The San Francisco 49ers get ready to face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday, looking to work toward a third straight playoff berth. The 49ers are five point favorites against a Bucs squad that has been playing well over the last month. In order to get a better handle on what the Bucs bring to the table, I took a few minutes to chat with Sander Philipse from Bucs Nation. He provided some helpful insight into his team.
Niners Nation: The Bucs appear to be playing a lot better lately. It's always fun to win, but after the 0-8 start, how do fans view things given the distaste for Greg Schiano, and potentially sinking a high draft choice?
Bucs Nation: The fans are now split over Greg Schiano. When the Bucs were 0-8, the Fire Schiano movement had monopolized the Bucs fan base, but four wins in the past five games certainly helps. There's still a very large group of people who want Schiano fired (and a portion of that group lamenting every win because of sinking draft position), but the "Keep Schiano" crowd is growing with every win. There's really no one view the fans have right now, and the debates are frequent: is the turnaround real, has Schiano earned another year?
BN: I'll tackle the second portion of that question first: no. Mike Glennon has been an improvement over Josh Freeman this year, although that mostly says something about Freeman's terrible play over the first three weeks of the season. But Glennon hasn't exactly blown away people, either. He's regressed heavily over the past two games, which is concerning, but there have been question marks throughout his tenure: his ball placement on outside throws has been off, his anticipation is lacking and he holds on to the ball too long. Rookies have those issues, of course, but it does mean that we can't anoint him yet.
That said, he hasn't been completely incompetent, either. He seems like he'd be a decent game manager at this point, with maybe the potential to grow into something more. With the team's draft position falling steadily it seems unlikely they'll be able to find an upgrade over Glennon in the draft -- so we'll probably see what he has to offer next year. But the clear-cut answer? No, he's not that. Not yet, at least.
BN: Tim Wright has been a revelation this season. He was a receiver at Rutgers (under Greg Schiano) and went undrafted this year, but the Bucs picked him up and converted him to tight end. While he's largely useless as a blocker, he's consistently beaten linebackers and safeties in man coverage and has managed to stretch the field and provide Glennon with a solid weapon down the field.
Tiquan Underwood is a speed receiver with good size and hands, but he is also an extremely sloppy route-runner. That makes it hard to count on him consistently, but he helps lift coverage and seems to have some good chemistry with Glennon. Not a difference maker, but someone who can get behind coverage and do some damage down the field.
NN: Lavonte David has slowly seen his profile rise in the media. The 49ers have what our fans consider the best pair of linebackers in the league. Tell us about David and where he is at in only his second season.
BN: Lavonte David is quite comfortably the best 4-3 outside linebacker in the NFL right now. David is incredibly fast, very quick to diagnose plays, good enough to hang with linebackers and tight ends in coverage, explosive as a blitzer and has the reflexes (and good luck) to grab some tipped balls out of the air.
You could make a realistic argument that he should be named the Defensive Player of the Year. He's been that good, both in his impact and stats: 116 tackles, six sacks, five interceptions, nine passes defensed and a safety. Those numbers are ridiculous for any position. He's almost certain to set the record for most Defeats by a linebacker, according to Football Outsiders -- a record held by Ray Lewis, with Derrick Brooks in second place. Pretty good company.
The Bucs have had many undersized, speedy linebackers ever since they drafted Derrick Brooks, but David really is the first player who's rivaled the future Hall of Famer's performance.
NN: Dashon Goldson is obviously well known to 49ers fans. What has the Goldson experience been like for Bucs fans? In light of his suspension, how do fans currently view the addition?
BN: The Dashon Goldson experience has been a bit underwhelming, as he's been limited by injuries on a couple of occasions and missed another game due to suspension. He also hasn't made as many splash plays as Bucs fans would like, although to a large extent that's due to the way the Bucs use him (almost exclusively as a deep safety). Fans don't seem to particularly like or dislike him at this point, although the repeated penalties (especially at the start of the season) do start to get on people's nerves.
Still, he is best appreciated when he's absent. It's no coincidence that the team's worst defensive performances occurred with him out of the lineup.
- 49ers prepare for east coast early morning game vs. Buccaneers
- Jim Harbaugh talks Bucs, second half defense and more
- 49ers vs. Buccaneers TV schedule: Where to watch the game in the US and around the world
- 49ers vs. Buccaneers injury report: Tarell Brown, Mike Iupati listed as questionable
- 49ers vs. Buccaneers: Michael Crabtree or Anquan Boldin vs. Darrelle Revis?