Friday means it's time to talk to the enemy. I ventured into Bucs territory to ask five questions of Sander at Bucs Nation. Below are his responses.
Blogging The Boys: Will Raheem Morris be the coach of the Bucs next season? Do you think he should be? What kind of coach is he, what's his style?
Bucs Nation: Raheem Morris has a chance to be the coach of the Bucs next season, but he will have to win these next three games and do so in convincing fashion. The way this team has collapsed this year has made it very difficult for the Bucs to keep him on, and the past two blowout losses to the Carolina Panthers and Jacksonville Jaguars feel like the final nail in the coffin. At this point, I don't think you can really argue with the results. He's been the defensive coordinator, but the the defense has not been good at any point these past three seasons. He hasn't been able to eliminate simple mistakes on this team: penalties and mental errors. Not all of this is his fault and there are other problems with this team, but a lack of progression in terms of quality of play and the way this team has completely collapsed over the past seven games are Raheem's responsibility.
As for his style, Raheem Morris is a young coach whose biggest strength is getting his players to buy in to him, and his ability to relate to his players. To a man, his players seem to adore him as a coach. The problem is that he hasn't been able to match that love with on-field results consistently. As a defensive coordinator he has been aggressive and attacking, although as an overall game manager he has been a little more restrained. Overall I still think he has a bright future, but he will need more time to mature, and that future won't be with the Bucs.
BTB: What's happened to Josh Freeman this year? Is it on him, or has the overall offense let him down?
BN: It's a combination of a number of things. His receivers have played significantly worse than last year, with Mike Williams dropping a lot of balls and Kellen Winslow having lost a lot of speed. The playcalling has hurt him, as the Bucs try to be a throw-first team but should really have the running game as the basis of their offense. Another issue has been Freeman's reliability on scrambling. Last year, a lot of his big plays were improvisational plays, created when Freeman left the pocket. This year teams have concentrated on keeping him in the pocket, forcing him to play quarterback in the structure of the offense. Finally, the problem lies with Freeman as well: he has been a little erratic with his accuracy, especially with his ball placement - missing throws high and throwing behind receivers, mostly because he has failed to consistently step into his throws. He also struggled to read defenses earlier in the year, although he shored up that problem after the bye week.
In short: Josh Freeman has regressed, but the players around him have not helped him and the playcalling has hurt.
BTB: Given all the negatives for the Bucs recently, what has been positive? What players or areas give you hope for the future?
BN: The play of the defensive ends have been really positive. Rookie first-round pick Adrian Clayborn has had a really good year as a pass rusher, and has improved in run defense. Michael Bennett has been a very strong overall defensive end, especially against the run, which is a surprise as he was nothing more than a poor backup in previous years. Finally, Da'Quan Bowers has seen limited playing time because of Clayborn's and Bennett's strong play, but he had a really impressive game against the Carolina Panthers and followed that up with another decent performance against the Jacksonville Jaguars. In the past few games his raw athletic talent has shown up, and he has looked like the the top 5 talent he supposedly was.
BTB: What's your take on the Cowboys as a team coming into this game? Give us your scouting report.
BN: The Cowboys strike me as a very talented team that has some problems getting all the details right. From what I have seen a lot of little things seem to have hurt them this year, and they've lost a number of close games on late-game collapses and curious coaching decisions. But their offense has been very strong both through the air and on the ground.
BTB: For the Bucs to pull off the upset, what would have to happen?
BN: A lot of things that haven't happened the past few games. Jeremy Trueblood, the right tackle, needs to figure out a way to not be completely destroyed by Demarcus Ware. Josh Freeman somehow needs to turn into an accurate quarterback. The Bucs need to get to Romo and manage to hold up on the back end as well, which will be a real problem with their lack of secondary depth. Cornerback E.J. Biggers is likely to cover Miles Austin, and that will be a real key matchup. Biggers has been toasted by good receivers the past two seasons.
Overall, I really don't think the Bucs have a big chance of winning this game, as they simply haven't shown the ability to execute consistently enough to beat a quality team this year.
Thanks for the knowledge, Sander. Visit Bucs Nation for more on Tampa Bay.