Bucs QB Jameis Winston – Photo by: Mark Lomoglio/PR
Though the Bucs have left some points on the board during their three-game win streak, the offense has had no problem moving the ball. Tampa Bay has amassed 1,177 yards combined over three weeks, including 863 through the air.
Quarterback Jameis Winston has received a fair amount of credit, and rightfully so. But just as critical has been the emphasis on protection that has afforded Winston and company their opportunities, and that reflects experienced coaching.
On Wednesday, offensive coordinator Todd Monken explained that Dirk Koetter will sometimes sacrifice sending a receiver downfield to give Tampa Bay an extra blocker on the opposing defensive end. The receiver’s “chip” helps the offensive tackle hold their block and in turn gives Winston more time in the pocket.
“That’s one thing that I’ve always been impressed with Coach,” Monken said of Koetter’s protection method. “He understands that protection beats coverage. That’s the No. 1 thing, that if your quarterback is on the ground you have no chance.
Bucs OC Todd Monken – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
“So you’ll see us, maybe to a larger degree than a lot of teams, make sure we’re going to give ourselves a chance to throw it down the field. Does that compromise at times getting some guys down the field vertically? Yes, it does. But I think our guys have embraced that, they understand that and Jameis has done a better job of finding the checkdowns with that.”
Koetter’s blocking techniques, Monken said, can be traced back at least to their days in Jacksonville, where Monken worked under the former offensive coordinator as the wide receivers coach. Often facing “game-wreckers” for defensive ends in the AFC South, the Jaguars had to beef up protection at times to ensure their quarterback could even have a chance to find an open receiver or their running back could hit the inside hole.
“When we were in Jacksonville and going against [Colts defensive ends, Dwight] Freeney and [Robert] Mathis, you understand that you have to find a way to run the ball, neutralize those guys and not allow them to change the game,” Monken said, adding that a younger, less experienced coach may not understand or think to use skill position guys as blockers.
Later in the afternoon, Koetter spoke about having a “protection-first” philosophy, adding that it doesn’t matter how many passing routes he can draw up because “when the quarterback is getting hit, those routes are no good.”
Koetter highlighted a particular third-down play on Sunday, where Adam Humphries chipped defensive end Frank Clark as Donovan Smith broke off from his assignment to take out a closing-in Cassius Marsh on the edge, as an example of how the protection scheme can allow for a big conversion – which can ultimately change the game.
“We had awesome protection. Jameis was able to stand back there and throw that deep crossing route to Mike [Evans],” Koetter said. “If we’re punting the ball there, that game could be completely different.”
Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter and QB Jameis Winston – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
The added blocker doesn’t always work to perfection. Tight end Luke Stocker, for example, was called for a hold on Sunday that resulted in a safety for the Seahawks. But considering Winston has only been sacked 23 times this season, including zero times against two of the NFL’s most prolific front sevens in Kansas City and Seattle, the protection schemes seem to be paying off, and not costing the Bucs completions despite one less receiver downfield.
Winston also appreciates the extra effort from receivers, something that plays right into the team-first, “play for the guy next to you” mindset the Bucs have taken on.
“Those offensive linemen, they work so hard and they deserve it,” Winston said. “They’ve been playing amazing. And the other people that come along like Adam Humphries chipping Dee Ford against Kansas City. That was amazing. Everyone is buying in. We’re a family and we have each other’s back.”
Zach is entering his 3rd year covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as a writer for PewterReport.com. Since 2014, he's handled a large part of the beat reporting responsibilities at PR, attending all media gatherings and publishing and promoting content daily. Zach is a native of Sarasota, FL, and a graduate of the University of Tampa. He has also covered high school football for the Tampa Tribune and the NFL for Pro Player Insiders.
Contact him at: [email protected]
The OL has absolutely held their own with last 2 games, after getting worked by the Bears DL. I love the aspect of “chipping” DE and having Doug back can’t be ignored. He is very good in pass pro. Bosa will have to be accounted for, but I’d be dissapointed if the OL regressed this week.
Doug has developed into an excellent pass blocker. The line is playing steadily better too.
Our much maligned O Line has been coming together rather nicely I would say.
I just hope that Sweezy (the ghost) is taking this time to learn how to pass block.
Is he out for the entire year?
Yes. He was shut down two weeks ago. Disappointing to say the least.
Well it does help as this has the been the healthiest I think our line has been as well. The last two weeks have been outstanding and watching him in the backfield patting the ball while the line builds a wall around him against Seattle was impressive. Koetter has always had a strong suit for building good protection with little talent at times. He did it all those years in Atlanta as well.
One time I’d like to see Dirk call a play where Jameis throws the ball to tackle eligible Gosder Cherilus. Maybe then he wouldn’t get called for failing to report as he did against the Seahawks.
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