Bucs travel to England with wounded line

by Gary Shelton on October 11, 2019 · 0 comments

in general

Cappa will miss the start with a broken arm./TIM WIRT

Friday, 3 a.m.

At full strength, the offensive line of the Tampa Bay Bucs had its problems.

So far, the Bucs are averaging 3.9  yards per rush and have given up 18 sacks. But now, with two players out for Sunday’s game (Demar Dotson and Alex Cappa), the task gets harder.

"It’s a big challenge anytime you lose the guys who we lost – veteran guys who’ve been around” offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich said Thursday. “Then, we had (Alex) Cappa, who was playing so well – you never want to be in that predicament, but next man up. That’s why the guys are on our team. We believe in everyone that’s on this team that puts a helmet on every day and we’re going to give these guys an opportunity to be their best selves and try to play well.”

The Bucs scored just 20 points in their victory over the Panthers earlier in the season.

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The Bucs will have to play without Dotson./ANDREW J. KRAMER

It’s tougher, Leftwich said, when you play a team for the second time.

“That’s really any time you play within the division,” Leftwich said. “Most of the time, the teams know each other. We’re a new system here, we’re new here – they’re not new there, so there is some familiarity with these guys because we did play them a little bit in Arizona and we played them earlier this year. Both teams kind of know what each other’s going to do. It’s all about can each team stop what the guy is trying to do?”

One of the challenges for Leftwich will be to get tight end O.J. Howard involved in the passing game.

“Yes, it’s coming,” Leftwich said. "It’ll come within this system – it will happen naturally. We want it to happen organically. I’ve just got to continue just putting him in position to make plays. I’ll do a better job of putting him in different positions so he can make more plays, but we want it to happen organically. We’re always trying to put every guy in position, so we won’t do anything more or less. I think it will naturally happen as the offense evolves, as we get better understanding of what we’re trying to do week in and week out.”

“You guys are going to ask it because that’s your job. It gets tough sometimes when you’re playing with Chris (Godwin) and Mike (Evans). I want the ball to always go to where it’s supposed to go organically. I don’t want Jameis (Winston) to get in this thing where he’s forcing balls here and there. I’ll just do a better job of – from a design standpoint – putting these guys in better position.”

Evens wasn’t exactly involved last week. The Saints shut him down without a catch.

“We’ve just got to combat what they did,” Leftwich said. “They just said, ‘We’re going to double him wherever he’s at on the field,’ and I can do a better job there also. He’s too good of a football player to go through a game without having a catch, to be honest with you. We’ll be better in all phases of our game.”

As far as the Bucs’ defense, it has to face a different quarterback in Kyle Evans, who has played well in place of Cam Newton.

“I think they’re playing better as a unit,” said defensive coordinator Todd Bowles. “They’re running the ball a lot better, they’re spreading the ball around, they’re playing great defense, as well, so right now they’re clicking pretty good. They’re a totally different team running the ball and throwing the ball than we played a couple weeks ago.”

The Rays held running back Christian McCaffrey in check in their first game, but he’s played well since.

“Everything I’ve seen on the film, I didn’t like, because he’s running for touchdowns all the time,” Bowles said. “(They’re doing) nothing different. Like I said, they’re running the ball a lot better. You can tell they’ve come together as a unit and they understand who they are and they do it very well. Norv (Turner]) does a great job at it.”

The Bucs have given up 103 points in three weeks, but Bowles was asked if he sees improvement.

“I don’t know if it’s better – we’ve got a ways to go,” Bowles said. “We’ve got to work out some kinks from the last two ball games. We’re tough up front – we understand that we’ve got to play four quarters and we’ve got to make plays in key situations to get off the field, and younger guys need to understand that as well as the older guys. So, we’ve got a ways to go, but we’re close (and) we’re starting to come together. It’s just got to happen on the field.”

Rays’ linebacker Shaq Barrett didn’t have a sack last week for the first time all season.

“We understand (the help given to the man blocking Barrett) – that’s just a compliment,” Bowles said. “Somebody else has to step up. When (Ndamukong) Suh and Vita (Vea) and Carl (Nassib) get double-teamed, Shaq’s making plays, and if Shaq’s getting double-teamed, they have to make plays.”

Bowles said the Bucs aren’t playing high-risk defense.

“No, we’re not like that all the time,” Bowles said. “We have times where we play coverage and we do things and we drop eight – it’s a matter of what teams do and a matter of what we can get away with and what we’re good at – so we try to mix it up a little bit.”

The Bucs and Panthers play Sunday morning at 9:30 a.m. in London.

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