Bucs defensive coordinator Todd Bowles has a reputation for having one of the sharpest minds as a defensive coordinator. Both Bowles and Bucs head coach Bruce Arians also have a reputation for being as good of teachers as they are game planners, which is why many are confused about the defensive struggles for the 2-5 Bucs this season.
With a complex but mostly effective scheme that earned him his reputation, Bowles’ game plan is changing every week based on his opponent. And that’s what Bowles believes may have led to some slip ups in execution for such a young group this year.
“We teach differently all the time,” Bowles said. “We teach it according to how a player can learn it, so it’s constant communication back and forth. We haven’t had that results we wanted but want to keep working at it. We’re making strides and it’s just here and there, something that comes up and the breaks hasn’t gone our way, but I think we’re close, we just got to keep churning.”
One of the bigger issues for the Bucs defense as of late has been penalties in the secondary that has continued drives for the opponent. Cornerback Carlton Davis had two pass interference penalties called on him that moved the ball down field and negated two interceptions.
“We had two penalties on the same drive that went for about 30 yards,” Bowles said. “We don’t want penalties, we don’t teach penalties, we don’t coach penalties If a penalty’s called, you got to get back on your horse. We don’t want penalties, we don’t teach penalties, we don’t coach penalties, but you don’t take away from a guy’s aggression, you just teach him how to be smart and more fundamentally and technically sound.”
The Bucs losses this year haven’t come from a lack of effort according to Bowles, who said that the intensity is there, but it’s just making their own mistakes that has cost them some wins.
“The foot’s on the gas,” Bowles said. “It’s not a matter of taking the foot off the gas, we just have to make sure we’re doing the right things all the time.”
Of course one way the Bucs can help out the secondary is by getting a better pass rush. With the return of Jason Pierre-Paul against Tennessee, the Bucs’ are already starting to see dividends as Pierre-Paul and Shaq Barrett also get better matchups.
In return, the young secondary can get more aggressive, and overall make them better.
“It’s always important as a DB whether you’re a rookie or vet to get pressure up front, they go hand in hand” Bowles said. “To have all those guys contributing and hopefully a lot more, that makes the ball come out a lot quicker so hopefully you can be more aggressive as a secondary. Like I said, they’re still young, there’s still learning route combinations and everything else like that, but I like the aggressiveness they’re showing.”