The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have moved to Mike Glennon as their starting quarterback, but that won't solve all of their offensive problems. Doug Farrar took a look at the Buccaneers' struggles on offense for Sports Illustrated, and concluded that the Bucs were stuck in the 1990s with their passing game.
One recurring theme is the Buccaneers' reliance on isolation routes to create open receivers. If you looked at the New England Patriots' scheme, you saw lots of different approaches: stack alignments, a lot of motion, rub routes, route combinations to stress coverage and force defensive backs to make a wrong choice, and attempts to create two-on-one situations in favor of the offense.
The Bucs do none of this: they run isolation routes, and ask their wide receivers to win. Thankfully, they have a few good receivers who can do that consistently. Unfortunately, those players simply weren't helping Josh Freeman. If the Buccaneers are to win on Sunday, that needs to change.
This week's All-22 review has a small change: we're using galleries to present the plays. You can scroll through them to get a progression of the play.
Doug Martin the wide receiver
One wrinkle the Bucs have been throwing at their opponents for the past few games has been putting Doug Martin at wide receiver, hoping to get the right matchups. In that role, he's basically a poor man's Darren Sproles: faster than linebackers, but not quite the route runner or receiver Sproles is.
Against the New England Patriots, the Bucs targeted him deep a couple of times but couldn't complete any passes to him.
- Getting the right matchup The Bucs split Martin out wide and get him matched up on a linebacker. This tells them that the Patriots are in man coverage. Note the safety to that side who is in no position to defend a deep route, while the presence of Jackson and WIlliams to the other side forces the Patriots to have a safety to that side. Another point of interest: the Bucs are running isolation routes, no combinations to create an open man.
- Martin beats Hightower Dont'a Hightower can't keep up Doug Martin down the field, and the running back is easily open by NFL standards. Neither safety is in position to impact the play.
- Martin can't make the catch While Martin has beaten Hightower, he's not a wide receiver and his lack of size makes him a very small target for Freeman. The ball is well-thrown and only Martin has a chance to make the catch, but running backs won't make these tough catches with any kind of consistency.
One issue here is Doug Martin's height: he simply doesn't have the catching radius of a wide receiver, even though that ball is pretty well-thrown. Another issue: he doesn't have the most secure hands around. He's had several drops over the past weeks, and expecting him to make contested catches is a bit much.
Vincent Jackson has the dropsies
Vincent Jackson may be an outstanding wide receiver who can make some ridiculous catches at times, but he's dropped a few too many balls the past three games. That doesn't make him a bad player, but it has certainly hurt the Bucs' passing attack at times. One of those came on a big third-and-one play and would have been a touchdown.
- Four verticals The Buccaneers run four verticals, isolating their receivers in man coverage. They want to target Vincent Jackson on Aqib Talib on this play, counting on Jackson to win in man coverage. Note the linebacker on Doug Martin -- the Patriots accounted for him on every play.
- Jackson wins Vincent Jackson gets just a half-step on Aqib Talib, but that's enough to complete a well-placed ball. Talib is trailing and if Jackson uses his body well, Talib will rarely affect this play. The safety has no shot of getting there in time from a center field position.
- Talib knocks out the ball Talib makes a great effort to get a hand in there to make it a tough catch for Vincent Jackson. The receiver's being paid big bucks to make these catches, however, and it is far from an impossible catch on a very well-thrown ball.
Aqib Talib gets a hand in there and does a terrific job to defend the play. Talib's still a pretty good cornerback, after all. But Vincent Jackson is getting paid big bucks to make catches like this, and the ball placement is basically perfect. If Jackson makes this catch, the whole game looks very different -- and Josh Freeman might still have a starting job.
Kevin Ogletree the wide "receiver"
Okay, sure, that's a cheap joke. Ogletree isn't a bad player, really -- just a very mediocre one. He doesn't excel at anything and he has just a few too many near-misses to make it fun to watch him. Instead, it's frustrating.
With the game on the line in the fourth quarter and the Buccaneers trailing 20-3, they faced a fourth-and-fifteen. They didn't use third down to set up an easier fourth down, instead opting to go for Ogletree on deep routes on both plays. Once again, note how these are basically isolation routes: go beat your man and catch the ball. Good luck.
The Patriots also do something really nifty with their blitzers to get Jeremy Zuttah out of the way and open up a free rushing lane. The Bucs have used this tactic before to get Lavonte David in clean, and it's worked pretty well.
- Buccaneers must convert: On fourth-and-15 in the fourth quarter, the Bucs have to convert on this play to have chance of winning. Once again they go with a series of isolation routes against man coverage, doing very little to help get their receivers open. Meanwhile, the Patriots blitz five and drop a defensive end into shallow coverage.
- Pressure gets to Freeman The five-man rush creates a free rusher, and Freeman is forced to throw early to Kevin Ogletree.
- Patriots come with a double A-gap blitz The Patriots go with a double A-gap blitz, but have a nasty variation the Bucs have used before, too: Zuttah will block one linebacker, but the other is going to blindside him to throw him off and get free.
- Martin takes one LB The linebacker's blindside hit to Zuttah throws him off balance, and Martin is forced to block the other linebacker. The Patriots get a free rusher on Freeman.
- Ogletree drops the ball And despite all of that, Kevin Ogletree still nearly makes the catch for a first down.
The Patriots get instant pressure on Freeman, who is forced to make a tough throw on the move -- and Kevin Ogletree basically drops it. What a waste of a great throw.
Mike Glennon needs better help
Mike Glennon is now the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' starting quarterback, and that means it's time to move on from Josh Freeman. But when we look at the tape, it's clear that Freeman wasn't the only problem with the Bucs' passing attack. Dropped balls and a scheme that's much too easy to defend have played a large role in Tampa Bay's failure to get anything done in the passing game.
If the Bucs are to get decent production out of Mike Glennon, that is going to have to change. It's one thing to have a vertical passing attack, but that doesn't mean you can't run smash concepts or create two-on-one opportunities. And if the receivers don't play better than they did against the Patriots, Glennon won't stand a chance against the Arizona Cardinals.
More from Bucs Nation:
- Buccaneers vs. Patriots All-22: Kevin Ogletree on fourth down
- Buccaneers vs. Patriots All-22: Vincent Jackson vs.Aqib Talib
- Patriots vs. Buccaneers All-22: Targeting Doug Martin deep
- Tom Crabtree Injury: Buccaneers tight end is out for Cardinals game
- Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams participate in Buccaneers practice