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Cover 3 is a weekly feature column written by PewterReport.com’s Tampa Bay Bucs 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 of the Week

As we are a little over midway through the NFL season, I wanted to check in on some of the stats for the Buccaneers players to see how they are doing overall, how the team is choosing to use them, and whether or not it fits with how effective they have been in 2019.

Rather than just quoting to you the typical stats that you see every week such as passing yards or yards-per-attempt or receiving touchdowns, what I wanted to do is give you a little bit more context into the performances of your Buccaneers, not only versus the rest of the league but in a way that judges whether or not they are worth giving the ball to.

The best way I know how to do that is by looking at DVOA, a stat by Football Outsiders which stands for Defense-adjusted Value Over Average, which basically means, how much better is the subject player you are observing than what would be considered league average for a starter at such a position.

Not all rushes or catches or throws are the same. For example, a three-yard run on first-and-10 is not the same as a three-yard run on third-and-2. They’re the same net yards, but one is a success while the other is not as impactful. Each has different value in terms of measurable success that goes beyond just listing how many net yards were gained. It’s about the context of those yards. DVOA takes into account down and distance, in-game situations and whether or not a play accomplished, failed or even went above and beyond depending within its context, not just net yards gained. Each play is given a value depending on its level of success given the outcome in the situation; that gives us a measurable number; that gives us DVOA.

Along with DVOA, there is a stat metric called DYAR, which stands for Defense-adjusted Yards Above Replacement, which is essentially football’s version of the WAR (Win Above Replacement) stat in baseball. How many yards is such a player gaining above what would be a replacement level player at the position? The folks at FO explain DYAR by saying, if a running back has 300 carries in a season, and you take those away, where do they go? If you were to take the 300 touches one player got and disperse them elsewhere, would it be better or worse for the team? Is their value with the ball better than the ball being in the hands of someone else? Is their value higher or lower if they were to be replaced?

Let’s take a look at the quarterback position first.

When it comes to DVOA, Jameis Winston’s value per play is lower than what would be considered the league average. His -3.2% DVOA means that given the context of situations including strength of defense he is playing and situational football for each play, Winston yielded slightly less than average results.

DVOA also takes into account turnovers, and doesn’t just have a set value for them. It’s not as if all fumbles are -2.0% or all interceptions are -3.0%. Each turnover also has context with it, and depending how much the turnover was due to the defense or due to the quarterback, that’s how the penalty is applied.

When you look at DVOA, DYAR and QBR, Winston was below the league average nine weeks into the season.

Moving on to the running back position, remember when Bucs fans were clamoring for this team to give Ronald Jones II the ball more? Well, turns out there was something to that, and it wasn’t just them watching games live and being biased in the moment.

Of players with at least 72 carries, Ronald Jones ranks 12th in DOVA and 14th in DYAR. That’s currently better than guys like New Orleans’ Alvin Kamara, New York’s Saquon Barkley and Jacksonville’s Leonard Fournette. Now, am I saying that Jones is a better running back than all those guys? No, certainly not right now. But what I am saying is that Jones clearly gives this team the best chance to be the most effective on the ground.

If you look at Peyton Barber’s rank (not listed because he is lower on the list), his DOVA is ranked 29th and his DYAR is ranked 30th. In fact, Barber has a DYAR score in the negatives at -25, which means that by giving Barber the ball, you are actually less effective than judged against a replacement level player at his position. Just like we shouldn’t swing too far in one direction for praising Jones here, Barber can have value, but on a play-by-play basis, the potential for a positive outcome when the ball is in Jones’ hands is much greater than when it is Barbers’.

Jones should out-touch Barber by quite a bit the rest of this season.

As if you needed advanced statistics to tell you this, the Bucs’ top two wide receivers of Chris Godwin and Mike Evans are really freaking good.

Through nine weeks of the season, Godwin is far and away ranked No. 1 in both DVOA and DYAR. As for Evans, he’s No 6 in DVOA and No. 4 in DYAR.

Evans and Godwin are both in the Top 10 in the NFL in terms of targets with 89 for Evans and 83 for Godwin. When you look at the DYAR stat, the one that measure how many yards they accumulate over what would be a replacement level player, that conformed that feeding both of these guys has a pay off well worth the emphasis in the game plan.

As for the Bucs other receiver, Scotty Miller and Breshad Perriman, their DVOA and DYAR scores are much, much lower. Miller has a DVOA of -68.2%, which is one of the lowest in the league, and has a DYAR of -47 yards. Perriman’s is even worse with a DVOA of -53.0% and -74 yards. When the ball goes to these guys, it’s often not worth the look.

