Williams at the Head of His Class

When the first-ever “Day Three” of an NFL Draft dawned on April 24, 2010, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had one player in their direct sights.  Picking third in the upcoming fourth round, they believed they had a good shot to get their man and, indeed, with pick #101 the Bucs landed former Syracuse wide receiver Mike Williams.

Williams arrived in Tampa with a burning need to prove that he was worth much more than a fourth-round pick.  “I’m going to go in there and work hard,” he said on the day of his selection.  “I figure if I work as hard as I can, they say hard work pays off.  They’re going to know that Mike Williams is a great player.

Williams is well on his way to fulfilling his prediction.  One thing is already clear: Despite his fourth-round status, he is the most productive receiver from the 2010 draft class. Continue reading

Freeman Airing It Out Like Never Before in Bucs History

Tampa Bay’s 513 yards of offense in a losing effort on Sunday against New Orleans marked the second-highest single-game yardage output in franchise history.  Much of that was channeled through the right arm of QB Josh Freeman, who passed for a career-high 420 yards.

Freeman may have set his high-water mark on Sunday, but that 400-yard day didn’t come out of nowhere.  In fact, it was the capper on the most productive passing stretch in franchise history, in terms of yards.

After falling just one yard shy of a 300-yard game against Washington in Week Four, Freeman returned from the bye in Week Six and hung 328 on the Chiefs in a 38-10 Bucs’ win.  Those two outings, along with Sunday’s output, give Freeman 1,047 passing yards over his last three games.  No Buc passer had every done that before.

Freeman joined Vinny Testaverde as the only Tampa Bay quarterbacks ever to top 1,000 yards in a three-game span.  Testaverde did it from October 22 to November 5 in 1999 against Washington, Cincinnati and Cleveland, putting up a total of 1,107 yards.  Here are the four quarterbacks in Buccaneers history who have thrown for at least 950 yards in a three-game span, and their respective best outputs: 

Player Yards Dates
Josh Freeman 1,047 9/30-10/21/12
Vinny Testaverde 1,017 10/22-11/5/89
Steve DeBerg 996 11/21-12/5/93
Doug Williams 959 11/9-11/23/80

During his recent run, Freeman has also tossed seven touchdowns versus just two interceptions, and that has helped his passer rating climb steadily.  Freeman is now at 91.2, which ranks 11th in the NFL.  Freeman’s primary targets, who have certainly enjoyed his downfield touch in recent weeks, are sold on their young passer.

“That was great man,” said Mike Williams, who had a potential fourth Freeman TD pass disallowed because he had briefly stepped out of bounds on the game’s last play.  “It would have looked good with four touchdown passes and some more yards, but he had a great day. He performed how he did, and, like I tell people, he is the truth. He came back and showed that he is the truth.”

Bucs Defense Still Plugging the Red Zone

Three weeks into the 2012 season, it was clear that Tampa Bay’s defense was a completely different animal from the on that finished the previous season on a significant slide.  Not everything was perfect – a very tough afternoon in pass defense in the Meadowlands in Week Two being the most obvious example – but the Bucs were clearly improved in a number of areas.

One of those was how well the team was able to fare inside its own 20.  Through those first three games, the Bucs ranked first in the NFL in red zone defense, having allowed just two of 11 opponent trips inside the 20 to turn into touchdowns.

A narrow loss to Washington in Week Four included two touchdowns in three red zone trips for the Redskins, but that may prove to be the exception rather than the beginning of a downturn.  Last Sunday, the Chiefs managed two trips into the Bucs’ red zone but were turned away once by an interception and held to a field goal on the other.

Thus, after five weeks, the Buccaneers still ranks second in the NFL in red zone defense. Continue reading

Bucs Per-Play Rate Sunday Best in Franchise History

Josh Freeman is up for the NFL’s Air Player of the Week award after really airing it out against the Kansas City Chiefs Sunday.  Among the big numbers and milestone accomplishments in the Bucs’ 38-10 win were Freeman’s first 300-yard game of the year; his first three-TD game of the year; the team’s third-highest net yardage total in a home game; a mark of 12.62 yards per pass attempt that ranked third in team annals; and a season-best 6.0 yards per carry in the ground game.

One number that snuck through all the notes dispersal, however, was this one: 9.1.  That’s the average number of yards the Buccaneers’ offense was able to gain per play on Sunday.  That’s just shy of a first down on every snap, on average, and if that sounds like an impressive number, it is.  In fact, it’s the single-best per-play mark the Buccaneers have ever managed in a game.

