It’s a matchup between Florida teams this Sunday, as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers make the roughly 200-mile trip to take on the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Both teams come in with 4-7 records, and are still mathematically alive in the playoff hunt (though both are obvious long shots), so a win is important for both teams to keep their slim playoff hopes alive.
To learn more about the Bucs, we spoke to Gil Arcia, managing editor at Bucs Nation — SB Nation’s leading source for all things Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Check out our conversation below:
1. What is the general consensus from the fanbase of Jameis Winston? He seems to either be throwing a touchdown pass or an interception every other throw. Is he the future, or do you think Tampa Bay needs to look into other options?
Gil: Well, the fans seem to be split. Although lately it honestly feels like there are more that are kind of beginning to see that the issues are not all on him. The interceptions are a tricky thing. He’s either had his receivers run the wrong routes, bobble passes into the hands of defenders, or his offensive line hasn’t given time for the play to develop. He has made some bad throws as well, but there are several quarterbacks who wish they could have certain throws back, too. I do think Winston deserves another contract. Head coach Bruce Arians sees that there are more issues than just Winston and with an offensive line that doesn’t actually give up sacks, then maybe we will finally see Winston’s true ability.
2. What have you liked from Bruce Arians in his first year as head coach for the Bucs? What would you like to see Arians and his staff improve upon? What has former Jaguars quarterback Byron Leftwich brought to the table as offensive coordinator?
Gil: There’s a lot to like from Arians. He has held players accountable, something we haven’t seen in Tampa Bay in quite some time. He knows his players and has implemented a staff to work with each group individually to their strengths as best as they could (with the exception of players that won’t be around next year). But I think offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich can improve on his playcalling. Last week in Atlanta was perhaps the best game Leftwich has called. We haven’t seen that all season, but then again the players executed the plays.
3. Mike Evans and Chris Godwin make up one of the most dangerous wide receiver duos in the NFL. If you were an opposing defensive coordinator, how would you game-plan against these two?
Gil: It’s tricky. You can play a two-high safety coverage to try and double them up, but then that frees up the tights ends and running backs out of the backfield. Tight ends Cameron Brate and O.J. Howard haven’t had many looks because Mike Evans and Chris Godwin have been the ones getting the majority of targets, and rightfully so. I think the key against the Buccaneers receivers as a whole is to play zone against them. Not only has Winston struggled against it, but the playcalling and the receivers have as well. So I’d play zone all day against them.
4. The Tampa Bay defense ranks second in the NFL against the run, giving up just 78.7 yards per game. What makes the Bucs so hard to run against? On the other hand, Tampa ranks 31st against the pass and 31st in points allowed. Why is the pass defense so bad?
Gil: The addition of Ndamukong Suh has really helped in the run game. Teams would easily run up the middle against the Buccaneers with Gerald McCoy. But the transition to a 3-4 base defense with Vita Vea anchoring the middle of the defensive line has been great against the run. They both have been able to not only shed off blockers, but opening up gaps for the linebackers to come in and stuff the run. As for the pass defense, the secondary has been bad. From poor coverage to miscommunication to just getting beat, the Tampa Bay secondary has experienced it all. But after the release of Vernon Hargreaves III and rookie Jamel Dean getting more playing time, it seems like this secondary has slowly gotten better. However, there is still a lot of work for them to do.
5. Are there any particular matchups you are excited to see on Sunday? Which ones and why?
Gil: The Bucs secondary has been making opposing quarterbacks like Daniel Jones, Teddy Bridgewater, and Kyler Murray look like All-Pros all season. So I am curious to see how Jaguars veteran quarterback Nick Foles exploits the young secondary of Tampa Bay.
Bonus: Score prediction?
Gil: I have the Bucs winning 29-20
A big thank you to Gil for taking the time on a holiday week to answer my questions and provide great analysis. You can follow both Gil and Bucs Nation on Twitter.