One thing I have noticed is the slow development of most Buccaneer handoffs. Josh Freeman tends to slowly turn, and wait for a slowly moving Doug Martin to take the handoff. This delay would be beneficial behind a health O-line, as it would allow the strength of Nicks, Joseph, Penn, and Zuttah to surge forward and present the patient Doug Martin with multiple lanes to run through. However, behind the practice squad level offensive line in front of Doug Martin, speed and burst are key, as they cannot be expected to hold their blocks for any extended amount of time. I would like to see a quicker pace to the offense in general, as we’ve seen Josh feel a bit more comfortable in the no-huddle historically, but at the very least I’d like to see a bit of adaptation in the playcalling.
Another similar concern I noted during the game is the routes being ran by the wide receivers. It seems that third down and long features routes run 2-4 yards shy of the mark to gain, whereas third or fourth and short features deep routes with only Dallas Clark running a short route, along with a running back who is in pass protection/dump off pass assignment. This running back usually has to stay in to block due to the poor offensive line, leaving the least athletic receiving option on the team (Clark) as the only receiver in the range Josh is typically capable of throwing, considering his protection.
(An additional though on Clark… The deep ball thrown to him that resulted in an interception led to some discussion on Twitter as to who was to blame. In my opinion, the blame is spread equally to 1. Whoever decided an old H-Back should run a deep route/jump ball. 2. Josh Freeman for throwing a jump ball to an old H-Back.)
Defensively, one key concern presented itself multiple times on Sunday. Running backs and wide receivers are able to get incredible matchups against our defensive scheme. Lavonte David was responsible for Darren Sproles often, and that led to a touchdown catch for Sproles, and a dropped 3rd down pass that, if Sproles was fully healthy (he broke his hand earlier this season) would have resulted in a massive play for New Orleans, likely a score. David also was caught out in zone coverage, allowing receivers to cross in front of, and behind him, for gains across this middle. While David has certainly made a massive impact on the Buccaneers defense, he is not the man we want back in pass coverage against capable receivers. This may be an area of need for the Buccaneers, as our current group of linebackers seem to lack in coverage skills. However, this could also be another scheme issue, with an over-reliance on linebacker coverages. (And speaking of linebackers, the flaring tempers between Adam Hayward and Brian Cox is certainly a concern. This team is on the verge of falling off the tracks, and internal conflict can create rifts in the team, which is certainly not needed going into a critical offseason for the Buccaneers.)
A final thought about the defense, before moving on to a few positive thoughts. Why, oh why, is Aaron Morgan EVER responsible for covering Jimmy Graham? The person responsible for that call on defense deserves a fine, suspension, or firing. The fact that the Buccaneers did not treat Graham with respect is mind-boggling, as he’s the most dynamic healthy tight end in football today, with Gronkowski recovering from injury.
Some quick hitting positive remarks:
- Special teams was mostly good, covering almost every kick and punt well, and creating good field position with a 39 yard Roscoe Parrish punt return early in the game.
- The defensive line was disruptive at times, proving that this is one aspect of the team that will be key to future success, and needs to remain healthy for the Buccaneers to succeed.
- Dan Orlovsky didn’t walk out the back of the endzone.
There will be plenty of discussion this week about the future of the Buccaneers, the coaching staff’s decisions, and Josh Freeman’s struggles. However, one thing is for certain, the Buccaneers did not quit on the coaching staff today, and while they likely lost hope once down a few scores, this team does not resemble last year’s disaster.
At least not yet.
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