Schiano eliminates unnecessary fumbles with Buccaneers

Al Messerschmidt

In 2011, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers ranked first in the NFL in fumbles. In 2012, they rank 24th.

So far this season, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have just 16 fumbles. That's 14 fewer than they had last year, a massive improvement and a big reason why they've been competitive in almost every game. Preventing turnovers is a big deal, although they can never be entirely prevented. Last season, they were a major problem: 30 fumbles on the season, many of them backbreaking. Greg Schiano came in with a mission to change this.

And, he succeeded. The proof is in the pudding, but it can be seen on the field too. Whenever you see a player come off the ground while in possession of a ball when the play has ended, they will be holding the ball high and tight. That's coaching: it's drilled into these players to take care of the football, and to do so even after a play has ended to turn it into second nature. The result: just one player with more than one fumble.

Last season, the Bucs had five players with multiple fumbles. Josh Freeman is the only player to have multiple fumbles in both 2011 and 2012, which makes perfect sense, of course: he fumbles on sacks, as does every quarterback in the league. But the difference is the players at other positions. Last season, Legarrette Blount fumbled five times (and that's excluding a few botched handoffs, which are credited to the quarterback). Preston Parker fumbled eight times, a number of them on punt returns. This season, neither has had much of an opportunity to give away the ball.

This season, just two offensive players have fumbled: Josh Freeman and Doug Martin. And Martin's fumble shouldn't even have been a fumble, coming as it did after crossing the goal-line. The officials messed that up, and it cost the Bucs a remarkable statistic. Outside of that one fumble, no non-quarterback has fumbled on an offensive play. The other fumbles came on kick and punt returns, and one on a botched punt.

Schiano has focused on improving fundamentals, and he appears to have succeeded. The Bucs have turned into a team that pays attention to the basics. They tackle well, they block well, and they take care of the football. In that sense, he has certainly done his job.

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