Sikkema’s Stat of the Week

Good teams move the ball. Great teams score points in the red zone. Champions score touchdowns.

The 2017 Tampa Bay Buccaneers learned in their own hard way that those three statements, while progressions of one another, are far between with each requiring more will, more focus and more intuitiveness than the step before it.

The Bucs finished the 2017 season as the league’s ninth best offense in terms of moving the ball with 363.5 yards per game. But, when it came to scoring, their 335 total points ranked 18th in the league. And, even beyond that, when it came to crunch time, finishing the drive within striking distance, the Bucs ranked just 24th in the league in the red zone when it came to touchdown conversion percentage – often settling for field goals rather than touchdowns, and therefore deficits on the scoreboard.

And thus, PewterReport.com’s #GottaGet6 movement was born for 2018.

The Buccaneers have to start turning defensive stands into field position, field position into well-maintained drives, drives into points but more importantly drives into touchdowns. Just ask Tampa Bay offensive coordinator Todd Monken.

“We finished 24th in the league (red zone TD efficiency) and what is interesting about that is it just would have taken five more touchdowns and you jump from 24th to eigth because the sample size is so small,” Monken said. “You had like 53 opportunities, which was seventh in the league. We got down there seventh most in the league, but we didn’t take advantage of those opportunities … I got a chance to meet with the team, and I don’t sugarcoat things very much and we absolutely chose to suck. We made that decision as an offense to play poorly, we did.”

“Chose to suck” – I couldn’t have said it any better myself. The Bucs had one of the best red zone wide receivers in the league, one of the fastest players in the league,  one of the best receiving tight ends in the league, and they still couldn’t punch the thing in with great regularity.

So, if they had the weapons, was quarterback Jameis Winston to blame? Let’s take a look.

Inside 20 Inside 10
Player Tm Cmp Att Cmp%
Yds TD Int Cmp Att Cmp% Yds TD Int
Drew Brees NOR 56 82 66.67 308 17 2 22 31 66.67 88 12 0
Carson Wentz PHI 39 60 63.93 297 24 0 16 25 64.00 71 13 0
Aaron Rodgers GNB 23 36 62.16 147 12 0 12 21 57.14 45 10 0
Case Keenum MIN 33 53 60.00 233 16 0 15 26 53.57 58 11 0
Nick Foles PHI 12 20 60.00 75 5 0 4 6 66.67 23 3 0
Tom Brady NWE 56 90 58.33 358 26 0 21 37 51.22 76 17 0
Eli Manning NYG 28 48 56.00 209 14 0 15 23 60.00 73 10 0
Jimmy Garoppolo SFO 25 45 55.56 151 7 1 6 16 37.50 42 6 1
Deshaun Watson HOU 15 27 55.56 110 13 2 10 12 83.33 52 10 0
Jay Cutler MIA 31 53 55.36 201 15 2 14 26 50.00 74 13 2
Jared Goff LAR 46 81 54.76 327 23 0 21 33 61.76 72 14 0
Josh McCown NYJ 23 41 54.76 148 8 0 11 22 50.00 28 4 0
Russell Wilson SEA 41 73 54.67 298 22 2 22 41 53.66 99 16 0
Ben Roethlisberger PIT 48 89 52.75 314 21 1 22 42 50.00 92 16 1
Brett Hundley GNB 16 30 51.61 105 3 3 4 9 44.44 5 1 1
Derek Carr OAK 24 47 51.06 127 12 1 12 29 41.38 56 11 0
Blake Bortles JAX 32 60 50.79 250 18 0 19 31 61.29 111 14 0
Joe Flacco BAL 39 75 50.65 175 13 0 17 35 48.57 47 11 0
Philip Rivers LAC 36 70 50.00 239 14 1 21 44 47.73 97 13 0
Kirk Cousins WAS 36 68 50.00 268 17 3 9 25 34.62 32 7 1
Tyrod Taylor BUF 30 58 50.00 166 11 2 13 28 44.83 48 7 2
Mitch Trubisky CHI 14 28 50.00 77 5 1 9 22 40.91 38 4 1
Ryan Fitzpatrick TAM 14 28 48.28 97 6 0 7 15 43.75 44 6 0
Dak Prescott DAL 33 61 47.83 241 16 3 13 28 44.83 69 10 1
Andy Dalton CIN 30 57 47.62 194 18 1 17 26 58.62 84 14 1
Matthew Stafford DET 39 78 47.56 232 16 0 17 32 48.57 71 13 0
Carson Palmer ARI 19 39 46.34 133 7 1 6 14 40.00 -1 1 1
Matt Ryan ATL 36 75 46.15 270 15 2 18 35 50.00 81 12 1
Cam Newton CAR 30 62 46.15 211 12 1 14 26 51.85 82 10 0
Trevor Siemian DEN 28 50 45.90 173 9 0 10 19 45.45 34 5 0
Jameis Winston TAM 22 44 45.83 203 12 0 5 14 31.25 22 4 0
Marcus Mariota TEN 24 49 45.28 186 6 0 7 18 36.84 29 4 0

