TAMPA — Baker Mayfield has had enough of the slow starts, the three-and-outs and maybe the reliance on a ground game that isn’t working.
While acknowledging he can play better, the Bucs quarterback said Wednesday the offense needs to attack more.
It wasn’t exactly a plea to let Baker bake, but Mayfield’s comments appeared directed at the play-calling and offensive coordinator Dave Canales following the Bucs’ 25-11 loss to the Eagles on Monday night.
“I think a lot of it I mentioned after the game: We have to start faster,” Mayfield said. “Offensively we’ve got to be more aggressive. With a defense like ours, there’s no reason we can’t be aggressive in pushing tempo and trying to force the issue and trying to get aggressive with our guys and let them make plays as well.
“What it comes down to is, it’s complementary football, and offensively we’ve got to do our job.”
For the second straight season, the Bucs rank last in the NFL in rushing average (2.8 yards per attempt), and they are 27th in rushing yards per game (78).
Canales was hired by coach Todd Bowles to bring a run-heavy offense from Seattle to Tampa Bay, and three games into the season, it hasn’t worked.
While the Bucs have increased their rushing attempts, they rank 19th in points per game, averaging 19.3. That’s only 1.1 more than they averaged a year ago under coordinator Byron Leftwich. Starting running back Rachaad White has only one 100-yard rushing game in 11 starts at tailback and 20 games overall.
The Bucs’ first three possessions Monday ended with punts and only 34 yards on 13 plays.
“Going back to our first drive, I missed that shot to Deven Thompkins (on a deep crossing route),” Mayfield said. “Whether it comes down to actually hitting the shots or just taking the easy plays, taking the first, first down and getting into our groove, just making sure that we’re not having a conservative mindset against a team like that.”
Mayfield’s 96.0 passer rating is 11th-best among starting quarterbacks. He has completed 66.7% of his passes for 636 yards, with four touchdowns and one interception.
Bowles on Wednesday gave a vote a confidence to Canales, a longtime quarterbacks coach and assistant under head coach Pete Carroll in Seattle who hadn’t called plays in his NFL career until this season.
Bowles played a little defense for Canales, saying it’s too early to expect him to be among the best offensive coordinators in NFL history.
“As coordinators, you always look and see what you can do better first as coaches, and then we try to look and see if the scheme was working and if we need to tweak and do certain things,” said Bowles, who calls the defense.
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“At the end of the day, the first time calling (the offense), two out of three games, (Canales) is not going to be Mike Martz (offensive coordinator for the St. Louis Rams’ “Greatest Show on Turf”offense in 1999). He’s going to be good in his own way, but don’t expect him to come out here and have the ‘Greatest Show on Turf.’ He’s a good coordinator. He’s very smart. He understands where his help is. They’re going to get better every week, and we’re going with that.”
Similar to last season, when the Bucs were last in rushing attempts and rushing average, Bowles has refused to intervene in the offensive play-calling, though it would be within his job description.
“He’s the offensive coordinator,” Bowles said of Canales. “I’m not an offensive coordinator, guys. I’m not going to sit there and be Big Brother over Dave and be an offensive coordinator. That’s not who I am; that’s not what I do. I’d be crazy if I sat up here and told you I was. Do I know offenses? Yeah. Do I know defenses and how to defend? Yes. But you let your guys do their thing and coach football.
“We all get paid to do a job. Dave is very good at his job. I trust him completely, and we let him go. If we need to talk about timeouts and going for it on fourth down, we talk about it. But I’m not going to sit there and say, ‘Run, pass, pass, run, run, pass, pass.’ That’s not football. We let them coach, and we let those guys work together, and they get it done.”
The Bucs are tied for 11th in the NFL in rushing attempts this season with 84 through three games, though they trailed for most of the game Monday by two scores or more. Bowles suggested there is value to running that goes beyond the bottom-line production.
“As long as there’s not a blowout, there is value in it,” Bowles said. “If you get behind, you have to throw the ball, obviously. But the value of the carries, it takes time off the clock, it gives the defense a rest, and hopefully it wears the other team down some so you can do some play-action things, and we like that.
“It doesn’t necessarily go with big runs. It’s almost like time of possession, the wear-down process in the heat, giving the defense a rest, it’s all inclusive. You want to be better in the run game. You want to break some runs. It’s Week 3. You win a game any way possible. Right now, if we can win the game throwing the football, I’ll take it. If we can win the game running the football, I’ll take it.”
Contact Rick Stroud at email@example.com. Follow @NFLSTROUD.
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