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Buccaneer Coaches Quotes, Dec. 18

Posted Dec 18, 2013

Even though the playoffs are out of reach, the Bucs are glad there are two weeks left in the season so that they can try to build some offensive momentum...And other discussions at One Buc Place on Wednesday

For the 19 or 20 teams still mathematically alive in the NFL’s playoff chase, the last two weeks of the 2013 campaign offer drama, scoreboard-watching and, for 12 of them, an eventual spot in the dance. For the rest of the NFL field, which includes the 4-10 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, there’s nothing to play for beyond December 29.

But there is still plenty to be gained. In the Buccaneers’ case, a 4-2 record in the second half of the season is reason for optimism, and a 6-2 mark would be particularly encouraging. More specifically, with the Buccaneers’ defense starting to look like one of the more promising young units in the league, the team would like to build some parallel momentum on the other side of the ball. Tampa Bay’s offense appeared to be hitting its stride in November behind the heady play of rookie QB Mike Glennon, but in recent weeks the numbers have taken a turn for the worse. For that reason alone, the Bucs are especially glad the 2013 season isn’t over yet.

- Offensive Coordinator Mike Sullivan would like to build some momentum over the last two weeks of the 2013 season
“I think that there have been a lot of frustrations and a lot of searching for the answers and we’ll continue to do that,” said Offensive Coordinator Mike Sullivan. “And where we’re at right now, thank goodness it’s not the end of the season. We’ve got another opportunity and another one after that. The problem is certainly out there and we can all see what it is and now it’s just we’re trying find what the answers are. We have to look at all options and so it’s an ongoing process.”

The chance for a season-ending offensive surge wasn’t the only topic being discussed at One Buccaneer Place on Wednesday. Below are some additional thoughts from Sullivan and Head Coach Greg Schiano.

Head Coach Greg Schiano

(Opening Statement)
“Couple of things: regular Wednesday practice, first and second down install, some special teams things. From a health standpoint, we had some guys that were limited as we have in the past weeks with [guard] Davin Joseph doing parts, [wide receiver] Vincent Jackson doing parts, [safety] Mark Barron has a hamstring [injury]. You guys, I think, have been made aware about [wide receiver] [Russell] Shepard being put on the IR, which is unfortunate, he’s really been a critical special teams player for us, again, that’ll be a big loss really on all four teams. He’s been a heck of a player so we’ll have to have to have someone step up there or some ones step up there. One thing – as we get towards the end of the year, after the season, I’ll address where we are and all those things but rather than have to keep saying it, it will be after the season. I’ll just say it in the front end, we’ll talk about St Louis today and the Bucs and this week and the game, so with that, any questions.”

(On the offense’s third down struggles)
“Yeah, third down has been an issue for sure. I think we’re six-for-35 in the last 35 third downs. We need to be better, obviously. A lot of different things, again, if it’s one guy or one thing, you fix it. It’s been various break downs, various things, some good defense, but as I said yesterday, or whenever we met last, we’re going to see good defenses, that’s a factor to be included but it is what it is. We have to do better, protection is part of it.”

(On if quarterback Mike Glennon’s decision making plays a part in their issue on third down)
“For me to say, in the last 35, he hasn’t had a decision wrong [wouldn’t be true], but not a lot [have been wrong]. I wouldn’t say that that’s a big part of it, no. He reads it out pretty well. Again, no one’s perfect, the last 35 plays, I’m sure he’s read one incorrectly, but defenses will do that to you too, experienced secondaries will do that to you but that’s not a big issue of it. Getting uncovered is an issue, being able to get off man coverage – we’ve struggled with that no doubt about it.”

(On checking down on third downs)
“Certainly, the initial read on a third-and-eight play is going to be for more than eight and it might be considerably more than eight and usually the second read is going to be for the first down. When you’re throwing the ball to check downs or routes beneath the stick, unless you see a route where the guy comes shooting out and you give it to him right away, then that’s a run and catch. Sometimes you do that, you have situations where you have some blockers on the other side and you’re going to try to run and catch and try to pop it, but that’s a play by design. When you see late in the down that the ball gets thrown beneath the stick that means that everything was taken away above the stick or at the stick and then you need to – you give it a shot at least. It’s better than taking a sack or scrambling for a no gain.”

(On getting put into third-and-longs and if that’s a reflection of the first and second down offense)
“Some of it, no doubt, but third-and-eight, that may not be the ideal, it may not be third-and-five, but you need to be able to throw the ball and catch it and convert a third-and-eight. That’s not abnormal in the National Football League. We need to do a better job.”

