Skip to main content

If you would have said that Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were 3-5 through eight games this season, nobody would have believed you. But that’s exactly the hole the team currently finds itself.

Not only are the Bucs struggling, but Brady has found himself in uncharted waters, as he’s two games below .500 for the first time in his 23-year career. He’s also on a three-game losing streak for the first time since 2002.

Tampa Bay needs to get right before it’s too late. Here are three areas the Bucs need to improve in order to make a playoff push in the second half of the season.

Tampa Bay needs to run the ball more effectively

It would be easy to say that Tampa should run the ball more, but that wouldn’t exactly help, as the Bucs are one of the worst rushing teams in the league. 

They rank dead last in yards per attempt (3.0), 31st in yards (495), and are also tied for the fewest rushing touchdowns through eight games with three. They’re averaging just 61.9 rush yards per outing and are on pace for a grand total of 1,052 yards for the entire campaign, both of which would be the lowest for a team in NFL history.

So, simply running the ball won’t fix the issue. What they need to do is to integrate the run game throughout drives in all four quarters to facilitate an efficient offense.

Just look at the opening drives against the Baltimore Ravens. In those two possessions, the Bucs scored 10 points on 18 plays. Eleven of those plays were passes, and seven were runs, one of which went for a Leonard Fournette touchdown.

From then on, Tampa Bay called 37 pass plays and just seven runs. That unbalanced attack has failed the Bucs so far this season and will continue unless offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich makes an adjustment.

The Buccaneers defense has to generate more pressure

The Bucs defense used to be the bright spot on the team, but that particular unit has been exposed.

They’ve allowed 20-plus points in four of their last five games and simply look human. The secondary has given up big plays, and the pass rush just isn’t getting home like it was earlier in the year. 

During the first five weeks, the Bucs averaged nearly four sacks and over 11 pressures per game. In the past three games, that has dipped down to two sacks and just over five pressures per contest.

Unfortunately for Tampa’s defense, Shaq Barrett tore his Achilles tendon and will miss the remainder of the season. He generated three sacks and a team-high 16 pressures in eight games.

Tampa Bay has limited options to replace the void left by a Pro Bowl outside linebacker that has totaled 40.5 sacks since 2019. Anthony Nelson, Carl Nassib, and Genard Avery aren’t exactly world-beaters, as Nelson and Nassib each have a pair of sacks on the year.

The trade deadline came and went without the Bucs making a move to acquire another edge rusher. 

Tampa Bay still blitzes at the sixth-highest rate in the league and will have to scheme up some exotic pressures to get after the quarterback going forward without Barrett.

The team needs to rediscover its overall identity ASAP

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive line huddles.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers need to rediscover their collective identity ASAP. | Kevin Sabitus/Getty Images

Tom Brady Has Officially Entered Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, and Muhammad Ali Territory…But in the Saddest Way

Every team has an identity and a method to win games, and it appears the Bucs have lost touch with that foundation.

Tampa Bay has its bye week in two weeks following a pair of matchups with two NFC West opponents, and that provides the perfect chance to reset. The club need to assess its strengths and use those advantages to get back into the win column.

So, what do they do well? 

Well, Tom Brady can still sling it and is putting up impressive numbers at age 45. The offense can still move the ball through the air behind the GOAT, but things fall apart near the end zone. Through eight games, the Bucs are scoring a touchdown on just 45.8% of its red zone appearances, the fourth-worst in the NFL.

The stars on the team need to step up and make plays. Against the Carolina Panthers, Mike Evans had an uncharacteristic drop costing the team touchdown on their opening drive. The Bucs never found the end zone and lost 21-3.

The defense, meanwhile, isn’t playing at the high level it was once was. In the first three games, Tampa’s defense was allowing just nine points per contest. Since then, that number has risen to almost 25 points.

And it’s not like the Bucs have faced a high-powered offense every game. Sure, they’ve played the Chiefs and the Ravens, but they’ve also let up at least 20 points to the Panthers and the Steelers.

Now isn’t the time to assign blame but rather for the defensive captains to take responsibility and get their group back on track. Vita Vea, Lavonte David, and Devin White need to step up and lead by example.

White, in particular, has been getting ripped to shreds this past week since his poor performance against the Ravens on Thursday, and rightfully so. He committed dumb penalties and blew coverages. He needs to play better and smarter moving forward.

The defense has slipped a bit, but the offense shouldn’t be let off the hook, either.

The Bucs can’t continue to underperform. They’re already 3-5 with a tough slate of games ahead. Luckily for them, the NFC South is in pretty rough shape, with the Atlanta Falcons leading the way by a one-game margin. So, claiming the division title likely won’t require double-digit wins.

But it’s reaching a now-or-never point to turn things around, and it’s up to the captains to make it happen.

Have thoughts on this topic? Keep the conversation rolling in our comments section below.