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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

Normally for these Cover 3 columns I like to address what Bucs fans are going to be talking about the most following a game, then break it down into more details. But this week the things that will be talked about most will probably be the fact that the officials screwed the Bucs out of yet another win, or Jameis Winston’s interceptions, which head coach Bruce Arians said were not his fault at all.

Unfortunately, there’s nothing I can do about the officials, and all the All-22 video in the world won’t tell me what route the wide receivers were supposed to be running, at least not in the sense we would need to see it. (Although I’ve been told by multiple – and very credible – people that Arians wasn’t just blindly defending Winston and both of his interceptions were, in fact, the fault of the receivers.)

Don’t hate me, I’m just a mere scribe.

There is an area of this most recent Bucs game I did want to break down, though, and that was the work of their defensive line. The Buccaneers are one of the best teams in the NFL when it comes to defending the run, but against the pass, they’re one of the worst. I think we’ve come to the conclusion that the cornerback play hasn’t been what it has needed to be – Arians has echoed that himself. But I also believe that part of what is hurting this team’s pass coverage is Tampa Bay’s lack of pass rush, or better said, its lack of finishing its pass rushes.

The Buccaneers are spending $32.3M on their defensive line, which is seventh highest in the league. Yet their sack production doesn’t match. While featuring the league’s sack leader in outside linebacker Shaq Barrett, the Buccaneers have just 16 total sacks in 2019, which is tied for the 23rd most in the NFL.

Bucs OLB Shaq Barrett

Bucs OLB Shaq Barrett – Photo by: May Holt/PR

Barrett’s 10 sacks through seven games (he had nine sacks through four games) is phenomenal, even if his most recent games have been a bit less disruptive. But after him, outside linebacker Carl Nassib has three sacks, and then it’s two players with one, defensive end William Gholston and outside linebacker Jason Pierre-Paul, who played his first game last weekend. As for defensive tackles Ndamukong Suh and Vita Vea, they each have just a half a sack to their season’s stat sheet.

This could be a reason why the Buccaneers are struggling as much as they are in the pass defense department. Not that it takes all the blame off the secondary, but when you can’t get home to the quarterback, starting-caliber passers will find their receivers in time.

But sacks aren’t the only way to judge production from a defensive line – even pass rushers – so I don’t want to be without context there either. In terms of recorded pressure on the quarterback, the Bucs’ 70 pressures are the 10th best in the NFL, and that number is fourth-best among teams that have played just seven games like Tampa Bay. If we go to pressure percentage, which is the percent of total pressures per drop back, the Bucs are more towards the middle, but still in the top half, at 14th in the league.

Of quarterback knockdowns, meaning how often a defensive player makes contact with the quarterback as he throws the ball, the Bucs’ 21 knockdowns are fourth-best in the league, second-most of teams that have played an equal amount of games. Tampa also has a QB Hurry rate of 10.7 percent, which is in the top half of the league. They are also one of the most aggressive teams in the league with a blitz percentage per drop back of 41.7 percent, second highest percentage in the league.

So, it seems as though the Buccaneers are getting pressure on the pocket, they’re just not finishing the plays in the backfield at the same rate they are affecting them. Pressure and hurries are good, but as long as that quarterback is standing with the ball in his hands, he’ll always be able to make a play. You want to make it so he can’t make a play.

Bucs NT Vita Vea

Bucs NT Vita Vea – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

Sacking the quarterback is an art, an art not every artist who picks up the brush can succeed at at the highest level. I think guys like Suh, Vita and Nassib are talented players and relentless workers along the line, but they aren’t sack masters. They don’t have that art.

Barrett has grown into a young budding pass rush artist, but recent games showed us he couldn’t do it alone when protections were sliding his way. Thankfully now there’s a veteran amongst them who knows a thing or two about the art of pass rushing to help him out.

Pierre-Paul.

It took exactly two plays for Pierre-Paul to get his first sack of the 2019 season, which was a sight many Bucs fans had been anticipating for a long time. Pierre-Paul played in 68 percent of the team’s defensive snaps on Sunday, which was the third most of any defensive lineman behind Suh and Nassib. But for a guy who played over 1,000 snaps a few years ago, that kind of dependability can be expected.

I don’t want to understate how incredible it was that Pierre-Paul was even out on the field last week. Not many players can come back from a broken neck at all, let alone come back to play against that same year. But as Pierre-Paul said himself, not many can come back to play in the NFL after blowing off his hand either.

Now Pierre-Paul has done both, and this team is thankful for it, because Pierre-Paul’s artistry of sacking the quarterback is what hold the key to what this Bucs defense can potential be. From what we saw last week, he and Barrett could be one of the best edge duos in the NFL.

