Five questions surrounding the collapsing Bucs and Tom Brady – Tampa Bay Buccaneers Blog

TAMPA, Fla. — The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have gone from a Super Bowl contender and a 2-0 start to the season to drop four of their last five games, raising many doubts after quarterback Tom Brady dropped out came out of retirement to try and do “unfinished business”.

As the Bucs (3-4) look to turn things around when they host the Baltimore Ravens Thursday night (8:15 p.m. ET, Prime Video), here’s what went wrong and how they can turn it around.

1. What’s up with Brady and the offense?

Tampa’s scoring production has fallen off a cliff this season, rising to 16.7 from an average of 31.4 offensive points per game in the first seven weeks of last season. They only reached the red zone 19 times in 77 trips (24.6%) in 2022. In the first seven games last season it was 39 times in 79 trips (44.3%).

But it’s what happens on the first and second downs that puts them in awkward third and long pass situations. The Bucs had 109 games in which they didn’t gain or lose yards in first and second place — the ninth-most in the league. This is everything from sacks to incompletions to negative rushing yards and throwaways, but they don’t include penalties.

They’re also bottom in rushing, averaging 64.43 yards per game with 41 rush plays with no wins or negative yards — fifth best (the Jacksonville Jaguars lead the NFL with 51). But by getting behind the chains early, it essentially gives teams permission to tee off at Brady in third because everyone knows he’ll fall behind to pass.

2. How much of it is on offense?

A lot of. You can see Brady doesn’t trust the protection. Rookie Luke Goedeke is still struggling to make the transition from college right tackle to NFL left guard — where he’s faced challenges moving inside and changing sides.

Last week, the coaching staff began rotating Goedeke and backup Nick Leverett every two series. Goedeke will miss Thursday with a foot injury.

The inside of the Bucs with Goedeke, sophomore center Robert Hainsey, and right guard Shaq Mason has an 87.4% inside pass blocking win rate — the worst in the NFL, according to ESPN Statistics & Information. Last year it was 91.8%. Between left guard and center position, the Bucs have amassed 43 pass-blocking losses — the second-highest in the NFL. At 28, Goedeke is the main culprit.

Teams are also less blitzing Brady this year because they realize they don’t have to, which gives them more resources in the field and makes it harder for the Bucs’ third-place receivers.

From a run-blocking standpoint, the yards-per-rush metric is a good indicator of a team’s run-blocking ability because it takes the running back out of the game to some extent. Some of that still falls to the running back, depending on how fast he can hit the hole, but the Bucs are averaging 1.7 yards per rush before contact — the second-lowest in the NFL. That number was 2.7 (13th) last year.

3. What about Brady receivers?

The only receiver who’s proving reliable is Pro Bowler Mike Evans, and even he hiccuped last week scoring a touchdown on the opening drive.

Brady’s connection with her other Pro Bowl wideout, Chris Godwin, has suffered since Godwin’s cruciate ligament rupture last season. They have grown from a graduation rate of 77.2% in 2021 and a graduation rate of 77.4% in 2020 to 65.9% in 2022. He’s still not back to where he was before the injury and he’s particularly struggling against press coverage with 2 yards after catching against press coverage against 6.1 last season.

Newcomer Julio Jones has not batted since Week 4 with a knee injury and he has only had four catches so far. He’s questionable against the Ravens. Russell Gage, who also signed as a free agent with the Bucs, missed reps with Brady due to multiple injuries and will not play against the Ravens.

However, without Jones and Gage, the opposing defense’s resources are not so thinly spread. You can still roll cover Evans way.

They were also plagued by drops. The Bucs’ 11 drops tie them for seventh in the league. They had eight to seven games last year.

4. Why doesn’t the defense stop anyone?

They have been plagued by injuries and communication problems, but defenders suffering mid-season injuries are nothing new. They dealt with that last year, and the Pittsburgh Steelers managed to defeat them without their top four cornerbacks.

It’s up to the coaching staff to put them in a position to make games. They routinely blow up covers because a player is unclear on defense or doesn’t pay attention to details. Inside linebacker Devin White shouldn’t have missed Najee Harris in the flat against Pittsburgh to allow rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett to throw his first NFL touchdown.

They couldn’t stop the run, which is what they’ve done best over the past three seasons. The players are not in their correct gaps. They also don’t pressure quarterbacks as effectively. Good news: Keywheel Akiem Hicks, who has been out since Week 2 with a foot injury, returned to training this week.

There’s a lack of cohesion overall, and one really has to wonder if that’s down to having a defensive head coach running the defense with two different coordinators — Kacy Rodgers, who is in charge of the front seven, and Larry Foote, who is in charge for the backend.

5. What does the analysis say about the rest of the season?

After beating the Dallas Cowboys and New Orleans Saints 2-0 on the road that season, the Bucs had a 98% chance of making the playoffs and a 93% chance of winning the division, according to FPI. After losing to the Green Bay Packers and the Kansas City Chiefs, their Week 5 win over the Atlanta Falcons gave them a 97% chance of making the playoffs and a 94% chance of winning the division. But after losing away to the Pittsburgh Steelers and Carolina Panthers, they now have a 67% chance of making the playoffs and a 61% chance of winning the division.

The Bucs’ remaining opponents are a 30-39 combination, with five of those games taking place at Raymond James Stadium. But they can take advantage of the NFC South as the Bucs currently sit at the top of the division and hold the tiebreak over Atlanta (3-4). There’s also hope that Logan Ryan, who came on injured reserve with a foot injury, and center Ryan Jensen, who has a knee injury, can return late in the season. Five questions surrounding the collapsing Bucs and Tom Brady – Tampa Bay Buccaneers Blog

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