TAMPA – The talent the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have on offense this year is inarguably the best it’s been in years. The same goes for the depth, according to coach Dirk Koetter.
As for the offensive execution, so far it looks like the same old Bucs. Or maybe a little worse.
Through three preseason games the Bucs are averaging 327 yards per game, ninth most in the league. As for those all important points, they have 33. Total. Only the Vikings and Redskins, with 20 each, have less.
“I’m sure for now it’s going to be a story,’’ Koetter said of his team’s scoring woes after the Bucs dropped a 13-9 decision to the Browns at a very soggy Raymond James Stadium on Saturday night.
The story is the Bucs performance inside the red zone. The Bucs have had little trouble getting there. It’s that bit about finishing with touchdowns that’s been the hang-up.
The Bucs first-team offense, the one with all that talent and all those weapons, has had 14 possessions so. They’ve reached the red zone on six of them. They have one touchdown and five field goals to show for it.
Is it time to panic? No. time to worry. Maybe. This is not what anyone expected out of this supposedly vaunted attack, but you do have to keep in mind that this is the only preseason.
The Bucs are still playing off the first few pages of their playbook and on Saturday, several key starters, including wide receiver Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson, were not in the lineup.
But there are some legitimate concerns. Like the offense in general, quarterback Jameis Winston has looked great between the 20s. Down inside the 20s, he’s completed just 3-of-10 passes for 31 yards, with no touchdowns and an interception.
The only thing uglier than those numbers is his execution. Winston missed on two straight fades to Evans in the end zone in Week 1 and threw a pass up for grabs from his butt that would have resulted in an interception had officials not ruled Winston sacked in Week 2.
Then he was intercepted in Week 3, last night against the Browns, after over-leading tight end Cameron Brate on a crossing route in front of the goal line on a play in which he didn’t appear to see safety Jabrill Peppers, who got the pick.
No better, at least on Saturday, was the Bucs play on third down, where they were 0-for-7 with their first team in the game through the first half. When asked to categorize it all, Koetter had one word: “Blah.’’
And yes, that pretty much sums it up. It wasn’t supposed to be this way, of course. After adding Jackson and drafting tight end O.J. Howard, the Bucs were projected to be something special on offense in 2017.
They were going to move the ball at will and light up the scoreboard. Opponents were going to have a hard time keeping pace with them. Who knows, maybe they still will.
“That’s preseason football,’’ Koetter said after the loss to the Browns. “We’re trying to execute, but when you have turnovers and penalties inside the red zone it hurts. Am I concerned? It’s going to concern me if it happens on Sept. 10. As for tonight, it is what it is.’’
Is it ever.