We get more into 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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Easythe great
1 year ago

Take that money you were gonna pay Winston and use it towards keeping this front seven in tact. Draft a young quarterback with our top 5 pick and let Arians mentor him.

eaustinyoung
Reply to  Easythe great
1 year ago

Agreed. The D-line is about the only thing that is playing at a high level. They are crushing running backs. The QB can throw in seconds because there’s no cover on their receivers.

BigSombrero
1 year ago

Two perfect trade candidates.

Their value is high right now.
Both contracts expire at the end of the season.
Won’t be here next year anyway.
Compensatory picks in a year aren’t a guarantee.

BigSombrero
Reply to  BigSombrero
1 year ago

While we’re at it, OJ looks like he’s worth a New England 2nd rounder.

BigSombrero
Reply to  BigSombrero
1 year ago

It’s suprising they kept everyone considering they are certain to lose most of these guys in 9 games.

Cheers!!

Here’s to going 8-1 to close out the year and end with double digit wins and a possible playoff berth!

BUC-ASS-BOB
1 year ago

Why am I only one that sees this crap what Pewter boys doing Ndamukong Suh   has solo 6 tackles and 1/5 of  1 sack    Vita Vea has 7 solo tackles and 1/5 of 1 sack These totals are not for a game these stats are for the season 7 games.  Sunday special teams punted the ball to titans 2-yard line perfect for a forced Punt and good field position for Bucs “#60 Ben Jones” took Veta Vea and moved him to his left and planted him on his ass  Derick Henery ran thru his hole for huge gain, this alone can cost a close game  After… Read more »

BUC-ASS-BOB
Reply to  BUC-ASS-BOB
1 year ago

Watch the film 10-sec video worth a thousand words

1min 55 sec in youtube

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rNJLcAijU-M

sryan66611
Reply to  BUC-ASS-BOB
1 year ago

Lol… You are very unaware of what’s going on. I know you are just talking shit but at least show a bad play from Vea. he was one of the only players to get penetration and forced derrick to pivot and go another direction in the backfield. The people responsible for that play were Gholston and Suh who got washed out as they were running a zone-blocking scheme and they didn’t hold their point of attack.

Click the link the screenshot shows Vea in the backfield the only person in the backfield.
http://prntscr.com/pprwxe

twspin
Reply to  BUC-ASS-BOB
1 year ago

Arguably Suh is no better than GMC. At least not thus far. The guy will be gone next season to the highest bidder. He’s smart..stashing his retirement/next career coffers. Fellow Bucs loved GMC as is evident in major players showing up to GMC’s sons Tampa Catholic event filling in for him.

BigSombrero
Reply to  twspin
1 year ago

GMC S-U-C-K-S…49ers..put.. 51
… on ..that.. shit…ty… defense.

phillyphil67
Reply to  BUC-ASS-BOB
1 year ago

what are you talking about vea and suh are pushing the pocket back to the qbs lap!!! this allow barrett and nassib and jpp to get those sacks. watch the all 22 of most games especially vea!!! Gerald mccoy im sorry he gets pushed around and never makes plays was tired of watching it as well as being tired of watching winstons constant turnovers

bucballer
1 year ago

U make the tough calls. U resign Pierre-Paul, Shaq, Suh. Keep David, make Nassib an offer. Winston, Dot, Toast Hargreaves, Goulston, Brate are gone. They can be replaced. The days of giving max contracts to average players has to end in order for this team to make a turn around. Go Bucs!

MWD
MWD
Reply to  bucballer
1 year ago

Exactly Bucballer- keep your assets that are producing….Cut liabilities
Liabilities- Winston, Hargreaves, Dotson
Depending on what happens with OJ, Brate either stays or goes
Goulston- not a game changer IMO

There have also been players who have been traded to other teams that I feel could have been an improvement for us in certain positions, but of course, we say on our hands and made no offers to anyone.

MWD
MWD
Reply to  MWD
1 year ago

“sat on our hands”

EricNV
Reply to  bucballer
1 year ago

The only way they can keep both JPP and Shaq is to move on from Winston. However, JPP will be 32 next year, so his production will become substantially lower as he gets older. There’s two ways to do it, and it depends upon whether or not Jameis is playing better the next 9 games. If Winston stays, you cut / trade Dotson, Brate, Gholston, Hargreaves (and I was a big Hargreaves fan until now), Suh, and Perriman. Then draft / FA for RT, DT, DE, CB, and depth at G, ILB, RT. If Jameis plays himself out of Tampa,… Read more »

Boca James (Boca Raton Florida)
Reply to  bucballer
1 year ago

I am still trying to figure out why we paid that much to Brate. I better he would renegotiate to stay in Tampa.

