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

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are on a four-game winning streak, and have won five of their last six games.

Did you hear that, Pewter Report readers?

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are on a four-game winning streak, and have won five of their last six games. That alone could be the stat of the week, and we could be onto the next page. The Bucs haven’t been on this type of a win streak since 2016 when they won five in a row in the middle of Dirk Koetter’s first season as head coach. Their current win streak is also just two behind the franchise record set in 1999 where the Bucs rattled off six in a row. Tampa Bay has a chance to match that this season if it can win out.

For a team with what was the second-youngest roster in the NFL after the initial 53-man cut downs to start the season, coming on so strong at the end is quite the accomplishment. The reasons for such success can be attributed in many areas. On the defensive side of the ball, the young secondary is coming into its own. Outside linebackers Jason Pierre-Paul and Shaq Barrett are still pushing pockets along the defensive line. And rookie inside linebacker Devin White being healthy again has proven to be a big X-factor.

On offense, it certainly didn’t hurt having two of the top three receivers in the NFL this season in Mike Evans and Chris Godwin. We also have to give credit where credit is due for the way Byron Leftwich has settled into his play-calling duties.

(via Ben Baldwin)

We hear coaches say the phrase “complementary football” all the time, but the Bucs are really starting to get into that grove. If you take into account the Bucs’ EPA/play on both offense and defense, not only are they are above the league average in both, they’re also not swinging too far towards one side of the ball to find success.

I’ve explained what EPA is in a previous Cover 3, but just for a refresher:

Expected Points Added (EPA) – The difference between the Expected Points (EP) at the start of a play and the EP at the end of they play. EPA is the measure of a play’s impact on the score of the game. An individual player’s EPA is the sum of the EPA of the plays in which that player was directly involved. Being directly involved is defined as an offensive player who ran, threw, or kicked the ball, was targeted by a pass, or flagged for a penalty.

Essentially, this is a way to contextualize efficiency towards the goal of winning the game on each play beyond just yards, completion and catches.

And speaking of complementary football, the Bucs seem to be remaining pretty balanced when it comes to their offensive game plan during this successful streak.

Notice the context of the pass rate. It’s on first and second downs only where the win probabilities isn’t out of hand with the clock above the two-minute warning. This gives us a well-rounded judgement of situational football where an offensive coordinator would likely have free reign to call either a run or a pass. In instances where this was the case, the Bucs are 11th in the NFL in terms of pass rate. If you ask me, ranking 8-12 is the sweet spot for this team with their current philosophy. This shows that Tampa Bay’s success is also correlating with its plan coming together – to stay close to balanced between run and pass.

As previously mentioned, many players, position groups and coaches has been integral parts of the team’s turn around from 2-6 a few months ago to 7-7- now. But among them, no position production has meant more than the one Tampa Bay has seen from its quarterback Jameis Winston.

(via Ben Baldwin)

After back-to-back 450-yard, four touchdown performances – something that had not been done before in NFL history – Winston’s QBR on the season has him smack dab in the middle of the pack when it comes to starting quarterbacks in the league. But if you ask me, what Winston has done this year should hold more weight than just saying he’s No. 16 in the league in QBR (one ahead of Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers, by the way).

With 4,573 passing yards, Winston is currently first in the NFL in terms of yards through the air. With 554 passing attempts, no quarterback has thrown the ball more than Winston this year. In passing touchdowns, Winston’s 30 TDs are second to only league MVP front-runner Lamar Jackson’s 33. And in terms of yards-per-completed pass, Winston’s 13.4 average puts him once again at the top of the list.

Top to bottom, no quarterback in the NFL is putting up the kind of production through the air Winston is. Now, Winston’s 24 interceptions are also a league-leading number, which is why he’s only No. 16 when it comes to QBR.

Incredible stats are not foreign for Winston. He’s already posted the top two passing seasons in franchise history, and this season is his third over 4,000 passing yards and his best yet. Winston’s 30 passing touchdowns right now are the most in a single season in Bucs history, but that record was simply breaking his old record of 28 from 2016. Winston has always had the stats, but as of the last six games, he now has the wins.

For what seems like the first time, the team is complementing Winston, especially on defense, and Winston is complementing what they do, as well. Numbers are not enough. Any talented player can rack up stats. What separates the stat-stuffers from the title holders is how well they can elevate the team around them.

Finally this Buccaneers team seems to be elevating in unison. We breakdown what that looked like this past weekend versus Detroit on the next page.

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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]

18 COMMENTS

  1. Good analysis.
    If I didn’t know better, I’d say the Bucs coaching staff is reading pewter report. Many of the play calling that is working seems to be pretty close to suggestions from pewter earlier in the season.
    I’m looking forward to the game this Saturday. I think the Bucs will win. I looked at the stats for the Saints game last night and Brees spread the ball around to multiple receivers. Exactly what Winston did against Detroit. We’ll survive, because Winston has so many viable targets.
    Hey, Trevor! How about a cover three analyzing every interception thrown by Winston? I really want to know if he’s getting better and how many of those picks aren’t his fault.

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    • Every one of them!? As long as you’re cool with it being a 4,000 word breakdown, haha.

      I do want to really dive into the Winston turnovers, at some point, though. Was thinking it might be something for a January Cover 3.

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      • Cool. Looking forward to the analysis.

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  2. I want to see continued improvement from the young players. To me that is going to be the big takeaway from the last two games.

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  3. I definitely don’t see this game as one of the biggest in years. For that, the game has to have some meaning in itself – playoff implications; spoiler implications for one of our rivals; or even losing the toilet bowl in 2014 was a big game.

