The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were absolutely dreadful in 2011. Does it boil down to quarterback play, defense or coaching?
All of those in combination were the reason for the Bucs woes. If they were doing one thing right, they were doing three things wrong. They couldn’t maintain consistency at the quarterback position and the defense never seemed to give a worthwhile effort.
The Buccaneers defense gave up the most points in team history in 2011 while ranking third worst in team history with a point differential of negative-207. Even though the defense intercepted 14 passes (20th in the NFL) and recovered 10 fumbles (14th best in the NFL), they recorded an NFL-worst 23 sacks.
The key to any defense is being able to get pressure on the quarterback. If the quarterback has time in the pocket to throw, receivers will get open. NFL quarterbacks rely on timing and precision, and without an effective pass-rush, that timing will go unscathed.
Before the week-eight bye-week, the Bucs defense let up 24 points per game, in which the team went 4-3. After the bye-week, the defense let up 36 points per game and the team went 0-9.
Now to the offensive side of the ball. If a Bucs fan was asked about the identity of the team’s offense, they would probably say it is a team built for the trenches — especially with a running back like LeGarrette Blount.
The Bucs, as a team, had the LEAST rushing attempts of any team in the NFL and ranked third-to-last in rush yards. The Bucs also had 588 passing attempts, which was seventh most in the entire NFL.
Apart from the Buccaneers, the other nine teams categorized in the top-10 in pass attempts averaged 25.8 points per game. That must mean the Bucs offense scored a lot, right? Nope. The Bucs, with the seventh highest passing total in the NFL, scored 17.9 points per game — good for 27th in the league.
With those numbers, the Bucs play selection comes out to passing almost two-thirds of the time. With a young set of receivers and a bruising running back like Blount, this team MUST run the ball more than it’s 2011 average of 21.6 times per game.
Granted, the Bucs were playing from behind a lot of the time last season, but the team needs to assert its gameplan onto its opponent. While Raheem Morris was the head coach, it looked like a gameplan was a rarity.
There is absolutely no excuse for a team built like the Buccaneers to pass the ball as much as they did.
When Josh Freeman had a quarterback rating of over 85, the Bucs had a chance. When Freeman’s rating dropped below that mark, the team was a cinder block in the ocean.
In his career, Freeman has played well against the NFC East, which is a telling sign to how his career should turn out. However, against specifically the Atlanta Falcons, Freeman threw five interceptions in just two games.
In wins, Freeman was sacked once every 35 pass attempts and threw an interception once every 48 attempts. In losses, he was sacked once every 16 pass attempts and threw interceptions once every 21 attempts.
As a whole, the Bucs ranked last in the NFL in turnover differential — tying a league-worst 30 offensive fumbles and third-worst 24 interceptions thrown.
After looking at these numbers, it is absolutely apparent that the Bucs didn’t do any one, two or three things wrong, but a whole plethora of wrongs were committed.
Moving forward, the defense can’t get much worse than it performed last season. However, the team must find a way to generate some sacks and disrupt the pocket for opposing quarterbacks. It is imperative that the defense also forces more turnovers.
With the additions of Lavonte David and Mark Barron, the Bucs infused the defense with some young talent that will help improve the unit.
On offense, the Buccaneers must call plays that resemble a more balanced attack. The offensive line is going to be a strength, which plays directly into getting LeGarrette Blount and rookie Doug Martin more carries.
A more balanced offense means that the Bucs will be less predictable. It also gives them a chance to play into team strengths.
With a strong offensive line, teams will have a hard time not only stopping the running game, but getting to Josh Freeman on passing downs. With a successful running game. there is space down the field to get the ball to guys like Vincent Jackson, Mike Williams and Dallas Clark.
While all of the Buccaneers’ woes may not be eliminated this season, with more discipline and a more cognizant gameplan, this will be a much more efficient team in every facet of the game.