Cover 3 is a weekly feature column written by PewterReport.com’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

Now that we’ve entered into the regular season with our Cover 3 columns – something new! – we’re in uncharted waters. We’re no longer talking about what “could be” or what needs to get better in terms of a starting roster, but rather, we’re reflecting on the season as it’s unfolding. There’s going to certainly still be some emphasis on what needs to improve, both in the statistical page and in the All Twenty-Tuesday section, but a lot of it is going to be reactionary and simply pointing things out as we can go back and slow down the game to see what really happened and why it did.

This week I have the stat of the week section set up differently than I have in the past, but I think it’s to your benefit. This week there are three numbers or sets of numbers I want to point out, all telling for different reasons. We’ll jump into why they’re important, whether they’re good or bad, and the reasons why they exist to either improve or hopefully, for the team’s sake, sustain.

The three numbers I chose this week are: the number negative three, the number 20 and a pairing of the numbers one and five.

Here’s what each of those numbers mean, who they come from and what we should think of them.

The Number Negative 3

Negative three represents the number of total yards Bears rookie running back Tarik Cohen rushed for on the first play of T.J. Ward’s career as a member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers – thanks to his gap-shooting tackle behind the line of scrimmage.

Last week I wrote a Cover 3 on Ward, his story and his skills, claiming that he may not be the traditional safety you’re used to seeing. But, that’s not to say he can’t be the dominant Ward you’re used to seeing either.

Bucs SS T.J. Ward - Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

Bucs SS T.J. Ward – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

Ward, as a member of the Buccaneers, is truly an X-factor type defensive back. He came from an aggressive, Cover 3-main defensive system in Denver that had him play up near the line of scrimmage, in the box and in the slot as a corner more than he did a traditional drop back safety. That kind of role and scheme helped Ward earn two Pro Bowl honors with the Broncos to add to his previous Pro Bowl with the Browns.

Tampa Bay doesn’t play that kind of scheme, so to get the most out of Ward, defensive coordinator Mike Smith is going to have to get creative – and I believe he can. Ward only played on 44 percent of the Bucs’ defensive snaps against the Bears (28 plays), but he also added five more snaps as a special teams player. With Robert McClain playing well as the slot cornerback, it’s not likely for Ward to play a slot coverage role as much as he did in Denver. However, I believe there will come a time to where the Bucs will be playing a team with a certain receiving corps., which includes tight ends and pass catching running backs, that will call for an unconventional X-factor defensive back.

That’s where Ward will step in.

On Ward’s first snap in Tampa Bay, he showed the Bucs the speed, the skill and the instincts for why they brought him in. His use has only begun, even if it might look a little outside the box compared to the vanilla defenses Bucs fans have been unfortunately used to.

The Number 20

The number 20 represents how many total rushing yards the Chicago Bears gained against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense on Sunday.

This number was 102 yards less than the rushing total the Bears amassed in the teams’ previous meeting last year.

So, how did they do it? Well, this offseason the Bucs made some new friends like defensive tackle Chris Baker and linebacker Kendell Beckwith, and they brought them all along in a tag-team effort.

Bucs DE Will Gholston - Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

Bucs DE Will Gholston – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

It truly was a total team effort among the Bucs’ front seven to limit the Bears to the rushing total they did – a number that has them No. 1 in rushing defense averages in the NFL by a country mile. But, a key reason for that low number wasn’t just the starting seven. Yes, Gerald McCoy, Lavonte David and Kwon Alexander had great days, but it was the guys beyond the stars who stepped up more than expected that helped shut it down.

When Alexander went out, Beckwith stepped into his middle linebacker spot and nabbed two tackles for loss. The rotation among the interior defensive linemen with McCoy, Baker, Clinton McDonald and William Gholston was stout. All that and including the fact that the effort, experience and production from McDonald on the inside and Adarius Glanton at the linebacker level off the bench are probably two of the better bench players in the league, and you have your answer as to how the Bucs did it.

Don’t expect the rushing averages for the Bucs defense to stay that low, but in terms of making a statement in your first game, the statement was made.

