The PR Bucs Monday Mailbag is where PewterReport.com’s Mark Cook answers your questions from our 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: There is always debates over Jameis Winston’s INTs. Some say picks come from poor route running, others say it’s his decision-making. I think it’s a little bit of both. My question is do you think Bruce Arians and the coaching staff really know what the problem is and just aren’t saying?
Answer: I am guessing Bruce Arians and the coaches are just as perplexed as everyone else is with the high amount of turnovers from Jameis Winston, but they watch the film and the film doesn’t lie – whether it was a poorly run route or a bad decision. Winston is always going to throw more interceptions than most quarterbacks with his daring playing style and playing in Arians’ vertical passing game. I just don’t see how that changes, especially in this offense that requires a lot of difficult downfield throws, and a lot of times throws in tight windows. As far as your suggested reasons, I do believe it is a little of both.
The question now is, can Arians and his staff help to reduce that number and to what? Then can the Bucs live with the number, whatever it may be – say it’s 18 INTs – and still win consistently?
If we take the Giants and Falcons games, those should have been wins if Matt Gay makes his kicks. Then Tampa Bay has nine wins. Take the Seattle game where Winston played nearly flawless football, but the defense was awful, and now there are 10 wins. Throw in the Tennessee game where the defense wasn’t great and lost a fourth quarter lead, and the officials missed a big call and now the Bucs are sitting at 11 wins. Eleven wins is enough to get them into the playoffs. However, how far Tampa Bay could go even if it gets in the postseason tournament with a quarterback prone to turnovers is another debate. Chances are the team isn’t going too far.
In the four playoff games this past weekend, the four winning quarterbacks threw a total of one interception. That really answers your question. NFL teams can possibly get into the NFL playoffs throwing some interceptions, but aren’t winning many playoff games turning the ball over.
Arians and his staff will analyze Winston’s entire season, and every single pass he threw and see if they can identify some things that Winston can do to correct those issues. That will be a big part of his evaluation and will go into their decision on Winston’s future in Tampa Bay.
Question: With the lack of utilization of our tight ends, wouldn’t it be prudent for us to shop both O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate on or before draft day? Especially, if it could net us an extra second- and third-rounder?
Answer: Had you submitted this question this time last year, I would have said you were crazy for even suggesting it. Why wouldn’t an offensive-minded coach and staff not want two productive and talented tight ends on the roster – especially a former No. 1 pick in O.J. Howard that looked like he had plenty of untapped potential? But tight ends aren’t a focal point in this offensive system, and with two 1,000-yard Pro Bowl receivers in Mike Evans and Chris Godwin that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The tight ends that tend to be Pro Bowlers are often on teams that don’t have great receivers, especially two like the Bucs’ duo.
With that said, if we combine their numbers – Cameron Brate had 36 catches for 311 yards with five TDs, and Howard had 34 receptions for 459 yards with one score – the combination of those stats is pretty solid. But does Tampa Bay need two receiving tight ends on the roster in an offense that looks to the wide receivers first on nearly every passing play in the playbook?
I wouldn’t be shocked to see the Buccaneers look to deal one of the two this offseason. There would most likely be a higher value in Howard due to his age and athleticism. Brate’s cap hit in 2020 is set to be $6 million, while Howard’s is around $4 million, which makes Howard more attractive to keep due to the lesser cap number. And with Howard being a better blocker it would make more sense to deal Brate if the Bucs look to do that.
Another option of course is to keep both, although Brate might need to re-do his deal to save some cap space, particularly with the the number of unrestricted free agents the team wants to re-sign this offseason. Another note on Brate – $4 million of his salary is guaranteed if he is still on the roster by March 22, so if the team does look to move on from Brate it most likely would happen prior to the deadline and well before the NFL Draft in April.
Question: Do you think our RBs are just not good zone scheme backs?
Answer: No, I don’t think either Peyton Barber or Ronald Jones II are particularly great zone scheme backs, but I also don’t think the offensive line is built for a lot of success zone blocking either. Those Denver Broncos teams of the 1990s that were zone blocking masters had lighter and more athletic offensive linemen. Teams also need very cerebral linemen in a zone blocking scheme as well.
I’m not trying to compare myself to an NFL coach, but I will say from my high school coaching days, teaching zone blocking was much more difficult than a power-man scheme. The kids I was teaching understood me saying to the backside guard to pull around the center and look for the middle linebacker, and the play-side guard and tackle to double team the defensive tackle.
That isn’t to say the Bucs’ current group aren’t intelligent enough to do it, but it is simpler for everyone involved to know which man to put a hat on. In zone blocking it is more of a full five-man unit working in unison to be successful. Linemen also have to adapt on the run and trust the guy on either side of him. I’m not a huge fan of zone blocking schemes, and I don’t think Tampa Bay has the right personnel – linemen or backs – to run it successfully enough for it to be a staple in this offense.
Question: Fans keep talking about uniform changes are coming yet I don’t see any articles about it. Any information that you might have on this?
Answer: There has been no official word on any uniform changes coming, but like you, I have heard the rumors, and would like to see some thing changed with the current ones the Bucs are wearing. The Tampa Bay Times has been running a series featuring fan-proposed uniform changes, but that’s just for fun.
Last March in Arizona for the NFL meetings, I had a sit down interview with Bucs co-chariman/owner Joel Glazer and asked him specifically about new uniforms and even throwback uniforms. Glazer was somewhat evasive, but didn’t rule out changes coming in the near future. You can read Glazer’s responses and the full story here.