While impending free agent quarterback JameisWinston may be stealing headlines, Buccaneers head coach BruceArians is more focused on retaining his team’s top defenders.
“Oh, yeah. To me, it’s the whole defense,” Arians told ESPN’s Jenna Laine. “You can’t get ’em all, but … those young guys grew. We can’t let that go. I don’t care who’s my quarterback. We’ve gotta have a defense.”
On the offensive side of the ball, it doesn’t sound like Arians is all that concerned about who’s under center. The head coach did admit that it’s tough to have any clarity on the quarterbacks position considering the uncertainty of free agency.
“You don’t know who’s available,” Arians said. “You just sit there and wait to see, is there someone available. If not, is this a better option. That’s the problem. You get about two days to decide in the legal tampering period.”
One of the team’s options will naturally be Winston, who spent the first five seasons of his career in Tampa Bay. Winston set career-highs in passing yards (5,109) and touchdowns (33) in 2019, but he also set a career-high (and led the NFL) with 30 interceptions.
The Buccaneers will be without starting right guard Alex Cappa this week, according to Jenna Laine of ESPN. Cappa sustained an elbow injury in Tampa Bay’s game against the Jaguars this past Sunday. Head coach Bruce Arians removed Cappa from the game in hopes that the precaution could allow Cappa to play this week, but unfortunately the injury is just too severe.
Veteran offensive lineman Earl Watford is behind Cappa on the depth chart and is expected to start in his place against the Colts. A six-year veteran, Watford has played all across the line, but is primarily an interior lineman. An injury earlier in the year forced Watford to start in place of Cappa for two games, so this will not be entirely unfamiliar territory for Tampa’s o-line.
Here’s some more injury notes from the NFC South:
Panthers tackle Greg Little was ruled out for Sunday’s game against the Falcons with an ankle injury, per Jourdan Rodrigue of The Athletic. While Little was selected with the 37th pick in this year’s draft by Carolina to immediately jump into their rotation along the line, injuries have limited him to only four appearances on the season. Little can play either tackle spot, but was listed as the team’s top left tackle on the depth chart. Fellow rookie Dennis Daley will likely return to the starting lineup in his place.
Rookie offensive guard Chris Lindstrom will return to the field for the first time since Week 1 for the Falcons. According to D. Orlando Ledbetter of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Atlanta is activating Lindstrom from the injured reserve to start this week against the Panthers. The Falcons focused on solidifying their offensive line through the draft last offseason, selecting Lindstrom with the 14th overall pick and tackle Kaleb McGary later in the first round. Lindstrom, however, has been out since injuring his foot in the season opener and the offensive line has struggled mightily, allowing 38 sacks on the season.
Fuller is one of the best deep threats in football, especially when he takes the field opposite of all-pro DeAndre Hopkins. Prior to his injury, Fuller was on pace to eclipse 70 receptions and 1,000 receiving yards for the first time in his career. Those marks may be unattainable now, but at 6-3, the Texans are in the thick of the AFC playoff picture coming out of their bye. Fuller would surely aid them in their pursuit of a Super Bowl title.
Here’s more from the NFC and AFC South:
Falcons head coach Dan Quinn has been firmly on the hot-seat for many weeks. However, after a dominating victory over the Saints on Sunday, Quinn has bought himself at least a temporary reprieve, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com. Just a few seasons away from a Super Bowl appearance, this year has fallen far short of expectations, especially on defense. However, New Orleans potent offense looked overwhelmed for much of the game.
After a 30-27 victory in a shootout against the Cardinals, the Buccaneers offense continues to produce in spit of Jameis Winston‘s propensity for turnovers. Offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich deserves a large amount of credit as the playcaller, however, he almost never got the responsibilities in the first place. In the offseason, head coach Bruce Arians had to convince ownership that someone other than him should call plays, according to Rick Stroud of The Tampa Bay Times.
November 8th, 2019 at 8:05pm CST by Andrew Ortenberg
The 2019 NFL season is about halfway over (sorry for reminding you), and it won’t be long before everyone’s attention turns to the coaching carousel. It should be a busy cycle, with at least a handful of jobs opening up. The Redskins have already fired their head coach and several other teams, most obviously the Falcons, could do the same at any moment. But with several first-year head coaches disappointing, there’s also the chance we see some more ‘one and dones’ across the league. Steve Wilks, of course, was fired by the Cardinals after just one season this past cycle. With that in mind, Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports took a look at all eight new head coaches, and which might be on the chopping block.
