Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Assessing the Flawed Passing Game

Caleb AbnerContributor IIIFebruary 16, 2012

ATLANTA, GA - JANUARY 01: Lawrence Sidbury #90 of the Atlanta Falcons sacks quarterback Josh Freeman #5 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during play at the Georgia Dome on January 1, 2012 in Atlanta, Georgia. The Falcons won 45-24. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
Grant Halverson/Getty Images

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers only won four games in 2011 for a reason: They weren't good. 

The first major statistic that stands out is the number of interceptions. Opposing teams came away with 24 interceptions, good for third worst in the league. When any team commits as many turnovers as that, not even the greatest defense can come around and save the day. 

There is, however, a reason that the Bucs produced this awful number. 

They throw too much. 

Amazingly, a combined 588 pass attempts between Josh Freeman and Josh Johnson was the seventh most in the league. That is amazing because they barely cracked the top 16 in passing yardage. 

It's not as if the team can't run. They averaged a little over two more yards per pass than yards per rush. LeGarrette Blount and the rest of the running backs were fine. Tampa Bay ranked 16th in yards per rush, but had the fewest attempts in the NFL, with only 346. 

So why won't the Bucs run the ball?

Because they can't. 

Earlier I said "It's not as if the team can't run." I meant in terms of ability, the Bucs have a sound running game, and are fully capable of picking up yards on the ground. 

The problem is that they are almost always trailing on the scoreboard. 

Fact: Teams pass when they are behind. Incompletions stop the clock, passes are easier to direct than runs and a ball in the air travels faster than a ball on the ground. Aside from Tim Tebow, no player would elect to run with the clock ticking to a defeat. 

And the Buccaneers are behind a lot—465 throws were attempted when the opposition was winning, or 79 percent for you non-math nerds. The quarterbacks also had to try to make 259 sideline throws. Sideline throws are specifically designed so that after the completion, the receiver can run out of bounds to stop the clock. 

Don't say that Tampa doesn't have heart; the Bucs refuse to give up. 

Still, effort does not equal a "W." 

To make it into the playoffs, they need to address the defense rather than the offense. Trent Richardson may seem like the ultimate dream pick if still on the board at No. 5, but he will find himself unable to produce unless the defense improves. 

This is not to say that the offense is perfect. 

This is not to say that the offense is awful. 

All this means is that the offense will be better once it can balance the run and the pass.