FAB 5. SR’s Buc Shots
• I had a conversation this week with a guy who is very knowledgeable about the game of football and he had an interesting observation regarding the Bucs offense. Dirk Koetter’s most productive season as a play-caller was in 2015 when the offense was more balanced and featured the ground game. The Bucs had the fifth-ranked offense in quarterback Jameis Winston’s rookie season with the league’s fifth-ranked running game, which averaged 135.1 yards per carry.
Both Winston and running back Doug Martin, who rushed for 1,402 yards and six touchdowns that season, made the Pro Bowl. In 2016, Koetter’s first year as head coach, the Bucs had the 24th ranked rushing attack, averaging 101 yards per game, in part due to the fact that Martin was injured and then got suspended, missing the last two games of the year.
This year the Bucs’ ground game is ranked 29th in the NFL, averaging a paltry 81.1 yards per game. Granted, Koetter has been without Martin for three of the team’s seven games, but like last year, Koetter is also guilty of abandoning the run too early in some games, which has stymied production.
The point that was made to me was that perhaps former head coach Lovie Smith, who had his faults while in Tampa Bay, directed Koetter to run the ball far more in 2015 than Koetter has elected to do over the past two seasons. Perhaps the real reason the Bucs had a 4,000-yard passer and a 1,400-yard runner in 2015 was at Smith’s instance to stick with the running game to achieve balance. Or perhaps it was all Koetter to begin with, and it’s worth noting that Martin was healthy and available for the entire 2015 season.
It’s just something to think about. It was an interesting observation and I wanted to share it with you.
Four 41 South BBQ Co Fat Henry’s Classic Rub / $9.99
Debuting in December of 2016, Fat Henry’s is a classic rub used for beef and pork. It’s a mild seasoning that all can enjoy. We suggest using this for beef more so than pork. This has espresso for tenderizing and deepening the beef flavor, paprika for smokiness, kosher salt and chile powder for a hint of spice.
Pick up some Four 41 South BBQ Co Fat Henry’s Classic Rub at Just Grillin, which is located at 11743 N. Dale Mabry Highway in Carrollwood, just 15 minutes north of Raymond James Stadium. Or shop online at JustGrillinFlorida.com
• New Orleans is finding more balance on offense this year with the running back tandem of Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara combining for 707 yards and five touchdowns while averaging a collective 4.7 yards per carry. Quarterback Drew Brees has still been his spectacular self, completing 70.6 percent of his passes for 1,951 yards and 11 touchdowns, but the real story in New Orleans is the play of veteran receiver Ted Ginn, Jr., who is in his first season with the Saints.
Ginn has given Brees the deep threat the Saints thought they had with Brandin Cooks, who was dealt to New England in the offseason. While Michael Thomas is still the primary receiver in the Big Easy, leading the team with 42 catches for 480 yards (11.4 avg.) and two touchdowns, Ginn has been just as productive with fewer opportunities.
The 32-year old Ginn is providing the Saints with the kind of explosiveness the Bucs were expecting from DeSean Jackson this season. Ginn has 24 catches for 421 yards with two touchdowns and is averaging 17.5 yards per catch. Both he and Thomas have eight catches of 20 yards or more with a long of 53 yards.
Jackson has nearly identical stats with 25 receptions for 397 yards and two touchdowns with a 15.9-yard average. Jackson leads the Bucs with eight catches of 20 yards or more, including a long of 38 yards.
• Thank you, Pewter Nation, for helping us surpass 28,000 Twitter followers for our @PewterReport Twitter account. For the latest Bucs news, observations from the PewterReport.com staff, reports from Bucs press conferences and notifications of the latest PewterReport.com stories, join the legions of Bucs fans who follow @PewterReport and help us continue to grow our following on Twitter. And if you are on Facebook, please follow our Facebook page by clicking here.
• In last week’s SR’s Fab 5 I suggested that Tampa Bay cornerback Vernon Hargreaves may be a bust after a rough 22 games to start his NFL career. Over those games he has been the most targeted cornerback in the league and surrendered the most passing yards of any cornerback while only picking off one pass.
But over the last two games Hargreaves has really turned it around and showed some very encouraging signs. According to Pro Football Focus, Hargreaves had 26 cover snaps playing inside at the slot cornerback position where he was targeted four times, but allowed zero receptions, broke up one pass and forced a QB rating of 39.6 from passes thrown his way.
