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September 28, 2012 @ 12:58 pm
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Bucs' Offense Feeling A Sense Of Urgency

Written by Dory
Dory LeBlanc


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Ranked last in the league in third down conversions and total yards, the Bucs' coaching staff acknowledges there is a sense of urgency heading into the Redskins game. Head coach Greg Schiano and offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan are hoping that on Sunday, the offense begins to click.  
If the Bucs’ offense has a chance to show what they can do in the air, this Sunday will be their best shot yet this season.

Facing a Redskins defense ranked 31st in passing defense, allowing 337 yards per game (one step higher than the Bucs at 32 with 353 yards per game allowed), the Bucs may be able to open the playbook more this week and expose the Washington secondary which has given up big plays this season.

One of the biggest concerns has been the Bucs continuously running the ball on first down, leaving little to opposing defensive coordinator’s imagination. Tampa Bay offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan acknowledged Thursday that the offense is seeking balance between running the ball and keeping defenses off guard.

“There are always going to be concerns about trying to keep them on their toes,” Sullivan said, “And at the same time establish a mindset of time of possession. It’s a constant balance that we’re continuing to work with and certain when there are opportunities to take shots down field or even hit some intermediate passes, we have to implement. We have to be able to do that.

"As we establish who we are and what are tendencies then it falls upon us as coaches to identify all those areas where maybe we’re being too predictable or maybe we’re trying to set a trap for an opponent or whatever the case may be and obviously we’re aware of that and that’s been an emphasis.”

One of the biggest problems the Bucs have had so far is the inability to convert third downs. Currently, the Bucs are last in the league in third down conversions, last week converting only 3-of-15 against the Cowboys. Sullivan believes in order to put themselves in a better situation on third downs, it starts with the first two.

“Before you focus on the third down you have to back track a little bit,” Sullivan said, “And look at the thing we are doing or aren’t doing to put ourselves in a better position on third down and that’s getting into those third-and-two and three-and-four and -five and that starts with avoiding some of the negative plays, whether it’s penalties or a tackle for a loss or a run that doesn’t gain anything or an incomplete pass is a starting point. And then as you get into the third down really trying to identify the areas that your strengths are and really trying to out our guys in the best spots.

"I know that sounds very simple and it’s easier said than done, but I think we’re in a much better position where we kind of bank on the things that we’ve gotten good at and are comfortable with when we’re in those more manageable down and distances. But there’s no question, whether it’s third-and-11-plus or third-and-one, we have to respond. We haven’t been doing that and we have to do a better job.”

Head coach Greg Schiano also believes third down conversions are an issue and says that the coaching staff is addressing the situation leading up to Sunday’s contest.

“Well, when you look at where we are right now there cannot be one thing,” Schiano said. “It is several things. I am sure as Mike (Sullivan) and I look at it we are going to just keep trying to figure out what is best for our guys. We are figuring the whole thing out as well with our new guys and our new offense. Then we have to execute and we have to protect and we have to throw and we have to catch. That’s what it boils down to. I think Mike (Sullivan) has had a real good feel of mixing some runs in there on third down which is always helpful. So all that adds up to the end result.

"Right now after three games we are not where we want to be as our cumulative effort, but I do see that we are getting better. Today is third down day [and] I felt the guys are getting better little by little. Again, if we can stay on that gradual climb we will get there.”

Even if the Buccaneers are able to improve upon the third down rate, consistency is also a factor in the lack of offensive production. In addition to the Bucs being last in the league in third downs, they also are at the bottom in total yards with an average of 243 yards per game, and 30th in passing, averaging 149 yards.

“As a cumulative approach all of us have to get better.” Sullivan said. “That starts with me, the coaches, the players. The good thing is we’re still pulling together here and we’re still trying to find what are the things we can do better. And as you take the mystery out of it as far as when a play breaks down, whether it’s because of a technique error or an assignment error or it’s one of those calls you wish you could have back, whatever the case may be, as we’ve addressed those and continue to grow as a staff and offensive unit.

