• Tampa Bay’s running game ranks eighth in the NFL, averaging 121.7 yards per game through Week 3. So what’s been the biggest difference this year? I went to the Bucs’ locker room this week to find out.
“I think the biggest thing from last year is that we were down a lot of the time, so that forced us to throw a lot,” Bucs running back Peyton Barber said. “But it’s night and day. Our O-line has been doing a great job. Everything has been simplified up front.”
I had a few offensive linemen speak to me off the record and tell me that the size of the playbook has shrunk considerably when it comes to the running game this year. Less is more under this new coaching staff with far fewer running plays than the thick, complex playbook under former offensive line coach and run game coordinator George Warhop. The object is to do a few things really well rather than be really diverse. None of the offensive linemen wanted to bash Warhop, but they made it clear that they tried to do way too much last year in trying to run man and zone schemes and attacking the interior and the perimeter.
Bucs RB Ronald Jones II – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
The Bucs’ rushing attack this year is more focused on power between the tackles with fewer outside runs because that’s not what Tampa Bay’s personnel does best. As a result, center Ryan Jensen is playing better, and so is Alex Cappa, who is in his first year as a starter at right guard after seeing limited playing time as a rookie.
“It’s confidence,” Barber said of Cappa. “He’s getting the opportunity and when someone believes in you the sky is the limit. It’s this coaching staff. It’s made a difference.”
Cappa isn’t the only player that is experience a career restart with Tampa Bay’s new coaching staff. Running back Ronald Jones II, who was the Bucs’ second-round pick a year ago, has shaken off a terrible rookie season to rush for 164 yards – one more yard than Barber – while averaging 5.3 yards per carry.
“It’s the same thing – confidence – because his talent has always been there,” Barber said. “His confidence is through the roof, and that’s what you want to see from a running back. Once a running back has his confidence he’s pretty hard to stop.”
By the way, Jones went to USC and is returning to the L.A. Coliseum where he had a plethora of 100-yard rushing games in college. We’ll see if he can top the century mark for the first time in the NFL at his old stopping grounds.
• Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston has bounced back after a dismal Week 1 performance in which he threw for 194 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions – two of which were returned for touchdowns – while completing 55.6 percent of his passes. Winston has completed 63 percent of his passes over the last two games while throwing four touchdowns with just one interception, and has averaged 294 yards passing per game over that span.
Winston connected with Mike Evans on the deep ball last week several times as the two hooked up for three touchdowns in the first half. Winston will need to play well and maintain that productive connection with Evans again this week if the Bucs are going to have any chance of upsetting the 3-0 Rams out in Los Angeles.
• HOW MANY PEWTER REPORTERS PREDICTED A BUCS UPSET THIS WEEK? FIND OUT ON THE NEW PEWTER NATION PODCAST! – The 1-2 Bucs travel to the City of Angels this weekend to face the 3-0 Rams on Sunday. Surprisingly, a majority of Pewter Reporters picked the Bucs to win this week. Who were they and who picked against Tampa Bay? And what does Jesus have to do with Bucs and why was he mentioned on the Pewter Nation Podcast this week? You’ll have to listen to find out!
And if you’re a glutton for punishment – or just want to hear Mark Cook rant – listen to our Bucs vs. Giants post-game podcast where we were joined by our good friend and PewterReport.com contributor Steven Cheah, who works for Barstool Sports and host of the Surf & Turf Football Podcast, to recap the gut-wrenching loss like only Pewter Report can.
There is no better time to listen to a new Pewter Nation Podcast, which is presented by Chris Garrido of Westshore Financial, than on your drive home from work on Friday or early Saturday morning at the gym before college football begins. Enjoy your weekend and know that the next Pewter Nation Podcast will be up just hours after the Bucs vs. Rams game on Sunday night as Cook, Trevor Sikkema and Matt Matera will be covering the game from Los Angeles.
• The Bucs have several starters dealing with injuries this week, including center Ryan Jensen (back), wide receiver Chris Godwin (hip) and nose tackle Vita Vea (groin). But one player who should be returning to action is outside linebacker Devante Bond, who missed last week with a hamstring injury he suffered in Carolina. Bond, a Sacramento native, has never played a game in California and is looking forward to this week’s game in Los Angeles.
Bond, a core special teams contributor and reserve pass rusher, has witnessed Shaquil Barrett’s hot start to the season with eight sacks in three games, and realizes that he’s going to start drawing a lot more attention from opponents in the weeks ahead.
