Heading into the 2018 NFL season, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had a problem that they needed to fix.
His name is Dirk Koetter, the head coach. After struggles in 2017 that saw them become predictable and struggle to move the ball down the field, Koetter gave up offensive playcalling duties to OC Todd Monken in the preseason, handing his lieutenant the reigns. After Monken's offenses put 387 yards per game and 28.3 points per game - he got the reigns full time, starting yesterday.
And they carried that form into the regular season, running out 48-40 winners over divisional rivals the New Orleans Saints, a team expected to be Super Bowl contenders. So, let's take a look at how they did it...
Opening up the Playbook
The Bucs looked so much better than they did last year. With backup quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick under center, the 35-year-old rolled back the years to put in a quality performance.
So, what changed? Well, they looked dangerous. Fitzpatrick took deep shots and Monken generally let the ex-Harvard man loose on the Saints - with both looking like they were genuinely enjoying themselves out there.
On the Buccaneers first possession of the game, Monken decided to go for the big play nearly straight away. From their own 42, Monken opened up the playbook for a throw designed for DeSean Jackson to make the most of his burning speed to take the top off the defense.
Jackson cuts inside slot corner Patrick Robinson and as he moves away into the secondary gets passed off by strong safety Vonn Bell to absolutely nobody. Marcus Williams is covering deep on the left side of the field and is never going to win a foot race with Jackson to get over and catch the wide receiver.
This tweet from Cian Fahey shows Bell passing Jackson off to the space behind him - which is not ideal.
We see more examples of the Buccaneers passing game - combined with some blatant breakdowns in the Saints secondary - leading to big plays.
The best one may be Jackson's second score of the game. First down, up 17 points, in the fourth quarter - Monken draws up another play-action long shot to Jackson and it works again - with Jackson's speed too much for cornerback Ken Crawley, who gets toasted on the post route.
Dirk Koetter would never make that call. You just know in that situation he's thinking two runs by Peyton Barber and a quick play-action pass to the flat to try and get one yard past the flag.
But the Bucs stayed aggressive. And it paid off.
The Bucs presented the Saints with another problem that they, again, had no answer for. Simply put - Tampa Bay has too many weapons for any defense to really plan for if they are used correctly. Last night, they were for the first time.
OJ Howard was a first-round pick in 2017 and he may be the teams fourth-best receiving option. When he's out on the field - with the Bucs other weapons spread out wide - he becomes a matchup nightmare.
That's what happens here. With Jackson, Chris Godwin and Mike Evans all lined up, Howard - who ran a 4.51 40 at the combine - is lined up against the 29-year-old linebacker Demario Davis.
Against man coverage, Howard's out route creates separation and he can use his athleticism against Davis - who is clearly not a coverage 'backer.
We got more of these situations where the Bucs personnel just proved too much for the Saints defense to cope with.
We all know Mike Evans is really good. He's a Top-5 receiver in the league and nigh-on unstoppable on his day. Marshon Lattimore is also a really good cornerback, fresh off winning Defensive Rookie of the Year, but he got roasted on the play below...
The Bucs isolated Evans on the right-hand side of the formation and the Saints followed suit - giving Lattimore absolutely no safety help over the top against the former All-Pro. The Saints compounded their defensive mistakes by making Lattimore play press coverage as they blitzed five.
Evans beats the corner and with the free safety Williams about 40 yards away, the rest was history.
And finally, we get to Chris Godwin. The former Penn State man is 6'1, 210lbs and he plays even bigger. His touchdown showed this perfectly. Here he lines up against the 6'0 Crowley in another aggressive man coverage situation and it gets exploited yet again.
Shout out to Ryan Fitzpatrick for nailing the back shoulder throw here and to Godwin for using his body to create space and make it into the endzone.
And because he played so well, let's include FitzMagic's rushing touchdown. The man is 35 and he showed off the "jets" and lowered the shoulder, turning into a white LeGarrette Blount for the score.
It takes guts to call a read-option here from Monken and for Fitz to keep it after Cam Jordan commits to the running back.
Guts. That's what the point of this all is. The Saints may have struggled, the Bucs do have quality receivers, but Koetter isn't calling a read option near the goalline. You know he's thinking power run.
The Bucs have gone from running out of the I to running more out of the shotgun. It's a great start.
In a league where Sean McVay, Andy Reid, Mike Shanahan and more are getting much more creative with their offenses, the Buccaneers needed to keep up. And with Todd Monken calling the shots, Tampa Bay is doing just that.
The former Southern Miss head coach could be the key to getting the Bucs to the playoffs in a ridiculously tough NFC South.News Now - Sport News