Welcome to the next instalment of Behind Enemy Lines: Tampa Bay Buccaneers Edition.
Each week I talk with fans from the teams lining up against the Dolphins that week. Things seem to be going from bad to worse within the Dolphin universe recently, our team is struggling in all phases of play, with mistakes and lacklustre play and coaching bringing conflict amongst the Dolphin fanbase. With this week’s opponents being the current holders of the Lombardi Trophy, and quarterbacked by the G.O.A.T. and long term Dolphins rival Tom Brady himself, it doesn’t seem to be getting any easier for us.
That said, a lot of Dolphins fans are seeking build up comfort in the “Any Given Sunday” mantra, the Bucs aren’t without their share of injury issues and lets face it, it would be a TOTALLY Dolphins thing to do to look weak all season and then beat the latest Superbowl champions in their own stadium.
So Behind Enemy Lines keeps rolling, regardless of our current form, and this week I am approaching the article as our first ever Behind Enemy Lines double feature. This week I have been chatting with big Bucs fan Devon Garnett (@DevonGarnett) and a good friend and fantasy rival of mine, Martin Richardson (@MRBucsFan31). As we hit the first of two weekends of US and UK coming together to celebrate NFL football, it seemed only right to get a Bucs representative from both sides of the water… Either way, their confidence doesn’t make for pretty reading from a Dolphins perspective…
Well then fellas, our first double fan feature! Thank you both for being involved in this piece. Let’s hear a bit about you both please? Introduce yourselves to the Dolphins Universe.
Devon: Well, I’m born and raised in the Tampa Bay Area. Growing up, my father was the beat photographer for the Buccaneers, so I used to watch the games just to try and find him on the side lines on TV. It just grew on me and I became a Buccaneers fanatic! Now, after years of joy and tears, I like to call myself a Tampa Bay Superfan.
So a legitimate, born and raised Buccaneer from within the hotbed of the franchise… how can you follow that Martin?
Martin: Tell me about it! I’ll give it my best, I became a Bucs fan through my uncle and have followed them for what feels like forever. He went on holiday to Florida in the late 90’s I think, and when he came back, there was a Bucs jersey waiting for me. I didn’t think much of it at the time, which meant I didn’t really watch that famous 2002 Super Bowl run. It’s a huge regret to not have seen that Ronde Barber play as it happened, or watch those games where Mike Alstott bulldozed his way through four or five players at a time. However, I made up for that by enduring the 30-30 Jameis season to suddenly have the GOAT, Tom Brady on our team, throwing dimes to Gronk and that somehow it keeps on getting better: Antonio Brown, Playoff Lenny and now Richard Sherman; it’s like we’re playing Madden in real life some days!
So two fanatics then! Perfect! A real opportunity to get into the mindset of the fanbase. Although hopefully you don’t round on me and compound the misery of the current season. You guys are on a much higher wave right now though right? An epic season last year, legendary, almost storybook. The G.O.A.T. himself joined the revolution, Gronk out of retirement, collecting household names and then winning that Superbowl, it’s like a fairy tale. I guess my question is, can you do it again?
Martin: Yeh, it’s been crazy to watch it all come about. Can we do it again? We’re going for two! I’m sure there will be eye rolls from everyone who reads this, but why can’t we go for two? With a solid draft, well, no second round picks on kickers at least, Joe Tryon-Shoyinka looks the real deal at #32, bringing back all 22 starters from the Super Bowl, adding Gio Bernard and now Richard Sherman seems like good business, so providing we can stay fit and don’t lose any more of our secondary, we certainly should be in the mix, no doubt.
Devon: Yeah, that staying fit point will be crucial, I’ve always said it from the beginning of the season it doesn’t matter how good your team is if you can’t stay healthy. I have no doubt that we’re talented enough to do it again, but we just have to stay healthy. We’re entering the weaker part of our schedule so hopefully we can pull off a handful of ugly wins and get some of our guys healthy for the end of the season and hopefully the playoffs.
I hate it. Haha! I hate how I hear about you hitting on draft picks at #32 while Austin Jackson has let 20 pressures in the first 4 weeks, I hate how even with a couple of set backs you’re still a contender while we lose Tua for 3 weeks and the whole of Dolphinland burns down, and I ABSOLUTELY hate that your match up with us is the beginning of you “entering the weaker part of your schedule”… So yeah, thanks for doing this fellas haha!
