Twice a year I get a chance to catch up with Nick Houllis, Tampa Bay Bucs' Blogger Extroadinaire. I always enjoy catching up with him because he knows his stuff, and he always gives me some insight I wasn't aware of when analyzing this Saints-Bucs matchup. This time was no different. Here's ten questions I asked him leading up to Sunday's game. Make sure you check out his blog, BucStop, and follow him on twitter.
1. What is going on with the Bucs man? Is Josh Freeman tearing this team apart at the seams?
At this stage in the game, we’re just not sure! In the last few days its been a roller coaster ride as weve discovered a hornets nest at One Buc. And without a doubt, people in the know are hearing things...and that makes me think...well, problems. What does a person do that all of a sudden in their life they start always showing up late? He was late for his own CAMP this summer that parents threw down big bucks for, showed up 30 min after the camp was over! Then missed a radio show too, now he missed the team photo? THE TEAM PHOTO will not have Josh Freeman in it? So the team got together and had a players only meeting, and Im pretty sure it was a wake up call for Josh... lets hope so (from my point of view of course, not yours :)
2. Fans in Tampa have turned on Freeman by now, right? Has consensus been reached that he's not getting better? He was so good in year two, what happened? Lack of maturity or what?
This problem just surfaced this offseason. before that, Josh was always at One Buc..even getting players together during the strike to form their own mini camp. Tampa Bay fans have always had a fair weather nature to them, there is no denying that. A great deal have turned on Josh, but will turn right back if he goes 18 of 30 for 290 yards and 3 TDs. Also..there is no one else. The Mike Glennon camp (yes, there actually is one) is not that strong, because we know what kind of season we will have if we turn the game over to a rookie QB, especially one of Glennons pedigree, or lack thereof.
3. The players/coaches deny Freeman's captaincy was revoked during a players only meeting. But lots is leaking on this front. How big of a problem is this really in your opinion?
It now seems after Freeman missed the Team photo, the vote was taken and he lost the Captaincy. There was no foul play on coach Schiano’s behalf. The team meeting was about Josh and his ability to lead. Players want to know...is he going to tank this year? Because they have an investment in the season, they want to win. Right now though, were hearing a lot of PC PR from One Buc, and most of it is just plain BS. Players are saying the meeting was over the game plan. Really? We’re probably watching the last year of the Josh Freeman years in Tampa Bay, unless the Glazers side with Freeman and dump Schiano, which is unlikely unless something further happens negatively toward the coaches side.
4. I feel like after how last year ended, and the state the Bucs are in after that loss, there could be a major implosion this Sunday if they get off to a bad start and are down a couple scores. Do you think they are ripe for a blowout loss if things don't go their way early?
Yes...I think a blow out loss is very possible at this point. And when you consider three of the last four Bucs at home vs Saints games have been blow out losses, that greatens the possibility. But this Tampa Bay team has been through a lot. They are a tight knit group, very close, and if they worked things out during the week, the Saints could find themselves with a very rejuvenated Bucs team, and a lopsided score going the other way like in 2007.
5. Bucs-Saints is always a battle with exciting finishes, especially in Tampa... but you're on the heels of a 41-0 loss to the Saints. You were held scoreless by the worst defense in NFL history. Is there added meaning and hatred associated w/ Saints because of that?
We lost to our own team? Oh wait...we were just the worst PASS defense last year. No...forgetting last year’s losses is written in Bucs fans DNA. It goes back to decades of losing as a self defense feature that we’ve adapted to well! Most Bucs fans could not rememember what happened in the games last year..although I don't know how anyone could forget that home game, going up 21-7 only to fall down to 21-35 before coming two out of bounds plays away from tying the game at 35. It makes my blood boil, I’ll tell you that!
6. There are some positives in Tampa. The defense is rebuilt and on the upswing. Doug Martin is a really pleasant surprise. Vincent Jackson ripped us a new one last year. What parts of Tampa's game can give the Saints fits on Sunday?
