5 Adjustments Tampa Bay Buccaneers Must Make in Week 2 Matchup with Saints

Luke Easterling@@LukeEasterlingCorrespondent ISeptember 15, 2015

5 Adjustments Tampa Bay Buccaneers Must Make in Week 2 Matchup with Saints

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    Cliff McBride/Getty Images

    It was just one game, right?

    That's what Tampa Bay Buccaneers fans will try to keep repeating to themselves over the next few days after they watched their beloved Pewter Pirates get demolished by the Tennessee Titans 42-14 on Sunday.

    The team's regular-season opener was supposed to be the dawning of a new era, with top overall draft pick Jameis Winston bringing the Bucs back to the glory days of the early 2000s. Instead, he was overshadowed by a masterful performance from fellow rookie Marcus Mariota, as the Bucs were outcoached, outplayed and outclassed in every way on their way to a 10th consecutive home loss.

    This week, the Bucs will have a chance to bounce back, but they'll have to do it on the road against a division foe in the New Orleans Saints that has given them plenty of trouble in recent memory.

    Here are five adjustments Tampa Bay needs to make if it wants to take a step toward righting the ship.

Set Winston Up for Success with Quicker Throws

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    Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    In his NFL debut, Jameis Winston certainly made a few costly mistakes, beginning with a pick-six on his first pass attempt. He would later throw another ill-advised interception on a screen pass, setting up a short field for the Titans that led to yet another touchdown just before the half.

    But Winston was bound to play like a rookie to some degree, and his supporting cast did little to set him up for success.

    The offensive line was porous, his receivers couldn't separate and too many play calls were for long-developing routes. The defense let the lead get out of hand early, forcing Winston and the passing game to try and overcompensate.

    This week, the Bucs simply must adjust their game plan to accentuate Winston's strengths and hide both his and the offense's weaknesses. That starts with getting the ball out of his hands quick, and he should be helped by the return of wide receiver Mike Evans, who missed Sunday's loss with a hamstring injury.

Make Up for Lack of Pass Rush with More Blitzes

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    Brian Blanco/Associated Press

    One of the biggest reasons Marcus Mariota was able to shred the Tampa Bay defense for three quarters—before enjoying an Oregon-esque benching—was due to a continued lack of a consistent pass rush from the Bucs' front four.

    Aside from a meaningless sack in garbage time in Sunday's blowout loss to the Titans, the Bucs managed to bring down Mariota just once, giving him a squeaky-clean pocket for most of the afternoon and allowing him plenty of time to pick apart a weak Tampa Bay secondary.

    If they want any chance of not being shredded on the road by Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints this week, the Bucs will have to recognize their inability to create pressure with just four rushers and bring plenty of blitz packages to try and disrupt the pocket. If they do what they did against Mariota and leave Brees that much time to throw, it's going to be another long afternoon for Bucs fans.

Stay Committed to the Run Game in the 2nd Half, Regardless of the Score

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    Cliff McBride/Getty Images

    One of the few bright spots for Tampa Bay was the continued resurgence of Doug Martin, who was effective in the ground game despite a lackluster performance from the offensive line.

    But despite a solid first half on the ground, Martin was given just three carries in the second half, ending the game with a team-high 52 yards rushing on 11 carries.

    The Bucs were obviously in a huge 35-7 hole coming out of the locker room for the third quarter, but the worst thing a team can do for a struggling rookie quarterback is abandon the running game and allow the opposing defense to pin its ears back and know the pass is coming nearly every down.

    Continuing to feed Martin could have kept the Titans more honest on defense, opening up more opportunities for Winston in the passing game. It wouldn't have made a difference in the win column, but it could have helped the offense be more effective by keeping things balanced and forcing the Titans to respect the running game.

Intense Focus on Reducing Penalties

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    Cliff McBride/Getty Images

    One aspect of football that comes straight back to the coaching staff is penalties, and the Bucs had a laundry list of infractions on Sunday that cost them big chunks of yardage and hurt them on both sides of the ball.

    The Bucs racked up 97 yards on 12 penalties against the Titans, from debilitating pass interference calls to fundamental errors such as illegal formations and false starts. Holding calls backed up offensive possessions before they had even begun, making life even more difficult for Winston.

    If the Bucs want any chance of improving as the season moves forward, they'll need to put a clear emphasis on cutting down on the amount of unforced mental errors that are costing them yardage and opportunities they can't afford to lose.

Keep Looking for Ways to Improve Roster Needs

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    Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press

    The Bucs have plenty of talent on their roster, but they still have a few areas of need that continue to cause huge problems, namely in the trenches on both sides of the ball.

    Free agents and draft picks have brought plenty of new faces to Tampa Bay yet again this year, but the team clearly still has a need for an impact pass-rusher, as well as help along the offensive line. With the trade deadline still five weeks away, general manager Jason Licht should be pursuing all potential avenues to improve those particular areas.

    Protecting their new quarterback and being able to consistently disrupt their opponents should be the Bucs' top priority, and right now, they're the two things the Bucs are the worst at. If they don't find a way to improve—personnel or otherwise—Licht and his fellow decision-makers could easily be looking at another high draft pick in 2016.


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