Desperate For Balance

September 26th, 2018


It’s not sustainable.

Tampa Bay’s 2-1 getaway isn’t a fluke, but it’s not sustainable. If the Bucs don’t run the ball more efficiently or tighten up defensively, this promising season will slip away.

The ground game has been a problem since 2016, when Dirk Koetter was promoted from offensive coordinator to head coach. Ronald Jones was supposed to inject some juice, but he can’t even get on the field right now.

While Jones sits, the Bucs rank 30th in the league in rushing yards and last in the NFL with a 3.0 average per carry. Through three weeks, there has been only one run of at least 20 yards.

So much for explosive plays in the run game.

I still have faith that Peyton Barber will get the job done if his blockers do a better job of creating creases. But this is the third consecutive year that this ground game has been grounded, so the concerns run deep.

The Bucs didn’t run often against the Steelers, but that’s no surprise, given the halftime score. A 20-point deficit takes a hacksaw to your offensive playbook, so balance goes out the window.


Strength, Strategy & Head-scratching

Besides, this passing attack continues to bludgeon opponents. Tampa Bay still tops the NFL in total offense and average yards per snap, tied for third in scoring at 34 points per game.

At this point, the Bucs are throwing to set up the run. With these targets, who can argue with that strategy?

The real issue, once again, is a defense that isn’t playoff-worthy.

It’s obvious this league believes more scoring equals more interest, but even with that backdrop, Mike Smith’s group is underachieving. This team ranks 31st in total defense, 29th in scoring defense and 29th in yards allowed per snap. And don’t get me started on that 78 percent completion rate by opposing QBs.

“They made more plays than we did,” Lavonte David told me after Monday night’s shootout loss. “We shot ourselves in the foot early, climbed back into it and then couldn’t get off the field when we needed to. They out-executed us.”

Let’s not blame all this lousy defense on the absence of Vita Vea and Mitch Unrein. There’s still two new pieces up front in Jason Pierre-Paul and Vinny Curry.

Noah Spence finally dressed Monday evening, but he could have watched from his easy chair back home for all the action he saw. Zero snaps from No. 57.


“We played hard until the game was over, but we’ve got to find a way to finish,” Kwon Alexander said. “We were trying our hardest to get the ball back for our offense and we didn’t do it. I feel like we were way better than that. Sunday is going to be a big game to show we’ve still got it.”

If the Bears carve up this reeling defense, the Bucs will have some big decisions to make at the bye week — and I don’t mean a debate about who should be under center.

One-Dimensional Bears

Through three games, the Bears are the anti-Bucs. They win with stout defense led by Khalil Mack and a sound running game.

Buc fans will rightfully be in revolt if Mitch Trubisky lights up this secondary at Soldier Field. Chicago has only four completions of at least 20 yards and zero completions of 40 yards or more.

The Bears don’t beat themselves, but this is a plodding attack. A maligned Buc unit needs to make a stand heading into the bye week, or it should be bye bye for a defensive scheme that isn’t working.

That 2-1 record looks impressive on paper. Look a little deeper and you see a paper trail for concern.

Chicago’s defense is no joke. Can’t say the same about the Bucs.

Now in his 40th year covering the NFL, Ira Kaufman is the most revered sports personality and writer in the Tampa Bay area. He scored a full-time seat at world headquarters in July of 2016. Tampa Bay’s only Pro Football Hall of Fame busts out columns here every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and his award winning podcasts fire Tuesdays and Thursdays. You can also hear Ira on SiriusXM Mad Dog Radio Wednesdays at 5 p.m. Also a TV star, Ira is part of the FOX-13 Tailgate Sunday NFL show at 10:30 a.m. He’s also on BayNews 9 Mondays & Wednesdays at 10:30 p.m. He enjoys beet salads, Riesling, tennis, Bette Midler, Chiefs victories and needling Joe.

37 Responses to “Desperate For Balance”

  1. Dapostman Says:

    In todays NFL I’m more inclined to believe if the pass protection holds up we’ll be fine. Guys running 15-20 yards downfield untouched with QB’s having time to get the ball out. No way that can be stopped. Set up the run with the pass. That is the strength of the Tampa offense.

    #Get After It!

  2. Chris in WA Says:

    Start Winston after Chicago. This team won’t survive in the playoffs anyways with this secondary and Mike Smith as the Defensive Coordinator. What’s best now is to see what we have in Winston now that he is healthy and if he can hit the deep ball with all these weapons.

