Since traveling out west and holding the 49ers to 303 yards of offense – evening their record in the process – the Bucs defense has come apart in the last two weeks.

The Raiders and Falcons both have far better offenses than San Fran, to be sure, but not so much better that Tampa Bay should allow 1,123 yards combined. Oakland quarterback Derek Carr threw for a franchise-record 513 yards in Week 8, while Atlanta’s Matt Ryan, who threw for 344, looked well on his way before being pulled in the final quarter of Thursday night’s 43-28 win.

Releasing the ball quickly, often over the middle to wide open receivers, both signal-callers were sacked twice – over a combined 96 drop-backs.

Friday, head coach Dirk Koetter was asked plainly, ‘Why is the defense struggling?’

“We’re not communicating well enough,” Koetter said of the unit that ranks 25th in the NFL in pass-defense. “Not everybody’s able to just line up and read their keys and play fast. That’s what you want to do with every position and we’re just not doing that right now. It could be different reasons on different plays. We’re talking about communicating all the time and making sure everybody’s on the same page, and we’re not doing a good enough job of that right now.”

To illustrate Koetter’s point, consider this: Lavonte David, the team’s leading tackler since his rookie year in 2012, had 69 stops through eight games last season. This year he has 44, with just 10 in consecutive losses at home against Oakland and Atlanta.

That could be the result of a system that doesn’t feature the weakside linebacker as heavily – middle linebacker Kwon Alexander has 72 tackles, fifth-most in the NFL – but the Bucs star players’ roles either seem to be minimized or difficult to adjust to. Whatever the case, the end result is glaring. Tampa Bay has seen an overabundance of explosive plays and a lack of turnovers to make up for them.

For a young team learning a new scheme, the problem could be that the defense is missing an identity. Koetter conceded just that, saying it’s his job to fix.

“I think every team finds its own identity sooner or later,” Koetter said. “Sometimes what you think you’re going to be when you start the year, it doesn’t work out that way, for one reason or another.

“I think that might be a fair assessment, that maybe we haven’t really found what we can consistently hang our hat on,” he said. “There are different reasons for that. All that is, that’s our job as coaches. That’s my job, to help us get to that point.”

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About the Author: Zach Shapiro

Zach is entering his 3rd year covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as a writer for PewterReport.com. Since 2014, he's handled a large part of the beat reporting responsibilities at PR, attending all media gatherings and publishing and promoting content daily. Zach is a native of Sarasota, FL, and a graduate of the University of Tampa. He has also covered high school football for the Tampa Tribune and the NFL for Pro Player Insiders. Contact him at: [email protected]
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plopes808
plopes808
5 years ago

I disagree with Koetter, I think we have found our identity. The problem is that our identity is a horrible defense! I do agree on the lack of communication though. Watching the games this year, I’m seeing a lot of the stuff we saw last year. Blown assignments, miscommunication, I even saw Alexander forced to move a lineman into his proper spot. Time will hopefully help, but after 9 weeks I had hoped to see improvement. We actually seem to have gotten worse

russmillerwy
russmillerwy
5 years ago

I wouldn’t want to jump to any conclusions after the first 8 games with a new head coach. Tony Dungy was 1-8 in his first 9 games with the Bucs. They also have a very difficult schedule this season. They beat the teams they were supposed to beat (San Francisco and Carolina) and one that they weren’t (the first game at Atlanta). If McCoy, Winston, Martin, and Evans had more serious injuries, I would be counting them out for the rest of the season. Once those guys are back at full health, and they get a few new starters sooner… Read more »

Horse
Horse
5 years ago

We should be able to beat Chicago. If we don’t then the answer is very clear about our defense. Let’s see what happens after the Chicago game. Right now I’m hoping for a win at home. Go Bucs!

bucballer
bucballer
5 years ago

Let’s not kid ourselves, this porous defense has been around a couple of years now! We have, regularly, let back-ups and third string QB’s beat us. Even QB’s who have never played in an NFL game, have come in against the Bucs for their first taste of an official NFL Game as a QB and they found great success. One of the results of this piss-poor play is a Home record of 3-22! For YEARS I’ve said that they( BUCS) would never have consistent success until we got a QB. Well now we have our Franchise QB of the future… Read more »

