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Will the Bucs’ Mike Evans match up against Aqib Talib?

Sunday’s anticipated matchup between the old (Aqib Talib) and the new (Mike Evans) might not happen, says Tampa Bay Bucs coach Dirk Koetter.

The Denver Broncos may prefer Chris Harris to cover Evans.

“We’ve talked about the matchup with Talib,” Koetter said. “But Harris is a really good corner too. They’ve both been to the Pro Bowl the last couple of years, and I’m not sure if Denver’s going to match [Evans with Talib]. Usually, Denver just plays sides, so if they match, then I guess that’s a show of respect that they think Mike’s good enough to match, but for all we know, Denver may look at it as Harris is better than Talib, I don’t know how they look at it.”

“I think they think that they have three starting-level corners, (Bradley) Roby when they go into their subgroup as well. Now as far as Mike’s concerned, he’s going to play against really good corners every single week. When you’re the No.1 receiver, that’s what you get. As we said earlier in the week, we couldn’t be happier with how Mike’s competed, how Mike’s held up from a conditioning standpoint, pushed through some minor injury things and caught the ball in traffic. I think Mike has the mindset he’s going out there to compete and I’m sure the Denver guys do as well.”

A year ago, corners were able to prod Evans into emotional displays that led to penalties. Koetter said he isn’t worried anymore.

“Mike has really made it a point of emphasis,” Koetter said. “He’s had a couple chances, whether you call it lose his cool or frustration, I think Mike’s really turned a corner. I’m not going to say it’s never going to happen again because, shoot, all of us have our meltdowns from time to time. But I think Mike’s turned a corner.”

Koetter said the Broncos kept to a simple defense that challenged the offense to beat them.

“There’s other teams that are harder to figure out, but Denver really doesn’t have to be that hard to figure out,” Koetter said. “They want to say, ‘We’ve got good rushers, let’s see you block us.’ The one thing that’s a little unique is when they go in that dime (package, they play (number) 43, (safety T.J.) Ward, kind of like a linebacker and he’s really is their No. 1 blitzer — and he’s good at it, he’s slippery. But when they get a lead on you — it’s kind of like in the old days when I was in Jacksonville and when Peyton Manning was the quarterback of the Colts. They get the lead and they had those two great ends and they just say, ‘Let’s see if you can block us.’ ”

Game time Sunday is 4:05 p.m.

Tampa Bay’s defense is off to a slow start after three games

No one in the National Football League has given up more points in three games than the Tampa Bay Bucs.

And guess what? Here come the Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos.

The Bucs are the only team that has given up more than 100 points (101) through three games. The Bucs are giving up 370 yards a game, 19th in the league.

“I think we’re dead average, to be quite frank,” said defensive coordinator Mike Smith. “We’re not rushing the quarterback near at the level that we need to. It doesn’t matter who’s out there, it doesn’t matter how many guys are not there, we’ve got to go out and put pressure on the quarterback. And it’s not going to be just one guy, it’s going to be an effort by the entire line and it’s going to be what the secondary is doing as well. If we’re in phase and with them in the coverage, then we’re going to have an opportunity for the quarterback to hold the ball a little bit longer. Last week, with the way that they presented their formations, they had overhang tight ends, they were going to block, there was a lot of seven-man protections and when you’re rushing four and they’re protecting with seven, it’s going to be tough to get there because they’re going to be doubling three and one guy’s got a one-on-one.”

There had been some optimism early about the Bucs, who added a free agent and a draft pick to both the line and the secondary. But the Bucs are giving up too many big plays along the way.

“We’re making strides, but we’re making big time mistakes and that includes me. I’ve got to do a better job,” Smith said. “I would love to have a couple plays back through these first three games, I’d love to see some technique played differently, but that’s the process that we go through. And it is a process and ultimately, we’re going to be judged – in this league you get judged week-to-week, there’s no doubt about it. You’re up and down, week-to-week.”

So far, the Bucs gave up 40 to Arizona, which hasn’t beaten anyone else. They gave up 37 to the Rams, who scored only nine points in their first two games.

