Tuesday, December 12, 2017
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

What's true/false about the Tampa Bay Buccaneers?

Bucs safety Ahmad Black getting popped for a little marijuana is no big deal — true or false?

The Bucs won't miss all-world guard Carl Nicks. They definitely have issues stopping the pass. We're making way too much of rookie running back Doug Martin.

All these things — true or false? As the Bucs get ready for Sunday's game against the Chargers, let's decide.

Bucs safety Ahmad Black getting charged with a misdemeanor for pot is no big deal.

False. If Black played for the Broncos or Seahawks, maybe having a doobie in the car would be a-okay given that Colorado and Washington voted Tuesday to legalize recreational use of marijuana. But last I checked, it's still against the law here. (By the way, commissioner Roger Goodell says pot smoking is not on his cool list, either.)

Oh come on, you say. It was less than 20 grams. It's only pot. He isn't the only NFL player who uses it. What's the big deal? Don't be such a prude.

Here's the point: Black was driving around at 2 in the morning on a weeknight. His car was weaving, police said. And, they said, he had an illegal substance in his car.

First, nothing good happens when you're out at 2 in the morning. And if you're going to be driving around at that hour, at least have the good sense to put two thumbs on the wheel and drive inside the lane you're supposed to be in, especially if you have pot on board. Not to condone this stuff, but geez, if you're going to do that sort of thing, stay home!

Black should get a ticket for stupidity. It's the lack of judgment that makes this a problem.

We're making too big of a deal out of Bucs running back Doug Martin.

False. Martin has been all over ESPN the past couple of days. He was on the Mike & Mike radio show. He was featured on Sports Illustrated's website and in SI writer Peter King's popular "Monday Morning QB" column. Martin has been a hot topic on the NFL Network. He is the talk of the NFL.

Too much? Overexposed? Premature? Nope.

Look, I get it. This kid has played only eight games in the NFL. The world is full of Joe Schmoes who had a good half-season. We remember Cadillac Williams started his career with three consecutive 100-yard games and then had only six 100-yard games the rest of his injury-plagued, seven-year career. No one is electing Martin to the Hall of Fame yet.

But Martin is coming off one of the 10 best rushing games in NFL history. His 486 yards from scrimmage in the past two games are the most in two games since legend Walter Payton had 525 in 1977. This is historic stuff, people.

Plus, it's how Martin is doing it. He's getting better every game, stronger every game. He's doing this against decent defenses. He's drawing praise from football people who know what they're talking about.

Is it too soon and too much to suggest he's the next Emmitt Smith? Yeah, sure. Is it too soon and too much to suggest he's a special player? Absolutely not.

You should be concerned about the Bucs' pass defense.

True. Really, really true. The Bucs are last in the NFL against the pass, allowing an average of 321 yards per game. They've allowed at least 300 yards passing in five of their eight games, including Giant Eli Manning's 510-yard game, the 13th 500-yard game in NFL history.

Sunday, the Raiders' Carson Palmer threw for 414 yards. Everyone keeps telling me how good Palmer is, like he's just a notch below Joe Namath or Dan Fouts. Seriously? If you're picking quarterbacks in the NFL right now, Palmer might not make the top 20.

What's really troubling for the Bucs is they still might lose their best remaining cover guy (cornerback Eric Wright) to a league drug suspension. That means they might have to play a month without the two corners who started the season, the other being Aqib Talib, who was shipped off to New England.

A lack of a pass rush has hurt, too. Tampa Bay's 13 sacks are tied for 26th in the 32-team league. No pressure plus second-string corners plus a slew of elite quarterbacks left on the schedule add up to uh-oh.

The Bucs won't miss Carl Nicks.

False. In its first game without its All-Pro guard, out for the season with a toe injury, the Bucs offensive line went out and opened up enough holes for Martin to have one of the most prolific rushing days in the history of the league. And the line allowed only one sack.

So far so good? More like so far, so lucky. Though credit must be given to subs including Ted Larsen and Jeremy Zuttah, there's a reason those guys are normally backups.

To think that you can plug in just anyone for an All-Pro such as Nicks, as well as Pro Bowl guard Davin Joseph (lost in the preseason with a knee injury), is crazy talk. This isn't to suggest the Bucs will fall apart or offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan can't come up with some schemes to create running room and protect the quarterback.

But that "next-man-up'' philosophy is better in theory than reality. The bottom line is Nicks is just so good. Joseph, too. And that's the truth.

Tom Jones can be heard from 6 to 9 a.m. weekdays on WDAE-AM 620.

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