Bucs brace for talented rookie Murray

by Gary Shelton on November 8, 2019 · 0 comments

in general

Winston is coming off a good game for the Bucs./STEVEN MUNCIE

Friday, 4 a.m.

So far, this thing called the NFL doesn't look so tough.

Most of the time, Kyler Murray might as well be playing pinball football at the University of Oklahoma, putting together a highlight reel as he leads his team down the field.

Oh, Murray is only 3-5-1. But that's with an Arizona team that was 3-13 a year ago. He's brought hope, and he's brought a little excitement, to the Cardinals.

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Now, as he prepares to face the Tampa Bay Bucs, you wonder how many plays are in him. Can the Bucs stop him, considering that they don't stop many quarterbacks.

“First, it’s tough because they have a good run game so it’s not just pass, pass, pass," said defensive coordinator Todd Bowles. "They offset. His speed can’t be matched, obviously. We’ve just got to continue to get after him. If we can get him to throw the ball then we’ve got to try to be in our pass-rush lanes, but at the same time not be tentative.

"We’ve got to make sure we take our shots and if one misses, the other has got to follow up. It’s got to be a group effort. (He is) a very talented guy, with his arm and with his legs. He matches their offense really well, so it will be a tough task.”

This season, the Bucs have given up 31.5 points per game. That's led to four straight losses.

“It’s frustrating losing," Bowles said. "We’ve got to win no matter what – it’s frustrating losing. It’s not so much as being a top defensive coach. It’s about getting these guys experience and getting them to play together more than anything. For me, it’s as far as losing. If we are winning these ballgames, it’s not a factor. We’ve got to make sure we cut down on the mental mistakes that are beating us. Getting beat physically is one thing – getting beat mentally and beating ourselves, that’s what we’ve got to stop.”

The Bucs have been poor on defense in the fourth quarter.

“It’s a little bit of everything, we’ve just got to fix it," Bowles said. "We’ve got to make plays – it’s a play here or there. Sometimes we play well and one guy messes up, whether it’s mental or physical, and then it costs us the ballgame. We’ve got to make plays and we’ve got to make sure we are focused the whole time. We play hard – there is no complaint there. They come with a lot of energy – there is no complaint there. We’ve just got to make plays. Football is about making plays – either you make them, or you don’t.”

The secondary has been particularly vulnerable.

"(We haven’t been) consistent – obviously inconsistent," Bowles said. "We can play well for spurts of the game then there will be a spurt where we go haywire and then they make plays on us. We’ve got to be more experienced from that regard and we’ve got to play the last quarter like we play the first three quarters.”

Offensively, the Bucs were sharp Sunday, scoring 34 points. Still, they lost.

“It’s unfortunate that our record is really 2-6, but this is the team that I knew," said offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich. "The team that played Sunday – this is the team that I know. But, what we’ve got to understand – to win football games, it takes a little bit more. We’ve got to always understand that. We’ve got a good football team out there that it’s unfortunate that we’re 2-6.

"These guys work as if they’re good (and) they compete as if they’re a good football team, which they are. The record may not say that right now and we’ll take what comes with the record. You are what you are. We’re a 2-6 football team, but I think we all feel as though we’re better than what that number may say, and we’ll see what we can try to do the second half of this year, but we feel confident in our football team that we have here.”

The Bucs have given up 30 sacks this season.

“I think we’ll all get better at that from a communication standpoint up front," Leftwich said, "Jameis getting rid of the ball when he should get rid of the ball, guys doing what they’re supposed to outside when they’re supposed to – that’s part of the development of a new offense. Like I told you guys last week, when this thing is all done at the end of the year, we’ll count up everything and we’ll pay attention to the numbers. But, until then, we’ve just got to continue to work and I think as we get better (and) get our guys in certain situations in this offense, we’ll begin to handle them better and those type of numbers and sacks will all begin to go down. You’ll see improvement – that’s how I see it, that’s how I know it to happen in this league and how it goes, and hopefully we can get that going sooner than later.”

Leftwich was asked if Winston throwing away the ball was a sign of maturity.

“Like I said, it’s a new system for everyone, so now when you have an idea of where guys are at more and more, you can do that more and more," Leftwich said. "That’s part of my job, to always put him in position to have those opportunities to make those plays. I see it every day though, so I see the improvements every day. You guys may see it on a Sunday to Sunday basis, but I’m with him all day, every day, so I see the improvements that he’s making day in and day out. It showed Sunday, you guys get to see it and get to talk about it, but I see those things every day. It’s not anything new.

"Jameis is a real smart football player and he understands the game. It’s just tough playing quarterback in this league. (There are) a lot of different variables that control the success of the quarterback position in this league, so he understands that and he’s just working on his game, but I see the improvements day in and day out from the kid.”

Leftwich praised running back Ronald Jones.

"Just with opportunity," Leftwich said of his improvement. "With more opportunities and the little successes he’s had, I’ve seen him really work on his game. I think we talked probably a month and a half ago, but we were having this conversation and he was working on his game. He was trying to get better at everything and like B.A. (Bruce Arians) said, he’s earned the right to get these opportunities. [It was] nothing that Peyton [Barber] did, but we’re going to put him out there and see how he plays. He’s been playing well for us, he’s an explosive player [and] a young player who’s always working on his game. Those game situations are good for him too because a lot of these are new to him too, because he didn’t play a lot last year, so this is really his first time being out there consistently and you can see the improvement day in and day out.”

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