TAMPA — The education of Tampa Bay Buccaneers rookie QB Mike Glennon continues in earnest Thursday night.
Tampa Bay’s third-round draft pick out of North Carolina State faces a daunting challenge heading into his fourth NFL start as the winless Bucs face the resurgent Panthers, who have won three of four after an 0-2 start.
“They’re definitely really talented,’’ Glennon said Monday. “They’re one of the top defenses in the league and the first person who comes to mind, probably because I played against him in college, is Luke Kuechly (Boston College). He’s all over the field, instinctive, smart, just has a knack for the ball.’’
The Panthers will enter Raymond James Stadium with the league’s No. 3 defense, yielding an average of 302 yards and 14 points per game. Kuechly, a middle linebacker, led the league with 164 tackles as a rookie in 2012.
Both clubs face a short turnaround and the Bucs should have an advantage as the home team.
“We both have to get to our game plans right away,’’ said Glennon, who is averaging an NFL-low 4.97 yards per pass attempt on third down. “Luckily for us, we don’t have to travel on Wednesday, and they do. Right now, technically, it’s like a Thursday afternoon for us. You have to get your body right and your mind right and be ready to go sooner than normal.’’
Glennon has thrown three interceptions in 130 pass attempts and he suffered a critical lost fumble Sunday at Atlanta, but he has displayed impressive poise since replacing Josh Freeman under center.
“Mike Glennon is going to be a good quarterback in this league,’’ RT Demar Dotson said. “As an offensive line, we’ve got to bust our tails and give him the time to get the job done.’’
The Bucs lead the league in penalty yardage (516) and only the Jets (64) and Seahawks (55) have been flagged more times than Tampa Bay (54) this season.
Penalties were a major factor in Sunday’s 31-23 loss at Atlanta, wiping out an apparent touchdown pass from Glennon to Tiquan Underwood and undermining an 18-play drive in the fourth quarter that went backward once the Bucs reached the Falcons’ 5-yard line.
“Last year, I think we were 11th in the league in penalty yardage and now we’re dead last,’’ Bucs coach Greg Schiano said. “So something has changed. It’s a problem we have to get solved. Now, what is the problem? Part of it, I really believe, is we’re just trying too hard. We’re pressing a little bit.’’
In September, Tampa Bay was hurt by several personal foul penalties called against the defense. Recently, the offense has been the primary culprit.
“When you look at the final sheet (Sunday), you look at a lot of the different things and you say, ‘Oh, what did we win by?’ But you don’t look at that column that says ‘PEN’ because that’s a big reason why we didn’t win,’’ Schiano said.
Tampa Bay’s average of 4.27 yards gained on first down ranks last in the NFL, but the Bucs defense has excelled on first down, topping the NFC by yielding an average of only 4.61 yards. ... Veteran LB Jonathan Casillas, signed as a free agent from New Orleans in March, made his first start for the Bucs on Sunday in place of Dekoda Watson on the strong side. ... Bucs WR Vincent Jackson, who has 19 catches for 252 yards and four TDs in the past two weeks, ranks fourth in the NFL with an average of 90.7 receiving yards per game. ... Only Houston DE J.J. Watt (12) has posted more tackles for loss than Bucs OLB Lavonte David (nine) this season.