By Andy Villamarzo
Hernando Sun sports staff writer
TAMPA- There were some disappointing performances throughout the NFL in Week 1 and some may label the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ showing against the New Orleans Saints as one of those lackluster contests. Now it’s up to Bruce Arians and crew to right the ship this week when they welcome the Carolina Panthers into town. The Panthers fell 34-30 to the Las Vegas Raiders and will be itching to bounce back against the Buccaneers. Plenty of blame to go around in Tampa Bay, so we picked five points to take a look at as we go through the takeaways from Sunday’s 34-23 loss in New Orleans.
1. Donovan Smith has to step up: Three years, $41.25 million dollars. That’s how much the Buccaneers extended Donovan Smith in the off-season to shore up the team’s left tackle position. Against the Saints on Sunday, Smith looked lost at times and straight-up whiffed on several pass pros. Now the heat is on Smith to step it up after a dismal performance versus New Orleans and for Tampa Bay to succeed, Tom Brady’s blindside must be taken care of.
2. Bucs can’t beat the Bucs: This was a line constantly harped on last season was the Bucs can’t beat the Bucs and that ugly reality started to reveal itself on Sunday once again. From turnovers to offside penalties to pass interference calls, Tampa Bay just could not help themselves in the department of beating themselves. Just before halftime, the Buccaneers faced a 4th and 2 situation, and coming off a timeout, one would think an offsides penalty would be the last of their concerns. Think again, as Vita Vea helped give the Saints a first down, which later they would kick a field goal to take a 17-7 lead into halftime.
3. Tom Brady has to get in a rhythm early on: Yes, Brady looked somewhat in rhythm on drive No. 1 but after that, he looked anything but. Getting guys like Mike Evans, OJ Howard, and Rob Gronkowski involved early could pay big dividends for the Buccaneers if they can figure it out on the offensive end. Brady’s favorite targets on the day ended up being the sure-handed Chris Godwin and speedy Scotty Miller.
4. Where is Mike Evans? Many asked afterward why was Mike Evans such a no show against New Orleans? Well, last season in New Orleans, Evans registered zero catches against Marshon Lattimore, and on Sunday he didn’t fare off too much better. Evans ended with one catch for two yards for the late touchdown. Other than that, Evans was a non-factor. We expect much more from Evans but the gameplan from the Saints was to take him away and go to everyone else in the pass game.
5. Can’t start off 0-2: This can’t be emphasized enough. Starting off 0-2 just can’t happen. Tampa Bay has opened up as 8-point favorites in the spread to beat the Panthers and many reasons are on their side. One, Arians is a veteran NFL coach and Matt Rhule is in his first coming from the college game. Two, Tampa Bay has the sure firepower to really get out in front and run away with this contest. Though many may point to this game as a possible toss-up, Tampa Bay should come away with this one to even their record at 1-1.
Andy Villamarzo can be reached at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @avillamarzo.