Buccaneers review after bye, mull over possible changes

From left, guard Ted Larsen, quarterback Josh Freeman, tackle Donald Penn and the rest of the Bucs offense ranks 30th after four games.
From left, guard Ted Larsen, quarterback Josh Freeman, tackle Donald Penn and the rest of the Bucs offense ranks 30th after four games.
Published Oct. 9, 2012

TAMPA — The Bucs spent the bye week losing more ground in the bottom-heavy NFC South, where three of the division's four teams have one win apiece.

So as Greg Schiano's club begins the second quarter of the season, the big question is: Does 1-3 Tampa Bay have any chance of catching the Falcons, who fattened their lead to 3 ½ games with a win at Washington to go 5-0 for the first time in franchise history?

The answer is an emphatic maybe.

"Well, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't rooting for Washington this weekend," Schiano said Monday. "You know, we can't handle what (the Falcons) do. We can only handle what we do, and heck, if we had done a little better job handling it, we wouldn't even be talking about this. We can't do anything about the past, but we can do something about Sunday and that's where all my focus is right now."

That's when the Bucs host the Chiefs (1-4), who fell 9-6 to the Ravens on Sunday. Starting quarterback Matt Cassel suffered a concussion and Kansas City is preparing backup Brady Quinn to start.

After three consecutive losses to NFC East teams — the Giants, Cowboys and Redskins — by a combined 15 points, Schiano and his coaching staff spent the week reviewing everything from the previous four games.

"We evaluated a lot of things and if your evaluations are correct and your adjustments are correct, then it will help," Schiano said. "Without a doubt, giving some of the guys a rest — from July 26 until last Thursday, they had been going pretty hard, so it was good to get them a rest. Now we've got 12 straight weeks, 12 one-game seasons in a row."

Among the discoveries: Schiano is considering a change at right guard. After a knee injury ended Pro Bowl pick Davin Joseph's season, Ted Larsen has started all four games with mixed results. The Bucs are 20th in rushing offense, averaging 91 yards a game. Rookie running back Doug Martin has struggled at 3.5 yards a carry and a long run of 17 yards.

"We're moving a few guys through there,'' Schiano said. "We'll probably evaluate that some (today, when the players are off), and try to kind of lock into something. Maybe one or two guys at right guard, that's been the position that's been up in the air."

Larsen, Jamon Meredith and Cody Wallace are candidates. Schiano hoped to give tackle Jeremy Trueblood, who lost his starting job to Demar Dotson, a shot at right guard. But Trueblood had a stomach virus Monday and was unable to practice.

The Bucs also used the bye week to streamline the volume of plays heaped on the offense and quarterback Josh Freeman. Schiano also said running back LeGarrette Blount has practiced better and could have an expanded role in the final 12 games.

"We're 1-3, we could be better, we could be worse, but we are what we are," Schiano said. "We're getting better, it just hasn't been enough so far."

At this point, the Bucs are not conceding anything.

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"Last year, we were 4-2, and after the bye week, everything came to an end," defensive end Michael Bennett said, referring to 10 straight losses to finish 2011. "This is a long season. That's the NFL. You can be a good team or a bad team at this point of the year. We're trying to be on top at the end of the season. It can change in a heartbeat."