Bucs LBs Devante Bond and Kevin Minter – Photo by: Mary Holt/PR
“Especially being from our room, I love to see how productive he’s being – it’s crazy,” Bond said of Barrett. “We’ve seen it in practice – what he’s capable of. But in games he turns it on and takes it to another level. I know Shaq is going to get a lot more attention, but he’s going to keep going. He’s got a lot of moves. He’s special. I study him as I try to improve my pass rush.
“But the more sacks he gets the more attention he’s going to get, too. That’s going to create some one-on-ones for the other guy, whether it’s Carl [Nassib], Anthony [Nelson] or me. If you get an opportunity to have a one-on-one you’ve got to win them.”
Bond had one sack in the preseason and is ready to get his first career regular season sack – perhaps as early as Sunday against the Rams.
• THANK YOU! PEWTER REPORT HAS SURPASSED 33,000 FOLLOWERS ON TWITTER! Thank you – Pewter Nation – for following the PewterReport.com Twitter account, as we have hit a new milestone with 33,000 followers and we’re now up to 33,300. We cover Bucs practices, Bucs press conferences, Bucs games and break news on our @PewterReport Twitter account.
So if you aren’t one of the 33,000 Bucs fans that follow PewterReport.com on Twitter please do so right now so you don’t miss out on our Bucs coverage, including injury updates, breaking news and notifications about the latest stories and columns on PewterReport.com. Follow us today and help us get to 34,000!
• Tampa Bay’s run defense has performed well at stuffing the run this, holding opponents to just 69.7 yards per game, which ranks sixth in the league. The Bucs have done a phenomenal job of stopping two of the game’s most explosive running backs in Carolina’s Christian McCaffrey and New York’s Saquon Barkley to under 50 yards in each of the last two weeks.
Now comes yet another test in Rams’ Pro Bowl running back Todd Gurley, who has rushed for 203 yards and a touchdown while averaging 4.6 yards per carry through three games. Los Angeles has the league’s seventh-ranked rushing attack, and the Bucs know that in order to contain Jared Goff and the Rams’ play-action passing game, Gurley must first be stopped.
Rams RB Todd Gurley – Photo by: Getty Images
“The play-action comes off the run game,” Bucs inside linebacker Kevin Minter said. “If the run game isn’t going, how the hell do you play-action? You’ve got to have that type of run game, which they do with Gurley and obviously Malcolm Brown back there. The yards they’re putting up and with them being in the Top 5 right now, with them having those type of stats, you have to honor [the run] or play-action isn’t going to work.”
Because the Rams like to use play-action as much as the Bucs do, eye discipline and being assignment sound this week will be paramount for Tampa Bay’s defense, especially its young secondary, which was torched by rookie quarterback Daniel Jones last week in a 32-31 loss at home to the New York Giants.
“This is going to be all like knowing your rules and knowing your fit, pretty much at all times,” Minter said. “Not much mano-a-mano. It’s going to be scheme versus scheme.”
Rookie free safety Mike Edwards had a bad game last week and several of the Giants’ big plays in the passing game were due to him being out of position. Edwards, who also dropped an easy interception last week, needs to rebound and play much better against the Rams’ potent aerial attack this week in L.A.
• And finally, join me at the Bespoke & Co. 5th Annual Signature Event next Thursday, October 3 at Armature Works in Tampa. This Casablanca-themed event will be lots of fun – as every Bespoke & Co. Signature Event has been over the last four years. Dress up in your formal wear or business attire and enjoy open bars, heavy hors d’oeuvres, live music, casino gaming tables, and much more.
Bespoke & Co. is the official custom clothier for PewterReport.com and a long-time advertising partner with PewterReport.com. This year they are partnering with Children’s Cancer Center with all of the sponsorships benefiting that charity organization.
Your $150 ticket to the event gets you a fabulous night of fun and fashion, as well as a swag bag filled with great items and discounts to many local companies, including a Bespoke & Co. gift certificate for a complimentary custom-tailored dress shirt valued at $225.
Get your tickets to Bespoke & Co. 5th Annual Signature Event today by clicking here. We look forward to seeing you at Armature Works on October 3 from 7:00 – 11:00 p.m.
Scott Reynolds is in his 25th year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds spent six years giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
PewterReport.com prides itself on being the most complete, comprehensive news source covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and delivering inside scoop on the team found nowhere else.