The Numbers 1 & 5

Numbers one and five represent the attempts and completion by quarterback Jameis Winston when attempting passes of 20 yards or more – one completion in five total attempts.

Now, I know that Tampa Bay head coach Dirk Koetter categorizes “explosive” or “dynamic” plays as ones that are 12 or more yards on the ground or 16 yards or more on a pass, but I wanted to point out the ones of 20 or more yards because extended time that the ball is in flight is where the Bucs really need Winston to succeed more than he has, so, I expanded it.

Bucs QB Jameis Winston - Photo by: Mark Lomoglio/PR

Bucs QB Jameis Winston – Photo by: Mark Lomoglio/PR

Winston attempted two deep passes to the right and three deep passes to the left. He did not attempt a deep pass between the hashes. Winston’s rating while attempting these deep passes was below average as a whole, but his 50 percent connection to his right was right around the league average. His lone completed pass of distance was 21 yards.

Four of Winston’s passes of 20 or more yards were targets for wide receiver DeSean Jackson with the other pass an overthrow to Charles Sims. For Jackson, the first was in the corner of the end zone in the first quarter, two more were deep passes into the end zone from midfield, and the one completion was along the sideline during the 1-minute drill before half.

These passes weren’t too far off, but they weren’t completed, and, in fact, it could mean everything in a negative way.

The Bucs won this game easily, and there likely won’t be many more like this one throughout their schedule. Knowing that, Winston has to be better. It was the first week, so if you want to call it rust, fine. However, Sunday was another day to add to the “this is who Jameis Winston is” file in terms of missing throws he shouldn’t miss on. There will be weeks when Winston is hitting more consistently than others, but the Bucs don’t want that from him in Year 3. If anything, they want week-by-week consistency to be much higher while throw-by-throw consistency may still be less than perfect just because of who he is – they’ll take that.

On the next page, we’ll jump into the film on each of these three categories to get a better look and a better explanation of how they happened.

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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: [email protected]
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nitey
nitey
4 years ago

Overall, the Bucs played the Bears about the way I thought they would. The offense wasn’t quite in sync as I thought they would be and the defense played a bit better than what I had hoped they would play at, but in the end the results were the same. I said in a number of threads I thought the Bucs would win 28-10 and win going away and that was pretty close to the final score. However, I knew the Bears would not be that good from watching them against the Falcons. I could see that the Falcons were… Read more »

kram0789
kram0789
4 years ago

Our running game has to be better.

johnny
johnny
4 years ago

ok so basically we are ragging on winston for being 1 of 5 on deep ball but we already established that the first one he threw was on the money and was just good coverage and not really a catchable ball he still got it to him right on the hands but corner was forcing him out. how do you hold that against him? that’s a good play by the defense. the next one you say winston had to climb the pocket and still got the throw off on target just maybe slightly a head of jackson or jackson just… Read more »

Iowabucfan
Iowabucfan
4 years ago

I didn’t see the game so my comments are based on highlights and the videos you posted. I am not worried about the Bucs being outscored in the 2nd half. They had a big half time lead and they did win. I am fine with the mindset of the team. The beginning of the season was a bit chaotic. Even with that they beat a team they should of beaten. I am not sure about the pass rush. But, the run defense was good, as you pointed out. So, right now, I am not concerned about it. I was impressed… Read more »

RootsCrew
RootsCrew
4 years ago

“However, Sunday was another day to add to the “this is who Jameis Winston is” file in terms of missing throws he shouldn’t miss on.” Trevor, the coverage of Winston in this Cover 3 is maddening. First you take him to task for not hitting his deep shots & say he shouldn’t miss these passes. Then you bring up the All-22 that shows his only bad miss was to Sims, (Which he needs to hit) but then wrap it up with saying he wasn’t a playoff QB on Sunday. (I’m assuming in part because he didn’t hit deep passes) You… Read more »

RootsCrew
RootsCrew
Reply to  Trevor Sikkema
4 years ago

Wouldn’t you agree that a defensive holding on DJax would interfere with him getting to where Jameis threw it? That ball was a foot & half off from DJax. Maybe it’s just me but I assume DJax easily makes up that space if he’s not held by the DB. It’s a miss, but also a holding penalty. Same with his touch pass to Brate. Just how I saw it. I know you’re not trying to be too damning as you’re not a “hot take” writer. Nor is this site. I just want Buc fans to use context when viewing Winston… Read more »

RootsCrew
RootsCrew
Reply to  Trevor Sikkema
4 years ago

I stand corrected. I thought the holding penalty was on the DB. Hence why I commented that DJax would get to where Jameis threw it if he wasn’t held.