(On if he thinks the personnel is what has caused the drop-off in offensive production)
“I don’t think it would be fair to say it’s one thing – if it’s personnel, if it’s scheme, if it’s coaching, if it’s performance – there are a lot of things that go in to it. Personnel have certainly changed quite a bit but, as I’ve said many times, a lot of teams have that issue where you have guys down. Do we have more than most? Yeah, we do, this year, that happens sometimes but our job as coaches is to take what we have and make sure that we can make that work. We’re struggling right now, there’s no doubt and we’re trying to bust through it.”

(On Glennon’s struggles over the last three games)
“Well, again, there are a lot of things that go into it. Statistically, he has – again, as I said after the game, I thought he did a lot of good things Sunday against a really good defense. I thought he was one of the brightest spots of the operation. But I have felt that, moving forward, has it always been great statistically? No, but taking care of the football until the last drive where we threw the one up, but that one is – you don’t go down with the ball. He’s taught fourth-and-game – which that is fourth-and-26, we don’t make it, the game is over. He’s taught don’t worry about turning it over, to give it a shot, give your guys a shot. I think he’s done a great job of taking care of the ball, he’s done a good job of taking what’s there and sometimes there’s not a lot there.”

(On receivers struggling to get open and how the offense is utilizing wide receiver Vincent Jackson)
“Well I mentioned that, we’ve struggled a little bit at that. You have some guys who haven’t played a ton of football. When you have one who’s played a ton and been very successful, it’s not a mystery where they’re going to roll coverages and when you’re going to make – it’s almost like you have to cat-and-mouse it a little bit. Maybe you don’t make [wide receiver] Vincent the first, the primary read because you need to give him a little time to get working. It has definitely been a challenge for our offensive staff with Vincent being, obviously, a different level of performer at the wide receiver position, and then the majority of the rest of the guys being kind of new guys, rookies, second-year guys who haven’t played. It’s not easy for scheming and trying to get Vincent open, we’ve moved him around a lot. If you see, Vincent doesn’t line up in the same spot hardly ever. [We’re] constantly moving him so defenses at least have to try to figure out where he is. You might say ‘That’s not hard, he’s there [or] he’s there,’ but to have a whole coverage manipulated where Vincent lines up, it makes it a little more challenging. But, people are on to that as well now, so they kind of hang it. But we’ve got some things, hopefully this week that are going to help us and help the offense try to be a little bit better. I think somebody brought it up about ‘is first and second down part of it?’ Absolutely. I mean Sunday, first and second down were part of it because we weren’t very successful other than some no huddle stuff where we moved the ball. First and second down running, we didn’t run the ball well which – that in turn helps you be better in third down.”

(On if the offensive line has been inconsistent)
“Yeah, I’d say that’s a pretty accurate assessment, an inconsistent performance. There have been times we have played well. Kind of phasing guys, getting them all going at the same time, that’s been a little bit choppy but then there’ve been times when we have had everybody and still not been great and then there other times where we played well. I think that’s going to be a critical part of this football game, that our front five really play a solid game, not only in the pass protection, which everybody is aware of. They have the leading sacker in the [NFC – defensive end Robert Quinn] and they have a guy whose motor never quits on the other side [defensive end Chris Long] so it is going to be a huge challenge protecting the quarterback, but running the football as well. We’re going to face some loaded boxes for sure, and we’re going to have to find a way to run the football and throw the football effectively on first and second down as well as do it better on third down.”

(On Quinn)
“Well he’s got 15 sacks and seven forced fumbles, so that tells you something. He’s as good at tomahawk chopping the backside of the quarterback – you haven’t seen a guy do it with that effectiveness since L.T. [Hall of Fame linebacker Lawrence Taylor]. L.T., I mean, used to “WHAP” and knock that ball out with a vicious tomahawk chop and [Quinn] is bringing it that way. I mean seven forced fumbles, think about that, that’s a lot of forced fumbles and what did he play 14 games? That’s pretty substantial for a defensive end.”

(On tackle Donald Penn going up against Quinn)
“Donald – well, certainly, you’re not going to let him go it alone, but Donald’s up for the challenge, no doubt. He’s preparing and he’s a veteran guy and we’re going to have to get that guy at least – you’re going to stop him? No, but you’ve got to at least don’t let him take over the game. He’ll make his plays. Our quarterback needs to be aware, when you have a guy that is so adept at sack-fumbling, you better have a nice tight grip on that football when you’re in the pocket in case protection does break down. They’re very keenly aware of where the ball is, same thing with Long, Long has excellent body control and [is] relentless.”

