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Finding the Buccaneers’ top deficiencies

NFL: Preseason-Washington Redskins at Tampa Bay Buccaneers Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

In 2015, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had the most dynamic duo in the backfield with bell cow Doug Martin and the elusive Charles Sims. Martin finished 2nd overall for the rushing title. Starting left guard Logan Mankins retired after the season and the Bucs’ front office quickly went out to sign road-grading guard JR Sweezy. Sweezy never recovered from his back surgery in the offseason and the team was forced to start Kevin Pamphile.

Run Blocking

Who could have ever imagined that one player could have that much of an impact on the team’s production? With the left guard position the only position to change, it becomes easier to assume where the deficiency came from.

A truer measure of run blocking is the measurement in short yardage situations as well as how often a running back gets stuffed at the LOS or behind it. The source I will be utilizing for the blocking metrics is from Football Outsiders. They simply record what has transpired, then they categorize the findings into their set focus.

Power Success

Power success, according to Football Outsiders, is the efficiency of the run game in short yardage situations of two yards or less, which includes goal line situations.

2015: Power success was 71% and ranked 8th overall.

2016: Power success was 41% and ranked 32nd overall, dead last.

Stuff percentage

Stuff is the recording of how many times a running back is stopped at the line of scrimmage or behind it. It does not record the event if a running back breaks free of a tackle behind the line of scrimmage.

2015: Stuff occurrence was at 20% of the total runs and ranked 13th overall.

2016: Stuff occurrence was at 24% of the total runs and ranked 32nd overall, dead last.

On a tangent, a lot of people do not fully understand the importance of the stuff percentage. The stuffs depict where a running back is stopped, which also implies that, on most incidences, the initial contact to the running back was also at or behind the line of scrimmage. The location of contact is most imperative.

As denoted in the intro, the Bucs had one of the most dynamic running back duos in the league last year. Both of the running backs ranked in the top five in broken tackles, according to Bill James Online metrics. One can infer that both running backs will continue to get yards after contact. Now, where that contact is first initiated actually determines the net production.

Example: Let us presume that Doug Martin averages 4 yards after initial contact.

  • In 2015, first contact was in the second level, 5 yards after the line of scrimmage. Tack on the 4 yards after initial contact and Martin has a net production of 9 yards on that one carry.
  • In 2015, first contact was behind the line of scrimmage, say 5 yards behind the line of scrimmage. Tack on the 4 yards after initial contact and Martin has a net production of – 1 yards. Yes, that is a negative net production.

Run Blocking Conclusion

There was one change to the starting lineup, Pamphile started at left guard in 2016. Everything else remained constant within the remaining four starters of the five man line, which helped produced the gaudy numbers in 2015. The Bucs should be looking for a road grader to be starting over Pamphile.

Pass Blocking

Football Outsiders has a much more simplified metric to pass blocking. It is based upon their own adjusted sack rate. In essence, they are using a ratio of sacks to passing opportunities, with added qualifiers and context. Sacks alone does not give a person enough context, but sacks per passing opportunities does give a better picture of pass protection.

2015: Bucs ranked 14th by giving up 27 sacks. Adjusted sack rate was 5.8%.

2016: Bucs ranked 15th by giving up 35 sacks. Adjusted sack rate was 5.9%.

The pass protection remained relatively the same. Not great, but not bad at all. In 2013 with Atlanta, then OC Dirk Koetter’s pass blocking ranking was 7th with 44 sacks and the adjusted sack rate of 5.9%. That is the same sack rate as we have now. That Atlanta team scored one less point than the 2016 Bucs!

So what happened? Just looking at stats, it seems as though both Julio Jones and Roddy White were injured for parts of that season. Usually, they both have over 120 targets – which can be seen in 2012 and 2014. In 2013, both had under 100 targets.

In 2016, the Bucs had only one WR with over 100 targets. That WR is Mike Evans. In fact, he had an absurd amount of targets with 175! Koetter and Evans need help. With Koetter saying in his year-end press conference that there is a need for speed, Koetter is looking for a WR talent with some speed to fit into the vertical game.

Defensive Efficiency

Pass Defense

Within this section, the higher the negative production the better production for the defense! We’re using Football Outsiders’ DVOA ratings.

2015: Bucs ranked 26th overall with a +20.6% rating

2016: Bucs ranked 6th overall with a – 4.0% rating.

That is an amazing improvement in pass defense! CB Brent Grimes had the highest passes defended in 2016.

Run Defense

Within this section, the higher the negative production the better production for the defense!

2015: Bucs ranked 9th overall with a -16.6% rating.

2016: Bucs ranked 24th overall with a – 2.2% rating.

While the rating is in negative production, the ranking is far from being an average run defense. We will delve into this in the next section.

Run Blocking

For this section, a low power success percentage is bad; a high stuff percentage is great!

Power Success (or Success at stopping short yardage situations)

2015: Stopping short yardage runs was at 69%. Rank was 23rd.

2016: Stopping short yardage runs was at 57%. Rank was 5th. This is not good!

The Bucs’ defensive line is unable to stop short yardage situation because they have no interior push to win in the trenches. This is most concerning as it depicts opposing offenses with strong offensive lines can literally run over us. This can be identified with the amount of long drives given up in a game.

Stuff percentage

2015: Stuffing the opposing RB was at 21%. Rank was 16th.

2016: Stuffing the opposing RB was at 19%. Rank was 16th.

Although the ranking remained the same, that 2% drop could be detrimental, especially if the defense could not prevent a short yardage situation.

Football Outsiders denoted that opposing teams ran up the gut, between the guards, 60% of the time. Maybe we should address that deficiency next to Gerald McCoy?

Offseason decisions

Here are your top three deficiencies on the team – outside of place kicking – in no particular order:

1) Need to stop the Run – Getting a DT

2) Need to improve the pass game – Getting a speedy WR

3) Need to improve the run game – Getting a road grader at LG

You are the general manager. Which hierarchy would you address in these items and explain why you set that order the way you did? Also, which players would you be targeting as potential targets?