Finally let’s look at the tight end position. The benefits for the Bucs throwing the ball to their tight ends this year aren’t as drastically positive as they are for their wide receivers, but both O.J. Howard and Cam Brate have recorded positive DYAR scores halfway through the season.

Howard’s yards above replacement come out to 18 and Brate’s is right at eight. However, I will say, in Howard’s case, usage plays a role here, as Howard was Top 5 in DVOA the past two seasons, including No. 1 in the NFL last year. Howard is having a shaky third season for a number of different reasons, but the potential for positive adjusted scoring is certainly there for him.

So, after looking at the DVOA and DYAR scores midway through the season (big shoutout again to the guys over at Football Outsiders) my main takeaways are: it’s RoJo’s show, feed Godwin and Evans no matter what, this team really needs a better WR3, and O.J. Howard need more looks.

We dive into some film on all that on the next page.

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About the Author: Trevor Sikkema

Trevor Sikkema is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat reporter and NFL Draft analyst for PewterReport.com. 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: trevor@pewterreport.com
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mark2001
1 year ago

One thing I’ve notice is that there is little difference between Fitz and Winston. And some wonder why Koetter would have a problem deciding between Jameis and Ryan?

fredster
1 year ago

Well makes sense and that’s the Two things most fans that aren’t casual fans have been saying Is feed Jones more than Barber and get Howard involved. So with real World stats Winston is slightly less than average not worst in league? How can that be? Lol. He’s slightly less than average with hell of lot worse than average O line and defense? Hmm get rid of him and roll the dice and use draft pick to replace him? That’s why he will at least likely get franchise tag. They have 7 more games to evaluate and hopefully O line… Read more »

mark2001
Reply to  fredster
1 year ago

Fredster…you seem to miss one big point. This isolates out the O line and D and other factors. That is why it has the value it does. Winston is what he is…an average QB. A guy that will never lead us to the SB. Now if he stops staring down receivers, throwing inerrant passes, and losing it under pressure to the extent he does, he might be more. But how many years do you want to wait? Give him seven more games…and if he doesn’t improve in those things, draft a guy to compete with him, offer him a contract… Read more »

Buc stops here
Reply to  mark2001
1 year ago

Actually, while not the norm, many average QBs have won the super bowl. Some examples include – Trent Dilfer and the Baltimore Ravens and Brad Johnson and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Both QBs were average or worse, and they both won Super Bowls. What they had were fantastic defenses which helped a ton and in the case of both, they had well above average seasons. To say Winston is average means technically they could win a Super Bowl with him – if the defense was amazing. Also, Winston’s problem is the INT – and this season is his training ground/test.… Read more »

mark2001
Reply to  Buc stops here
1 year ago

Remember where our resources were spent during our SB year, and the other teams you mentioned. Those were years where D players, frankly, were undervalued compared to O players. And teams that spent the lions share of their cap on the D side of the ball were better off because they got “more bang for their buck”. Not so anymore. So a dominate D is much tougher to build today, and still not rob from the O side of the ball. So in this world, I believe the talent of the QB is in fact magnified, as a good QB… Read more »

Buc stops here
Reply to  mark2001
1 year ago

Yes and no about today’s super bowls. Just last year, the Patriots won the Super Bowl against the Rams with a fantatic defense, and an average (at best) aging Tom Brady. At 42, the oldest QB ever in a Super Bowl, he managed to get 21 of 35, 262 yards, 1 INT, 0 TDs. They won that Super Bowl 13-3 not because they had a fantastic offense as it was average at best. They won because of their take no prisoners attitude defense. Is it more likely you will win with an above average QB – I don’t disagree with… Read more »

Captain Sly
Reply to  mark2001
1 year ago

Great Great work Trevor, but I have a question.
Would Russell Wilson still be #1 if Leftwich was his OC and he was told for the first 6 weeks of the season stay in the pocket and deliver a perfect pass to someone named Perriman 20yds down the field? I’m not arguing for or against Winston, I just want you to bring more clarity to the statistical formula that you used. Thanks

mark2001
Reply to  Captain Sly
1 year ago

Yes Wilson would…because he is better at handling the ball, making throws, good decisions, and running with the ball.

