Can the Buccaneers season be salvaged?

By Ken Filler
Oct. 28, 2017

If there was ever a must win game for the Bucs, it is this week against the Carolina Panthers as the Bucs will open up division play at home on Sunday.

The Bucs defense has been atrocious the last two weeks in losing 38-33, in Arizona two weeks ago, and in Buffalo last week 30-27. A lack of tackling, gap integrity, pressure on the QB, you name it the Bucs defense has displayed it on the football field for all to see. While the offense continues to get better with each game and involve more playmakers, the defense can’t seem to get anything right. We are now at the point where the season is beginning to crumble and fall apart if the defense can’t turn it around it quickly.

The way that the defense ended playing so well last season, and the way they played against the Bears in the season opener gave us hope that this was the year the defense would take that next step to elite level. Instead, we have seen a defense take two steps back and couldn’t stop a third down conversion if their life depended on it.

Injuries have certainly played a part. Kwon Alexander missed five games with a hamstring injury and Lavonte David missed some a game or two as well. Brent Grimes has played in only five games and will miss this weeks game against the Panthers. Noah Spence is out for the season. Robert McClain is in concussion protocol and will not play this week.

Most disappointing player on defense has been Vernon Hargraves, although he played much better against Buffalo switching to the inside cover position. Kendall Beckwith has been the biggest surprise on defense. Beckwith has had to step in for Alexander and David when those players were out with injuries and did a real nice job.

I can imagine Cam Newton and the Panthers are licking their chops as they can’t wait to get on the field and play against this defense. The Panthers will bring a few offensive playmakers to town on Sunday besides the Pro Bowl QB Cam Newton. Wide receivers Kelvin Benjamin and Devin Funchess are the two favorite targets of Newton, as well as the versatile rookie Christian McCaffrey. The Panthers are using McCaffrey out of the bacfield, and also as a receiver in the slot and as a wide out. McCaffrey is also the main punt returner for the Panthers.

The Panthers have been very inconsistent on offense. They have scored 35 against the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots on the road, and yet scored only 3 points against the Chicago Bears in Chicago last weekend. The run game with Jonathan Stewart has struggled as he is averaging 3.0 yards per carry. Cam Newton is completing 64% of his passes, but has thrown 10 interceptions. So you really don’t know which offense will show up for the Panthers.

This is a game should the Bucs defense decide to show up and make plays could go a long way to turning this season around. A win and the Bucs will be 3-4 and 1-0 in the division. A loss, and the Bucs would fall to 2-5 and you can start talking about who the Bucs should take in the 2018 draft.

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