Jokes aside, how has this season gone so far. Obviously you have both alluded to the injury situation and your secondary appears to be taking the brunt of it. But is there anything else we should know about your first four games?
Devon: I would give this season a 6 out of 10 so far. Yes, we’ve only lost one game but I’m not super pleased with how we’ve played. A lot of mis-cues on the offense, as discussed the secondary is very banged up, and before last week, our pass rush was non-existent. I’m not ready to push the panic button because I believe in this team and what they’re capable of and if we’re playing like this and still winning games then improvement can only bring more success. I made the mistake of over- reacting last year when we were 7-5 and we ended up never losing again and winning the Superbowl. I am confident that the team will make some adjustments, start playing at a higher level and continue winning games.
Martin: For me, It’s been a really solid start, even after the Rams loss, I still feel confident about the team and how we’re now able to churn out results. The Cowboys was a bit too nervy for my liking, but there’s comfort that we have one of the few men you want to give a window of hope to in the final drive of the game: Tom Brady. I think getting Mike Evans involved always make the Offence look better, but with so many mouths to feed, I get that he can’t be number one every week. I’m looking forward to seeing him up against your secondary, could be a few flags thrown there. Then Take last week, all the focus was on TB12 and Coach Belichick, but as a team we were solid and got the result needed to bounce back. But going back to the Rams game, we’d been hit hard in the secondary and McVay played on that perfectly, as any first rate coach would have. You have some FAST wideouts that are exciting- Waddle could be a real problem if he gets the ball. Let’s just hope
that our Defence can pressure Brissett to not get through his progressions. I do fancy a few sacks tomorrow.
Oh, sacks and QB pressures are almost inevitable. Our OLine have let more people through than our stadium turnstiles have, with Jesse Davis compared to a Matador after one game. With your aggressive DLine, I think sacks are a given. But just for a second, as much as he has been a Dolphins arch rival over the years, I have to ask, just what is it like to have the great Tom Brady at Quarterback? And what do you think…ring #8?
Devon: We have been so bad for so long it’s kind of bizarre that the team turned it around so quickly. When Tom signed last year I said “If Tom can’t do it, nobody can” It’s incredible how his presence in the locker room can just elevate everyone around him. I honestly feel like this is a dream I can’t believe he’s our quarterback. As far as ring #8 I think it truly is possible but like I said we must stay healthy.
Martin: Oh man exactly, I don’t have to tell you what its like to worry about who’s behind centre EVERY week: between the two franchises, we’ve had players like Mike Glennon, Brock Osweiler, Josh Rosen, Jameis Winston and Jay Cutler, so to have the GOAT, slinging it to some of the best players in our franchise history, it makes Sundays so much more enjoyable. For the fans, he brought us a Super Bowl which is just incredible, if anyone can get 8 rings, he can. The man just keeps churning out record braking stats: no one had ever won a home Super Bowl- Brady did; most Super Bowl wins- Tom Brady; most passing yards- Tom Brady eclipses Drew Brees and I’m sure there are more. The man is a supreme athlete and he will now be a part of the Bucs history forever.
It must feel incredible, no matter what we try we can’t seem to find the answer at QB. I have an incredible amount of faith in Tua, but there’s a loud vocal section of fans and media that don’t, it must be amazing to have universal commitment to your teams top dog, but we’ll come back to Tua.
Speaking more generally about the Dolphins start to the season, it hasn’t been a pretty one, what’s the Buccaneer perspective on how we’ve begun?
Martin: I’ve seen some fans call tomorrow a Phin-Fry, other’s saying Bucs by 30, so you can see how fans feel about this game. I’m not sure it will be by 30 to be honest. But from what I have seen, you’ve got to be a little concerned. That Pats game was a great way to start, Tua playing some good ball and beating the old enemy in their backyard; the season started just how it should. Then the Bills turned up. You’re not there yet, and not a lot of teams are, I would argue that we’re not either, but a blow-out certainly raised some eyebrows throughout the league. As all blowouts do. But for me, where was the reaction, where was the kick up ass that Coach Flo would have wanted? A 1-3 record isn’t ideal, but its not the end of the season at all. I just hope that it doesn’t become 2-3 by the end of play tomorrow!
Devon: Honestly, for me personally, I am very surprised that you guys have performed this bad. After last season, I believed that you all could take that next step and be a sleeper team this season. I love your head coach and your GM. I loved you offseason moves the past 2 years but like I said I’m very surprised that it hasn’t translated to the field.