Despite the Bengals being 0-8 and the only winless team in the league, La Canfora doesn’t think Cincy owner Mike Brown would pull the plug on Zac Taylor given his penchant for loyalty. Brown gave Marvin Lewis nearly two decades, so that isn’t too surprising. Interestingly, La Canfora seems to float the possibility of a second Bruce Arians retirement after just one year in Tampa Bay. If the Buccaneers don’t show improvement and are forced to tear it all down, JLC wonders whether Arians would “want to endure a rebuild in 2020.” He adds that “this situation is being watched closely around the league.” La Canfora also seems to think there’s a real possibility the Jets and Browns move on from Adam Gase and Freddie Kitchens respectively, which isn’t all that shocking.
Here’s more from around the league:
Just when you thought the Jets couldn’t get more dysfunctional, quarterback Luke Falk is filing an injury grievance against the team, sources told Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News. New York cut Falk prior to Week 6 after he started two games for the team. Falk, who had a disastrous couple of outings under center, has a hip injury that requires surgery, sources told Mehta. Apparently Falk feels that the Jets released him outright instead of placing him on injured reserve to avoid paying him. Of course, the franchise is already dealing with an ongoing injury grievance filed by offensive lineman Kelechi Osemele.
Free agent running back Kapri Bibbs has been suspended for one game, according to Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com. It’s unclear exactly what he was suspended for, but obviously it’s pretty minor for it to only be one game. After spending the first three years of his career with the Broncos, Bibbs has bounced around a bit. He finished last season with the Packers, and was cut by Green Bay back in June. He worked out for the Redskins last month, who he was with earlier last season. The pass-catching back received some decent run in a few random weeks with Washington in 2018, totaling 33 touches in ten games.
The Chargers are going to be without starting right tackle Sam Tevi for a bit, as he underwent surgery on his knee to scope his meniscus, according to Eric D. Williams of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn said the injury isn’t season-ending, and that he’ll be back sooner rather than later. Trent Scott, a second-year UDFA, has been filling in. Scott has been dreadful in his place so Los Angeles could really use Tevi back, even though he has never been too solid either.
The Bucs are in the books with their 53-man roster. To get there, they’ve (naturally) dropped a boatload of players.
Among those released is running back Andre Ellington, who was out of football in 2018 but was thought to have a good shot at the roster thanks to his history with Bruce Arians in Arizona. UDFA tailback Bruce Anderson is also out, despite his pass-catching prowess.
Kicker Cairo Santos has also been shown the door after re-signing with the team in March. With that, Matt Gay has won the job.
Buccaneers GM Jason Licht isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. According to Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times, the executive inked a five-year contract extension with the franchise this offseason.
The deal, which wasn’t reported until now, was signed in January just days after the team made Bruce Arians its head coach. Arians and Licht have been good friends for quite some time and Arians likely wouldn’t have joined Tampa Bay if not for their relationship. Arians’ deal is also for five seasons, so the Bucs have tethered the pair’s future together.
Tampa Bay hasn’t been great since Licht took over back in 2014. The team is 27-53 in the five seasons since he took the GM gig with poor defense and inconsistent quarterback play plaguing the team.
Arians is expected to help with the quarterback issues. He’s helped get the best out of a number of quarterbacks, including Andrew Luck and Carson Palmer. The defense is another story, as the Bucs finished dead last in defensive DVOA last year and didn’t make any major moves this offseason to improve their putrid pass rush.
Not long after the Buccaneers hired Bruce Arians as their head coach in January, we learned that Arians’ new OC, Byron Leftwich, would be calling the team’s offensive plays and that Arians considered Leftwich a rising star in the coaching ranks. And as Jenna Laine of ESPN.com reports, Arians’ confidence in Leftwich is such that Arians himself is not even in Jameis Winston‘s quarterbacks meeting rooms — despite Arians’ reputation as a quarterback whisperer — and Leftwich is running those meetings. This is a critical campaign for Winston, who is playing under his fifth-year option, and therefore something of a crossroads for the franchise itself. Leftwich has a lot on his plate for a young coach, but Arians clearly believes he is up to the task.
Now for more from the NFC:
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic believes that the Cardinals will cut Robert Nkemdichebefore he plays another snap for the club. The former first-round pick was recently arrested for driving on a suspended license, and police found a credit card case that had a white powdery residue consistent with cocaine inside. Somers says that police decided not to test the case and elected to simply destroy it instead, but it’s still not a good look for Nkemdiche. The fact that the defensive lineman is still recovering from a knee injury and is due a $400K roster bonus if he is still on the club on the fifth day of training camp could complicate matters, but Somers still expects Nkemdiche to be gone sooner rather than later.
