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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Containing the QB | S.S. Mailbag

This week, Bucs fans have questions about impressive rookie performances, the team's recent history against running quarterbacks, and more


The Tampa Bay Buccaneers opened their 2023 season in a particularly positive way, not just with a win but a win on the road, in a very difficult place to play, against a team that won 13 games a year ago. The 20-17 thriller against the Minnesota Vikings in a deafening U.S. Bank Stadium was a very encouraging way for the Buccaneers to start the defense of their back-to-back NFC South titles.

The lasting images from this game will probably be some combination of Baker Mayfield's first touchdown pass to Mike Evans, Mayfield's vicious stiff-arm on a scramble, Antoine Winfield's strip-sack of Kirk Cousins, Christian Izien's bizarre goal-line interception and Chris Godwin's fingertip catch to seal the victory. From a statistical standpoint, the most important numbers were probably Tampa Bay's 3-0 turnover ratio, Chase McLaughlin's 57-yard field goal, the 8:59 that a third-quarter touchdown drive drained off the clock and the Vikings' 41 rushing yards.

But here's another number from the final stat sheet from Sunday that jumps out at me: 33.

That's how many times the Buccaneers ran the ball among 68 total plays. That's almost exactly half of the snaps. It's true that some of those were Mayfield scrambles and three of them were kneel-downs at the end of the fourth quarter, but those things happen in a lot of games so we can still compare numbers from game to game.

This was not an accident. The Bucs only gained 73 yards on those 33 plays and averaged 2.2 yards per tote, which is obviously not the goal. But along the way there were some tough and important yards gained on the ground, and the balance that brought to the offense was important, at least in the minds of the coaching staff.

"The run does not always have to be pretty," said Head coach Todd Bowles the next day. "If you can get 33 runs and keep the defense off the field some, and keep [the offense] out there longer, it keeps them honest and keeps them off of Baker some. It has a double-fold [impact], you know; the amount of carries are just as important as the yardage, if not more important. If we can stay with that and kind of stay balanced, it keeps everybody in the game."

Okay, here's where I drop a stat and then immediately discredit it. Over the last five years, the Buccaneers have had 15 games in which they have run the ball 31 or more times. They have won 14 of those games, including Sunday's contest in Minnesota. If you're currently screaming the word "causation" at your screen, you know what I'm going to say next. High carry totals often correlate with victories in the NFL, but they don't necessarily cause them. When teams get a big lead, they are more likely to run the ball to kill the clock and avoid risking turnovers. Winning >>>> running the ball more often than the other way around.

However, the Bucs win in Minnesota is an outlier, and likely a declaration of intent. You see, of the other 14 games on the list I noted above, only one of them did not feature the Buccaneers either winning by two scores or at some point leading the game by double digit points. The only other exception was a Week Two win in Carolina in 2019 in which the Bucs actually trailed 12-10 in the third quarter before winning 20-14. Peyton Barber lead the way as the Bucs ran exactly 31 times for exactly 100 yards.

Otherwise, we have games like the 38-3 drubbing of Chicago in 2021 or the 32-6 demolition of Carolina later that same season. Some of the games ended up as one-score contests, such as the 48-40 win over New Orleans to kick off the 2018 season, but the Bucs were up by 17 points late in the second half of that game.

The Bucs aren't going to run the ball 31+ times in every game this season, nor should they. But they're almost certain to strike more of a balance than they did in 2022, when Tom Brady threw an all-time NFL record 733 passes but Tampa Bay ranked dead last with 386 running plays. We saw the beginning of that in Minnesota

Now on to your questions.

A reminder that you can send questions to me any time 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

View pictures from Tampa Bay Buccaneers practice on 9/14/2023.

I need to know if the film session segment is coming back to the YT channel or not!!!

- @bucsfanbrennan (via Instagram)

I'll start with an easy one: Yes. In fact, the first episode of Rondé Barber's excellent Film Session series is up on the Bucs' YouTube channel now as we speak. I know because I just went there and watched it. As always, it was enlightening. I particularly enjoyed Rondé's explanation of how Antoine Winfield Jr. got free for his big strip-sack on Kirk Cousins. Not to spoil his analysis – seriously, take a minute and go watch it – but it was a really tricky play design, executed flawlessly by Winfield and Devin White.

I bought a Baker jersey about a month ago. Who should I get next?

- @ashman162 (via Instagram)

I'm not the best person to ask this question because I don't own any jerseys of professional athletes. Well, that's not completely true; I do have a Barber jersey hanging on my office wall because he personally presented it to me and signed it when I hit my 20th anniversary with the Buccaneers. That was cool. If I was going to buy a Bucs jersey to wear, I'd probably go old school and go with #20.

