Through two weeks, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have had their ups and downs. Todd Bowles has this defense clicking unlike anything we’ve seen in Tampa in a long, long time.
However, for the “Quarterback Whisperer”, the offense is off to a sluggish start. Jameis Winston looked atrocious in week one, O.J. Howard is off to the worst start of his career, Cameron Brate has been invisible (excluding the two touchdowns he had called back), and Mike Evans has yet to look like, well, Mike Evans.
So what’s going on?
Taking a look back at Arians’ first year as a head coach in Arizona, that team also got off on the wrong foot. They started off with a loss, lost four of their first seven, and went into the bye week 4-4. They would finish 10-6, but third in the division.
During that initial eight week stretch, the Cardinals’ offense averaged 20 points per game and Carson Palmer had a 61.97% completion percentage, ten touchdowns, fourteen interceptions, and was sacked 23 times. Yes, you read that right - Palmer was sacked 23 times in the first eight weeks. Palmer would finish the season with 24 touchdowns, 22 interceptions, and being sacked 41 times.
Future Hall of Fame wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald averaged 4.5 receptions per game - 36 total over the first eight games - averaging 58.75 yards per game with five touchdowns. He only had one game over 100 yards receiving and finished the season under 1,000 yards for only the fourth time in his career to that point.
Let’s fast-forward to 2014, Arians’ second season. The Cardinals would finish 11-5, 6-0 with Carson Palmer under center.
Palmer would miss weeks two through five with an injury, before returning to the team in week six. Palmer would leave the week ten contest against the Rams with a torn ACL and be gone for the season. However, looking at those six starts, Palmer would average 271 yards per game with a 62.95% completion percentage, eleven touchdowns, three interceptions, and being sacked only nine times.
Through two games this season, Jameis Winston has averaged 201 yards per game with a 59.02% completion percentage, two touchdowns, three interceptions, and has been sacked six times.
Ultimately, the offense as a whole is going to struggle a little bit for the beginning portion of the season. The coaches are still implementing new ideas, the players are still learning the intricacies of what Arians wants to do, and it’s going to take time for all of them to get on the same page.
Until they do, be thankful that the Buccaneers have a competent defensive coaching staff that keeps the Bucs in games rather than giving up 29 points per game like they did last season.
Don’t give up on guys like Evans or Howard quite yet. It’s a process and it will take time, but the offense will get there. This isn’t the best we’ll see from a squad that finished in the top five in the NFL last season. The talent isn’t gone, there isn’t under-utilization, it’s just simply a matter of everyone getting the system down and getting comfortable.