The Buccaneers are one of the hottest teams in football, rattling off four straight wins and setting themselves up for a playoff spot. However, there are still some glaring issues on offense.
Not to be a “Debbie Downer”, but the Buccaneers are having some major issues on offense as of late. Thankfully, the defense has stepped up and led the charge during the current four game win streak. Jameis Winston was masterful in the comeback against the Chargers, finding guys like Cameron Brate and Freddie Martino when Mike Evans was all but taken out by the defensive scheme and we watched Cecil Shorts and Adam Humphries leave with injuries.
At the end of the day, the Bucs are still leaving far too many points on the field.
The Buccaneers are eighth in the NFL in red zone opportunities per game, averaging 3.6 trips inside their opponent’s 20-yard line. Yet, they’ve only scored a touchdowns every 1.9 trips. That leaves them 20th in the league, scoring a touchdown on 53.5% of their red zone trips, and only 33% in their last three games.
That’s not going to cut it in the postseason.
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The Buccaneers are currently relying far too heavily on the leg of Roberto Aguayo, who is 15-of-22 on the year, 12-of-14 from inside 40 yards. The Buccaneers can not let their playoff hopes – or a playoff game – come down to the uncertain leg of Aguayo. I still believe Aguayo can turn things around long term, but in his rookie campaign he can not be counted on.
The injuries the offense has sustained – Shorts, Humphries, Vincent Jackson – certainly have not helped the red zone woes. Winston is relying on Mike Evans and a pack of undrafted free agents that would likely only be on most other teams’ practice squads to win games against teams like Atlanta, Seattle, Kansas City, Denver, New Orleans, San Diego, and Dallas. It truly is a testament to how much better Winston makes the players around him.
You can criticize Dirk Koetter’s red zone play calling, but there really aren’t a lot of options for him to go to. Defenses are trying their best to eliminate Mike Evans from the Bucs’ game plan and forcing Koetter to use his other weapons to beat them. The running game has been tough sledding since Jacquizz Rodgers last 100 yard game – and that was against San Francisco.
The return of Charles Sims – which we could potentially see this Sunday against the Saints – will add a weapon in the passing game. They will have to line Sims up at receiver, especially given the loss of Shorts and question marks surrounding Humphries who is in concussion protocol. Sims always proved more dangerous in the passing game than he did as a runner, and with a three-headed attack in Doug Martin, Quizz, and Peyton Barber, Sims can be best utilized as a pass catcher.
If the Buccaneers are going to continue to stun the NFL world and really make a run into the postseason, they have to get really creative when they get inside the red zone. Period. They have no problems moving the ball up and down the field, but continue to stall and settle for field goal attempts rather than punching it into the end zone.
Winston has found a way to succeed with minimal threats around him and Koetter is calling masterful games given what he has to work with. It’s on the two of them to find ways to not only get Evans the ball more, but to maximize what little weapons they have left. Otherwise, the postseason may just slip away.