Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Bucs improving discipline as penalty yardage falls

Bucs coach Dirk Koetter emphasized increased discipline this season. So far it has worked, as Tampa Bay’s penalty yardage is down.


Bucs coach Dirk Koetter emphasized increased discipline this season. So far it has worked, as Tampa Bay’s penalty yardage is down.

TAMPA — When Dirk Koetter took over as Bucs coach, one of his top priorities was establishing discipline on a team that tied for the NFL lead in penalties and set franchise records for penalties and penalty yards last season.

After five games, he has taken major steps toward his goal. The Bucs have reduced penalty yards more than any other team, by 19.5 per game. They are on pace for their fewest penalties and penalty yards since 2012.

That's progress, but Koetter is focused on addressing the timing of penalties, making sure they don't come in crucial situations, as they did in last week's 17-14 win at Carolina. The Bucs had just 40 penalty yards, less than in any game last season, but a few were big enough to impact the score.

"As a number, if you just threw out five penalties, you'd say, 'Heck, that's not bad,' " Koetter said. "But the timing of our penalties was not good. … The number of penalties was good. The critical level of those penalties was not good."

Twice, the Bucs had false starts on third and 1 — one helped stall a drive in Carolina territory, the other led to a missed field goal. Carolina's second touchdown came two plays after a roughing-the-punter penalty extended a drive.

Last season, Tampa Bay was penalized for 336 more yards than its opponents, but this year it has been flagged for 45 yards less.

And as former Bucs coach Lovie Smith is now at Illinois, the flags followed him. The Illini leads the Big Ten in penalties and penalty yards in Smith's first season.

The Bucs' biggest progress on penalties is on defense, under new coordinator Mike Smith, who had some of the NFL's least-penalized teams as the Falcons' head coach. On Monday at Carolina, the Bucs defense didn't have a penalty, and in five games this season, the defense has 10 penalties.

In 309 total plays, despite a slew of injuries on the defensive line, the Bucs have been offside just once, with one encroachment penalty. They have just two unnecessary roughness penalties, on pace to finish well under last season's total of 12.

Even the problem areas have improved such as the offensive line, which has six holds and six false starts but is on course for nine fewer holding penalties than a year ago. There's room for individual improvement: Right tackle Demar Dotson has six penalties, matching the most in the league for any position other than defensive back. That puts him on pace for 19 — only once in the past 15 years has a Buc had 15 accepted penalties, when offensive tackle Kenyatta Walker had 17 in 2003.

The Bucs play at San Francisco this week, where another first-year coach has seen similar improvement; Chip Kelly's 49ers have 19.2 fewer penalty yards per game.

Koetter is realistic in understanding that he can't eliminate penalties entirely. His weekly goal is to have six or fewer, and the Bucs are 2-1 this season when they meet that goal. Keep the flags down, and they'll be in better position to keep the wins coming more steadily in Koetter's first season as coach.

Contact Greg Auman at and (813) 310-2690. Follow @gregauman.

Cowboys stay hot

The Cowboys and rookie QB Dak Prescott roll the Packers at Lambeau. That and more NFL, 4-5C

Bucs up next

at 49ers, 4 Sunday, Santa Clara, Calif. TV/radio: Ch. 13; 620-AM, 102.5-FM. Line/OU: Bucs by 1½; off

Bucs improving discipline as penalty yardage falls 10/16/16 [Last modified: Sunday, October 16, 2016 10:47pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Florida softball returns to World Series; FSU baseball in ACC title game


    GAINESVILLE — Florida defeated Alabama 2-1 Saturday to win the deciding Game 3 of their softball Super Region, putting the Gators in the Women's College World Series for the eighth time in program history.

    ’NOLE POWER: FSU’s Dylan Busby, right, is congratulated by teammate Taylor Walls after Busby’s homer against Duke.
  2. Calvary Christian routs Pensacola Christian to win state baseball title


    FORT MYERS — Calvary Christian left no doubt as to which baseball team in Class 4A was the best in Florida this season. The Warriors defeated Pensacola Catholic 11-1 in six innings Saturday night at Hammond Stadium to claim the school's first state championship in any team sport. It also solidified a perfect 30-0 …

    Matheu Nelson of Calvary Christian celebrates scoring on a wild pitch during the first inning.
  3. Numerous lapses add up to frustrating Rays loss to Twins

    The Heater

    MINNEAPOLIS — While the Rays made some good defensive plays, threw a couple of big pitches when they needed to and got a few, and just a few, key hits, there were some obvious things they did wrong that led to them losing Saturday's game to the Twins 5-3:

    Rays reliever Tommy Hunter says the Twins’ tiebreaking homer came on a pitch that was “close to where I wanted it.”
  4. Rays journal: Steven Souza Jr. laughing right along after comical dive

    The Heater

    MINNEAPOLIS — Souza being Souza.

    That seemed to be the best way to describe the entertaining — and comically bad — dive Rays RF Steven Souza Jr. attempted in Friday's game, and the good humor he showed in handling the fallout, including a standing ovation his next at-bat from the …

  5. Marc Topkin's takeaways from Saturday's Rays-Twins game

    The Heater

    RHP Jake Odorizzi had to battle without his best stuff again, which is becoming a more common occurrence, leading to long at-bats — including 13 pitches to Kennys Vargas in the fifth — and running up his pitch count to 118 without finishing the sixth.