Seahawks OT Jamarco Jones, a fifth-round draft choice in 2018, did not see any regular season action during his rookie campaign, as he suffered an ankle injury in the preseason opener that put him on the shelf for the whole year. Still, he flashed potential last training camp, and Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times expects him to make the club as a backup tackle. And, with George Fant and Germain Ifedi eligible for free agency in 2020, Jones could position himself nicely for a starting role next year.
Condotta also expects the Seahawks to continue exploring pass rush options and secondary help.
With the NFL now in the two-week waiting period until its final meaningful game, 30 of the 32 teams are going through offseason motions. And some of those teams are still deciding on coordinators.
Unless another Patriots assistant reneges on an agreement post-Super Bowl, or Zac Taylor makes an 11th-hour decision to remain in Los Angeles rather than taking over in Cincinnati, the eight NFL teams in need of head coaches made their choices.
So, which franchise best positioned itself for long-term success?
The trend being offensive innovation to keep up with some of the ahead-of-the-curve offenses, six of the eight teams hired offensively oriented coaches.
By a substantial margin, the Cardinals won the outside-the-box trophy. After washing out as an NFL quarterback in the mid-2000s, Kliff Kingsbury spent more than a decade as a college coach. The 39-year-old groomed some sought-after NFL talent in Patrick Mahomes, Case Keenum and Davis Webb, while also bringing Baker Mayfield to Texas Tech for a short stay. But he finished his stay in Lubbock, Texas, with a sub-.500 record. The Cards addedVance Josephand Tom Clements to be his top assistants. Because of their unconventional hire, the Cardinals will be one of the most interesting teams in 2019.
Bruce Arians‘ CBS stay lasting one year will bring one of the more interesting coaches in modern NFL history back to the sideline. Tampa Bay’s new coach is the oldest ever hired, at 66 years old. Arians will be tethered toJameis Winston, and it does not sound like he has issues with that. Arians hired several former Cardinals assistants to help him attempt to snap the NFC’s longest active playoff drought. Arians led the Cardinals to their best season, record-wise (13-3 in 2015), since the franchise has been in Arizona but is also barely a year removed from retiring.
The Packers and Browns opted for OCs, the former seeing a major difference inMatt LaFleur‘s vision than those of the other coaches that interviewed. Cleveland made the biggest continuity move of this year’s HC-seeking octet,promoting Freddie Kitchens over candidates with more experience.
LaFleur’s Titans offense regressed from Mike Mularkey‘s final unit, with Tennessee ranking 27th in points scored last season. But the 39-year-old coach, who will be working with ex-Jaguars assistant Nathaniel Hackett in overseeing the back end of Aaron Rodgers‘ prime, trained under Sean McVay and Kyle Shanahan. Kitchens rose from position coach to head coach in less than three months, but Mayfield’s performance in the second half of the season was obviously different from his play under Hue Jackson and Todd Haley.
Taylor and Adam Gase round out the offensively geared hires, the former being perhaps the highest-variance candidate among the non-Kingsbury wing.
Although Taylor was the Dolphins’ interim OC in 2015 and McVay’s quarterbacks coach this season, he spent 2016 running a Cincinnati Bearcats offense that ranked 123rd (out of 128 Division I-FBS teams) with 19.3 points per game for a 4-8 team and was the Rams’ assistant wideouts coach as recently as 2017. Gase led the Dolphins to the playoffs in 2016, but Ryan Tannehill‘s issues staying healthy and living up to his draft slot limited the former Broncos and Bears OC. The Jets saw enough to add the formerly in-demand assistant, who may be ready to bring longtime coworker Dowell Loggainswith him to the Big Apple.
Denver and Miami went with defense, with the Broncos having no competition for 2018’s assistant coach of the year and, arguably, this decade’s top DC.
The Dolphins cancelled their Vic Fangio summit, and he will be in charge of elevating a Broncos team that finished with back-to-back losing seasons for the first time since the early 1970s. John Elway‘s plan to reinstall Gary Kubiak as OCalso hit a snag, with the longtime friends’ disagreement on staffing leading to the Broncos hiring 49ers QBs coach Rich Scangarello. The Dolphins will become the fifth franchise to hire a Bill Belichick-era Patriotsdefensive coordinator (or de facto DC, in Brian Flores‘ case), following the Browns (Romeo Crennel and Eric Mangini), Jets (Mangini), Chiefs (Crennel) and Lions (Matt Patricia). Flores helped the Patriots to yet another top-10 ranking in points allowed — their 15th in the past 18 seasons — and another Super Bowl berth.
