Bucs’ offense has room to improve

by Gary Shelton on October 22, 2021

in general

Bucs can still get better./TIM WIRT

Friday, 4 a.m.

You know the names. You've seen the highlights. You are aware of the way the resumes read.

But after six weeks, the question lingers:

Do the Tampa Bay Bucs have a great offense.

The answer, of course, is this: Some of the time. Some of the time, they catch fire, and receivers are open and Tom Brady is surgical, and the offensive line is moving bodies and the running game is going. Sometimes, the Bucs' offense can take over and pull away from an opponent.

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And sometimes, the offense flickers like a fading light bulb. Sometimes, the Bucs can find themselves in a game with an opponent who has no business being close. Dallas. New England. Philadelphia. The Bucs won all of those games, but it wasn't as if the offense was laser beams and lightning bolts, was it?

So, yeah, you can answer "often" when asked if the Bucs have a great offense. "Potentially." Maybe "more often than not."

So far, however, you cannot answer "It's amazing from start to finish."

Granted, most of us think a lot of the Bucs' offense. With Brady and his receivers, with a respected offensive line, we expect them to blow teams away. That doesn't happen much in the NFL, but shouldn't it be happening more often?

Where does offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich want to see improvement?

“Score more points," he said. "This game is about scoring points and winning. It’s not really about [anything] else. This isn’t the game from 25-30 years ago and the way it was played. I always think of doing what we need to do to score more points.

"Now, in thinking and having that thought, how do you get that done? Well, you get that done by improving ourselves in the run game, improving ourselves in situational football and improving what we do well because it’s been, like I said, every game we come in here and wished we played a little better. We don’t think we’ve played our best football yet. So, we’re still just striving to have that game where we can go out there and play our best. We want to be consistent at it week-in and week-out.”

Still, there is a feeling that, often, the Bucs stop themselves with penalties or disinterest.

Brady leads the league in passing yards and is second in touchdowns. But he, too, wants to see a better unit.

"Everything, everything," Brady said when asked where the offense needed to be better. "I don't think we've reached our potential at all. I think we've got to continue to stress the importance of the details every day of what we're trying to do. We don't have anything that I feel that I'm out there going, 'Man, we've really got this nailed.' There's a lot of things we need to do better.

"In the pass game, throwing and catching, all of us being on the same page of what we're doing, a bunch of different looks. Now we're kind of getting into a part of the year where teams are starting to show kind of what they are. There's a good sample size of information about how they're going to play defense and who's going to be out there and who they like and who's struggling and so forth. It's really hard early in the year, I think the first couple games, [to know] who's going to be playing for them and what are they going to do. Are things going to be different than last year? At least now you can kind of hone in on what the opponents are doing. They're not going to change too much from week to week. I certainly feel we have certainly a long way to go."

Sunday, the Bucs try it against Chicago, a team they lost to a year ago.

"It seems like a long time ago, but actually it wasn't that long ago," Brady said. "Yeah, that hasn't happened very often in my career; for some reason it happened in that moment. But yeah, that was a tough loss and I think we learned a lot from that loss last year. There [were] a lot of self-inflicted issues, there [were] a lot of penalties, there was a lot of miscommunication, there [were] a lot of things that weren't clean. And then ultimately, we have a chance to win the game in two-minute by going down and kicking a field goal, and we don't get the job done.

"So, penalties, not coming through in critical situations – I  think that's something that we've come through in critical situations. We've cut down on the penalties, but we've got to stress that and continue to stress that all the time. It's not like that's ever a finished subject, either. You've got to work at it every day. You've got to sharpen your skills. You take nothing for granted. You come out here every day with the mindset you're going to work to improve and get better and gain the trust of your teammates and coaches. You can't take the foot off the gas at all. You've got to put it in every day, you've got to prove to everybody what you want to become."

Brady is off to a good start in the season. He's even gotten his legs involved in the game.

"It scares the hell out of me," Leftwich said. "I’m not going to lie; it scares the hell out of me. But obviously, you know he’s having fun. He’s having fun. I just try to make sure he doesn’t do anything reckless. I was the guy who couldn’t run too. It is an unnatural feeling when you’re in the middle of the field running the ball in your hands and you’re not known for running. So, I know he feels the same way, but obviously, he’s made some plays outside the pocket. He works on those things. We work on those things every day. They don’t just happen. We want him to be careful with what he’s doing.”

Brady wants to make more plays out of the pocket.

"I think that's something that I want to even improve as we kind of move through the season," Brady said. "We're trying to stay extra and do a lot of footwork stuff. We don't run that much, so I think it's really important to keep your legs in shape. You never know when that one or two plays ultimately [come when] you're going to have to be out of the pocket and make that scramble play. I think you just have to be ready.

"That's not probably the most natural thing for me, as we know, but at the same time I think it's – you know we made a play out of the pocket on third down the other night that was a big part of the game. We're going to need to make those plays. You see a lot of young players scramble and make those plays. The problem out there is it's definitely more susceptible to getting hurt, there's no doubt about that. When you get outside the pocket, at least for me, things move pretty fast and you're less protected. If you've got the ball in your hand, they're trying to get you."

The Bucs play the Bears at Raymond James Stadium Sunday. Kickoff is scheduled for 4:25 p.m.

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