Bucs LB Kendell Beckwith - Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
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.
People can say that preseason football is just the warm up and you shouldn’t put too much weight into it, but I think only half that statement is right. Preseason football is just the warm-up, however, though the result itself may be meaningless, when you put performances under a microscope, it will tell you plenty about where players and units are in terms of progression and chemistry.
So, that’s exactly what we’re going to do here, and over the next few weeks in our weekly Cover 3. Since the stats themselves aren’t of a major importance, I’m not going to be doing a “Stat of the Week” portion of the Cover 3 until the regular season. Instead, I’m going to devote more time into the film room looking at the performance of the 90-man roster as a whole. We’ll obviously emphasize the starting players more, but the backup guys and players who could be fighting for a roster spot will get love, too, as they may be the ones who take leading roles down the road.
The Buccaneers game versus the Jacksonville Jaguars started off much like their game against the Bengals did, with some great offense. The Bucs put themselves in scoring position on all but two drives with the first team in the first half.
Though the game plan was once again more pass-heavy, running back Doug Martin looked great with 30 yards on five carries and a touchdown to boot. That 6.0 yards per carry average is more than double the pace he was running at a year before. Though it was just a small sample size, there was something to be said about each of his five runs.
The first carry, as seen above, was a positive in a few ways.
The Bucs like their backup situation with Jacquizz Rodgers and Charles Sims, but the reason why I believe they’re content with that is because of who they are as a one-two punch. Both specialize in different areas and compliment each other well.
The thing with Martin is, he’s the best of both rolled into one, and then some. Martin has the quick reactions and the quick feet like Sims to cut and move up-field, and he has that “always fall forward” nature like Rodgers.
Just like last week on his first carry of the game, Martin was impressive when improvising and getting up-field.
The blocking, though better, isn’t going to always be ideal. Sometimes you’re just going to have to count on a running back to make a nice play. In the play above, his second carry of the game, Martin showed once again that he has the quick reactions like Sims, and that ability to get yards after contact like Rodgers. Talent like that usually warrants a good yards per carry average.
On Martin’s third touch of the game, he scored, and showed another aspect of his game as to why he’s clearly the top back in Tampa Bay – and worth holding on to and starting after Week 3.
Martin scores this touchdown by getting to the very corner of the goal line. What was impressive about it was that he beat linebacker Telvin Smith to the spot, one of the most athletic linebacker in the NFL. If you have a running back who can out-run players of Smith’s speed and get through contact on players who make their name on thumping tackles (we’ll get to that later), you have a complete back.
Touchdown considered, the run above was probably Martin’s best run of the night. In it, he was again asked to deviate from the designed run gap due to good pressure by the Jaguars defense. While improvising, Martin did not dance around and continue to go East and West, but rather, gained his momentum quickly, which is what allowed him to power through a few tackles for a nine yard gain.
If you have a running back who can get nine yards on a poorly blocked play, that’s a keeper. That’s why Martin is around – Rodgers and Sims can’t do that with Martin’s consistency.
On the play above, Martin’s final carry of the game, we saw the blocking play out correctly (side note: watch right tackle Caleb Benenoch absolutely own Dante Fowler).
What you like about Martin, minus his mental lapses last season, is that most of the time he’ll do the right thing. Whether that’s abandoning the designed run lane because he can see it closing up, or burst through a gap with good blocking ahead. Martin not only has the speed and the strength, he also has the good vision.
I thought Martin’s five carries were excellent last week, and good evidence as to why this team didn’t give up on him. When he’s all good, he’s a very talented running back – a franchise running back.
I wanted to make sure I pointed out quarterback Jameis Winston’s decision making, because where I love how he managed the game for most of the first half, he still missed too many “gimmies.”
One of them was in the clip above. In it, I give some commentary like I did last week, so if you want to listen to that, you can hear me explain it frame-by-frame.
Winston has been performing very well in camp. With all the weapons he has to play with during practice, he’s constantly surrounded by safety valves and passes that, aren’t just little dump-off passes that gain no yards, but dump-off passes that are going to talented players that could go for 5-10 yards on any catch.