The five best red zone teams in the NFL last season were the Jaguars, the Eagles, the Saints, the Patriots and the Packers. Coincidentally enough, all but the Jaguars had their team’s quarterbacks in the Top 6 with regards to completion percentage – and it’s really the Top 5 teams because both Nick Foles and Carson Wentz played for the Eagles.

So how did Winston measure up? Not great.

Winston’s competition percentage in the red zone was 31st out of the Top 32 that are listed above. Now, to be fair there are some good quarterbacks around him; Cam Newton, Matt Ryan, Matthew Stafford, and Winston did throw 12 touchdowns with no interceptions, but 12 isn’t even in the top half of those guys, and put him closer in company with Trevor Siemian, DeShone Kizer and Tyrod Taylor.

Simply put, Winston has to be more accurate with his passes.

But, maybe it’s not all on him. What about his supporting cast? Better yet, what about how it was used?

Inside 20 Inside 10
Player Tm Tgt Rec Ctch% Yds TD %Tgt Tgt Rec Ctch% Yds TD %Tgt
Jimmy Graham SEA 26 16 61.54% 108 10 35.1% 16 8 50.00% 22 8 39.0%
Keenan Allen LAC 24 11 45.83% 79 4 33.3% 15 7 46.67% 27 4 33.3%
Davante Adams GNB 23 15 65.22% 140 6 34.8% 6 3 50.00% 16 3 20.0%
Cooper Kupp LAR 23 13 56.52% 117 5 27.1% 7 4 57.14% 22 2 20.0%
Jarvis Landry MIA 23 18 78.26% 85 9 30.3% 14 11 78.57% 48 9 38.9%
Rob Gronkowski NWE 22 11 50.00% 94 6 24.4% 9 4 44.44% 14 4 24.3%
Larry Fitzgerald ARI 21 12 57.14% 118 6 28.0% 7 4 57.14% 15 0 26.9%
Travis Kelce KAN 21 10 47.62% 97 5 26.9% 3 3 100.00% 21 3 12.5%
Antonio Brown PIT 20 11 55.00% 68 6 21.3% 10 7 70.00% 44 6 22.7%
Dez Bryant DAL 20 11 55.00% 66 5 31.7% 10 4 40.00% 16 3 35.7%
Mike Evans TAM 19 5 26.32% 46 3 26.4% 9 1 11.11% 6 1 31.0%
DeAndre Hopkins HOU 19 9 47.37% 49 7 30.2% 10 7 70.00% 32 7 32.3%
Julio Jones ATL 19 5 26.32% 33 1 25.3% 11 4 36.36% 16 1 31.4%
Nelson Agholor PHI 18 13 72.22% 63 4 22.5% 9 6 66.67% 35 3 29.0%
Zach Ertz PHI 18 12 66.67% 82 8 22.5% 8 6 75.00% 19 5 25.8%
Alshon Jeffery PHI 17 8 47.06% 68 7 21.3% 8 5 62.50% 25 5 25.8%

Above we have the Top 16 red zone contributors last season. I had it go to 16 instead of 15 to show the three Eagles players all right there.

