Koetter’s Two Offseason Keys

January 1st, 2018


Buc fans can only hope this franchise does a better job of addressing its priorities in 2018.

A year ago, Dirk Koetter singled out the lack of explosive plays as a major issue after a 9-7 season. In that regard, Tampa Bay zeroed in on DeSean Jackson in free agency, adding a speedy target who can stretch the field.

It didn’t work out, at least in Year 1.

Jackson kept getting open deep, as planned, but the timing between receiver and quarterback was off all season. Part of the problem was Jameis Winston’s sore shoulder. Part of the problem is Winston still has serious strides to make as a deep thrower.

The Bucs completed only six passes of 40 yards or more all season — and Jackson was responsible for only one of those. Two long strikes went to Mike Evans, with Adam Humphries and rookies Chris Godwin and O.J. Howard adding one apiece.

When you consider the Bucs were one of seven teams without a running play of at least 40 yards, you start to understand the challenge this offense faced in 2017.

Without big plays, you have to scratch and claw to “matriculate the ball down the field” in the immortal words of Hall of Fame coach Hank Stram. Picking up big chunks of yardage at a time helps to shorten the grind and lessens the chances for holding calls, negative runs or sacks.

Koetter went out of his way Monday to suggest Jackson’s pedestrian numbers weren’t his fault. Jackson did an admirable job of keeping his frustrations to himself, but he won’t be as forgiving the second time around … and I don’t blame him.

Bottom Third; Finishing Eagles

Koetter needs to be more creative in getting Jackson the ball in space and Winston has to be more accurate when taking shots downfield.

There seems to be two new areas of focus for the Bucs heading into this offseason — scoring more touchdowns in the red zone and finding a decent pass rush.

In 53 opportunities inside the opponent’s 20-yard line, Tampa Bay reached the end zone only 26 times. That 49.1 percent rate ranked ahead of only eight teams and keeps Koetter up at night.

For some perspective, the Eagles, led by a quarterback with less experience than Winston, had two more red-zone possessions than the Bucs. The result was 10 more red-zone touchdowns.

You can’t say the Bucs lack dangerous weapons inside the 20. Evans, Howard and Cameron Brate are big targets who can move and Evans has a knack for drawing a crowd of defenders.

Part of the problem is Tampa Bay’s rushing woes. The Bucs scored only eight touchdowns on the ground. When you reach the shadow of the end zone, it’s nice to have a back who can finish things off.

Sack Trend

Buc fans have grumbled about the lack of edge pressure for quite awhile, and nothing has changed. Mike Smith blitzed extensively because he had to, not because he wanted to.

If Jason Licht doesn’t choose a defensive end with the No. 7 pick in the draft, Buc Nation will be stunned. So will Koetter and Smith, who are tired of trying to make ends meet.

Gerald McCoy won’t be doing cartwheels, either. He’s been waiting eight years for someone to join the sack party.

Of the NFL’s top 10 finishers in team sacks, seven are preparing for postseason play. In 2015, it was eight out of 10. Coincidence?

I think not.

18 Responses to “Koetter’s Two Offseason Keys”

  1. Buccaneer Bonzai Says:

    Happy New Year, Ira!

  2. JWBUCS Says:

    I believe a huge part of the Bucs lack in having a rushing attack in 2017 was the dumb choice of bringing Doug Martin back after he served his final three games of suspension. Repeatedly, Bucs coaching would take Barber off the field following 3 or 4 very respectable runs, only to put Martin back on the field to stink it up…

    I fail to understand this lack of recognizing where there better run game lye.

  3. SteveK Says:

    Ira, Happy New Year!

    Great piece, hope you had some beet salad and Riesling yesterday.

  4. Easy Says:

    If Chubb is gone by number 7 you can’t reach for a DE. Take the safe pick and draft Barkley or Michel if they are on the board

  5. Ndog Says:

    DE or best OL on the board needs to be the philosophy for the first two rounds then grab the best RB available in round 3 then look at corners, safeties, DL and OL to fill the rest of the draft. This is not really debateable the lines, the lines, the lines period! Exactly what I was scared of with bringing back this staff is what Koetter said today. “Our o line is in the top half of the league “. F that you should want THE BEST o line in the league. Your QB is getting killed and we can’t run for crap but yeah we are fine with our,current o line

  6. R.O. Says:

    How are you gonna say we “Have” to take a DE at 7? We should pick the highest ranked player. If it’s RB we take him, DB we take him. We should not reach for need. We all know very few Rookie DEs have significant yr 1 impact.

  7. Lamarcus Says:

    I think not either. Getting a pass rush has to be number 1 on list.

    Get a monster run game. We will be ok. Don’t be shocked if Koetter and Licht doesn’t completely overhaul the roster or don’t add anyone

    Koetter and Licht is want u see is what you get. Having not adding a player before trade deadline proves they are going to stick with their guys. No matter what.

    Dm should be cut already

  8. Lamarcus Says:

    Me13 better look out for Godwin. Godwin looks like number 1 material.

