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)

Tampa Bay Buccaneers go to work on simplest steps

Bucs running back LeGarrette Blount chases his fumble last season at Carolina. He has lost six fumbles in his two seasons.

DANIEL WALLACE | Times (2011)

Bucs running back LeGarrette Blount chases his fumble last season at Carolina. He has lost six fumbles in his two seasons.


The 2011 Buccaneers kept finding creative ways to lose.

Sometimes, their inability to stop opponents' running games led to losses. Other times, repeated red zone failures did them in.

But one consistently disappointing aspect of last season's club was its poor execution of fundamentals. Like tackling. And not fumbling.

So is it any wonder that large segments of the team's practices this offseason were set aside for working on improving those crucial areas?

It shouldn't be. Consider:

The Bucs' minus-16 turnover margin last season was the NFL's worst. They lost 16 of 30 fumbles, tied for 30th in the 32-team league.

Another area of constant breakdowns was tackling. The website, which does statistical analysis, determined that the Bucs led the NFL in missed tackles last season. Based on a review of games, the site's analysts found that nine percent of the Bucs' attempted tackles were broken by offensive players.

Though the team made some key personnel upgrades this year, that won't matter much if it's undermined by the same self-inflicted issues.

"You have to have that fundamental base to go with the talent that you have," cornerback Eric Wright said. "You have to put it together."

Of course, every team talks about brushing up on these things. But these days in Tampa Bay, it's more than lip service.

"It's something that's necessary, and we do it every day," Wright said. "(Other teams) do it but not on a consistent basis. We do it daily here, and I think it's a good thing."

Last season's subpar fundamentals grew worse as the losses mounted and players lost focus and began to press.

Running back LeGarrette Blount has not been shy about taking responsibility for fumbles. He has fumbled nine times in his two seasons, losing six. That's a cardinal sin under any coach, but Greg Schiano has been adamant that it won't be tolerated.

With new emphasis on ball security, Blount thinks he can live up to Schiano's expectations. He appreciates the attention to small details.

"It's overlooked," Blount said. "With all the talent, you come in here from college and a lot of these guys were the best players on their team, so they didn't really have to worry about fundamentals. But (Schiano) brought it back."

Accordingly, Blount and his fellow backs have been asked to adjust their methods of carrying the football. Blount used to carry the ball tucked at his side, but the new mantra is "high and tight." The new technique calls for the ball to be tucked closer to the armpit. The running backs have worked at it so much it's now muscle memory.

"It's become a habit," he said. "I don't even notice. Holding the ball down is kind of uncomfortable now. You do it long enough and you don't even notice it. You can't help but make it a habit."

The tackling is being addressed in similar fashion. The team has devoted a segment of practices to tackling techniques, something one might not expect to see in pro football.

"We have a tackling circuit before every practice," defensive tackle Gerald McCoy said. "I've never done anything like that, so it's teaching me how to tackle. I was just playing football (before). But (Schiano) putting us through the tackling circuit is really helping."

How much of a difference can this stuff make? Less fumbles could mean more first downs and better tackling should prevent a fair number of big plays.

And if you watched the Bucs in 2011, you know those are two things they really could have used.

Stephen F. Holder can be reached at Follow him on Twitter at @HolderStephen.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers go to work on simplest steps 06/23/12 [Last modified: Saturday, June 23, 2012 9:50pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Bucs mull options at right tackle as Dotson awaits MRI


    Right tackle Demar Dotson, the Bucs' most experienced offensive lineman, will undergo an MRI on his injured groin Saturday, three weeks before the season opener.

    Tampa Bay Buccaneer Demar Dotson, offensive tackle, brought his coffee and breakfast to One Buc Place, 7/31/15, as he reported to training camp.
  2. For starters: Rays vs. Mariners, with another new look


    Having lost 11 of their last 14 games and dropping to a season-worst four games under .500 at 60-64, the Rays continue to search for ways to get out of their extended offensive slump.

    And with the M's starting LHP Ariel Miranda today, that means another new look to the lineup, which includes having struggling …

  3. Chasing 125: Bucs hope to hit rushing goal more often


    Ever so often, Bucs coach Dirk Koetter pulls back the curtain a bit and shares some of the stats that matter to him most as a coach.

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Dirk Koetter walks the field during the second day of mandatory minicamp at One Buccaneer Place in Tampa, Fla., on Wednesday, June 14, 2017.
  4. Bucs-Jaguars was NFL's lowest-rated ESPN game since 2005


    It is just the preseason, and it is the Jaguars, but Thursday night's Bucs-Jags preseason game earned a 1.6 rating on ESPN, which is the lowest-rated preseason game (excluding NFL Network) in 12 years, according to Sports Media Watch.

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston, left, talks with coach Dirk Koetter during the first half of an NFL preseason football game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Thursday, Aug. 17, 2017, in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)
  5. Roberto Aguayo, Jonathan Drouin, Tim Beckham are coming for revenge


    Forget the Three Tenors.

    Make it the Three Terrors.

    The 2017 Unfulfilled Expectations Tour is about to hit Tampa Bay.

    From left, former Bucs kicker Roberto Aguayo, ex-Lightning forward Jonathan Drouin and former Rays infielder Tim Beckham. [LOREN ELLIOTT | Times; DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times; Getty Images]