“There’s Only One Ball”

July 7th, 2017

A.J. Hawk tackled Doug Martin, and now he’s talking Bucs.

Linebacker A.J. Hawk had a heck of a career and retired after last season.

Now he’s a respected voice talking on SiriusXM NFL Radio, and last night he was talking Bucs.

A Bucs-fan caller told Hawk and co-host Alex Marvez he was concerned DeSean Jackson would take a step back this season from his 1,000-yard, nearly-18-yards-per-catch form with the Redskins last season. The fan was worried Jackson might bank the guaranteed $20 million of Team Glazer loot and coast.

Hawk didn’t go there. He was more concerned that Jackson might struggle to get targets and, subsequently, numbers in the Buccaneers’ loaded offense. (Damn, “loaded offense” is fun to type.)

“There’s only one ball,” Hawk said while explaining that it can be a challenge to keep players happy.

Hawk is enamored with O.J. Howard and sees great things for the Bucs if winning head coach Dirk Koetter can figure out how to spread the ball around and keep everyone humming and engaged.

Last week, listeners to the Ira Kaufman Podcast heard Ira ask Koetter about this last week during an exclusive interview. (Link here, Koetter at the 20:50 mark.) Among other details, Koetter acknowledged that touches and targets are often an issue when you’re losing, but he doesn’t plan on losing. It was a classic, raw, honest answer.

So will targets matter to players? In a perfect world, they shouldn’t. But reality is a bit different.

Anyone think Cameron Brate would want to stay long term in Tampa if he goes from 5.5 targets per game (2016) to say, four, this season? That’s one example.

The bigger-picture question is how much of a passing offense the Bucs actually morph into, in part, to utilize all their weapons.

That decision might spell doom for Doug Martin by Week 4.

18 Responses to ““There’s Only One Ball””

  1. Chris@Apple Roof Cleaning Tampa Says:

    I have said it before, other teams will be forced to blitz us nearly constantly.
    We just have too much firepower.
    Our season may well be determined by how well we pick up, and handle the blitz.

  2. Nole on Sat- Bucc on Sun Says:

    I hope you right Apple roof,Fameis the best in league when being blitzed.

  3. Casey Morgan Says:

    I disagree completely about blitzing. Teams will want to keep more nickel and dime coverage and play deeper. This might finally be the end of 8 men in the box against us. If they blitz we should be able to make them pay…

  4. StPeteBucsfan Says:

    If they blitz we should be able to make them pay…

    Exactly Casey! Last season #3 already had a good record against the blitz…with all of his targets this year and the improvement in the middle of our OL I’m with you…if they want to try and blitz…bring it!

  5. Tampabaybucfan Says:

    There are two simple ways for receivers to get more touches………get the ball more often by good defense and scoring often…..and….throw the ball more.

    I, for one think we should set up the run by passing……especially on 1st down. We have the weapons to burn them with or without a blitz….even if they play the pass….we always have the RB for a screen or check-off….

  6. JTHV Says:

    While there being only 1 ball may be true, most NFL defenses only have a combo of 2-4 good LB’s and DB’s. Each week there will be a different gameplan to attack these defenses and EACH player on the Bucs offense will get their turn to be featured and attack the opponents weakness.

    Jackson may have 6 receptions for 150yds one week and be little more than a downfield decoy to open up the middle of the field for the TE group the next.

    I probably am not alone in not being too worried about how the ball is gonna be spread around as by default, it will be.

    What a great day in Tampa Bay.

  7. Bucsfanman Says:

    It’s wins that matter, not touches. That’s why guys like Randy Moss end up playing for Belichek. If it’s the pass setting up the run or the run setting up the pass, you better have balance with both. It may sound fun to have Jameis throw for 400-500 yards in a game but I guarantee we won’t be winning too many of those games if he’s putting the ball in the air 50 times.

  8. Pick6 Says:

    DJax put up those numbers in an injury-shortened season, and in washington they had to distribute the ball to alot of guys too. those numbers are definitely repeatable in Tampa, and if he stays healthy for 16 games, topping them is a lock even with all the dangerous targets this team has amassed

  9. Defense Rules Says:

    I agree with you tampabaybucfan that we’ll probably see more use of the pass to set up the run this year. But Dirk Koetter is who he is, and Bucs … even with all our pass receiving threats … won’t become New Orleans East. Bucs might throw the ball as much as 60% of the time (we passed about 56% of the time over the past 3 yrs). The pass-happy Saints, in comparison, have consistently averaged right at 62% these last 3 yrs. Saints have also averaged 1,069 plays per season last 3 yrs … Bucs 968 plays (100 less plays per season).