Yeah, I think a lot of Dolphin fan’s outspoken reaction comes from the fact we have been surprised ourselves by the decline in our fortunes. There was so much to be positive about coming into the season, and even after beating New England at their place. This downturn has taken us unaware and is drastically below expectations.
I’m interested now though, when you look at the current phase of Dolphins development, what do Buccaneer fans think of it? Is it expected? Are you surprised? Did we even enter onto your radar?
Martin: Honestly, I didn’t think that you would have that record. Coming into the season with a franchise QB, I think he is your franchise QB and should be for a long time (fingers crossed for you that he’s fit for London) and a new shiny first round wide receiver, the Offence looked like it could take off. But for some reason, it just hasn’t clicked YET. I say yet because I’m sure it will. The Pats game promised so much and then that hit happened vs the Bills. I saw it and it looked hard, like what happened to us with Gronk a week later. What has surprised me is how divided Tua has made the fans. Maybe I’m sat in an ivory Tom Brady sponsored tower, looking down at everything else, but he has all the ability to be a top QB, he just needs time. Every team enters my radar, no team is supremely worse than another, just look at what people said about the Texans, and they were enjoyable to watch until Tyrod went down. So can the Dolphins be dangerous, absolutely.
Devon: Yeah, I’m surprised too, I’d like to say that I’m not very biased when viewing other teams so I thought of the Dolphins as a team on the come up who have made a lot of great moves. If you ask other Bucs fans they might not have a lot of nice things to say. Like I said I am surprised that your talent on paper hasn’t translated to the field because I really did have the Dolphins on my radar as one of those sleeper teams
Wow, some positivity for us, I am not used to that at the moment. ESPECIALLY where Tua is concerned. But obviously he won’t be playing this week, so who else are you concerned about on the Dolphins roster? Do we have anyone who worries you right now, on either side of the ball?
Devon: I’d have to say I’m most scared of Jalen Waddle or Xavian Howard. Martin has already mentioned that Waddle is blazing fast and those types of receivers really give the Bucs secondary a problem. Waddle is an elite talent and we need to be careful and respect his speed, especially with our weakened secondary. Xavian Howard is a top 10 corner in the league so we definitely want to be careful when we’re throwing to his side because he is a INT machine.
Martin: Jones and X vs Evans: I’m picking both of your main CBs because whoever picks up Evans is in for a game. Any defensive back will know they’ve been up against it with Evans, but with those two, they could really provide stiff opposition for Evans as he looks to continue on to another 1000- yard season. But, and I may have this wrong, one or both have been limited in practices, so that could be a game changer. Christian Wilkins is another name who finally seems to be grading where we all expected him too. Lovable giant off the field but finally looking a monster on the field. It won’t be easy with either or Smith or Wirfs for company, but as the Rams D proved, our line can be broken up and if anyone can do that for you, Wilkins can. And finally, yeah, like Devon, Waddle is a name I can’t seem to avoid in this piece. Pace, power and a desire to get that ball into the end zone. If he goes off, he could fly past our depleted secondary before they know he’s gone. I’ll call it now- he gets your only TD of the game.
Haha, scoring touchdowns has not been easy for us, so if hope we do manage to get at least one. I agree though, Waddle wasn’t my top choice coming into the draft and he’s had some rocky moments within his start, but he is going to be a very good player in this league and I hope that with Fuller out and Parker questionable, this could be his opportunity to break out. Hopeful I know, fantasy maybe, but you never know…any given Sunday…
What about your roster? There are so many household names in that roster, what names are we NOT talking about that we should be? What lesser known names could make their presence felt this weekend?
Martin: I’ll go first, I have plenty to say here. With Gronk missing, maybe Cameron Brate? He tends to come in with a TD every now and then, and every Bucs fan is waiting to see what OJ Howard can do at tight end. We saw last week Brate wasn’t the same, I’ll maybe put that down to the weather and see this week how he does. Joe Tryon-Shoyinka is another, I mentioned him earlier in this piece our pass rush was under par but when he came in for his debut he created a few QB pressures, then those two huge sacks on Mac Jones last week, means that Brissett could be in real trouble. Finally, I am not giving up on Ronald Jones just yet. Yes, he has fumbled a few times and yes, we have Playoff Lenny. But, a TD last week might be the spur both he and the OC need to give him a shot. If a space opens up for him, we know he can go off.
