Cover 3 is a weekly feature column written by’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat writer Trevor Sikkema published every Tuesday. The column, as its name suggests, comes in three phases: a statistical observation, an in-depth film breakdown, and a “this or that” segment where the writer asks the reader to chose between two options.

Sikkema’s Stat(s) of the Week

If I could make the stat – or number – of the week the No. 14, I would. If that were the case, I would dive into all 14 coverages that Buccaneers head coach Dirk Koetter claimed his team ran on Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons and wide receiver Julio Jones – he completed that quote by saying “none of them worked.”

But, the fact of the matter is, even though I have a good idea of what I’m looking at when it comes to film, there are going to be some coverages that appear one way on tape that may or may not be what was actually called. Sometimes there are missed assignments or a miscommunication that makes one coverage look like one thing when in reality it’s another.

But, what isn’t subjective are the stats at the end of the game. Specifically for this Cover 3 I’m talking about the 12 catches on 15 targets for 253 yards and two touchdowns recorded by Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones.

Julio Jones – Photo by: Getty Images

This isn’t the first time Jones had gone off against the Buccaneers. Following Sunday’s game, Jones has the most receiving touchdowns of any player against the Bucs since 1994 (10). He is also just 153 yards shy of the most receiving yards against the franchise, and owns the highest catch percentage of any player with 55 or more catches (70.8 percent).

Simply put, Jones owns the Bucs defense.

Jones has played 11 out of his 90 career games against the Buccaneers. That’s 12.2 percent of his total games. He has 1,359 of his career 8,649 yards against the Buccaneers as well. That’s 15.7 percent of his total yards. Since Jones is currently averaging 96.1 yards-per-game over the course of his career, that means that he is averaging more than 100 yards per game every time he suits up against Tampa Bay.

Julio Jones is an incredible wide receiver, he might go down as one of the best to do it when it’s all said and done. But, even though you know Jones is going to get his each Sunday, it doesn’t have to be to the extent that it is with the Buccaneers. And even more confusing is that the two men coach against him on Sunday, Koetter and defensive coordinator Mike Smith, know Jones well because they were his coaches in Atlanta.

So, since I can’t get into all 14 different coverages individually, I’m going to do the next best thing.

On the next page we’re going to take a look at all 15 of Jones’ targets from last Sunday’s game on NFL Game Pass and identify either what worked (not as often) and what didn’t (much more often) when covering him.

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About the Author: Trevor Sikkema

Trevor Sikkema is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat reporter and NFL Draft analyst for Sikkema, an alumnus of the University of Florida, has covered both college and professional football for much of his career. As a native of the Sunshine State, when he's not buried in social media, Sikkema can be found out and active, attempting to be the best athlete he never was. Sikkema can be reached at:
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3 years ago

Re watching those highlights, you can see other receivers wide open on multiple occasions. If you ask me the Bucs would’ve been better off holding Jones at the line of scrimmage on every play! It would’ve been a slower death, holding 5 yards 1st down on every pass play ha, ha. Better then letting them burn us alive. Imagine what they would’ve passed for if their star running back was in the game, and we had to play the run more.

Buc 1976
3 years ago

Someone please explain to me again how short and slow CB are best for this defense.
Bucs wake up most teams have fast and 6’3 and taller WR’S.
New England gave up a 1st rd. Pick for a taller CB they also tried to trade Butler.
I am not a fan of Bill Belacheat but he is aware of how things change.

Buc 1976
3 years ago

As to answer the question of who was responsible for the loss could not answer because it did not have or all the above!!!

3 years ago

I don’t know who we should get, but this isn’t working what we have now. To have the offense we have at this point in time with Koetter actually being involved with it the last three years says it doesn’t work. For Smith who was a past DC, then HC, back again to DC, says it doesn’t work. Licht is a 4 year GM who has done fair in drafting and poor in obtaining free agents tells me he can’t evaluate whether it’s coaches or players. I’d like to take a chance, again, with a young up and coming Coach… Read more »

3 years ago

It’s pretty clear to me at least that the pass rush is the hugest issue here. Any scheme can work if you can get to the quarterback. As is demonstrated here already, it seems the team did indeed try a number of things to try and make it work but it just didn’t.

Chad Spitza
3 years ago

Has Grimes ever followed a #1 before – Tampa or MIA? Going into this game I thought we might see some of that and simply did not.. not even when he continued to rack up catch after catch after catch. I wonder what this defense would be if Banks just met his expectations of a solid starting CB. Am I the only one who seems to think the Bucs defense is flat out terrible at situational awareness? Worst third down team in the league, scheme hasn’t helped, but the players do not seem to curtail their play to down &… Read more »

3 years ago

Two things become glaringly apparent in these clips. First, as everyone knows, there is very little pressure being put on the QB. Second, all of the WRs are allowed to get off the line of scrimmage without being jammed or hit. They are allowed to get into their routes so automatically are players are having to react to what the WR might do. They are not allowed to attack from the get go. That is a passive reaction. This is the same type of defense that got Mike Smith fired in Atlanta once he lost the pass rush of John… Read more »

3 years ago

Nice C3. 1) Target 4 was definitely C4. The nickel needs to get a better jam, he pretty much allows Julio to free release to stretch the safety. Because it’s a straight vertical, Ryan Smith can’t help out and he’s too far away. Just straight Julio wining one-on-one. 2) Target 6, Ryan Smith falls down because of bad technique. Why is he isolated against Julio? And he’s not helped by no pressure, as Trevor mentions. 3) Target 7 is definitely C2, Grimes has got to help out on that C2 beater. As soon as he sees Julio climb he has… Read more »

3 years ago

The only critique I have a problem is the long TD pass to Jones from Sanu. There s absolutely no way Conte was involved In this coverage but it does demonstrate why so many times our safety is left hung out to dry in one on one coverage with the oppositions fastest WR. Conte is situated to the left closer to the line as if he is expecting them to run out of the wildcat. How he could provide coverage support of Jones from where he is located is beyond me. Sanu and Atlanta’s offensive coordinator must have seen film… Read more »