We won’t know what the new Tampa Bay offense will look like until the Buccaneers take the field in September. But we can get a little bit of a preview by looking at what’s in offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan’s background.
Before he was hired by the Bucs, Sullivan was the quarterbacks coach for the New York Giants. That doesn’t mean Sullivan will run the exact same offense the Giants use, but it’s a pretty safe bet that his system will be similar because the New York way is what he knows.
Let’s turn to ESPN Stats & Information to take a look at some of the things Sullivan may borrow from the Giants. The first thing that jumps out at me when I look at New York’s numbers from last season is what the Giants did on passes of 21 yards or more downfield.
New York quarterback Eli Manning led the league with 1,403 yards on such throws and also had 10 touchdowns and four interceptions. Manning also had a league-high 89 attempts of throws of 21 yards or more.
I think back to coach Greg Schiano’s introductory news conference in which he said several times he wanted an offense that takes shots downfield.
For the sake of comparison, Tampa Bay’s Josh Freeman attempted only 34 deep throws last season. He completed only 12 of them (35.3 percent) for 393 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions.
There’s no question Freeman has the arm strength to get the ball downfield, and Sullivan is likely to emphasize that as he installs the offense. But Freeman will need his receivers to do a better job of getting separation.
I also would expect Sullivan to make frequent use of the shotgun offense. Freeman lined up in that formation 356 times last season and completed 64.6 percent of his passes. The Giants used the shotgun formation a little bit more as Manning attempted 364 passes. Manning’s completion percentage (60.2) wasn’t quite as good as Freeman’s. But Manning threw for 18 touchdowns out of the shotgun formation, while Freeman had only eight.
Play-action passing wasn’t a huge part of the Giants’ offense as Manning’s 101 attempts put him in the middle of the pack. Freeman had 89 attempts off play-action last season.
Screen passes were not a big part of the Giants’ offense. Manning attempted only 37 screens and completed 28 of them for 161 yards. Freeman completed 39 of 46 screens for 290 yards last season.
One area that really jumps out when looking at the Giants’ stats is receiving yardage after the catch. The Giants ranked No. 3 in the league with 2,136 yards after the catch. The Bucs were in the middle of the pack with 1,746 yards.
After looking at all this, it's pretty obvious the Bucs will need to make some adjustments to their personnel if they want this offense to truly resemble what the Giants do. They need to some receivers who can get open down the field. They also could use receivers (and a running back) that make things happen after the catch.