Sullivan: Third-down conversions not coming easy
TAMPA -- The Bucs' third-down struggles have them now as the NFL's worst team in such situations, converting just 32 percent for first downs, and offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan said the unit requires close to perfection to move the chains in its present state.
"Third down has certainly been an area (where) we've struggled, obviously," Sullivan said after going 1-for-10 Sunday in a loss to San Francisco, the only conversion coming on a third-and-1 play. "Right now, the margin for error is so small for us, if we have a less than ideal play call, if we have less than perfect execution. Right now, when we're struggling, it's tough to overcome a dropped pass. It's tough to overcome a sack or a pressure. It's tough to overcome a call where there's anticipation of a coverage and it's there and boy, they just happen to take away certain things that you're expecting."
The Bucs are 6-for-35 in the last three games, and haven't converted a third down of 5 yards or longer in the second half of the last six games, missing on their last 25 such attempts. On third downs requiring 8 yards or more, the Bucs have just one conversion in their last 34 opportunities over a six-game span. Rookie QB Mike Glennon said for him, the key is getting into third downs needing 4 yards or less, saying that longer third downs are very difficult to convert in his short experience.
"In the NFL, when you get in third-and-long situations, it's almost impossible to get that first down," Glennon said. "I think the biggest thing is for us to stay on schedule, to get in third and 4 or less, in situations where statistically are much higher."
The Bucs defense allowed San Francisco to convert third downs on Sunday needing 8, 15 and 12 yards; Carolina, Detroit and Atlanta all converted third downs needing 8 yards or longer in the same six-game span.
NO COMMENT: Sullivan, reported by FOXsports.com as a candidate expected to interview for the head coach opening at his alma mater, Army, declined to comment when asked about the job Wednesday. Sullivan said it would be inappropriate to talk about potential jobs, "especially given where we're at offensively."
PRO BOWL VOTING: Bucs LB Lavonte David continues to rise in the fan voting for the Pro Bowl, moving up to fifth among outside linebackers with 161,227 votes. The only other Bucs to make the top 10 in voting at their positions are CB Darrelle Revis, 10th among cornerbacks with 167,780 votes, and S Mark Barron, now 10th among strong safeties (56,373).
INJURY UPDATE: Schiano said three players were limited Wednesday -- S Mark Barron (hamstring), WR Vincent Jackson (hamstring) and G Davin Joseph (knee/shoulder) -- but were able to "do parts" of practice. Schiano confirmed that special-teams player Russell Shepard was placed on injured reserve (the 15th Bucs player now on the list) after suffering a toe injury in Sunday's loss to San Francisco.
"(That) is unfortunate. He's really been a critical special-teams player for us," said Schiano, noting that Shepard played on the kickoff, kickoff return, punt coverage and punt return units. "That will be a big loss ... we'll have to have someone step up there, or someones."