Objectively speaking, there has not been a team with more “breaking news” moves this year than the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, as they’ve added Tom Brady, Antonio Brown, Rob Gronkowski and Leonard Fournette, among others.
On top of those moves, players like Jamel Dean and Ronald Jones have emerged as stars, Shaquil Barrett was retained on the franchise tag, and draft picks Tristan Wirfs and Antoine Winfield have been more than just reliable role players in their first year. Despite this, the Bucs have been rather inconsistent and they might be closer to “average” or “below average” offensively than you might expect from a team with so much star power on that side of the ball.
The Bucs are now 7-3 and aiming for the number one seed, but so are the 6-3 LA Rams.
In order to get better intel on Tampa, I sent five Qs to Gil Arcia of Bucs Nation and in kind he sent me five corresponding As.
Q - You briefly mentioned in a Q&A two weeks ago that the Buccaneers offense had “improved greatly” since Week 1 and then in the rematch against the Saints later that same day they responded with three points and eight rushing yards. Panic subsided last week, I’m sure, when the Buccaneers scored 46 points and ran for 210 yards against the Panthers. What is causing the “inconsistencies” on offense that you mentioned? In what ways specifically has Tampa Bay improved on offense since Week 1, whether that is improved performance by certain players or the gelling of Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski and now Antonio Brown with the Bruce Arians offense?
A - That Sunday night game was a weird one as far as the final score goes. But the way the offense played showed those inconsistencies I was referring to. Brady forcing throws that weren’t there, offensive line missing line checks, receivers not on the same page as Brady, etc. Sometimes those miscues are less apparent in other weeks. They were just really apparent that night (plus they play really bad in primetime). And credit to the Saints defense. They were all over the left side of the Buccaneers’ line, which forced Bruce Arians and his staff to make adjustments to the lineup against Carolina.
The offense is improved in many areas. For starters, there is a quarterback that can properly read a defense before the snap and knows where to go with the ball ahead of time. The receivers are also making the right reads, which is allowing Brady to make the right throws — and on target.
Q - In a Q&A three weeks ago with the Giants blog Big Blue View, you quickly predicted a blowout victory for the Bucs on Monday Night Football. I can’t imagine many people would have argued against that opinion before the game, but the Bucs came one failed two-point conversion away from going to overtime against New York. The Bucs struggled to finish their drives that week, settling for four relatively short Ryan Succop field goals along the way, in addition to their two touchdowns. What did the Giants do so well against the Bucs that some teams with better records have not done this season? Do you have confidence in the offense when they reach the red zone?
A - To be fair, I did say things can turn out differently any given week so I wouldn’t have been surprised if the Giants pulled it out. That prediction was if they played without the miscues, and as you saw, there were plenty which allowed New York to stay in the game. Tampa Bay is near the top of the league rankings for red zone efficiency so there shouldn’t be any concerns once they get in that area of the field. They just have to consistently get there first.
As for what the Giants did, how about what they didn’t do. They could have beaten Tampa Bay by two touchdowns. If Daniel Jones would have exploited the defensive vulnerabilities I’ve been criticizing the Buccaneers for weeks on just two throws, that’s 14 points right there. And he left them out on the field.
Q - As mentioned in the first question, the Bucs ran for 210 yards last week and 98 of those came on a single run by Ronald Jones. He’s up to a career-high 730 rushing yards this season and he’s rushed for over 100 yards in five of his last 11 starts. Taking a running back 38th overall has somehow become “controversial” to some, but do you believe Jones has proven to be worth his draft pick as a high second round pick?
A - Jones was going to be one of my reasons above as to why the offense has improved, but noticed this question here. He is running like the organization knew he could. They had no hesitations labeling him RB1 for the reasons you are seeing this season. The difference is that he bulked up for 2020 and is now carrying a bigger frame than when he did coming out of USC three seasons ago. That mixed with the speed he still has has turned him into a very good back and everything the Buccaneers drafted him to be. However, his struggles in the passing game out of the backfield have been overshadowed with how he has run so far this season. Also, having Tom Brady as quarterback has forced defenses to worry about the pass more this season as opposed to previous seasons where they were practically taking the running game out of the Buccaneers offense and daring Tampa Bay to throw.
Q - How much has Ryan Succop changed the feeling in the pit of your stomach when the Bucs are about to kick a field goal as compared to previous years? Or do you feel that his worth has not yet been proven because a) the Bucs haven’t had a game come down to a field goal try yet and b) he’s missed two PATs and one of his two tries beyond 50?
A - Fortunately, I don’t get emotionally invested especially when it comes to kicking field goals and I am so thankful for that. I remember sitting in the press box during the kicker carousel days in the previous seasons and leaning over to whoever was sitting next to me at the time and saying, “(insert a previous kicker name here) is gonna miss this, watch...” It was almost expected and at times quite pleasing in a comical way to know that you correctly predicted a missed field goal, especially when it was somewhere within 30 yards lol. I don’t feel there is much concern when it comes to kicking field goals this season. But I do agree, a game in the final seconds hasn’t happened with Succop yet in 2020. And that could very well change on Monday night against Los Angeles. So we’ll see.
Q - If you could take any player on the Bucs and freeze his age and abilities right now to keep him like that for the next 10 years, which player would you like to have in his prime for the next decade?
A - Aaron Donald without a doubt. I have been a huge fan of his and would have even replaced Gerald McCoy with Donald back in the day a hundred times over.
Thankfully for us, Aaron Donald is not on the Bucs actually.
Wow I totally read that wrong. Put me down for Brady. I think he’s obviously proven that with the right guy under center, the rest of the team plays better.
That...totally makes sense! Thanks Gil!