However, Winston still has some work to do when it comes to fully trusting his play designs. In the play above, he went for a very high-difficulty throw (which he almost hit) instead of making the little pass for an easy score. That’s how you turn three points into six. Just like he tried to throw a difficult fade pass to Mike Evans twice last week, there’s going to be an easy option on almost every play for this offense. Winston just has to find it.
The previous play didn’t end up costing the Bucs much on the misread, but the play directly above should have.
I get where Winston is coming form. He’s never had this much offensive talent – ever. For the first time, he has the supporting cast to truly let himself loose and see the scoreboard light up. However, early on we’re seeing him want to play hero a little too much.
The situation is key on the play above (it has commentary again). It was second-and-17. Winston didn’t have to get a first down on. Heck, they weren’t even down in the game; he didn’t have to throw for his life. Instead, he made a very risky throw that should have bee intercepted and given the Jaguars the ball already in field goal range. Winston had to make the easy throw there and live to fight another day.
Those are two play where his decision making still needs work, and that’s without even highlighting the interception that he threw while going down for a sack. Winston has been told the same thing for five years, “Don’t blow it for us.” He is plenty talented to win football games in this league. He just can’t do the things that lose them.
Mike Evans is absolutely one of the top receivers in the NFL. That’s why observations like the on above are so frustrating (you have to watch and listen to it to fully understand).
After making sure he was more reliable with his hands, Evans told the media the one area of his game he really wanted to work on this offseason was getting more yards after the catch. Knowing that makes the video above frustrating. I even caught Winston saying the same thing to Evans during the game on the latest episode of Hard Knocks.
Evans is too good to be going down so easy. He’s too big, too fast and has too much of a vertical advantage to voluntarily go down as easy as he does, at times. Evans can’t get more yards after the catch if he’s on the ground. I don’t know if it’s working on where to place his catches so he has the ability to catch the ball in different places, or maybe it’s just a mentality thing. Whatever it is, Evans is better than that, and everyone, including himself, knows it.
Click to the next page to take a look at how the defense performed.
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]
I don’t get very concerned at all about a receiver like Mike Evans not giving up his body to get a few extra yards after contact … in the pre-season.
Pre-season football not only doesn’t matter, it’s simply nothing like a real game that counts. Just like regular season games are not much like playoff games. Game context matters. And getting those extra yards after contact are where a runner with the football is most likely to get injured.
I was really pleased with the offense with the exception of Jameis’ continued devotion to hero ball when the other members of the offense were letting him down on the last two drives of the half (dropped pass, holding call). Eventually he’s going to have to start listening to his coach and trust his defense to do their job. It’s not about his intelligence, or his athletic ability, or his arm … it’s about his judgment, the most important asset of any elite quarterback. As Coach Koetter told Jameis, “elite quarterbacks don’t make those throws”.
I sort of see your point, but the falling down and not getting yards after catches HAS been something that Evans has struggled with in the regular season and when it’s mattered. My point was that it is still showing up, and it shouldn’t. I’m not even talking about giving up his body. I’m talking about him going down for no reason, even on catches that would’ve had minimal contact (the touchdown throw).
I don’t mean to be hard on him or anything. I’m not trying to be negative. I’m just saying he’s too good to be doing that. It was a tendency that I was criticizing, not the result. I don’t care about yards during the preseason, I care about bad tendencies spilling over.
I thought Koetter was great after that bad Winston throw. Him using the word “greed” really drove his point home.
>> We’re not sure if Bullough makes this team, but it does seem he’s doing everything he can to do so. Worst-case scenario, he’ll be a practice squad guy. <<
Sorry, other teams are watching Hard Knocks too. I'm sure he's played well enough to be picked up as soon as we cut him. I would be surprised if we were able to add him to the practice squad.
BTW, another excellent article Trevor. I wonder how long PR is going to be able to keep you – have to think some other sites will be making offers to you soon. I don’t think I’ve read a bad article from you yet.
That’s a good point on Riley, but I just don’t know how many team in the NFL want him, as it stands right now, as a roster player. Perhaps I’m off on that, though.