What stands out right away, anything? To me, what stands out is that the only exclusive outside receiver in the Top 10 is Adams, and you don’t see another one until Dez Bryant and Mike Evans. Adams has Aaron Rodgers, the greatest passer of all time, throwing to him, so that’s a bit of an outlier there. But, the rest of those guys all operate in middle (slot) roles and consistently succeed in space. Keenan Allen, Cooper Kupp, Jarvis Landry and Antonio Brown are all slot masters. Jimmy Graham, Rob Gronkowski and Travis Kelce are mismatch nightmares inside. And the other, Larry Fitzgerald, is an outside receiver, but the Cardinals have been very creative with him, including playing him on the inside in the red zone to maximize what he can do – the Bucs learned that the hard way over the last two season.

Am I saying that you don’t want dominant outside receivers to throw the ball up to in the red zone? Of course I’m not. However, would you say that Landry is better than Evans? Would you say that Allen is better than Julio Jones? Would you say that Kupp is better than DeAndre Hopkins? Because I wouldn’t. And yet they all produced more in the red zone. Why?

Planning.

Bucs WR Mike Evans –
Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images

“We’ve spent a lot of time studying the red – studying other teams in the red zone – and it’s funny, you look at total red zone opportunities and the total number of marginal difference between success and being average and being poor, as Coach Monken pointed out, if we had just scored five more touchdowns, we would have been in the Top 8,” Buccaneers quarterback coach Mike Bajakian said. “It doesn’t take a whole lot to improve, it’s just a matter of execution. You study those teams that are at the top of the NFL, and what you realize is that they’re not reinventing the wheel. I’m thinking I’m going to watch the Philadelphia Eagles and I’m going to get all these great ideas on what they’re doing in the red zone, and you know what, their plays are the same plays we’re running, they’re just playing pitch and catch.”

I believe that. I believe that Winston and the Buccaneers do have to execute better, but I also think they need to position their players to be more successful, too. Evans got 26.4 percent of the team’s red zone targets. Brate was next with 18.1. Those are fine. Those are their main “man beaters” and “zone beaters.” I have no problem with that. But after that, it got a little head-scratching. Chris Godwin was next with 11.1 percent, and if you’ll remember his only touchdown of the season came on the last throw of the year, which wasn’t in the red zone. Then it was actually running back Charles Sims, DeSean Jackson and O.J. Howard at 8.3 percent a piece. I don’t really know how Jackson ends up with the same amount of red zone targets as Sims and less than Godwin, but that isn’t what those other best teams in the league are doing. The other teams have their style and stick to it, which the Buccaneers are also doing, but that style doesn’t seem to be what their roster could be doing best.

Godwin getting the third-most targets tells me they emphasized throws to the outside. Those are the harder throws, and again I ask of this offense: why are you not making things as easy as they could be? Jackson on a dig route over the middle or an inside break in the back of the end zone with a tight end compliment route either layered or crossing. The Bucs have the skill sets to have zone beaters and man beaters in the red zone on the inside and that includes using Evans in the slot, too, at times. They just haven’t been able to either put guys where they might have a better chance of succeeding or doing so and failing to execute.

So then how do these other top teams in the league make it look so easy? Is it something the Bucs aren’t doing, or just something they need to do better? We take a lot at the film on the next page.

45 COMMENTS

  1. “The Bucs finished the 2017 season as the league’s ninth best offensive in terms of moving the ball”

    Shouldn’t that say offense? I don’t think the Bucs offended very many people in 2017, finishing 5-11.

  2. Great Cover 3 per usual. I think it ultimately boils down to having a competent OL in front of Jameis and our running backs. Every GIF you posted of the Eagles & Saints shows Wentz and Brees with time to throw and let the play develop. Also, those teams had a solid run game the defense had to respect inside the red zone. Yes, Jameis needs to be a bit more on the money with some throws, but the route combinations, pre snap movement, personnel combinations all need to improve as well. Evans with only 5 catches and 3 touchdowns in the red zone is a crime. Dirk’s offense, or how he calls it, in compressed areas has been a struggle during his career. This is the most talent he’s ever had on offense. Gotta make it work this year.

  3. The Eagles and Patriots are the 2 offenses that would make the most sense for us to emulate in terms of play calls. The Eagles spread the ball around so well last year, which I want to see Winston do more of. It seems like game after game he just ignores what the defense gives him and locks on to Evans or Brate, and completely ignores the guy running wide open.

