In preparing for Sunday’s matchup against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Bucs Nation’s Gila Arcia and I sat down for a small Q&A for one another’s publications.
1. The Buccaneers are coming off an ugly 21-3 loss against the Carolina Panthers without running back Christian McCaffrey. What is going on with the Bucs?
Their offense, that’s what’s going on. They don’t know how to produce in the red zone, when Tom Brady has time to throw the passes haven’t been on target often, they can’t run block nor run the ball, etc. Tampa Bay right now is nowhere near where they were a season ago. They have had injuries but even with injuries there is no reason why this roster can’t get things together.
Many have pointed to play calling and coaching. That’s fine. But overall the players — from Brady to the linemen to receivers — aren’t executing properly. It’s honestly a collection of everything that has gone wrong for the Buccaneers offense.
2. According to Football Outsiders, the Bucs offense is ranked No. 31 in rushing. Looking over the numbers, they eclipsed 100+ rushing yards once, in Week 1. What is making getting the running game going such a challenge?
It starts up front. This group can’t seem to open holes for the backs and defenders are easily getting into the backfield with no problems. Additionally, the runs have been primarily toss sweeps or just off tackle. Those runs haven’t helped because opposing defenses appear to be anticipating those runs.
They’ve tried running behind their best two linemen in right guard Shaq Mason and right tackle Tristan Wirfs but again, it’s like the defense is in the Buccaneers offensive huddle and know what’s coming. Still baffling, though, when watching the tape you can see very often how the opposition is lining up that way but they still run it in that direction with no changes at the line. There is an obvious lack of confidence for the offensive line. But that is what they have and that is what they should still try to work with instead of running so many outside runs.
3. On the flip side, the Buccaneers defense is a top five by DVOA. What are they doing that’s been so successful?
It’s funny, actually. The Bucs have been struggling as of late to get off the field. And with the offense not sustaining any drives, the defense has been on the field longer than what they have been used to the past couple seasons. Fortunately, they have found ways to limit points. Opposing offenses have struggled to get plays off down the field on Tampa Bay. A lot of that is credit to the secondary and the looks head coach Todd Bowles has implemented. Bucs are one of the top teams in the league in average yards per attempt. They’ve done a good job keeping things in front of them in the passing game.
Against the run, that’s another topic. They’ve struggled in run defense often, although haven’t really collapsed outside of this past Sunday against Carolina. That could also have been due to a banged up secondary, losing safety Antoine Winfield, Jr. during the game who is very good against the run. After he went out, the Panthers run game opened up. He’ll be out against Baltimore as well as some others so it’ll be interesting to see how the Bucs scheme against a very capable rushing quarterback.
4. Special teams play has been a significant part in multiple Ravens games, with last week in particular. What can you tell us about the Buccaneers’ unit?
Tampa Bay’s special teams is a decent bunch. Their punt unit is very good especially in coverage which is helped by the extremely incredible leg of rookie punter Jake Camarda. He has exceptional leg strength and is good at angling punts when needed. Their gunners, led by Scotty Miller, have done an excellent job getting down the field with their speed and that is one main reason why Miller made it through the cuts at the conclusion of preseason.
Their kickoff unit struggles at times, which was finally exposed against Pittsburgh but overall they’ve had a fairly decent season.
5. Who are two Buccaneers players (one offense, one defense) Ravens fans should pay specific attention to in this game that aren’t ‘household names?’
Rookie running back Rachaad White has seen an incredible amount of playing time in recent weeks as he has now become reliable in the pass blocking department out of the backfield. Add to his great hands he has earned a lot of playing time. Head coach Todd Bowles was even asked this week if he’d start, but you can’t replace Leonard Fournette with a rookie running back at the end of the day. However, he did admit they have to involve him more. Perhaps they will increase his snap count Thursday night.
Defensively, cornerback Jamel Dean has really come into his own this season. The coaching staff raved about his work ethic entering his fourth season and with full time starting role this season, he has done nothing but impress all around. He doesn’t have an issue letting receivers get behind him to better play under thrown balls because his speed and acceleration is out of this world.
6. The line for this game (according to DraftKings Sportsbook) has swayed heavily. When it opened, the Bucs were -2.5. Now, the Ravens are favored by -1.5. Where would you set the line and why?
First off, I am just glad Tampa Bay wasn’t favored by double digits. The past three weeks the line has started that way and stayed that way and they had no business being favored by that much considering their offense has had no productivity at all.