The next phase for the intriguing hire new Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians’ offensive coordinator took place on Friday, as Byron Leftwich met with the Tampa Bay media.
And Leftwich knows he’s being given a tremendous opportunity to not only the call plays, but mentor the Bucs star quarterback Jameis Winston
LIVE: Tune in for Offensive Coordinator Byron Leftwich’s press conference. https://t.co/5M6GDnh6vB
— Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@Buccaneers) January 18, 2019
Leftwich knows the challenge ahead, but also knows he has weapons:
This is great. This is what this is about, man. The key is to have enough players to give yourself an opportunity to win football games and obviously, especially on the offensive side of the ball – I haven’t had a chance to see the defense – we have that. So now it’s putting guys in position to make plays so we can win football games. It’s never really about numbers or stats here. We’ve got to find a way to do what we can to win football games and I just love the coaches that we have here, as a whole.”
That starts with the boss, Arians, who labeled Leftwich, as a “rising star,” when Arians met the media last week.
One other part the press conference that was interesting is when the questions turned to estranged veteran wide receiver DeSean Jackson. As we wrote earlier on Friday morning, Jackson says he has not heard from anyone with the Buccaneers, including Arians, so far this month.
Not surprisingly, Leftwich said he’s not spoken with Jackson but intends to shortly and he also says and he’s focused on the future in the players at the Buccaneers will have.
It’s still unclear how much longer they’ll have Jackson, whose $10 million salary in the final year of his deal was Tampa Bay is not guaranteed.
Leftwich also knows if he has success, then in short order, he will be in demand for a possible head coaching opportunity as well.
But that’s still a large step away. The first step is to get Winston rolling and playing consistent football. And, he and the staff have to get the Buccaneers back to winning, which is something they haven’t done much of with nine losing seasons in the last eleven.
Leftwhich was part of one of those seasons in 2009 under first-year coach Raheem Morris, where he started the first three games, the team finished just 3 – 13 and eventually turned to rookie quarterback Josh Freeman.
Leftwich had been serving, as a playing mentor to Freeman that year, and now he’s officially a “coaching mentor” of the entire Buccaneers offense.
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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