Michael WestDominguez
Michael WestDominguez
5 years ago

Bucballer, I agree with you about Winston. Yes, he has made some bad throws this season or missed some open receivers on the deep ball. However, at this point, I truly feel that the way our defense has been playing, we could put up 40 on offense and still lose the game 42-40. Your also spot on about the scouting, I’m not sure if our scouting is just ate the hell up or if the Abercrombie and Fitch “yuppy” brothers and GM are addressing our needs, but in a way where we are not going after the best available necessarily… Read more »

scubog
scubog
5 years ago

In spite of a DUI leaving a very weak TE group, frequent injuries to the “Back Street Boys” RB’s who are literally guys off the street, the decline and injury to VJax, untimely penalties on the O-line and sometimes less than great play from Jameis, the Offense has done a relatively good job moving the ball and scoring points. Say what you want about Aguayo, but he hasn’t cost us a game yet. He’ll be just fine once he gets through his rookie year. If not, there’s lots of kickers. Our punting has been outstanding. Returns have been so-so at… Read more »

Horse
Horse
Reply to  scubog
5 years ago

Scubog, glad to get some in depth information from you. No question we have to start with our DL in the draft. I hope Licht takes this position this year in the draft? If the DL you wanted in the 1st round in the position you are picking then is there trade down, don’t trade up! We need lots of draft picks. I don’t have much trust in our scouts or Licht as to their understanding of what is a good player.

drdneast
drdneast
5 years ago

When you look at what happened to VJax and how it has affected the offensive production, it’s hard to argue with how Bill Belichek handles his players when they only have one or two years left in them.
It’s time to blow this defense up and start over.
They have been through three different schemes with three different coaches in the last four years and they haven’t been able to play in any of them.
After a while, it’s not the schemes, it’s the players,

jme0151
jme0151
Reply to  drdneast
5 years ago

drd….I agree. Let’s see if there is interest in McCoy for a first rounder, Belichek would do it. David to. Just get maximum returns on trades. It’s not like the defense will get better with them. We see that now. Lets look at a 3…4 defense even. New D coordinator….. To many years of bad D costing this team. Status quo is not working.

Naplesfan
Naplesfan
Reply to  drdneast
5 years ago

I believe we’ve already tried the “blow up the defense and start over” three times in the last three years, and now you want to do it again half a season into the latest do-over? No – that is not an answer. It’s just an emotional over-reaction to the fact that we 1) have a brand new defense and learning a brand new defense requires at least something more than half a season to learn, and 2) we’ve been decimated by injuries on the D-line. Without an effective D-line pass rush, nothing else in the defense can work well. It… Read more »

Naplesfan
Naplesfan
5 years ago

Take a deep breath. Nobody knew the identity of the future Hall of Fame and Ring of Honor defense in the first half of the 1996 season either. A year and a half later, as the Bucs won a playoff spot for the first time in forever, we were starting to get an inkling of the league leading defense that would take us to two NFC championship games and the only Super Bowl in franchise history. You guy have about as much patience as the typical four year old in the back seat of the family car whining “Aren’t we… Read more »

drdneast
drdneast
5 years ago

You make some very valid points Naples fan, and I wasn’t advocating they blow up the defense in the middle of the season. But if things continue as they are presently, enough is enough. I’ve been patient for over 40 years and have seen damn few winning seasons and I have paid good money to watch this nonsense, unlike many people who just whine and complain who have never gone to a game in their lives. I used to support Gerald McCoy, but I am done with him as well. If I got my butt kicked like he did Thursday… Read more »

Naplesfan
Naplesfan
Reply to  drdneast
5 years ago

drd – Gerald McCoy is the opposite of Sapp as a personality; he is also routinely labeled among the top 2 or 3 three-technique tackles in the league, year after year. If you expect him to suddenly start acting like an asshole, like Sapp, and that somehow acting that way will make him more effective in his job, it won’t. McCoy is very good, but a guy like him has to have some help on the inside to defeat the double teams. Sapp always did (guys like Brad Culpepper and Booger McFarland, plus some pretty good DEs too). When McDonald… Read more »

plopes808
plopes808
5 years ago

We need to hit on S and DL early and often! Hopefully we can pick up a FA or 2 to cover our need at WR then focus on D all draft. We’ve hit on our early picks the last few years but after the 3rd round it’s been nothing but misses with the exception of Kwon.