(On guard Davin Joseph’s return from injury)
“I’ve coached long enough to know, I don’t care if it’s Superman, when you don’t practice and then you don’t play in the preseason but 20 plays, is he going to start the first game and be in mid-season form? No. [Cornerback] Darrelle Revis, same thing, he didn’t – look, when that happens, you’ve got to know that if everything clicks perfectly, yeah. But in life, not too many times does everything click perfectly, right? I think Davin has done an incredible job. I think Davin played his best football game last week. He really was as physical [and] against great competition. I think he is getting better every week, there’s no doubt about it. I think we’re trying to do everything we can to help him be better from a health standpoint, giving him some rest. But, you know as you get up there – he’s played a lot of football too, so there’s nothing wrong with giving some of the veteran guys a little more rest. But I can see him – it’s unfortunate that we’re almost out of time here, I’m sure he’d like to play more but – he’s definitely on the ascension with his play. He probably would have liked it to ascend more quickly but he had a pretty serious deal going there, it wasn’t an easy surgery and then it got infected so that’s not a little thing.”

(On defensive end Will Gholston’s progress as a young player)
“Couple things about Will – number one, he’s immensely gifted, right? He’s big, he’s fast, he’s long, he’s strong, all the things you want out of a defensive end. [He] came out early, so he’s a little young, right? His best days are clearly ahead of him and what we’ve tried to do is forced feed him without suffocating him, if that makes sense. We’ve given him, what we feel, was as much as he could handle early on and maybe even a little more than he could. Towards the beginning, middle of the season, we probably gave him a little more but Will has really come on and now you can see the light going on in different parts of his game. And he’s recognizing things more quickly, he’s playing with – that strength that he has, he’s now playing with that strength. But again, that all, when you’re a young player – and he is considerably, he came out as a junior – when you’re a young player, who’s figuring it out, a lot of your abilities kind of get squelched a little bit. Then as you start to be more comfortable with the defenses and the calls and the techniques – it appears like you just line up and go straight ahead but there’s a lot more to it for the defensive ends. They have to play several techniques, they have to read defensive linemen as they’re getting up the field and what’s happened through repetition and a lot of hard work, Will has gotten better and better. The other thing that Will’s done – I told you guys like week eight, that’s twelve games for those rookies and I met with all of the rookies and explained to them ‘Your college season just ended and we still have half a season to go.’ There are guys like Will and [defensive tackle Akeem] Spence, some of these young guys and [cornerback] Johnthan Banks, they’ve really taken care of their bodies, which I think has allowed Will to keep going on that ascension as well so I am really fired up about him and we’re going to need him this week. He’s a guy who tries to do exactly what you coach him to do, he’s knocking balls down, which he should with that long reach. There’s a sense that defensive linemen have when they rush the passer, “Okay, I’m not going to get home, but I’m going to see the quarterback and when that long arm comes off the football,’ boom, ours go up and he’s knocked some balls down. Those are plays that you don’t have to defend, you don’t have to see the result, and maybe you get a tip ball interception. That’s why you like those big long defensive ends and I think we’ve all seen him when he’s flat out turned and pursued to the football that for a guy his size, he can really run so that’s pretty much the details I think on it.”

Offensive Coordinator Mike Sullivan

(On reports that he is a candidate for the Head Coaching position at Army)
“There is an appropriate time and place for all those type of answers to those questions and I think right now, especially given where we’re at offensively, and some of the challenges that we have and what faces us this Sunday in St. Louis, if we could, I would like to just center our questions and focus on the Rams. Certainly, I’m sure there are plenty of questions you guys have for the offense and on some of the issues that we’ve had which are well documented, so hit me with your best shot.”

(On if it’s been hard dealing with distractions over the last week or two)
“I think that whether things are going well or they’re not going well, I think it was Rudyard Kipling who said, ‘If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster and treat those two impostors just the same,’ and I think whether we went on top of the mountain and things are going extremely well and, ‘Boy, things are great,’ or you’re at the bottom of the barrel, I never have nor will I ever allow the situation, the external pressures, the bad or the good, to take me away from the task at hand and not have me be at my best. Despite what’s happened, despite the shortcomings, there’s only one way I know how to do things and that’s to keep moving forward.”

(On the team’s struggles on third down)
“I think the third down has certainly been an area we’ve struggled, obviously. Right now, the margin for error is so small for us that if we have less than the ideal play call, if we have less than the perfect execution…You know, right now when we’re struggling, it’s tough to overcome a dropped pass or it’s tough to overcome a sack or a pressure, or it’s tough to overcome a call where there’s anticipation of a coverage and it’s there and boy, they just happened to take away certain things that you’re expecting. So, we’re taking a hard look at the things that we’re capable of doing, the things that put our guys in the position to where you have these great pass rushers and certainly we’ve got two of the best in [St. Louis defensive ends Robert] Quinn and [Chris] Long that we have to play in the dome this Sunday. How are the ways that we can give our quarterback the time to be able to get the ball downfield? And we’ve got to do a great job in terms of the design of the pass – if it’s man coverage, doing some things that we’ve tried to do, moving people around, moving [wide receiver] Vincent [Jackson] around, having motions so that we can get some of those rubs and give ourselves the best chance. It’s any number of factors that can come into play, but there’s no doubt that that’s been a shortcoming and I think a part of it also, I don’t know what the exact numbers are, but I think if you looked at how many snaps that we have that are third-and-10-plus, third-and-11-plus, and I’ve said it before and it seems like a broken record and trust me, I get tired of saying it as well, is the setbacks that we’re having on first and second down and how whether it’s whatever the case may be – tackle for loss, penalty, etc. – those are the things that right now and anytime you’re struggling, when things are going well, you’re playing well, you can – next play. Where we’re at, we just have to continue to work to minimize those situations. I’ve got to nail and be on point with the play call, the players have to nail it and be on point with their execution, so that we have more of those manageable types of downs and distances because that’s no question been something that’s been a shortcoming, certainly last Sunday.”

