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Bucs Monday Mailbag: Leftwich’s Offense Struggles – Again

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By: Scott Reynolds

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Pewter Report’s Scott Reynolds answers your questions from the @PewterReport Twitter account each week in the Bucs Monday Mailbag. Submit your question to the Bucs Monday Mailbag each week via Twitter using the hashtag #PRMailbag. Here are the questions we chose to answer for this week’s edition.

QUESTION: Does this week’s performance impact the jury on Byron Leftwich?

ANSWER: Well, the Bucs’ come-from-behind, 16-13 win over the Rams probably doesn’t lead to the firing of offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich if that’s what you mean. It would be hard to fire him after a win that snapped a three-game losing streak, especially beating a nemesis like the Rams. I called for Leftwich to be fired weeks ago after a 21-3 loss at Carolina in a postgame 2-Point Conversion column.

The Bucs offense generated just three field goals in the first 12 possessions of Sunday’s game and totaled only 269 yards before Tom Brady led the Bucs on a six-play, 54-yard touchdown drive with just 44 seconds left in regulation. Some of the play-calling was just head-scratching, such as running Leonard Fournette up the middle on a third-and-goal from the 2-yard line on Tampa Bay’s first possession. It was just such an uninspiring call, and the offense lacked imagination and creativity for virtually the whole night.

Sunday’s dreadful offensive performance didn’t change my opinion of Leftwich. And judging from the reaction on Twitter, most Bucs fans still feel like Leftwich needs to go. But it’s going to be difficult for the Bucs to switch play-callers following a win. If the offense continues to struggle next week in Germany against Seattle, and the Bucs lose, Tampa Bay might make a move during the bye week.

QUESTION: How bad is the coaching and this staff? Ten days and put up three points basically in a half of football. Should’ve challenged that beautiful punt that looked to be downed inside the 1-yard line. People and players not being held accountable once again.

Bucs OC Byron Leftwich

Bucs OC Byron Leftwich – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

ANSWER: The Bucs scoring six points in the first half is just ridiculous. Out of 20 runs and 59 pass attempts, Tampa Bay had just one play over 20 yards – a 28-yard catch-and-run by rookie tight end Cade Otton. One play over 20 yards! Where is the vertical-based passing game? Where has no-risk-it, no-biscuit gone? This offense is mind-numbingly basic.

The Bucs offense, which was one of the most explosive over the past three years, is anything but explosive this season. The play-calling is predictable and the execution remains sloppy. Tampa Bay had dropped passes, inaccurate throws, runs that went nowhere and untimely penalties galore against Los Angeles. If Byron Leftwich isn’t relieved of his duties during the season, he won’t be around next year.

Remember, Todd Bowles inherited this coaching staff. This is Bruce Arians’ coaching staff – not necessarily Bowles’ staff. Bowles was given the job on March 30 – two weeks after the start of NFL free agency. He didn’t have time to make any coaching staff changes because all of the NFL coaches were already on other teams by that point. But I would expect Bowles to put his own stamp on the staff next year for sure.

As for the failed challenge on Jake Camarda’s punt that looked like it hit inside the 1-yard line and bounced back inside the 5-yard line, I’ve got some scoop. Referee Shawn Hochuli was told by the league office in his earpiece that the NFL headquarters got a look at that play and it was not going to be overturned because there was no conclusive video evidence. It was close, but Bowles wasn’t going to win that challenge. Bowles had the red flag out, but Hochuli warned him that he wasn’t going to win the replay challenge.

The league headquarters will do that from time to time with referees telling head coaches not to challenge some calls, and as it turns out from the TV replays, there may not have been enough video evidence to overturn the call on the field, which was a touchback. The reason why the league office will help coaches with these challenges is to keep the game moving. The NFL is obsessed with getting games over in three hours due to TV contracts with networks. CBS wants to get to its 60 Minutes show after the game and not screw up it’s primetime programming on Sunday night with a delay.

Instant replay challenges can take anywhere from three to five minutes. The Bucs’ win over the Rams took three hours and three minutes to finish. Hochuli actually did the Bucs a huge favor. By tipping Bowles off not to challenge the punt, the Bucs didn’t lose that challenge and lose a timeout as a result. Tampa Bay needed that final precious timeout on the defense’s final stop to get the ball back to the offense with 44 seconds left.

QUESTION: Do you believe the Bucs are scared of moving away from Byron Leftwhich? The offense looks one-dimensional.

