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Pewter Report’s Scott Reynolds answers your questions from the @PewterReport Twitter account each week in the Bucs Monday Mailbag Submit your question to the Bucs Monday Mailbag each week via Twitter using the hashtag #PRMailbag. Here are the questions we chose to answer for this week’s edition.
QUESTION: When was the Bucs’ last 100-yard rusher?
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ANSWER: It’s been over a calendar year since Tampa Bay had a 100-yard rusher. The Bucs are a pass-first team under the “Quarterback Whisperer” Bruce Arians, especially with the greatest quarterback of all-time under center in Tom Brady. So the Bucs don’t believe that having a 100-yard rusher is essential to winning games.
Bucs RB Ronald Jones II – Photo by: USA Today
The last Bucs running back to top 100 yards was Ronald Jones II at Carolina in the team’s 46-23 win over the Panthers. Jones had a career-high 192 yards and one touchdown thanks in part to a 98-yard TD run. That happened on November 15, 2020, so it’s been 21 games since Tampa Bay had a running back hit the century mark until Leonard Fournette did it on Sunday against the Colts.
Fournette had a career-high four touchdowns (three rushing, one receiving) in helping Tampa Bay win at Indianapolis, 38-31. It was his second 100-yard game with the Bucs. The first one came in Week 2 last year when he rushed for 103 yards and two scores against the Panthers. Jones had four 100-yard games last year, including three in a row against the Chargers (111), Bears (106) and Packers (113), in addition to his big game against the Panthers in Week 10.
Fournette came close to several other 100-yard games, but just fell short. He had 93 yards rushing and a touchdown at Washington last year, and rushed for 89 yards and a TD against Kansas City in Super Bowl LV. This season, Fournette ran for 92 yards at New England and had a pair of 81-yard games at Philadelphia and against Chicago. It had been well over a year since Fournette topped the century mark himself.
QUESTION: Why is Tampa Bay putting Joe Tryon-Shoyinka inside instead of Jason Pierre-Paul? Seems like he’s not quite big enough to match up there like JPP is.
ANSWER: At 6-foot-5, 265 pounds, Joe Tryon-Shoyinka lacks size to play inside on a regular basis, but defensive coordinator Todd Bowles is using him as an interior rusher on obvious passing downs. Normally Jason Pierre-Paul, who is slightly bigger at 275 pounds, will rush inside in nickel packages due to his size and experience, but he’s playing with a torn rotator cuff. That makes it difficult to protect the injured shoulder when he’s got a guard crashing down on him at the same time as a double-teaming center.
If he were healthy, Pierre-Paul would be playing inside more on third-and-long situations and Tryon-Shoyinka would be playing on the edge, opposite Shaquil Barrett. But the shoulder injury is flipping those roles right now. While it could be stunting his growth as an edge rusher a bit, Tryon-Shoyinka is getting some valuable experience playing inside that should serve him well in the future. He didn’t play inside during his two years on the field at the University of Washington.
Given his plethora of injuries, his age (Pierre-Paul turns 33 in January) and his $12.5 million salary, it’s not a lock that Pierre-Paul returns to Tampa Bay next year. Tryon-Shoyinka would become the starter and I suspect the Bucs would draft another edge rusher to eventually replace Shaquil Barrett in a few years. Next year’s nickel rush package could feature Barrett and Anthony Nelson or a rookie outside with Tryon-Shoyinka continuing to rush inside, where he can use his length and quickness to beat less athletic guards.
QUESTION: If the Patriots coaches coached this team, would the Bucs be undefeated?
ANSWER: That’s an impossible question to answer because this Tampa Bay roster has been built for certain offensive and defensive schemes that are run by Bruce Arians and Byron Leftwich on offense and Todd Bowles on defense. But, no, the Bucs wouldn’t be undefeated simply if Bill Belichick and his staff coached them this year.
Bucs OLB Joe Tryon-Shoyinka – Photo by: USA Today
While one of the greatest head coaches of all-time, Belichick has only gone undefeated once during a regular season and that was the Tom Brady-Randy Moss Patriots team in 2007. The Patriots went 18-0 that year before losing to the New York Giants in the Super Bowl. Belichick had Brady and a really good defense for two decades and usually averaged 11-12 wins a season, but it’s not about going undefeated. It’s about improving as the season goes along, making the playoffs and excelling in the postseason.
QUESTION: Why does Todd Bowles insist on playing cushion coverage instead of man and jamming?
ANSWER: Injuries to several starting cornerbacks have forced defensive coordinator Todd Bowles to play more soft zone coverage this year than he would like. Bowles feels at home playing press-man coverage and zone, but zone is the safer option with less talented reserve cornerbacks in the starting lineup. The Bucs only had Carlton Davis III, Sean Murphy-Bunting and Jamel Dean on the field for less than one half of action in Week 1 before Murphy-Bunting dislocated his elbow against the Cowboys.
Bucs CBs Sean Murphy-Bunting and Jamel Dean – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Then Dean missed a game due to a knee injury, before Davis suffered a quad injury in Week 4 that has kept him out ever since. The good news is that Murphy-Bunting is back and played the last two games, and Davis is returning soon. But now Dean is out with a shoulder injury that head coach Bruce Arians said did not look good.
Playing press man coverage requires fast, physical cornerbacks that can properly execute the jam at the line of scrimmage and have the recovery speed in case the receiver beats the jam at the line of scrimmage. If it’s not executed well, the result could be a quick, long touchdown strike. Go back and re-watch Tyreek Hill’s first half against the Bucs in Kansas City’s 27-24 win in Week 12 last year to see the risks that are associated with playing that style of coverage.
Backup cornerbacks just don’t have the skill necessary to play that style of coverage consistently and be successful. That’s why they’re backups. If Bowles can get Davis, Dean and Murphy-Bunting back in the lineup together by the end of the season you might see the Bucs deploy more press man coverage.
ANSWER: This one literally made me laugh out loud. Yes, it’s a safe bet that the Bucs will investing at least one draft pick in a cornerback – likely a premium Day 1 or Day selection. The Bucs don’t have the salary cap room to keep all three starters – Carlton Davis III, who is in a contract year, Sean Murphy-Bunting and Jamel Dean. Murphy-Bunting and Dean will be entering their contract years next season. It should be noted the Bucs do not have a sixth round pick in next year’s draft.
Cincinnati CB Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner – Photo by: USA Today
We’ve also seen Licht select two cornerbacks in the same draft before with Murphy-Bunting and Dean in 2019. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Bucs take two cornerbacks this year. Davis, who is Tampa Bay’s best cornerback, is a lock to return with at least the franchise tag – if not a new multi-year deal. The jury is still out on the futures of Murphy-Bunting and Dean, as their play has been inconsistent at best through the years. Licht may need to draft two cornerbacks to ultimately replace both Murphy-Bunting and Dean down the road.
Scott Reynolds is in his 25th year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds spent six years giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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