Pick a defensive stat at random and chances are you’ll find Tampa Bay near or at the bottom of the list.
Considering the Buccaneers’ 1-5 record and a couple blowout losses along the way and that should come as no surprise.
One of those unflattering statistics is third-down defense. Only 0-6 Oakland owns a worse rate of success in such situations, as Tampa Bay’s allowed opponents to move the chains 49.4 percent of the time. The NFL average is 41.2 percent. Each game, the Buccaneers have surrendered nearly 25 first downs, which also puts them at 31st in the league.
Defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier said Wednesday that addressing third-down situations would be a focus of today’s practice and that they were analyzed extensively over the bye week.
“Our guys had the bye week and seem to be well-rested at this point and anxious to get started again with today’s practice,” he said. “We had a good practice yesterday and hopefully we can build on that on defense and have a good day today as well. It’s a big day for us. Third down is an area we’ve got to improve and we’ll spend a lot of time working on third-down defense today.”
When asked what the defense has been focusing on heading into this weekend’s game against Minnesota, changing possession on third down was the first thing cornerback Alterraun Verner mentioned.
“The number one thing that’s been sticking in our mind is third down,” he said. “We’ve got to get off the field when we get into a third-down situation. If it’s a turnover, if it’s them having to punt, we’ve got to get off the field and get our offense [the ball].
“We’re asking our offense to do a lot. We put them in a hole and then [other teams] put up so many points. Then even if [our offense] goes three-and-out, let’s get it back to them to try and spark something. That’s the main thing we’ve got to focus on. If all else fails they might get a long run on first down, second down they might get a couple more yards, but if we can get off the field on third down that’s going to help everyone else stay fresh and keep points off the board.”