It hasn’t been a hot start to the season for the Bucs defense, but they seem to be finding their way a little bit in recent weeks. The Bucs pass defense ranks dead last in the NFL, which is a concern for many. But that number may be more a product of volume from opposing offenses than an indication of incompetence for Tampa Bay.

The reason? Opponents have just stopped trying to run the ball against the Bucs. Like, at all. It’s understandable, given that the Bucs have been the NFL’s top-ranked run defense for two straight years. But this year, defensive coordinator Todd Bowles’ unit has taken it to another level. Entering Week 6, the Bucs are on pace to give up just 778 rushing yards this season, despite the addition of a 17th game. The NFL record is 970 yards, set by Baltimore in 16 games during the 2000 season.

Obviously this statistic is also a product of volume in some ways. Through five games, the Bucs have been rushed on a league-low 79 times. The next closest team has faced 15 more rushes than the Bucs, and the team after that has faced 28 more rushes. So Bowles’ run defense numbers are definitely benefiting from opposing team’s unwillingness to rush against them.

But the numbers go beyond that. When opponents do run, they aren’t getting anywhere either. The Bucs surrender just 2.9 yards per carry, a number that factors in quarterback scrambles and a couple of lateral passes. That’s the lowest number in the NFL by almost half-a-yard. For the past two years, Tampa Bay has led the NFL in that run defense category as well.

If the Bucs can maintain this pace, they’ll shatter the all-time record by almost 200 yards. That achievement could come despite having an extra game on their schedule. It’s not the most important statistic, but it’s something to keep an eye on this season.

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About the Author: Jon Ledyard

Jon Ledyard is PewterReport.com's newest Bucs beat writer and has experience covering the Pittsburgh Steelers as a beat writer and analyzing the NFL Draft for several draft websites, including The Draft Network. Follow Ledyard on Twitter at @LedyardNFLDraft
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fredster
7 days ago

I’d rather be a top 10 run defense than 1st if it meant we were at least average in pass defense!

Naplesfan
7 days ago

Interesting factoids on our defense this season. Speaking of defense, this week Jenna Laine at ESPN dot com has posted an excellent interview with Richard Sherman and his teammates in the defensive backfield, and described Sherman’s teaching and coaching contributions to our young DBs, like Jamel Dean who showed clear improvement last Sunday, which he credits to Sherman. This is exactly what the Bucs expected with Sherman – that he would serve as a player-coach on the defense much as Tom Brady does with the offense. By the way, Jenna Laine has consistently produced interviews with Bucs players this year… Read more »

Eddie
Reply to  Naplesfan
7 days ago

that is great news. Dean with all his natural talent is just waiting to be developed and when he does, he will be a beast.

eaustinyoung
7 days ago

Nice stat but it’s weighted by the poor quality of the pass defense. Everyone is gaming to keep their ground game to a minimum. It’s not like the Bucs D line is just overpowering opposing offenses.

Captain Sly
Reply to  eaustinyoung
7 days ago

Really they are overpowering, even before Todd Bowles got here the run stuff combination of Vea, Will Gholston, and JPP have been consistently top 5 in the league. Teams are passing the ball because they can’t run on this combination. Granted our young secondary has been growing up in this time frame but most offensive coordinators play to there teams strengths, so running teams are going to try run the ball regardless. Run first teams: Ram, Cowboys, Vikes, Seattle, Niners, Titans, Pats, Broncos, Panthers, Giants, Jax, Atl, Lions and more have struggled. No Fluke!

Naplesfan
Reply to  eaustinyoung
7 days ago

Well, the bottom line is always the bottom line. Currently the Bucs are ranked 19th in the league in PPG allowed at 24.4 ppg, and that number dropped pretty dramatically the last two games to 17 ppg which would get us to 3rd best in the league if we maintained that performance. Combined with our offensive scoring, ranked 3rd in the league at 33.4 ppg, and which has produced 45 points last week which should have been 52 points if we had not taken a knee three straight times from inside the 5 yard line during the final 2 minutes,… Read more »

drdneast
Reply to  eaustinyoung
7 days ago

Actually, you couldn’t be more wrong. The overwhelming large number of passes have been on short 3 step routes. Very few intemidiary passes have been attempted and even less routes that are longer than 20 yards.
Extremely difficult to sack a QB on 3 step drops unless your corners are up and playing tight one on one coverage which ours are not.
The reason, of course, for all the short passes is because of the pass rush. If OC’s felt comfortable throwing deeper routes against the Bucs you would see them. They don;t because of the pass rush

scubog
Reply to  drdneast
6 days ago

Why folks don’t see the obvious is a mystery to me……………in a lot of things.

JSW
JSW
7 days ago

It’s painful to watch EVERY quarterback we play (rookie, journey-man vet, etc…) “break out!” after marching up and down the field on this defense. Don’t we have the highest completion percentage against of any defense in the league right now? Why bang your head against a wall when someone is standing there holding the door open for you? If you’re going to complete 75% of your passes against this defense, that’s 3 out of every 4 downs – why run it? As good as our run defense may be (we have given up a few good runs), I think the… Read more »

Naplesfan
Reply to  JSW
7 days ago

But as drdneast points out, their pass completion percentages are high but their yards per attempt are low, reflecting a fear of our pass rush. They aren’t throwing down the field against the Bucs.

Dink’n dunk offenses can be effective in generating yards, but not necessarily points. Our overall defensive performance is OK at 19th in PPG allowed season to date, but it would rank 3rd in the league over the last two games at 17 PPG. I’ll take that any old day, in conjunction with the 3rd highest scoring offense.

Last edited 7 days ago by Naplesfan
scubog
Reply to  Naplesfan
6 days ago

Exactly!