    Also time to start Ronald Jones. He will learn how to catch and Pass block. Lets see how he does behind this offensive line.

  3. Alanbucsfan Says:

    Missing Allen, Unrein and Vea from the rotation left a tired DL at the end of Steeler game.
    Add in a rusty Grimes, an injured, ineffective Conte and no Hargreaves- defense is still hanging in there- they shut out Steelers in 2nd half.
    Bucs played poorly as a Team in 1st half, but dominated 2nd half- and if they don’t commit a penalty during a punt return and don’t drop a couple passes, they win the game.
    Defense just needs to get healthy and they need to give Jones a shot.

  4. RawDog Says:

    Starting Ronald Jones makes sense. Rushing attack can’t get any worse, & Jones needs the experience.

  5. Tattooedbuc Says:

    I think we need to look at the last possession of the offence. They had the ball on the 20 yard line with 3 minutes, 2 timeouts, 2 minute warning, down by 3. Fitz threw 2 ball that SHOULD have been picked off, and a third pass into double coverage that was high risk and could have been picked off. If Winston had that game people would be blaming him for the loss. When you compare Fitz last game to Jaimes’s last game the similarities are striking. Jaimes threw for 3 interceptions (I believe). He dug a hole early and fought back. When given the opportunity at the end of the game to win it, he led a 95 yard drive capped by a bomb to Godwin to win it. That’s the difference. Start Fitz in Chicago and Jaimes after that. Ira or the Jo’s should write a comparison of both qb’s last start.

  6. mike Says:

    Amazing fitz has done what he has done when there is absolutly zero run game. This d should be able to force Trib to turn it over and hopefuly we can protect fitz.

  7. upthegut Says:

    On the running game….I just looked at Doug Martin’s stats. He is averaging 4.5 yards per carry over 3 games. So maybe it is not the back but the o-line or the blocking execution or design. Maybe our runs are too predictable. Pass blocking for the most part was good (except the 1st half on Monday night).

    So what is the problem with the run game. Perhaps they are way too predictable. When we ran a delayed draw we got a sizeable gain….deception. How about pulling a guard and running a sweep occasionally. Have we even had a pitch to a running back. I only remember direct hand offs.

    The D line has suffered because the depth has been compromised with injuries.
    Get Vita out there. Put it on the D line. We get burnt when we blitz, so for now we don’t blitz. D line it’s on you to beat your man and get to the qb without blitz help.
    Chicago is a short pass offense. Let’s leave the coverage in place and have the d-line fight through the protection to get to the ball. The addition of one more big body in Vea should spell a bit more rest for the rest of the d line.

    Chicago routes are short so the secondary needs to man up , no cushions.
    Grimes if you lay back it better be to bait the QB into a pass your waiting to pounce on.

  8. Not there yet Says:

    How could you have a second round pick inactive as if your not the curious in the slightest whether he has something to contribute. Tampa needs real coaches, these guys are to stuck in old ways

  9. Hawaiian Buc Says:

    I’ve been very hesitant to blame Mike Smith, but I’m running out of excuses. We just make it way too easy on the opposing team to throw the ball. To make matters worse, it’s not like opposing QB’s are going to 7 step drops and going through their progressions before finally finding an open WR. No, they are throwing to their first reads, who are almost always wide open. We are actually getting much better pressure than in years past, but it doesn’t matter when guys are that wide open. I know the secondary is young and banged up, but we aren’t the only team facing those issues, and this has been an ongoing issue for years now. Smith needs to get this corrected, and immediately. We can’t keep up this type of offense all year, regardless of who plays QB. At some point, you actually have to play a little defense.

  10. Brad Isherwood Says:

    Bucs hurt themselves bad plays,mistakes.
    If they can bounce back from this that’d be big on the mental /jinx side.

    Fitzgerald needs to settle down …better foot work.
    Don’t make mistakes…
    FGK may need to earn his pay.

    This will be weird, …
    How about replace a back with a TE to block and dump pass.
    Let him do the angle sideline sprint.
    Anything that buys Fitz a few seconds.

  11. pelbuc Says:

    Yes, Grimes was rusty and the DBs are rookies but I believe DC Smith’s scheme may be a huge part of the problem. Left Grimes 10 yds back on that TD to Antonio Smith, left Conte on a island on that TD to the tight end. Even when they don’t blitz there are WRs open all over the place. Smith will be the downfall of this team. Oline needs to step it up. Terrible game against the Steelers.

