When it comes to analyzing the enigma that is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ offense, there is a lot to be desired despite their franchise record-breaking season. Perhaps a slight change to the scheme, like a run-pass option offense, could be just the thing the team needs to find some form of stability.
Despite leading the league in turnovers thanks to their 23 interceptions thrown, 6 more than the New York Jets for a league-worst -21 in turnover differential, there are benefits to a run-pass option that could significantly help the team.
The run-pass option requires quick decision-making from the quarterback for him to not only be a passing threat, but a running one, too. What the quarterback decides to do depends on what look the defense decides to give. Without creating an audible at the line of scrimmage, which many times creates unnecessary false start penalties, the RPO would allow Jameis Winston to pass by isolating a few targets, depending on the situation. Should the defense decide to play man, the receivers can draw the secondary away from the line and potentially open up running opportunities for the QB or the running back. The quarterback could decide to conduct a delayed draw, find the hole the offensive line created to pass or run, or run laterally to see the play develop and protect himself by throwing the ball away to the sideline once he reaches outside the tackle box to prevent intentional grounding.
Given Winston’s ability to be mobile, he’s very capable of picking up chunks of yards on the ground when the defense plays man or if they play too deep in zone coverage not to spy on the QB. As a mobile threat, Winston can help keep defenses honest. Unfortunately, outside of a few play action passes, his presence as a pocket QB hasn’t worked much in his favor given his tendency to be flustered within the pocket, obvious from the interceptions he throws or sacks from holding on to the ball too long. If Winston can learn to be more discriminate, to fight another day, the drop in completion percentage will save the Bucs on field position.
The RPO is also ideal given production of the current run game with Peyton Barber leading the team with 590 yards on 153 carries for a 3.9 yard average. Fitzpatrick and Winston are no. 2 and 3 respectively on the team. Winston doesn’t have to be as mobile as, say, Michael Vick, but he’s very capable of extending the play so he’s more likely to gain yardage than lose it on a sack. When Winston runs, he averages 4.8 yards on 31 carries since sacks aren’t counted against his runs.
When you look at another RPO QB, Carolina Panthers’ Cam Newton, you can see why he’s been successful for years despite not being the passing juggernaut Winston is. Newton often averages 500-700 yards rushing per season. Newton’s average in 2018? 4.9 yards a carry. Newton has 4 rushing TDs to Winston’s one.
Let’s face it. Compared to other NFC South QBs like Matt Ryan and Drew Brees, Winston will never achieve the same efficiency from the pocket. Ryan and Brees have 71 and 76.4 completion percentage this year respectively. Winston is at 67.8 percent. A QB with similar completion percentage? Newton has 69.6 percent. Newton’s achieved far more success as a less accurate passer and more dangerous running threat, which allowed the Panthers to make a Super Bowl.
The case against the RPO is a sound one since no coach wants to see their QB take risks and shorten his career by taking more hits on the ground, but honestly, what else can you do with Winston at this point? He’s never showed the mental acumen to be as efficient as Ryan or Brees in the pocket, so the only thing left to do is incorporate him into your existing running attack since neither Jacquizz Rodgers nor Ronald Jones are doing anything worth mentioning spelling for Barber.