  9. Dusthty Rhothdes Says:

    no faith in lcht making any positive FA moves and if the bucs get a DE in first 2 rounds they usually take 2 years to do anything, so 2019 new front office with a plan to build through trenches and the defense

  10. Mike Johnson Says:

    Esy says IF Chubb is gone by no7? He will be. You can bank on it. He’ll go high just like Aaron Donald did. Those kinds of players only come along once in a while. We needed that 5 spot But……Its not gonna matter. With DC Smith remaining? Look for more exciting spectacular pressbox binocular orders from our defensive captain way above the playing field.

  11. Guzzie Says:

    Sony Michel in the 2nd round would be awesome he looks like a franchise back, since he was the backpack he probably won’t be a 1st rounder, but he has 3 down potential

  12. Guzzie Says:

    Backup not backpack

  13. JonBuc Says:

    Mike Johnson said:

    He’ll go high just like Aaron Donald did.

    @ Mike Johnson

    Donald lasted until the 13th pick in 2014 believe it or not. Chubb could go as early as 3 to the Colts. I’m coming around on Barkley having seen this season’s rushing “attack”. He would take a ton of pressure off JW…and the defense.

  14. DB55 Says:

    Evans, Howard and Cameron Brate are big targets who can move and Evans has a knack for drawing a crowd of defenders.
    Yet Koetter is calling sweeps to barber and screens to Humphries. I was shocked and amazed to find OJ on the sidelines during a rz play on 3rd and long. Bwtfdik?

    As for Evans, we’ll need a whole new article, too much to say. I’ll just say this, I never knew Evans was the #2 WR. But again, wtfdik?

    The Bucs completed only six passes of 40 yards or more all season
    This is where Koetter lost the season. Spent all of October trying to get Djax the ball. After 20 attempts try something else like that TE screen to OJ Howard that seemed to work well. How about Howard and Brate crossing at 5 yards? Quick 8 yard gain. Idk what do I know?

    In retrospect all Koetter accomplished was getting jameis hurt, Djax passed off and our team went winless the whole month.

  15. IsrBuc Says:

    Never liked coaches focusing on things they can’t control. Too much talk about turnovers and “explosive plays”. These are low percentage plays, 90% luck at times. Instead I rather have a system that works. quick short passes that abuse the defense methodically, to quick to pressure the QB, efficient and no “good Jamies/ bad Jamies” days. When you get this going you can spice it up with some surprising deep throws. I want a surgeon under center not a gun slinger.
    Same goes for the D. get a solid system going, the turnovers will come when they come. If you got the lead the opposing team will take more risks etc. essentially 3&out is just as good. not as hyped but just as good.

  16. NFLNut Says:


    I’m starting to wonder if we should trade down, even if Chubb is on the board …

    I honestly think we could pick up and additional 2nd, 3rd and 4th round picks if we traded the #7 pick to the Dolphins for their #11 pick and threw in our 5th, both 6ths and our 7th as I think Miami is ready for a new face of the franchise QB (Mayfield or Lamar Jackson) and to move on from Tannehill.

    I also think we could pick up another additional 2nd and 3rd round pick from the Redskins if we swap our new #11 pick for their 13th pick (especially as they will now the Cardinals and Bills will be willing to trade with us as well) as it seems almost guaranteed they will lose Kirk Cousins and will need a new QB (Mayfield or Lamar Jackson, whichever the Dolphins don’t take).

    We would then have the #13 pick, THREE 2nd rounders, THREE 3rd rounders and TWO 4th rounders … and could draft as follows:

    First Round:
    Quenten Nelson, G

    Second Round:
    Orlando Brown, OT
    Billy Price, C
    Ronnie Harrison, S

    Third Round:
    Best DE available
    Best RB available
    Best DT available

    Fourth Round:
    Best CB available
    Best Player available

    The above would give us THE MOST TALENTED YOUNG OFFENSIVE LINE IN THE LEAGUE with Donovan Smith and Orlando Brown at the tackles, Quenten Nelson and Ali Marpet at the guards and Billy Price at center … that would be a nasty O-Line and could be the best in the league within 2 years!

    We’d also have a new running back (Derrius Guice, Sony Michel, Damien Harris?), a new DE, SS, CB and DT … and if we can add just one starting quality DE and CB in free agency, we would be a LOADED and WELL-BALANCED TEAM!


  17. Kalind Says:

    I’ve said this for 10 years. Drafting a DE won’t dove your pass rush problem for 2-3 years. They just take too long to develop. Want a pass rush? Buy it or trade for it.

  18. FortMyersDave Says:

    So Philly had a much better success rate calling plays inside the red zone? Good point Ira but isn’t that a direct indictment of the Glazers forcing Dirk to delegate play calling to someone else? Seems like he has already decided he is going to keep being the de facto OC and Smitty staying on as DC. I get the Glazers being committed to Dirk for a third season but I would really be surprised if his whole coaching staff remains intact, from that QB coach and George Warhop on down the line…..