S.S. Mailbag: Seeking Explosiveness

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I usually noodle around with a possibly-semi-related note of my own at the beginning of each weekly mailbag before getting around to what the mailbag is actually for, that being your questions. Each of the last two weeks, that note has been about the incredible wide receiver duo of Mike Evans and Chris Godwin…or Chris Godwin and Mike Evans depending upon which one just had the 150-yard, two-touchdown game.

Two weeks ago it was about the combined production of those two, which set me off into a look at the most productive pairs of Buc teammates in other stat categories. Last week, it was about where both Evans and Godwin rank among all the receivers drafted the same years that they were.

Should I keep the tradition going? Is there anything more to say about Evans and Godwin, any novel way to break down their gaudy statistics? Of course there is! Here, try this one on for size: The last time two teammates each had at least 650 receiving yards through the first seven games of a season (Godwin has 705, Evans has 662) was…Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt for the St. Louis Rams in 2000. The Greatest Show on Turf! Bruce and Holt were one of the best wide receiver tandems of all time.

Or how about this one: Mike Evans caught eight passes for 190 yards and two touchdowns in Week Three against the New York Giants. In the entire history of the Buccaneers, there have been as many instances of a 170+-yard, two-touchdown receiving performance in the four games since that Bucs-Giants game as there were in the 678 games before it. Chris Godwin had 172 and two against the Rams in Week Four and Evans put up another 198 and two last Sunday in Tennessee. One of the two such games that happened before this season also belonged to Evans, by the way.

See? I could go on dicing up the numbers all day with Evans and Godwin. But I'm not going to, and here's why: It's Halloween! Let's talk about that instead. Have the Buccaneers ever played on Halloween before? Glad you asked; yes they have. You would think that the October Sundays would rotate around to a Halloween every seven years or so, but it's not that easy. Leap years mess up the rotation, for one thing. In 1982, the NFL would have been playing on Halloween but the middle of the season was wiped out by a players' strike. The NFL did play on Halloween in 2004, also, but the Bucs had a bye that week and could get to their trick-or-treating earlier in the evening.

The first time the Bucs played on Halloween was in 1993, when Horace "Hi-C" Copeland back-flipped in the end zone twice after scoring touchdowns and the Bucs barely held on, 31-24, after shooting out to a 31-3 lead. The next one was in 1999 and it was a spooky night game in Detroit that ended in a 20-3 loss in the one and only Buccaneer start for quarterback Eric Zeier. The only other Halloween game for the Bucs was in 2010, when they went to Arizona and won a 38-35 shootout with Cody Grimmmmm playing safety.

Cody Grimm, get it? (He is now a defensive/special teams assistant on the Bucs' coaching staff.) Just for the heck of it, let's list some other former players whose names fit the Halloween theme (if you squint hard enough):

Jeremy Trueblood

Richard "Batman" Wood

Melvin Carver

Byron Leftwich

John Booty

Josh Savage

Vernon Hargreaves (work with me here)

Marcus Knight

John Howell (as in, howl…I'll let myself out)

Okay, maybe I should have stuck to the Evans/Godwin notes after well. Oh well, on to your questions.

A reminder that you can send questions to me anytime you want on Twitter (@ScottSBucs) and they're easier to find if you include the hashtag #SSMailbagBucs. We are also now soliciting questions each week on our Instagram page; look for that story on Wednesdays. As always, if you want to get a longer question into the mailbag and would prefer to email your question, you can do so to tbbsocial@buccaneers.nfl.com.

View some of the top photos from Buccaneers Week 9 practice at the AdventHealth Training Center.

Why is Justin Watson not playing receiver but Scotty Miller is?

- cardkingz, via Instagram

Well, in the case of any development on the depth chart, the player who is getting the playing time is obviously the one the coaches think can help the team the most. Neither Watson nor Miller has very much experience in an NFL offense yet, so it's not as if one or the other is the clear-cut obvious answer. In this case, I imagine the Buccaneers' offensive coaches believe they can find ways to use Miller's speed and quickness, which are attributes that set him apart a bit from the other candidates.

In reality, neither Miller nor Watson is playing a ton. In the four games in which veteran receiver Brett Perriman has been healthy and in the primary third-receiver role (not counting the game in which he got hurt five snaps in), Miller has seen 12 snaps and Watson has seen five. When Perriman first got hurt against the Rams, the Bucs actually turned first to Bobo Wilson to eat up his snaps. Wilson got 35 snaps the rest of that game and then 50 over the next two outings. Of course, Wilson has since been released, so the Miller-or-Watson question has become more relevant.

Speaking of that Rams game, do you remember the play in which Mike Evans and two L.A. defenders collided near the end zone as they tried to get to a fluttering pass that had come out wrong because Winston was hit as he threw. On that play, which was thrown from the 45-yard line, Winston was trying to hit Miller on a deep pass because the rookie had gotten several yards behind Aqib Talib and Eric Weddle as he streaked into the end zone. After the game, Head Coach Bruce Arians said he thought the team would have had a touchdown there if Winston had gotten the throw off clean.

And that's what I'm talking about. Though it hasn't happened yet, there is at least the idea that Miller's speed can produce some big plays and/or draw some defense away from Chris Godwin and Mike Evans. In the Tennessee game, Winston tried another long pass in Miller's direction on a deep post and it looked like it had a shot until the trailing defender made a diving breakup. So close. Because Miller also has those quick-twitch moves, he might also eventually be a good option in the slot who can take a quick pass and tack on yards after the catch.

Hi Scott!