    Then I just love the Patriots route concepts. There’s at least 1 guy running wide open on every play and Brady always finds them. We’ve got the perfect personnel to match what they do. To me it all comes back to the plays that are called and Winston correctly identifying (and throwing to) the open receiver.

  4. I reviewed several Eagles games for their Red Zone possessions and play-calling. Bajakian is 100 % correct. They aren’t doing anything different than we are (I didn’t see a single RPO in the 4 games I evaluated). The playbook is basically the same. Enormous overlap in concepts, formations, and calls. In fact, I didn’t see Pederson scheming/calling plays that led to as many wins in the passing game and as many box advantages in the running game (or Center > over play-side advantages) as DK did. In fact *2, he called large number of box disadvantage (“predictable”) runs that would make Bucs’ fans heads scream for his head.

    The difference is:

    a) Execution at the QB position (missing a wide open Evans on a pivot at the GL, misreading coverage or prioritizing reads on a double Slant-Sit and Hump underneath on a pick/Flat route…who was wide ass open…but the throw goes to a covered Slant-Sit to Evans and ends in a PBU)

    b) Execution at (primarily) interior OL positions (almost exclusively Guard)…too many to even count.

    c) Some stray poor reads by RBs (one Zone run by Barber and one Godwin drop on a Spacing concept from Bunch comes to mind ) or dropped.

    Its execution for us at key positions and at key moments. You just don’t see those kinds of execution errors on good RZ teams. The QBs know what coverage they’re up against, they make the correct read prioritization, and they have good ball placement. And when it gets there, their teammates catch it. When you have a box advantage or play-side advantage (or even box neutral), YOU HAVE TO WIN IN THE RUNNING GAME. This was schemed over and over and over in 2017. The amount of errors or losses (even in situations where the particular player began the play with leverage due to front/tech) by our OL in the run game in the RZ was truly ridiculous. Warhop’s anger is warranted.

    And finally, Mike absolutely has PTSD when faced with Press coverage now. This is especially bad for us in the RZ (which is one of the primary reasons he never wins on Fades anymore). He has been Held so often in the course of his career and called for OPI when he tries to extricate himself from this illegal defense, that he just doesn’t play physical in return anymore. Its a travesty that he’s been conditioned this way because NFL referees have ZERO idea how to officiate legitimate disruption/reroute/jam vs what a Defensive Holding penalty looks like. And just like Shaq had to deal with, a big, physical player like Mike who gets physical in return draws the eyes (the perception bias) of the officials and a flag when he responds in kind.

    • Nice comments Nobody. Very insightful. All valid explanations. Me, I think the absence of any sort of running threat due to the RB position and/or OG weakness made it much easier for defenders.

      I wonder if I could ask you if you really know the trouble I’ve seen? Like the song says, “Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen.”

      • So my thoughts are pretty simple scubog, and they come off of these lines of evidence:

        1) We were extremely balanced in our RZ Playcalling (72 Pass vs 68 Run) with no discernible tendencies that led to players jumping cues immediately post-snap (eg, we weren’t “predictable” – whatever the hell that means – according to those playing D against us).

        2) We has a ridiculous number of schemed wins on a per play basis (box/play-side advantaged on runs or a Cover 3 Zone Beater from the 18 yard line when they were playing C3Z) in the RZ; more than I saw in reviewing 4 Eagles games.

        So what’s the problem?

        It’s not a playcalling problem. Not remotely. The problem is execution errors primarily at QB and Guard, secondarily a few Drops, a few misreads by a RB on a Zone run, and a few egregious penalties by an OL. You can’t run the ball in RedZone Tight in the NFL without good Guard play. Our Guard play was very, very poor in the running game last year (with EDS being by far our best).

        The interior OL should be improved. Now we need JW to consistently make the right play in the RZ, slightly improve his ball placement, and be more willing (as he was in 2015 and somewhat in 16) to make more plays with his feet down there. And we can’t have the other silly crap (eg a lazy Hands to the Face on a TD).

