A secondary issue
Back at the beginning of Sir Alex Ferguson's building of his young side at Manchester United Match of the Day pundit and ex-Liverpool legend Alan Hansen famously said, "You'll never win anything with kids". Having watched the Buccaneers throw away a win on Sunday evening I was left thinking, "You'll never win anything with this secondary".
To watch a rookie QB, and a pretty average rookie QB at that, run for and throw for touchdowns, on the day where Tampa's greatest ever Defense were reunited on the hallowed turf of Raymond James, was nothing short of embarrassing.
On a day that saw Michael Bennett play like Simeon Rice in his pomp and Gerald McCoy doing a passable Warren Sapp impersonation Tampa Bay's secondary looked like a high school team's backups against Dan Marino and co. It really is quite embarrassing to watch everybody torch this defense week in, week out.
When it is Drew Brees or Eli Manning it is almost understandable as they are some of the best QBs to play the game in a generation. But when you watch Sunday's display against a QB who was being battered by a dominant D-Line manage to pass for nearly 400 yards I am left speechless. It became the case where if the D-Line didn't get sack Foles then he would pass for positive yardage.
No one runs on this defense, no one, but that seems to be coming at a massive price. Mark Barron looked a real find in the early stages of the season but has been constantly found wanting in the pass game. Once Aqib Talib had been rightfully cut loose and Eric Wright was suspended the corners that the Buccaneers had to choose from was painful.
Promising rookies, undrafted free-agents and EJ Biggers.
I, like many others I'm sure, became increasingly resigned to the fact that Foles and gang were going to march down the field and score the winning touchdown. But even I couldn't see how with seconds left you leave the middle of the field wide open for a pass to the one yard line.
This team has come so far, especially offensively, but the secondary are letting this team down and we won't win anything with this mob covering the field. It's not like Eric Wright's return is going to solve these problems as his play has been inconsistant in itself, but it would help. This is a major, MAJOR, part of the shopping list for this off season through the draft or free agency.
I think Tampa missed a trick by not trying to trade for a cornerback before the deadline when they knew the Talib to Pats trade was on the cards. They trusted too much in the unknown, or in this case the unknowns. Gaitor looks decent, Black could be a good player and even Johnson might become a NFL calibre corner but you can't expect them all to work as a unit in their infancy. Without Ronde Barber I dread to think what the average NFL experience of our secondary has been in the last few weeks.
The wheels are coming off this Bucs team and it doesn't get any easier in coming weeks. I am still determined to appreciate what has been achieved this season and look to a bright future but that doesn't mean that questions cannot be asked along the way. We get some help with Wright returning for week 17 but for any hopes of a post-season that might be too late.