What are the six things PewterReport.com publisher and Bucs beat writer
Scott Reynolds will be looking for in Tampa Bay’s home opener against
the New Orleans Saints? Find out in his new weekly column, SR’s Pick 6.
The Buccaneers (0-1) return home to Raymond James Stadium and will try to rebound from a horrific, season-opening loss to the Jets with a win against the New Orleans Saints (1-0). What are the six things PewterReport.com publisher Scott Reynolds is looking for in Tampa Bay’s home opener?1. BETTER PREPARATION, BETTER COACHING
The Buccaneers coaching staff had months to game plan for the Jets, and head coach Greg Schiano, offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan and defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan didn’t have their players adequately prepared to play in New York, which was ridiculous.
The intercom system between Sullivan’s walkie-talkie and Josh Freeman’s headset in his helmet didn’t work in the first quarter and it resulted in a timeout and two delay of game penalties – and ultimately a third-and-35 situation – because there was no backup system in place to calls plays. Sullivan also didn’t have a backup game-plan in case the stout Jets 3-4 defense took away Doug Martin and the running game, which it did.
Sheridan unwisely used a prevent defense on the Jets final drive that gave rookie QB Geno Smith ample time to hit tight end Kellen Winslow for a key 25-yard gain and allow Smith to scramble 10 yards to get into field goal range for the game-winner. Better in-game adjustments are needed from both of Tampa Bay’s coordinators.
The undisciplined Bucs were penalized 13 times for 102 yards and the execution was sloppy at times on both sides of the ball. Schiano did a poor job of managing the team’s use of the preseason and it showed in a Week 1 loss in New York. He and his assistants need to have this talented team better prepared to handle adversity than the Bucs did against the Jets.2. SULLIVAN MUST MIX IT UP ON OFFENSE
The Bucs can enter the Saints game with the same goal on offense – establish the run with Doug Martin and create play-action passing situations for Josh Freeman – but they need to try a different approach with different plays. Rob Ryan is New Orleans’ new defensive coordinator, and his scheme is almost a carbon copy of what his brother, Rex, used in New York’s 18-17 win over Tampa Bay on Sunday. Rex laid the blueprint on how to stop Martin and pressure Freeman into incompletions (and mistakes (one interception).
Of course, Rob Ryan has already had success against Freeman and the Bucs, beating Tampa Bay when he was the defensive coordinator of the Dallas Cowboys in Week 3 last year, 16-10. Freeman had his worst game of the season, completing just 10-of-28 passes for 110 yards with one touchdown, one interception and one fumble.
Tampa Bay will be facing a similar 3-4 defense again this week and must make the necessary adjustments and change-up the playbook to avoid a repeat of last week’s performance, which was less than 300 yards of total offense and just 17 points on the scoreboard. Having fullback Erik Lorig back should help the running game. Sullivan better call the game of his life on Sunday for the Bucs to have a chance to beat the Saints.3. FREEMAN NEEDS TO STEP UP AGAINST SAINTS
Bucs quarterback Josh Freeman struggled mightily against Rob Ryan’s defense last year in Dallas, completing just 37.5 percent of his passes and turning the ball over twice. Against his brother Rex’s defense last Sunday in New York, Freeman completed just 15-of-31 passes for 210 yards with a touchdown and an interception.
It’s time for Freeman to stop fearing micromanaging head coach Greg Schiano and start playing to win, rather than playing not to lose with the hesitancy he’s displayed during the preseason and season opener. Whether he has a captain’s “C” on his chest or not, Freeman needs to lose the “deer in the headlights” look, step up and take control of the offense. If the coaches can’t get the communication in his helmet to work right, Freeman needs to step up and just call a play.
Freeman has to remember that he’s in a contract year and has to take control of his career by taking control of the offense. He needs to focus like never before and actually out-duel Drew Brees on Sunday in order to get Tampa Bay the critical win it needs.4. BUCS MUST REDUCE THE PENALTIES
What’s the first rule of football? Don’t beat yourself. Next to turnovers, penalties are the biggest self-inflicted wound for any football team, and the Bucs had 13 infractions for 102 yards on Sunday, including a critical personal foul on linebacker Lavonte David, who hit New York quarterback Geno Smith late out of bounds. That gave the Jets 15 yards and put them in position to kick the game-winning, 48-yard field goal with four seconds left.
Safeties Dashon Goldson and Mark Barron were each penalized 15 yards for targeting supposedly “defenseless receivers.” Even though those infractions were tough to swallow, Goldson and Barron are setting the tone for wide receivers that dare come across the middle during the 2013 season. Those thirty yards will be well worth it when opposing receivers get alligator arms that will create dropped passes or interceptions later this year.
What the Bucs have to do is eliminate the defensive holding flags, the false starts and the delay of game penalties. Those are mental errors and technique errors, not necessarily penalties that come from playing hard. The Saints are tough enough to beat alone. The Bucs don’t need to do any favors for their opponents by giving away free yardage and first downs.5. DEFENSE MUST CONTINUE TO CREATE PRESSURE, TURNOVERS
There were some bright spots in Tampa Bay’s 18-17 loss at New York, and they mostly came on the defensive side of the ball. The Bucs’ revamped defense recorded five sacks, forced two fumbles and picked off a pass.
Tampa Bay’s linebackers were the stars of the show when it came to splash plays against rookie quarterback Geno Smith and the Jets. Middle linebacker Mason Foster had two sacks and a key forced fumble that was turned into a touchdown by the offense to go along with eight tackles, while weakside linebacker Lavonte David had an interception and a sack and eight tackles, too. Strongside linebackers Dekoda Watson (sack) and Jonathan Casillas (forced fumble) also made big plays for Bill Sheridan’s unit. The linebackers must equal their effort against Drew Brees and Co. this week in order to slow down New Orleans’ high-powered offense.
The Bucs defensive line did a good job pressuring Smith, but only registered one sack, which was from defensive end Daniel Te’o-Nesheim. Defensive end Adrian Clayborn and defensive tackle Gerald McCoy came close to sacking Smith, but will have to do a better job against Brees, who is even more difficult to sack due to his quick release.6. GET A VICTORY AT ALL COSTS
It’s only Week 2, but Bucs fans and some in the media are already beginning to jump ship. The “It’s A Bucs Life” slogan could quickly be turned into “Get A Life, Bucs!” as fan apathy could settle in with a 0-2 start to the 2013 season if the Buccaneers don’t win their home opener against the NFC South rival New Orleans Saints on Sunday. After a week full of distractions, this is a must-win game for Greg Schiano, Josh Freeman and the team, otherwise some drastic changes at One Buccaneer Place loom on the horizon.
The Bucs need to use every trick play in the book on offense – and even special teams – if they have to in order to get a victory. Tampa Bay cannot afford to start the season 0-2, as it will create turmoil inside the organization. A 0-2 record with a loss to the Saints would be demoralizing heading into a road game against AFC powerhouse New England.
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