Ahead of the Green Bay Packers’ must-win game with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 13, we spoke to The Pewter Plank site expert James Yarcho.
Our analysis of the Buccaneers can only go so far. To truly understand the Packers’ opponents this week, I spoke to someone who watches them every week of the season.
James Yarcho is the Bucs expert for The Pewter Plank. James and his team have put together some great articles previewing this week’s game.
Here’s a Buccaneers perspective on the game.
What does Jameis Winston‘s return mean for the Buccaneers’ offense?
JY: Jameis Winston’s return, to me, is a huge mistake. We are dealing with a player that has an injured throwing shoulder. According to Jay Glazer a few weeks ago on the FOX pregame show, his shoulder was torn. That’s not an injury that is going to heal in three weeks.
This appears to be a Hail Mary attempt by Dirk Koetter to save his job after a massively disappointing 2017. Not only that, but the Buccaneers just placed their two best linemen – center Ali Marpet and tackle Demar Dotson – on IR, ending their season.
So now, you have a quarterback with an injured throwing shoulder playing behind a makeshift line on the frozen turf in Lambeau. This is 100 percent a recipe for disaster. I would’ve much rather seen what the Bucs have in backup Ryan Griffin moving forward and have Jameis shut down for the rest of 2017 than risk an Andrew Luck or RG3 situation.
The Buccaneers have been inefficient on the ground, averaging just 81.1 yards per game, good for No. 28 in the NFL. What’s been the main reason for the team’s struggles running the ball?
JY: The inefficiencies in the run game can be attributed to a few things. For starters, the run blocking has been pretty inept to put it nicely.
Next, you can count on Doug Martin to bust off at least two runs per game of 15-plus yards that are called back on penalties. Some legit, others – especially recently – have been brutal, phantom calls.
Third, there is no rhyme or reason as to how Dirk Koetter uses his running backs. Martin could be hot and then be pulled for no apparent reason. Charles Sims is brought in on every third down which guarantees a pass since he is absolutely no threat in the run game.
The defenses know exactly what’s coming based on the formations and personnel because there is zero creativity. There is nothing the Buccaneers will do Sunday that won’t be on the tape in literally every other game this season. They’re flat out predictable.
Perhaps Tampa Bay’s biggest disappointment this year is its defense. How can the unit turn it around, and what’s been to blame to this point?
JY: The defense has improved over the past few weeks, but not enough to be excited about. The inability to create a pass rush with the defensive line has put the secondary at risk. Mike Smith is having to create pressure by blitzing linebackers, creating mismatches against cornerbacks in man coverage. If he doesn’t send the blitz and sits in a zone, the quarterback picks them apart.
It’s been nice to see rookie safety Justin Evans break through recently as he continues to develop. This kid has the makings of Pro Bowl caliber safety if he remains on his current trajectory
Other than that, free agent signings T.J. Ward and Chris Baker have been underwhelming to disappointing, Kwon Alexander hasn’t been his normal self, and Lavonte David continues to be far and away the best and most consistent defensive player. He won’t get the notoriety because of the Bucs’ record, but David 100 percent deserves to be a first team all-pro with the season he his having.
Is there a player to look out for that Packers fans might not be familiar with?
JY: Well, I mentioned Justin Evans at the safety position as he’s been turning heads lately.
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The other guy to watch is rookie receiver Chris Godwin. Now, Packers fans may know him from his days at Penn State given that many of them are probably Wisconsin fans. He’s come on recently with Ryan Fitzpatrick at quarterback, so I’m not sure if he will continue to get the targets with Winston returning, but he is showing flashes of the receiver we expected to see when he was selected in the third round.
One other player to keep an eye on is running back Peyton Barber. If Doug Martin misses the game due to concussion – which all signs point to that happening – Barber will see a heavier workload in a time share with Jacquizz Rodgers.
Barber is cut from the same mold as Martin – undersized, power back – and he certainly has the ability to make plays once breaking into the second level. He’s not going to be the next David Johnson or anything like that, but he has the talent to be an impact player this week.
Finally, what is your prediction for the game?
JY: I think the Buccaneers eek one out this week – but I’m not going to be surprised one bit if the Packers escape with the win. It’s going to be interesting, and stressful, to see if the offensive line can keep Winston upright and to see if the throwing shoulder is indeed healed.
Winston has had a rough season, but he’s played since Week 3 with the injury, affecting his velocity and accuracy. If we get the Winston we expected coming into the season, the Bucs should be able to handle a Rodgers-less Packers team. If he is still the injured Winston we’ve seen most of this season, it’s going to be much closer than Bucs fans care to admit. Bucs win 27-20.