Captain Sly
Reply to  mark2001
1 year ago

How can you be so sure? Is it based on your feelings. Because I would be shocked to know that if Russell Wilson played for this team that he would Rank #1 in efficiency given all the factors.
Even if Trevor says that Wilson would rank #2 then that tells you that this system factors into this equation.

mark2001
Reply to  mark2001
1 year ago

Captain…based upon what I’ve seen…and based upon what the numbers tell me. What attribute would you say Jameis is superior to Russell in? Accuracy, mobility, decision making, reading defenses, looking off receivers? Just tell me something…other than YOUR feelings.

cgmaster27
Reply to  mark2001
1 year ago

Mark i believe it isolates the defense and type of play, but i dont think it said anything about the offensive line in there. The difficulty of the pass, time in the game, defense and such. But this doesnt account for line play. And ours isnt very good.

mark2001
Reply to  cgmaster27
1 year ago

I think it is in there. But the quality of an O line is difficult to gauge. GB has had horrendous line play for the last few years, with their best players going down on an annual basis. But a good QB knows when to release the ball, knows when to tuck and run, knows when to throw it away, knows how to draw the D offside or catch 12 men on the field, knows when to change a play to take advantage of a D switch, doesn’t look down receivers, doesn’t force the ball resulting in a high number… Read more »

Captain Sly
Reply to  mark2001
1 year ago

Mark I’m not arguing whether Winston is better than Wilson, That’s obvious. The chart does not argue that either because Matt Stafford is #3 is he better than Brady, Brees, Rodgers? No.
I suggesting that the system matters and that is what the chart seems to say to me.

bill_kir
Reply to  mark2001
1 year ago

look at the QBs that Winston is ranked above. Goff, Murray, Rudolph, Trubisky, Dalton, Mayfield, Allen, Jones, Darnold. A lot of recently drafted ‘franchise’ QBs there. If what you are saying is true, and the ranking takes everything out of the equation other than QB performance, then cutting ties with Winston to draft the next ‘franchise’ QB has a very realistic change to backfire.

Captain Sly
Reply to  bill_kir
1 year ago

Well that’s just it. We don’t know how good Jamies Winston can be if system is a factor! Right now Dirk Koetter’s system with MVP Matt Ryan 2-7 & Leftwich’s system is not much better…
Russell Wilson is great but he’s also benefited from a good stable system…
My question is what if Wilson started his career in Tampa and Winston in Seattle. Would we be saying get rid of Russell Wilson here in Tampa?

EricNV
Reply to  mark2001
1 year ago

An average QB led us to a SuperBowl win many years ago. Winston doesn’t need to be spectacular to be signed again. If Winston continues to improve and the INTs and fumbles drop, the Bucs are going to sign him long-term or franchise him.

Ron Potter
1 year ago

I dunno. Seems like we’re making this too big a deal. Mike Evans and Chris Godwin could be the best WR duo in the league. The offense is scoring an average of 30 points. And for some reason, these loud voices from our fanbase are screaming that O.J. Howard and RoJo aren’t being used enough or used correctly. Good grief. There’s only one football to go around.

EricNV
Reply to  Ron Potter
1 year ago

Removing the Bucs lowest and highest scoring games, the Bucs averaged 26.86 points per game, which isn’t bad by any means, but we could be averaging higher if RJII and Howard were both getting more touches

Captain Sly
1 year ago

Another thing that jumps out at me when reading your chart is if Ronald Jones is Ranked that much higher than Barber in terms of efficiency then it begs the question as to why he’s not getting the ball more. My point is this and I have said this for awhile now that Leftwich and the way he’s using these weapons are costing us games. Sure we scream about the rookies on defense and BA throwing challenge flags for defensive PI but our offense is our best defense. Every time I see Barber in on 1st down or Ogunbowale on… Read more »

Horse
1 year ago

I’m not in love with this kind of stats analysis because it doesn’t take in consideration other responsibilities at those positions which are also important. It’s just one of many tools in evaluating a player.
Bottom line I trust my eyes more than I do numbers.

nmkinley
Reply to  Horse
1 year ago

Yes, there are many other factors that go into playing certain positions. I still cringe for our QB’s health each time Rojo is in the backfield on a passing down – missing blitz pick ups and / or screen calls, just as an example in the last game. I do love the progress he is making, but there is a reason to use the other backs as well.

twspin
1 year ago

Again quoting my man Vince Lombardi…..The only important stat is the W stat! And we need more of them.

