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Call it disciplined aggressiveness. At least that’s the gist of what Tampa Bay Bucs defensive coordinator Mike Smith said his team needs to display if it intends to become an effective unit.

That balancing act starts with him on down to his defensive assistants and the players executing on the field.

Bucs DE Will Gholston and MLB Kwon Alexander - Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

“I think we have to be a more aggressive team, not only in the play calling, but we’ve got to be aggressive in our mindset and be aware of where we are on the field, what the down and distance is,” Smith said this week when asked about rookie cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III, but expanded his response to the entire defense.

“I think as a young player, sometimes you get overwhelmed as the game goes on. But we’ve got to be focused on what we’re defending, what we’re defending formationally, and there’s the right time to be aggressive and then there’s the right time to sit back and make sure that we are going to let them throw it in front of us. There were a couple of times that we were probably too aggressive and we missed some tackles, but overall I think as a unit we need to be more in-tune to when we can be aggressive and challenge.”

Not helping matters has been the inability of Tampa Bay’s offense to protect the football. That puts the defense in some precarious positions, like its four previous opponents starting eight drives at their own 40 or closer, including five at the Bucs 27 or closer. But it’s a growing list of injuries that’s really taking its toll on establishing continuity.

The defensive line is particularly decimated at the moment. Saturday’s final injury report listed defensive tackles Gerald McCoy and Clinton McDonald and defensive end Robert Ayers Jr. as doubtful and Noah Spence as questionable for Monday night’s primetime showdown in Carolina. Starting cornerback Brent Grimes and backup safety Keith Tandy also found themselves on injury reports this week and are listed as questionable.

Smith, who’s about as optimistic as anyone at One Buc Place, spun the ugly injury situation as a chance for other players to get snaps, but also acknowledged the deficiencies.

Bucs MLB Kwon Alexander & DE Howard Jones - Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

“We’ve got some guys banged up, there’s no doubt about that,” Smith said. “We are certainly hoping that we get some guys back for us then be ready to play. I don’t know who they’re going to be right now, but I’m sure as we get through this weekend, we’ll get some good news. It’s one man’s misfortune is another man’s opportunity, as I’ve said. And guys are going to get opportunities to play some significant snaps this week that [they] probably weren’t going to play last week.”

How the backups and newcomers along the defensive line respond to Smith’s call for disciplined aggressiveness could be a key to keeping the Panthers’ offense in check Monday. Problems have arisen with the front seven not fulfilling proper assignments and watching opponents rip of big gains. Recent free agent signee John Hughes III, second-year backup Howard Jones and rookies DaVonte Lambert and Channing Ward may all be asked to execute the defensive game plan.

“We’ve got to tighten some things up, in terms of our aggressiveness in both coverage and in defending the run,” Smith said. “There’s too many leaky runs – seven-, eight-yard runs. Even though they were under three yards per carry, there was a period of time that we did not play our gaps and we weren’t as stout as we needed to be.”

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About the Author: Eric Horchy

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drdneast
drdneast(@drdneast)
5 years ago

I have read out here that one of the concepts of Smith’s defense is to leave safeties isolated in one on one coverage with WR’s. That might be fine if you have a pass rush putting the heat on the QB, but so far that hasn’t been the case in recent games. Believe me, there are very few safeties in the league who can handle man coverage on WR’s if the QB has to much time to throw. With that said, the defense should improve once we get our top DL back after the bye week. McDonald, McCoy, Ayres and… Read more »

Horse
Horse(@horse)
5 years ago

so far i have seen not much from Mike Smith and we’ll see in this game what’s left of himas a Coach. Poor excuses in reference to decimated; we didn’t have much to be decimated about in the first place. We have to blitz Andersen; we can’t keep pretending to have good Safeties or a legit pass russ.

drdneast
drdneast(@drdneast)
5 years ago

Sorry I have to disagree with you Horse as far as the Bucs being decimated on defense. It is actually worse than that as far as the DL. The word decimate originates from Roman times when the Roman Army would “decimate” a population by killing every tenth man by lot as an example to the other villagers. So in effect you are losing 10 percent of your force or population. in the case of the DL, where the large part of the injuries are occurring, it is more like 50 percent. Since the start of the preseason to right now,… Read more »

Horse
Horse(@horse)
5 years ago

Both teams have major injuries; one of the other differences is the Panthers haven’t wasted their draft picks as much as we have. The defensive players you have mentioned who are injured aren’t all legit starters. George Jonson has shown nothing as a starter; Jacuez Smith can’t stay healthy because he is too small; Ayres, McCoy, McDonald are starters, but seem to have bad luck with injuries and they aren’t getting any younger. You and I can go back and forth on this, but it won’t make any difference as they still have to play the game and show some… Read more »

fredster
fredster(@fredster)
5 years ago

Find myself agreeing with you dr D. On McCoy and also on the defense struggling mainly is because the D line is decimated. I’ve argued with you and others the guy just lacks something. McCoy is a very good defensive tackle. To me though he lacks that fire and passion like great ones. Not saying he doesn’t care or doesn’t work hard he just doesn’t hate losing enough. Just my opinion. He’s a very nice guy though. Not sure how anyone can blame Smith at this point for the defense after all the injuries. If safeties and CB’s still having… Read more »

76Buc
76Buc(@76buc)
5 years ago

I agree with fredster. See me at the half way point and then we’ll assess Smith and his defense. For now it’s hard to make chicken soup out of chicken …. :)

drdneast
drdneast(@drdneast)
5 years ago

fredster, u will be interested to know that I have come around to your way of thinking, I have posted a few times out here in the last couple of days and explained the reasons why I am no longer a defender of Gerald McCoy’s

drdneast
drdneast(@drdneast)
5 years ago

horse, the “two” out of the “five” players I mentioned who weren’t starters certainly provided much needed depth, especially Smith who was a starter last year and was expected to provide a much needed rush from the edge. History suggests he was going to be able to provide it.
The Bucs did indeed waste a boatload of picks on DL, no one is arguing that fact. But I’m not going to blame the current administrations problems on the past administrations mistakes. Politicians do that

Horse
Horse(@horse)
5 years ago

drdneast, I can agree with those thoughts. I think we both are saying just about the same thing. The older I get the more frustrating it is for me as I’m running out of time in seeing a winning mind set.

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