(On if it’s hard to game plan against a guy like Quinn)
“It is and I don’t say that in an, ‘Oh gosh, what am I going to do?’ That’s my job and so we have to find a way. There are very specific things and it’s probably not unlike what a lot of teams will try to do, we just have to put our wrinkle on it and how we have things set up schematically, from a protection standpoint there are plays that you don’t want to call if he’s on the field. There are plays that you are going to make sure that you have set to him. There’s runs that you are going to want to do to go ahead and try to wear him down. But he’s a phenomenal talent, a great player. Mike Waufle, the D-line coach is tremendous. He’s done an excellent job with that whole unit and so it is a great challenge, but there’s no question something could look great schematically – ‘Wow, look at this big play,’ and we’re game planning earlier this week – ‘This play looks great.’ Well, as you look at it, it’s ‘A thousand one, a thousand two, a thousand three, a thousand four’ – forget about it. That’s just how it is. Things can look great down the field but if we can’t, and it’s, I don’t care who this is, it’s just tackle after tackle after tackle. So just to echo your sentiments, it is a challenge for sure.”

(On St. Louis’ defense thriving on turnovers)
“They do a great job of taking the football away, particularly talking about Quinn again, the sack-fumbles that he has and very opportunistic and they do thrive on that, and trying to get the offense to make mistakes. It’s something that we talk about every week, the importance of ball security and taking care of the football, which I think we did a good job of last week, notwithstanding the – it’s fourth and forever and we want to do whatever is necessary at that point. It will be critical this week because of the opportunistic defense that they have, in particular from a pass-rush standpoint and often times a lot of those interceptions it’s not the guys back there, he’s able to set his feet, and it’s a nice clean pocket and he’s able to throw; there’s somebody that’s on his back or in his face and he’s having to move, and that ball gets tipped and it’s an inaccurate throw because of the pressure. That’s definitely a part of our decision making process.”

(On if he has found the answer to the offense’s problems)
“There are definitely times when that’s the case, there are definitely instances when you – I don’t think you ever go into it and, ‘Boy, this is a bad play, this isn’t going to work, let me go ahead and run it anyway, let me just see what more – let me bang my head against the wall one more time.’ Then it’s the matter of trying to adjust and what takes place, what are the things that based upon their adjustment how we can modify what we are doing. You look at with our most recent game trying to change things up with some the tempo which I think [quarterback] Mike [Glennon] did a great job, just the communication, the poise, and being able to get us in the right formation and just trying to find those variables. But I think each defense has that weakness and has some of those areas where they’re either going to be very patient and you have to take what they give you and they’re waiting for you to screw it up or you’re going to be aggressive and take lots of chances and they leave themselves open for big plays or it’s a combination of the two. You throw in the personnel that you see on first and second down, then with third down, and that’s where the ongoing issues are with us and make sure we find that balance. To answer your question, we do feel really good right now, first and second down, we had a great day today, have some good thoughts to what we want to do both in the running game and in the pass game and spend some extra time with third down, as critical as that is. I think that’s the ability to sustain the drives, we’re out there in such a short period of time and the three and out just kills you because we’re not moving the ball, we’re not scoring points, our defense goes back out there, etc. So, I feel good about where we’re at right now and our preparations getting ready for St. Louis.”

(On if more practice time has been devoted to third down)
“We went ahead and we always get a head start as far as in our weekly schedule to try and get it to the quarterback a little bit sooner and we just spent a, took a few more clips, if you will, looked at a few more things that they had done and put a little bit of extra, nothing out of the ordinary, but really spent a longer time I guess is probably a better way of phrasing it, normally you’d say allocate whatever ‘x’ amount of hours that you as a staff want to go through and talk protections and scheme. This was certainly an example of, as the expression goes – I don’t know if [defensive coordinator] Bill Sheridan said this one – ‘measure twice, cut once.’ We definitely are in a ‘measure twice, cut once’ mode.”