Not arguing with you. Was just trying to have a discussion. It’s year 3. I’ll be criticizing him when his play and the circumstances warrant it.

Dbuc63
Dbuc63
4 years ago

Great cover 3 Trev. For me personally, the most insightful articles. As for your analysis, SPOT ON. I truly believe Winston would agree with your analysis as well. If the Bucs are to win a playoff game ( Winston’s team) he has to complete those deep passes. As mentioned, this is Winston’s team, he is the lead dog and with it comes more accountability. If chemistry isn’t there, get it there; he will. I’m biased but even if I try and think as objectively as I can no one in the NFL loves football more than him. He will find… Read more »

spartan
spartan
4 years ago

To be honest my biggest concern was how many pass plays were defended only by a wide open receiver dropped the ball. If they caught a little better I don’t think we would have come close to a donut.

Naplesfan
Naplesfan
4 years ago

I’m extremely pleased with the defense. I don’t care about number of sacks … sacks are just a means to an end. The “end” is getting sufficient pressure on the quarterback and his offense to take them out of rhythm and force turnovers. We did that throughout the first half and early the second half. However, our offense’s inability to sustain and complete drives and score points did two things: they tuckered out the defense in the fourth quarter allowing the Bears to score a garbage time TD, and they gave the Bears hope of a comeback. Only 3 points… Read more »

fl0nase
fl0nase
4 years ago

I want to see a complete game from the offense before I can feel confident about any kind of post season prospects. I agree with Trevor’s statement that in year 3, we don’t want to see ups and downs from a franchise QB. He should be consistent and he’s got to be comfortable using all his reads because he’s got the players to be open at each position. I think when Martin’s back we’ll see things open up more because Martin is just so much better than the number two back but no excuse not to win games in the… Read more »

Destino102
Destino102
4 years ago

As a FSU fan and a Bucs fan, I will always be a Jameis Winston fan. I named my dog Winston. But at some point we need to sarted grading his performance based on what he is and not the potential for what he can be. The goal is to win the Super Bowl, and for us to make it there he has to be great, not just good. Based off the the Defense we saw on Sunday and the weapons we have on Offense, an early exit from the playoffs would be a dissappointment. I believe Winston himself would… Read more »

Bschucher
Bschucher
4 years ago

Only thing ill add here is that Trev is the best addition to PR in ages. LOVE your work sir.

CDNBUCSFAN
CDNBUCSFAN
Reply to  Bschucher
4 years ago

Agreed, thanks Trevor!

drdneast
drdneast
4 years ago

Picky picky picky. In the first game yet after a three week layoff. I wonder if the Boston press is dogging Brady for hanging 3TDs on the Saints in the first quarter I believe and then losing focus for the rest of the game because he didn’t match that total for the remainder of the game. Give me a break. Winston was actually leading the Bucs on another good TD drive in the third quarter when the always enigmatic Charles Simms coughed up the ball close to the end zone. If you want to work out on someone, Simms would… Read more »

plopes808
plopes808
4 years ago

Let’s not forget, just about everyone looked bad in week 1. Hell, I had Julio and Michael Thomas on my fantasy and they scored 7 points COMBINED. Carson Palmer (in for Jameis) also scored only 6 points. This was our first game of the season after a 3 week layoff for the starters. Not to mention the players were preoccupied with a natural disaster up until the week before. So I think it’s ok that they didn’t look in playoff shape. That said, Jameis played a very efficient, mistake free game. No turnovers and appeared to be more accurate than… Read more »