-The Buccaneers held a bonus practice on Tuesday coming off their Week 12 bye and Head Coach Bruce Arians said he could already feel the energy was different when they regrouped all rested after playing 12 straight games. In fact, running back Ronald Jones said on Tuesday that his body 'feels great' going into this week of practice, which is good news for Arians and the Bucs' offense, considering Jones and the Bucs' run game is a catalyst for the offense as a whole.
"He's having a heck of a year and when things are good, he's got 20 touches," Arians said of Jones. "We've just got to stay in the ballgames earlier and not fall behind. That is what we try to do every week. I thought in the Kansas City game we did a good job of staying in the gameplan, keeping him going and getting back in the ballgame. He is where we start."
Jones currently ranks fourth in the league with 860 rushing yards and his 5.06 yards per attempt average ranks first in the entire NFL. To have a coach that has all the confidence in him that Arians does has only facilitated his breakout year in 2020.
"It definitely means a lot," said Jones if Arians' support. "Again, as a player, all you can do is ask for the opportunity. They've given it to me and I've just got to make the most of it. Take it and run with it – literally – so that's what I've been doing."
See what he did there?
The Bucs will be looking to make the most of their opportunities overall down the stretch with four games left to play in this, ahem, unconventional year. You could tell the chaos, and perhaps lack of rest had been getting to the team, who has lost three of their last four games. Even with that said, the Bucs are still sitting in the six seed, currently, and have the opportunity this weekend to put some distance between them and the Minnesota Vikings for a wildcard berth. A direct opportunity. Lulls happen. But that's behind the Bucs now and they still have the ultimate opportunity on the table. Just ask outside linebackers coach Larry Foote, who as a player was part of a Pittsburgh Steelers team in 2005 that entered the playoffs as wildcard team and ended up winning it all.
"I shared with my guys that [before] my first Super Bowl, we were 7-2 and lost three in a row," said Foote. "We just had to wipe the board clean and just figure out a way to get in the playoffs. We're at that same point [now]. Each game is a playoff. What happened in September and October [and] what happened last week – it [doesn't mean anything]. You're trying to get a ticket to the dance. Whoever believes and whoever is executing, they're going to be the Super Bowl champions. They don't care about your record. I know Tom Brady can speak to that – they were undefeated and lost in the Super Bowl. It's just any given Sunday. But, most importantly, you've got to get a ticket to the dance."
The perk of a late bye week is that now, the team has been allowed to rest and reset – and it's allowed the coaches to go back to basics and maybe do a little of that wiping the board clean to figure out a way to get to the postseason. So what was the main emphasis?
"Just getting back to the fundamentals," said Foote. "[In the] last couple of weeks, our technique has gotten a little sloppy. We had some big games – some night games – might have crept into their mindset. But, the technique the last couple of weeks has been sloppy, so during the Bye Week – as a coaching staff – we just had to get back to the fundamentals of coaching technique."
And as proof that the team is on the same page, defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh was also asked on Wednesday, separate from Foote, what the defense needs to do this last quarter of the season. His answer was right in line.
"I think one of the biggest keys for us is going to be going back to our fundamentals," said Suh. "We've had the opportunity throughout this Bye Week to review film, understand where we've made mistakes and, at the same time, be able to go on the practice field and work on our technique. [It is] not that we don't do it in a normal week, but it's just a little bit more of an emphasis while we have the time. Truthfully, just getting back to the basics of going out there and executing. I think that's going to be some of the stuff that we're going to do in gameplans, as well as an overall opportunity to say, 'Line up, play, have fun and get back to the basics.'"
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