    Leftwich is using “more crossing and drag routes”….about time!! – we’ve griping on about that on PR for years it seems….dial back the slow developing down field routes, and hit more quick ones….at least until we fix the OLine.

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    • They definitely still run a lot of long routes, it just seems like they’re pairing it with shorter ones more often within the same play. This very much complements one another in terms of spacing and making things difficult on defenses. I’ll have to go back and chart how many crossers they ran early in the year versus now to see how much things have changed.

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  4. I think it is a big game for the defense. Texans offense will push the ball downfield and they will grind with their running game.

    Bucs offense also could show what they can do creatively without having top receiving targets. Great opportunity to use Howard and Brate as a 1-2 punch.

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  5. I would prefer we shut down all the hamstring players and put them on IR.
    Then go Rob a PS for a couple OL, then a RB & QB.

    Atlanta win will mean more than Texan win in my opinion. I know it sounds odd; think about it.

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    • Horse your Idea is spot on.

      Go Bucs !!!

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  6. I’m excited for the Texans game, but what worries me is the receivers they are bringing in. I’m sure they will get plenty of reps but will it be enough? route running and timing are key to Jameis having success in this game IMO if he is going to keep spreading it around, Perriman and Watson I’m not worried about and it helps going up against the 4th worst secondary i read the Texans Have? if the Bucs can get the running game going would help a lot too, i thought the Lions game had a good chance to get it going with Rojo but i guess stick to what works and air it out, lol………GO BUCS!!!

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  7. Quality analysis. Winston has improved his deep throwing and his increasing comfort level with this offense seems to be providing him with a lot of confidence. There is true growth here, both in terms of Winston’s performance and the coaching/play-calling. It is also apparent that the players really believe in Winston, and even when he commits a turnover they have faith that he can bounce back. I tend to think that with additional reps in this system he can curtail the interceptions some. He is going to have interceptions, because this is a high risk/high reward offense and because he is not afraid to sling it into tight windows. From the play-calling perspective, though, continuing through the process of identifying Winston’s problem areas and calling plays that maximize his strengths will hopefully continue to increase his ability to succeed.

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  8. Winston has always had a problem throwing over LB’s, going back to his college days. The same LB picked him off twice, one for a pick six, and he threw another pick Sunday to a LB. That’s three picks in to games by LB’s. It’s almost like he doesn’t see them, but they see him, and read his eyes to pick him off. Something the staff needs to work on with him this off season. Hey Trev, Winston spun the ball pretty good wearing a glove on his throwing hand, think he keeps using one? Ask him if you get a chance.

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    • I would assume if something’s working he’s not going to change it, but I’ll ask this week if I can.

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  9. Trevor, thanks for the article. You put a fair bit of critical thinking into your conclusions, but also elequenty laid out your thoughts .

    So frequently, writers use stats as padding to lazily make a point, or more deliberately skew them to fit their agenda. Reading this article was a pleasure, not only because it’s about the Bucs finally playing winning ball and why, but because it was well written.

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  10. Winston finally has some play calling with multiple route concepts off of play action. Didn’t we see Gruden do this 15+ years ago with a Seminole back up at the helm with less talent at skill positions. Has to be very frustrating for Winston to play for an organization that forgot the championship formula. It would not surprise me if he forces his way out this off season. Sadly like so many former Buc QB’s. This franchise is not good enough for Winston all the way back to DW. From 1976 til now this team does not want rings with franchise QB’s.

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  11. Watched this over and over trying to figure out the play design and it really looks like something was off. Perriman is giving some sort of hand signal and looks like he is sitting his route exactly where Jones is running. Jones may have been a little slow out of his break, if he’s running hard he crosses the LB and gives a place for the ball to go. If he could’ve gotten across the LB that was a huge gain. The LB was reading Jones as much as Winston. The LB came out of his stance and immediately went to Jones. As soon as Jones broke in the LB sat down and then picked up Winston.

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  12. I see this Texans game being such a big one because now that we have settled into the new schemes and put some W’s under our belt, the fact that our top receivers will be out it will be a good test to see how the Offense and OC can adjust, as well as how the Secondary can hang. The fact that I have stood by all season is that while at full strength, this team could have beaten any team in the league, as long as they didn’t beat themselves. So the fact that we are hurt, there is no pressure of making the playoffs or having to feel bad if we can’t pull it off, so I’m hoping they will go out there and have fun with it and prove they are tough and resilient. It may not be for the playoffs, but it is meaningful in the way that if this these guys (especially the Secondary) can continue to show improvement, then that will prove we have a lot more to build on going into next year than we had last year.

    The Secondary is so young and so fast that if they can solidify themselves, they could be one of the scariest Secondaries in all of football within the next year or two.

    Winston has so much to offer in the positives column, if he can get better Tackles in front of him, I truly feel he could be a Top 5 QB. You can’t deny the good, it’s just the Damn INTs that are scary, but I stand by the idea that if he was on the Cowboys or the Colts with their Olines, that he would be a Top 5 QB already. His numbers are astonishing all the way around, they almost have to at least Franchise him with a year in this scheme under his belt, if they improve the final couple pieces on this Oline, we can finally see what he’s worth.

    The Top 2 things they need next year, as long as they can keep the key pieces, is to improve the 2 OT spots and bring in a Veteran presence in the Secondary, even if it’s just a Veteran Backup, just to help guide these young guys.

    A lot of improvement this year, that’s all I wanted, just a couple things to clean up and these guys can take on the world…

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  13. Very well written, in depth article Trevor. I’m excited for every week of Buccaneer football, whether there are playoff implications or not. I have some different ideas on what helps them, but in truth, everyone who reads this site wants only one thing, Buccaneer wins! I like Howard to step up big time in the next game.

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