Clear Priorities For The Offense

May 19th, 2023

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After helping Todd Bowles choose a new quarterback for 2023, Dave Canales can get down to work.

The first order of business? Addressing two areas of weakness that sapped the life out of a once-potent offense.

The Bucs struggled on third down and in the red zone last year, despite Tom Brady taking virtually every snap. The absence of Rob Gronkowski was an obvious factor on both fronts and now Canales faces the challenge of keeping the chains moving and capping off drives with touchdowns instead of field goals.

It’s a tall order, considering neither Baker Mayfield nor Kyle Trask has a history of NFL success in these two sectors.

In 2021, Brady’s attack ranked No. 2 in the league, converting third downs at a 47.1 percent clip. That was a sharp uptick from 2020 (43.5 percent) and the 41.5 percent conversion rate under Jameis Winston in 2019.

Things changed on the money down.

But when Gronkowski departed, he took Tampa Bay’s third-down success with him. The Bucs just went busted on the money down, finishing 21st in the league with a 37.4 percent success rate.

Drilling down on the numbers, the 2022 Bucs faced 23 more third-down situations than the previous season, yet finished with 13 fewer conversions.

Third-down efficiency was a key NFL metric last season. The top six clubs in handling the money down — Buffalo, Kansas City, Cincinnati, Philadelphia, Dallas and San Francisco — all made the postseason.

The bottom eight paid a heavy price for their failures.

The Broncos, Texans, Panthers, Colts, Jets, Patriots, Commanders and Cardinals combined for a 46-87-3 record. None of these bottom feeders made the playoffs and none boasted a winning record.

What happened?

Tampa Bay got so little from its ground game that the 2022 Bucs were constantly behind the sticks. Facing 3rd-and-7 is a lot different than 3rd-and-3 in terms of utilizing your entire playbook and keeping defenses honest.

There’s no great secret why the Chiefs converted 49 percent of their third-down opportunities last season. Patrick Mahomes is money on the money down, completing 63 percent of his throws, averaging a whopping 9.4 yards per pass attempt and posting a QB rating of 109.8.

A Baker Weakness; A Brady Weakness

Through his 72-game career, Mayfield’s completion rate on third down is 56 percent, with 26 TD passes, 24 interceptions and a pedestrian QB rating of 73.2.

Tampa Bay’s red-zone woes also contributed significantly to an 8-10 record and a plodding offense.

From 2019-2021, the Bucs ranked fourth, seventh and second when it came to scoring touchdowns deep in enemy territory. That strength became a weakness last year as Tampa Bay finished at No. 22. Only 26 of 50 ventures into the red zone resulted in TDs, with Gronkowski’s retirement once again a prominent factor.

If the Bucs can upgrade their efficiency on third down and in the red zone, the days of averaging a mere 18 points should be history.

Bucs can’t get much worse than Tom Brady in one area.

Here’s one more job for Mr. Canales:

Brady’s dink-and-dunk passing game didn’t work in 2022. In his frantic efforts to avoid being hit, Brady threw early and he threw short. His average of 9.6 yards per completion ranked No. 32 among quarterbacks, just below Steelers rookie Kenny Pickett.

The Bucs averaged 11.0 yards per completion in 2021 and 11.6 yards in 2020. Before Brady came along, Jameis Winston averaged 13.4 yards per completion in 2019, second in the league behind Ryan Tannehill.

The problem that year was Winston also threw 30 completions to the opposition — the most by an NFL quarterback since Vinny Testaverde was picked off 35 times in 1988.

Canales has plenty on his plate, but his focus should be on the meat and potatoes. Moving the chains and cashing in near the goalline are priorities. A better run game would make those third-down situations more manageable.

Like Mike Tyson famously said, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”

It’s time for the Bucs to punch back.

21 Responses to “Clear Priorities For The Offense”

  1. Biff Barker Says:

    The line was so disgustingly poor, Brady couldn’t even dink and dunk. Not even Gronk could help.

    Godwin, Evans, Gage were good enough to move the chains.

    Zone blocking now?

  2. K2 Says:

    Great article Ira…and right on target. We will probably see what percentage of problem resulted from Byron’s play calling. Hopefully, Dave Canales won’t run the ball into the center of the line for a 1/2 yard gain on all 1st downs.

  3. William Walls Says:

    “…the 2022 Bucs faced 23 more third-down situations than the previous season, yet finished with 13 fewer conversions.”

    That says to me that the offense was fairly putrid on 1st and 2nd downs, too.

  4. William Walls Says:

    What gives me hope is that we’re not trying to get better performance out of the same offensive scheme.

  5. Marine Buc Says:

    I hope the Bucs are able to add another solid veteran running back before training camp starts.

    If Baker Mayfield is going to succeed he will need to have a better running game than we had last year.

    Our running back room currently:

    – White
    – Edwards
    – Vaughn
    – Laird
    – S. Tucker

    Seems pretty weak to me for a team looking to run the ball more… Especially given the uncertain status of S. Tucker.

  6. Doughboy Says:

    Why give Gronkowski all the credit? Shirtless Antonio Brown was as big or bigger factor and the Bucs haven’t found another like him.

  7. Tampabaybucfan Says:

    Laying it out nicely for us, Ira.

    Bucs need to get more out of their running game for sure……need better playcalling…..and hit Evans in the red zone.

    Let’s face it….>Brady just wasn’t that good last year……the drop off to Mayfield won’t be much if at all.

  8. Tampabaybucfan Says:

    Marine Buc


  9. HC Grover Says:

    If anyone thinks Maytrask will be better than The GOAT I have nice bridge for sale.

  10. Brandon Says:

    Ahh, so we’re finally admitting that it was Brady’s dink and dunk offense? Five of our top six of our top receivers AVERAGED less than 10 yards per catch.