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DeSean Jackson‘s two Buccaneers seasons did not go as well as the parties involved hoped, but Bruce Arians entering the equation provides a previously unforeseen path for a third Jackson year in Tampa.
One of Arians’ first acts as Buccaneers coach was to acquire Jackson’s contact information, though no such call has been placed yet, per Rapoport. But Arians wants to “re-recruit” Jackson. While he is under contract for a third season — $10MM — Jackson was previously expected to be a cap casualty. No guaranteed money remains on the 32-year-old wideout’s contract.
This was expected to be a way the Bucs could gain $10MM in cap space. As it stands now, they stand to hold just $16MM-plus. They also want to re-sign Adam Humphries. If Jackson stays, Tampa Bay would have to readjust its roster elsewhere if cap space is to be created.
Jackson asked for a trade midseason and has struggled to stay on the same page as Jameis Winston. Although his 774 receiving yards this season represented an uptick from a disappointing 2017 showing, his best games came when Ryan Fitzpatrick was throwing. The Bucs are committed to Winston for 2019, which will be Jackson’s 12th NFL season.
The Buccaneers-Bruce Arians noise produced the conclusion many expected. The two-time coach of the year is heading to Tampa Bay, as first reported by Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (on Twitter). The Bucs have since confirmed the hire via press release.
“Bruce Arians is one of the NFL’s most well-respected coaches over the past two decades and we are excited to have him leading our team,” Buccaneers owner Bryan Glazer said in a statement. “Throughout this process, we focused on finding the right coach with a proven ability to elevate our players and lead our team forward. Bruce has played a large role in the development and career success of some of our league’s best players and we look forward to seeing him continue that work here with our franchise.”
This will be a four-year deal with a team option for a fifth season, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. And Arians wants to bring some of his former Cardinals assistants with him. Byron Leftwich, Harold Goodwin and Clyde Christensen — an Arians coworker with the Colts — will be brought on board and Todd Bowles has already agreed to become the team’s defensive coordinator. Bowles was Arians’ DC for two seasons with the Cardinals.
Arians-to-Tampa gained steam over the past few days, and it turns out the former Cardinals coach’s retirement was brief. Arians is now going to rejoin former Cards personnel exec Jason Licht with the Bucs and be in charge of determining what can be coaxed from Jameis Winston, whom he’s known since the passer’s high school days.
The Bucs had initial concerns about the 66-year-old Arians’ health, per Jeff Darlington of ESPN.com (Twitter link). This required a physical. But they are satisfied with the results. That, and language in Arians’ Arizona contract — which contained a 2019 option — represent cleared hurdles now, Darlington notes. Of note: Arians is the oldest HC hire in NFL history, surpassing a 64-year-old Dick Vermeil.
Arians interviewed for the Tampa Bay job on Saturday morning and outflanked everyone else on the meeting list in terms of experience. The 2012 and ’14 coach of the year, the first coming when he was the Colts’ OC who took over for a cancer-stricken Chuck Pagano, Arians has guided three teams to the playoffs — that Colts team and two Cardinals squads. Armed with the NFL’s No. 1 offense, Arizona advanced to the 2015 NFC championship game under Arians. They produced a top-10 attack in 2016 as well. After Arians’ retirement, the Cardinals fell off quickly. They hired Kliff Kingsbury today to replace Steve Wilks, who oversaw the team’s descent from 8-8 to 3-13.
Spending the 2018 season as a CBS analyst, Arians initially said the only job he would come out of retirement to take was the Browns’ position. But Cleveland did not reciprocate the interest. Tampa Bay did and was the only team to interview Arians. The sides were believed to have only begun negotiations Tuesday, and they progressed quickly.
Arians will now be tasked with ending the NFC’s longest playoff drought. The Bucs have not qualified for a bracket since 2007, in Jon Gruden‘s penultimate season, and have fired five coaches since that happened.
Licht announced last week that the candidate who won the race to replace Dirk Koetter was going to work with Winston. Despite the quarterback’s off-field issues and interception troubles, he figures to have his best chance at showing he’s a capable starter under Arians. In Arizona, Arians resurrected Carson Palmer‘s career and pushed him to a near-MVP performance in 2015. Arians received his 2014 coach of the year honor for steering the Cards to 11-5 after losing Palmer and Drew Stanton to injuries.