Buc stops here
Reply to  Boca James (Boca Raton Florida)
1 year ago

Brate is paid slightly above average for an NFL tight end. Did you know he makes $6.8 million, the tenth highest in the NFL? The average tight end makes just over $5 million. So I would not say he is exceptionally highly paid for an experienced tight end who is performing each and every week. https://www.azcentral.com/story/sports/nfl/2019/03/15/highest-paid-tight-ends-ranking-nfl-tes-salary-2019-season/3176821002/

Boca James (Boca Raton Florida)
Reply to  Buc stops here
1 year ago

Hes the second best TE on the team???? For a backup that is a lot of $$$$$$$$
2019 Stats 15 Rec 151 Yards 2 TD …yes that is way overpaid.
I like Brate a lot but we overpaid him!!!!!!

Buc stops here
Reply to  Boca James (Boca Raton Florida)
1 year ago

Note that Howard has 13 receptions, 176 yards, 0 TDs. They are about the same (Howard has 20 yards more, 2 fewer TDs). Howard is on a rookie contract, he will be paid even more than Brate when it comes up for renewal. They are both suffering as Winston (as we all know) locks on to his receivers downfield and only recently has been looking for the shorter gains with the TEs and RBs. Your overpaid statement is not correct. It is your opinion but not reality.

Buc stops here
Reply to  Boca James (Boca Raton Florida)
1 year ago

I am also certain that when Howard’s contract is up for renewal, he will not only be paid more than Brate but by then Brate will probably be cut as he is older (28 to 24). Note also that Brate only has $18 million guaranteed, so his contract is an optional 6 years but is really only guaranteed for three of them at what he is being paid. This is his second year, so he is only guaranteed one more year in Tampa – after that they can cut him at no penalty. At that point Howard will be up… Read more »

Buc stops here
Reply to  Boca James (Boca Raton Florida)
1 year ago

One last stat that gets forgotten in all of this. While Brate has three fumbles from 2014 to 2018, and lost 1 of them, Howard has three over two years, and lost 2 of them. So Brate is slightly better than Howard at handling the ball (both are very good, however).

Horse
1 year ago

So who are The Replacements for JPP, Barrett, Suh? Who is being groomed to fill those positions? We spent all that money this year because the sales pitch was we were ready for the playoffs with them. Now we have our answer it was a waste. I would get rid of them all today for whether we can get in draft picks, but most assuring the supplemental draft picks we will obtain. Will this happen of course not; we will take a dumber approach which is to do nothing and pretend that we can still make it an 8-8 season.… Read more »

Horse
Reply to  Horse
1 year ago

Okay the last 9 games will play out with no changes. Brilliant! Well done.
Coach Arrians and GM got a plan? Would love to hear it especially since we’re flying to play another team that has heard your song before.

Horse
1 year ago

Now not bow; big figures for small texting pad

EastEndBoy
1 year ago

Can someone remind me why our GM restructured JPP’s deal to lower his 2019 base by $3m, when we have plenty of 2019 cap space, in return for letting him go FA a year early? Why not keep him as was for 2019 and have the option to cut him ahead of 2020 if so desired, or keep him for 2020 if so desired. We gave up our option in return for $3m in 2019…why?

EricNV
Reply to  EastEndBoy
1 year ago

To carry that additional cap space into next year.

EastEndBoy
Reply to  EricNV
1 year ago

Ah right – so we get the one year boost against the cap of $3m in 2020. I think I’d still rather have the option to keep JPP, over having an extra $3m of space for one year, but I see the rationale. Thx.

Captain Sly
1 year ago

We can get rid of all the pieces we have but does anyone have faith in the decision makers at the top bringing in talent. We were made to think at the beginning of the season that all the pieces were here yet here we are 2-5 with no real plan or identity to this team moving forward. At this point I don’t trust anyone in the organization so they can do what they want. I love my team but I won’t pay to see a circus act anymore.

MWD
MWD
Reply to  Captain Sly
1 year ago

I don’t have any faith in player management and acquisition at all at this point either Sly!

bucballer
1 year ago

It was a calculated risk. Due to the nature of injury and the unknown outcome. If he recovers, we keep his availability for this season, if his injury prevents his return to football we relieve ourselves of any future financial obligations.

EastEndBoy
Reply to  bucballer
1 year ago

I don’t believe any portion of his 2020 salary was guaranteed, nor was there any bonus (dead cap) implications given the Giants retained that. The option was in fact, if he recovers we keep his availability for BOTH 2019 and 2020, if his injury prevents his return we cut him before the 2020 season at no cost.

