TAMPA — Dave Canales spent the early hours of Tuesday morning thinking and overthinking the previous night’s game. The first-year coordinator had been brought in to give the Bucs, who lived and died on Tom Brady’s passing the previous three years, a smarter, more balanced offensive attack.
It was nowhere to be found in Monday’s 25-11 loss to the Eagles.
So, Canales went over the mistakes in his head. Thursday, he put a glaring one on his own shoulders: the decision to try to run from Tampa Bay’s 1/2-yard line against the best defensive front in the NFL.
“Part of our M.O. is we’re going to be able to run the ball at all times,” Canales said. “(Philadelphia) is the best defensive front in football, and just running, like, a tight run right there in that situation probably wasn’t the best thing. I don’t want to go into too much of what else we could do in that situation. But I definitely have to take that one, you know, first and foremost for that.”
The play resulted in Rachaad White getting tackled in the end zone for a safety.
A day after head coach Todd Bowles gave him a vote of confidence, Canales said he will wear that mistake and learn from it. He also acknowledged that, three weeks into the season, the more balanced offense he was charged with installing is “not really up to the standard” yet.
“We’ve had three performances in the regular season now, and none of them are really up to the standard that we want fundamentally,” he said. “The guys are playing hard, the guys are trying — we had the right attitude on the sideline; we stayed together. But it’s just something that I think we have to grow, me included. But all of us have to continue to take those steps to grow.”
The Bucs head into Sunday’s matchup against the Saints knowing they need to improve on offense. They have the fewest yards per carry (2.8) in the NFL and just one rushing touchdown.
Still, don’t expect any significant changes this week in New Orleans. Canales said he expects improvement to come with experience. He also expressed confidence in White, who managed just 38 yards on 14 carries against the Eagles and fumbled following a reception.
“Not that every run has been blocked perfectly, but I’m excited about the guys getting guys covered up,” Canales said. “At this point now, it’s just about building the right mentality in the run game, and it’s reps — seeing the mid-zone, seeing the downhill stuff, seeing the gun runs and kind of feeling where those voids are going to be. I think that’ll help to really boost Rachaad’s confidence in being decisive in some of the runs.
“I think, again, that’s just a rep thing at this point in three games. We have to continue to stay with it, and I think one thing you’ll learn is I’m going to be a little bit stubborn about running that ball and having that balance. It’s not going to be that we’re just going to run it every time, but in our self-scout up to this point, it’s been a good balance. I think we’ll continue to improve as they get more reps and more rhythm with the runs.”
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Canales said the mistakes he has seen in the first three weeks, particularly on Monday, were fundamental: throwing, catching, blocking, taking care of the football, finishing runs. Those are correctable, he said.
“We’ve got another opportunity here to put some more things on film, to really start to hone in on that identity, but I don’t want to rush anything,” Canales said. “I don’t want to make any wholesale changes, schematically or from a personnel standpoint at this point while we’re still gathering information and really trying to learn the offense.”
When that will result in the Bucs being able to fully implement that offense and use all of their weapons is not something Canales can predict. He does think they will be a step closer after Sunday’s game and the bye week that follows.
“I think the guys know what to do,” Canales said. “It’s just the full-speed reps of playing together as a unit is just the thing that’s going to help us grow and learn from the film. But I don’t really have a timeline. I just know that normally you’d like your bye week to be, like, halfway through the season or even later to kind of rest yourself up for the run. This year, it’s kind of a gift it’s happening early, where we can really look at four games and work with that.”
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