“I think we’re a lot closer than we are away from it, I can assure you that,” Smith said. “And really there’s one guy to me that’s got to do a better job and that’s Mike Smith. He’s the guy that’s got to make sure that these guys understand what we’re trying to get accomplished, what we’re trying to get done. It’s never as bad – one thing I’ve found in this league is when you have a loss, it’s never as bad and when you have a win, it’s never as good. When you shut somebody out, you think it’s great and then you watch the tape and you’re going, ‘Holy cow, we missed fit, four things, if they would’ve seen this.’ So it’s a group effort, everybody’s contributed to it. But I don’t want to start talking about where we’re having problems. We’re having problems with Coach Mike Smith and he’s the guy that’s responsible for it.”

Nose tackle Gerald McCoy said the slow start is understandable.

“Guys just really need to trust in each other,” McCoy said. “It’s a new defense, you’re trying to get it down yourself and you’re trying to learn the ins and outs of what you can and can’t do, what you can and can’t get away with. If you miss doing that, you’re putting your teammate at risk and you’re hurting yourself by doing that. I think guys just got antsy last week, trying to make a play instead of doing the things it takes to make a play, which is just do your job.”

So far, Denver is 3-0, but their offense is tied for 21st in the league.

Game time is 4:05 p.m. at Raymond James.

Former Buc Aqib Talib returns to Tampa Bay with Broncos

When the Tampa Bay Bucs take the field against the World Champion Denver Broncos Sunday, a familiar face will be waiting.

Aqib Talib is coming back to town.

Talib, who was a troubled player when he was with the Bucs, is a starting corner for Denver and one of the mainstays of their secondary. He was released by the Bucs, rediscovered himself in New England, and has played well in Denver.

“At the line of scrimmage, he’s so physical,” Bucs receiver Mike Evans said. “He’s a lot like (Arizona cornerback) Patrick Peterson at the line, both really physical. I don’t think he runs as good as ‘Pat P,’ but he’s just as physical at the line of scrimmage. I’m going to try and be the most physical receiver in the league, and I’ve got to prove it by going out and dominating physical cornerbacks.”

Talib is looking forward to his return.

“This will be my first time back in Tampa since selling my house — since really leaving,” Talib said. “I got traded — of course I came back the year that I got traded, I was back and forth. But this will definitely be my first time back in Tampa since leaving.

“The biggest thing that’s changed is that I’m 30 years old now. I’m a lot older, a lot more mature, a lot more professional, I would say. It’s simply football with me, and now I’m married. So I’d say that’s the biggest thing. The biggest difference is I’m a lot older.”

The Bucs will surely test Talib. After all, quarterback Jameis Winston is throwing the ball more than 47 times per game.

“To start off, in the last two games we’ve thrown too much,” said Bucs coach Dirk Koetter. “We’ve got to quit getting behind by two scores, and we need to run the ball better and when I say run it better — I’ve told you guys this many times, we’ve got to run it more. The more you run it, the better you get with repeat runs. Now as far as Jameis handling volume, heck, I’m sure he’d throw every time if he could. But for our team to be successful, we can’t be throwing in the 50s, and we can’t be running in the 20s.”

Koetter wasn’t here when Talib was. Still, he is aware of Talib’s skills.

“He’s long, he’s fast, he’s tough, and he’s got great ball skills. Denver is a team that is blessed with a plethora of good cover corners; they are loaded,” Koetter said. “They’re one of the best coverage teams — they play dime when they sub, they don’t have a nickel package, they have a dime package where they put six (defensive backs) on the field at one time, and they have some really good pass rushers up front. But as far a combination of six [defensive backs] on the field at one time, in my 10 years in the NFL I’m not sure, No. 1 through No. 6, I’ve seen a better group. Usually when you’ve got six defensive backs out there, two or three of them you’re going, ‘We can really pick on that guy,’ but these guys are good, and I think Talib is exceptional.”

 While the Bucs will be aware of Talib, they can’t totally stay away from him.

