For one of the rare times this season, all three state NFL teams are in action on Sunday early and one of them very early.
First stop, the Buccaneers rematch the Panthers. This time in London at the newly rebuilt Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
— Carmen Vitali (@CarmieV) October 13, 2019
The Bucs come off of a tough loss 31-24 in New Orleans last week, but do have a win in week two at Carolina 20-14.
In that game, Tampa Bay’s defense took advantage of an injured quarterback Cam Newton and also stuffed running back Christian McCaffrey on their way to a division road win. Newton has been replaced the last three weeks by backup Kyle Allen and he has lead them to three consecutive victories, including road wins at Arizona and Houston.
Meanwhile, Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston (photo above) will try to ignite his connection with receiver Mike Evans, the Pro Bowler was held without a catch in last week’s loss at the Superdome.
Next up, the Jaguars will host those Saints at TIAA Bank Field. Jacksonville has performed well with rookie 6th round pick quarterback Gardner Minshew leading them That includes a week ago in Charlotte, as Minshew threw for two more touchdowns in a narrow 34-27 loss to the Panthers. Minshew is 2-2 in his starts.
Also, third year running back Leonard Fournette has rounded into form with back-to-back good games including over 100 yards and his first touchdown of the season in a loss to the Panthers.
The Saints come in with three consecutive victories under backup quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, who riddled the Buccaneers for four touchdowns last week. The Saints top target is wide receiver Michael Thomas and it’s unknown, whether Jaguars football defensive back Jalen Ramsey will be healthy enough/active to cover him in this game.
Finally, in Miami it’s a pair of winless teams, as the 0-5 Redskins visit the 0-4 Dolphins. Washington fired their coach Jay Gruden earlier in the week and replaced him with veteran assistant and former Raiders head coach, Bill Callahan.
Meanwhile, first-year coach Brian Flores and the Fins come out of a bye week with a chance at extra preparation in looking for their first win of the season. Flores maintained this week that second-year quarterback Josh Rosen has the starting job, not just for now, but for the foreseeable future.
In their last game two weeks ago, Rosen led a touchdown drive that actually gave Miami their first and only leader of the season at 10-6 against the Chargers However, L.A outplayed them in the second half to keep Miami without a victory.
Both of these teams have looked poor through much of the first part of the year, but one of them will get to celebrate, at least in the short term, with a Sunday win.
Bucs QB Winston practiced Wednesday despite ankle sprain
Embattled Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston suffered a sprained ankle near the end of Sunday’s 34 – 17 loss to the Saints. However, when the Buccaneers took the field Wednesday for the first meaningful practice for their upcoming game with the Falcons this week, Winston was able to give it a full go.
Bruce Arians says QB Jameis Winston (ankle) was a full participant in practice today. However, OLB Jason Pierre-Paul (knee) did not participate.
— Scott Smith (@ScottSBucs) November 20, 2019
Winston was injured when Saints defensive end Trey Hendrickson fell on his left leg in the fourth quarter Sunday, but limped around and stayed in the game. He subsequently threw an interception to New Orleans defensive back Marcus Williams on the next play. Williams ran it in for a touchdown with Winston hobbling towards him as he raced down the sideline.
Winston never came out of the game on the final two possessions, although Arians said postgame that he had considered putting little used backup Ryan Griffin in with the margin 34 – 17 and Winston ailing.
It’s no secret that Winston is fighting for his Tampa Bay future, as the Bucs have floundered to a 3 – 7 start, and he leads the NFL with 18 interceptions. And, as we also pointed out on Sunday Tampa Bay is now 7 – 22 in their last 29 games that Winston has started over the last three seasons.
None of those numbers bode well for him receiving a long-term contract.
As for Griffin, he has been a star in each of the last two pre-seasons and is the only viable Buccaneer backup at the moment. Tampa Bay lost veteran Blaine Gabbert to a left shoulder injury in preseason and he has been placed on season-ending injured reserve.
Although Winston is expected to play out much of the remaining six games, if Tampa Bay looks bad/losses Sunday in Atlanta to drop to 3 – 9, there may be more growing sentiment to give Griffin a look to see if he is potentially someone that could quarterback the team in the future.
Should Bruce Arians take over Bucs play calling?
As the Bucs get ready to battle another NFC South opponent on the road Sunday, their overall struggles have dropped them to a 3 – 7 record. And while their pass defense is the worst in the NFL, increasing criticism is growing of their offense and specifically, play-calling. And that’s where head coach, Bruce Arians, may come into play.
For the first time in his NFL career, since he became a play-calling offensive coordinator and then a head coach, Arians has given way on the play-calling on game day this season to offensive coordinator, Byron Leftwich.
Now on the surface, the Buccaneers have been scoring a bunch of points. In fact they are seventh in the NFL at 27.7 ppg and have scored at least 23 points or more in every game since week two.
However, a deeper examination shows that the Buccaneers are lacking seriously in balance on offense. That includes Sunday against the Saints, where they only ran the ball eight total times and just six times from their running backs.
This included a first-quarter, where the Bucs only possessed the ball twice and ran a total of 5 plays, as they fell behind New Orleans 13 – 0. Then, as the Saints lead grew to 20 – 0, obviously, the Bucs were going to become much more of a passing team to try to get back in the game.
But, even when they did get a touchdown and then eventually a third-quarter field goal to cut the lead to 20-10, Leftwich did not mix in run plays, as the second half unfolded.
Yes, the Buccaneers used screen passes to Ronald Jones and also receiver Scotty Miller to try to offset the Saints pass rush, but the lack of commitment to the run was glaring Sunday. And the other component is: this nullified any play-action threat from the Buccaneers, which they’ve had success earlier in this season.
Since Jones became the starting running back four games ago, he’s only carried the ball more than 11 times in one game, and that was 18 carries in the 40-34 OT loss at Seattle three weeks ago. He carried four times Sunday.
As for Leftwich, he did call the plays for second half of last season in Arizona and has been very familiar with Arians’ offense. This is because he previously played with Arians and Ben Roethlisberger in the same offense in Pittsburgh.
Still, when you’re the guy responsible not only for the gamenplan, but for what to call and when, the pressure turns up.
Again, the Buccaneers have scored a bunch of touchdowns, but some of them have been late in games, while the team has been trailing by two or more scores and that can skew the overall offensive stats and scoring, too.
The reality is Tampa Bay does not have an identity with their run game right, now and with six games to go they need to try to figure out, if they can get one back.
And, it may be that Arians who had tremendous success in Pittsburgh and in Indianapolis prior to becoming the Cardinals coach by calling plays, takes those reins back over at least for a game or two to see if it makes a difference.
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