Welcome, Bucs fans, to the new look Bucs Briefing! During the season I’ll be studying the All-22 tape of each game, and providing you with a comprehensive film breakdown of what went right and what went wrong for the Bucs on Sundays.

The hope is that Bucs Briefing will be live on the site early each Wednesday morning, but this week’s edition is delayed and somewhat neutered due to the NFL failing to release the coaches’ film of this week’s game by Tuesday morning, as they are supposed to.

But have no fear, we’ve got plenty of broadcast and replay angles to go over this week, as we examine the positives and negatives from the team’s performance on Sunday.

Offense

RT Wirfs’ Hot Start

We spent all week talking about how the Bucs could help rookie right tackle Tristan Wirfs against a whale of a first assignment in five-time Pro Bowl defensive end Cam Jordan, but it turns out the rookie could handle his business just fine. Sure, Jordan got the better of him once or twice, but those players were by far the exception rather than the rule.

Here’s a handful of snaps from Wirfs on the team’s final drive, in all pass-obvious situations where he mostly had to handle Jordan on his own, while the star pass rusher was teeing off against the first-year tackle. Obviously this is just a small percentage of the snaps, but they are representative of Wirfs’ performance throughout the entire game.

Let’s give a shout-out to right guard Alex Cappa here too, who also played really well on Sunday. He and Wirfs flawlessly pass off this T/E (tackle/end) twist, staying on the same level and communicating well. They did this twice on the drive. Not bad for two young guys playing in their first game together.

Initially knocked back by Jordan’s punch here, Wirfs does an exceptional job dropping anchor and winning the rep. In scouting I’ve often said that what separates good and great offensive linemen is the ability to win and survive reps when things don’t go well. This started out looking like a win for Jordan, and Wirfs dropped anchor and handled him.

Jordan again tries the bull rush, and this time Wirfs lands the first blow, ending the fight early. It’s amazing to me how physically prepared Wirfs is for a battle against a powerhouse like Jordan. He hardly got pushed around for a second.

Not having any success with the bull rush, Jordan tries to cross chop and swim Wirfs around the edge. Nothing doing. Wirfs’ hands are too quick, shooting a punch to Jordan’s chest while the edge rusher sets up the cross chop. Then look how smoothly Wirfs opens his hips to mirror Jordan to the apex of the arc.

Wirfs’ power, the way he moves, the way he handled an elite match-up with minimal offseason work and no preseason games … highly, highly encouraging start for the rookie.

LT Smith Struggling

On the other side of the line, Donovan Smith’s struggles were one of the major reasons the Bucs offense struggled when it did. I want to be clear that Smith was not bad the whole game. He did some really good things in pass protection, but when you’re making big money as a top-40 pick and you get lit up three to four times in a key game, those are the things people are going to remember, and in some ways rightfully so.

This is the Saints’ No. 4 edge rusher taking Smith to school because the tackle’s technique falls apart. Smith stops his feet and lunges at Carl Granderson, who easily dances around the veteran tackle for a strip-sack of Tom Brady. The worst part is that Brady stepped up in the pocket to help his tackles and still got strip-sacked.

This play doesn’t really even result in a pressure, but it’s another example of Smith’s technique just going out the window when the bullets start flying. Lunging at opponents, letting his weight get way out over his knees, and his footwork is a disaster. This isn’t all or even most reps for Smith, but when things go south, they go south in a big way. That can’t continue if the Bucs are going to be serious contenders this season.

Middle Read Concepts Expose Lack Of Cohesiveness

I wrote about both of these plays on Monday, but two of Brady’s most criticized throws weren’t his fault.

This is a middle read concept for Brady and Mike Evans, and the Bucs quarterback correctly identifies split safeties with no middle zone defender (typically a linebacker) dropping between the hashes. This means that Evans must continue his route into a post pattern, breaking toward the middle of the field and the top of his route. Instead, Evans incorrectly sits down after starting to run his post route, which leads to an uncontested interception for safety Marcus Williams.

“No doubt,” Bruce Arians said to the media on Monday. “It wasn’t Cover 2, it was quarters coverage and Mike should have been splitting, going down the middle and never stopping.”

Now, Brady’s decision is still a risky one, as linebacker Demario Davis identifies what Tampa Bay is trying to do at the last second and works vertically fast. It’s gonna take a high throw to get it over Davis and to his target, so Brady puts it upstairs where he hopes a leaping Evans can win a combat catch against Williams. But because Evans wasn’t where he should have been, we’ll never know how this play would’ve gone. All we know is that Brady isn’t at fault for a mental mistake or the turnover on the play.

On this play, the Saints are running a Tampa 2 coverage, with two safeties splitting the deep portion of the field, and a linebacker (Alex Anzalone) running the seam as the trail defender underneath tight end Rob Gronkowski. The veteran tight end must see the middle of the field is open and adjust his route, bending away from the field safety (Malcolm Jenkins) to space.

