Red Zone Fix & A Rookie View Of Jameis

April 12th, 2019

It’s Sage Ira’s Friday column!


The resurrection of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers has to begin on the defensive end, but improvements are mandatory on the other side of the ball.

Yes, Tampa Bay led the NFL in passing yards last season. Who cares?

The Bucs still managed to land in the NFC South basement once again with a second consecutive 5-11 finish. Jameis Winston and Ryan Fitzpatrick threw the ball all over the field in between the 20s, but Buc fans were singing the blues far too often when the team reached the red zone.

Once the field shrunk, so did Dirk Koetter’s offense. The Bucs scored touchdowns on only 36 of their 60 red-zone trips and a dismal ground game was a major culprit.

Bucs assistant head coach Harold Goodwin

Enter Bruce Arians and run-game coordinator Harold Goodwin, both determined to restore a once-robust rushing attack that helped Winston flourish during his 2015 rookie season. There’s little depth in the backfield behind Peyton Barber, who has impressed Arians with the toughness he displayed on his 2018 tape.

Look for Tampa Bay to draft a running back, preferably one with dependable hands, one year after selecting rookie flop Ronald Jones in the second round.

Rookie View Of Jameis?

The biggest improvement has to come up front, where Donovan Smith, Ali Marpet and Ryan Jensen each boast lucrative contracts. The right side needs a major upgrade because tackle Demar Dotson turns 34 in October and Caleb Benenoch was routinely overwhelmed at guard.

A dynamic ground would ease Winston’s burden and help immensely in the red zone.

“If I’m a GM and I have a top young quarterback,” Arians said last year, “the first thing I’m investing in is the offensive line. Not receivers, not running backs. I want an offensive line that can protect this guy a little bit. And then try to run the football and let him learn to play third down.”

Arians was speaking specifically about rookie quarterbacks, but let’s acknowledge that Winston, saddled with a 21-33 record, still has much to prove on the pro level.

The Bucs averaged only 9 rushing touchdowns per season during Koetter’s 3-year run and they’ve gone two years without a 40-yard carry.

When the field constricts, you need toughness as much as you need skill. That’s when you impose your will on your opponent with physicality. That’s when your badass persona emerges.

We haven’t seen enough of that fortitude in Tampa. Not even close.

While Arians was coaching in the desert, the 2015 Cardinals posted 16 rushing TDs, then followed with 20 scores on the ground the next season. He is pining for the kind of balance the 2015 Bucs showed while Koetter was the offensive coordinator. That’s the last time opposing defenses respected Winston’s play-action, with Tampa Bay boasting the league’s No. 5 rushing attack.

It would also be surprising if the Bucs don’t draft a guard to compete with Earl Watford for a starting spot. Watford, who signed a one-year deal with the Bucs last month, played 42 games for Arians in Arizona.

“Run blocking is fun, I’m not going to lie,” Watford said in 2016. “That’s probably the best thing about football, just running the ball.”

The 2019 Bucs need to have more fun, and so do their long-suffering fans. It starts with better defense, but it shouldn’t end there. This offense needs to be more grounded, particularly in the red zone.

Less interceptions, fewer sacks.

More fun..


13 Responses to “Red Zone Fix & A Rookie View Of Jameis”

  1. Lord Cornelius Says:

    In general over his offenses since 2012, Dirk Koetter has only one season (2015) not having a bottom 24-32 ranked rushing team.

    We still sucked in the red zone somehow though. 5th in yards / 20th in scoring.

    That’s a Dirk Koetter phenomenon as well throughout his career

  2. Arian Nation Says:

    Darrell Henderson had 22 rushing TD’s (#1 in NCAA) last year and has had a couple 82 yard runs at Memphis. Sounds like a solution to the problem without spending too much draft capital (3rd round).

    Today I’ve learned that the Bucs have met with DH twice, once at the combine and another at his pro day.

    DH in the 3rd leaves the 2nd round pick for a RG like Lindstrom.