I'm a LONG time Bucs fan, since 1976, and I've never lived in Florida :->

Can you explain the rationale behind NFL's "market areas"? I'm a Bucs fan, and I just don't care about the Raiders or 49'rs who are in my "market". The restrictions this year are horrible, I can't even listen to the live-streamed radio anymore. Yes, I'm frugal (father of 5, ages 11-20) so paying $$ for NFL Game Pass isn't an option. Anyway, thank you and Casey for all the great work you do- it's the only way I can keep in touch with my favorite team.

Go Bucs!

+

Steve Truxton

Hi Steve! I like your emoticons, though I can't quite tell what the one in your signoff is supposed to be. Anyway, let me thank you first for your many decades as a Bucs fan from afar. I would love to hear how that came to be. Making a wild guess from the stated ages of your children, I'm guessing you yourself were a kid when you first adopted our team.

I've had this question for a bit now but I wanted to take a little time to get an official answer from the NFL, as I wasn't sure I could answer it to your satisfaction. This is what a league spokesperson asked us to share with you:

"The television distribution model for professional sports leagues, including the NFL, has been to televise games of the teams in the cities or regions where an overwhelming majority of their fans live. 

"We recognize that fans may live outside the local area of their favorite teams. In order to satisfy those fans, the NFL has no less than three games a week (Thursday, Sunday night, & Monday night) that are broadcast to a national audience and, over the course of the season, featuring a variety of teams from across the League."

This doesn't really solve your problem, Steve, but I hope you can see the point. You don't care about the Raiders or 49ers but many of your neighbors do, and they probably wouldn't be satisfied if they were routinely shown games of other teams rather than their own. Hopefully you've enjoyed those times when the Buccaneers have been on national broadcasts. Meanwhile, Casey I will do our best to keep you updated on everything happening here. And thank you for the kind words.

How many touchdowns have the buccaneers scored since their establishment?

- harry.lkk, via Instagram

We were discussing "pet peeves" in the office the other day and one brought up by my fellow Buccaneers.com contributor Carmen Vitali was "when someone asks you an obvious question they could easily look up themselves." Does this one qualify? I feel like that would be a pretty quick Google search, but maybe I'm wrong. Let me check.

I'm back. First, I'll admit that I thought this was going to be something you could find in about 10 seconds on Pro Football Reference, but it wasn't. You can find the answer on that site but you have to do a bit of work and have some familiarity with its (awesome) search functions. I tried Googling "total touchdowns I Buccaneers history" but that didn't get me anywhere and several links on the first page were to my own stories.

Actually, the quickest way I found to get to this answer is to open the PDF copy of the Buccaneers' 2019 media guide, right here on this very site, under the "Team" tab above. Page 354 has a table of the Bucs' year-by-year scoring and it shows that, coming into this season the franchise had scored 1,370 regular-season touchdowns. You have to add this year's total, but that's not hard to find.

So, no, Harry, this is not one that fits into Carmen's category and it was perfectly acceptable to seek that answer here. And I happen to have one-click access to the team's all-time files for things like touchdowns, rushing yards, passing yards, etc. The answer is, as of last week's game in Tennessee, 1,392 regular-season touchdowns. That's 442 on the ground, 819 through the air and 131 on returns. Those TDs belong to 247 different players, topped by Mike Alstott and his 71. Ninety-six players in team history have scored exactly one touchdown, including current Bucs Justin Evans, Vernon Hargreaves, Dare Ogunbowale and Ndamukong Suh. Typing those two names in succession makes me wish the Bucs had a player named Ndamukong Ogunbowale just to hear announcers try to say it on the broadcast.

So there you go, Harry, an answer to your totally legitimate question plus a little extra. Try to get that on a Google search.

Do you think we need to open up the playbook and try something more explosive?

- nolimit.free, via Instagram

No offense, nolimit, but are you sure we're starting from an accurate premise here?

I notice that you're not saying that the Bucs' offense hasn't been explosive (perhaps you believe that as well) but that the play-callers haven't tried to be explosive. I'm not sure I agree with that.

By "explosive" I assume you mean big plays. Explosive plays in the running game are really more about personnel than play-calling. I don't think you call too many run plays expecting them to gain 20 or 30 yards; that happens when good blocking and a talented back turn any kind of run play into something big with wide lanes and shifty moves.

So if you're specifically trying to call plays in order to be more explosive, all I can figure that you mean is throwing the ball downfield more. I find the question a bit surprising after a game in Tennessee in which Jameis Winston threw it deep a lot. Mike Evans himself caught downfield passes of 46, 43 and 29 yards and drew another 43-yard pass-interference penalty on another deep heave. Those weren't yards after the catch; those passes were in the air a long time.

Winston has tossed 263 passes so far and in terms of how far downfield they were thrown, they break down like this: 44 behind the line of scrimmage, 115 between one and 10 yards downfield, 69 between 11 and 20 yards downfield and 35 more than 20 yards downfield. Compared to most teams, that actually skews more toward downfield passing. The Buccaneers' 35 passes in that last category are eighth-most in the NFL, even though they have played one fewer game than a lot of teams. Their 69 passes in the 11-20 range are fifth-most in the league.

So 104 of the Bucs' 263 passes so far have been thrown at least 11 yards downfield, or 39.5% of them. You know what? That's the highest percentage in the entire NFL! Now, Tampa Bay's passer rating on those deepest throws is 82.1, which is only 25th-best in the NFL. I'm not sure the Bucs need to try to be more explosive in their play-calling; I think they just need to do it more successfully.

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