“It Could Make All The Difference”

August 7th, 2019

Watch the Bucs-Steelers game Friday with Ira Kaufman at Buffalo Wild Wings in Wesley Chapel, just east of I-75. Ira will be passing out gift cards while supplies last.

Sage JoeBucsFan.com columnist

Run for your lives, gentlemen. Your professional lives.

The Bucs led the league in passing yards last season. Yes, more than the Chiefs and more than the Saints. And what did they get for all those yards? Another last-place finish in the NFC South.

An awful defense was surely a huge factor in a second consecutive 5-11 finish, but a stalled ground game continues to derail this franchise.

Nobody knows that better than Demar Dotson, the longest-tenured Buccaneer and a fixture at right tackle since 2012. Bruce Arians is the fifth head coach in Tampa during Dotson’s residence at One Buc
Place — the fifth head coach who has preached offensive balance.

Demar Dotson

This time will be different, Dotson vows. It has to be.

“I just know it’s going to be better,” he says of a run game that ranked 29th in 2018. “Obviously we’re going to throw the ball more than we’ll run it, that’s the strength of this offense. We know that. But we’re focused on the small details. We’ve heard everyone say the run game wasn’t good enough.

“It’s been drilled into us. We’ve heard enough of it, from the media right down to the coaches. Every guy across this offensive line has pride and we know we have to do better. It’s also the tight ends and receivers … everybody’s got a part in the run game.”

In this case, the numbers don’t lie.

They scream.

The Bucs are 0-11 in the past four years when they attempt 20 or fewer runs. They are 8-24 in that span with less than 100 rushing yards and 17-15 when they top 100 yards on the ground.

Friday Focus

This offense has been out of whack since 2015, when Doug Martin darted for 1,402 yards en route to the Pro Bowl. Arians has talked up Peyton Barber as a battering ram and Ronald Jones as a difference-maker, but nothing will change unless the blocking changes.

“When there’s four minutes left and you’re ahead, you want to run the ball when everyone knows you’re running it,” says Dotson. “That’s what wins football games in this league. We feel our offensive line is the backbone of this team. We’ve got to run better, no excuses about it. No ifs, ands and buts. And we’ve got to show it starting Friday in Pittsburgh.”

Even in this pass-happy era, an effective ground game still makes a difference. Drew Brees was putting up prolific numbers, even as the Saints slogged their way through three consecutive 7-9 seasons. Then a rookie back named Alvin Kamara came along in 2017 and the run game vaulted from 16th to fifth. If not for the Minnesota miracle, those Saints would have advanced to the NFC title game.

Like Dotson, Arians vows this offense will feature more balance. In retrospect, you’ve got to give Koetter credit for sticking with the run game for as long as he did last year. Only Arizona averaged less than Tampa Bay’s 3.9 yards per carry average, but 10 teams averaged less than Tampa Bay’s 24.3 rushing attempts.

To call the Buc running game plodding is to be kind. The longest run last season was 28 yards by Barber. Every other NFL club had a longer run. Only five runs went for 20 yards or more — again last in the league.

“We’ve heard all the critics, all the naysayers,” Dotson says. “We can’t go back and fix last year, but things have to change. A good ground game would mean everything. That’s going to open things up for the receivers and take a lot of pressure off Jameis.

“You don’t want him dropping back trying to throw 60 times, man, putting all that pressure on him. He’s got a lot on his plate already. If he can just hand it off and we can make 20 yards or 15 yards, that would take so much pressure off Jameis. It could make all the difference.”

11 Responses to ““It Could Make All The Difference””

  1. Dapostman Says:

    So a run game helps a QB?

    Who knew.

  2. AKickInTheBucNuts Says:

    Every year we hear this talk.

    Every year they fail to walk.

  3. Todd Says:

    Joe, you really do have an allergy to believing BA and his team of coaches may be a game changer…for the positive, don’t you? You’re completely living in the past. I just don’t get it.

    Your movie…and it’s a depressing one.

  4. DB55 Says:

    The first change that needs to happen is Demar needs to be sent packing. Dude has become a bum. Selfish, lazy and overpaid. Time to develop some tackles, right BA?

  5. Dirks Great Granpappy Says:

    I mean I wouldn’t ever consider Dotson selfish. Nor would I call him lazy or say he’s over paid at 4/5 mil or whatever his number is. He may be past his prime and may not have had the most ability but he’s been a true team player and isn’t a loafer.

  6. Defense Rules Says:

    It’s simple math: Bucs have averaged 65 plays/game over the last 4 years, of which 2 plays resulted in our QBs getting sacked (on average). We’ve averaged running the ball on 40% of those plays (26 run plays/game) & passed on the remaining 60% (39 pass plays/game minus the 2 sacks average). IF we run it 26 times a game & average the 3.9 YPR you mentioned Ira, that gives us 101 yds/game rushing. History says we’d win over half our games.

    Problem is that ‘simple math’ doesn’t always win football games. Certain teams, like the Bears last year, are great at shutting down the run. Forced a lot more teams to turn to the pass against them, and the Bucs were one of those. You do what you have to do to win.

    Fact still remains that in the last 2 years Bucs have only run the ball about 24.3 times per game, and sadly we weren’t very effective at that. Running the ball more wouldn’t have solved our problem (actually could’ve made it worse). Bucs simply have to be more effective when we do run the ball. We’ve averaged LESS than 5 first downs per game gained via the run. That’s sad. This year will be different … HOPEFULLY.

  7. Buc1987 Says:

    Todd…you crack me up all the time. One of my favorite posters.

  8. Sport Says:

    They (and we) know what needs to be done.

    I’m not as concerned about the run game performing well as most of you.

    For one, I believe our coaches and their system. Secondly, we have a very strong WR corps and TE group. Third, a nicely improved defense will help keep us from having to come back from 2 scores (or more). Fourth, they have also been working hard on finishing drives. Fifth, an improved FG unit will contribute 2-3 more wins easily.

    In BA I Trust!

  9. jjbucfan Says:

    Another difference could be when the teams know you are gonna run and you get 3 on first, 3 or 4 on second and on 3rd and 3 when there are 9 in the box and your new coach has the balls to play action, move your QB outside the pocket (run/pass option) and step on your opponents neck by either running for the first or dumping a pass to the TE for a first down, not just running up the middle and getting stuffed for a 2 yard loss and punting and forcing one of the worst defenses in NFL history to make a stop.

  10. sincethebeginning Says:

    Great insight, Ira, as always. Thanks!

    I got to say, I like Demar Dotson in his interviews, and he’s really fun to listen to – smart and funny and talks it up real good. Would love to see his production match his mouth. I honestly do like him as a player, just worried about his age and desire.

    And let’s all just recognize here for a moment that it is really great to see evidence that the offensive line understands the criticism and wants wants to do something about it. That does matter. Lets hope words become deeds.

    GO BUCS!!!

  11. Clw JB Says:

    I believe the passing game to the running backs on play action is what we have been sorely missing – the controlled passing game against run stingy D’s is the key to balance and opens the running lanes inside and outside – Dirk’s O had very little of this, he preferred the WR bubble screen to Hump in the short game and middle screens to Rodgers

    There are games where we can smash mouth run against smaller D lines, and games where we have to use draws, screens and play-action to create running lanes against Bear’s type attacking D’s (and now OURS!)

    There will be a major difference of coaching acumen with regard to game-planning and in-game adjustments – a night and day difference from the trash we have been exposed to for the past several years