ElioT
1 year ago

Q: What do we hope will happen? A: Jason Licht is escorted out of OBP! How he got us into this mess is a travesty… I think the only DL/OLBs under contract in 2020 are: • Vea • Gholston (overpaid) • Nelson • O’Connor That’s scary sh*t. Meanwhile they have one heck of a rotation going in the secondary that can’t poor urine out of a boot with instructions written on the heel. Talk about building a defense backwards. Also, who’s to say Barrett, JPP, Nassib and Suh would even entertain a less-than stupid offer to remain on this train… Read more »

Captain Sly
Reply to  ElioT
1 year ago

Okay real talk now that I got my rant out of the way…. If I have to start a roster and I’m choosing between Barrett, Nassib, Suh, JPP, I go with Shaq Barrett hands down. Here is why: 1) Shaq is still a very young player and he’s a pass rush specialist, Those are extremely hard to find. 2) Shaq is a hard worker because not many players make it from the back of the bench to leading the league in sacks. Finally 3) Shaq is just a good dude, high character guy, great attitude and great success story. That’s… Read more »

BuccaneerBlood
1 year ago

Lock both of them up. We have a very young secondary who are going through growing pains this year. Having shaq and jpp with the secondary much more seasoned next year will pay big dividends for the defense as a whole. I like idea of having a great defense again. Premium pash rushers who deliver are hard to come by. Let Suh, Dotson, Brate and gholston go. Nassib is a good pass rusher as well but jpp and shaq are on another level.

twspin
1 year ago

WINNING IS ALL THAT MATTERS IN THIS NFL. Win and many mistakes are looked and glossed over. Lose and they become not only magnified But players and coaches face..the publics axe. And our axe is razor sharp right now.

surferdudes
1 year ago

Both are free agents, and will run from this dumpster fire team unless we over pay to keep them. I said even with JPP coming back we’d still have a losing record because he played all of last season, and we still finished 5-11. Same with him, same without him. If you lose the turnover battle, you usually lose the game. Jameis leads the league in turnovers since he came into the league, hence we lose more games then we win. I know, it’s not all Jameis’s fault, it’s not my fault either. The fact remains, you can’t play consistent… Read more »

BUC-ASS-BOB
1 year ago

The NFL Rumor board said the Bucs aren’t doing anything for the trade deadline nothing everything’s great in Tampa, No need to be active on the trade board everything is just perfect the way it is. Like I said they have no intention of winning

bucballer
1 year ago

I think Resigning Suh is important if it can be done at a reasonable price. Although it doesn’t appear, stat wise, that he is important to this defense, he is. Let me explain. Suh is A smart vet. He is still feared by the opposition. They have to account for him. He is still a beast! With him and Vea in the middle it is a formidable run stuffing defense. I think he brings a ferociousness to this defense that is needed. Of course, it depends on his asking salary, and his desire to return.

EricNV
Reply to  bucballer
1 year ago

That’s a lot of money to commit to the front seven. I think they would be better off drafting a DT in the 2nd or 3rd round, but if Suh likes playing for Bowles as much as he’s said, then maybe he’ll take a lower salary than this season.

Buc stops here
Reply to  bucballer
1 year ago

Bucballer – I agree with you. They wanted to stop the run with the two of them, and generally they can – about the best in the NFL as the run defense is in the top two-three every week this season. The others on the line get to the QB for the sacks. With Barrett, JPP, and Nassib they hopefully will get even better with JPP back. Time will tell.

Buc76
1 year ago

Jameis Winston will be here next year. They will offer him a low end long term starter contract and he will take it. 1 season with the new coaching staff will be looked at as not enough. They wont give up on him. They will try to bring in pieces to support him.

EastEndBoy
Reply to  Buc76
1 year ago

I would say maybe – you make a good point – but that it will entirely depend on where we draft and which QBs are available at that draft slot. If we have a chance to pick a new franchise QB, I think we will.

Bucsfan1983
Reply to  EastEndBoy
1 year ago

If you are not getting Tua or Burrows, no other QB is worth moving on from Winston. Same with Trevor Lawrence the next season. The Bucs will not be picking in the top 5 in 2020.

ScottC543
Reply to  Bucsfan1983
1 year ago

Sell the farm to move up and draft Burrow.

