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September 12, 2011 @ 10:44 pm
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Olson and Morris Both Frustrated With Slow Starts

Written by Mark
Mark Cook


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Becoming a common trait with Josh Freeman under center, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers continue to have trouble moving the football and sustaining drives early in football games. Head coach Raheem Morris and offensive coordinator Greg Olson both addressed the pattern, and how they will try and fix it.

Josh Freeman and Co. have been a great come-from-behind team ever since the second-year quarterback started his first game against the Green Bay Packers in 2009 as a rookie. But just as good as they have been in coming from behind, they are just as bad in starting games quickly. Fans, coaches, players and even the beer vendors are frustrated.

Offensive coordinator Greg Olson and Raheem Morris, the two who have pulled their hair out the most, both commented Monday during their day-after press conferences about the difficulties they encountered moving the football Sunday against the Detroit Lions.

"As we watched and just looked at it yesterday, we felt like after the big kick return, the first play they hit us with man coverage and kind of brought a blitz and hit us in the mouth and we didn’t get the push we wanted,” Olson said. “So we’re in a second-and-10 and we get back to a third-and-five with a tight end screen to Kellen [Winslow] and in that situation you’re expecting man-coverage from Detroit, which is what we got. And now it’s just a matter of executing and having to me a confidence between a quarterback and a wide receiver of knowing -- in man-to-man coverage -- here’s the man-beaters. This is the guy I am going to go to and trust that he’s going to make a play on the ball.

“We have to develop that swagger as a unit, as the skill players and quarterbacks, to where, hey, if they have their guy on their side of the field, the ball’s going to him. … If you’re one on one, the ball’s coming to you. You run and Josh [Freeman] will have the confidence to throw the ball to you and know that you’re going to make a play for him.”

Part of what doomed the Buccaneers’ offense Sunday was an inability to convert short-yardage situations. Olson talked about the team’s woes.

“When you get in a short-yardage situation – I’m sure you’re talking about the specific one, the inside fullback handoff to Earnest – it was what we call a “Bear” defense,” Olson said. “Both guards and the center are covered, which is very typical for a third-down situation. We tried to pop Earnest [Graham] through [as] in the past. We didn’t get the push and the cutoff we needed on the backside. Normally, Earnest would slip out the back end of that. But we didn’t get enough push up front. He got tripped up on Freeman’s foot, and I think that also didn’t allow him to make that cut.

“In another one, we had a run-pass option. We ended up handing the ball off and didn’t get it done out of the shotgun. There were just issues. It wasn’t anything that Detroit had done. All of those situations it was just a matter of not executing. It wasn’t very good.”

Olson was asked if he considered using another running back in those situations in the future.

“In the four years that I’ve been here, he’s never not gotten a short-yardage situation,” Olson said. “That’s part of the reason we use him there. LeGarrette [Blount] is a solid player but he’s been hit-and-miss and we have to be a lot more hit with him. Both of those guys should be able to handle the short yardage situations.

Fans and media members have been suggesting that Tampa Bay start the game running its two-minute offense. Olson addressed those thoughts.

“We’ll definitely look at it. I’ve identified it,” Olson said. “It’s our job to solve the problem, solve the issue.

“We’ve changed up the way we practice. We’ve changed up the way we look at our openers and how we practice our openers early in the week to lesson the anxiety amongst our players when they start a game. We feel like we’re a little uptight when we start the game and you do things as a coach, especially with a young team, to try to lesson their anxiety by practicing the plays and constantly going over them so they’re comfortable with whatever look they see.

“When you start a game, you obviously have an idea what the defense is going to play. You do it based on what you’ve seen in previous games and what they’ve shown in those previous situations, but often times a team starts out against you with a different game plan than they’ve shown before. We have to react quicker to those changes.

“We didn’t start the game in two-minute today. Maybe in the future we will do that. We’ll continue to work with LeGarrette in the nickel package and protections. That’s something, obviously, we haven’t neglected. [It's] something that as soon as we got back from training camp, we knew we missed all those OTAs and June minicamps and we said we got to get LeGarrette up to speed quickly so we can use him. He’s getting there and he’s working at it, and we see him in the future being able to get in there and do that.”

Offensive captain and center Jeff Faine doesn’t believe starting the game in the two-minute will make a difference. In fact, Faine thinks it can be counter-productive.

“We did it in the second half and had two three-and-outs,” Faine said. “And that puts our defense on the field for an extended period of time. We are going out there for thirty seconds and they are out there for five or six minutes [if we don’t convert a first down]. When it’s not working a lot of things can go bad. It doesn’t just affect the offense. It affects a lot of people.”

Morris also addressed the trouble the Buccaneers have faced when trying to move the ball early in a game and talked about Tampa Bay’s identity when on offense.

