The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are 4-1 since their Week 5 bye and have scored 178 points. It’s safe to say that not many teams around the league are as high-powered on offense right now.
Led by mistake-avoiding quarterback Josh Freeman and rookie running back Doug Martin, who busted out in Week 8, the Buccaneers have averaged 35.6 points per game since Oct. 14 and show little signs of stopping.
But just how can Tampa Bay keep this offense rolling and make sure the wins are plentiful?
1. No Mistakes
Before the season started, the popular question about quarterback Josh Freeman revolved around comparing his 2010 season to the more recent 2011 campaign.
In 2010, Freeman threw 25 touchdown passes and just six picks. The next season he threw 16 touchdowns and 22 interceptions.
Which season gave a better look at the real Freeman, 2010 or 2011?
Freeman now has 18 touchdown passes and just five interceptions, and is looking more like his 2010 self than ever. Especially when you look at his body of work over the last five games where he’s thrown 13 touchdowns and just one interception.
If Freeman can continue to limit mistakes, his touchdown passes will continue as well. So will his ability to churn out passing yards (Freeman has 1,467 passing yards over his last five games).
2. Solve the Offensive Line Puzzle
No offensive line in the NFC South, possibly the league, has had to endure the turmoil that the Buccaneers have had to face.
Both starting offensive guards—Davin Joseph and Carl Nicks—have been lost to season-ending injuries. Jeremy Trueblood, who started the season at right tackle, along with Ted Larsen, who filled the shoes of Joseph, were both benched because of lousy play.
As it stands right now, Donald Penn and Jeremy Zuttah are the only remaining starters from Week 1. There’s been more shuffling to this personnel group than an LMFAO concert. And it might be getting worse.
Jamon Meredith, who’s been starting at right guard, left the locker room on crutches Wednesday, according to the Tampa Bay Times.
The depth for the Buccaneers on the offensive line is already minuscule, but the team must find ways to overcome the adversity. Freeman still needs to be protected. Martin still needs holes opened. This might come down to the coaching staff filling holes where necessary and then augmenting with scheming to help keep the line solid.
3. Don’t Slow Down
Running back Doug Martin exploded on the scene on national television in Tampa Bay’s Week 8 Thursday night game against the Minnesota Vikings. He rushed for 135 yards and a touchdown and set himself up for bigger things the next week.
Martin followed that up by 251-yard, four touchdown game against the Oakland Raiders and thrust himself into talks about Rookie of the Year consideration.
The rookie is currently ranked fourth in the NFL with 862 rushing yards and is averaging five yards per carry. But last week Martin only gained 68 yards, his worst outing since the bye week.
Martin has to keep things moving forward. He averaged 6.6 yards per carry in the four games after Tampa Bay’s bye week, but just 3.6 last week. Everyone’s allowed an off day, but the Buccaneers need Martin to be a force and return to the games where he’s topping 100 yards on the ground.
4. Keep David Chugging Along
Everyone is familiar with Tampa Bay’s first-round picks; safety Mark Barron and running back Doug Martin. But second-round pick linebacker Lavonte Davis might be the best of the trio.
David is tied for second place in the NFL with 67 solo tackles (h/t JoeBucsFan), one behind league-leader James Laurinaitis.
David was drafted as a kid with a non-stop motor that could patrol the field from sideline to sideline. So far he hasn’t disappointed.
5. Attack, Attack and More Attacking
The left side of Tampa Bay’s defensive line is a very potent pass-rushing mechanism.
Defensive end Michael Bennett has six sacks and defensive tackle Gerald McCoy has three. But they disrupt the passes much more frequently.
According to Pro Football Focus, Bennett is the fifth-ranked defensive end in the league in terms of putting pressure on the quarterback. With six sacks, nine quarterback hits and 29 hurries, Bennett is one of five ends with a double-digit Pass Rushing Productivity score.
There is only one defensive tackle in the league with more hurries than McCoy. His 21 hurries along with six quarterback hits and three sacks make McCoy a very active and formidable tackle.