Head coach Dirk Koetter spoke to the local Tampa Bay media, including Pewter Report on Wednesday from the NFL Combine in Indianapolis. Below is the complete Q&A.
Thoughts on running back class in this year’s draft “I think this is a deep draft for several positions, and running back I one of those.”
On areas of defense do you need to improve: “We have a lot of areas that we need to improve on, but if we’re talking about personnel, our two starting safeties are both unrestricted free agents, so I’m not talking about improving or upgrades, we just don’t have bodies at safety right now. We have Keith Tandy under contract, he played very well at the end of the year, and Chris Conte and Bradley McDougald; they’re both unrestricted free agents. So we have to find another starting safety, and probably two more safeties because we’re going to keep Ryan Smith at corner. Excited about seeing Ryan Smith at corner. So safety is a position, three of the four guys that spent any time at nose tackle last year are unrestricted free agents. We got out starter back, Clinton McDonald, and of course Gerald [McCoy] the Pro Bowl player at the three technique, but almost all of our backup interior linemen are unrestricted free agents, so that’s another position. And this is pass-rush league, so you’re always looking at pass rushers. Noah [Spence] played through injury. We’re very happy with Robert Ayers’ production. Unfortunately he missed time with that ankle injury, but did a good job of playing through it when he came back.”
On if Martin was affected by other issues like motivational issues?
“I didn’t say he had motivational issues. I said psychological. Don’t put words in my mouth. I think Doug is extremely motivated, and I think that’s one thing when Doug was injured, I know for a fact because he told this to my face, Doug wants to prove to everybody that him getting that second contract was not a detriment of him playing at a high level. And when injury doesn’t let him do that, that’s when the psychological stuff plays in. It’s just natural. Players who are injured, they don’t feel a part of the team. They don’t feel like they’re holding up their end of the bargain, and I think that all went into it. I’m not a psychologist, so I can’t tell you how much, but from my talks with Doug I know that was there.
Is Doug Martin still an asset to the team? “When Doug Martin is healthy – we’re not talking about a guy that’s 35 years old. We’re talking about a guy that was a Pro Bowl running back in 2015. I would say yes.”
How was your meeting with Martin? “Excellent.”
Does Martin’s injury history concern you?
“Any player that has been hurt is a concern. Injuries are the worst part of all this. Some players just seem to have a knack for staying healthy, others not so much. In the two years Doug has been healthy, he’s been one of the best running backs in the league. Injuries are not a player’s fault. Sometimes I think people have a tendency to get down on a player because he’s injured. No player is going out there trying to get hurt. This is all a crapshoot form that standpoint. Guys get hurt doing nothing. You like at the play Doug got hurt on in that Arizona game. It was a toss play to the right and he wasn’t even going full speed. You look at Jacquies Smith covering a punt in the first Atlanta game, he changes direction, non-contact and blows out his knee. It’s an unfortunate part of the game.”
Thoughts on drafting a running back in the first round? “I think there are good players to be found in every round. There is definitely that theory that you can find the running back in the four, fifth, sixth round, and, yeah you can find them, the kid from Chicago (Jordan Howard) is a good example of that, but that’s like saying you can find Tom Brady in the sixth round. I mean, come on. Dak Prescott; did anybody have any idea when he went in the fourth round last year that he was going to play like that. You can make an example out of a lot of that stuff.”
Thought on current running back roster? “In 2015, two guys carried the ball for us the whole time. That’s why, our third running back in 2015 was miserable because he couldn’t get into the game. And then this year, we’re watching some of the cutups, and we’re watch the first play, it’s an inside zone, and within 30 snaps of that cut-up, we got six different ball carriers. Consistency of the track, how they hit the holes different, there’s just a lot to be said for that. Just like out two starting safeties are UFAs. The fact that we had a lot of turnover at running back, we also had a lot of turnover at out No. 2 wide receiver.
Do inconsistent running backs hurt the offensive line? “The timing, the tracks. Different guys hit the hole at different speeds. Some guys are going to stutter-step, some guys are going to try to cram it, some guys are going to try to bounce it out more often. I’ve been fortunate to be around some great runners: Fred Taylor, Maurice Jones-Drew, Michael Turner, Steven Jackson, Doug Martin, and what’s consistent about all of those guys is that they want multiple carries and they want repeat runs, meaning, if you’re an inside zone team, they want inside zone runs. They don’t want to go inside zone, counter, outside zone, power. They want to repeat those plays because they can see how a defense is playing it.
Thoughts on offensive line? “I know there are plenty of people out there that beat up our O-line, but I’m not in that boat. I’m going to stand behind those guys.”
Are you afraid to coach Winston out of his aggressiveness, with the fact the two Super Bowl teams only having 11 turnovers?