Dbuc63
1 year ago

Trevor, WOW man, great topic. You hands down do a great job with your segments on cover 3. SR has contacts but you bring innovation in terms of topics for discussion like no other anywhere. You are truly talented. This particular topic is valuable especially when you are eluding to “context.” I know this stuff really well not in sports per say but this is used in social media platforms regularly and other areas I wont mention. These advanced stats are formulated using calculus by function or number. I wont go too much into this but I will mention that… Read more »

Horse
Reply to  Dbuc63
1 year ago

Quite frankly I was be shocked don’t check even looked at this kind of stat sheets.
Banana Scott where he has because she has good instincts and understands the game of football.
Boston Celtics players that he had changed and keeps are the ones who love the game of football.

Horse
Reply to  Horse
1 year ago

My bag I didn’t check my talking text.
I meant to say ” I would be shocked if Belichick where to look at this kind of stat sheets.”

tog
tog
Reply to  Dbuc63
1 year ago

If I’m reading you correctly Belichick 100% uses advanced stats. He won SLOAN’s lifetime achievement in analytics and the Patriots have long had the most advanced analytics department in the NFL. Outside of Belichick and Brady directly, it’s probably their biggest advantage.

Belichick talks down analytics every chance he gets but that’s misdirection. His right-hand man, Ernie Adams, is a huge analytics guy and they’ve hired quants away from Wall St. to create player models and the like. I mean they have a “Football Research Director” and “Director of Research” and “Chief Data Scientist”.

Horse
Reply to  tog
1 year ago

Didn’t know that, thank you.

FilmBuc
1 year ago

I appreciate the comments about Winston bring an average QB – but he is quite possibly the most unusual average QB in the league based on the following factors: 1. He has led TWO WRs into top 5 seasons according to the metrics above. Look at every other QB in the list and no one else can claim that. No one in the middle or bottom of the rankings can claim even one in the top ten. What does this tell us… two things: that the Bucs have perhaps the least talented WR3 and lower group in the league and… Read more »

tog
tog
Reply to  FilmBuc
1 year ago

I don’t see how dedicating an offense to two WRs (a) solves Winston’s problems and (b) matters? When you throw for 4,000 yards and 32 TDs, it doesn’t matter if it was with 2 WRs or 10. The fact that the Bucs have run this offense through 2 WRs is inherently no better or worse than Koetter who relied more on the TE and slot WR. What matters is production – and while the Bucs O has points it also has an insane number of turnovers (including 12 WITHIN FIELD GOAL RANGE). Ultimately what matters is: can Winston lead you… Read more »

tnew
1 year ago

On the first clip showing the pass to Howard… I see this a lot. Why are Godwin and Evans running to the same spot on the field? Either would/could’ve been open if they weren’t running to the exact same spot.. I see this a bunch in this offense. Multiple receivers near the catch can’t be a good thing because it just brings more defenders into the zone.

Charlie
1 year ago

Well let’s go back to whether or not Jameis has improved with what would be considered a clean pocket? He’s always been EXTREMELY bizarro in that sense, this dude does better when the O-line play is leaky, -shrugs- like, wth is that? There is just something off about that. I dunno where to find the stats on that to see if there has been an improvement. But it’s been the case in years past and doesn’t really seem to be getting better.

surferdudes
1 year ago

The CBA makes it worth taking a QB in the first round. It will be five years this draft since we used our first round pick on a QB, it’s time. Even if Jameis stays, we don’t have anything good in the stable. We have to prepare for life without Jameis, he’s a free agent. Franchising him is very expensive, and he might want to leave. One thing we should’ve learned with Jameis is you can’t always trust what he’ll do on the field, and off. Now would be a good time to hedge our bet with a QB.

SaskBucs
1 year ago

Nice work Trevor. The stats are … fine… can be helpful I suppose. The things you said about the team and what they should do are true and it doesn’t take stats to figure that out. Rojo has clearly been more dangerous all year ( I understand pass blocking factors in and our O line needs help), the Bucs have 3 stud pass catchers and Brate who is very good. I also understand these guys are not always open but Winston has played with all of them for over 2 years. D recognition and timing shouldn’t be too much of… Read more »

tog
tog
1 year ago

Excellent article, very informative.

I’d be curious on your take on why/how the Bucs D is > Bucs O in DVOA (21st and 22nd, respectively).

scubog
1 year ago

There’s little doubt that the offensive side has enough “Weapons for Winston”. If only the defense could be somewhere in the middle of the pack, perhaps it could, as it did against the Cardinals, limit the negative effect of the all too frequent turnovers. Winston’s statistics are often askewed by the number of interceptions like in the old days when completion % was the driver of QB ratings. Back then a QB was expected to be in the 50% range. Nowadays if they don’t approach 70% they are considered sub-par. Like my friend Horse, I pay little attention to the… Read more »

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