-On the Salty Dogs podcast this week, Scott Smith did the leg-work on figuring out the last time a 3-6 team made the playoffs, and it wasn’t as far back as you think. In fact, four teams have done it since 1990 and the last team was Washington with quarterback Robert Griffin III when they won seven straight to finish out the 2012 season and go into the postseason. The other teams did it in three consecutive seasons in the mid 90’s and the common denominator for all of them? Turnover ratio. The turnaround was spurred by teams creating takeaways and not turning the ball over.
None of the four teams had quite the -19 ratio that the Buccaneers currently have this season, but some of their turnarounds were dramatic. Side note: it’s kind of impressive in itself that with such a drastic margin the Bucs have won the three games they have, and I think any coach would tell you that as well. The biggest jump came with the 1995 Detroit Lions who were -1 in turnover ratio through their first nine games. They went on to finish the season with a +11 for a 12-point change in just seven games, according to a chart provided by Mr. Smith in his S.S. Mailbag earlier in the week.
It’s not rocket science. Unfortunately, it’s not an exact science at all (if it were, it might be a little easier of a fix). There isn’t one thing any player can do to create more takeaways. As far as turnovers go, there are fluke deflections that turn into interceptions and weird bounces balls take during fumbles that are just hard to account for. But ball security is, and has been, a priority for this team. It comes down to execution, which Defensive Coordinator Mark Duffner was sure to point out on Wednesday.
And the thing is, if the Bucs can just create that first takeaway, they tend to keep coming.
-Defensive end and former Giant Jason Pierre-Paul spoke to the media on Wednesday about what his first game back in the Meadowlands will be like. Is this a big game for him? Yes. Does he know a lot of people in New York and in the organization? Yes. Is that really going to change his play? It might. But I would caution in getting too caught up in the emotion of the game for him. He did downplay it, saying he’s just going to go out there and give 100 percent – like he does every game. This may be just me, but I appreciate him saying that and leaving the number at 100. Not 110. I hate that expression: 110 percent. I understand the sentiment behind it but if you’re capable of giving 110 percent, that means your ‘100 percent’ wasn’t 100 percent at all. Giving 110 percent is impossible. Why do we need to up 100 percent for dramatic effect?
Sorry about the mini-rant, but I felt like it needed to be said. This game has been checked off for Pierre-Paul since he was traded by his own admission. He’s undoubtedly been looking forward to showing the Giants what they’ve been missing. But again, it’s something he’s been doing every game. He currently leads the Buccaneers with eight sacks through nine games this season. He’s on pace to have his first double-digit sack year since 2014. He’s proving game-in and game-out that he is still one of the NFL’s top pass rushers and I’ll say this: I’m glad he’s in Tampa Bay now. And he says he is, too.
-The Bucs will be facing one of the top running backs in the league, who happens to be a rookie, on Sunday. Saquon Barkley already has over 1,000 all-purpose yards, with 586 rushing and 530 receiving through 10 games. He has a total of seven touchdowns and is just one of those guys that does it all. He’s doing it without a lot of help from the Giants’ offensive line, who have allowed the third-most sacks in the league this season (using that stat as a gauge for overall O-line play). Bucs coaches and players sounded off on what makes Barkley so dangerous, starting with Head Coach Dirk Koetter.
“Really, really impressive,” said Koetter. “For a guy that’s 235 pounds, his combination of speed, elusiveness, ball skills, yards after contact – very impressive. You can see – we did a lot of work on him coming out and of course liked him, but he’s come right into the league and really shown what he can do.”
“I think that this guy, number one, is an exceptional talent,” Defensive Coordinator Mark Duffner said. “You see that in terms of what he’s done in the run game, what he’s done in the pass game and what he’s meant to their offense. I mean, the guy’s commanding a sizable amount of their production. I think that they were able to again, stay proper in terms of gaps and proper in terms of coverage and not let this guy get wide open or in a space where he can really make you miss. That’s going to be our objective too is to be proper and disciplined in run fits and also in terms of coverage where you don’t give this guy a lot of space because he can hurt you.”
Pierre-Paul had a little bit of a simpler take on how the Bucs’ defense plans on stopping Barkley:
“Tackle, that’s it. You know obviously he’s been doing great, but tackle.”
-A quick little tidbit came up in Coach Koetter’s press conference yesterday that the Giants’ defensive coordinator, James Bettcher, served the same role in Arizona while Bucs’ defensive line coach Brentson Buckner was there. The two worked very closely together and Buckner is extremely familiar with Bettcher’s system as it was the one he operated in from 2015-2017.
“I’ve had a lot of conversations with Buck since we’ve started working on the Giants,” Koetter said. “[I’ve] asked him questions, ‘Hey, watch this play on tape – What’s this? What’s this? What’s their check on this?’ It’s been helpful that he knows their system. It looks like their doing some things slightly different in New York, but there are definitely some carry-overs. It helps you understand what they’re trying to do. Maybe when you motion from a two-by-two to a three-by-one set or vice versa – three-by-one, two-by-two what the checks are. It’s been helpful as far as understanding what they’re doing. How much that translates to Sunday usually is minimal, but at least it helps you in your preparation.”
Coaching circles are ludicrously small, as are player connections. I thought I’d give a rundown of a few more leading into this game.
· Buccaneers Assistant to the Head Coach Anthony Perkins played collegiately at the University of Colorado with Giants T Nate Solder (2007-10)
· Buccaneers Offensive Line Coach George Warhop held the same position with the Cleveland Browns when Giants Head Coach Pat Shurmur was the head coach (2011-12)
· Buccaneers Head Coach Dirk Koetter (2007-11), Special Teams Coordinator Nate Kaczor (2008-11), Offensive Coordinator Todd Monken (2007-10) and Defensive Coordinator Mark Duffner (2006-13) coached with Giants Offensive Coordinator Mike Shula (2007-10) with the Jaguars
· Buccaneers CB Brent Grimes and Giants DE Olivier Vernon played together in Miami (2013-15)
· Buccaneers LB Cameron Lynch played with Giants CB Janoris Jenkins and LB Alec Ogletree with the St. Louis Rams (2015)
· Buccaneers DT Beau Allen and DE Vinny Curry were teammates with Giants LB Connor Barwin in Philadelphia (2013-16)
· Buccaneers S Andrew Adams played for the Giants from 2016-17