As the Bucs hit the second quarter of the season, intrigue abounds. Wednesday, the subject was right guard. Who would plug that hole to try and steady the offensive front? There's Ted Larsen, there's Jeremy Trueblood.
"I can't tell you where that's going yet," Greg Schiano said.
He probably can, but we've learned that this head coach, like all the others, hates to give up any perceived edge, lest the other team find out, which this week means the Kansas City Chiefs.
Cut to late Saturday, Bucs team hotel, a Chiefs intern dressed as a housekeeper whispering into a microphone in a dust broom after finding a scrap of paper in a Bucs meeting room.
"Drop Kick, this is Nickel Back. It's Trueblood. Repeat: It's Trueblood."
It is no secret that the 1-3 Bucs have been competitive in all four of their games. This might be a good time to remember just how bad things were last season, when the word "competitive" disappeared in that 10-game death drop.
That said, maybe, at the very least, it's an encouraging sign that we're talking about how this team isn't finishing, because they hardly even started a year ago.
Then again, you're looking at the league's 30th-ranked offense and 27th-ranked defense.
Look, before this season, I thought the Bucs would be 1-3, exactly what they are, though I had them losing to Cam and Carolina in the opener and beating Washington. But they've been close in all these games, enough to second guess the coach and his decisions, to wonder what the record would be with a better run game (and Davin Joseph), a few more deep balls or just one or two more defensive stands.
The Bucs have lost three games by a combined 15 points. Maybe the fact that we're getting so very specific, this play or that, this decision or that, says the Bucs have come a long way from last year.
That's nothing a loss Sunday wouldn't destroy. The losing streak is three.
"You want to be better? Play better," Schiano said. "OK, that's simple, right? Well, how do you play better? You play better by preparing better, you play better by practicing better. And I've said that to teams for years. You guys don't like the result? Then play better. I don't like the result? Then coach better."
It's impossible not to worry about how this team can't sustain the run. Maybe a little more LeGarrette Blount is in order. It's impossible not to wonder, even with the handcuffs off, which is the real Josh Freeman. And it's hard not to wonder just how far this defense has come from its historically awful 2011 when you see the Redskins march to win that last game.
Chiefs replacement quarterback Brady Quinn hasn't made an NFL start since 2009. The Bucs should make him pay. Will they?
And how do you not remember all that stuff about Schiano not being a great game day coach at Rutgers? He has had some worrisome moments, those futile blitzes in New York, that strange offensive plan in Dallas and some questionable late-play selection/clock management against Washington.
Some of that falls on Schiano's coordinators, but he's the head coach, right? I think he's still trying to find that balance between hands on and hands off.
Schiano has a simple idea on team improvement:
"Present it more logically, so the guys get it on the first go. Practice more efficiently, have the right plays that we need to see. You can drive yourself nuts second guessing. Are these the right (plays)? But you have to try to get better in every area of the program, whether it's coaching, tackling, lifting weights.
"Everything that we do around here, we're trying to raise the level. And I'm really confident that that will start to manifest itself in wins, and then a lot of wins. But if I wasn't confident, then, man, we've got problems, right? I'm glad I am. I'm not sure everybody else is, but we'll get there."
At practice Thursday, Jamon Meredith saw time at right guard.
The plot thickens.