“You can’t just totally stay away from him,” Koetter said. “You can move your guys, try to stack them, give them different splits, move your guys in motion, get them in the slot. There’s a lot of things you can do, but there are other instances where we do try to avoid certain guys.”

Bucs’ coach Dirk Koetter wants to change the team’s culture

In the beginning, they lost.

In the middle, they drafted poorly.

In recent days, they have had a coaching carousel.

For the Tampa Bay Bucs, all of it has led to a losing culture and bad players and coaches who couldn’t measure up to the challenge of turning the team around.

Now, three games into his coaching stint, Dirk Koetter has noticed.

After his team’s 37-32 loss to the Rams on Sunday, Koetter talked about a needed change in the culture of the team.

“When I say ‘around here,’ I hope no one confuses that,” Koetter said. “When I’m talking about the culture, I’m talking about the culture of our football team, I’m not talking about our organization, I’m not talking about ownership, I’m not talking about this building, I’m not talking about our fans, I’m talking about the 53 players, the 10 practice squad guys and however many coaches we have. The guys that are coming up with the game plan, putting the game plan together and trying to execute the game plan.

“The best teams that I’ve been on beat with one heart and they count on the guy next to them to do their job every time, and they win and lose together. And maybe our fans have cheered for a team like that at one point.

“Hopefully, all of our players have played on a team (like that). I know when I’ve been on teams like that, you can feel it and man, you want to grab it and hold onto its tail because it’s elusive. When you don’t have it, you can also feel it.

“We’re just missing something, I feel like – and as my title suggests, it’s my job to speak up. I feel like sometimes we find too many ways to lose a game instead of creating ways to win a game. Now, when I say that, I put myself right at the top. I’m number one on that list, so I’m not calling out any player or any coach above myself, but that’s just how I feel. And until we change that, we’re going to have nights like last night.”

What is a winning culture? Koetter knows it when he feels it.

“It’s elusive, it’s an elusive thing,” Koetter said. “It’s not something that you can reach out there and put your fingers on. I think our guys believe for the most part, but I talked to the guys a lot about this today in the team meeting, and as I’m sure you can understand, a lot of that needs to stay between the players and the coaches. I know the fans are going to speculate – hey, this is our most popular game in the world, I get it.

“We’ve got to figure it out. We’ve got to find it, and I just don’t think we should sit back and act like it doesn’t exist because in my eyes it does. I’ve been on those teams that have it, and we’re going to keep looking for it until we find it.”

The culture of losing started with 0-26. It continued with not re-signing Doug Williams or getting Bo Jackson signed. It went on with coaches like Leeman Bennett and Ray Perkins and Raheem Morris. It was a culture of drafting Booker Reese and Eric Curry and Keith McCants and Kenyatta Walker. It was there with quarterbacks Vinny Testaverde, Josh Freeman and Josh McCown. It was about signing free agents like Anthony Collins and Michael Johnson.

And here the Bucs are, off to a bad start and now facing the Super Bowl teams in Denver and Carolina.

Will it ever change? Maybe.

If the Bucs are smart.

If they are aggressive.

If they have a solid front office.

And if they don’t have their potential game-winning streaks stopped at the five-yard line.

Jets claim discarded Tampa Bay tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins

The New York Jets are the latest NFL team to check out the discard bin of the Tampa Bay Bucs.

The Jets claimed former Bucs’ tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins, cut by the Bucs after last week’s DUI charge.

The Bucs have cut several players in the NFL who are prospering on other teams, including cornerback Aqib Talib, who returns to town this week. Others the Bucs once had and either cut or did not re-sign include Seattle’s Michael Bennett, New England’s LeGarrette Blount, St. Louis’ Mark Barron, Cleveland’s Josh McCown, New York’s Darrelle Revis, Atlanta’s Adrian Clayborn and Oakland’s Donald Penn.

The Bucs are 1-2 with the players they have kept.

Bucs’ mistakes doom them in narrow loss to Los Angeles

The distance to the end zone was so close.

