The Tampa Bay Buccaneers head into their early bye week with a 1-3 record and are looking for ways to improve upon their play going into the rest of the season.
Here are five things Buccaneers101.com thinks the team needs to do doing their bye week as it prepares for the remainder of the season.
Get Healthy – The Bucs have some key guys banged up right now and need to use this bye week in order to get them back to full strength. Left guard Carl Nicks has been battling a toe injury and was seen wearing a walking boot after the loss to the Redskins. Cornerback Eric Wright suffered a head injury against Washington and may have a concussion. Heck, even the NFL's Iron Man – safety Ronde Barber – had a stinger during Sunday's loss. All three of those players are vital to Tampa Bay's success and the extra week off should do them well.
Let Freeman Air It Out – He certainly isn't playing at the same high level he was in 2010, but Josh Freeman is playing much better than he did during last year's turnover-filled season. Through four games, Freeman has 790 passing yards with five touchdowns to just four interceptions. But the most impressive thing about Freeman so far this season is how well he is throwing the deep ball. According to the Bucs, Freeman's passer rating on throws that travel 41 yards or more in the air is a near-perfect 149.3. He also has a rating of 95.8 on throws between 31-40 yards. Clearly, Freeman is exceeding when it comes to slinging the ball down field. The Bucs need to open things up more and take a few more deep shots when they come back from the bye week.
Improve The Running Game – Rookie first-round pick Doug Martin came out the gates guns blazing with 95 rushing yards in the opener against Carolina, but he has struggled in every game since. Martin is averaging just 3.5 yards per carry and has just one touchdown in four games. Meanwhile, LeGarrette Blount has shown at times he can be a key contributor. The coaching staff just isn't giving him the opportunities. The former 1,000-yard rusher has just 13 carries so far this season. With the running game at a standstill, how about finding unique ways to get both Martin and Blount on the field together? That may confuse the defense and open up better lanes for whoever gets the ball. Of course, it all starts up front with the offensive line, but the backs have to start making guys miss when the have the ball.
Patch Up The Secondary - While the Bucs own the league fourth-best rush defense, the pass defense is in desperate need of fixing. Tampa Bay's pass defense is ranked dead last in the NFL and it is costing them games. When the defense needs a stop, they can't get opposing quarterbacks off the field. They are giving up an average of 345.2 yards through the air a game. That is nearly 20 yards worse than Redskins, who are ranked No. 31. Yes, the Bucs have produced six interceptions, but they have also allowed a league-worst 23 passing plays of 20 yards or more.The Bucs need to work on their fundamentals of keeping guys in front of them and staying in position so that they don't allow so many big plays in the passing game.
Get Clark More Involved - The Bucs brought in Dallas Clark to be Freeman's safety net after they traded Kellen Winslow in the offseason. Clark, who has a 100-catch season on his resume, has great hands and provides mismatches when he is covered by a linebacker. The problem is that the Bucs just aren't using him enough. Through four games, Clark has just nine receptions for 81 yards. Head coach Greg Schiano said he would like to see Clark get some more touches, but it will be up to offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan to make that happen. We haven't seen the versatile Clark used very effectively so far. Tampa Bay should be able to rectify that and get him more involved after the bye week.
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