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Thomas Bassinger, Times Staff Writer

Thomas Bassinger

It all began late 1991 with a Nintendo controller and a game cartridge that read, in gold block letters, "Tecmo Super Bowl" (Ready! Down! Hut! Hut! Hut! Hut! Hut!). That's when a young Thomas Bassinger discovered the fearsome Ronnie Lott, the dominant QB Eagles and the superhuman Bo Jackson and spent countless hours taking their 8-bit counterparts up and down the football field (Remember Wayne Haddix, Bucs fans?). He's been hooked on football and statistics ever since. Today, he contributes to coverage of the Buccaneers and the NFL for the Tampa Bay Times. He is the author of the Turning Point postgame analysis and studies All-22 game film for the weekly scouting report of the Bucs' upcoming opponent. Follow him on Twitter during the games @tometrics.

E-mail: tbassinger@tampabay.com

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  1. Think strikeouts are bad? You're wrong. And the Rays are proving it.

    The Heater

    Baseball is changing, and it's changing in a way that runs counter to everything we've been taught.

    "Put the ball in play and good things will happen" is the axiom.

    But that's not the Tampa Bay Rays' style. Far from it.

    They struck out 874 times in the first half, the most in baseball. If they maintain this pace, they'll be the latest team to break the major-league record....

    The hitting philosophy of Rays first baseman Logan Morrison: "I'm not going to beat anything out on the ground. I'm slow. I'm just trying to hit the ball in the air and in the gaps, and hopefully they go out for me." [WILL VRAGOVIC | Times]
  2. How the Buccaneers will benefit from O.J. Howard

    Bucs

    Myles Garrett fires his hands into O.J. Howard's chest and churns his legs as the Alabama tight end tries to hold his ground. As they collide, Garrett extends his arms, driving Howard back.

    Whether the play is successful hinges on Howard's next move. If he cedes more ground to the Texas A&M defensive end, the lane for the running back will close....

    With the offseason additions of O.J. Howard, above, and DeSean Jackson, the Bucs might have one of the NFL's most potent offenses. [LOREN ELLIOTT | Times]
  3. Ranking the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' offseason moves

    Bucs

    1. Signing receiver DeSean Jackson

    Jameis Winston can throw only so many screen passes to Adam Humphries. For coach Dirk Koetter's offense to reach its explosive potential, the Bucs needed a speedy deep threat, and over the past decade no player has played that role better than Jackson....

    Since DeSean Jackson entered the NFL in 2008, he has caught a league-high 57 passes that have resulted in gains of at least 40 yards. [ANDRES LEIVA   |   Times]
  4. Buccaneers TE Cameron Brate is a Pro Football Focus "secret superstar"

    Bucs

    Two years ago, Cameron Brate was clinging to the Buccaneers roster. Now, he is being called a "secret superstar."

    Over at Pro Football Focus, Sam Monson identified one player on each NFL team who has received little national recognition relative to his high production, and the tight end was his pick for the Bucs....

    Bucs tight end Cameron Brate catches a go-ahead touchdown pass against the Cowboys in December. [LOREN ELLIOTT | Times]
  5. Buccaneers defense was among NFL's best when its pressure got to the QB

    Bucs

    It doesn't matter how many times they've thrown a football. It doesn't matter how many seasons they've played. It doesn't matter whether they have a degree from Harvard or Central Florida.

    Every NFL quarterback, from Tom Brady to Jameis Winston, is less successful when he faces pressure from the defense.

    The flip side: Defenses are more successful when they generate pressure.

    RELATED STORY: How Winston performed under pressure in 2016...

    Bucs defensive tackle Gerald McCoy recorded 6.5 sacks last season, but many of his other contributions didn't show up in the box scores. [ANDRES LEIVA   |   Times]

  6. Jameis Winston stats: How the Bucs QB performed under pressure

    Bucs

    Every quarterback's performance declines when he faces pressure from the defense.

    While Jameis Winston is no exception, his play under duress last season was better than most other quarterbacks' play, according to data published this week by Football Outsiders. To label the Buccaneers quarterback's performance "good," however, would be a bit of a stretch; "not as bad" is a more fitting description....

    Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston faced pressure on more than 30 percent of his pass plays last season. [LOREN ELLIOTT | Times]
  7. Jameis Winston's completion percentage: Don't worry about it

    Bucs

    With 24 seconds left against the Rams last season, Jameis Winston spotted Vincent Jackson open down the right sideline.

    If only he hadn't missed his target. We wouldn't be talking this summer about whether the 2017 Buccaneers can end the franchise's playoff drought … because the 2016 team would have already done it.

    Since entering the NFL in 2015, Winston has completed less than 60 percent of his passes. Imagine how good he could be if he completed, say, 70 percent of his passes....

    Of the 35 quarterbacks who have thrown at least 400 passes since 2015, Jameis Winston ranks 30th in completion percentage. He is third, however, in yards per completion. [WILL VRAGOVIC  |  Times]
  8. Jameis Winston's completion percentage: Don't worry about it

    Bucs

    With 24 seconds left against the Rams last season, Jameis Winston spotted Vincent Jackson open down the right sideline.