“I’ve been very pleased with the resolve of the group and the determination of the group and the fact that when we’ve had some of those setbacks, it’s not a finger-pointing type of a deal, it’s ‘Okay, let’s solve the problem.’ And so that’s where our focus is, it’s on moving forward and solving our problems offensively.”

Fourth year quarterback Josh Freeman’s production has been lackluster in the first three games, following an offseason in which the front office has bolstered his weapons selecting running back Doug Martin in the first round, and adding WR Vincent Jackson and TE Dallas Clark in free agency. Freeman’s protection was also reinforced when Tampa Bay signed arguably one of the best guards in the NFL, Carl Nicks.

Sullivan believes that the positive production from Freeman will come soon enough, hopefully beginning with Sunday against the Redskins.

“I think it’s a combination of a lot of things.” Sullivan said. “It comes down to working him to a point where he is able to trust his training and go out there and use his natural skill set and abilities and vision and the talents he has. The guys on the other side of the ball have a plan and talent and they can do some things to complicate that and we have to do our end to help him throw the football, whether its protection or receiving or his responsibility, so it’s hard to put our finer one particular thing. But we are continuing to make progress. He’s had a good week this week and we continue to be confident in his approach and development and we’re looking forward to Sunday."

Schiano also believes the offense is a work in progress, but that the team is feeling the pressure to start producing soon.

“The big thing is,” Schiano said, “We’re three games into the season and it’s a long season. It’s not about where we are in September; it’s where we’re going to be in November and December.

“It starts this Sunday, we have a sense of urgency, but the good news is that its’ where you’re at as you move forward and continue to build. And we’re not where we want to be right now, but we’re committed to improvement as a staff and with the players and we’re excited about Sunday.”
Last modified on Friday, 28 September 2012 13:22

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  • avatar

    Freeman better be accurate this week and not predictably throwing to just the first half of the field he stares at, or he needs to be benched and we need to see how our veteran backup can play with the first string. We didn't get to the Superbowl with a young QB. And yes Williams and Jackson best not be dropping any more balls either. We need to get our zone blocking offense untracked. If Washington can be number one in running the ball with a zone offense, the Bucs should be able to do a lot better than they have been doing. The Defense has been wonderful, and just needs to keep up the good work. Go Bucs!!!
  • avatar

    The offensive side of the ball has been the weakness of this team for almost a decade..hopefully this is the beginning of the end of that phase.though I still feel we are a few seasons away still,steps in the right direction are a must.most of our offensive additions over the last ten years have been horrible hopefully coach will bring us out of our drafting dark ages..I wish free and the rest of the fellas the best of luck,hope Sunday brings a victory or signs of an offense growing and moving forward... Scubog---don't be too soft on these guys- they are a bunch a millionaires playing a game most have played since they were children..it's easy to understand a fan base having expectations,especially with the cost of being a fan of the NFL..
  • avatar

    If you're 1-13 nobody where care where you are in December.
  • avatar

    Participating in the blame game is a fan's privilege and I'm gonna exercise my right here. I spent the better part of last nite watching - and rewatching the Dallas game and can say that had Jackson and Williams caught the balls they dropped, it likely is a much different game. No doubt, all the talk and planning re philosophy is part of it but you have to catch the darn ball and move the chains. It truly is a game of inches and Josh is not the most accurate guy, but dropped passes when they're in your hands are simply not acceptable.
  • avatar

    Maybe Dominik should make a trade with the Saints for Luke McCown before Brees gets benched for his 0-3 start and the fans start to think he's suddenly too short. Right! We fans are so impatient.
  • avatar

    Now they have a sense of urgency?shouldnt they have since the start? Tired of excuses bucs- nut up or shut up..I'm tired of the lip service- I just wanna see a consistent and effective offense..
  • avatar

    IMO, it all starts with the play calling. Then Freeman has to be accurate and on target, not close but on target.
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