  12. DavidBigBucsFan99 Says:

    In defense of the defense in all three games there did come a time period when they did tighten up. I don’t believe Bad News Bears have enough offense to run ruff shod all over us like everyone else has. The real fight is going to be the fight of the offense in the trenches and in the play calling. If they’re getting into the backfield too much then run receiver screens until they stop blitzing especially with how our ground game is doing. Screen plays might have to be our run game this year.

  13. Destinjohnny Says:

    Draft better and we will have balance on all levels

  14. ATLBucsfan Says:

    Down by 20 at half means this is not a game to analyse how effective of the running game. Take that game out of the equation.

  15. gp Says:

    Rogers and Green Bay showed us how to beat the Bears
    Hurry up offense, don’t give their D-line a chance to substitute and get a rest

  16. D-Rome Says:

    It’s obvious this league believes more scoring equals more interest, but even with that backdrop, Mike Smith’s group is underachieving. This team ranks 31st in total defense, 29th in scoring defense and 29th in yards allowed per snap. And don’t get me started on that 78 percent completion rate by opposing QBs.

    The Bucs are among the worst defenses in the NFL. The eyeball test tell me so and the stats back it up. They have only excelled at stopping the run and that is it.

  17. uckinator Says:

    Time for Mount Vea to make his debut. Should take 2 OL to block him leaving the rest of the DL to clean up. That’s what he was drafted for. If everything goes according to plan, we should have at least 4 sacks. Ouch !

  18. Brad Isherwood Says:

    @ D Rome

    Play up with contact within NFL rules.

    Corners should play up with contact and force the perfect sideline/deep pass.

    Spread out the D line,
    Move…trash talk,…have Fun.
    Stunt and rock the quarterback.
    Make it a bucket of Chicken bet I get him more than you : )

    Bucs have Talent.
    The SB winning team had Swagger….not Arrogance.

    If Smith can’t make adjustments for Bears…
    It’s thanks and goodbye.
    Get it over with early,
    If Smith can adjust and scheme an aggressive D.
    He wins our confidence : )

  19. Season Is Over Says:

    “I still have faith that Peyton Barber will get the job done if his blockers do a better job of creating creases. But this is the third consecutive year that this ground game has been grounded, so the concerns run deep.”

    I must have missed in the article where you point out Barber’s 2.9 ypc and Martin’s 4.4 ypc. Haven’t we been told for two years how good Barber was and how Martin was the person holding the run game back? Funny how that works out. So, thanks Just imagine if we had signed all the over-the-hill free-agents you wanted this offseason like you used to chastise Gruden for. People don’t forget.

  20. Mike Johnson Says:

    Great takes here Ira. Our Offense will score. We just still cannot stop anybody. Thats a ginat concern. You can win a few Shootouts. But ultimately your Defense has gotta get off the Field. Teams which study our secondary know its very weak. Esp in the tackling Dept. Chicago is very winnable. Do what we do best..the long balls. Chicago does have a Defense. So our O line has to play even better.
    24-17 Bucs.

  21. 813bucboi Says:

    been saying for 2years now that the scheme is outdated…….even when we’ve upgraded the talent…..the scheme is too predictable….

    if LVD or kwon are standing in the “A” gap either they’re coming or dropping back into coverage…..would love to see them act like they’re blitzing thru the “A” gap only to have a safety or CB blitz off the edge…..

    smitty has no excuses!!!!!

    regarding the run game, I think barber can get the job done but he needs carries… him 20-25 times….don’t have barber and quizz combine for 20touches…..and as much as I like quizz, he shouldn’t be on our roster….too small, cant break tackles and has no speed……


  22. nate s Says:

    Will some1 please talk about how brent grimes is a huge liability out there! the guy just doesnt have it at all anymore..

  23. 813bucboi Says:

    BUCS WR’s >Bears DB’s…..

    we have to put up points early to get them out of their game plan….use quick throws, RPO’s and bootlegs to slow down the pass rush…..

    stack the box, play tight man press coverage and force mitch to make throws in tight windows and beat you…..

    28-10 BUCS


  24. unbelievable Says:

    You know, historically, whenever a team struggled with something (passing game, running game, explosive plays, whatever), they always seem to get right against the Bucs.

    So that list of the lack of completions over 20 yards or 40 yards only makes me think it will happen for them against us Sunday.

    I mean, have you seen our defense?

    Think about this: Ryan Smith and Carlton Davis both outplayed Grimes on Monday night.

