Following head coach Raheem Morris’s standard post-practice press conference Tuesday afternoon, offensive coordinator Greg Olson followed to continue fielding questions from the media.
When asked what he would like to see the Bucs offense improve upon most heading into Week 1 and beyond, Olson singled out his desire to put up points earlier in games.
“Obviously our starts in the first half and second half,” Olson said. “We were good on third downs, we need to maintain that. We were good with explosive plays. We were a top 10 in explosive plays. We need to maintain that level of play, but certainly we need to start faster in both halves.”
Tampa Bay has been notorious slow-starters in recent years, scoring only 43 points in the first quarter of games in 2010. The statistic of 54 straight games elapsing since the Bucs last surpassed seven first-quarter points has circulated around One Buccaneer Place since training camp.
Olson also spoke briefly about one of the team’s newest acquisitions in tight end Zack Pianalto.
“He’s a guy we had a chance to look at again. We liked him coming out of college. He had some injury issues coming out of North Carolina, but [we’ve] done an extensive job in scouting him and there were some qualities there we liked. We liked his athleticism; we liked his size and his production [in North Carolina] when he was playing.” “Then we had a chance to watch him in the preseason with Buffalo and we had some conversations with the people there,” he continued. “We just like the overall player we got. We like the upside in him and his ability to improve here for us. He’s a young player. He’s going to get thrown in the fire immediately, but we think he’s mature enough right now to handle it.”
Pianalto was picked up off waivers after spending the preseason with the Buffalo Bills. The 6-foot-4, 250-pound rookie caught six passes for 59 yards and no touchdowns during his time on the field this preseason.
Olson was also asked if, despite the lack of statistical success, he gleaned any positives from the preseason rushing performance.
“It’s difficult,” he said. “We went into the preseason with one of the goals to make sure LeGarrette Blount got to the regular season and we accomplished that goal. I still think it’s a work in progress and we’ll see, but we got a pretty good idea because we were able to bring back the entire offensive line and the running backs, with the exception of Cadillac. We were able to bring that group back. It’s a very familiar scheme that they’re running right now. It’s just a matter of getting up to game speed quickly in Week 1.”
Olson again confirmed what Morris disclosed last week, that RB Earnest Graham will start the season as the third-down back.
“[Graham] and Kregg Lumpkin have rotated, but Earnest has won the starting third-down spot. It will change on how Earnest feels and how much he’s carrying the ball as a tailback, but we’re real comfortable with Earnest. Again, it’s not a knock on Kregg Lumpkin or LeGarrette Blount at this point. It’s just that he’s someone who is familiar with our system, someone we trust and that has stepped up and taken on that role and proven himself on a daily basis in practice and in the preseason.”
Blount hasn’t yet honed his pass-catching and pass-blocking skills at the moment, but Olson said he continues to improve.
“He’s getting better. He’s still a young player and there are still mistakes along the way, but he’s working at it. And he is getting better."