The Tampa Bay Buccaneers held their second practice of Week 12 on Thursday ahead of their divisional matchup with the Falcons in Atlanta. Following practice, Offensive Coordinator Byron Leftwich held his weekly press conference covering a variety of subjects pertaining to the offense. Here is what he had to say on some of those key topics:
1. Leftwich values the resources he has in Bruce Arians and this coaching staff as a play caller.
Leftwich is a relatively young coach, having only officially picked up the profession in 2016. Prior to that, Leftwich was a long-time NFL quarterback, under the same coach he’s currently under, at that. Head Coach Bruce Arians has voiced his confidence in Leftwich over and over again, and substantiated his belief by making Leftwich the offensive play caller - role traditionally held by Arians himself.
Just this week, Arians said he’s ‘ecstatic’ with the job Leftwich is doing. The offensive coordinator ducked his head a little bit after being told of the compliment but appreciated it nonetheless and values the resource he has in Arians and others on staff.
“I know him so well, like that’s my guy, so I’m with him every day,” Leftwich said of Arians. “He [doesn’t] say that to you. I know if he felt as though I was doing something wrong, he would let me know. That I do know – if he felt as though it wasn’t going the right way or something, he would let me know. That’s one thing I know. I’ve got him there all the time to lean on if there are ever questions [or] if there is ever anything that I don’t understand. That is the great thing about my situation – I have, who I believe [to be] one of the greatest minds in offensive football that I get to lean on any time I hit a speed bump or any time I am in a situation where I may not know something as well as he [does]. I always ask his opinion, ‘What do you think of this? What do you think of that?’ He goes back years and years of football. I’ve got Coach [Tom] Moore who I can ask – Coach Moore used to put his helmet in his pocket. You know what I mean? So, I’ve got people that have been around the game of football a long time. All of that information that I develop and that I can get from these guys – it’s a blessing to have these guys that I can always lean on [and] get information from who really understand football, who really know football [and] know the ins-and-outs of football. I can hear their situations in their past, can hear their coaching stories – it’s beautiful that I have that in the building every day that I can lean on.”
‘Used to put his helmet in his pocket’ – an instant classic.
2. The Bucs will be looking to take advantage of opportunities to make big plays against the Falcons.
The Atlanta defense has had somewhat of a rebirth since a shuffling of the coaching staff during the Week Nine bye. Since then, the Falcons haven’t let up a touchdown in two games – both of which were against division opponents. The key to the Bucs breaking that streak could lie in the deep ball and if the opportunity is there, the offense is going to take its shots.
“We just want to hit them,” Leftwich says of big plays. “When we get our opportunity, we want to hit them. Early in the game, late in the game – [if] we get opportunities to make big plays, we’re always trying to make those plays. That’s what we believe in. It’s good when you have them early because it breeds confidence, it breeds early success and that’s always a great thing. We’re trying to hit them every time we get the opportunity to have a big play, we’re trying to connect.”
3. Leftwich sees improvement in quarterback Jameis Winston’s decision making and how fast he’s getting the ball out.
Winston is not short on weapons. His top two receivers are the best duo in the league, in fact. Mike Evans and Chris Godwin have a combined 1,880 receiving yards with 14 touchdowns. That’s over 300 yards more than the next duo – Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup of the Dallas Cowboys. But sometimes, despite those playmakers, the best play is to throw the ball away. It’s an area that Leftwich sees a lot of improvement in the fifth-year signal caller.
Winston has faced a lot of pressure this year, too. But even under pressure, he’s gotten better about the decisions he’s making.
“That’s the thing that goes week to week, because we had just said that he was doing a good job against the blitz,” Leftwich said. “So, it all depends on how you’re looking at it and what you feel like the point, whoever is trying to make. They have an opportunity to do that and pull those numbers out when they want to. We think he’s fine against the blitz. We’re OK with it, we’re going to keep putting him in situations so we respond well under that and I think he’ll be fine.”