What Next for the Buccaneers (By Jim Green)
Possibly one of the hardest analysis of an underachieving team up next; the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Buccaneers came in to the 2017 season with very high expectations based on the personnel on the roster. It looked top notch.
On the offence they had Winston entering his third year, already a leader and demonstrating all the necessary qualities to be a star at the quarterback position. To throw to they added the speedster DeSean Jackson to their superstar number one receiver Mike Evans. As well as that, they drafted tight end OJ Howard out of Alabama who looked a stud.
On the other side of the ball they had quality all through the team in the shape of defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, linebacker Lavonte David and cornerbacks Vernon Hargreaves III and Brent Grimes. It all looked so good that Hard Knox even showed up to film the training camp and we all left feeling like it would be a good year.
And then the season started. Only it didn’t as Tampa’s game with Miami was called off due to the onslaught of Hurricane Irma. And then when they did start, they weren’t all that convincing in a win against the Bears and after that their season has never really got going. Currently at 4-8 they’ve flattered to deceive and leaves us asking; What’s next for the Buccaneers?
Jason Licht the GM has, along with his scouting team have put a good roster together. As above there’s good players in key positions and even the backup QB has done a decent job of late so I think he’s safe in his spot, but I would be looking at the head coaching position. Dirk Koetter was appointed as it was said he had a good relationship with Winston and the brass wanted some continuity for their young star QB. Makes sense.
Except it hasn’t really worked. Dirk is still heavily involved in the offence along with coordinator/wide receivers coach Todd Monken and aside from the odd good play there’s not enough consistent production. If Dirk were to step back down to offensive coordinator it may improve things but I’m not sure that’s ever happened and if it did, it would undermine the new head coach so let’s rule that out.
If he were to leave then who would come in? That might depend on whether Mike Smith choses to stay or go. If he stays as defensive coordinator they should look for an offensive minded head coach to take the reins. Smith could of course step up to the head coach role himself having had the experience in Atlanta where he didn’t do a disastrous job – just not an outstanding one!
If it’s not Smith I would look to a more offensive minded coach to take over. Matt Nagy the offensive coordinator in Kansas has been generating a bit of interest, after all, along with Andy Reid they’ve made Alex Smith look alright. Josh McDaniels is another option and with a ready made QB in place he would be in a better position than he was in Denver.
Which brings me on to the quarterback himself. I, personally, am a big fan of Jamies Winston. He can genuinely produce stunning plays, can scramble to get himself out of trouble and seems to have genuine leadership qualities. The only thing is he tries to do too much. Like most QBs, he doesn’t like getting sacked but unlike a lot of them, he opts for the spectacular pre-sack throw rather than just taking the sack and protecting the ball. All too often this has ended up in interceptions.
Winston needs to have a QB coach who can mentor this tendency out of him. He needs to understand that it’s not ALL on him. Once he realises that and accepts that he doesn’t have to pull rabbits out of his arse then he has the chance to be one of the top five QBs in the league. Winston should take a long hard look at some of the less spectacular QBs out there who get the job done – namely Alex Smith. Like I said, not spectacular but if there’s one positive thing you can say about Smith it’s that he doesn’t often give the ball away.
When I started thinking about this article I was really struggling to figure out where it’s all going wrong for the Bucs. They seem so talented. I’ve been through the wide receiver personnel and they’ve got Doug Martin back at running back now and he’s decent. I decided to look at league stats to see if that would offer up any clues. When in doubt, turn to data and cold hard facts!
The Bucs score well in the passing game and even with Jamies’ tendencies, the interception numbers aren’t too bad in comparison to the rest of the league. The running game however is a different story. Now I know Doug Martin was out for a number of games but his stats and the team’s stats when it comes to running the rock are not good.
Tampa are 28th in terms of rushing yards so far this season. Their average yards per attempt is 3.6, below the magical figure of 4 which a runner should be aiming for. In terms of rushing touchdowns, they have five. That’s just one more than the Giants who have a well-documented terrible running game!
If you break out Doug Martin’s stats, it’s not that much better. 376 yards and 3.2 yards per attempt with two TDs. Hardly elite.
I checked to see the stats in terms of sacks to see if there’s an issue with the offensive line. They’ve given up 27 which is firmly rooted in the middle section of the league (the Colts have given 51 which is the most and the Chargers the least on 13).
So what gives? Well I think the Bucs need to look at their running back stable. Like I said, I thought Doug Martin was solid but this season, even with the suspension, he’s not done it. Behind Martin there really isn’t much to get excited about on the depth chart. Next up is Jacquizz Rodgers. Honestly.
To improve in this department (which will also help Winston) they need to invest some draft picks in the running back position. There are some good-looking backs coming through college this year and with what is currently a top ten pick, Tampa would be well served to invest in one of them. Saquon Barkley (Penn State), Heisman finalist Bryce Love (Stanford) and Nick Chubb (Georgia) are all players who could demand a first-round pick though a top ten one might be a bit rich. Many teams this year though have shown that good running backs can be found deep in the draft (Alvin Kamara and despite his current dip, Kareem Hunt being good examples). Further down the “talent chart” you can find players like Akrum Wadley (Iowa), Ronald Jones II (USC) and Royce Freeman (Oregan) who have all had 1,000+ yards seasons. It’s worth a look and some deep scouting info on the whole class – I’m sure this time next year we’ll again be lamenting the abilities of a rookie running back drafted post the third round.
So, What Next?
At an extreme – clear the coaching staff and bring in some fresh thinking. At the very least, Koetter needs to relinquish his control on the offence and bring in a new offensive coordinator to get the team going. Improving the running game will take some pressure off Winston and will ensure that opposing teams respect the run game and put more defenders in the box allowing the pace of Jackson to be exploited in one on one match ups.