And thanks! Sorry the two clips I wanted to talk about the most (meaning the play design ones) didn’t work. They were great. I’ll make sure it’s better for next week.
I appreciate the kind words, though!
All you need is one team to like him better than one of the guys currently on the team. Have to believe there are a few teams that have some weak linebackers that could pick him up. He’s put out some good tape and if he plays well on Saturday it would almost make it a sure thing someone will sign him.
Good job Trevor. I always enjoy your Articles.
Thanks! I’ll keep pumpin’ ’em out. Can’t wait to get into regular season Cover 3’s.
It’s preseason: The games don’t count. But, the injuries do. I don’t want to see any major impact injuries.
I want to see Jameis improve his decision making. I am not looking for perfection this Saturday night (even though that would be nice). He’s 23. So he’s still maturing and learning. I believe he will get there (even though he’s not bad now).
Another great cover 3…
First, as far as Winston and his accuracy/decision making. Winston is a gunslinger, I think Koetter said it best when he said he doesn’t want to coach the gunslinger out of him. His mentality of always being able to make a play is great when it works out and bad when it doesn’t. As much as we’d all like to avoid the turnovers, they kind of come with the territory. Overall though, Jameis has been a lot more accurate so far in the preseason. He will no doubt get himself into and out of trouble with his style of play, but that’s why we love him isn’t it?
For Evans going to the ground, I’ve noticed that in both games this preseason. I’m assuming it has to do with safety and not wanting to risk injury in a game that doesn’t matter. Smart move on his part. I have noticed though that when there is wide open space, he will take those few extra yards. I love the safe approach though…save the YAC yards for the real games!
Defensively, I’ve been impressed with all our LBs…as usual. Beckwith is a different style of LB so shouldn’t be expected to play the same style. He has been impressive doing what he does so far though.
Smith is going through growing pains in his new position…nothing unusual or worth worrying about unless his struggles continue into next season. Our secondary seems pretty tight so far and I look forward to watching the safety battle play itself out.
Joe Dirt…keep this guy on the team! He’s a gamer and always around the ball and that can’t be taught. This guy will be a very valuable backup don’t let him go off and ball for another team!
You are one, if not the first, to point out that Martin is our best option. I get tired of those that still clamour that he should be cut if Rodgers or Sims start out hot. One thing on the touchdown run. Brate throws what is the best block I’ve ever seen him make on a DE for this play. He engages, stands his man up, turns him then seals the edge off.
I’m glad you brought out that second and 17 play. I was way more concerned about that play than the should’ve been interception/sack at the goal line. Everyone was talking about the falling down play but at worst, that was a three point gamble. It was third down. Defense is playing well, team is winning. Worst case he takes three points off the board. It was a jump ball with Mike Evans and OJ Howard in the game Ok.. But the second and 17, late in the half, standing inside the 10, he throws a ball that should’ve changed the game and been a huge momentum swing at half time. That throw usually ends up as a touchdown for the other team. The game situation in that spot was such that he can’t execute that risky of a throw… Also, Godwin looks like he understood that and came out incredibly soft on his break. Godwin has to finish his route better and at least it isn’t an easy INT.
On Evans, I’ve written about this on other boards before. He doesn’t adjust to deep balls well and often looks awkward making routine plays on deep passes. He’s missed a few deep balls exactly like the one that was thrown in the preseason game. That play that Jameis pulled out of his rear against Chicago last season should’ve been a touchdown, but Evans fought the ball from Jameis, looked for contact to body the receiver, had to make an awkward (which was also showed his incredible athleticism) and fell down largely without contact. Also, he tends to slow for a step or two to judge the pass and sometimes this turns a perfect pass into an overthrow from Winston. Going down fast in the middle of the field is pretty common for him, not just in preseason games. I think he is the best possession receiver in the league, by far, maybe the best one in years. He’s just not a big play type guy. First down/touch down guy.. All day long. Part of this may be he is still very young in the game. We forget, he hasn’t really played the game all that long. The best for Evans is still on the horizon.
Martin is clearly the most talented back. He gives Tampa Bay the best chance to win. No debate, imo.
