The Tampa Bay Buccaneers look up from a two-game hole in the NFC South, but have bigger problems to address.
The Bucs are having trouble moving the football. With the 31st-ranked pass offense and the 21st-ranked run offense, something has to be adjusted (more on that later).
On defense, there’s great and terrible. Tampa Bay is best against the run in the NFL, but worst playing against the pass. What a dichotomy.
There’s lots to fix Sunday when the Buccaneers host the Washington Redskins, but remember that home is helpful for this team, even if the greater Tampa area won’t get to see the game because of the impending blackout. Tampa Bay’s sole win came at home, the team is 0-2 on the road.
Here’s how the Tampa Bay Buccaneers need to draw up a game plan for the Redskins.
Make RGIII Run
That may sound like a ludicrous idea, but it’s sound. Trust me.
How can it possibly be a good idea to let one of the fastest men on the field run the ball? How can it be a prudent to let last year’s Heisman Trophy winner take matters into his own hands, and feet?
Robert Griffin III leads all NFL quarterbacks with three rushing touchdowns and has averaged 6.5 yards per carry this season. But letting him run the ball is the best idea for the Bucs for one simple reason.
RGIII might hurt the Buccaneers with his feet, but he’ll decimate the team with his arm.
Tampa Bay has the league’s best run defense after three games. Its pass defense is dead last. And that’s what the Buccaneers will be if they let Griffin throw the ball with frequency—dead.
Cam Newton put up 303 yards on the Tampa Bay defense. Eli Manning torched it for 510 yards, and Tony Romo had an off day and still passed for 283 yards. It doesn’t seem possible that the Bucs can stop opposing passers.
It sounds crazy, but if Griffin ran the ball more than he threw it Sunday, Tampa Bay would be better off.
Let Josh Freeman Throw
As it stands right now, Josh Freeman ranks 29th in the league with just 80 pass attempts. He’s not making it easy on new head coach Greg Schiano to put more faith in the young passer by completing just 51.3 percent of his passes, but that’s just what Freeman needs.
The Buccaneers went out in the offseason and brought in wide receiver Vincent Jackson. The move gave Freeman an huge target to throw towards, but the trickle-down effect could be even greater.
Moving Mike Williams over to the opposite side of Jackson not only pairs him with the lesser of two cover corners on the opposing team, but ensures that defenses won’t double-cover Williams with any regularity.
The problem is, Freeman’s not getting to play with his shiny new toy. Jackson has just 10 receptions, Williams seven.
Everyone knew that Schiano was going to be a heavy run-oriented kind of coach, but not giving Freeman the opportunity to bounce back from a poor showing last season seems short sighted. Especially since the team spent the money on Jackson.
Washington brings to town the 31st-ranked pass defense in the league. What better time to unleash Freeman than against a porous secondary?
Change the way Tampa Bay Runs
Rookie Doug Martin has just one touchdown through three games and is averaging 3.4 yards per carry. That’s not exactly how the Bucs envisioned Martin succeeding in 2012.
Since Martin isn’t setting the world on fire, you’d think Schiano would look for ways to help the young runner out. That news came with the Tampa Bay Times announcement that Schiano would start using LeGarrette Blount more in the offense.
"I think LeGarrette, we need to get him more involved, but I'm not going to make any changes the way we're doing it, just give him a little more action," Schiano said. "There was the whole thing with the injury and then we weren't sure what it was, and it kind of threw things into flux a little bit. I think he's practicing very well now and he's ready to go, so I think we'll have a good 1-2 punch like we envisioned early on. That's what my hope is."
Blount has just seven carries this year but showed against Dallas that he has a burst than can be productive.
The one-two punch Schiano was thinking of might have a different look than expected. Both Blount and Martin have had success running to the outside. Martin has been beaten up running between the tackles. You might see Blount get the majority of his carries being the punching bag between the tackles so Martin can bounce outside.
If Blount can hold on to the football—his propensity to fumbles could make this a short-lived experiment—Schiano’s one-two running back punch could help get Tampa Bay on the winning track.