3 Ways Buccaneers Can Get Back on Track After 2 Straight Losses
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers enter the second quarter of the 2022 NFL season off two disappointing losses to the Green Bay Packers and Kansas City Chiefs.
Each loss had its own characteristics that should frustrate Todd Bowles and his coaching staff.
Green Bay ground out a 14-12 win, and Kansas City surged out in front early on its way to a 41-31 victory.
Two things have gotten progressively worse from the Week 1 win over the Dallas Cowboys to Week 4. The lack of a rushing game and a high concession of total yards plagued the Bucs in their two defeats.
The schedule gets a bit easier in the next few weeks with the Atlanta Falcons, Pittsburgh Steelers and Carolina Panthers in Weeks 5-7. A strong three-game stretch is needed so that the Bucs can take advantage of a three-game home stand against the Baltimore Ravens, Los Angeles Rams and Seattle Seahawks from Weeks 8-10.
Tampa Bay has a ton of veteran players who can help with a turnaround, but there is also one rookie who should receive more time on the field so that the Tom Brady-led offense can function at its best.
Get Back to Balanced Offensive Approach
The Buccaneers abandoned the rushing game in Sunday's loss to Kansas City.
They totaled three whole rushing yards on six attempts. Leonard Fournette had -3 rushing yards. Rachaad White's six rushing yards moved the total back into positive territory.
Tampa Bay started the season with 152 rushing yards against the Cowboys, and that number has gone down in every contest since then.
Fournette and Co. gained 72 yards against the New Orleans Saints in Week 2 and 34 yards versus the Green Bay Packers in Week 3.
Tom Brady can do it all on a few drives throughout a game, but he can't be the sole generator of offense over four quarters, especially with a banged-up wide receiver group.
Good news should be on the horizon for the Bucs ground game. Atlanta, Pittsburgh and Carolina all rank in the top 12 of rushing yards allowed in the NFL, per Pro Football Reference.
The potential situations in those games could also allow Fournette, and even White, to get into a rhythm. The Bucs could be ahead by multiple scores and look to slow the game down against Marcus Mariota, Kenny Pickett and Baker Mayfield, respectively.
Brady should look to get the running backs more involved as a whole in the offense. Fournette is the known quantity at the position, but he could use White more in a role that other backups and role players have excelled in with Brady in the past.
Get Rachaad White More Involved
Rachaad White could fill the one role in a Brady-led offense that the Bucs have lacked in his three seasons as the team's quarterback.
Brady loved throwing to strong pass-catchers out of the backfield during his time with the New England Patriots. James White made a career out of being Brady's most reliable pass-catcher out of the backfield.
The backup running backs in Tampa Bay have not been major assets in the passing game since Brady arrived. Fournette led the running backs in receiving yards in each of the last two seasons. Ronald Jones, LeSean McCoy and Giovani Bernard all had fewer than 200 receiving yards in 2020 and 2021.
In Brady's final New England season, White and Rex Burkhead were second and sixth on the team's receiving yard chart, respectively. White had over 400 receiving yards in five straight seasons with Brady as his quarterback.
White was deployed in that role on Sunday, and he came away with five catches for 50 yards. His continued development as a pass-catcher would take some of the offensive load off Fournette and add another dimension to Tampa Bay's aerial attack.
Of course, Brady did not have a loaded wide receiver room with Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and Julio Jones in New England, so his reliance on the running backs was imperative to stretch the field.
Brady could work the rookie out of Arizona State into that role to add an extra component to the passing game. White stepped up even more after Cameron Brate went down with a concussion in Week 4.
White can be more productive on the ground, and he needs to be to allow Fournette some time to rest. Fournette played over 75 percent of the offensive snaps in the first three weeks.
If White builds on his Week 4 performance, the Bucs could enter the postseason with two strong backs and have a succession plan in place for Fournette for the years to come.
End Defensive Slide
Tampa Bay deserves a bit of a pass for conceding a high yardage total to Aaron Rodgers and Patrick Mahomes.
Rodgers led the Packers to 315 total yards in Week 3, while Mahomes and the Chiefs gashed the Bucs for 417 total yards in Week 4.
The two concessions can be excused if the Bucs turn in a strong performance against the Falcons on Sunday.
That has a strong possibility of happening since the Falcons represent a large downgrade at quarterback from Tampa Bay's last two opponents.
Tampa Bay still needs to show it can post low defensive totals over the next few weeks, and if it does not, there could be concerns about that unit going into the second half of the season.
The lighter schedule certainly helps the Bucs in that department, but the unit should have a long-term view when making its improvements over the next few weeks.
Holding Atlanta, Pittsburgh and Carolina to under 20 points is expected, and if that occurs, the defense can build on those performances for when it has to face the Ravens and Rams in two of the team's most important remaining games in Weeks 8 and 9.
All of Tampa Bay's problems could be solved by a winning streak, but it is the way in which the team wins that will be impressive, not the final score against three weaker opponents.