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Bucs at Titans Preseason: Film Review Thoughts

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The season inches closer.

NFL: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Tennessee Titans
Aug 18, 2018; Nashville, TN, USA; Tennessee Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota (8) and Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston (3) after the game at Nissan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel
Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

The preseason is in full swing. Unfortunately we don’t have access to all-22 film, so there’s a lot we can’t see, like full route trees and especially defensive coverage. Still, there’s some things we can infer. And in lieu of film gifs some people have tweeted them first so I’ll use them. Here are some of my thoughts and opinions on the first half:

Ryan Fitzpatrick was erratic with his accuracy, and often passed up the easier play open underneath. This was apparent on the first two plays of the first drive. A pick play and then a levels call both had open guys underneath. I see similarities in Fitzpatrick’s and Jameis Winston’s read progressions (obviously), but where Winston is often labeled too aggressive, Fitzpatrick is not. Are they coached to take the bigger play, instead of say, find the open man? It appears they may give a priority to attacking 1v1 coverage. Still, if Fitzpatrick plays anything like that in Weeks 1-3 the Bucs are gonna have to find a way to dig themselves out of an 0-3 hole.

This brings up another point. The offense is a difficult one to execute, with a lot of difficult, lower-percentage throws that may only connect once every two, three, or four times you attempt it. But they generally come with a higher payoff, especially relative to most teams in the league who prefer the safer route of ‘nickel and diming’ their way down the field. Fitzpatrick, at 35 (he will turn 36 during the season), may not have the consistency anymore to fulfill the steady not-too-high-not-too-low level of play this offense requires. But they aren’t asking him to play a whole season, just three games.

I think O.J. Howard is good but on one play on the second drive near the end zone that didn’t connect I think Fitzpatrick was leading him to the open hole in the zone, instead of it being another case of Fitzpatrick being inaccurate. A better feel for where he is in relation to defenders and the holes in zone will come with more experience. Some of that is maybe just chemistry.

I thought Caleb Benenoch did ok. I was left hoping he could hold all of his blocks for a just a second longer. If he had he would have looked pretty good. Maybe better technique/more experience (read: more time) will help refine his game to where it needs to be. We shall see.

Cappa came in and immediately gave up a pressure that led to a batted ball that was almost picked. Just based on this game, Benenoch is clearly ahead of him imo. But Cappa did do a good job on some stunts and trading guys off with Dotson. He also got put on skates a couple times. Does he need more time with strength and conditioning? I don’t know enough to say. Still, his upside is intriguing.

With that said, RG is still a huge concern and at least on Saturday night was easily the worst part of the offensive line.

Donovan Smith looked really good. Much better effort and technique imo, even when he’s backside of run plays. Dotson also looked good. Bucs reportedly very fortunate to not lose Smith for the season as was initially thought; that would have been a huge blow. I haven’t been the biggest fan of his in the past, but so far this preseason he had looked really solid.

The Ali Marpet/Ryan Jensen combo looks really good run blocking, and were very solid pass blocking. They are nasty and really reset the line of scrimmage when drive blocking. I very much want to see Ronald Jones get more time running behind this 1st string OL.

There seems to be lots of man blocking schemes, especially with Barber. Seems all zone when Ronald Jones comes in though. Not saying that’s bad or not, just noting it. Offensive line doesn’t seem to be as good at executing zone, but Jones also looks indecisive.

I’m not worried about Jones at all actually. There were times he slipped out of the backfield and was open but the QB didn’t look his way. He has to work on his hands and his pass blocking in order to become a complete back, but if the Bucs can get him in space or give him a crease he should explode for yards. His acceleration is rare. It will happen, but I wish they would do more to get him some confidence this early in the season. While he’s looked indecisive at times the OL really hasn’t given him a whole lot to work with.

Jameis has looked sharp two games in a row. It appears that he spent his offseason time well and is finally healthy again. He has improved every year he’s been in the league and by all indications this year appears to be no exception. If he has in fact taken that next step the defense will only need to be average for the Bucs to compete. I’m not sure it’s capable of that, but Winston’s progression has been encouraging.

Godwin is really good. This staff should have involved him more last season. Watson continues to flash. Bucs are loaded at receiver.

Monken called another good game. There are still calls that happen that I don’t like, but they seem to be more infrequent with Monken calling plays. Both games though there have been calls in the red zone I didn’t like. In Game 1, it’s what looked like all curls; if you’ll recall, Fitzpatrick immediately gave up on the play and took off running. Because he recognized it had no chance before he even finished his drop (or maybe it was a designed run ¯\_(ツ)_/¯). In Game 2, it looked like a similar play call, which fell incomplete. I would love to instead see calls like the first two that opened the game on Saturday: a rub on a slant and levels (or something like it). One RPO in two games in that area isn’t enough. It just feels like the Bucs are making it harder than it has to be, and then blaming poor execution. Just make it easier. In the play below, it’s definitely soft coverage, but it’s also an example of Monken calling something in the MOF (middle of field) for Jackson, and on a post to boot. That happened at a criminally low rate last season.

JPP and Gerald McCoy are ballers. Vinny Curry was great vs run and collapsing pocket, and when the Titans went wide Curry helped reset the line of scrimmage and the play went for no gain. The pass rush was better than Game 1. Far better, better than they looked at any single point all of last season. They will need to sustain that effort all season, and somehow avoid injury. There’s very little depth behind them.

While it’s tough to see much of the secondary because of tight camera angles and no coaches film, I thought Kwon and the safeties had relatively poor nights. There were some horrible angles to the ball. I’m not sure if Kwon was just making business decisions or not. The Bucs’ safety play hasn’t been good, and yet the Bucs were still very fortunate that Justin Evans’ injury also appeared to not be as serious as it could have been.

We also saw some of the downside to having corners play 10 yards off. On the screen play touchdown to Taywan Taylor, I think Brent Grimes was too far off the LOS to affect the play and everyone else got blocked out. I’d watch for more bubble screens against this defense if they continue to line up that way. It’s free yards. I’ve said this before but the Bucs desperately need Carlton Davis III to earn the spot opposite Grimes, and finding a top flight corner in the first round of next year’s draft should be high priority. The depth here appears paper-thin.

I also wanted to sneak in a point on Ryan Griffin. He looks pretty good, and has good touch, but his arm strength is the big thing that limits him, especially in this offense.