Vincent Jackson had a monster game week one, and that's with Josh on the Down turn. If Josh gets his head on straight, both Jackson and Mike Williams will be in for a game. Doug Martin will get better running lanes now that our starting full back Lorig is back. The Bucs defense, in spite of the major penalties that killed them, fared well in week one. They allowed only 46 rushing yards to running backs, and sacked the QB, a mobile QB, one far more mobile than Drew Brees, five times. Its the first time the Bucs may have a heavy pass rush since 2005. The secondary, last years major crumbling point, is vastly improved. But there is still a rookie there, and he is playing opposite Darrelle Revis, who is as advertised by the way.
7. Off topic, how big of a risk is there that the Bucs won't be in Tampa in 5 to 10 years? I have read about lack of attendance in the past. Is that a real concern or are you totally confident they aren't going anywhere? Would hate to lose the history of this rivalry.
There is ZERO percent chance the Bucs will leave Tampa Bay. Consider two things...
1) In the mid 90s the NFL went through a relocation spurt. the Cleveland Browns relocated. THE CLEVELAND BROWNS! The LA RAMS. Yet Tampa Bay stayed/survived.
2) and actually, the reason for 1....even in the worst days in Tampa Bay...we put 30,000 in the stands. You can go back to the last days for the Baltimore Colts or the St. Louis Cardinals, and they had 8,000 fans, or 12k on a so so day.
The Bucs always have 30-35,000 fans on the worst of days, and now this weeks game is not going to be a black out. Two teams may relocate to Los Angeles, but Tampa Bay will not be one of them. The Bay area is a strong football presence in the NFL, and its here to stay.
8. Gerald McCoy is the best player on the team. No doubt about that, right? Beyond that, I remember being pissed the Saints passed on Mason Foster in the 3rd round of the 2011 draft (I would have taken him in the 2nd!). Was I right in my talent evaluation there? I saw he had a massive game last week.
Despite his bone headed play that he will learn from, Lavonte David is probably tied for the best player on the team from last year with McCoy. But this year, Revis is probably going to get that honor. Still, Mason Foster had a nice strip and four of the five sacks the Bucs had against Jets QBs were from the linebacker position.
9. Is Revis still good? How worried should the Saints be about throwing his way?
Not at all..I would suggest you throw at him ten times to test that bum knee!! LOL ....however, the Saints probably saw film of last week when Revis broke on the ball twice to swat down passes intended for WRs. Modern Medicine is amazing, and Revis is as healthy as AP was last year. Revis will take away half the field from Drew Brees...the other half however, is up for grabs as we have a rookie and an undrafted free agent.
10. Score prediction?
Depends on what happened in that lockeroom this week. Freeman has major issues unresolved? Saints 31 Bucs 10
We're over blowing everything.... Winner 28 Loser 24 could go either way.
Bucs overcame problems and bonded singing Kumbaya.... Bucs 27 Saints 20
Seriously comparing Geno Smiths mobility to Drew Brees having a hope for more then 5 sacks is really looking through pink glasses (I am pretty sure that is not an English expression but you can see what I mean right? Genos pocket awareness does not exist. Yes he can run. But if you do not know when or where to run you get sacked. Brees his footwork is the best as a former tennis player. I doubt if any other QB can match that!
@MarijnPessers we call it "rose colored glasses" actually. And yeah, I agree. Mobile quarterbacks are more sackable than Brees/Brady/Peyton Manning and Matt Ryan imo. Yes they don't have as good improvisation and escapability, but they are ALWAYS out with the ball inside 4 seconds. The mobile quarterbacks are almost never. I think it's flawed reasoning to assume a QB that isn't as fast is easier to sack. Brees is one of the hardest QBs in the league to sack because his footwork in the pocket is superior to any quarterback in NFL history, and he gets the ball out faster than anyone.