Kevin Nogle (KN): Early in the year, the common feeling around the league seemed to be Greg Schiano had completely lost the locker room, was handling the Josh Freeman situation wrong, and was about to be handed his walking papers. With Freeman now gone, the rhetoric has dies down some, but the Buccaneers are still winless. Is there a better feeling about the team right now among fans, or is it just a case of the media moving on to another story and the situation is still just as grim?
Sander Philipse (SP): I don't think Schiano had truly lost the locker room at any point, and most of the reports suggested that he was close to losing it rather than being fully there. That's been the big surprise really: how hard the team played against the Seahawks and even in the previous two games despite increasingly horrible results. The players either believe in Schiano, or they're too committed to each other or too scared to start tanking. Of course, that makes some sense: this locker room is very tight-knit, and no player wants to put poor tape out there.
This hasn't led the fans to appreciate Greg Schiano any more, though. It's quite amazing -- I don't think I've ever seen any fan base be so completely hostile to a coach who's still in charge of the team.
KN: Tampa Bay is five starts into the Mike Glennon era. What are you seeing from him, both positively and negatively?
SP: Let's start with the positive: I think he's generally calm under pressure, has a feel for the pocket and can move around a little both in and outside the pocket to create some time to play. He does a good job of finding his checkdowns if necessary, doesn't seem to make (many) stupid throws and is generally accurate.
But there are a few negatives, too. His ball placement has been a fairly consistent issue: he sometimes places balls behind receivers rather than letting them run through the catch, and he places the ball too far inside on outside throws. That hasn't led to interceptions yet, but I'm always a little afraid when he turns to the outside. This shows up on deep balls, too, which have been universally horrendous and uncatchable for receivers. He isn't very sophisticated in terms of anticipation and decisiveness, either, especially on downfield throws. He tends to be late with his throws, which can get receivers killed and generally kills yards after catch.
The negatives stand out more in my mind, in part because I have to compare him to quarterbacks available at the top of next year's draft.
KN: Anyone who watched the Buccaneers at Seahawks game last week knows, this Tampa Bay team has the talent to be a lot better than 0-8, yet they are. What's been the biggest issue? Is it all Freeman and, now, a learning Glennon, or is there more happening that keeps the Ws off the board?
SP: There's a lot more than that. In fact, I'm not sure I'd even point to Glennon and Freeman as the main culprits. That award would have to go to the coaching staff on both sides of the ball. The offensive scheme is simplistic and outdated, focusing on difficult downfield throws on isolation throws. That's very hard on quarterbacks, but also on receivers. The Bucs have recently started to create some easy throws for Glennon, but it's still predominantly a downfield passing attack, which is tough to execute, especially so when the offensive line isn't perfect.
The defense isn't much better coached, to be honest. Their two best players are Gerald McCoy and Darrelle Revis, and neither player is used to his abilities. McCoy is a dominant three-technique, but the Bucs seem to like using him as a decoy on slowly-developing stunts more. Revis saw little man coverage at the start of the season, although we saw more of it in recent weeks. More importantly, though, the Bucs aren't using his abilities to lock him up on one cornerback so they can shift safety help elsewhere -- which you would think would be why you'd pay a cornerback $16 million per year. Instead they've plugged him into their existing scheme, which runs a mix of man and zone coverage. The team also has a nasty habit of miscommunication on zone coverage and sometimes blitzes,which doesn't help matters.
KN: Why isn't Darrelle Revis playing like Darrelle Revis? Is it injury related, scheme, or something else?
SP: Well, Darrelle Revis is playing like Revis and he's not playing like Revis at the same time. On the field, he looks like the lockdown cornerback he always is. I think opposing offenses have completed about two passes against him in man coverage all season long. He just isn't getting beat. Of course, he's not being asked to play man coverage as much (I'd guess around 50% of the time), and the team never uses him to shift personnel elsewhere.
KN: Back when the Dolphins and Buccaneers played in the preseason, you suggested that the Dolphins game plan should be to blitz Freeman, put a safety in the box to stop Doug Martin, and attack Mark Barron in coverage. Obviously, that's changed with Glennon at quarterback and the torn labrum for Martin. But, would you still attack the team the same way, or would your game plan be different?
SP: My game plan would be a little different, but not much. I'd shy away from attacking Barron, who has much improved in coverage. Instead, I'd try to run a lot of bunch concepts. The Bucs have had a surprising amount of coverage breakdowns where the communication on defense isn't great, and route combinations run out of bunch tend to do a very good job of creating those problems.
As for what I'd do on defense, I'd challenge the Bucs' receivers in man coverage and force Mike Glennon to make stick throws on time. He has struggled to do that throughout the past five games. Combine that with blitz and you could have great success: the Bucs seemingly abhor hot routes, which makes it rather difficult for them to effectively deal with good blitzes.
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