    If only he hadn't missed his target. We wouldn't be talking this summer about whether the 2017 Buccaneers can end the franchise's playoff drought … because the 2016 team would have already done it....

    Of the 35 quarterbacks who have thrown at least 400 passes since 2015, Jameis Winston ranks 30th in completion percentage. He is third, however, in yards per completion. [WILL VRAGOVIC  |  Times]
  9. A better way to judge Bucs LBs Lavonte David, Kwon Alexander

    Bucs

    Lavonte David and Kwon Alexander have built reputations as tackling machines.

    Alexander's 108 tackles last season led the NFL. David's 67 ranked 44th, but he finished second in 2014 and 11th in 2015.

    As visible as David and Alexander are, we know that racking up a lot of tackles isn't necessarily a good thing. Tackles are often a measure of opportunity, not skill. If a defense regularly fails to get off the field, it's going to record an inflated number of tackles. Case in point: The Buccaneers allowed 5.8 yards per play last season, the ninth-worst mark....

    Bucs linebacker Lavonte David's 17 tackles for loss last season were tied for the NFL lead. Kwon Alexander had 12. [Associated Press]
  10. Who throws a better deep ball: Jameis Winston or Kevin Love?

    Bucs

    Do you miss football? Look carefully, and you might catch a glimpse of it in the NBA Finals.

    Halfway through the third quarter of Game 1 on Thursday night, a Steph Curry three-point try rolled off the rim. Kevin Love grabbed the defensive rebound, scanned the court and fired the ball at least 20 yards to LeBron James. It wasn't Jameis Winston to Mike Evans, but the aggressive, push-the-ball-down-the-field mentality is familiar....

    [Getty Images]
  11. Deadspin thinks the Tampa Bay Rays' mascot is lame. Here's one crazy fix.

    The Heater

    As it turns out, not everybody loves Raymond.

    Deadspin on Friday released a "binding and unassailable" ranking of pro sports mascots, and it has our furry, lovable old Raymond No. 59 out of 70. Sourdough Sam (San Francisco 49ers), Captain Fear's manic cousin, and Burnie (Miami Heat), a mascot no one outside of South Florida knows exists, beat out the Tampa Bay Rays' "sea dog."...

    Tampa Bay Rays team mascot Raymond [Times]
  12. Why the Buccaneers shouldn't give up on kicker Roberto Aguayo just yet

    Bucs

    The backup quarterback is the most popular guy in town.

    Except in Tampa Bay.

    Here, the most popular guy is the second kicker.

    Yep, Nick Folk.

    Throw him a parade. Present him the key to the city. Name a sandwich after him.

    And while we're at it, let's give him Roberto Aguayo's job.

    Whoa. Slow down. The season is three months away. Maybe we should let this kicking competition unfold first....

    You might have heard: Roberto Aguayo's 2016 season didn't go so well. But don't write him off just yet. [LOREN ELLIOTT | Times]
  13. Hard to believe NFL overtime change is about player safety

    Bucs

    If someone's house were engulfed in flames, would you hand him a fire extinguisher?

    Of course not.

    But that's how the NFL is handling its overtime problem.

    Owners voted this week to reduce regular-season overtime periods from 15 to 10 minutes, a gesture as thoughtful as buying your mother-in-law a candle for Christmas.

    Meanwhile, overtime's most significant flaw remains. A team still can lose a game without its offense taking a snap in the extra period, as the Falcons did in last season's Super Bowl against the Patriots. Let that sink in: With the world watching, the NFL's marquee game — the 267th in a grueling 22-week season — was decided without one of the teams ever touching the ball in overtime....

    Fans await the beginning of overtime between the Patriots and Falcons in Super Bowl LI in February. [Associated Press]
  14. Tampa Bay Super Bowls: A brief history and some predictions for 2021

    Bucs

    At last, Tampa will host a Super Bowl again. It used to be that the Cigar City would host one a decade, but by the time February 2021 rolls around, it will have been 12 years since the epic showdown between the Steelers and Cardinals. Because it has been awhile, let's revisit those past Super Bowls while also peering into the future.

    ...

    Santonio Holmes hauls in the game-winning touchdown in the Steelers' 27-23 Super Bowl XLIII victory over the Cardinals in 2009, the last time Tampa hosted a Super Bowl. [JAMES BORCHUCK | Times]
  15. Behold, the size and strength of Yankees phenom Aaron Judge

    The Heater

    This is no exaggeration: You have never seen a baseball player like the one visiting the Rays at Tropicana Field this weekend.

    There have been plenty of tall players (Randy Johnson) and plenty of wide players (Bartolo Colon), but no one has possessed a greater combination of height and weight (6-foot-7, 282 pounds) than Yankees slugger Aaron Judge. Even George Herman Ruth would look miniature standing next to him....

    Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge, center, is 8 inches taller and almost 100 pounds heavier than teammate Brett Gardner, left. [Getty Images]