Monday, April 23, 2018
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs offense tries fans' patience

TAMPA

No offense, but so far, there is no offense.

Are you concerned yet?

And if not, why not?

• Two games, and the starting offense of the Tampa Bay Bucs has all of three points.

• There have been four drives, and there have been four sacks.

• It has run 22 plays and gained all of 75 yards, including 76 of them during one drive. That means on the other three drives, the Bucs piled up a whopping minus-1.

Whee!

Yeah, yeah. It is only preseason, and yeah, yeah, there have been a limited number of snaps, and yeah, yeah, their huddle is still incomplete. Still, preseason football is all about performance, especially those of the starters. So far, that performance has been, shall we say, lacking.

• Against New England on Friday, the Bucs' starters had 8 yards on eight plays, which means an 80-yard drive is going to take, oh, 80 plays or so.

• Out of seven running plays, the Bucs have gained 2 yards or fewer on four of them.

• Out of 10 passing plays, Josh Freeman has completed six but only for 42 yards.

Yippee!

Again, this is the calm season, the analytical season, when fans are supposed to watch football as if it were a science experi­ment and, therefore, keep their passion in check. On the other hand, no one is griping about the results. Just the performance.

When a team is not sharp, it is never good. By now, you would have hoped to have seen flashes of the skill level the Bucs have on the offensive side of the ball. A long touchdown drive or two. An edge-of-your-seat play or two. Something to remind you of why this offense was ninth in the NFL last season. But in two dress rehearsals, that hasn't happened.

"I'm not concerned," coach Greg Schiano said Saturday. "I believe in the guys who are there. It's just some things have happened that didn't allow us to do what we're capable of doing.

"Those things can't continue to happen. Otherwise, the result will be the same. You can't judge anything by its intention. You have to judge it by its actions and its results. But am I concerned? No, I believe these guys are going to do it the way we expect."

Well, maybe not these guys. Maybe those guys on the sideline and those not in the plans.

Yes, you can argue that the Bucs should have been better in the four drives by the starters. But the greatest strength of this offense, the way it has been built, is to have its best talent at running back, at wide receiver and in the interior of its offensive line.

But not so far. The Bucs have limited Doug Martin's touches (three carries for 4 yards). You haven't seen much of the wide receivers (one catch for Mike Williams, none for Vincent Jackson). And neither of their guards, Carl Nicks nor Davin Joseph, have played a down.

Perhaps that is wise, and perhaps that is overly cautious, but it has an effect. The result has been four series of ragged football. Take the Bucs' first series against the Patriots, one that came after the Patriots' efficient 15-play, 80-yard drive.

On first down, Martin and Freeman ran into each other. Freeman was sacked on the play.

On second down, Martin ran for 4 yards.

On third down, Freeman's pass to Kevin Ogletree was dropped.

Punt.

"I don't like to see that as a coach," Schiano said. "It's not like, 'Let's go see if we can be sloppy and (mess) our first drive up.' That's not our plan. We'll get it right. I'm confident of that."

On the second Bucs drive, the offense suffered two sacks and had a holding call (declined). That isn't exactly the kind of sizzle the rest of us — including potential ticket buyers — are looking for.

To be fair, Schiano isn't trying to light up the scoreboard in preseason games. He's trying to prepare for a season and keep his weapons healthy. But the byproduct of playing without Martin and Williams and Jackson and Nicks and Joseph has sapped some of the voltage from his offense. Drops have increased. And sacks. And sputtering.

Perhaps this week, when the starters likely will play more against the Dolphins in Saturday night's third preseason game, that will change. Perhaps the quarterback will be coolly efficient. Perhaps the offensive line will be strong and dominant. Perhaps the wide receivers will remind the rest of us how dangerous they can be.

Or perhaps the offense will plod once again.

Look at it this way. At this rate, the Jets are bound to be overconfident for the opener.

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