The Bucs secondary has been decimated by injuries this season, with all five starters missing time. The team finally got some reinforcements on the back end with Jamel Dean returning against the Dolphins. Dean played well in Week 5, finishing with five tackles, two pass breakups and an interception. Pro Football Focus gave him a 76.5 defensive grade for the game, including a 74.9 coverage grade and 78.1 tackle grade.
Head coach Bruce Arians was also high on Dean’s performance.
“I thought he played really, really well,” Arians said on Bucs Total Access. “We gave up the one communication problem for the one touchdown to the running back. But other than that I though Jamel bounced back real well. Loved to see the interception. It was a great play by him. Again, just put all the fire out with that interception.”
The play in question Arians referred to was a post-wheel combination route, which resulted in a touchdown by Miami running back Myles Gaskin.
The Bucs call quarters coverage, and Dean is supposed to push the post route to the boundary safety (Mike Edwards), then sink into his quarters zone. Instead he runs with the vertical threat all the way, thinking Gaskin is stopping in the flat. Jason Pierre-Paul has flat coverage, so Dean would be free to compress the post pattern to the middle of the field.
But Gaskin carries the route vertically up the sideline, into the vacated quarters zone. If Dean had stayed disciplined with his eyes, he would’ve seen Gaskin’s turn upfield on the wheel route. Safety Mike Edwards also could have been more helpful in communicating to Dean that the safety had the post covered.
This is one of the difficulties of a spot-dropping zone-heavy defense. If the Bucs deployed more pattern-matching, the flat defender would simply carry this wheel route down the sideline. That would free up Dean to be more aggressive on the first vertical threat his way. If defensive coordinator Todd Bowles had nickel or dime personnel on the field against 11 personnel, that would be an easy matchup for the defense
Instead, the responsibility is on Dean to handle, to some degree, two threats on the play. Active eyes are critical for a zone corner, and an area where Dean still needs to improve. Throughout the rest of the game, the third-year cornerback was fantastic, however. He drove on routes, played the ball well, tackled clean and was active in run support. Sunday wasn’t perfect, but it was definitely a step in the right direction for the Auburn product.
J.C. Allen is one of PewterReport.com’s newest beat writers. As a New England transplant, he has closely followed Tom Brady’s entire career and first fell in love with the game during the Patriots 1996 Super Bowl run. J.C. is in his second year covering the team after spending a year with Bucs Report as a writer, producer and show host. Some of his other interests include barbecuing, being outdoors, and spending time with family and friends. His favorite Buccaneer of all time is Simeon Rice and believes he deserves a spot in Canton. Follow J.C. Allen on Twitter @JCAllenNFL.
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