EastEndBoy
Reply to  Bucsfan1983
1 year ago

I’m not so sure. I still think Herbert has talent and will go early.

bucballer
1 year ago

Hey twspin! I did notice Mike and David showed up to support McCoy’s boy at the TC game as well. Despite what the fans thought of McCoy, his teammates thought otherwise. It was a stand up move! Good guys Mike and David.

bucballer
1 year ago

Again, the savings was for this year! We are/were up against the cap and even 3 million was a savings! At least that what I believe the thinking was on the JPP situation.

dbenn2012
1 year ago

Why keep one only? Who in the league would give Jameis Winston a 20+ million dollar, even one year contract? On the flip side why would JW sign a multi-year 6 million (NFL average 2019 which obviously includes rookies and 1-3 QBs who will get much more if successful elsewhere). Who (even the Bucs) would sign him to a 27+ million franchise tag? Unless something drastically changes, JW hits the market looking in the 10-12+ (based on experience and “potential”) range with incentives on a one year prove it type deal. Again, unless something drastically changes, is JW better off… Read more »

Bucco-Bruce
1 year ago

Other posters have said it before, we need a better O-line, it doesn’t matter who is the quarterback or running back, we can’t compete without protection and opening holes!!!

Bucsfan1983
Reply to  Bucco-Bruce
1 year ago

This! Licht or whoever GM is next draft, needs to double up on OL in the first 3 rounds.

Bucsfan1983
1 year ago

Keep Winston. Keep JPP & Shaq. Suh, Dotson, VH3, Gholston contracts gone. Trade Brate. Restructure Donovan Smith. Make an offer to Nassib.

Charlie
1 year ago

So Winston is gone, Gholston, Brate,
VH3, Demar, Suh unless he takes a few million less, Nassib same. You keep both JPP and Shaq, sign Jarran Reed if Seattle doesn’t keep him. Make a pass at the 2 offensive linemen from Washington. Draft in the trenches a little bit. Take a chance on a QB somewhere in the middle rounds after we have a decent OL. Maybe our team won’t suck? But who knows.

Charlie
1 year ago

We obviously go without saying need to at least at a veteran secondary player to help mentor our young guys that will be left and that we draft by the boat load the next 2 years.

awwdembucs
1 year ago

Too start with GET a GM that can draft better!! The 2016 draft was a COMPLETE BUST. That is really showing up now. As far as Barrett goes I like him but wonder if he is a one hit wounder time will tell. JPP I also like but age is a concern. This season is i am sorry to say is over so sell some players and start a small rebuild, starting with a QB Winston will never be a QB that can but a team on his back and win.

Ron Potter
1 year ago

The dynamic duo is Chris Godwin and Mike Evans with Winston throwing the ball to them. There’s no debating this. The real story is officiating. They have taken away long runs from Rojo. They have taken away INTs from Carlton Davis. They have taken away FFs from Devin White. They have called Carlton Davis and D Smith for helmet to helmet and excused our opponents for body-slamming and injuring Jack Cichy. The NFL prides itself on parity but their lack of fair officiating has kept us in the cellar of the NFC South for years. BA has spoken up, but… Read more »

plopes808
1 year ago

Seeing JPP and Sack Barrett on the field together was a welcome sight to say the least! With our young secondary going through growing pains, this will only help them. As for who to keep, I’d say if JPP makes it though the year without injury we have to keep both of them. We can let Brate walk as he is a luxury anyway and the TEs we have behind him are comparable. Jameis will most likely get an extension at a reasonable price as he hasn’t really wowed this season…at least not yet. Nassib should be made an offer… Read more »

drdneast
1 year ago

DumbAssBob took one play and made the whole game out of it. Matt Millen, the color analyst for the game for Fox Sports, did nothing but rave about Vita Vea through the whole game. Noted his stand out play several times. DumbAss is just a troll and proves it every week. He didn;t even watch the game I bet or he would have heard Millen bragging about him. Then again, he hears and sees only what his jaundiced troll eyes want to see. Plopes808, I have no problems with your personnel moves but if you aare going to keep VH… Read more »

plopes808
Reply to  drdneast
1 year ago

Agreed on all points. Unfortunately there’s nothing we can do about his rookie contract (as far as I know) as it is already set, but when/if he is resigned, it should be at a rate commensurate with his slot corner spot.

scubog
1 year ago

Who knows how this puzzling season is going to unfold? The way the team has played this first half, it wouldn’t shock me if it didn’t win another game. Nor would I be totally surprised if it ran the table. In all but the Saints game, our Bucs looked like the better team. Problem was, the Bucs couldn’t defeat the opponent, the officials and most of all…….itself. Whether most of the fault lies with Jameis or not, the team’s generosity with turnovers is becoming absurd. Lucky our RB’s aren’t fumbling the ball away………yet. But why is this happening? Here we’re… Read more »

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