Instead, Gronkowski just keeps running vertical, and Brady’s pass to the perfect location is nearly intercepted. Jenkins made a good break on the ball from his alignment, so Gronkowski is definitely gonna have to make a catch in traffic here. Brady trusts him to do that though, so he gives him a chance with a well-placed throw while under duress. But on this play, Gronkowski simply makes a mental error.

This also happens to be the one play where Wirfs gets beat quickly by Jordan. If the defense drops eight and rushes three, yet still gets home right away, it’s pretty brutal on the quarterback. Brady’s teammates let him down a few times in key moments on Sunday, and they’ve got to be better moving forward. More practice time to work out these miscommunications will help.

Offensive Notes

• The Bucs did a great job of moving around a hamstrung Mike Evans to free him up from top cornerback Marshon Lattimore in coverage, deploying the Pro Bowl receiver in the slot on 22 snaps. That’s the third-most snaps Evans has played in the slot during a game in his career, outside of his rookie season. If you add up the two defensive pass interference calls as receiving yards, the final numbers wouldn’t look as bad for Evans. Still, Evans dropped a slant pattern, messed up the aforementioned post route on Brady’s first interception and struggled to get separation from Lattimore on the outside, so it was still a difficult day for him overall, as he finished with just one catch for a 2-yard touchdown.

Bucs WR Scotty Miller
Bucs WR Scotty Miller – Photo by: Getty Images

• What a breakout by Scotty Miller. It wasn’t all simple stuff either, as Miller reeled in a 37-yard pass from Brady in which he tracked the ball beautifully over his shoulder while detaching from coverage with a late burst of speed. Earlier in the game he left cornerback Janoris Jenkins grasping at air on a slant pattern, and then beat cornerback Patrick Robinson down the right sideline, drawing another pass interference penalty to prevent a big gain. Huge performance from Miller, who had five catches for 73 yards and one run for six yards in New Orleans.

• Quietly, tight end O.J. Howard did some good things. He went low to dig out a throw or two from Brady on one drive, finishing on the ball despite contact over his back. I’m interested to see if his snap counts increase if the team decides to get away from a run-first approach (which they should). Howard finished with four catches for 36 yards and a touchdown.

• He didn’t do much in the passing game, but Gronkowski was definitely an asset as a blocker, both in the run game and in pass protection. He’s a clear upgrade over Howard and Cam Brate as a blocker, even if he’s still working his way back into form. I’m totally lost as to why the Bucs kept trying to get him touches in the screen game though. That is not who he is as a player. Get him down the seam.

• Later this week I’m going to write about what actually went structurally wrong with the Bucs offense on Sunday, and why it can’t continue if the team is going to reach peak success this season (hint: stop trying to establish the run). Be sure to look for it on PewterReport.com.

CLICK ON PAGE 2 TO SEE LEDYARD’S BREAKDOWN OF THE BUCS DEFENSE

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Jon Ledyard is PewterReport.com's newest Bucs beat writer and has experience covering the Pittsburgh Steelers as a beat writer and analyzing the NFL Draft for several draft websites, including The Draft Network. Follow Ledyard on Twitter at @LedyardNFLDraft
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Crack3rK

Jon,
Outstanding analysis helping us see the game within the game! Glad you’re on the PR team. I would love to read a Winfield article.

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PewterPose

Agreed. Jon’s work on the Xs and Os is just awesome. I learn something every article.

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scubog

Looks like you’ve made a complete transition to Tampa Bay by using the term “Y’all” and not the Pittsburghese, “Y’uns” or is it “Y’ins”?

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PatrioticChief

1. Great article. 2. I have been hyping Winfield all offseason and so seeing how he played in that game filled me with satisfaction. It’s early but I truly believe the Bucs got one of the best picks from the 2nd round, provided he stays healthy. 3. Wirfs was the only logical choice @ 13 and hopefully people shut up about it. This defense doesn’t need Kinlaw but this offense needed a plug and play at right tackle. Wirfs was not perfect but he gets graded on a really nice curve facing off against one of the best pass rushers… Read more »

destinjohnny

The coaches had no rhythm in their play calling

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PewterPose

Bruh, too much rhythm. We need to mix it up more. We have so many explosive offensive weapons – get creative. Why play chopsticks when we can play jazz?

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nitey

I honestly thought I would miss Trevor when he moved on, but as good as Trevor was with breaking down the plays, Jon is head and shoulders above him. Great article Jon! Like others, I learn from what you write all the time.

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WeAretheChamps2002

Jon, Great breakdown and analysis. A couple of things I would add WRT Vea: I agree with your assessment that Vea isn’t as bad as some people think. In 2019, he ranked 10th for DTs with a Pass Rush Win Rate of 13%, tied with Matthew Ioannidis who had 8.5 sacks in 2019, per ESPN Analytics. After one game, Vea has a PFF grade of 70, which is higher than Kenny Clark (65.6), and Matthew Ioannidis (68.1). I think the Buccaneers would be more than satisfied if Vea has as productive a career as Vince Wilfork, a player who I… Read more »

Horse

Question for you Jon.
Are you surprised some players weren’t changed/ moved around a Special Teams? I thought this really cost us the game. Your thoughts?