  3. Defense Rules Says:

    It amazes me how the Saints improved their rushing attack so much by adding Alvin Kamara to nicely ‘complement’ their bull RB Mark Ingram. In 2016 the 7-9 Saints had the #16 rushing offense (Yardage) and 17 rushing TDs. When they drafted Kamara in 2017, their rushing attack improved to #5 (Yardage) and 23 TDs, as did their record (11-5 & playoffs). Then in 2018 it slid a tad to #7 rushing (Yardage) but their TDs increased to 26.

    Agree wholeheartedly with fixing the OLine (especially RG) but the Bucs NEED a back like Kamara or McCaffrey to complement Barber. RoJo MIGHT turn out to be that guy, but IMO the Bucs would be foolish to count on that.

  4. Lord Cornelius Says:


    We definitely need a pass catching RB that can break big gains until someone proves we have that on the roster i.e. Rojo. Just not sure I’d spend a top 2-3 round pick on that.

    The Saints 2017 rushing totals and general improvement are also related to a few other factors:

    1. Their defense was 31st in scoring in 2016 / 27th in yards, and improved to 10th in scoring / 17th in yards

    2. They drafted Ryan Ramzcheck in R1 and he was an instant stud and rounded out what was a top 5 O-line.

    Give the Bucs a top 10 scoring defense and top 5 o-line any of the last 4 years and we are a playoff team too.

    I think we both agree on the TEAM aspect of the NFL being the key to any successful team. We can’t completely suck at one area and be competitive (i.e. defense / run game / turnovers / special teams / penalties / etc). Even if we see different priority needs or different opinions on the relative talent vs coaching, the bottom line is we need to field a whole team.

    Drew Brees = a 3 consecutive seasons loser when he had to deal with a bottom 5 defense.

    Not sure why we’d expect Jameis WInston to do better than a HOFer.

    GO BUCS!

  5. Loyaltotheend Section 312 Says:

    Careful Sage, you might be labeled a Jameis hater by using logic to describe his record

  6. unbelievable Says:

    Tampa Bay led the NFL in passing yards last season. Who cares?

    This is the exact point I made a few days ago!

    Yards are meaningless if you’re not scoring 7 points at the end of the drive.

  7. DB55 Says:

    If im not mistaken JW 3rd down conv % is pretty high so at least he’s got that.

  8. Loyaltotheend Section 312 Says:

    Only way to get into position to score is by gaining yards so the notion yards is meaningless is borderline moronic

  9. 813bucboi Says:


    the saints improved their run game by spending 2 first round picks on peat and ramczyk….kamara was the last missing piece and just the icing on the cake…..

    their defense improved by drafting rankings and davenport in the first rounds……

    they also drafted a LB in the 1st round because they thought they needed a “GENERAL” on the field in stephone anthony…..but they realized the front 4 makes the back 7 look great….

    PS, that 1st round LB they drafted is now out of the league…..

    stock pile the trenches……

    draft ed oliver….


  10. Defense Rules Says:

    @Lord C … “the bottom line is we need to field a whole team”. Yea verily. The ‘weak links’ become obvious over time, although one weak position group (say DLine) can certainly make others (say Secondary) look worse than they really are … and vice versa.

    813bucboi … “kamara was the last missing piece and just the icing on the cake”. Yes he was the last ‘missing piece bucboi, but his unique skillset perfectly complemented what Mark Ingram brought to the table. IOW, he was the RIGHT ‘missing piece”. RoJo COULD HAVE been that for the Bucs (complementary skillset to Peyton Barber), but alas, he wasn’t. Would definitely like to see the Bucs draft a RB with talent like Kamara this year. Right now, a RB stable consisting of Barber, RoJo, Ellington & Wilson scares the daylights out of … oh ya, NO ONE. And what happens IF Barber goes down (not that injuries to RBs ever happen of course).

  11. Ndog Says:


  12. Bob in Valrico Says:

    Totally agree we need that special RB to complement Barber. Running game was too predictable because Benonoch struggled and Dotson at this stage of his career is more of a stationary pass blocker. So it seemed like most of the runs
    went to left side. At minimum we need a quality right guard, but a smart GM should be ready to replace Dotson because he could succumb to injury at any time.

  13. JameisAlmighty! Says:

    Brilliant piece Irahhhhhh! Now write one on why the Bucs need to fire Licht.