Love your articles man, always appreciate the content you produce….Tampa market has been lacking in the Xs and Os being reported and evaluated and I really enjoy you parsing the game for us and not being afraid to stick your opinions into it as well. Very much enjoy your writing!
That being said, the performance of the Bucs’ D was exciting, invigorating and uplifting to witness. We looked like the far superior team, as we should have against a decrepit Jags team, and imposed our will on their offense. I’m sure you noticed, even our No 2s on D stifled the Jags #1s in the beginning of the 3rd.
Our Offense looked nice and varied, the first drive I believe JW completed passes to 6 or 7 different pass-catchers…which is super impressive and just goes to show how dangerous we can be across the board on O. We were working smoothly and getting solid protection against what is otherwise a formidable and at least physically gifted D Line. I was a little concerned with the lack of output from our RB stable not named Martin….Quizz didn’t look as explosive and I honestly thought Sims outplayed him. Also, we’ve seen that Quizz is a liability in protection, and I’m confident that Sims is leading in that regard as well. My only concern is the redzone production, i’m hoping that it’s just pre-season play calling and DK keeping his cards close to the chest; otherwise, we need some serious improvement in that area….lack of separation, half ass execution, lack of push, etc. – the list goes on and on…when we’re in RZ Offense, we seem flat….listless…i can’t put my finger on any one thing in particular.
I’ll close with saying I’m very pleased with our team’s performance to this point. I will be looking for marked improvement and another very strong showing against a team who is very comparable to the Jags from a performance aspect. One main thing I’ll look for, is 100% RZ : TD efficiency. If we can snag that against a Browns team with a far weaker D than the Jags, then I say….HAZZAH!! 🙂
Anyway, thanks again Trevor…love your writing and your level of engagement with us shitposters ;)…..as for the video files….i didn’t look into the details behind them, but they took FOREVER to load….It would seem the format you used, may not be conducive to the style of site that is PR….I have never had issues with your embedded twitter videos, you could also perhaps explore creating your files in the mp4 format, it’s considered the best from a size : quality relationship.
First. Thank you. Humbled by your compliments to my, at times, gibberish of writing. I’m more than glad to bring a detailed look at the Buccaneers to you and those who like to watch the team.
I agree the Bucs looked much better than the Jaguars, which is saying something because, despite the quarterback troubles, they are a very talented bunch.
Red zone will make or break this season, I think – for the offense, at least. Getting six or seven points instead of three is a big deal. The Bucs have plenty of weapons to move the ball anywhere on the field, but making sure you get across the goal line is what will take this team to where they want to go. The nature of the talent of the offense should get them there often. They just have to finish.
Noted on the videos. It was a frustrating process getting them on here, and the reason I’m having to do that is because posting them on Twitter will get us in trouble. So we can’t do the social media thing anymore. We’re trying to find the best way outside of that.
Thanks for the comment and the perspective! Looking forward to engaging with you again in the future!
I don’t think Trevor was here when Martin was originally hit with his suspension but I do know a number of people in the media were screaming for the Bucs to cut him as soon as it happened and throughout the offseason. Thankfully cooler and smarter heads (Licht and Koetter) prevailed.
Even a lot of fans were wanting to dump the second best RB in the NFL in 2015 when the problem wasn’t the fact he had lost a step or two. Loyalty with those fans lasts until you have a personal medical problem that affects your play.
I am interested in where Trevor’s mindset was when he came on board in regards to Dougie. If I’m not mistaken, and I could be, weren’t you one of those who was calling for the Bucs to get rid of Martin. Aren’t you glad they didn’t now.
As for the blown coverage in the backfield on the two dropped Chad Henne passes, it was clearly evident that Hargreaves was just flat beaten on the firs pass but it appeared Conte was supposed to be giving inside help on the second.
Still, karmas a bitch..
Wasn’t the same player who dropped the TD pass the same one who was heard complaining about his QB’s passing during the practice sessions. LOL. Always like to see players complaining about teammates instead of taking account for themselves. That’s what might be wrong with the jaguars.
Am I the only guy who can’t get to page 2/3 on this article? It’s taking ages to get anywhere on this :X It’s only on this article, the rest of the entries work beautifully.
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