The time on the clock was so fast.

And, for the Tampa Bay Bucs, the mistakes were too plentiful.

The Bucs fell to 1-2 Sunday, losing 37-32 to a Los Angeles Rams team that had scored only nine points all season long. The defeat came despite 405 yards passing by Jameis Winston.

But Tampa Bay doomed itself with its own mistakes. Winston had a sack-fumble-touchdown-return play. Roberto Aguayo missed a field goal and an extra point. Chris Conti was beaten for one touchdown and Keith Tandy missed a tackle for another. Coach Dirk Koetter didn’t call a time out in the dying seconds – he’ll take it home. Charles Sims deflected another pass for an interception. And Winston, on the last play of the game, strolled downfield, pump-faking even while he was several yards beyond the line of scrimmage.

“Our culture is not where it needs to be,” said Koetter. “That starts with me. I’m the head of that. I’m putting that squarely on my shoulders. There’s something about our culture…that lets games like this get away. We’ve got to get over that hump and we’re not there.”

Winston took as much of the blame as he could. Asked what was missing, he said:

“Just quarterback play,” Winston said. “I’ve got to complete the football. I had Vincent Jackson wide open for a touchdown in the corner. That’s pitch and catch. I overthrew him. But I’m going  to get better. I guarantee you.”

The Bucs now have back-to-back games against last year’s Super Bowl teams (Denver and Carolina). That means Tampa Bay could be staring at a 1-4 beginning. From there, Tampa Bay would go have to go 6-5 to show even one game’s improvement.

Bucs hope a home game against Rams fires up their defense

Finally, the Tampa Bay Bucs come home.

After spending the first fortnight of the season on the road, the 1-1 Bucs play against the Rams at 4:05 p.m. Tampa Bay is coming off a sobering 40-7 loss to Arizona.

“It’s fantastic to be at home, number one,” said Bucs’ coach Dirk Koetter. “As I said many times, we’re one of three teams to start the first two games on the road and we’d love to be 2-0, but we’re 1-1 and we’re really excited to be coming home. And it is very important that we defend Raymond James and that we make that a tough place for anybody to come in to play. But before you can put a streak together, you’ve got to get the first one.”

The Bucs are last in the NFL in turnover margin at minus six. They’ve turned it over six times and have yet to have a takeaway. Quarterback Jameis Winston had four interceptions and a fumble Sunday.

Part of that, Koetter said, is because of his youth.

“I think experience and playing more always is going to help,” Koetter said. “When you listen to veteran quarterbacks talk, they usually use a term like, ‘the game slows down’ for them. I think when you go back and look at game tape of younger quarterbacks – Jameis included in that group – often times when they make mistakes they’re maybe a little bit late and maybe they know, so they try to rush it a little bit and then they’re not quite as accurate. Or when they’re under duress and they don’t maybe have their balance where they need to and the ball might sail. Those are usually causes of interceptions.”

This week’s opponent, the Rams, are 1-1 even though they have scored only nine points in two games.

“Don’t be fooled by that,” said defensive tackle Gerald McCoy. “They can put up numbers and they have a lot of playmakers. One of the best running backs in the league [Todd Gurley), (wide receiver) Tavon Austin is unhumanly fast and (wide receiver) Kenny Britt, when he’s on, he can pile up the numbers. And (quarterback) Case Keenum (isn’t a) joke either. He gets the ball out of his hands really quick. So don’t be fooled by what you’ve seen in the first two weeks – this is a week-to-week league, anything can happen. We can’t be going to the game (saying), ‘Oh, well they haven’t scored touchdowns,’ so what. They could score 10 on us, that’s what the NFL’s about. But we have to do our best not to allow that to happen.”

Through two games, the Bucs’ defense has surrendered too many explosive plays, says defensive coordinator Mike Smith.

