-The Salty Dogs Jeff Ryan and Scott Smith had former Buccaneer and current Director of Football Operations for the organization, Shelton Quarles, on their podcast today. Quarles is always good for a story or two about the Buccaneers as you'd imagine after over two decades with the organization, but there was something that hit a little closer to the present in there. He shared that he himself has been on defenses that have struggled during his playing days. Believe it or not the Super Bowl era Bucs and the Tony Dungy defenses weren't always the case here in Tampa. Quarles went further to reveal the remedy for improving those defenses and it sounds pretty darn simple.
"You start doing the little things better than you were doing them," Quarles said.
He also reiterated that they didn't let outside noise affect anything inside the building and went back to basics. That came in the form of shrinking down calls to hone in on what they were succeeding at and lo and behold, it worked out. So, one a defensive turnaround is possible and the Bucs could feasibly take a page from the book of those teams Quarles was on to do it.
-That brings me to my next point: there is still a scenario where the Bucs turn their season around, especially when you consider the fact that the team has been on the road for three of the last four weeks coming out of the bye AND played on the road before it. They had exactly one home game in 46 days. And for those of you that aren't as willing to accept that as a viable challenge, the Bucs are 2-1 at home this season. Oh yeah, they've only played three home games period in the first eight games of 2018. Looking at the second half of the season, the circumstances seem to be more favorable. Starting this weekend with Washington, five of the Bucs last eight games will be played at Raymond James Stadium. That's one more home game down the stretch than they had in 2016, when the team went on a five-game winning streak after sitting at 3-5 in Week 9. Sound familiar? The Bucs finished the season 9-7 that year and the improvement was largely on the defensive side of the ball. There's certainly room for improvement there this year and if they can manage it, along with an offense that's averaging 28.6 points per game, the Bucs could just mount a similar comeback. Hey, they've been a second half team this year, right?
View exclusive, behind-the-scenes photos of the Buccaneers' Week 9 matchup against the Carolina Panthers from Team Photographer Kyle Zedaker.
-Before Shelton Quarles came on the podcast, the Salty Dogs debated the fake punt from Sunday's game, with both Scott Smith and Jeff Ryan ruling in favor of the idea and the situation in which it was executed. They pointed out that it IS one of those plays where you'll look absolutely brilliant if it succeeds and will get some harsh criticism if you don't. Unfortunately, it was the latter for the Bucs but what Coach Koetter was trying to do there makes a lot of sense when you learn more of the context behind it. The Panthers had been moving the ball well and the Bucs needed a statement stop. The reason the Bucs were punting on their possession was because of the two straight sacks of quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, which according to Coach Koetter weren't due to Carolina's defensive line overpowering the Bucs' offensive line, but rather communication errors on the offensive line's part. Therefore, the fake punt was giving the Bucs the opportunity to right some self-made mistakes. If it does work, momentum totally switches. Conceivably, no one is expecting you to fake a punt on your own 29-yard line so there was a good chance you would be able to catch the opposition off guard. It didn't work out, but the aggressiveness and creativity was there. The next time, it may just work out, so let's pump the brakes on judgment.
-On their day off, a few players visited a juvenile detention center as part of the social justice initiative to speak with boys ages 14-18 who are currently incarcerated in the facility. The players sat with the boys in groups and offered words of encouragement, also opening up the floor to questions the boys had. There was even a discussion that ended with a little bit of homework, with the players asking kids to write down one small step they can take right now in order to be successful. They went even further and went over each answer one-on-one with each child before they headed out the door. The highlight of the day came on the field, as it often does when football players are involved. Players went with the kids to the sand pit and were running drills and throwing footballs, while offering advice and speaking with kids one-on-one as they'd come off the field. For the full story, check out The Athletic's feature here.
-More on the community side, Bucs' players also took the time to visit MacDill Air Force Base recently as part of the NFL's Salute to Service Initiative. They got to tour a refueling tanker and be taken inside Central Command. The day ended with a meet-and-greet for base personnel, complete with pictures and autographs. Check out the full feature below.