But it's clear you want a recommendation from among the current Buccaneers. Initially, my first thought was Antoine Winfield Jr., who is probably my favorite player on the team right now. This summer, I predicted for the second year in a row that he would end the season with first-team Associated Press All-Pro honors, and he certainly got off to a good start in Minnesota. The only thing is, he's in the last year of his rookie contract. I certainly hope that Winfield re-signs with the Bucs and is here for a long time, but I guess that does have to be factored in when you're investing in a jersey.

If you bought a Mayfield jersey after he got here, I'm guessing you already have some other jerseys, so I'm not going to make any obvious suggestions like Chris Godwin or Lavonte David. I assume you're looking for a newcomer, or a relative newcomer. Somebody who joined the team either last year or this year. You know who could be a sneaky play here? SirVocea Dennis. Both David and Devin White are signed only through 2023; again, it is my hope that they will both be around for 2024 and beyond, but there's no guarantee. I think Dennis was drafted with the idea that he would eventually replace one of those two after their excellent Buccaneer careers have come to an end, and I think he's going to be a very exciting player. Maybe you want to wait another year on that one, but he would certainly be on my list. Good luck with your decision!

A couple weeks ago, somebody asked you what the best part of your job was. So now I need to know…what's the worst part of your job?

- Frank D. (via email to

Hey, I'm not going to start complaining. I like almost everything about my job and I'm very, very lucky to have it. This is like asking me what the worst thing is on a dessert menu.

But I do have an answer. The part of my job that I really don't like is finding out when one of our players is hurt. Sometimes that happens when you're walking through the training room to get to the practice field and you see a player you didn't realize had an injury on one of the training tables. Sometimes it happens live during a game, when we get a call up from the sideline after a player has been helped off. It's a sinking feeling. It's just awful for the player and for the team, and by extension for us fans. Think about how people who worked for the Jets were feeling on Monday night when Aaron Rodgers tore an Achilles tendon. Think about how Rodgers felt.

I really dislike that part of it, but it's not really unique to my job. I'm sure many other people out there feel the same way. It's a shame we have to say so often that "injuries are part of the game." I even hate it when players on the other team get hurt.

How has the bucs D done vs mobile qbs like fields?

- @Jackie345 (via Instagram)

Well, we know how the Bucs' defense has done against a mobile quarterback exactly like Fields because they faced him and the Bears in 2021 and…well, it didn't go real well for Fields. He ran eight times for 38 yards and completed 22 of 32 passes for 184 yards, no touchdowns and three interceptions and the Bucs won the game, 38-3. But to be fair, Fields was a rookie at the time, making just his fifth NFL start. It would be a stretch to say that one performance from two years ago is proof the Bucs can shut Fields down.

So, to give you an overall answer, I had to determine which quarterbacks that the Bucs have faced fit into that category of "mobile QB." Also, I'm only going back to 2019 because that's when Todd Bowles arrived and it doesn't really matter how the Bucs' previous defenses fared against running quarterbacks. (Although the Bucs' epic clash against Michael Vick and the Falcons in December of 2002, in which Derrick Brooks essentially shut the budding superstar down, is a very fond memory.)

I'm going with what I think we would call "running quarterbacks" here. Guys like Lamar Jackson and Fields. There are plenty of mobile quarterbacks in the league who can scramble when needed and move around to buy time, but I don't think that's what we're talking about here. Think Patrick Mahomes. I didn't include him, or Russell Wilson or Carson Wentz. I also didn't include the games in which the Saints' Taysom Hill made brief cameos, but I did include the game he started against Tampa Bay in 2021. The toughest call for me was Washington's Taylor Heinicke. In the end, I put him in this category of mobile QBs, not running ones, and didn't include him. Your opinion may differ.

What I ended up with was 14 games since 2019 against the following quarterbacks (sometimes more than once): Cam Newton, Daniel Jones, Kyler Murray, DeShaun Watson, Jalen Hurts, Justin Fields, Josh Allen, Taysom Hill, Marcus Mariota and Lamar Jackson.

The very first thing that jumps out at me is that the Buccaneers won 10 of those games. I mean, that's the bottom line, right? Mariota may have run for 61 yards in the first Atlanta-Tampa Bay game last season but it really didn't matter much. I think it's fair to say that under Todd Bowles, the Bucs' defense has generally handled the league's best running quarterbacks well enough to help his team win.