  5. The completion percentages in the first table don’t agree with the cmp/att. For example: Jameis Winston, (22/44)*100 = 50% and (5/14)*100=35.7%. Similarly, all percentages are lower than the cmp/att given. The receiver percentages, however, are correct.

  6. Or against the Pats (after scoring in their lone RZ attempt earlier):

    – Trips Left winner vs Man. Brate runs a Bow and wins. JW reads it, ball placement perfect (low and away from defender).
    THUNK. Brate drops a crucial TD.

    Later in that same attempt.

    – JW scrambles for a 3 yard TD. NOPE. DSmith with a lazy Hands to the Face penalty negates the TD.

    Then we miss the chippy FG.

    THIS is how we were a bad RZ team last year. Not playcalling. Not gameplanning. We won CONSTANTLY in terms of playcall vs defense. Our execution in the RZ (typically just one guy) was horrific.

    As Monken says “bad football loses before good football wins.”

  7. This actually is a very well observed thought process as to why to why we aren’t having success. And no doubt I get on Jameis alot, but this is more coaching than it is on the players. And I say that really going to the fact that Dirk Koetter doesn’t have physical training camps. We’re fuckin soft when we need to be tough and we’re not playing to the essence of the game, or “staying true to the game” as coach Buck recently said. We need to be more physical at the point of attack on both sides of the ball, forget this finesse, precision type offense. It’s all bullshit.

  8. When the play caller is more concerned with securing three points instead of scoring six, you’re going to struggle in the red zone. Dirk was sooo predictable with his play selection down there it’s a wonder we scored any T.D.’s at all. Let’s see what Monken can up with, Dirks been rolling snake eyes.

  9. The Bucs didn’t run too much in the Red Zone in 2017. Despite an extremely large number of box/play-side # advantages (which means the play call was a win), they ran too poorly in the Red Zone because of execution errors by (primarily but not exclusively) interior OL players (a hefty chunk on Pamphile).

    Again, play-calling was not the issue with our 2017 Red Zone (lack of) performance. It was insidious execution errors at the QB and interior OL positions with stray mis-reads by RBs, dropped TD passes (Brate with a few, Godwin with one), and really inexcusable penalties by OL (sometimes negating TDs such as Hands to the Face by DSmith).

  10. To most surprise, I actually played the defence line in HS and college, my memory of 35 years ago is, even being in great shape I use to get so tired and gasp for air to point I was miserable. This team has a fast score Offence and high amount of turnovers and chains not moving, The defence wears down every game the other team defence get to rest more.
    All the talk and actions this offseason has been on defence, the problem is the Offence has the poor ball and clock control, and Jason Licht for some reason like fat Defence lineman and like to feed them unhealthy fatty food in the Bucs own training camp I was appalled watching Jamies Winston take a youtube tour of the “Bucs /Lubys cafeteria” Barbeque fried chicken etc etc! Using the 12th pick on a player that is fatter than Baker does not help, sorry
    There are a couple good Offence players out there free agents Bucs not even thinking about them, Sorry to say Byant and Peterson will land somewhere else and haunt Bucs. Fix the Offence and the defence will get better with some extra rest.

      • scubog a spelling mistake using google voice to write makes the reply not true, as you see it all is good with Bucs- Winston to be MVP Superbowl this year, JPP and Fat Veta will both go pro bowl, the running game will be huge with skinny Ronald Jones to light it up 1500 yards , Defence fixed and Jason Licht to be honored with manager of the year award, and all will talk about how great his draft was for years. Mike Seven was wrong again he cannot spell. Mike Seven is so stupid he did not see the brilliant moves by this club last few months he thinks Bucs are are going to have a hard time with this easy schedule of 11 playoff teams and improved 49ers and Chicago. Mike Seven makes spelling mistakes he must no nothing about football !!!!! English and grammar are huge in football every one knows that. That’s why the top scouts go to the spelling bee every year to find new talent among the dorks.

