FAB 4. Bucs – Panthers Game Notes
If time permits in my schedule, I plan on adding some notes about the previous week’s Bucs game from my film study during the week into each week’s SR’s Fab 5 column. I’m not going to spend a lot of time rehashing the obvious. Instead, I’ll try to dig deeper and offer some insight you may have missed when watching the game and tie it into the up-coming match-up.
Here are my thoughts from re-watching the Bucs at Panthers game.
• Nobody is really challenging the Bucs interior in the run game. Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht invested a first-round draft pick in defensive tackle Vita Vea and $5 million in nose tackle Beau Allen to help Gerald McCoy shore up the run defense this year.
The Panthers ran for 179 yards against Tampa Bay and averaged 5.6 yards per carry, but Christian McCaffrey’s big 35 yard run was on the edge of the defense, and both D.J. Moore and Curtis Samuel attacked the flanks with runs of 32 and 33 yards. That’s 100 yards and one touchdown on three carries. Cam Newton also had a 12-yard run outside the tackles on a read-option.
Take away those big outside runs and the Panthers were held to 67 yards on 27 carries (2.8 avg.). Instead of attacking the Bucs’ strength, which is the interior defensive line, the Panthers attacked the edges where defensive ends Jason Pierre-Paul and Carl Nassib are more pass rushers than run stuffers. And Carolina was also sure to target rookie cornerback Carlton Davis and veteran cornerback Brent Grimes, who is not stout against the run.
The Redskins have a balanced offense led by ageless running back Adrian Peterson, who has rushed for 604 yards and four touchdowns while averaging 4.4 avg. Peterson gashed the Bucs for 134 yards and two touchdowns, while averaging 5.2 yards per carry in 2017 in Arizona in a 38-33 Cardinals victory. Peterson will test the interior of Tampa Bay’s defense on Sunday, although the Redskins placed both starting guards Shawn Lauvao and Brandon Scherff, so that might be easier said than done.
• When I saw this clip of Samuel’s touchdown run in Trevor Sikkema’s Cover 3 column this week I watched it over and over and over again, looking at the Keystone Kops routine that Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter was talking about during Monday’s press conference. Take a look for yourself and you’ll see Vea and Allen run into each other and Grimes and Davis run into each other. You’ll see Nassib either loafing after Samuel or just being gassed and assuming someone else will make the tackle.
But the thing that struck me was linebacker Lavonte David, who only had one tackle in the first half and played awful as Carolina raced out to a 35-7 lead. David is at the bottom of your screen and then kind of jogs after Samuel until he seems him cut across the field towards him. Then David takes a bad angle and whiffs on the tackle attempt.
All I could think of is just how much the Bucs miss middle linebacker Kwon Alexander right now. Alexander has his faults and misses his share of tackles too, but that’s the kind of play where Alexander would come screaming in from behind Samuel at full speed and lower the boom, just like he did on a forced fumble in Week 1 at New Orleans.
• I have no problem with Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter calling for a fake punt when and where he did. Tampa Bay was down 28-7 midway in the second quarter and Carolina seemingly on its way to score 70 against the league’s worst defense. The timing was right, as Koetter felt like his team needed some momentum.
If you’re going to fake a punt you need to catch your opponent off-guard. Attempting a fake punt from the Bucs’ own 25-yard line was certainly surprising. Fake punts are no different than attempting long field goals. There’s a risk involved. If they work, it’s genius. If not, it’s dumb.
Call it dumb if you want, but I can’t fault Koetter trying to generate a spark.
• Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter is right to demand more from Vea, who has just two tackles this year in five games. Vea didn’t have a tackle against Carolina and needs to do a better job of shedding blocks, which is something we’ve been saying for weeks.
“I think Vita’s best football is in front of him for sure,” Koetter said. “He just hasn’t had much production. He’s given good effort. He has to get off blocks better and end up getting in on plays. It’s not about effort or anything like that, it’s just he’s having a hard time getting off blocks. He’s getting some penetration, but he’s having a hard time getting of blocks. Everybody progresses at their own rate and we’d like to see him come faster, but that’s what it is right now.
“Well, you see his athleticism. You can see him chase and run and stuff like that. You can see all the things that we saw on his college tape, but we’re all judged on production eventually.”
Vea is getting too caught up in defensive line coach Brentson Buckner’s demands of firing his hands at the offensive lineman and locking his arms instead of trying to shed and make tackles. Buckner is a stickler for fundamentals, but there has to be compromise, and sometimes while trying to execute that technique Vea gets too engaged in the guard that he misses the ball carrier running right by him.
Buckner needs to do a better job of having Vea look for the ball and read and react to be able to make more plays. Vea didn’t play defensive tackle in high school and this is just his fourth year playing defensive tackle at any level, which shows. He’s got a steep learning curve, but it really needs to start accelerating.