Bucs CB Vernon Hargreaves and Falcons WR Julio Jones - Photo by: Getty Images
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.”
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]
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
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 or later at their weakest positions, they’ll be back in the thick of it.
One thing I do agree with Pewter Report on: taking a kicker in the second round with all those defensive tackles available was an obvious blunder. If some other team had taken Aguayo after we picked, so what? Looking less and less like a long-term franchise kicker every week, and Akeem Spence hasn’t been able to do anything in Clinton McDonald’s place. That’s a glaring hole on the defensive line.
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!
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 and yes Jamesis is our Franchise QB despite what I read sometimes! To think otherwise is asinine. So the question begs, is it the Coaching or is it the talent? I think that the constant turnover of Coaches and Systems has not helped find stability or success. Having said that, I am convinced that it is the talent or lack there of! Glazer money spends just like other owners money. It isn’t that the “G” Boys are not willing to drop some cash, it’s that the players they are choosing to pay suck and just don’t perform well for us for some reason. This falls on GM and current administration and scouting department. I ‘m seeing a pattern of Paying Free Agents good money to plug a needed whole and this guy comes to us already hurt or soon after develops serious health issues and this prevents the so said player from playing for us and sometimes they NEVER play for us! WTF!!! this is happening way to often… happening now with Free Agent OL Sweezy? believe he is on the Physically Unable to Perform list. Are you kidding me? Word on street before we signed him was he was a bit injury prone! WTF! So, the Bucs have a serious problem on their hands. Their inability to select or hit on better talent or prospects worries me. These last couple of games have clearly proven how inadequate we are on the Defensive side of the ball! Remember, through the loses, Jamesis HAS performed fairly well for a 22 year old young man who would be a Senior this year had he chose to stay in school. 2-3 TDs most games. He has had some stupid plays where he should have never attempted a pass or a run( Did anybody hold their breath a moment when he was just crushed near the Goal line?) but what 2nd year QB hasn’t? It’s injuries and poor depth that has doomed us! Jamesis is handing the ball off to the 5th or 6th string running back now?! We have to learn as an organization to scout and recruit BETTER players because nearly ever single game we are overmatched and out talented! What say u my brothers?…
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 and shopping at pep boys for a tire versus good year/michelin. The Glazers just need to sell the franchise to the owner of the Lightning who’s a class act. In fact, I read a couple of weeks ago on ESPN, the top rated franchise (all sports) was our beloved Tampa Bay Lightning. If we lose to the Bears, it’s going to be very hard to try and blow smoke up the fans asses for next season….Siege the day? We can’t even play 60 minutes.
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 best. Still, the Special Teams have been adequate.
We all know it’s the Defense that is below standard. They seem to stop the run well enough. Perhaps because it’s so easy to pass on them. Who knows if it’s lack of pass rush or lack of pass coverage that is the primary culprit. We can analyze all we want, but we really don’t know who failed their assignments or if the scheme is sound. I know this much; when two rookie undrafted college free agents (Channing Ward & DaVonte Lambert) and a street free agent (John Hughes) are in the line-up it’s probably not a good thing when the defensive backs are either very young or just not good.
Since we need only a piece or two on Offense to resolve that problem; I say get Jameis some weapons about whom DC’s are worried. Then focus on the Defense. Keep Lavonte David and others who have a puzzled look on their faces with a question mark over their heads in the classroom so they can react instead of think. Get who we already have on the roster better prepared. Then Licht has to hit on mid to late round Draft picks like he did with Kwon Alexander.
In spite of always being injured, Clinton McDonald and Jacquies Smith seem to escape the criticism others receive. Isn’t it time we replace them? If they stay injury free it would improve the depth so we don’t have to rely on guys who are barely on the roster.
We’re halfway through the season and the in-stadium experience has absolutely been torture. No doubt the Bears fans will show up in droves (one loud mouth right behind me). Can we get a home victory so Scubog can leave happy to the sound of Tampa———–Bay and not “Let’s go Bears” ?
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.
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,
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.
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 ALWAYS starts up front.
We need to get Clinton McDonald back in the middle with Gerald McCoy. We need to get Robert Ayers to perform like he did the last few seasons. We need Noah Spence to continue learning how to edge rush in the NFL (that usually takes a season of experience, even for very good DEs). We also need better tackling from the guys we have – the scheme may affect some players, but it’s been pretty damned clear that even David is missing way too many tackles. None of that – absolutely none of that – has a damned thing to do with coaching. Or the kicker. Or the GM.
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 THERE yet, Daddy?”
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 night, I would be angry and mad.
Instead we get the Dahli Llama talking about soul searching, looking within and meditating about the defenses constant plight.
How about a “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it any longer.” attitude from our so called defensive leader.
I just don’t see him playing with an angry passion that would allow him to take over a game like Sapp used to do.
I have been hearing about how great but underrated Lavonte David is.
Thursday night his coverage stunk and I haven’t seen him make a splash play all year.
I do agree with you whole heatedly about the defensive line. Until they start putting some consistent heat on the QB, this defense will continue to stink.
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 is in the lineup, McCoy has that help. One man on the inside does not constitute an effective pass rush, especially when he automatically draws the double teams as McCoy does. Even still, without much help, McCoy still leads the team in sacks even while getting double teamed.
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.
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