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Byron Leftwich talks Buccaneers’ struggles, looks ahead

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Tampa Bay isn’t where it wants to be right now, but offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich doesn’t think the team is too far off.

NFL: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Los Angeles Rams Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

Through the first seven games of the 2019 season, the Buccaneers are 2-5. Not to be Captain Obvious or anything, but that’s not good. That’s not where they want to be.

There are plenty of reasons for Tampa Bay’s issues. Some weeks it’s the offense, some weeks it’s the defense and some weeks it’s a bit of both.

The offense, though, has been subject to a lot of criticism lately. The turnovers have been coming at a higher rate in recent weeks, which has Jameis Winston, his receivers and his offensive line under fire.

Offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich, who has also received plenty of blame over the last few weeks himself, spoke with the media on Thursday. Here’s what he had to say about the team’s struggles:

(On if he has an answer as to why Head Coach Bruce Arians said that his message isn’t getting to the players)

“Not really – you just keep coaching them. We’re getting better. Our record may not say that, but we’re getting better. We’ve just got to make sure we keep coaching. We’re not out of this thing – that’s our approach to it. We’re going to keep coaching these guys [and] they’re going to keep continuing getting better. We had a hell of a practice today. Guys are still into it and we’re just going to keep coaching them and keep trying to get better.”

(On what areas he sees improvement in)

“As a whole, from the time we got here, from what we see right now – I see it as a whole. Maybe the numbers don’t say that right now. We’ll add the numbers up at the end of the year and we’ll count them up and we’ll see, but it’s way too early for that. But, I see this crew getting better every day.”

(On what caused the miscommunications between QB Jameis Winston and the wide receivers in Week 8)

“The newness of everything. It was uncharacteristic of the two guys. The situations that [it] was in, it was very unusual for that to happen. It happened in a game. Usually, those things tend to happen in a practice [and] you get it corrected, but it didn’t. It happened in a game, we’ll learn from it, we’ll move on [and] we’ll go on to the Seattle Seahawks.”

(On if the simple plays are what’s beating them)

“Yeah, and that’s what we’ve got to be aware of. We’ve got to be aware of those things and unfortunately, they’ve showed up in games where they haven’t shown up in practice. We’ve just got to correct it. We’ve just got to stay on it and have an understanding that those plays can’t happen on a Sunday, because those type of plays that I’m talking about throughout a game – you’re wasting plays, let alone the turnovers that may come from those type of plays or the negative plays that may come from those type of plays. You’ve got to find a way to get those plays out of our game – we will. I really believe that we’ll get those type of plays out of our system and we’ll start trying to find ways to win these football games.”

(On some of the mistakes made in Week 8 coming from veteran players)

“Veterans make mistakes too, every Sunday. Every Sunday, they’re making mistakes and you’ve got to correct them – and that’s around the league. We’ll clean this stuff up. We’ll clean those type of plays [and] get those plays out of our system, and when we do, I believe we’ll play well.”

(On why the offense hasn’t gotten much contribution from the receivers outside of Mike Evans and Chris Godwin)

“I don’t really see it that way. When you have guys going off the way that these guys [have been] going off, it’s difficult. I think it’s four or five games [in which] we had a guy almost have 200 yards between Chris and Mike. When you have that, sometimes the ball doesn’t get that way because it may go to a guy more than usual. We’ve got a lot of guys out there that are getting in position to make plays. I always tell you guys that sometimes the ball just doesn’t get in certain guys’ hands because of the way teams are playing us. Progressions in plays, [there] may be leakage in the protection where guys are open and you can’t get the ball to them – it’s a lot. It’s the game of football. It’s just football. We’ll try to continue getting our guys going – not just our third and fourth wide receivers, but really everybody.”

Leftwich seemed to echo much of what head coach Bruce Arians has said lately, which is that the Bucs aren’t far off from turning some of these losses into wins. But there’s only so much time in a season, and it sure looks as if time will run out before this team gets things figured out.

As far as this week, the rest of the season and the future as a whole, Leftwich had this to say:

(On what challenges the Seahawks present defensively and with the atmosphere at CenturyLink Field)

“They’ve always been a very good defense every time I’ve had an opportunity to go up there – actually every year I’ve coached. It’s a very fun place to play. It’s a very loud place to play. The guys won’t need a lot to get juiced up. It’s an exciting place – one of my favorite places to play. I love the atmosphere there. It smells, it looks like, everything about is says ‘Football.’ It’s just a good place to play. It’s always a good atmosphere. It’s always tough for the opponent that comes in there because of how loud it really is. You can’t simulate it until you actually get there, so we’re going to prepare for it, make sure our communication is right, and we’re going to try to go up there and see if we can play well.”

(On if the level of anger following the Week 8 loss has carried over into this week)

“They feel close. It’s tough winning and losing in this league week in and week out. It’s hard to explain – if you don’t give it all during the week and give everything you’ve got on Sunday, and you lose the game, that’s tough on everybody. People have no understanding of what that’s really like to give it your all every week – and you win the game, the joy that comes from winning that game, regardless of how you win it. You lose the game – the defeat that stays on you when you lose that game. I don’t think a lot of people have an understanding of what guys put themselves through from a mental and physical standpoint week in and week out, so that’s what makes it difficult. So, you try to do the things throughout the week to make sure [that] when the game’s over – at least for 24 hours – you can have that good feeling of winning a football game.”

(On if the players are relieved that this will be the final road game of a six-week stretch away from home)

“I don’t know if they’re thinking about it. I know I don’t have time to think about it. You have the opponent, so you think [about] the opponent. You don’t really care about where the game is at – you’re looking at the opponent [and] you let the tape tell you. When you’re worried about the opponent so much, the location really doesn’t matter. You try to get these guys prepared for the guys that have never been there [and] never played there to have an understanding of what the atmosphere is going to be like.”

(On if he still feels that QB Jameis Winston can be the team’s quarterback in future seasons)

“I feel that way. We’re just not doing enough to win football games. This league is so – it’s four or five plays here and there that you’ve just got to really change and really get out of our system just as a team. That comes down to winning the football games. If you win some of those games that you lost, it’s all different – the narrative is all different. But we didn’t, so we’ve got to understand that, try to fix those plays and try to hopefully, when we have those opportunities in the future, that we make those plays to win football games.”

*Transcript courtesy of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Communications Department