“That’s not how we want to win games,” Morris said. “We want to win games with Blount bludgeoning you for 130 yards and us having a couple of play-action bombs and being efficient with Freeman.

“When we go to that two-minute offense like that, we kind of take Blount out of the game. That’s something we don’t want to do. We have a weapon in Blount. We want to run the ball with him.

“Maybe as a coach, I went too fast. I went too early with the two-minute offense but I wanted to get something going, something generated, get Freeman some confidence, and get all those guys going. And it worked to the standpoint we were able to get back in the game, but we don’t want to do it like that.

“That’s something for me to second guess, that’s something for me to improve [and] that’s something for me to get better at. And we will. I’m not going to sit here and tell you we’re going to be a spread, New England Patriots, Indianapolis Colts [type of offense]. That’s not who we are. We got LeGarrette Blount, big bludgeoning back, you [have] seen run for a 1,000 yards in this league. We want him to get to that again, if not improve on it.”

Morris said the coaches will get back in the meeting rooms and keep working on a solution.

“We’re continuing to work on it, but we have to start faster,” Morris said. “We have to come out and be more efficient on our openers on offense. We have to be faster starting on defense. We got to get that three-and-out early so we can get that ball back for our guys. Yesterday on a long drive, we got three [points] twice. We scored once. You thought you kind of turned that corner with a fast start with a kickoff return to the 20. You [have] got capitalize on all those things. That’s how you start faster. It’s taking advantage of your opportunities. We said it best in our team meetings, ‘Do your job.’ Our guys got to get out there and do their job. [We] have to do our job early, we have to do it often and we have to finish.”

Morris also said he shared in some of the blame when asked if perhaps going to the up-tempo game at the start of the third quarter was the right decision.

“You can blame me for that,” Morris said. "You guys can write that. 'Coach went to the two-minute offense too early.' But I was trying to give our team a chance to get it going and we got it going at that two-minute at the end; got the three [points]. I came out the tunnel and I looked at Ollie and I said let’s go two-minute fast right here off the bat and we did. We got a chance to get back in the game, but maybe coach went to it a little bit too early. I should have given us another chance back at our game plan.

Part of growing as a young football team is believing you can excel. Olson said he didn’t quite see the attitude he wanted during the course of the Detroit game.

“There was just a different feeling on the sideline a little bit,” Olson said. “I come back to the swagger. There’s no reason for this team to blink. You guys are a good football team. Believe me, that is what our message is to our football players. You’re a 10-6 football team. You won a lot of big football games last year. You’re playing against a good football team in the Lions, but you’re a good team, yourself. There’s no reason for anybody on this team to blink and feel like, ‘Oh, no.’ We’ll be fine. Settle down, take a deep breath and play football.”

Last modified on Monday, 12 September 2011 21:55

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  • avatar

    Maybe Morris needs to bring in another coach to specialized on hurryup offensive side of the ball. Maybe Freeman need to be talk to one on one with the coaching staff on the offensive side of the ball and the offensive players sit down in a class room and talk about these sistutations. I think sometime they get impatient but they need to everyone needs to understand what they need to do. Ialways thought that if there is a problem and get the proper players in the correct positions. If they can start getting off to a better start then Tampa doesn't have to come back from 12,15,20 points behind. GO BUCS
  • avatar

    The reason the two minute offense works is the other teams drop back deep in a prevent defense. They won't do that at the start of the game and Freeman won't be able to move the ball like he does at the end of games with the two minute offense. The Bucs could come out in a no huddle spread offense similar to what the Saints sometime use, and that might help get some rhythum for Freeman and help them start faster. The key reason the Lions game was lost was the folly of Raheem not playing his first string more during preseason. The Lions and Redskins did and look how they played! But Gruden used to do the same thing and lost to the Saints in the first game but then recovered and went on to win a Super Bowl. Once the Bucs get everything in sync, including the run blocking especially, the Bucs will get back on the winning track. They should try the QB sneak on short yardage and let Freeman use his power and extra weight to get the first down, and since Grimm is not 100% yet, Lynch should start until TJack comes back. The problems are fixable. Be patient Bucs Fans and you'll see.
  • avatar

    How bout some trust in your playmakers coaches; trust that Blount will know what to do in the 2 min offense because he may be the player with the most swagger. Maybe, we need to open the offense up early in the game and pound Blount later. Teams have watched what the Bucs did last year. We have gamebreakers at WR & TE; WR may be the strongest unit on the team. Open it up early get the ball to Mike, Rejus, K2 & Briscoe all over the place early & often then it will be much more easy to run Blount later. Another thing we are too bland, move the WRs around a bit put Mike in the slot some, move Rejus where Mike is a little, do more 3 WR sets and sometimes run Blount out of that when there is less traffic in the box. Jaworski, always says points come out of the passing game-----hear that Olson!!!!!
  • avatar