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Horse

Being kind; replace some of the players.

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BigSombrero

#NoExcuses

No matter what Evans did, that pass was getting picked off by the deep safety. It was a bad throw and Brady took responsibility for it after the game.

That’s the kind of throw Winston made last year instead of taking the open receiver.

By the way, I’ve watched Evans for 6 seasons and when the QB sails it on him, he ALWAYS stops and watches it.

Every. Single. Time.

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Captain Sly

Lol Yep!

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Dave

Wow, so now you’re a psychic, who can say for 100% certainty that Evans wouldn’t have outjumped a safety he had 5 inches on? Any other hidden talents we all need to be aware of? I’ll trust that Brady threw the ball where only Evans could have caught it, had he read the defense correctly. But he didn’t, so NONE of us will ever know

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Last edited 1 month ago by Dave
Aaron

Looks like on the first play a linebacker was supposed to follow Hill and Whitehead was to pick up Kamara. Also on the screen play Kamara was Whites responsibility but he was cut by a lineman. Refs missed an obvious holding call as Whitehead was dragged down.

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Spitfire

Jon, always appreciate the great analysis. I know it’s not like anything you say isn’t new to other teams, BUT please don’t include in your analysis way that other teams should focus on beating our starters Haha. If interns from other teams read opponents coverage we don’t wanna give them the ways to beat our guys.

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Dave

I can’t say it enough about Winfield. To me, he’s not even a maybe. He’s a guaranteed stud in this league. I’ve seen it since college. Only thing that will prevent him from being a pro bowl safety is injuries. Everything about him on tape, screams stud. His IQ, ball skills, awareness, and athleticism. It’s shocking to me that there were actually a ton of people who hated this move at the time. Outside his injury history, name one thing to dislike about his game?

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Last edited 1 month ago by Dave
Dave

I totally agree on Vea. If people will get it out of their heads that he needs to be a 10 sack guy, they’ll appreciate his game and how good he is even more. He reminds me a lot of Ngata. Very similar players. Dominated the run game, and freed up the rest of the line to do their job. And if I remember correctly, he never topped 6 sacks in a season. Or even Vince Wilfork is another example. Great players who did their job, and did it excellent. But they were never huge sack guys Rate this item:Thumb… Read more »

Captain Sly

Good comps on Vea! Tony Siragusa (Goose) also comes to mind…Vea has been solid and was absolutely worth the 12th pick.

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Dave

100% man. If his job is to command a double team, still manage to dominate the run game even with the double team, and allow the pass rushers who get paid to get sacks(JPP and Barrett), get sacks, he’s doing his job and doing it well. Yeah would it be nice if he could get a little more backfield penetration, sure. But complaining that a NT(who’s being double teamed) is stuffing the RB for no gain or 1 yard, instead of a 1 or 2 yard loss, is getting a little greedy. It’s amazing that a decade ago, players like… Read more »

Captain Sly

Your criticism of White is a little harsh Jon, sure every player needs to get better but sometimes you have to tip your cap to the play design…Those plays were cleverly designed to get those results and you can hardly fault any LB for being swallowed up in the fray. Sean Payton probably the best play caller in the game.

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JJ

Can they just strap Gronkowski to Smith’s side, is that legal? Everytime Smith misses a block it looks like it’s because he got a whiff of a hot dog from the stands…just wandering around searching for the direction of the treats.

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Hockey Duckie

The current assessment of Vea is disheartening to know he’s only a run stuffing NT. I’m thinking it might be scheme and who’s playing next to him that’s holding Vea’s effectiveness back. 2018 Vea, 6 games starting next to GMC 2 sacks, 19 solo tkls, 25 total tkls, 4 TFLs, 3 QB hits. 2019 Vea, 16 games next to Suh 3 sacks, 19 solo tkls, 35 total tkls, 4 TFLs, 12 QB hits. It appears that Vea was more of a pass rusher under Mike Smith’s 4-3 defense, playing next to GMC. Is being a run stuffing only NT because… Read more »

drdneast

The Saints ran numerous misdirection plays on Sunday, I think we tried to run one and because Don Smith folded like a lawn chair. Brady got sacked..I guess our OC thinks our layers aren’t smart enough to run them and maybe he’s right.. You better believe the Panthers watched this game film and are game planning misdirection plays for McCafferey as I type this. It sure would be nice if we could game plan some misdirection plays for RoJo so that he isn’t always running into a sea of humanity and get him out in some space to play in.… Read more »

76Buc

Excellent analysis Jon. My thought is that later in the season switch Donovan to RT where he is more suited and Wirfs to LT.

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peter benet

Great stuff. Brady will be fine. It’ll be a shame if Whitehead and D. Smith prevent a playoff run, with all the talent this team has. Good teams will destroy them.

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calibucsfan16

Great article Jon. I didn’t see a breakdown on the long pass to Jared Cook. We’re you able to review that play?

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matador

Great article thanks for the quality work!

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