The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are not only second-to-last in the league in scoring, averaging just 12.8 points per game, they’ve also failed to score a single offensive touchdown in the second half through five games.
“It’s tough to put a finger on something specific as far as the other games, I do know first and foremost; the self-inflicted wounds, the penalties we have to overcome, certainly any turnover for whatever reason is inexcusable and we’ve got to eliminate that,” offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan told reporters Wednesday.
On the opening possession of the second half of Sunday’s game against the Eagles, quarterback Mike Glennon was picked off. The next possession featured two offensive holding calls by fullback Erik Lorig and Jeremy Zuttah. Zuttah was penalized again for holding in the fourth quarter, when the Bucs were trailing 21-20.
The Bucs are currently leading the league with an average of 82.6 penalty yards per game, and are second in the league in penalties per game.
Production-wise, the team has worked to get more players involved in the passing game and to take the burden off of Martin.
During the bye week, the coaching staff determined that the offense needed to take more shots downfield to open up. They’ve also worked to incorporate Jeff Demps’ Olympic-caliber speed into the offense, including the passing game.
The emergence of tight end Tim Wright has helped too. Wright, who signed with the team as an undrafted free agent wide receiver, had seven catches for 91 receiving yards against the Eagles.
Sullivan said it’s Wright’s toughness that has helped him make the transition to tight end. “You think of those receivers…guys who want to be out on the perimeter and those who are more of — Anquan Boldin, for example — the style where they want to go across the middle and do the dirty work and [Tim] was that type of a receiver.”
Injuries plaguing offensive line and other key pieces
Running back/kick returner Jeff Demps, who suffered a groin injury in the Eagles’ game was held out of practice Wednesday. Right guard Davin Joseph was limited due to a knee injury.
“He just got hit in the game and we thought he would be able to practice today, he didn’t quite feel right so we held him out, but hopefully he can practice tomorrow,” Schiano said of Joseph.
Joseph missed all of last season for a ruptured patellar tendon in his right knee. The injury he sustained Sunday was to his left knee, however.
The offensive line made do in practice, with Ted Larsen stepping in at center, starting center Jeremy Zuttah shifting to left guard, and Gabe Carimi lining up at right guard.
While Bucs are hopeful one-half of their tandem of Pro Bowl guards can play against the Falcons, it’s clear that Carl Nicks won’t be back for some time. Schiano confirmed a Sports Talk Florida report from yesterday, stating that Nicks underwent surgery to clean out the MRSA infection. He was officially ruled out for Sunday.
The team has invested heavily in the offensive guard position. Nicks is in the second of a five-year contract worth $47.5 million, while Joseph is in the third year of a seven-year, $52.5-million contract. The two have played in just two games together, which has, to an extent, limited the success of the run game this season.
“It is what it is. That’s life in the NFL, you’ve got to figure it out. We’ve got to get the best five out there though and get the quarterback protected and get the running game blocked up,” said head coach Greg Schiano.
“At times they’ve been effective and at times not, I guess the word [is] inconsistent. Probably one of the biggest keys of offensive line play is consistency. It’s kind of one of those things where you don’t notice it when things are usually going pretty well, it’s only when you notice it – that’s kind of the life of an offensive linemen really.”
Wide receiver Mike Williams, who missed the Eagles game with a hamstring injury, practiced Wednesday on a limited basis.