Through the first three weeks of the season, the Bucs run game looked like a major disappointment. Tampa Bay wasn’t running the ball much, but when they were it was hardly efficient. Heading into Week 4 against the Patriots, the Bucs had yet to eclipse 85 yards rushing in a game. But over the past two contests, everything has changed. And it started with some new “full offense” Friday meetings the Bucs began a couple weeks ago.
“I think it’s just guys being on the same page,” right tackle Tristan Wirfs said. “Like having all 11 guys know where the MIKE point is and what our combinations are with the tight ends and where our receivers are going. We’ve been meeting with Tom [Brady] on Fridays with the offense. He’ll put up the runs for the week and we’ll just kind of go through it together.
“Because we’ll go out and practice, but we’re all meeting individually at the end of the day with position groups. Just having a time where we can all be together and know what [everybody] is doing is what I think is very beneficial. Just making sure everybody is on the same page.”
Bucs RT Tristan Wirfs and Falcons DE Dante Fowler – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
According to Wirfs, the recency of these new Friday meetings coincides with the Bucs run game turnaround. Over the past two games, the Bucs have piled up 240 yards on the ground. That’s a far cry from Week 3, when Tom Brady led the team in rushing with 14 yards.
Obviously there is still room for improvement, but the blocking up front is the best it has been under Bruce Arians. The Bucs will never rank high in overall rushing yards, because they are a pass-heavy offense. And they should be. But becoming more efficient in the run game forces opposing defenses to respect the box count when it isn’t to their advantage.
“We just started that a couple weeks ago, like two weeks ago,” Wirfs said. “And the past two weeks our run game has been better. It’s really good. It’s weird. It could be that small of a thing. Just making sure the wide receivers know what the o-line is doing, the running back knows what the o-line is doing. Just making sure everyone knows what each other is doing. So, yeah, it’s good.”
These Friday meetings are another testament to Brady’s leadership and communication skills. Having a quarterback who understands that all the details matter is a huge asset for the Bucs, especially with their running back struggles. Although Leonard Fournette and Ronald Jones are clearly improving, weekly tape review reveals productive runs are being left on the table due to a lack of vision. Head coach Bruce Arians knows the run game hasn’t reached its’ peak yet.
“I think the blocking unit has been doing a very, very good job,” Arians said. “You’re not going to run the ball if your tight ends aren’t blocking. They did a heck of a job. Josh Wells comes in and plays tight end for us some, and that’s big. Again, it’s just the backs finding the holes – the holes are there. We actually left some runs out there that could’ve been bigger. But yeah, the running game is where it all starts for us. You have to keep them in two dimensions defensively, so that they can’t just tee off on the passer.”
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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