Devon: Yes there is no surprise that we are loaded across the board with a lot of big names but I’m going to back Martin up here and say I think a lot of people nationally don’t really know who Joe Tryon is. Tryon was our first round draft pick this year and he is an absolute freak of nature. We were super lucky to get him because he decided to sit out of college football last year, so we took a chance on him and he definitely has not disappointed. I honestly believe he was the number one pass rusher in this year’s draft. If he would’ve played college football last year he would’ve been a top 10 pick no question. You may not know his name now, but you will do very soon I am sure.
Tryon it is then. If this guy lives up to your billing, and with our shaky OLine, this could be a highlight tape type game for him. I hope you are both drastically proven wrong haha. But I need to ask about something else, someone else, I ask every week and as his name has already come up here, what is the Tampa Bay view on Tua Tagovailoa? Obviously he’s out this week, and hopefully back in time for London, but what do you see for that man as Dolphins QB both this season and beyond?
Devon: I believe that Tua has the talent to be an NFL quarterback no question. But unfortunately, the best QB’s aren’t always the most talented. They’re always the smartest. If I were the Dolphins, I wouldn’t be pulling the plug on Tua just yet, but he needs to improve his decision making. Obviously, he needs to stay healthy as well.
Martin: What a tough question! I think there is no right answer here- he is loved by some and hated by others. I don’t know where it has come from, the young man seems to do everything right- his media presence is perfect, he owns his mistakes and always look to improve. You can’t tell me that you’ve got another Drew Brees moment on your hands, only this time it’s Justin Herbert?! I am firmly in the Team Tua camp and agree with Devon that he will be an NFL Quarterback. Put it this way, I wouldn’t want him lining up against us tomorrow because he seems to lift up your team in a way that Brissett doesn’t.
Boys, you are about to bring tears to my eyes. This is the first article in the series where I haven’t had a franchise ready to pull the plug on Tua! Don’t get me wrong, improvements are needed, he has had an underwhelming start and while some of the stuff sent his way is harsh, he hasn’t done enough to silence those doubters. But I am a Tua fan and believe we would be 2-2 right now, maybe even 3-1 had Tua played against the Raiders and Colts, I hope he gets back fit and leads this team the way I believe he can. He needs to, for our and his sake.
But back to the game. As much as I dread this answer, I can’t not ask, how do you see it going, what is your prediction?
Martin: I think we get cooking in this game, sorry man. We won’t be perfect, its week 5 and we have injuries, but I think we have enough. I think we go ahead early on, like we did vs the Falcons, and you keep it competitive with that Waddle TD I called earlier and your kicker with the laser leg. I would
love our Gravedigger defence to get a Pick 6 to kill the game off, they are deserving of one. So, what’s that, 28-10? Seems reasonable to me.
Devon: I see more points in this game, but with a similar level of dominance for us. I believe that it will be a close game in the first half but I like the Buccaneers to run away with it in the second half. We’ve had 2 dreadful performances back to back weeks so I’m looking for the Bucs to really step it up, clean up the penalties, and finally click as an offense. I like the Bucs to win this one 31-17.
Honestly, I can’t argue with those assessments at this stage. There have been so many fundamental issues with our situation. Players, injuries, mistakes, penalties, play calls… nothing seems to be in sync with each other right now and I feel a team as accomplished as the Buccaneers will make short work of our dysfunctional performances.
That said… it would be the most Dolphins thing to do after all these negatives, to go out and beat the Superbowl champs in their own back yard, and you know what they say, on any given Sunday anyone can beat anyone… I just can’t see it this Sunday. I’m pessimistically closer to Devon’s prediction with a dominating Buccaneer win, 34-13.
Thank you both for taking part, it’s been a great one and a lot to like amongst your answers, if not within our performances. I hope you have a great season, starting from Monday!
And that brings our Buccaneer edition of this series. Quite a lot of doom and gloom if you are looking at this from a Dolphins perspective and an assured confidence from the Buccaneer perspective. I don’t see any surprises but I hope to see a reaction.
I think one of the worst features of this team right now, is that nothing seems to really change. It is clear we are not in a good place, and all we have really done different is drop Solomon Kindley and moved a tackle to guard. Our issues are bigger than that and we seem unwilling or unable to deviate from plan A, even when its really not working.
So we don’t expect a win tomorrow, but we want to see that they recognise our issues and are making significant efforts to make things right. No more token gestures, no more scripted press conferences. Be bold, make change and give us cause to believe again in time for week 6.
LET’S GO MIAMI, LET’S DO THIS! Fins Up!