Saturday, December 16, 2017
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

NFL opponents adjusting to Tampa Bay Bucs' offense

TAMPA — A few weeks ago, the Bucs offense was one of the hottest in the league.

Running back Doug Martin was the talk of the NFL with highlight-reel runs. Receivers Mike Williams and Vincent Jackson dazzled with deep routes. Quarterback Josh Freeman continued to be the Comeback Kid, pulling off an overtime win at Carolina.

In Games 5-10 Tampa Bay went 5-1, averaging 34 points.

But as Williams said, their opponents "watch film, too." And Atlanta and Denver made adjustments that slowed Tampa Bay (6-6) in a two-game losing streak.

Martin has seen more defenders in the box, as he's averaged just 2.3 yards per carry in the past two games. Williams has noticed two safeties playing deep to protect the long pass. As a result, the Bucs have averaged 11 fewer points and more than a 100 fewer yards per game than that six-game stretch.

In the NFL's weekly chess match, it's Tampa Bay's move.

"It boils down to continuing to evaluate what we have shown (and) the frequency with which we have shown it," offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan said. "Are … we putting ourselves in a situation where we are predictable? … The concepts and ideas — how often are we able to keep them fresh and rotate them through and yet still try to give enough answers to the quarterback.

"There have been some setbacks. There have been some disappointments, but we as a group are definitely focused on the improvement and have a plan of attack on how we want it right this second."

To coach Greg Schiano, opponents' strategic changes are only part of the issue; it's a combination of coaching, executing and circumstance.

"Some plays we've made by a shoestring in the three previous weeks, (opponents are) making by a shoestring right now," Schiano said. "Maybe we have to finish a little harder. … Maybe someone is finishing a little harder than we have. Maybe we've got to call a little better play. There's a whole bunch of stuff that comes into it."

The same could be said for the ground game. Martin, a 1,000-yard rusher in the first 10 games, has 106 in the past two.

"It's been a rough couple weeks," he said.

The first-round pick insists he hasn't hit a rookie wall, saying he feels great physically and mentally. Sullivan sees Martin getting stronger and "right on track."

Sullivan pointed out that in Sunday's loss against Denver, which has one of the league's best defenses, Martin had 15 carries for 48 yards in the first half. But when the Bucs fell behind 28-10 in the third quarter, they had to pass more; Martin had just three carries in the final two quarters.

"I feel like we get in the positions where we have to start throwing and it takes Doug out of the game," Williams said. "Because we have to throw and get points quick, we can't run the ball. But if we're in the game early, we can keep feeding Doug and that's how our offense seems to succeed."

Martin said he just has to take what the defense gives, and that the whole group needs to pay attention to the details. That's what the Bucs did this week in practice, focusing on fundamentals and working in pads more.

"We've had two very spirited and well-executed practices this week," Freeman said. "And I know that everybody has got the right mentality going forward. We know we have to do things that have got us this far."

Joe Smith can be reached at [email protected]

Comments
Nobody has Jameis Winston’s back more than Dirk Koetter, offensive coordinator Todd Monken insists

Nobody has Jameis Winston’s back more than Dirk Koetter, offensive coordinator Todd Monken insists

Nobody is a bigger supporter of Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston than head coach Dirk Koetter.That was the passionate message that offensive coordinator/receivers coach Todd Monken unloaded at his news conference Friday, saying that reports that Winst...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Bucs journal: Adarius Glanton’s experience could come in handy for ailing LB corps

Bucs journal: Adarius Glanton’s experience could come in handy for ailing LB corps

TAMPA — The Bucs’ linebacker depth was tested during the first five weeks of the season, when Lavonte David and Kwon Alexander missed a combined six games with injuries.And now, as David is again sidelined by a hamstring injury, the experience gained...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Cannon Fodder podcast: Let’s revisit Monday night games in Bucs’ past

Cannon Fodder podcast: Let’s revisit Monday night games in Bucs’ past

Times Bucs writer Greg Auman has injury updates on Lavonte David and Gerald McCoy and a nostalgic trip through the Bucs’ history on Monday night, including the current three-game win streak and yes, that infamous 2003 Colts game where the Bucs were u...
Published: 12/15/17
Why the Bucs need a Dungy more than a Gruden

Why the Bucs need a Dungy more than a Gruden

TAMPA — The worst week of Dirk Koetter’s life rolls on.It’s Gruden Week, just like Shark Week, only with smaller teeth and a bigger playbook. It’s the big build-up to Gruden’s induction into the Buc Ring of Honor this Monday night, with the accompany...
Published: 12/15/17
Rick and Tom podcast: Is Dirk Koetter fighting for his job?

Rick and Tom podcast: Is Dirk Koetter fighting for his job?

In their latest podcast, Rick Stroud and Tom Jones discuss whether Dirk Koetter is fighting for his job the final three weeks of season. Is there a rift between him and Jameis Winston? Has Winston shown enough progress this year? And who are the Glaz...
Published: 12/15/17
Bucs’ Lavonte David misses practice with hamstring injury

Bucs’ Lavonte David misses practice with hamstring injury

TAMPA — The Bucs knew they might be playing without DT Gerald McCoy, who suffered a biceps injury early in Sunday’s loss to the Lions. But now they face the prospect of playing Monday against Atlanta without another of their defensive leaders, as LB ...
Published: 12/14/17
USF’s Nigel Harris eager for chance with hometown Bucs

USF’s Nigel Harris eager for chance with hometown Bucs

When Nigel Harris chose where to play college football, he wanted to stay home in Tampa at USF. And now, after playing for the Chargers and Giants as an NFL rookie, he's grateful for the chance to again prove himself in Tampa as the newest member of ...
Published: 12/14/17
NFL Week 15: Tampa Bay Times staff picks

NFL Week 15: Tampa Bay Times staff picks

Week 15 starts and ends with disappointment — a Thursday night meeting of two of the more disappointing teams (Denver at Indianapolis) and a Monday night game that once had held high hopes locally (Atlanta at Tampa Bay). Once.Here's our picks f...
Published: 12/14/17
Measuring Jameis Winston’s progress, and Dirk Koetter’s job security

Measuring Jameis Winston’s progress, and Dirk Koetter’s job security

TAMPA — It is one of the most honest moments of the season, captured in the first Hard Knocks episode. Jameis Winston is having a frank conversation with coach Dirk Koetter, seated behind his desk in his office at One Buc Place."I just want to have a...
Published: 12/14/17
Jones: If you were Jon Gruden, what would you do?

Jones: If you were Jon Gruden, what would you do?

What would you do?If you were Jon Gruden, what would you do?Well, you could go to Hooter’s and order a pitcher of beer and dozen wings. Then, Monday, you could go be inducted into the Bucs’ Ring of Honor.I’m talking about after that.Would you stay i...
Published: 12/14/17