Fennelly: Bucs-Redskins gradebook

Published Sept. 1, 2016

The weather reminded us of Biblical times. Only in Biblical times, the Lord said unto Noah that they were canceling the fourth preseason game, and to gather two of every animal and a fifth receiver. • Why was Thursday's game turned Wednesday's game ever played? It should have been canceled. Certainly all the fans who stayed away were of that mind. There was no reason for this water spectacle. We wouldn't have cared if Michael Phelps was throwing to Katie Ledecky. • It's already a crime that fans are asked to pay regular-season prices for these practice games. It's worse that Tropical Storm Hermine was on the loose and the Bucs and NFL didn't care. Hey, you lose those ticket sales. • Like Bucs coach Dirk Koetter and his staff, after three preseason games and four live scrimmages, didn't have enough to decide on the three or four job openings. I hope they all get runny noses. • On to the regular season. Which reminds us:

No Romo, No Bridgewater

Grade: B

The rookie isn't a rookie anymore. Jameis Winston is winging his way toward his sophomore season. He is leaner and reportedly wiser. And he is upright. Good sign. Same goes for most of his teammates. No major injuries, at least in the preseason.

We all remember the nightmare that was Winston's NFL debut, that Pick Six on his first pass. He learned from there and now it's about the next step. He has shown signs this preseason of being better at throwing the deep ball. He was lousy at it last season. It was a feel thing.

He also needs to learn to protect that body of his. He was hit enough as it was last season. Everything goes down the drain if Winston does, yes, even with Mike Glennon. When did he become super sub? Looks like trade bait to me.

We've Seen This Before

Grade: C

Is the Bucs offensive line (Jameis sacked just once in the preseason) this good? Can the pass rush (13 sacks across the first three preseason games) be this menacing?

Bucs history tells us yes, no and maybe. The Bucs got more than they were expecting from the O-line last season, enough for Winston to throw for more than 4,000 yards and for Doug Martin and Charles Sims to combine for more than 1,900 rushing yards.

Now what?

Same goes for the pass rush. That's just history talking, the history that says the Bucs haven't had a 10-sack guy since Simeon Rice left this world (actually, he became a movie director). Thirteen sacks in the first three preseason games is nothing sneeze at, unless you were in the rain.

Now what?

The Greatest, Wettest Fans EVER

Grade: A-plus

This might have been the smallest number of humanoids ever to attend a Bucs game. At least it looked like it. 5,000? 10,000? But they hung in there.

They could have stayed at home. They could have remained dry. Their spirits could have sunk when the end zone pirate ship's mail room started flooding and they learned the Carpathia was still two hours away.

One word: NyQuil.

They stayed. They stayed proud. They fought through "Why are we here?" and "Think it'll let up?" and "My shoes feel squishy." The Glazers should have gone into the stands and personally thanked each of these fans and promised them a free ticket to a real game on a real day.

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It's All About The Start, The Real One

Grade: B-minus

The Bucs broke fast in just one of their four preseason games, and that was against a Cleveland team that might be in the running for both worst offense and defense in the league.

Now it's about trips to Atlanta and Arizona. An 0-2 start and these Bucs are poised for a rough 2016. It could suck the air right out of Koetter's first season in charge. This team will have to have better first quarters. Last season's starts were pretty dreadful — 23rd in scoring offense, 24th in scoring defense.

Whatever Happened toJust Writing a Letter?

Grades: M, B, B-minus


That first grade of M was just a test.

In the event of an actual grade, cover your head and turn to the wall.

First-round pick Vernon Hargreaves III started slowly in the preseason, dropping what looked like a sure interception in Philadelphia. But he has two interceptions since then, and teams were beginning to feast on Brent Grimes. Hargreaves looks someone with a solid future. Give him that B.

Give second-rounder Noah Spence some props for his preseason, but now it's about turning it into real results in game. B-minus for now.

And an I for incomplete for: kicker Roberto Aguayo. He alternated between terrifying Bucs fans and making them cheer. We're not sure yet.

Koetter's Way Is On Its Way

Grade: C

What kind of grade can you give someone who has yet to coach an NFL game as a head coach? Loved when Koetter tore into his special teams at halftime in Philadelphia. He can be a loose cannon. Loved when he went hurry-up all first half last week against Cleveland.

He might be just what the Bucs need about now: dash and daring. The new man, who looks a lot like the old offensive coordinator, does not lack confidence or attitude. Don't irk Dirk.

This team seems improved, at least on paper. The paper was mighty soggy by the end of Wednesday's game. Put these Bucs in tumble dry. The season awaits.