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Sunday, May 20, 2018
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Bucs enter bye week examining sluggish offense

TAMPA — In the sullen quiet of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers locker room late Monday afternoon, right tackle Demar Dotson sighed, threw a backpack over his shoulder and quickly described the atmosphere at One Buc Place.

“Obviously it’s not a really good vibe right now because we’re 0-4,’’ Dotson said. “I don’t know any 0-4 football team that has a good vibe about it. When you’re not winning, you just have a bad taste in your mouth.’’

That bad taste should be familiar.

As the Bucs head into their bye week, they are in much the same predicament as a year ago, which is to say they are once again struggling to move the football, score touchdowns and win games.

The Bucs went into their bye week in 2012 with a faltering passing attack, a lead ball carrier averaging 3.5 yards per carry and a 1-3 record that was largely the result of an offense averaging one touchdown per game.

So far, 2013 has been eerily similar.

A change in quarterbacks did nothing Sunday to spark a passing attack averaging 174 yards per game, running back Doug Martin is averaging just 3.4 yards per carry and the Bucs have four offensive touchdowns in four games.

With numbers like that, it’s no wonder everyone is feeling so dour.

Dotson is confident, though, that much like last year, when some bye-week adjustments sparked an offensive resurgence that resulted in the Tampa Bay fielding the ninth-ranked offense in the 32-team NFL, a revival is on its way.

“We’re close,’’ Dotson said. “That’s why it’s going to be a positive thing for us to be able to sit back and evaluate everything that we’ve been doing and really find out what’s going on here.’’

That is certainly coach Greg Schiano’s objective. With no opponent to prepare for this week, Schiano plans to focus almost exclusively on his team and its vast array of problems.

“There won’t be a ton of practice, but there will be some,’’ he said. “It’s more taking an introspective look at the Buccaneers and what we need to do better in all three phases of the game.’’

The phase that needs the greatest introspection is clearly the offense. Through four games, it ranks 20th in the league in rushing (100.5 yards per game), 31st in passing (174.3) and 31st in total offense (274.8).

Schiano hoped a change of quarterbacks would fix all that, but rookie Mike Glennon lost his first start on Sunday for many of the same reasons Josh Freeman lost his first three starts and his job. During a 13-10 loss to Arizona, Glennon received virtually no support from a running game that produced 80 yards, had scoring opportunities derailed by penalties and committed three costly turnovers.

Those results could lead to changes in both scheme and personnel. For example, the Bucs will probably spend the week working on ways to get running back Jeff Demps more involved in the offense, Schiano said.

Similar changes might occur at tight end, where rookie Tim Wright is beginning to develop into a more viable pass-catching option and Tom Crabtree is recovering well enough from an ankle injury to possibly return to action.

“We’re going to examine things schematically to see if there is a common thread in our failure to do our jobs,’’ Schiano said. “Weeks like this really give you a chance to sit back and contemplate what’s best.’’

In the case of the Bucs, best might not always mean players such as Demps, Wright and Crabtree getting more work. It might mean less work for a player such as Martin, particularly against eight-man defensive fronts.

A year ago Martin gained 3.2 yards per carry against such “loaded boxes.’’ He has faced those fronts almost exclusively this year, which could explain his 3.4-yard average.

Whatever the reason, though, Martin is off to his second consecutive slow start. Against the Cardinals he ran 27 times for just 45 yards, including 12 carries for minus-24 yards.

“Again, I think it’s a combination of things,’’ Schiano said of the running game. “We’ve run the ball effectively at times and then at other times, we haven’t. Sunday we definitely did not.’’

The Bucs really didn’t throw it all that well, either. Glennon completed 24 of 43 passes (55.8 percent) for 193 yards and a touchdown, but was intercepted on two of his last seven throws.

“He had a couple of balls that I think he would like to have back at the end of the game there,’’ Schiano said. “But I thought he handled the operation of the game very well — protections, reading plays out.’’

Glennon’s solid handling of the offensive operation still didn’t produce many points. For the second time this year, the Bucs scored just one offensive touchdown, leaving them with four, which ranks 31st in the league.

“There are a few things that are the problem there and then you have to give your opponent credit, too,’’ Schiano said. “But again, it’s our job as coaches to find out what those problems are and fix them.’’

Once again, that’s what the bye week is for.

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