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The Tampa Bay Buccaneers offense was a puzzling mess against the Dallas Cowboys. Was everything as bad as it seemed or were there some silver linings on offense?
As we went through the All-22 gamefilm, a few things jumped out at us.
- I'm not sure the players fully understand what's going on on offense. Either that or the Bucs have some terrible routes in their game plan. There were several times when receivers drifted into other receivers lanes, cluttering the area with traffic. There was one play in the first half were three receivers were literally within 3 yards of each other - it was as if they were converging for a tackle. I don't want to think that's the way the play was drawn up. Other plays the quarterback expected the receiver to one thing and they did another. It's obvious these players are still struggling to learn the offense.
- You can complain about quarterback play and conservative offensive play calling all you want, but sometimes you have to credit the guys on the other side. On the majority of Freeman's pass attempts, the Bucs' wideouts were blanketed by the Dallas secondary. There were no open receivers. Freeman would hold, hold and hold waiting for someone (ANYONE) to get open and for the majority of the day, no one did. He'd either force a pass into tight coverage, throw it away or get sacked. That, more than anything, contributed to Freeman's low completion percentage.
- The Bucs' tight ends cannot block to save their lives. Danny Noble was absolutely whipped by DeMarcus Ware on one of Freeman's sack/fumbles while both Dallas Clark and Luke Stocker struggled to keep the edge rushers off the Bucs' running backs.
- Doug Martin is rushing things a bit right now. The rookie is so eager to make a big play on offense, he's not exhibiting the patience that some of the great backs in the league show. On one particular screen pass, Martin had blocking and numbers in front of him. Rather than wait on his blockers to take their men out, Martin scooted between them and ended up getting stopped for a moderate gain. Patience could have produced a big play.
- I still don't understand how Dekoda Watson did not block that punt at the 6:28 mark of the second quarter. He came in clean, was in perfect position...it was as if the ball floated threw him like some bad video game error.
- Many are concerned with the loss of Adrian Clayborn as they well should be. However, all is not lost with Danny Te'o-Nesheim. I've watched Clayborn closely the first three games and to be honest, A-Clay wasn't playing very well. He would routinely be guided past the quarterback and many times it was against one-on-one blocking (at most a tight end would chip). Clayborn would lose containment allowing the quarterback out of the box. It hurt the Bucs a few times on Sunday. To his credit, Clayborn was solid against the run and his penetration in the running game has helped the Bucs to their lofty ranking. Still, Teo-Nesheim isn't terrible. He actually had some nice rushes against Tony Romo and was pretty stout in the run game. Now, that could be because he was fresh and the offensive lineman he was facing was tiring - we'll have to see how holds up over the course of a game.
- LeGarrette Blount needs the football more often. The big bruising back is a little more experienced than the rookie Martin and actually allowed the blocks to be set up for him on his big runs. Perhaps if Martin can see how Blount does it - it will help him settle down and allow the plays to come to him.
- With the exception of Danny Noble's whiff, the offensive line did a superb job at protecting Freeman against a blitzing Cowboy front. The problem, as I mentioned before, was the Dallas secondary blanketed Tampa Bay receivers, allowing the pressure to eventually get to Freeman and forcing him to make throws he didn't want to make. I didn't see Freeman make many poor decisions with the football - he simply had no where to go with it.
- The Bucs should have run more screens. Each time the Bucs ran a screen, it went for solid yardage.
- Josh Freeman claimed that the now infamous third-and-9 run call just before the two minute warning in the fourth quarter was due to malfunction in the headset. In watching the tape, you can see Freeman put his hands on the ear holes of his helmet in an attempt to hear better. However, when he came over to the sideline to talk with Sullivan, Freeman didn't seem to complain about the headset in the helmet and it didn't look like Sully or Schiano was upset about a mechanical malfunction.
- Schiano said in a post game press conference that Freeman has the option to audible "on certain plays". On film, I didn't see Freeman audible once the entire game. There were times when the Cowboys brought nine guys into the box to stop the run - but Freeman either didn't or couldn't audible out of a running play. If the coaching staff is mandating a play is run no matter what the front - it's not a good situation, folks.
- Both Michael Bennett and Gerald McCoy were outstanding against Dallas. Bennett absolutely owned the Dallas RT Doug Free - who couldn't handle him. It was just the sacks and pressure - both Bennett and McCoy were in the backfield on running plays as well.
- The biggest reason Tampa Bay has gotten dramatically better against the run is their speed and pursuit to the football. Whether it's Mark Barron coming up from his safety spot, the corners darting in or Lavonte David or Mason Foster making a tackle - speed is everywhere.
- Foster had a tremendous day against the run, credited with 6 tackles and 1 TFL, Foster seemed to be around the football at all times.
- I don't know if Jordan Shipley lost the football in the light of that monstrous scoreboard at JerryWorld or what - but I don't think he ever securely had the football on the punt that Watson nearly blocked.
- Aquib Talib had a tremendous bounce back game. While both Dez Bryant and Miles Austin made some plays against Talib, each catch was highlight reel variety as the Bucs corner was right on their hip.
- On Dez Bryant's big punt return, I counted at least three blocks in the back.