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
Table of Contents
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.
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.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
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