah Raheem Morris days of not having an identity and to have a guy who’s not trying to be everyone’s best friend is a nice change of pace. Being around the team, the perception of Schiano as this punk isn’t entirely true. He doesn’t run a loose ship at practice, but I’ve yet to see the whips come out. He’s trying new things and if there’s one thing people hate when it comes to traditional things it’s change. Is he being overly aggressive, maybe but this is football, not tennis and Schiano is trying to win games in unconventional ways. He’ll grow out of it and find out what works and what doesn’t, but he’s not the anti-christ, that I can confirm. He’s just a throwback to coaches who coached their teams and didn’t really care about what people outside his circle think of him.
5. I wanted the Vikes to make a run at Vincent Jackson in free agency but sadly they weren’t willing to throw that kind of money around. How has he looked for you guys?
I remember hearing a lot of my Vikings friends be high on VJax back when Minnesota was rumored to trade for him a few years back. So far he’s done exactly what I thought he’d do, provide a distraction for defenders who were preoccupied with Mike Williams last year and open up the passing game. Josh Freeman has a cannon but he needs to have open targets, he’s not a magician and likely never will be. What he needs is guys to spread coverage and Jackson has done that and has benefited himself from it just as I predicted. When defenders are all over Jackson, Mike Williams gets big yards and deep bombs. When the defense switches to worrying about Williams, Jackson gets open and the defense has to switch back. It’s not a system that always will work on it’s own but with the other weapons this offense has in Doug Martin and LeGarrette Blount, when this offense starts to gel and fire on all cylinders, it’s going to be explosive and that really has a ton to do with Jackson’s presence on the field.
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