Lovie Smith: Hapless Bucs must crawl before they walk

TAMPA, Fla. — Coach Lovie Smith’s plan to restore the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to respectability is derailed — completely off the tracks.

At 1-5 entering the bye week, the fan base had its faith shaken with a blowout losses at Atlanta (56-14) and at home by the Baltimore Ravens (48-17).

The Bucs are last in scoring defense and pass defense and are tied with the New York Jets for having allowed the most touchdown passes (15).

Offensively, the Bucs have gotten a spark from backup quarterback Mike Glennon, who engineered a last-season upset at Pittsburgh and had an 11-point lead the next week at New Orleans before the defense blew it and the Bucs lost in overtime.

Smith, embarrassed by the lack of competitiveness against the Falcons and Ravens, is now sounding like someone content to rebuild, then to reload.

“You do have to crawl before you walk,” Smith said. “We didn’t want to do it as much and part of the master plan wasn’t to be in this situation right now. But that’s normally what you do when you start something new. It’s not this ready right away. You have to build that foundation and that’s what we’re doing right now.

“And keep in mind also, if we had started off 5-1 or 6-0 right now, there’s still a lot of football to go. We haven’t taken this team through the second part of this second quarter. We have a lot of football left to go.

“I said last week we are a better football team. That game didn’t say that. But we’re doing some good things, some better things, behind the scenes and hopefully we’re going to put it together and we’re going to see that in the games.”

The Bucs have gotten some bad breaks along the way. Jeff Tedford, Smith’s hand-picked offensive coordinator during the year he spent in exile as the fired Bears coach in 2012, underwent a heart procedure and took an indefinite medical leave before ever calling a regular-season game.

Quarterbacks coach Marcus Arroyo is the interim OC, but he has been woefully overmatched. The Bucs have scored only 27 points in the first half this season. The Bucs’ running game has been nonexistent and the pass protection spotty behind a porous offensive line.

Injuries have been a big part of the Bucs’ poor start.

Defensive tackle Gerald McCoy is playing with a broken left hand. Defensive end Michael Johnson has not yet recovered from a high ankle sprain he suffered in Week 1 against Carolina. Middle linebacker Mason Foster missed three games with a dislocated right shoulder. Safety Dashon Goldson has missed two games with an ankle sprain and cornerback Johnthan Banks was out against the Ravens with a neck strain.

Of course, every team has injuries this time of year. Smith’s teams have also followed a familiar formula. They play great defense, run the football and excel on special teams.

The first two elements are poor and special teams have been awful. Punter Michael Koenen is last in the league in net average.

Smith has been here before. As a linebackers coach on Tony Dungy’s first staff in 1996, the Bucs went 0-5 and were 1-8 before winning five of their final eight games. The next year, the Bucs made the playoffs.

In his first year as head coach with the Bears, Smith was 1-5 and finished 4-12. The next year, the Bears turned it around, going 12-4 and winning the NFC North.

“You draw on all of those experiences, but what you come to, you stay the course on what you believe,” Smith said. “What we’re doing has a proven success rate. We’re going to do it better and eventually there will be a good product we’re going to put on the football field.”

NOTES: CB Isaiah Frey signed with the Bucs on Wednesday. Frey was a sixth-round draft pick of the Bears in 2012, Smith’s final year as coach there. … FB Jorvorskie Lane was suspended two games for violation of league policy on performance-enhancing substances. … CB Johnthan Banks (neck strain) did not practice Wednesday.

Source: MSN Sports

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