“That’s a valid point, and I think our number was either 27 or 28 and the two Super Bowl teams only had 11. We preach turnovers and takeaway every day, and when the players get back that will be one of the first slides I have on the board when we talk about how you win games in the NFL. Now, Jameis knows about that, but, and I guarantee you because I used to coach Matt, they’re going say quarterbacks need to be aggressive. There’s a fine line between aggressiveness and knowing when to cut your losses. From a coaching standpoint, the thing that we’re saying to Jameis is knowing when to cut his losses. I think back to the New Orleans game. Second half, we get the ball, we’re backed up, it’s second and nine on our two-yard line. That was a horrible play call; I’m the one that called it. Right after I sent it in there I knew it was a horrible play call. I probably should’ve called a timeout to change it. But sometimes you need your quarterback to bail you out. Now, at the same time, there are horrible play calls that Jameis turns into a 40-yard gain. I just think that experience is a big factor in that. Jameis will be the first to admit that he’s not going to give up on plays. Like, you have that crazy scramble in the Chicago game and then it’s up for play of the year when I’m over there… When we went back and watched the tape, Moken was saying, ‘throw it away’ about 10 times in that scramble and I was yelling ‘get down’ I just think that, as Jameis continues to learn through experience what wins and loses in the NFL, he is so sharp and so attentive to stuff like that I just think it’s something that he’s going to continue to improve on.”
How much of Winston’s mistakes were him or the fact he was needing more weapons?
“A couple of his interceptions were big passes late in games, a couple of them were bad reads, some of them were just good plays by defenders. But there are certain reads that you just shouldn’t have. There are some plays were it’s like, ‘hey, you should have even been looking over there, you should be over here.’ Now, one of the places we talked about at the end of the 2015 season that Mike and Jameis needed to improve on was chemistry, and, man, that went through the roof. You see it on scramble plays, the chemistry between Mike and Jameis improved a ton. You can’t just say, ‘hey, we’re not going to do this anymore.’ Todd Moken keeps saying, ‘what’s our No. 1 pass route?’ It’s the scramble. We did our scramble reel, and there’s a fine line, what’s technically a scramble and what isn’t, but the number of scramble plays we had is over 90. Of those 90, there were couple sacks, there were a couple turnovers, but of those 90, eight or nine of them were touchdown; some of them were explosive. One of my chalk mark things was: how many of those 90 did Jameis go above and beyond? It was like, 18 of them where I went, OK, we’re not coaching Jameis to make that play; he’s making it on his own. There‘s a give and take there.”
Do you want Jameis to start challenging the play calling? “Well some plays he has the freedom to check out of and some plays he doesn’t. So if we have a bad play call and he doesn’t check out of it, we just cut our losses. Now, in that Saints game he was throwing out of his own end zone, so maybe it’s throw it out of bounds, maybe it’s find the check down sooner. But we were in a max protection there… and I kid Jameis about this, I tell him, ‘Jameis, I’m going to be so happy the day you walk off the field and say to me, ‘That was a blank blank play call, and I saved your ass’ and he’ll say, ‘Oh, I would never do that’ and I’ll tell him, ‘You need to do that! I make mistakes!’ Sometimes the defense calls something that doesn’t look good for the play we called, or we have a breakdown somewhere. The quarterback is the guy touching the ball every play. Like I said, Jameis makes tons and tons of positive plays, too.”
Q: On if people need to let Jameis Winston’s mistake go? “I can’t, nor would I ever, try to tell people what they should or shouldn’t think. My whole point is, Jameis tries to do the right thing every day. He made a mistake. You know how you don’t make mistakes? You don’t put yourself out there. Jameis was brought here for us to win a Super Bowl, not to win an award in the City of Tampa Bay. Now, that’s not him, though. He wants to do that, he wants to be out there, he loves kids, and he’s got a great message. Shoot, Jameis inspires me every day. I saw the video, and I know Jameis, I saw it in his face, He got off topic, he said something he should have. Heck, I told Roy to shut up that day and that’s something I wish I could take back. You make mistakes. All you can say is, ‘I screwed up.’ People say stuff they wish they didn’t say. You either own it or you let it go. He made a mistake; not that he didn’t make a mistake, but I want to beat the bandwagon for: Jameis tries to do good every day. He’s a sincere guy, and he’s the most sincere guy I’ve ever met in that area.”
Q: If Sweezy is back as a starter, who plays center? “Well, that’s a good problem to have. We like to cross-train everybody. Kevin Pamphile is a very versatile player who can play center, but a guy who can really play center is Ali Marpet. Smith is under contract. We’ll be fine, we’re going to find a way to get our best five out there.”
Mark Cook currently is the director of editorial content and Bucs beat writer and has written for PewterReport.com since 2011. Cook has followed the Buccaneers since 1977 when he first began watching football with his Dad and is fond of the 1979 Bucs team that came within 10 points of going to a Super Bowl. His favorite Bucs game is still the 1979 divisional playoff win 24-17 over the Eagles. In his spare time Cook enjoys playing guitar, fishing, the beach and family time.Cook is a native of Pinecrest in Eastern Hillsborough County and has written for numerous publications including the Tampa Tribune, In the Field and Ya'll Magazine. Cook can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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