  25. 813bucboi Says:


    I said all last week that I didn’t want to see grimes on the field because he cant play man press……folks laughed and said grimes was the best CB on the roster…..

    who’s laughing now….

    ive been saying for let ryan smith and davis play up close to the LOS and watch them develop and succeed….davis wasn’t afraid to get up close to the LOS when guarding AB and he had success against him…..all the big plays in the passing game came from conte and grimes…..grimes got beat by AB for a TD…..juju cooked grimes when he was covering him and sealed the deal with a catch over grimes……

    ryan smith has shown he’s way better at playing man than off coverage and so did davis….let the young boys play their game….put them in position to win!!!…..smitty needs to stop letting grimes handcuff the secondary….


  26. 813bucboi Says:

    crazy thing is, me and @Jimmyjack was talking about grimes and smitty last week….we knew what was coming……

    813bucboi Says:
    September 20th, 2018 at 12:48 pm
    hope this doesn’t change smitty’s approach….the first 2games DB’s were playing closer to the LOS….

    JimmyJack Says:
    September 20th, 2018 at 1:07 pm
    813 hate to break it to ya but Smitty will probably go with a bunch of off coverage this game.
    If you try to cheat up on their receivers you are likely going to pay big time.
    What I wanna see is how our rush D works. They don’t have Bell but they can run block and Conner has been very effective

    813bucboi Says:
    September 20th, 2018 at 1:22 pm
    yeah I hear you…the things is, their WR’s can gain tons of YAC… if we play off those slants and quick screens could do some damage…..
    I would prefer tighter coverage because big ben can be inaccurate….making the throwing windows smaller gives us a chance to get a pick or 2 or 5…lol….
    but I agree, I wanna see the pass rush turn up a notch….run defense has been pretty good so im not too worried about conner….he wont beat us by himself….

    813bucboi Says:
    September 20th, 2018 at 1:32 pm
    I just hope jesse james doesn’t have a field day vs conte like ertz did…..that was embarrassing…….
    turns out AB made grimes and smitty pay for playing off and it was McDonald who embarrassed conte not jesse james…..I knew a TE was going to embarrass him….SMDH!!!!!!


  27. Kenneth Nance Says:

    Who cares. All advanced statistics point to running the ball being a complete waste of a play.

  28. orlbucfan Says:

    The best part of this team is the Offense. It’s the still forming equal to Tony Dungy ‘s Tampa 2 SB Defense that helped put him in the HOF. Fameis needs to play next Sunday. Fitz got the lights knocked out Monday night. If Jameis plays, Bucs go to 3-1 Sunday.

  29. mark2001 Says:

    gp… the key is to wear down that D line. Mack missed a great deal of training in the preseason, I believe. This might be a good time to get them, if we can wear them down. After Chicago has heir bye week, and Mack gets fully up to speed, I’d hate to play them.

  30. D the Bucs fan Says:

    We started 2-1 last year. And the game on against the patriots we struggled to make adjustments. The makings of a sofT team is you cant run the ball and you can’t play defense.

  31. nate s Says:

    Brent grimes looks soft and slow…

  32. Bob in Valrico Says:

    Agree on Rogers , not only is he short , but that and his arms limit him in the screen game out of the backfield. Could be why Koetter always used Martin over the middle and Sims for the screens out of the backfield. But the O line has struggled to set up and block well for screens for a couple of years. Our screen game is mostly to WR’s mainly Hump where the other receivers and tight ends are providing a lot of the key blocks.

  33. BuccoDav Says:

    Yeah, the running game problems were definitely all Doug Martin’s fault…

  34. BucEmUp Says:

    C’mon Ira, you of all people know you.cant run the ball when you have the most pass friendly defense in the league.

    813bucboi I as well before Monday night that I feared Smitty would go back to soft coverage in that game and sure enough A.B scored on off coverage running wild with no disruption what so ever

    Mike Smith is equal to Lovie Smith..

  35. Anonymous Says:

    Monken/Koetter did nothing to slow down the blitz happy Steelers. No draws or screens. It’s like the coaches had no answers. We know Smitty has no answers but I expected more from Monken.

  36. Says:

    Has Rojo ever returned kicks? If he could get practice doing that, he could make the active roster, do we could give him some chances to make plays. Experience is still the only way yo get better. Right now, we have no way of seeing if he is getting better.

  37. Says:

    Monken looked distracted at the Steelers game. Before kickoff he was on the field jawing it up with a bunch of suits near the south end zone. All smiles and laughing, it scared me a little. I thought he looked like he had arrived in his own mind. He didn’t need to be up in the booth getting ready.