Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Bucs-Saints: Bucs keep adding to list of castaway contributors

TAMPA — The real heroes of the Bucs' suddenly relevant season are the players who have been starring, not starting.

It's the cast of castaways that keeps getting longer. Doug Martin goes down. Jacquizz Rodgers carries the load at running back. Rodgers goes down. Hello, rookies Peyton Barber and Antone Smith. Smith was done after three games with a knee injury but contributed 124 yards on 16 touches.

Vincent Jackson is out. Cecil Shorts is up. Shorts is down, time for your closeup, Freddie Martino.

It's players such as DE DaVonte Lambert, C Ben Gottschalk and DBs Javien Elliott and Keith Tandy, a true pro who had the game-sealing interception last week at San Diego.

The NFL is a game of attrition won by teams that acquire and develop talent and that can survive adversity. It's a credit not just to Dirk Koetter's coaching but to the personnel side of the building, led by GM Jason Licht.

"I think we've done a good job of continuing to develop players, and that's how we believe you have to do it in this league because injuries are going to be there, year-in and year-out," Koetter said. "You just don't know when and where they're going to come, so you better develop your guys. And even guys that are here for a short time in training camp or in (organized team activities).

"Look how many guys we've brought back because of the time invested in them and what we think about them. That's all in our memory bank and then Jason of course has final control over that. …

"The players do deserve the majority of the credit," Koetter said, "but I think the coaches have done a really good job in that area as well."

TURNING IT AROUND BY CREATING TURNOVERS: It's remarkable what defensive coordinator Mike Smith and his staff have done the past four games. Through improved communication or more simple schemes, the Bucs are playing faster and smarter. Their 22 takeaways are tied for the fourth most in the NFL. They rank fifth in the NFL with 71 points off takeaways.

"From the time they got here in late January, those guys didn't come up for air very often, they were locked in there putting the packages together," Koetter said of his defensive coaching staff. "And when things weren't going well for us earlier in the year, those guys had to go in that room again and figure out how we were going to dig ourselves out. We say all the time, no one's coming to save us, we've got to save ourselves."

SAINTS HOLD THE KEY: In what is a weird quirk of the schedule, the Bucs play the Saints twice in the next three weeks, sandwiched around a Dec. 18 Sunday night game at Dallas. At 7-5 and in a virtual tie with the Falcons, the Bucs most likely need to sweep the series from New Orleans to have any chance to win the division. Playing the same team twice in 14 days happens just one other time in the entire NFL this year. The Broncos and Chargers played in Weeks 6 and 8.

"I don't know (how to approach it) and I'm not going to worry about it until the third week," Koetter said. "We play the Saints this week in a game that's real important for both sides, so I'm not a guy that worries about what's going to happen in three weeks. That's just not the way I look at it. Ask the question again the week of Christmas and I'll give you a better answer."

Bucs-Saints: Bucs keep adding to list of castaway contributors 12/10/16 [Last modified: Saturday, December 10, 2016 9:26pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Koetter: QB Jameis Winston will start Sunday vs. Bills


    After five days of uncertainty, Jameis Winston will be starting at quarterback on Sunday as the Bucs play at Buffalo, coach Dirk Koetter announced Friday afternoon.

    Bucs QB Jameis Winston, shown against the Patriots two weeks ago, will start Sunday at Buffalo after being sidelined with a shoulder injury last week. Dirk Koetter announced that he was starting after watching him throw at practice Friday.
  2. Florida football has become something to be endured, not enjoyed


    The Jim McElwain era at Florida is something to be endured, not enjoyed.

    Florida Gators defensive lineman Khairi Clark (54) leaves the field after the Florida Gators game against Texas A&M, at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, in Gainesville, Fla. The Florida Gators lost to the Texas A&M Aggies 17-16 MONICA HERNDON   |   Times
  3. Cannon Fodder podcast: Most important stat in Bucs-Bills game


    Greg Auman talks about the uncertainty at quarterback for the Bucs as they go to Buffalo in his latest Cannon Fodder podcast.

    Interceptions, such as this one by Brent Grimes against Arizona, will be the most important stat in Sunday's game.
  4. Dirk Koetter sounds Bucs alarm: 'They're the players that we have'


    The other day, Bucs defensive coordinator Mike Smith was asked about the lack of production and pressure from the defensive line, especially off the edge.

    Then it happened.

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback Vernon Hargreaves (28) takes the field for the start of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers game against the New England Patriots on October 5, 2017 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla.
  5. Superiority complex: USF continues to battle schedule, expectations


    Does USF deserve its No. 16 national ranking? Coach Charlie Strong says there's no doubt. He expects that his Bulls can match up with any Division I-A program. (Octavio Jones, Times)