“We’re giving up way too many explosive plays and really it’s about us, not necessarily about them,” Smith said. “And again, probably could’ve been a different call and maybe put them in a better spot, but when we make the call we’ve got to go out and we’ve got to execute it. We haven’t executed in the first two games. We’ve had 12 plays that have gone for over 400 yards. Sometimes they’re missed tackles, sometimes they’re missed assignments and sometimes they’re bad calls by me. So we’ve got to get better. We’ve got to tackle better, we’ve got to execute better and I’ve got to make better calls.”

Smith said the team is still learning his style of defense.

“Well this is all new for them and I don’t think you can really say what kind of defense we’re going to be until we’ve got at least four games under our belt,” Smith said. “We haven’t experienced a lot of things in the regular season. In the preseason you’re getting vanilla looks, we’re doing vanilla things, so it gets a little more complicated. The guys are working hard at it and I’ve got to find – and we’ve got to find as a staff – the fine line where we don’t put them in situations if they’re not ready for it.”

Last week, linebacker Lavonte David didn’t make a tackle.

“There were some opportunities for Lavonte, but not many,” Smith said. “The way that the plays were run, he didn’t have a whole lot of opportunities. We were not nearly as active, across the board. When you start to look at your tackle chart at the end of the game and you see that your defensive backs are leading, it’s not a good week for the defensive coaching staff. We want to see, in an ideal situation, we want to see our linebackers have a lot more production than we had in the game last week. I don’t think that there’s ever been a game that Lavonte’s been shut out, in terms of making a mark on the stats board. He was a little bit banged up and this time of the year it starts to happen, you see it with every team in the NFL.”

Turnovers led to Bucs’ demise against Arizona Cardinals

You can talk about the scoreboard all you want.

To Tampa Bay Bucs’ coach Dirk Koetter, the story was in the turnovers.

The Arizona Cardinals intercepted four passes by Jameis Winston and forced a fumble, leading their way to Sunday’s 40-7 victory over the Bucs. After that, everything else was details.

“Everything’s going to start and end with the turnovers,” Koetter said. “You just can’t turn it over five times and be 5:0 in the turnover (ratio). I think there’s something like three games in the history in the NFL where teams lost a turnover margin that bad and been able to win. (You’re) not giving yourself a chance when you turn it over like that. So really everything that happened last night stems off of those turnovers.”

Some of the turnovers, Koetter said, were because of Winston’s throws. Some were just because of good defense.

“It was a combination of both,” Koetter said. “We’re in no-huddle, we pick up two first downs and then we take a shot. And Jameis took a shot, but we were trying to throw a deep post to Mike Evans. Mike had inside position on (Arizona cornerback) Patrick Peterson, and you’ve got an elite corner and a top-flight wide receiver going against each other. If you really look at that play, Peterson looked like he was the receiver. He used his body to bump Mike off. If that were an offensive guy doing it, they would’ve called offensive pass interference, but they’re not going ever to call that on the defense.

“That was really a pretty good throw by Jameis and Peterson made a great play. The interception at the end obviously was a desperation throw where Jameis has to give him more of a chance. We tried the quick screen to (running back Charles) Sims, Jameis needs to throw that ball a little higher; it got tipped by the defensive end, and then Sims tipped it up again in the air, pick six. I’ve mentioned this to other people I’ve done things with today, that we, until the last three series of the game, our pass protection — even though the Cardinals were bringing a lot of pressure — our pass protection was solid. We did a good job. What we did not do a good job of is making them pay with our throws down the field. We had some that Jameis was high on, we had a couple that Jameis missed on, we had a couple where the routes weren’t what they needed to be, and you just can’t do that. When they’re pressuring you, you’ve got to make them pay, and we didn’t do that.”

Koetter said he expects to see resiliency from his team this week when they are home against the Rams.

“I expect and want to see fantastic resiliency,” Koetter said. “When you just look around the league, that’s sort of how the NFL is. The Cardinals had a disappointing loss (last week), they came back and got after us pretty good yesterday. Look at the Rams, who we play this week. The Rams lost 28-0 in their opener to the 49ers, come back (and get a) huge win against Seattle yesterday. The Falcons, who we beat last week, go on the road to the Raiders — who were a hot team — and played well enough to win, get a big win on the road. We haven’t been tested yet this season in that department, but the fact that we’re coming into our own home stadium for our home opener, that’s definitely going to be what we’re working for.”