Against Carolina when he moved outside to left cornerback, he had 34 snaps in coverage and was targeted seven times, allowing just two catches for 13 yards. Hargreaves also had one pass breakup and once again allowed a 39.6 QB rating.
What was interesting is that Hargreaves has played right cornerback exclusively when starting outside. He moved to the left side of the field and really excelled in coverage as Ryan Smith, who started at left cornerback in Minnesota in Week 3, played right cornerback against Carolina.
• Pro Football Focus has Tampa Bay quarterback Jameis Winston as the highest-rated passer outside of the pocket this season with a 137.3 rating, followed by Dallas’ Dak Prescott at 121.8. Yet Winston hasn’t made enough plays from outside the pocket this year as he’s done over the past two seasons, and that may be contributing to the team’s lack of point production.
Escaping the pocket and trying to make plays has proven to be a double-edged sword for Winston. His fourth quarter touchdown pass to Mike Evans in Buffalo that gave Tampa Bay a temporary lead was on a scramble. But so was the hit by Arizona linebacker Chandler Jones that injured Winston’s throwing shoulder.
• Tampa Bay is on the road in New Orleans this week, trying to snap a four-game losing streak and earn its first NFC South victory of the year. Check out the Pewter Nation Podcast that previews this Sunday’s NFC South contest. Get the insight and analysis on the Bucs from PewterReport.com’s Mark Cook, Trevor Sikkema and yours truly in our latest audio recording. We cover a lot of bases from the health of Jamesis Winston, the play-calling of Dirk Koetter and other important topics in this week’s podcast. Here is a link to the latest Pewter Nation Podcast – Episode 41: Make The Change
If you haven’t listened to this week’s podcast yet, it’s the perfect way to enjoy your lunch on a Friday afternoon or battle rush hour traffic on your way home from work. We’ll be taping another Pewter Nation Podcast on Monday afternoon after the Bucs play the Saints. In addition to listening to the Pewter Nation Podcasts on PewterReport.com you can also subscribe to the free podcasts at PodBean by clicking here and on SoundCloud by clicking here.
• Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston really opened some eyes during Thursday’s press conference when he admitted that Tampa Bay, sitting at 2-5 after four straight losses, didn’t have an identity halfway through the season.
“We’ve got to find it,” Winston said. “Every time you add new pieces to the puzzle, you are always trying to see how you can work it. I’m ready for us to go ahead and find our identity, but I know it’s a process. At the end of the day we’ve just got to go out there and play – play our game, play our best games [and] all do our own job and try to see whatever it is.”
Um, what did the Bucs do in the offseason with OTAs and training camp? Identities shouldn’t be found. They are supposed to be forged in training camp. The fact that Winston said this was startling, and scary.
When asked if he agreed with Winston’s comment about this team not having an identity midway through the season Bucs defensive tackle Gerald McCoy said, “Yeah.” When I followed up that question and asked him why it’s taken so long to find for this team to find an identity, McCoy said he didn’t want to answer that.
That’s not good, Pewter Nation.
• Vision is probably the most important of our five senses. At age 45 it was time for me to admit that I need glasses. My vision isn’t what it used to be and I had to get my eyes checked out. So I called NewsomEye to make an appointment and I’m so glad I did. Dr. Hunter Newsom and his staff of trained specialists took excellent care of me. I’ve never had such a thorough eye exam like the one I experienced at NewsomEye and I highly recommend them.
With offices in Carrollwood, Sebring and South Tampa, NewsomEye has several locations to serve you. Whether you need glasses, Lasik or need cataract surgery, NewsomEye is your complete eye care practice. NewsomEye is a proud sponsor of PewterReport.com and I was a patient even before they became an advertising partner.
Don’t wait. Your vision is too important. Your family’s vision is also too important, so make sure your spouse and your children also have regular vision check-ups. Give NewsomEye a call to schedule your initial visit and consultation at (813) 908-2020 and tell them PewterReport.com sent you, or visit their website at NewsomEye.com.
• And finally, make sure to visit PewterReport.com on Saturday for our weekly Pewter Preview and Predictions column where Mark Cook, Trevor Sikkema and I reveal who we think will win the Tampa Bay vs. New Orleans game and why. It’s one of our most popular opinion columns each week, so thank you for visiting PewterReport.com on Saturdays.