We are now starting the second half of the season, and this is the time when teams start to fade away from their red hot starts, other teams begin to turn things around, and others completely just “tank”. The Bucs have been known for 2 things during the last 5 years, a pass-first team that has seen runs in the top 5 of the league, and turnover central that have plagued the results of so many close games. This would explain why the Bucs are 26th in the turnover category with 12 interceptions (Tied for 2nd in the league) and 12th in the league for turning it over on the ground with 6. Another thing that has plagued this team is the defense, more specifically the pass defense. You can’t be -5 in the turnover margin and expect to win games. If you get the defense recovering fumbles, INTERCEPTING PASSES and keeping opponents out of the end zone, then almost every time you can at least help keep the margin closer to zero.
Offense, Winston, penalties, and a need to emphasize the run game
Now you can argue that penalties don’t always lead to turnovers, but you can admit that it does add a little extra to the argument due to added stress on the play-calling. It doesn’t help when you have a huge play being called back because players like Donovan Smith and Demar Dotson are being penalized for holding. As we’ve witnessed, every coordinator that we have had the last 5 years, including Dirk calling plays pretty much all the time during his days, have called a long ball play that forces Jameis to feel like he needs to be Superman.
Now as for Winston, he showed great presence against the Seahawks when it came to living for the next play mixed with that Superman mentality. He looked great not having a turnover that was truly on him. Again, let’s credit that back to Donovan Smith as he wasn’t holding, he was fighting to actually block and his elbow hit Jameis’ arm with the ball. As for the rest of the season, the 12 INTs are a big negative mark for that turnover margin we talked about. The fumbles, I watched a great game of ball security, so keep it up. I mean he did go blow-for-blow with Russell Wilson on Sunday.
One thing mentioned above that throws a negative in the margin in interceptions. Now, this is a Winston stat, but if receivers were held accountable stat-wise for interceptions thrown, you would see players such as Mike Evans, Chris Godwin (2 top 5 in receiving yards) along with OJ Howard, Breshad Perriman, Peyton Barber, Ronald Jones are all responsible for at least 1 turnover in that category this season when it came to running a route at one point. One thing taught in the game of football from even day one of the youth days, is you give one-hundred percent from the snap until the whistle for 4 quarters when you’re on that field. The best teams in the league go balls-to-the-wall within that time frame. That’s how they’re able to be successful.
One thing that would also help eliminate turnovers is putting more of an emphasis on our run game. Continuing to pound the rock so you’re not forcing Winston to throw 40-45 times a game. We have the backfield to do it. It’s great seeing Ronald Jones named as the starter. Having Peyton Barber to “Dare to be great” Ogunbowale behind him is great. All 3 can balance the rush game as we’ve seen this season with all having at least two touchdowns under their name. Note: None of our backs have a turnover on the ground this season.
This one is simple, create turnovers. You are 19th in turnovers overall with 13. The defense is ranked 7th in fumble recoveries (8), which is great. It shows on the ground why we have the top defense against the run. But against the pass, oh man, they are 22nd when it comes to getting turnovers from the pass (5). I mean, kind of makes sense when we have players like Vernon Hargreaves III giving up passes like it’s a tax credit. I believe playing to player strengths would help improve the stat with this young secondary. I believe with time and learning body position in coverage, the turnovers through the air will rise. That’ll go a long way to seeing as we are 31st against the pass.
My advice, fix whatever pass defense scheme, you are running with. Force your corners to play man when they have 2 receivers and play zone when a 3rd one breaks out. force your corners to attack at the line. Bump and run is still legal for the first five yards. Continue to attack the ball on the ground. If the offense can balance their game out, the turnover margin will balance itself out. The season isn’t lost. We may be 2-6, but with a better turnover margin, we can easily make a run within the final 8 games with teams like Atlanta (twice), Detroit coming up. But, let’s start Sunday in a return to Ray Jay against Kyler Murray and the Cardinals.