Buccaneers: What to expect from Bruce Arians’ offense

SEATTLE, WA - DECEMBER 31: Head coach Bruce Arians of the Arizona Cardinals looks over plays during the game against the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field on December 31, 2017 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)
SEATTLE, WA - DECEMBER 31: Head coach Bruce Arians of the Arizona Cardinals looks over plays during the game against the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field on December 31, 2017 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images) /

Buccaneers fans are in for a big surprise when Bruce Arians changes the look of the Tampa Bay offense next season. Expect a litany of big plays.

“No risk it, no biscuit.”

That’s the motto that new Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians molds his offensive style after. For nearly 40 years, Arians has used his aggressive approach to become one of the most respected coaches in all of football.

Arians’ pass-first offense encourages quarterbacks to take shots down the field. The verticality in an Arians offense becomes obvious from the get-go. No matter the situation, expect the new-look Tampa Bay offense to take shots. Attacking one-on-one matchups and using the Bucs’ elite weapons to make life hard for opposing defenses.

Arians will use deep post routes, fly routes and other routes that take time to develop to stretch the opposing defense and challenge secondaries.

Arians doesn’t exercise those chances on every down, but frequently enough so defensive coordinators have it in the back of their minds on each snap. That’s the kind of reputation that made him the Buccaneers’ prime candidate.

Take this play from 2017 for example. The Cardinals may have been down by 10 points, but it was a first down play with plenty of time remaining. Most coaches wouldn’t dare to call a play like that.

The play design itself may not have been that innovative, but Arians called it at the perfect time. That’s the key in this offense.

Arians’ has this knack for taking shots at the ideal time. The play may be a simple go route, but it was a calculated risk, one that no defense could have expected. That’s what makes him a unique play caller.

During his interview with Rich Eisen, Arians mentioned that offensive coordinator. Byron Leftwich would be calling plays. He quickly said that he would still play a significant role. Likely, for the times when he feels the itch to make a game-breaking call.

Although the Bucs would hit an occasional post to DeSean Jackson last season, that wasn’t in the offense’s repertoire. Using the middle of the field more should be a priority next season.

Route concepts in Arians’ system are also quite extraordinary. He loves to run deep posts down the field with speedy receivers, as well as double-moves on the outside to take advantage of aggressive defensive backs.

Plus, Arians has always had a unique style of play design. He implements quirky packages that confuse defenses. Although his overall philosophy of taking chances will remain on a weekly basis, his offense regularly adds new wrinkles.

One that he should be excited to add will be taking advantage of the walking mismatch that is O.J. Howard. Arians has had the services of some talented tight ends throughout his career, but none with the skillset that Howard possesses.

Players like Howard and Mike Evans should be pleased with how they are utilized in the new Buccaneers offense.

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There won’t be many passive decisions from Arians. It may not be the most popular decision at times, but don’t expect many third-and-one runs up the gut. The Bucs are going to spread them out and try to get 20 more yards.

Even his former defensive players took notice of his ultra-attacking style. In a story from Bleacher Report’s Dan Pompei, Calais Campbell raved about Arians’ offensive philosophy.

“I love how aggressive he is on offense and that he goes for the jugular all the time,” Campbell said.

That type of mentality will work wonders for a young and hungry Tampa Bay team. It will make the most significant impact on quarterback Jameis Winston, who needs someone who has complete trust in him.

That trust will be crucial for Winston. He faces a pivotal 2019 season, and he will have to perform at his absolute best if he is going to receive an extension from the Buccaneers. Arians and his offense should be able to turn Winston into the quarterback that Tampa Bay fans expected to see.

Arians’ ability to allow his players to have some say will be where the difference lies. Winston will be able to have input and discuss which plays he is most confident in. Having the coaching staff and Winston on the same page come gameday may be the solution to his, at times, boneheaded turnovers.

The offensive staff will also prepare Winston for almost anything. Rarely do Arians-coached teams get out-schemed. Tampa Bay will be equipped next season come Sunday, something that happened far too often of late.

Arians is a tremendous game planner.  Although he may not be as involved in that aspect with the Bucs, his top assistants Byron Leftwich and Harold Goodwin are very familiar with the system in place.

Both Leftwich and Goodwin come directly from the Arians coaching tree. Their loyalty to him was apparent as they were two of the first assistants announced after the Arians hire. Plus, Leftwich could be a great mentor for Winston with his experience as a former NFL quarterback.

The remainder of Arians’ offensive assistants have at least some familiarity with him. This became one impressive coaching staff in mere days.

Of course, one of the biggest complaints about Tampa Bay’s offense over the last few seasons was the lack of a running game. The Bucs consistently finished in the bottom 10 in the league in rushing yards.

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There’s no denying that Arians likes to air the ball out, but his system does value running backs. David Johnson found tremendous success as a runner and receiver out of the backfield. He isn’t an outlier either. Less talented backs like Andre Ellington, an aging Chris Johnson and Rashard Mendenhall all found success in an Arians-run offense.

One of the keys for the backs mentioned above was their ability to make plays as a receiver. At the moment, Tampa Bay doesn’t have a viable pass-catching back. If 2018 second-round pick Ronald Jones can improve in that department, perhaps a turnaround season would be in order.

If Jones cannot develop as a receiver, the Bucs could be adding a back that fits that role in the offseason. In a way, short passes out of the backfield disguises as the rushing attack in Arians’ offenses.

Rather than gaining four yards on a carry, the runner can escape the backfield and try to make a play in the open field. It’s commonplace in the NFL, but it hasn’t been utilized in Tampa Bay often.

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Truthfully, Arians’ offense is far from perfect. It does have the ability to put his team in a hole.

Taking planned deep throws down the field can lead to not only turnovers but sacks. Throughout Arians’ career, his quarterbacks were always known to turn the ball over. In 14 seasons, Arians-coached quarterbacks ranked in the bottom half of the league in interceptions thrown.

Plus, sacks were always a problem.

Frankly, that seems like the worst formula for Winston. With interceptions being one of the most considerable concerns throughout his career, Winston may be in for more costly turnovers in 2019.

The Bucs don’t feature an efficient pass-blocking offensive line either. Left tackle Donovan Smith allowed the fourth-most pressures and fifth-most sacks in the NFL last season, according to Pro Football Focus.

Arians may not have a team that perfectly molds around his offense, but he has a talented quarterback that will have by far the best coaching staff that he has ever been around. The wideouts will have a play caller that will be able to put them in a position to make highlight reel plays.

The Buccaneers offense will be fun to watch in 2019. Hopefully, Arians can make it the team’s identity for what should be at the very least an exciting unit to watch.

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