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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.

All Twenty-Tuesday Part 1: Offense

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.

Decision-Making

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.

Stand Tall, Mike Evans

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.

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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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Naplesfan
Naplesfan(@naplesfan)
4 years ago

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… Read more »

nitey
nitey(@nitey)
4 years ago

>> 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.

nitey
nitey(@nitey)
Reply to  nitey
4 years ago

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.

nitey
nitey(@nitey)
Reply to  Trevor Sikkema
4 years ago

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.

Horse
Horse(@horse)
4 years ago

Good job Trevor. I always enjoy your Articles.

Iowabucfan
Iowabucfan(@iabucfan)
4 years ago

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).
Go Bucs!

plopes808
plopes808(@plopes808)
4 years ago

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… Read more »

plopes808
plopes808(@plopes808)
Reply to  plopes808
4 years ago

Correction…RAC yards

tnew
tnew(@tnew)
4 years ago

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.… Read more »

Justin2626
Justin2626(@justin2626)
4 years ago

Hey Trevor, 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… Read more »

drdneast
drdneast(@drdneast)
4 years ago

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… Read more »

TBAtlas
TBAtlas(@atlas)
4 years ago

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.

Mb Nfl Double Your First Deposit Football Team Vs Bucs Pewter 728x90 Jpg