Thursday, August 2, 2007
Whenever you think of special teams and the Bucs, you think about the one thing that has never happened in Tampa history: a kickoff return. I find it hard to believe that after 30 years, we have still not returned one kick in a regular season game. Could this be the year? No, probably not, but we can wish can't we? We will break down the special teams position by position, and give our expectations.
The Bucs will still have leading return man from last year Michael Pittman. We don't think Pittman is a very good return man, he is a straight runner, and isn't the best at making cuts. If Chad Owens makes the team, look for him to take over return duties. Chad can be the spark plug this team needs on special teams.
Prediction: If Owens makes the team, he will return a kickoff for a touchdown, and become a Tampa Bay Legend.
The Bucs will most likely use Mark Jones, Chad Owens, or Ike Hilliard. We would like to see Jones or Owens, although Owens may not make the team. Jones has proven to be effective in the return game, and would be welcomed back to that position this year.
Prediction: If Owens makes the team, him and Jones will most likely share duties, with the hot hand taking the majority of the returns.
Matt Bryant was 17-22 last year, but perfect from inside of 40 yards. He was also perfect outside of 60 yards, as he made his only attempt: a 62-yard game winner, in the most memorable moment of the season. Look for Matt to be his ordinary self, not the best kicker in the league, but also not the worst. He can be counted on for those clutch kicks, which is a highly underrated quality.
Prediction: Bryant goes 21-26, with 1 miss inside of 30 yards. He will however kick 2 game winning field goals.....thats right, were gonna win at least 2 games.
Josh Bidwell may be the most underrated player on this Buccaneers squad, as he is so consistent. Bidwell is a great athlete for a punter, and it shows through his continued good health. Last year he averaged a solid 43.5 yds/punt. He only recorded 7 touchbacks last year to go along with 20 inside the red zone.
Prediction: Mr. Consistency keeps it up, by averaging 44 yards, and continuing to be a top punter in the league.
After sitting through the first half of the season, you begin to feel that pre-gag reflex around the 7th inning of games. The Devil Rays having a 1 run lead late in a game was like Michael Jackson in a daycare, only bad things were to come. All of a sudden, the Rays shuffle around the pen and make a couple moves, and that gag reflex has gone away.......for the moment at least. Last night the Rays bullpen combined for 6 innings of 2-hit shutout ball. Its amazing how just a couple changes in the clubhouse can change the overall confidence of a club. 3 of the 4 relief pitchers were pitchers that have been here since opening day, the difference between then and now was confidence. You can see it when your watching the game, not only in the pitchers but also in the hitters.
CC was at it again going 3-4 with a homer, 2 RBI's, and a stolen base. He is doing all of this with a sore wrist, which he will luckily be able to rest today. Jonny Gomes hit another homer and surprise, surprise: no one was on base. Of Jonny's 12 homers, all but 3 have been solo shots. He is hitting a awful .153 with runners in scoring position. Hopefully he can start knocking in some runs, but only time will tell.
Jason Hammel, who started the game yesterday, pitched 3 innings. He gave up 2 runs, but then left the game with a injury. The club says it will be looked into further today, but they expect nothing serious.
Wednesday, August 1, 2007
It is hard to place expectations on this season for the Bucs. With all of the changes in the offseason, we all hope for the best, but deep down you still have that sinking feeling its gonna be even worse than before. Jon Gruden is on the hot seat, and how he handles himself could be the deciding factor in the rest of the season. He is pretty much in a position where he needs to make the playoffs to keep his job, which could turn out to be great for the team, but it could also lead him to taking bigger risk's earlier in the season, that could end it before it really began.
Last I checked, isn't having an awful season supposed to set you up with a cupcake schedule the following year? I'm not saying our schedule is too brutal, but 3 of our first 5 games are 2 away games at Seattle and Indianapolis and a home game against New Orleans. So we are already looking at a 2-3 start at best, then look to the fact that the other 2 games are against St. Louis and Carolina, whom are both respectable teams. Who knows maybe we can start 5-0, we can dream right? I just don't see us getting off to a good start, and if we start the season 1-4, you will see Gruden's tension showing, when we start going for it on 4th downs in the 3rd quarter.
One strong attribute this team does have coming into the season is veteran leaders on both sides of the ball. On offense we have Jeff Garcia, who while new to this team bring a great on-field attitude that can only help this team, along with him is Joey Galloway, who is the epitome of a team player. On defense all I have to do is mention Derrick Brooks, along with Ronde and BK. They should be great at helping out the youngsters, such as Gaines Adams(who will have a lot of weight on his shoulders this year.)
All in all there is good and bad going into the season, but looking at our schedule there shouldn't be any games below 32 degrees, so I'll mark that a positive and look forward to opening day.
Tomorrow: Special Teams Breakdown
There are always jokes about losing teams, and how even a batboy could do a better job than what the players are doing. Sometimes those jokes turn out to be true. Last night, the Rays were shutout 2-0, due in most part to a outstanding performance form ex-Devil Ray batboy Jesse Litsch. Litsch went for 6 2/3 innings, while keeping the Rays bats quiet. Meanwhile on the Rays side of the mound, E-Jax threw one of his best games of the year going 6 innings while only giving up 1 run, and even more impressive, only 1 walk. Before the trade deadline the Rays bats could make excuses and blame all of the losses on pitching, but last night it all fell squarely on the shoulders of the Rays.
Another stat line that stands out on the page is Casey Fossum pitching a inning without giving up a run....is this the Casey Fossum of old? Yes, it is!!!! But don't get too excited, because that guy sucked too. Now that the deadline has passed, and the Rays could clearly get nothing in Return for Fossum, it is officially time to DFA his ass, and bring up Switzer. Fossum offers up nothing. I would say to have him pitch batting practice before the game, but it wouldn't prepare the hitters for major league pitching. Sorry Casey, nothing personal, you just aren't good.... at all.
Tuesday, July 31, 2007
Last night's game was one of the most amazing games that I have watched in the past 10 years. The game had its ups and downs, and ended with one of the most exciting moments in Rays history. Carl Crawford came up in the 11th just hoping for a walk, he wasn't even supposed to be playing, but was needed to pinch run earlier in the game. He took a swing and immediately grasped his wrist in pain, it was one of those moments where it was kind of painful to watch as a fan, because you could tell how much it was hurting him. Then all of a sudden, out of nowhere, Carl hits one to deep left-center field. Nobody could believe it.....especially Carl.
Carl homerun was incredible, but what may be even more amazing is the fact that our bullpen went 4.1 innings without giving up a earned run. In that process, Grant Balfour made Andrew Friedman look like a genius. There is something about Balfour's mound presence that just makes you excited as a fan while watching him. Even the Dohmannator was able to escape a jam in the 11th. Al Reyes did his normal thing, although his fastball still seems like it isn't moving as much as it was at the beginning of the season, but his control is still impeccable.
Sonny gave up 2 runs in the top of the first, and you sort of get that feeling in your stomach that it was going to be a long game. He ended up turning it around and pitching a good game, my favorite moment of his was picking a double play throw out of the dirt at first. Josh Wilson may end up being the unsung hero of the game, as if it were for his 2-out bottom of the ninth game-tying RBI single, CC wouldn't have gotten a chance to hit that homer. Even though we won, it will not stop me from complaining......the home plate umpire last night was downright awful to the Rays. We couldn't get a call going our way the whole game, he was very inconsistent, and that bugged the hell out of me.