    Godwin 9.8
    Evans 14.6
    Fournette 7.2
    Gage 8.4
    White 5.8
    Otton 9.3
    Jones 12.5
    Miller 8.0
    Brate 8.7

    This is pathetic … and considering Brady had the lowest sack percentage in the league for his second straight year (only two years of his career he led the league) and his 2.9% was the second best mark of his career (he was sacked at a 4.5% rate with Patriots), you can’t blame the line entirely.

    But look at the numbers. Of the top nine receivers, only TWO averaged over TEN yards per catch. Gage’s 8.4 and Miller’s 8.0 are pathetic… and also not their fault. Most of their yards came AFTER the catch. The culprit was the QB that had lost his nerve when Gisele took it from him in the divorce settlement.

    Mayfield will be a clear upgrade over Brady. Sorry … but a 45 year old Brady wasn’t close to being good.

  11. Marine Buc Says:

    @ TBBF

    You are correct. My bad.

    Still seems like a pretty weak RB room to me. I wouldn’t mind the Bucs adding Cook (if available) or K. Hunt – after they restructure Mike Evans.

    Zeke Elliot is also still available but he would be my last choice. New RBs coach Skip Peete might have something to say about that…

  12. Dooley Says:

    1.) Protect the football, in our first 10 games before our week 11 bye we turned the ball over 9 times. Post-bye it got worse, in our final 7 games turning the ball over 13 times. Can’t max out point production when you’re ending drives with giveaways.

    2.) Demand/Set the standard for a heightened level of execution from our offensive compared to 2022. Blame Leftwich, Blame Bowles, Blame the OL or whomever you want, but remember every guy that plays a snap has job responsibilities and it’s gone undermentioned how poor our collective effort was on offense not just a drive or two, but really long stretches of quarter/halves with minimal point production in games. Blame whoever, idc but from OC to QB to the RBs to our WRs hell, even our upback blew a play that helped decide a game against us everybody needs to be together and sharp on the field of play more often than this aloof “which way did he go” level of execution we saw last season.

    3.) Find our comfort level in terms of a fielding a balanced attack, if that takes running the ball more or actually having a desire to establish the running then fine, but the days of 40-50 pass attempts in a game w/less than 20 points on the board or 300 yards through the air should be done and over with. 3:1 pass-run ratio ain’t gonna cut it for us with the QB talent on hand.

    4.) Give Jake Camarda a break! We tied for 6th with the Patriots for most punts in 2022 with 79 which is an average of 4.69 punts per game. That’s one less punt per game than the leader in punt attempts which is the Denver Broncos with 96 punts in 17

    Outside of that, finding a way to work rhythm into the scheme, doing the work executing on 1st & 2nd down to limit our exposure to 3rd and unreasonable just by making plays towards the sticks. I’m confident in Canales tbh with you. Confident in the enviornment we plucked him out of, the players he’s developed with the results they’ve garnered and the fact he’s brought an air of energy I don’t think has been at 1Buc since PJ Fleck was coaching our WRs. I’m looking at the David Moore pick up as a steal, I think we get a few of our 2nd & 3rd year players to step up in a big way.

  13. CrackWise Says:

    Enjoyed reading that post Dooley, thanks!

  14. HC Grover Says:

    Poor Jake. He will have to score 35 a game. HC/DC Superbowles game plans will dictate 35 for a win. If Jake gets a lead it will begone to start the 4th qtr 10 behind.

  15. Alanbucsfan Says:

    Ryan Jenson’s health will, once again, be key to offense.

  16. ATLBuc Says:

    Trask: 71% third-down completion rate, 95.5 raw QBR on third down, 70% red zone completion rate, 91.9 raw QBR in red zone

  17. Defense Rules Says:

    Excellent analysis Dooley. No question in my mind that there’s lots involved in making this thing work, but in the final analysis I’m still of the opinion that it comes down to whooping the guy you’re assigned to. Doesn’t matter whether it’s run blocking or pass blocking, you’ve gotta win the one-on-one battles to be successful. We simply didn’t do that often enough last year.

  18. Geno711 Says:

    @ATLBuc Says:
    May 19th, 2023 at 1:33 pm
    Trask: 71% third-down completion rate, 95.5 raw QBR on third down, 70% red zone completion rate, 91.9 raw QBR in red zone

    What is the source for your numbers.

    I see Trask at 209 of 326 passes completed on 3rd down which is 63.9% completion rate. I probably question the QBR rates more.

  19. Geno711 Says:

    64.1% completion rate

  20. Duane Says:

    As usual, too many people act and think like an NFL offense begins and ends with the quarterback, giving him way too much credit when the offense is productive and way too much blame when the offense is not productive.

    Most of the NFL is about blocking and tackling, what happens in the front of both the offense and the defense. If a team has a terrible offensive line, the offense is going to be mediocre at best … that’s what happened last season, with a great quarterback and great receivers hampered by a terrible offensive line that could neither pass block nor run block. As pointed out, Brady compensated by getting rid of the ball faster than every other quarterback in the league, and faster than he ever did in his career before. TB 12 was literally running and passing for his life.

    The running backs could never find any holes to penetrate, such that the running game was so non-productive that we ended up passing nearly every down by the end of the first half, if not sooner.

    Fix the offensive line, which is entirely doable with the talent now on the rosters. The running backs will perform better, and the quarterback will have a shot at properly reading the defenses, finding the open man, and having time to make a good throw. An average or mediocre quarterback playing behind a great offensive line with great skill players to get the ball to is going to produce a lot of wins, as long as he takes good care of the ball.

    All of that is achievable, which is why predictions of vying for the no. 1 overall draft pick next April is bull sheet.

  21. Mike C Says:

    What happened last year was a OC that the rest of the league had figured out.