But we can get into the specific numbers, too. I assume the main question that Jackie wants to know is how well the Bucs' defense was able to stop these quarterbacks from running. The quarterbacks in those 14 games combined for 542 yards and five touchdowns on 92 carries. That's about 39 yards a game on 6.5 carries, with an average of 5.9 yards per carry and one touchdown every three games.

I'll give you the passing numbers, too. Those same quarterbacks threw 500 passes and completed 296 of them for 3,065 yards, 15 touchdowns and 14 touchdowns. Per game, that's roughly 21 completions in 36 attempts for 219 yards, one touchdown and one pick, with a completion rate of 59.2%. Plug those numbers into the passer rating formula and it spits out a not-too-great 75.3.

Another thing I noticed here is that those quarterbacks took 44 sacks in those 14 games. That's more than three per game, which is an interesting number. I guess it's true that some running quarterbacks also tend to draw a higher-than-average number of sacks; Fields, for instance, was sacked an NFL-high 55 times last year even while he ran for the second most yards ever for an NFL quarterback. Still, it's an encouraging statistic for the Bucs' defense heading into this week's matchup with Fields.

One of the games on this list was against Newton and the Panthers in Week 16 of the 2021 season. Newton only played a little over a quarter in that game, so I'd be willing to throw it out and make the group's overall numbers a bit better. Newton also probably wasn't the same runner in 2021 as he had been earlier in his career, when he frequently tortured the Buccaneers with his work on the ground.

Probably the best game on this list by one of those quarterbacks was turned in by Buffalo's Josh Allen in Week 14 of the 2021 season. Allen ran 12 times for 109 yards and a touchdown and also threw for 308 yards and two touchdowns. It wasn't enough, however, as the Bucs won, 33-27. Four touchdown passes by the other quarterback, a certain Tom Brady, certainly helped the home team keep up with Allen.

The other quarterbacks the Bucs lost to in this 14 games were Jones in 2019, Watson in 2019, Hill in 2021 and Jackson last year. That was actually Jones's first career start and he led the Giants to a 32-31 win by running four times for 28 yards and two touchdowns and throwing for 336 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. The Bucs actually had a great chance to win it at the end but future Pro Bowl kicker Matt Gay missed a 34-yard field goal try as time experienced.

Probably the most encouraging games on the list for the Buccaneers were there two against Hurts in 2021, both of which were wins. Hurts ran for 44 yards and two scores in the first game but only threw for 115 yards. The second matchup was in the Wild Card round of the playoffs and Tamp Bay's defense kept Hurts in check for most of the game. He wound up with eight carries for 39 yards and 258 yards, one touchdown and two picks through the air. The final score was 31-15 but it was 31-0 early in the fourth quarter.

So, all in all it looks like the Bucs' defense under Todd Bowles's direction has fared pretty well against running quarterbacks.

What rookie impressed you the most week one in my opinion Christian Izien with that pick

- @danny_loves_sports (via Instagram)

I think you made the right selection with Izien. As Run Game Coordinator/Defensive Line Coach Kacy Rodgers pointed out on Thursday, if you take that play out of the game there's a very good chance we're not feeling as good about the season opener today. It really is a stunning play; it's hard to make out exactly how he got the ball out of K.J. Osborn's clutches, but when it did come loose he actually caught it with one hand. Izien also had another standout play late in the first quarter of the game when Kirk Cousins threw a third-down swing pass to rookie wideout Jordan Addison. Izien was the only defender near Addison, so he had to make a strong solo tackle in the open field. And he did just that, forcing a Vikings punt.

But I also wanted to point out the good work of the Bucs' rookie class as a whole. Tight end Payne Durham, outside linebacker Markees Watts and cornerback Derrek Pitts were all named inactive, but that still left 10 rookies to play in the game. The obvious second choice for Danny's question here would be guard Cody Mauch, who overcame late-week back spasms to start at right guard and play every snaps. The Bucs' protection for Mayfield mostly held up, as he was sacked just once.

Calijah Kancey, the Bucs' first-round draft pick, got his very first NFL action because he suffered a calf injury before the first preseason game during training camp and didn't return to practice until last week. He didn't last long, getting only 11 snaps in before aggravating that injury, but he showed up right away. On the first third down of the game, it was Kancey's hit on Cousins that forced an incompletion and a punt.

Rookie wide receiver Trey Palmer had a touchdown catch, of course, so that's a nice start for him. Safety Kaevon Merriweather and cornerback Josh Hayes each had kick-coverage tackles for a unit that looks to have a lot more pure speed in it this year. Running back Sean Tucker was the second back into the game after Rachaad White and he contributed 24 yards from scrimmage.

Put it all together and it was an encouraging start for the Bucs' jumbo-sized 2023 rookie class.

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