From our Buccaneers family to yours, I want to first wish everyone a very happy Thanksgiving. I hope it's filled with good food, good company and of course, some good football. While you're dozing on the couch between plates or planning your attack on Black Friday, take a look at some things I'm thankful for around AdventHealth Training Center.
A high-powered offense
It's safe to say that this is the year of the offense in the NFL. And in the year of the offense, who has the top-ranked unit? Your Buccaneers do, that's who. The Bucs are averaging the highest amount of yards per game – a whopping 458.5 to be exact – and are coming off two consecutive games with over 500 yards. The majority chunk of those yards come through the air, with Tampa Bay owning the league's best passing offense as well, where Bucs quarterbacks are averaging 374.6 yards per game.
Let's take a look back at some of the best plays we've seen this year out of this high-powered offense, shall we?
This was the first play of the Week Two game against the reigning champion Philadelphia Eagles, who also happen to be DeSean Jackson's former team. Notice that it's a corner blitz, which running back Peyton Barber does a good job of picking up to allow quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick time in the pocket. The safety rotates down but flat foots, allowing Jackson to get behind the defense entirely. Then Fitzpatrick drops an absolute dime toward the middle of the field, where Jackson turns on the jets and books it, tracking the ball (apparently with help from the jumbotron as he later said) to make the catch. A quick little switch of direction and boom. End zone.
Later that same half, tight end O.J. Howard exploded down the sideline for this incredible 75-yard touchdown. First, you have a mismatched linebacker covering Howard in man coverage. Howard breaks on his crossing route underneath the defender, who dives trying to get a hand on the ball but fails. From there, Howard cuts into the gap between the safety help and corner who have dropped off their guys to try and take on Howard. Instead, they run into each other and somehow, Howard's 6-foot-5-inch frame is able to outrun them the rest of the way into the end zone.
Here, Godwin is lined up in a reduced split inside the red zone going against zone coverage. The split makes it so the defense should be worried not only about Godwin going straight into the end zone, but also an intermediate route, which is the course of action he ends up taking. Godwin runs the curl while tight end O.J. Howard draws the safety deeper in the end zone with a short vertical route. It puts Godwin in an underneath zone in front of the goal line where the linebacker has already turned away, ignoring who's behind him, leaving Godwin in no man's land and able to take the two strides into the end zone from his point of catch. This pulled the Buccaneers within two points of Atlanta in the fourth quarter in a near comeback during Week Six.
Then, we get to last week's game against the New York Giants. As the Buccaneers mounted another comeback in the fourth quarter, quarterback Jameis Winston hit wide receiver Mike Evans for a beautiful 41-yard pass down the far sideline with 2:30 to go in the game, pulling the Bucs within a field goal. The Giants look to be in two-deep man coverage, but the corner lets Evans get past him on a straight fade route. Despite the safety help on that side of the field, the eyes on Giants' Landon Collins seem to be on the guys underneath. Once he realizes the ball is being thrown deep, he turns around to see Evans about to cross the goal line where Winston throws a great pass that drops in Evans' lap for the touchdown.
There are myriad plays I could have chosen but these came in all different ways, in all different situations, to all different receivers. They made each of these games exciting in their own way, and that, I'm certainly thankful for.
A certain trade in March
The Bucs were pretty active this past offseason in the free agency market, nabbing players like defensive end Vinny Curry and defensive tackle Beau Allen from the Philadelphia Eagles and center Ryan Jensen from the Baltimore Ravens. But it was the blockbuster trade that made the biggest splash and continues to make waves throughout the season in defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul from the New York Giants. JPP was a proven pass rusher and fit the unit the Bucs were most aiming to fix this offseason. Boy, has he delivered. As of Week 12, JPP now sits a half a sack away from being the Bucs' first double-digit sack player since Simeon Rice in 2005. He's had multiple multi-sack games already this season, including one last week where he registered 1.5 sacks on his former quarterback Eli Manning in the Bucs' narrow loss to the Giants.
A new indoor facility
This season is the first full preseason and season the Buccaneers have had with the new indoor facility at AdventHealth Training Center. During training camp, Bucs fans were able to cool off and enjoy practice in the air-conditioned space. The Bucs were also able to use it whenever a typical Florida thunderstorm rolled through, instead of having to delay or move practice as they did in years past. It has also helped prepare them for going into dome environments, like two of their three division rivals have. Loud music and crowd noise is pumped in to simulate the hostile environments and better prepare the players for communication in those situations.
Players that care about their community
Whether it's the offensive line donating $35,000 to give over 1,000 Bay-area families Thanksgiving meals, select players pitching in to help a Tampa woman, who they met through a Social Justice Initiative visit, get a car, or reverse trick-or-treating with cancer patients at Moffitt Cancer Center for Halloween, I'm so grateful for these players that want to make an impact on their community. Most of the time, community events are done during the season on the one day off each week the players get. That means instead of spending time with their own families or resting, they are giving back. I think it really does speak volumes to their character and the organization that facilitates these outreach efforts.
Of course, Bucs fans
I saved the best for last. You guys. The fans. I am so thankful and grateful for the support this team has through its fans. There is nothing like being surrounded by the thousands of Bucs fans inside Raymond James Stadium on gameday. It's electric and it's all because of the people who are so passionate about this team. I am also personally grateful to all of you that reach out to either me, Casey, Scott or the Buccaneers in general in various ways to talk Bucs football. I love getting to interact on Twitter with y'all and hope you know you can always reach me on there. Just click that little Twitter icon above. Happy Thanksgiving, again! Hope you have a wonderful holiday season.