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Bucs look to improve red zone offense in second half of season

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So far, placekicker Connor Barth is having a terrific season for the Tampa Bay Bucs.

In the second half of the season, however, Lovie Smith would like to see less of him.

The red zone offense has sputtered for the Bucs so far, meaning that the team has settled for field goals instead of touchdowns far to often. The Bucs are tied for 27th place in the NFL in red zone offense.

“Like most things in football, if we could pinpoint one thing and fix it, boom, we would snap our magic fingers and fix it,” said offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter. “In this particular game we had a couple of blocking issues where we didn’t block runs right. We had a good play on, and we had somebody make a mental mistake, so you got two guys blocking one guy and then nobody blocking the free hitter who comes over and makes the tackle.

“That happened twice. You got a couple times where they just covered it good or we hadn’t seen them double [-team] the X [receiver] before so we had one play on to Mike, they doubled him, a guy jumped outside. Give them credit. Then there’s a couple times where Jameis [Winston] either needs to make a better throw or he’s not on the right guy or I got to give him a better play. [It’s a] combination of all those things. That’s 25 percent (for the game), one out of four is a bad number and that more than likely cost us the game. We have to do better.”

Winston pointed to red zone offense as the area of the game where he would like to make the most improvement during the second half of the season.

“Definitely red zone,” Winston said. “Earlier in the season we wanted to work on third downs. Four straight weeks in a row we’ve met our goal for third downs. Red zone, we only did that twice this year, so I definitely want to start working on that, focusing on that a lot.

“That’s something I have to get better at, to help us out,” Winston said. “I believe I’ve been getting better every week, but definitely my eye progression and the things that I see in the red zone and how quick I have to get the receivers is different. That’s another aspect of my game you have to get better at.

“I have to stick with my read and standing by that, not having my eyes everywhere so we can convert down there.”

Koetter thinks the Bucs’ can get better.

“All those things are correctable, but all those exact same things can happen on the 50-yard line, they can happen on the minus 10,” Koetter said. “That’s football coaching. As I say every week when [I] get up here, Jameis is doing a great job, but everybody, me included, we’re expecting him to play like a five-year vet, and he’s an eight-game vet. He’s doing some fantastic stuff, competes his tail off every week,he studies, makes some beautiful throws, but everything happens just a little bit faster in the red zone and we have to make decisions and stick with them.”

The Bucs play the Dallas Cowboys Sunday, reuniting them with defensive end Greg Hardy,who the Bucs considered signing.

“This has been my comment on every available player out there; we look at them,” Smith said. Every player that’s available we’re going to do our research on them and come to a conclusion on what direction we need to go. We didn’t go that direction. Again, if there is anybody that is available our crew will look at them. He’s happy there. I’m sure he’s a great football player. We’re definitely happy with the guys we have here.”

Gary Shelton is one of the most recognized and honored sportswriters in the history of the state. He has won the APSE's national columnist of the year twice and finished in the top 10 eight times. He was named the Florida Sportswriter of the Year six times. Gary joined SaintPetersBlog in the spring, helping to bring a sports presence to the website. Over his time in sports writing, Gary has covered 29 Super Bowls, 10 Olympics, Final Fours, Masters, Wimbledons and college national championships. He was there when the Bucs won a Super Bowl, when the Lightning won a Stanley Cup and when the Rays went to a World Series. He has seen Florida, FSU and Miami all win national championships, and he covered Bear Bryant, Bobby Bowden and Don Shula along the way. He and his wife Janet have four children: Eric, Kevin, K.C. and Tori. To contact, visit garysheltonsports@gmail.com.

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