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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Should Bruce Arians take over Bucs play calling?

Florida Football Insiders

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Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

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.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs DE Barrett basked in first Pro Bowl appearance Wednesday

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Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Off the best pass-rushing season in Buccaneers history, potential free-agent defensive end Shaq Barrett was soaking things in Wednesday in Orlando.

That’s where the NFC and AFC top players have congregated for the 2020 Pro Bowl coming Sunday.

Barrett, who set the Buccaneers single-season sack record with 19.5 this past season, ended up being the lone Buccaneer able to play in the game. This, after receivers Mike Evans and Chris Godwin have both had to bow out due to hamstring injuries.

Barrett got props on day one from one from Cardinals DE Chandler Jones, whom he battled for the sack title all the way down to the final Sunday of the season:

Barrett then got to hangout and sign autographs with the fans assembled at Disney’s Wide World of Sports. The sixth year player out of Colorado State, who was originally undrafted but signed with the Broncos in 2014, then told the media, he’s looking for a big-money free-agent deal. And, further, his preference is that he stays in Tampa Bay.

After all, Barrett surpassed anyone’s expectation in 2019, while playing for a modest one-year free agent deal and betting on himself to cash-in. And now, after his agent Drew Rosenhaus and Bucs GM Jason Licht are done, it appears he will be making in the neighborhood of $18-20 million per year just like the top pass rushers in the NFL.

The Bucs also have the possibility of putting the franchise tag for 2020 on Barrett which would also be valued around that same amount for just the one season.

One final cool moment came Wednesday, where Barrett got introduced to a young Buccaneers fan who’s enduring tremendous family hardship with one parent battling cancer and another suffering from the debilitating ALS disease. After signing an autograph for the young man, Barrett gave him the surprise of his young life with two tickets to next weekend’s Super Bowl in Miami:

And just like that fantastic reward, Barrett will soon be similarly rewarded for his fantastic year and upcoming potential. And most likely, it will be in Tampa Bay for a long time.

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs Evans got respect from LeBron James Saturday night

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Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

The new present day cliche’ for respect among athletes/opponents in sports is: “Game Recognizes Game.” And, there was a neat example of that Saturday night, as the Houston Rockets of the NBA hosted the L.A. Lakers. That’s when iconic NBA star LeBron James of the Lakers came over to acknowledge Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans in the seats behind him.

As you probably know, James is arguably the most recognizable and successful NBA hoops player worldwide in the last 10+ years. He’s a 15 time All Star, a four time MVP, and helped the Miami Heat win two World Championships. And, then came back to the Cleveland Cavaliers, who originally drafted him out of high school, and led them to the city’s epic first professional title in any sport in over 50 years back in 2016.

And, LeBron has the Lakers rolling at 34-8 with another win in Houston last night.

As for Evans, he is a Tampa Bay Buccaneers biggest offensive weapon and was having a tremendous 2019 season statistically until it was cut short with a hamstring injury in the Bucs early December win over the Indianapolis Colts.

That’s when Evans suffered a severe hamstring injury on a 61 yard touchdown catch from Jameis Winston and did not play another down in 2019. Still, he joined teammate Chris Godwin, as they both went over 1,000 yards for the season, which was the first time in Tampa Bay history that that happened.

Evans is also only the second player in league history, besides Randy Moss, to have 1,000 or more yards receiving in a season in his first six years in the NFL.

Further, it’s also well-known that Evan is a huge fan of the NBA and he’s originally from Galveston, Texas and play in college at Texas A&M. So, it’s only fitting that he would be courtside during the off-season and the Rockets game against the Lakers.

Evans has made mention earlier in his career that he had met and talked to LeBron James on previous occasions. One reason that Evans brought that up during the season, was his touchdown celebration dance when Tampa Bay outgunned the L.A. Rams in late September.

In that 48 – 40 win Evans caught this clinching fourth-quarter bomb touchdown from Winston and then, celebrated with LeBron James’s signature dance move

James has previously and frequently used that on the court after a big moment, a big win or a championship.

Again “Game recognizes Game,” and clearly James wanted to give some recognition to the Bucs star whiteout Saturday night courtside at his own game.

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