In 568 previous regular-season games, the Buccaneers had never managed to break nine yards per play before.  Here are the top average-gain-per play performances in franchise history:

Game Yards Plays Avg.
1. vs. Kansas City, 10/14/12 463 51 9.08
2. vs. Minnesota, 10/29/00 413 49 8.43
3. at Miami 10/20/85 476 57 8.35
4. at Indianapolis, 10/16/88 483 59 8.20

 

Short Scoring Drives the Norm Against Both Defenses

As we’ve previously pointed out in the Captain’s Blog here, the Chiefs’ offense has had serious turnover issues this season, which has led directly to nearly half of the points Kansas City has allowed so far.  Not surprisingly, that’s reflected in the statistics regarding the amount of yards, plays and seconds opposing teams have had to devote to scoring points against the Chiefs.  Simply put, Kansas City’s foes haven’t had to work as hard for their points this season.

What may not have been as obvious, considering that the Buccaneers are actually ranked 10th in turnover ratio this year with a margin of +2, is that Tampa Bay’s opponents have also done much of their damage on short drives, relatively speaking.  In fact, both the Buccaneers and the Chiefs rank in the “top six” in all three drive-charting categories – plays, yards and time consumed – in terms of the smallest numbers required.

This might be clearer in chart form: Continue reading

Bucs Need to ‘Stuff’ Chiefs’ Rushing Attack

The Kansas City Chiefs’ prolific rushing attack has been something of a feast or famine proposition in 2012.  The Buccaneers’ ability to defeat the Chiefs this coming Sunday at Raymond James Stadium may hinge on tipping those scales towards famine.

Kansas City ranks second in the NFL with an average of 180.8 rushing yards per game.  That’s good.  The Chiefs have the fourth highest total of runs of 10 or more yards.  That’s quite good, as well.  But K.C.’s rushing attack also has the most negative plays this season, having suffered 26 “stuffs,” or tackles behind the line of scrimmage.  That’s bad.

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Jackson Among NFL’s Most Sure-Handed Receivers

The scouting report on wide receiver Vincent Jackson, who left the San Diego Chargers this past offseason to sign a lucrative free agency deal with the Buccaneers, is that he brought a lethal combination of size, a long-strider’s deceptive speed, outstanding body control and sure hands.

Buccaneer fans have already seen those traits in action, as they have helped Jackson produce a 19.0 yards-per-catch figure (sixth in the NFL) and constant first-down production (14 of his 16 receptions).  Many observers may not have noticed, however, how thoroughly Jackson has proved that last assessment correct.  The Bucs’ new number-one receiver has been so sure-handed through the first month of play that he has yet to suffer a dropped pass.

That puts Jackson among the NFL’s best when it comes to catching everything within range.  There are only five players in the league who have been targeted at least 30 times so far this year and have yet to drop a pass.  Minnesota’s Percy Harvin has 48 targets without a drop, Philadelphia’s DeSean Jackson has 46 and the Bucs’ Jackson is next with 38 (all statistics courtesy of Statspass).  Indianapolis’ Donnie Avery and Baltimore’s Torrey Smith round out the top five.

Tampa Bay’s passing attack has still not reached its full potential, obviously, even in the potentially prolific connection between Jackson and quarterback Josh Freeman.  The Bucs would surely like to improve on their 42.1% completion rate when throwing it in Jackson’s direction.  Still, he is catching what he can, and providing good yardage with those opportunities.  Of all the players in the NFL who have still not dropped a single pass, Jackson is fourth with 304 receiving yards.

Can Bucs Take Advantage of Chiefs’ Turnover Woes?

To say that turnover margin is a critical win-loss determinant in the NFL is to state the obvious, and to quote just about every coach in history.  Just to put a few numbers on it, over the last decade (plus the first four games of this season) the Bucs are 56-17 when they have a positive turnover ratio, 9-18 when it’s equal and 10-54 when they have a negative turnover ratio.  Just working the two extremes, that’s a massive difference in winning percentages of .611 (.767 versus .156).

So why bring up the importance of turnovers now, when it’s true every week.  Well, the Bucs’ next opponent has had difficulty holding onto the football through the first five weeks of the season, and the team is sure to be concentrating this week on taking advantage of that issue.

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