Wilkerson a rare bright spot on defense
Nineteen months after joining the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as a free agent, Jimmy Wilkerson arrived on Sunday. The 28-year-old defensive end posted all three of Tampa Bay's sacks against Donovan McNabb in a 33-14 loss to the Eagles that dropped the Bucs to 0-5.
"Heck of a game for a heck of a player,'' said veteran Bucs defensive tackle Chris Hovan after Wilkerson's name was splattered all over the post-game stat sheet with his three takedowns, six tackles, two quarterback hits, one tackle for a loss and a forced fumble.
"I've been trying to play with a lot of aggression and anger,'' said Wilkerson, who has five of Tampa Bay's nine sacks on the season. "The coaches keep telling all of the defensive linemen to keep working, keep grinding and something good is going to happen.''
After five years and one sack as a spot player with the Chiefs, Wilkerson has blossomed in Tampa. "You really have to give Jimmy a ton of credit because there were a lot of max protect plays out there, and he still got the sacks,'' said rookie defensive tackle Roy Miller.
Wilkerson's three-sack effort was overshadowed by a ninth consecutive loss heading into Sunday's home matchup against Carolina. "We're sitting here at 0-5 and all we can do is try to grow together,'' Wilkerson said. "We can't allow ourselves to hang our heads or things will get even worse.''
Rumbling and bumbling
On a day when Tampa Bay's receivers had difficulty holding onto the football, it was left for Donald Penn to show how it's done.
The burly left tackle provided a brief second-quarter spark when he latched onto a Josh Johnson pass deflected by Eagles defensive end Darren Howard and lumbered 15 yards to Philadelphia's 8-yard line, where he was tackled by defensive end Trent Cole. Penn quickly got to his feet and gave the first down signal – twice.
"I told (offensive coordinator) Greg Olson he needs to make me a tackle-eligible,'' said Penn, listed at 6-foot-5, 305 pounds. "Once I broke that first tackle, I thought I was gone.''
Penn's first reception since high school was quickly overshadowed as Johnson was intercepted in the end zone two plays later. "I didn't play that good today,'' said Penn, who matched up against Cole, Philadelphia's best pass rusher, most of the afternoon. "I'm my harshest critic. I missed a run blitz and got Josh sacked earlier in the game. That was my fault. I'm just a way better player than what I did today.''
Keeping it tight
Penn wasn't the only Buccaneer who produced in the passing game as tight end Kellen Winslow provided all the scoring with a pair of 9-yard TD catches. Through five games, Winslow has 26 catches for 257 yards and four touchdowns – all team highs. "We have to continue to grow with him (Johnson) and Winslow stepped up today,'' said Coach Raheem Morris. "He had a big game for him and he helped out big time.''
Johnson threw 12 of his 50 passes in Winslow's direction Sunday. "It's not showing, but we're trying to come together,'' Winslow said. "Josh is going to be a good player in this league. He's starting to see things.''
Tampa Bay's 0-5 getaway has taken the luster off Winslow's fast start, but he's trying to remain positive. "We're living a dream here and a lot of people forget that,'' he said. "I could say a lot of things, but I'm not going to go there. I'm just happy to be here – put it that way.''
The return of quarterback Donovan McNabb from a fractured rib suffered in the season opener diminished Michael Vick's impact Sunday. Vick carried four times for 10 yards and completed 1-of-3 pass attempts for one yard in limited minutes, handing the ball off several times from the wildcat formation.
Ira Kaufman, The Tampa Tribune 12 October 2009