    Olson has only to look to himself for the slow start. No one, not the team, the fans, or the announcers could figure out what might be the Bucs game plan. I will concede that there was no execution, but I'm not sure there could have been much with the game plan as it was. McCoy says that the Lions surprised the Bucs with a new look. We used to adjust to new looks. Is that no longer possible?
  • avatar

    You want to keep freeman motivated and focused all day? You've got to break the game down for him. Make him buy in to the need to win every quarter. Heck every snap even is one he'll never get back on his quest to leave his mark on this national football league. I know he wants to be the best. His drive to win snaps him into his tiger woods/ michael jordan type focus. The greats of any sport know how to tap into that. He needs to find a way to "trick" himself into flipping that switch and ride it all game. That's brady, that's peyton manning. The kid has the skills and intangibles he just has to hit that zen zone and let those things take over with total confidence.
  • avatar

    Olson seems to be the only common thread. I think his first 15 plays just suck along with the rest of his play calling. How many times is this idiot going to run Graham when we need 1 yard? I thought he finally got it last year at the end of the season that Freeman will always get you 1 yard. This moron has no clue and it's only when this team is behind that he opens up the playbook and let's Freeman really play. The reason for the slow starts is he has no creativity to get this team going early. We have gm's that weren't ready to be GM's, head coaches that should be defensive coordinators and offensive coordinators who should be QB coaches. Couple that with the youngest team and a gm that ignores the biggest FA period in the history of the NFL and u have a formula that may end in disaster. Dominic also weakens the team by getting rid of Caddy and Ruud before their replacements are ready. Dominic has a reputation for drafting well (still to be determined) but why not try and show your a complete GM by using all avenues to improve your club instead of just 1.
  • avatar

    I think the Bucs may be trying to establish Free as a pocket passer a little too much. He has the tools to move around and open things up. They should let him roll out more and use those tools. Mix it up and keep the D off balance.
  • avatar

    It seems to me that currently for the Bucs "Gameplans" do not work. Identity is what you have to establish, then you will be able to "gameplan". The Bucs looked on Sunday like they were scrambling for something to work, and that is because they have no indentity to lean on. IF the OL could push the DL back or sideways or something, then the RB's could establish the running game, they are more than capable, and that should be their "identity". But currently, the Bucs are "Identified" as having a weak OL and they run straight up the middle. They need to consider stretch runs with more TE's, passes to the backs in the flats, and bringing the safety up so that Benn, Williams and Co. can do their thing on play-action. Mike Williams with his lone TD on Sunday has shown that he is the red-zone guy along with K2, but we need to develop Benn into that role as well. But all-in-all, until the Bucs have an identity that they can lean on in tough games, and the balls to stick with it, and the OL to help it work, it's gonna be a long time before they can be considered among the elite.
  • avatar

    The second thing I noticed was what a difference a new OC can make. The dolphins new "left lane" offense looked great. They took shots down the field and they ran quick slants to counteract the pass rush. I haven't given up on Olsen yet, but I am starting to doubt him for the first time. He has to show a lot more improvement as a play caller as the season progresses.
  • avatar

    Good article. Like a lot of you I watched the Pats/Dolphins game last night. Two thing stood out to me. First both teams had O-lines that could open up holes for the running game. R. Bush had the reputation of not being able to run between the tackles, but if you open up holes big enough (like Miami was doing) anybody can run between the tackles. Part of that is having a RB with the agility and vision to cut back when a hole opens up in a different place than expected, but the Bucs don't open up good holes anywhere more often than not.
  • avatar

    Blount had the longest catch,and run in the pre season, no reason to replace him on 3rd downs. Graham isn't getting it done, and put the ball on the ground, cut him and bring Mado up for that change of pace back. Olson how about just letting your 250lb Q.B. sneak for a yard? Also if you would roll Free out more,he could throw or easily pick up a quick 5 with his legs. This would also let you leave Blount in the game since he wouldn't be required to pick up the blitz.Maybe the players don't have that swagger because they don't believe you know what you're doing along with the rest of us. Watched the Pats tear up Miami with 2, and 3 T.E. sets. I thought we were going to do some of that this year, but then again we cut 3 T.E., and now have Winslow who can't play every snap, Stocker the rook, who couldn't go in camp, and missed a big catch, and some other rook I never heard of. Purvis,and Hardy didn't look that bad in camp, maybe bring one or both back and run more T.E. sets, it would help the running game also.
  • avatar

    A good read Mark. At least they're able to pseudo-identify what possibly went wrong. I didn't see the game, but from everything I have read it gives me an idea that we were pushed around a bit. It is rather unfortunate that we didn't try to establish the run to fight back; particularly after the 2 minute offense failed. We have a week to get it right & I know that Minnesota will have plenty of swagger. Hopefully we will have gained some by then as well.
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