Koetter said the turnovers had put pressure on Tampa Bay’s defense.

“My biggest concern about the defense is that the offense is putting them in too many bad positions. That’s the main thing. It’s one thing if it’s just the defense against their offense on a long field versus turnovers that are putting the defense at a disadvantage. Sudden change situations, we’re in too many of those right now. And then our defense gave up six explosive plays — six plays by the Cardinals accounted for 209 yards. (They) made some big plays. One of them was a result of missed tackles, the little check-down to the back, made a nice run up our sideline, we missed a couple tackles right there. And then of course in our two-minute defense, we let them throw it over our head.”

The Bucs haven’t been 2-1 since 2011 when Raheem Morris led his team to a 3-1 start and finished 4-12.

Mistake-prone Bucs are clobbered by Arizona Cardinals

For a week, it felt better. For a week, you could dream. For a week, the Tampa Bay Bucs were undefeated and talking about better days.

All of that ended Sunday, when the Bucs were clobbered in a 40-7 loss to Arizona. Bucs’ quarterback Jameis Winston threw four interceptions and fumbled once in the loss, and the Cardinals erupted for 24 points in the second quarter and never looked back.

“I did not do a good enough job of getting these guys ready to go,” said Dirk Koetter. “(We) turned it over way, way, way too many times. We can’t get beat like that in turnovers and expect to win. We got a reality check today.”

The Cardinals, who lost in the NFC Conference championship last season, held Tampa Bay’s rushing attack to only 85 yards. Running back Doug Martin left the game early after tweaking a hamstring, and backup Charles Sims averaged only 2.7 yards per carry.

That left much of the load on the arm of Winston, whose receivers were playing against one of the best secondaries in the league. Against them, Winston hit only 27 of 52 passes for 243 yards. Besides his turnovers, Winston was sacked three times.

Arizona quarterback Carson Palmer hit 18 of 31 for 208 yards and three touchdowns. He threw two touchdown passes in the final 186 seconds of the first half.

The official statistics sheet did not have Lavonte David with a tackle the entire afternoon.

The Bucs play their home opener next week against the Los Angeles Rams.

Tampa Bay Bucs anticipate pressure from the Arizona Cardinals

The Tampa Bay Bucs are preparing for heat in the desert.

The kind of heat the defense of the Arizona Cardinals brings.

“I’m expecting that we’ll see more pressure than we saw last week,” Bucs coach Dirk Koetter said. “Arizona’s always been a pressure team. Sounds like they were maybe wanting to pressure more than they did last week. That’s just speculation, things that you hear out of their media side. I think they’ll try to heat Jameis (Winston) up a little bit. They’ve got good personnel (and) that’s worked for Arizona in the past. How we respond to the pressure — pressure can work two ways. It can be big for them and it can also be big for us.”

That doesn’t necessarily mean Winston will spend time checking down.

“Last week it was a check down game, this week it will be more of a ‘get it out on time’ game,” Koetter said.  “It will be less of a check down game, more of a ‘be on time with where you’re going to go with the ball.’”

Koetter thinks the Cardinals, out of their 3-4 defense, will try to force match-ups.

“Absolutely,” Koetter said. “That’s how their defense tries to make it. That 3-4 and they’re not afraid to bring all five of those front. They try to make it five one-on-one blocks up front and man-to-man coverage with a free safety. They have a lot of stuff, but that’s their main thing.”

Koetter said the Bucs will face adversity against the Cardinals.

“We did a good job of that (against Atlanta), but there were times we did a good job of that last year too,” Koetter said. “We’re going to face more adversity than we faced last week, although there were some things that came up. I think that’s something that plays out over time. I think it’s easy to do that in the first game of the year. Depending on how your schedule goes, I think that gets either easier or harder based on how you’re doing during the season.”

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