“None of us really know how this group of 53 guys is going to come together and how we’re going to play this season.”
Those were coach Dirk Koetter’s words after the Bucs’ preseason finale.
It wasn’t the kind of declaration that whips a fan base into a frenzy, but it was honest.
A football season is roughly one part performance, one part chance and two parts survival. Teams will lose games. Teams will lose players. Sometimes, they’ll lose both, as Tampa Bay did Sunday in a 34-17 loss in Minneapolis.
After the Bucs dominated the Bears in their opener, it was easy to assign a greater meaning to one game. They looked invincible. They were the talk of the NFL.
By 3 p.m. Sunday, however, that talk had shifted. The Vikings were in complete control, jumping out to a 28-3 lead. It felt like more than regression — it felt like Tampa Bay had reverted to its embarrassing 2014 form.
The reaction on social media was, as expected, measured and thoughtful. A summary: The Bucs are trash and need to make changes ASAP.
This team isn’t trash, but the loss did reveal some serious flaws. Let’s unpack some of the reaction and assess what is valid and what is not.
Reaction: The Bucs can’t cover and can’t tackle.
Mostly valid. Tampa Bay put itself in a precarious position by entering the season with Brent Grimes, Vernon Hargreaves, Ryan Smith and Robert McClain as its cornerbacks. Grimes is 34. Hargreaves led the league last season in catches and yards allowed. Smith is a cornerback turned safety turned cornerback. McClain, a part-time player for the Panthers and Chargers last season, allowed a 133.8 passer rating from the slot. That amounts to a plan of “Let’s hope that Grimes continues to defy time and that Hargreaves breaks out.”
So much for that. Grimes missed Sunday’s game because of a shoulder injury. It was no coincidence that Case Keenum, filling in for Sam Bradford, had the best game of his career, passing for 369 yards and three touchdowns. Hargreaves saw 10 passes into…