Battle Plan for Bucs to Bounce Back
With six games and a bye week in the books, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are currently sitting on a 2-4 record, coming up on the last two games of a brutal seven-week stretch without a true home game.
How can the Pewter Pirates right the ship and make a playoff run this season?
Here are three ways:
Front Four Pressure
Easier said than done, right? Still, the Bucs have the horses to get after opposing quarterbacks with just four guys, and while Shaq Barrett has obviously been a huge presence, the rest of the group needs to rise to the occasion. Vita Vea and Ndamukong Suh have been stellar against the run, but they're simply a step too late as pass rushers far too often. Carl Nassib has had some splash plays, but they need to happen more often.
Tampa Bay has blitzed frequently this season, but it's not working. They're not getting to opposing quarterbacks any more frequently with extra rushers, and all the blitzes are doing is creating more space for one of the league's worst secondaries to have to cover. The Bucs can't afford to keep leaving their defensive backs to cover the entire field, only to have blitzers not get home. The defensive line simply has to step up.
Protect with Play-Calling
Tampa Bay's offensive line is currently banged up in a bad way, with both starters on the right side missing the last game due to injury. Even when healthy, that side of the line has struggled at times this year, yet the Bucs' offensive game plan continues to call for deep drop-backs and long-developing routes.
The Bucs need to help quarterback Jameis Winston by giving him more quick-game throws and short drops, mitigating their weaknesses up front and allowing Tampa Bay's wealth of offensive weapons to get the ball in their hands sooner. This should help lower the amount of unnecessary turnovers and sacks that have plagued the Bucs in recent weeks.
Jimmys & Joes + Xs & Os
Too often, the Bucs have forgotten the amount of quality playmakers they have in the passing game. Mike Evans is one of the best wide receivers in the league, and Chris Godwin is proving so far this season that he belongs in that conversation. In recent weeks, we've seen too much of Jameis Winston targeting Bobo Wilson or Scottie Miller on in key situations when playmakers like Evans and Godwin should be able to take over and make a play, no matter how covered they are.
The scheme also needs to be tweaked to take advantage of the talent on the roster. You won't find a more talented tight end tandem in the NFL than O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate, but they've both been criminally underused so far this season. Howard in particular is a mismatch machine, but the Bucs aren't making the most of his skill set by moving him around and getting him favorable matchups.