The PR Bucs Monday Mailbag is where PewterReport.com’s Mark Cook answers your questions from our @PewterReport Twitter account. You can submit your question each week via Twitter using the hashtag #PRMailbag.
Below are the questions we chose for this week’s edition of the PR Bucs Monday Mailbag.
Question: What changes does Todd Bowles and Bryon Leftwich make coming out of the bye week?
Answer: Clearly they need to run more on first down and play more soft zone.
That’s a joke, obviously.
In fact to answer your question, they need to do essentially the opposite. I am not totally opposed to running on first down occasionally, but based on their formations in a lot of cases, it is pretty obvious when a first down run is happening. The more frustrating thing is their failure to hide the fact they are going to pass by going empty in the backfield. We know Tom Brady isn’t going to run, so when Tampa Bay shows an empty set it is clear it is passing and the defense doesn’t have to respect the running game at that point.
I would love to see more creativity out of the offensive play designs. On paper, and all week in the meeting rooms when the team looks at all the talent on the offensive side of the ball, the staff must think, “Hey, we should be good enough to just out-talent teams.” But watching other teams, including high-powered offenses like the Chiefs, we see a ton of creativity and imagination from the game plan. Where is that with this team? I don’t necessarily mean gadget plays, but the Bucs are 12 games into the 2020 season and opposing defensive coordinators are figuring out this offense and how to slow it down.
Defensively I hope the Bucs become more aggressive in terms of tighter coverage, including more man coverage. Teams are killing the Bucs when they play zone more often than not. And unless they dust off Simeon Rice and Warren Sapp, the defensive line isn’t good enough to get home consistently. The combination of zone and no pressure has been a recipe for opposing quarterbacks to carve up the Bucs secondary with a quick passing game.
Question: Will the Bucs defense make Kirk Cousins look like Fran Tarkenton?
Answer: I certainly hope not. Cousins isn’t the type of quarterback the Vikings want dropping back 40-50 times a game although he can hurt team if given time to throw. The last two weeks, both comeback wins, Cousins threw over 40 passes and surpassed 300 yards in each of those games. So he is capable of slinging it around when called upon.
The good news for the Bucs defense is, Cousins isn’t Lamar Jackson, or as you mentioned, Fran Tarkenton, in terms of mobility. He’s been sacked 25 times this season, including four times against the Jaguars on Sunday, but overall he does a good job of getting rid of the ball when feeling pressure.
Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer wants to run the football, play solid defense and keep games close. And with Dalvin Cook, the Bucs defense will have its hands full. Cook can hurt Tampa Bay not just as a runner, but also as a receiver out of the backfield. Cook is second in the NFL in rushing yards, but also averages nearly nine yards per reception.
Getting pressure on Cousins will be a big key in terms of beating the surging Vikings who are barely hanging onto a wild card spot after a dismal start to the season.
Question: Bruce Arians keeps saying they need to get Rojo more touches and more involved. Do you think Arians and Byron Leftwich will do that now that they had a bye week to self scout?
Answer: We can hope so. Watching the Falcons on Sunday, even when down 20-9 in the fourth quarter, they still called Todd Gurley’s number a handful of times to keep the Saints defense guessing. If the Bucs were down 11 in the fourth quarter, I am not sure Ronald Jones II sees a hand-off the rest of the game.
I understand the Bucs are loaded at wide receiver and have the best quarterback of all time, but Atlanta’s receiving corps might be just as good, if not better, when healthy, and Matt Ryan is still capable of being one of the best quarterbacks in the league when given time to throw.
I have said it often this year and will repeat it again, Jones is the best pure running back on the roster and needs to get his touches – even if the team falls behind by two scores. Less Leonard Fournette, and more Jones should be Bucs’ motto the last month of the season.
Question: Is it a benefit or hindrance to the Bucs having their bye week so late in the year?
Answer: It is difficult to say. This is the latest bye week the Bucs have had since 1990 when Ray Perkins was on the sidelines. Of course he was canned during the bye week, but nonetheless, it is a late bye week for sure.
The advantage I see is this gives the younger players in particular a chance to push through that rookie wall as this weekend coincides pretty close to when the college football season ends in normal years. It also gives the veterans a week to rest up not just physically, but also mentally.
It also lets the organization know exactly where it sits with four games to go. The Bucs are currently the sixth seed, but with the Vikings, Cardinals and 49ers nipping at their heels they probably have to win at least three of their last four games in order to be assured of making the playoffs. Win all four and Tampa Bay is definitely in. Even with three wins the Bucs are in the postseason at 10-6, but if they finish 9-7 then it likely starts coming down to tie-breakers for the seventh and final playoff spot in the NFC.