The Buccaneers (4-11) battle the New Orleans Saints (10-5) and are trying to finish their disappointing season on a winning note. What are the six things PewterReport.com publisher Scott Reynolds is looking for in Tampa Bay’s upcoming game?
1. COACH LIKE THERE’S NO TOMORROW Sunday’s game is the last contest of the year for the Buccaneers and perhaps the last game with Greg Schiano as the team’s head coach. It’s time to pull out all the stops and throw the kitchen sink at the Saints. Offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan needs to get more creative in his play-calling than he was last week against St. Louis and incorporate some draws, delays and screen passes to help against the Saints’ pass rush.
On defense, it’s time for defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan to empty his bag of tricks and not hold back any pressure schemes that could be used to create takeaways or sacks. Special teams coordinator Dave Wannstedt needs to be aggressive and scheme up a blocked punt or a surprise onside kick to help Tampa Bay’s struggling offense and generate some points from the kicking game other than field goals.
2. PLAY LIKE YOUR JOB IS ON THE LINEThere will be big changes coming in 2014 whether or not Schiano is retained. One of those changes could be at left tackle where Donald Penn has turned 30 and has underwhelmed this season. Penn was beaten like a drum last week by Pro Bowl defensive end Robert Quinn, who recorded three sacks. Penn needs to make amends for last week and salvage his job in Tampa Bay by shutting out Pro Bowl defensive end Cameron Jordan.
Center Jeremy Zuttah and right guard Davin Joseph also need to play well on Sunday as both players have disappointed the organization this year with substandard play. Zuttah has fared well in pass protection, but has struggled a bit in the running game. Joseph, who is coming back from a knee injury that cost him the 2012 season, has had untimely breakdowns in both pass protection and opening up holes in the run game.
Rookie defensive end Will Gholston continues to come on strong for the Buccaneers and has the chance to emerge as a starter in 2014 if he keeps playing well and making plays. Gholston can make a statement to the organization about becoming the permanent solution at the strongside defensive end position with a big game in New Orleans by getting to quarterback Drew Brees.
3. BUCS OFFENSIVE LINE MUST RISE TO THE OCCASIONTampa Bay’s offense has been truly offensive in the month of December. After being named the NFC Offensive Rookie of the Month for November, quarterback Mike Glennon has played like a rookie in December as his completion percentage has dropped nearly 10 percentage points and he’s thrown for an average of 75 yards less per game than he did in October and November. The reason? The shaky play of the offensive line.
Glennon can be an effective quarterback when he has time to throw the football. However, against Carolina, San Francisco and St. Louis in recent weeks, Glennon has been under duress and unable to find open receivers because he hasn’t had enough time to effectively set up, scan the field and throw the football.
What has hurt Glennon the most is the team’s inability to run the football on a consistent basis. There have not been any holes open for running back Bobby Rainey in the past two weeks and that has prevented the Bucs offense from being effective on first and second downs. As a result, Glennon has been forced into several third-and-long situations where he has been sacked and thrown incompletions too often.
4. GLENNON MUST DISPLAY MORE TOUGHNESSA disturbing trend that has recently shown up in Glennon’s game is his propensity to leave the pocket too early and attempt to scramble. The 6-foot-6 quarterback is not the fleetest of foot and doesn’t have great mobility to begin with. Glennon needs to hang tough in the pocket and keep his eyes trained downfield and take a hit as he’s delivering the football rather than take a sack by trying to scramble.
Because he has been under siege from pass rushers, Glennon has gotten into a bad habit of looking at the rush in recent weeks rather than focusing on his receivers downfield. The rookie needs to understand that he has a much better chance of making a big play with his arm rather than his legs.
When he does scramble, Glennon needs to not shy away from contact. Last week at St. Louis, he attempted to scramble for a first down on third-and-1 and dove head first without gaining a yard rather than bowl over cornerback Janoris Jenkins, who doesn’t even weigh 200 pounds. That play showed a lack of intestinal fortitude and Glennon must be tougher than that in the future.
5. GET TAKEAWAYS ON DEFENSE TO PREVENT NEW ORLEANS FROM SCORINGThe primary reason the Buccaneers were able to hang tight against New Orleans in a 16-14 loss at Raymond James Stadium in Week 2 is because of takeaways. Linebackers Dekoda Watson and Mason Foster came up with big interceptions of quarterback Drew Brees and Foster scored an 85-yard touchdown on his to put the Bucs ahead 14-13 with just minutes left in regulation before the Saints marched down for the game-winning field goal.
“We took the ball away and we intercepted Drew Brees [two] times, that doesn’t happen very often,” Schiano said. “Again, takeaways, we need to take the ball away right now, as a team that’s how we have an opportunity to win games. You’d like it not have to be that way but that’s the way it is right now so that’s how we go.”
Getting takeaways not only helps create points or field position for Tampa Bay’s offense, it also takes Brees off the field and prevents the Saints from scoring. The Bucs don’t have the firepower to match points with the Saints and they won’t win a shootout in the Superdome. If Tampa Bay has any chance of victory, it will be making it a low-scoring contest and winning the game in the fourth quarter.
6. BUCS’ PRO BOWLERS MUST PLAY LIKE PRO BOWLERS The Buccaneers had two players make the Pro Bowl on Friday when defensive tackle Gerald McCoy was given the distinction for the second time in as many years. McCoy, who has a career-high nine sacks on the season, needs to get his 10th sack in New Orleans and constantly harass Brees and set up sack opportunities for defensive ends Gholston and Adrian Clayborn.
After missing most of the 2012 campaign with a knee injury, cornerback Darrelle Revis made the Pro Bowl for the fifth time in his career. Revis has done a great job of erasing receivers this season, and needs to do that to New Orleans’ Marques Colston on Sunday. Getting an interception against Brees would also help the Bucs’ cause.
And finally, linebacker Lavonte David, who was snubbed by the Pro Bowl, needs to take his frustrations out on the Saints and show the NFL that he is among the league’s best at his position. David has the ability to take over games and Sunday will be the perfect time to showcase his skills in a playoff-like atmosphere in New Orleans.
Scott Reynolds is in his 23rd year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds enjoys giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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