    So even if Bucs pass 60% of the time (on the high side) and equal the Saints’ 1,069 plays for the season (again on the high side), the represents about 640 passing plays. Even if Jameis increases his completions to 62% (an attainable increase) that’d represent very slightly less than 400 completions on the season … for 6 WRs, 4 TEs, and 4 RBs. BTW, that’d be significantly higher than the 330 completions Jameis has averaged these past 2 seasons.

    Several ‘assumptions’ in there obviously (it’s preseason?), but I personally don’t think spreading the ball around will be a problem. Not because winning makes the problem go away, and not because Bucs will most likely end up throwing more. Because of injuries … professional football is a violent sport, and play-makers invariably get hurt. It’s the nature of the beast. Mike Evans got targeted so much last year I think for 2 simple reasons: (1) he’s a reliable WR; and (2) he stayed healthy. Lots of other WRs, TEs & RBs didn’t.

  10. Tampabaybucfan Says:

    @Defense Rules

    Thanks for the in-depth analysis……a couple of points…

    The Saints were able to have more plays on offense than the Bucs, mainly because their defense gave up scores and the offense got the ball back that way.
    Although we technically have all the weapons you listed……I think we can narrow that down to 4 WR & 2 Receiving TEs….along with perhaps 2 or 3 RBs……
    The only ones in that bunch that will clearly be interested in touches are the two main WRs….Evans & Jackson…..
    Howard is a rookie & Brate, well Brate seems to be a team-first kind of guy.
    Then, there’s Humphries & Godwin…again Godwin is a rookie and Humphries, like Brate seems to be unselfish.

    I do agree that we should still be able to spread the ball around enough to keep everyone happy.

  11. Shabazz Says:

    Jameis completes 400

    Evans 80 catches
    Jackson 60
    Brate 60
    Howard 40
    Hump 40
    Godwin 40

    320 between them 80 goes to the rbs

  12. Mike Evans GOAT Says:

    I wouldn’t say that Hawk had a “Heck of a career” more like a blah average career. The biggest thing about AJ Hawk is how the packers had the chance to trade him to buffalo for “Beast Mode” and they didn’t.

  13. Walter Says:

    @Mike Evans GOAT

    I would say he had a heck of a career, 11 years in the league where players average 3 or 4, Super Bowl Champion, all time leader in tackles for the Packers, and they’ve been around for a long time. I think you’re selling him a little short, have some perspective, not a lot of guys accomplish what A.J. Hawk has in his career. Just because he isn’t a HOFer doesn’t mean he is average.

  14. Mike Evans GOAT Says:

    I’ve watched him for basically his whole career. My family moved to Wisconsin and I’ve been stuck up here for a while. He was very average. Not even the best lber on his defense. For being the fifth overall pick he didn’t live up to the hype. Not even close

  15. Defense Rules Says:

    Tampabaybucfan I’ll gladly concede that the Saints defense left a lot to be desired, however, I think the real reason they got so many plays on the season is because of Drew Brees & their #2 offense. Saints TOP last season was 30:56 … Bucs was 30:48 … essentially the same. So the Saints got 100 more plays on the season in about the same amount of time. Reason? I think it’s Brees & his 70% completion rate (Saints had over 2.5 times as many 1st downs through the air than by rushing). As Jameis’ accuracy improves, his completion rate should obviously improve also. Don’t know that he’ll ever see 70% like Drew Brees, but it should go up considerably this year based on his experience & having better weapons to throw to.

  16. Dave Says:

    I think JW gets at least 23 completions a game –
    ME – 6.5
    DJAx – 4
    Hump – 3
    OJ -3.5
    Other WR/TE – 4
    RBs – 2.5

    I did this before, don’t think I have the numbers the same but it’s close.
    That’s all DJax gets but it is enough for him to put up big yardage.

  17. RustyRhinos Says:

    Interesting article, but the whole point of it was for the last sentence. Right? “That decision might spell doom for Doug Martin by Week 4.”

    As long as we can spread the ball around and run when we want to we will be fine across the board, everyone will get a chance to shine every week. They can not cover them all as well as they did last season. We have way too many weapons now for them to stack the box and double team Mr. Evans. Going to be exciting!
    Go Bucs!

  18. SOEbuc Says:

    Totally agree with Dirk. This team has come together and is so ready to become a dominate threat in the this league that they won’t give two $h!ts about targeting, they just want the W’s.