    • Mike. Seven. Once again, nobody cares. You look for any reason you can to throw it in your comment, even ones that have absolutely NOTHING to do with defense, how much you think Vea sucks. You’re so predictable. So because you were a lineman in High School, that means you think you know how to evaluate college defensive lineman? Lol that’s like saying that because I played pitcher in littl league, that gives me the knowledge to evaluate the pitching prospects in the draft. Nope! It definitely doesn’t. You know as much about DLine prospects as I do, and I never played football. Your comments are getting played out dude. Enough is enough already

  11. The Bucs red zone offense is the same as their normal offense. There’s no slants, shallow crosses etc in the game plan. For some reason Dirk doesnt like the underneath middle of the field. No idea why. The few passes Ive seen there have succeeded for the most part. And run some more draw plays! Those work too when youre passing the ball so much. Quiz for 36 I think it was, then Dirk scrapped the play for the rest of the year it seemed. He must correct the offense as a whole before the red zone offense improves.
    And hard not to say emulate the Pats or Eagles. How could you not like Pedersons play calling? The guy is one hell of an offensive mind. Theres more of them out there. If Dirk doesnt fix it let someone else. Smitty too. This team is too talented to be so bad

    • Exactly Charlie! The lack of a legitimate running threat and often a total abandonment of it, sure made it easier on the defenders and much more difficult for “the good guys”. Combine that with a pathetic place kicker and you end up “five dash eleven”.

    • Charlie, They feel they have it all under control Barber should get them 300 or a posible 400 hundred yards and if they can get the ball into 2 round draft pick Jones hands 100 -120 times he should get them 350 to 400 yards. No worries Charlie they have it all under control, If last years 1 st pick OJ the Juice can duplicate his powerhouse stats from last year 26 Rec for
      432 yards then all they need is for Evans to pick up the slack like last year. Why would they want upset that apple cart?

      • It’s good that we always have you on here to help this squad out. I’ll talk to koetter later and make sure he listens to you since you obviously have it all figured out. As always thanks for the informative posts bud lol

  12. In the passing game we just ned to be more creative. We don’t fool anybody and if the timing is off or a route goes sour the ball gets tossed out of bounds. In the running game, I’d love to line up Vita in the backfield. His high school video running the ball is awesome!!!!

  13. Charlie you are right that Koetter is making a big mistake not having more physical practices in training camp. However almost all the NFL Teams last year had a lot more injuries like we did, and we have more depth this year thanks to Licht, that we should be able compensate better than last year so I don’t expect 5-11 again despite the pansy practices except we could be in real trouble if PFF and Spense both go down.

  14. I think it’s a mix of things that cause the red zone woes.

    In no particular order:

    Winston’s accuracy
    O line play overall
    Lack of run game ( o line and RB both to blame.)
    Play calling (too predictable at times which happens with lack of run game)
    Execution by whole team and WR too and penalties

    • Who know’s? Last year no one thought Kareem Hunt would get the rushing title or Alvin Kamara getting over 1,600 all purpose yards. Why would the Bucs sign wished up players like Dez Bryant who haven’t had a 1,000 yard season in 4 years or Adrian Peterson who haven’t last a full season in 2 years? Which one you wan’t to take up rosters space?

  15. Trevor, do you believe Winston has a quick enough release to be successful on the RZ zone beater, flood routes? Wentz’s looked to be throwing darts out there but Jamies has a bit of a wind up. I admit I haven’t watched much Wentz film but wow, there’s a little A-Rod in him.

  16. What stood out the most to me when watching your selected clips was the difference in how well covered the receivers were for the bucs vs the eagles and saints receivers. In all the clips you showed of Tampa every guy was smothered. If not for a great throw and catch there would not have been a TD. Compared to the Wentz throws where his receiver at least had a step. Still required a great read and react on his part but at least the guy was “open”. Same with the saints clip. This tells me the defense knows what’s coming. The bucs were either too predictable or were tipping. I’d lean toward blaming Koetter for this but it could very well be a function of him working with Winston’s limitations. In any case, getting in the end zone ultimately falls on Koetter. Not that I wanted him to be fired but I was shocked he wasn’t. This was the biggest let down from last season, failing to get six. Say what you want about the defense. Ya it sucked. But the offense had all the resources put into it. There was no excuse for them to underperfom as bad as they did. This HAS to get fixed or everyone is gonna get canned. Maybe even Licht which I think would be a shame. Other than the steaming pile that he produced heading into 2016 and the Lovie FA influence, he’s killed it.