Wednesday, February 21, 2018
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Schiano's verdict: Tampa Bay Buccaneers not physical enough

TAMPA — Faith was not fragile at One Buc Place a day after Tampa Bay's 30-7 preseason loss to the Tennessee Titans.

If the bonds of trust were frayed a bit among Bucs fans following the Raymond James Stadium debut of coach Greg Schiano, they were still strong within the organization Saturday.

Schiano praised the starting defense, which yielded a franchise-record 494 points last season, for limiting Titans quarterback Jake Locker to 4-of-11 passing for 21 yards and an interception.

But Schiano said the Bucs' plan for quarterback Josh Freeman to throw deep to receiver Vincent Jackson went awry when the Titans played two deep safeties and he didn't see enough physical play on offense or defense.

"Four of the first five series on defense are three-and-outs, an interception and the drive that did score a touchdown," he said.

"There's some good stuff, especially with the first defense in there to look at. Offensively, early on, when everyone was in there, we shot ourselves in the foot."

The defense, last against the run a season ago, allowed 216 rushing yards on 37 carries. Against Tampa Bay's first-team defense, Titans running back Chris Johnson had 46 yards on 10 carries, including two 14-yard touchdowns.

Meanwhile, Freeman and backup Dan Orlovsky rarely had time to step into throws. Freeman was 4-of-10 for 21 yards, including an 8-yarder to Jackson, the prized free agent's only reception of the preseason. Orlovsky was 1-of-5 for 6 yards, was sacked four times, lost a fumble and threw an interception.

"We were a little out of sorts because we were trying to press the ball a bit down the field to Vincent and they were playing two deep, so they kind of took that away," Schiano said. "Then there was a little bit of preseason, 'we're going to do this no matter what,' mentality.

"Not show him off, just make sure (Vincent) and Josh do it together. That's one thing, you come out of the game, you wish you could've put the ball down the field more. But they're playing two safeties high and just cushioning them back, so you've got to take what's there. Not what we wanted, but overall, just a lot of mistakes. And we didn't play physically enough on either side."

The Bucs had 81 total yards on offense while allowing 341, and trailed in first downs 20-6.

The lack of execution on both sides of the ball might be partly because of fatigue, Schiano said.

"As you watch the tape, as a head coach, you say why is that happening? Some of it is fatigue," Schiano said. "No doubt. That will get better because we'll get them feeling better. But the execution part, you've got to be able to fight through that and execute."

Much of the defensive pressure came from inside. Center Jeremy Zuttah had a holding penalty and appeared to get beat on the sack-fumble. Schiano said Zuttah wasn't the only culprit.

"To put it on Jeremy solely, that would not be right," Schiano said. "But I think he played better in Game 1 than he did in Game 2, which we can't have that, we've got to continue that climb and getting better consistently. I wouldn't say the interior issues were a one-man issue … But again, I felt our whole offensive line played just a little bit too high. We need to get our pad level down a bit. Low man wins, that's as old as football and we need to do a better job of that."

Rick Stroud can be reached at [email protected] and can be heard from 6 to 9 a.m. weekdays on WDAE-620. View his blog at tampabay.com/blogs/bucs. Follow him on Twitter at @NFLStroud.

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