ANSWER: No, the Bucs aren’t scared to move away from Byron Leftwich. The way things are headed with Tampa Bay’s putrid offense, Leftwich won’t be kept on the staff next year. He hasn’t been fired yet, but perhaps that’s because there is no one on the current coaching staff that has the skill or experience to replace him right now. In other words, there may not be an ideal replacement on Todd Bowles’ current coaching staff. So Bowles might be resigned to let Leftwich play out the season and then make a change in the offseason.

I wouldn’t say the offense is one-dimensional. The Bucs do try to run the ball and create some balance, but they just can’t do it effectively with the personnel they have. On Sunday, Tampa Bay ran the ball 20 times for 51 yards – a paltry 2.6 yards per carry. As a result of that ineffectiveness, which is in part due to predictable runs on first down, the Bucs wound up dropping back to pass 59 times against the Rams.

QUESTION: The two most difficult things about watching the Bucs are watching Leonard Fournette miss the hole and Byron Leftwich’s predictable play-calling. Which one will I have to endure for longer as a Bucs fan?

Bucs OC Byron Leftwich

Bucs OC Byron Leftwich – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

ANSWER: You’ll have to endure both for the rest of the season, unfortunately. Unless the Bucs offense struggles mightily (again) against the Seahawks in Germany and Todd Bowles decides to fire Byron Leftwich during the bye week, there likely won’t be a change at play-caller during this season. It’s either going to happen during the bye week or it’s not.

As for Leonard Fournette, he’s making $7 million per season, so the Bucs are obligated to try to get their money’s worth from him. But Fournette continues to struggle to run behind a bad run-blocking offensive line. He had just 19 yards on nine carries against the Rams, and had five catches for 41 yards.

Surprisingly, the Bucs did turn to third-stringer Ke’Shawn Vaughn for a couple of plays against the Rams. Vaughn had a pair of carries for four yards and was targeted once in the passing game. But rookie Rachaad White needs to get more involved. He had eight carries for 27 yards (3.4 avg.) and three catches for seven yards. At least the Bucs are attempting to diversify the carries and not just rely on Fournette’s ineffectiveness.

QUESTION: Do you think Devin White redeemed himself? He looked like he was playing hard and fast all game.

ANSWER: I’d have to go back and look at the tape, but at first glance, Bucs inside linebacker Devin White didn’t have a very active role in the 16-13 win over the Rams. He finished the game with just four tackles and was the fourth-leading tackler for Tampa Bay on Sunday night.

What I didn’t see watching the game live was any noticeable gaffes and mental errors. Those have plagued White in recent games – even when he’s been more active, such as the 27-22 loss to Baltimore last week in which he had 10 tackles. White needs to play smarter football and cut down on his mistakes, and it looks like he did that against the Rams, which is a step in the right direction.

QUESTION: Don’t you think Bucs fans whine a little bit too much? We’re only two years away from a Super Bowl win. Good teams have bad years and bounce back. They don’t fire the general manager and coach every time they fall below expectations.

Bucs GM Jason Licht and head coach Todd Bowles

Bucs GM Jason Licht and head coach Todd Bowles – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

ANSWER: Well, expectations were high coming into this season with Tom Brady’s return from a 40-day retirement this offseason. The Bucs re-signed Pro Bowl center Ryan Jensen, wide receiver Chris Godwin, cornerback Carlton Davis III and running back Leonard Fournette, among others. Tampa Bay was coming off a franchise-record 13-4 season last year.

A season like the one the Bucs are having this year with a sub-.500 record was probably going to happen next year after Brady’s departure or retirement – not this year with his return. I think that’s what has so many fans up in arms – that the losses, including three games in a row – are coming with Brady on the team. Fans have a right to cheer or a right to boo – and whine, as you put it.

But I agree that it is ridiculous for fans to call for general manager Jason Licht to be fired after he just built a Super Bowl-winning roster. The Bucs have plenty of talent on this team, and the NFC South division title – and the home playoff game that comes with it – is still within reach this season. Even without Brady next year, this Bucs team could and should still contend for the division with the existing talent.

And Todd Bowles should get another season to make some of the necessary changes to the coaching staff he inherited. It’s too early to fire him after just half a season. That’s ridiculous. Yes, the Bucs have under-performed under his watch, but let’s see how this season ends first before fans should call for his dismissal.

The post Bucs Monday Mailbag: Leftwich’s Offense Struggles – Again appeared first on Pewter Report.

Originally posted on Pewter Report