Bucs couldn't stop unnecessary roughness flags
The NFL implemented rules changes this season designed to protect player safety, and few teams struggled to adjust to the new rules as much as the Bucs, who jumped from just four unnecessary roughness penalties in 2012 -- tied for third-lowest in the NFL -- to 17 this season, the second-highest total in the league.
Some of that upswing can be attributed to personnel -- the Bucs signed safety Dashon Goldson, who had four roughness penalties last season for the 49ers and had six this year for the Bucs, the second-highest individual total in the NFL behind only Cincinnati linebacker Vontaze Burfict. But at least 10 different Bucs players had roughness penalties (one was unattributed, officially), so the issue wasn't limited to one player.
The Bucs' plus-13 change in roughness penalties was easily the league's largest -- the Rams doubled their total from 9 to 18, and the Steelers jumped from two to 10. Only five other teams had so much as five more penalties with the new rules this year -- in fact, 12 teams had fewer unnecessary roughness flags this year than they did a year ago, with the Vikings drawing seven fewer and the Eagles six fewer. Across the league, there were 284 UR penalties in 2013, up from 245 last year, an increase of 16 percent.
The Bucs set a team record with 1,136 penalty yards in 2013, and Goldson himself accounted for 104 yards on his seven penalties. He's the first Bucs player to top 100 yards in penalties in a season since 2005, when corner Brian Kelly had 155, with pass interference flags of 41, 47 and 27 yards to cover much of that.
The most penalized Bucs player, surprisingly, was defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, who drew 11 flags -- including three for roughing the passer, one for unnecessary roughness and another for unsportsmanlike conduct. Last year, McCoy had just two flags, and one of them was declined, and he totaled nine penalties in his first three NFL seasons before this year's upswing.
One Bucs player who took a step forward with penalties was right tackle Demar Dotson, who had four holding penalties last season, but was flagged just once in 2013, despite starting every game.