The PR Bucs Monday Mailbag is where PewterReport.com’s Mark Cook answers your questions from our @PewterReport Twitter account. You can submit your question each week via Twitter using the hashtag #PRMailbag.

Question: Is this the best defense in the NFL?

Answer: On Sunday against the Packers, yes, the Bucs defense was absolutely elite. And when you look at the rankings this morning, the answer is also yes.

The Buccaneers are currently ranked No. 1 in the NFL in total defense giving up an average of just 282 yards per game through six contests. Against Green Bay, Tampa Bay allowed just 201 total yards to the NFL’s second-best offense prior to Sunday. And surrendered just 10 points to what was the league’s top scoring offense coming into the game, as the Packers were averaging 38 points per game.

Bucs OLB Jason Pierre-Paul and ILB Lavonte David

Bucs OLB Jason Pierre-Paul and ILB Lavonte David – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

Defensive coordinator Todd Bowles called perhaps the best defensive game plans in franchise history other than maybe the Super Bowl XXXVII win against the Raiders in 2002 – and this one might have been even better. After giving up 144 yards in the first quarter, the Bucs only allowed 57 yards over the last three quarters. Think about that – 57 yards – against Aaron Rodgers, Aaron Jones and a multitude of skill positions on offense for Green Bay. This wasn’t the Giants or the Jaguars, this was the league’s top-scoring offense – one that was averaging 488 yards through its first four games.

If the Buccaneers defense can play close to this level for the remainder of the season, this isn’t just a playoff team, this is a team that can win a Super Bowl.

Question: Ronald Jones II is different so far this year. Is this a change in the O-line or a change in him?

Answer: While the offensive line deserves some credit for Ronald Jones II’s success this year, the majority of the praise should be heaped on Jones himself.

I have never been so sure a player was a bust as I was following Jones rookie season where he gained just 44 yards and averaged only 1.9 yards a carry. It was dreadful and I was all for cutting Jones and just starting over.

There was no indication following his rookie season that Jones was even a capable backup in the NFL, much less a productive starter material. But here we are six weeks into his third season and guess who the third-most productive running back in the league is? Jones trails only Tennessee’s Derrick Henry and Minnesota’s Dalvin Cook with his 472 rushing yards on the season, and has now notched three straight 100-yard games after having just one through his first 32 games.

Bucs RB Ronald Jones II

Bucs RB Ronald Jones II – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

Jones came into this season bigger and stronger, and the results speak for themselves. At 225 pounds, he is running harder and more confidently than before and his ability to break tackles and gain yards after contact is a testament to there work he put in this offseason.

While the COVID-19 pandemic was difficult for the NFL’s offseason, a bit of a silver lining is perhaps the amount of time players had to train and workout on their own. Does Jones bulk up nearly 10 pounds and get stronger if there had been a normal offseason? Maybe so, but regardless Jones has taken over as the featured back and there is no debating who is Tampa Bay’s starter between he and Leonard Fournette right now.

Question: What needs to be done to keep Todd Bowles in Tampa Bay?

Answer: A blank checkbook? Seriously, if the Bucs defense continues to be a Top 5 defense this year, Bowles’ phone will be ringing off the hook once the year is over. I tweeted that Bucs fans should brace for that following yesterday’s win over the Packers and I got a lot of feedback pointing out that Bowles struggled at head coach in New York with the Jets and that he just isn’t head coach material.

But that isn’t necessarily true. While it didn’t work out in New York that doesn’t mean it won’t if given a second chance elsewhere. There is a coach up in New England who was once fired by the Cleveland Browns, who seems to have bounced back from the consensus that he wasn’t head coach material. The Seahawks seem pretty happy with their head coach, who wasn’t very good his first time around in the NFL. I can’t say if Bowles is another Bill Belichick or Pete Carroll, but I won’t say he isn’t, either.

The hope here is Bowles would prefer to just be a defensive coordinator and stick around in Tampa Bay as it appears the team has something special happening. And if the Bucs end up with a Super Bowl and Bruce Arians decides to walk away in the next couple of years, then Bowles would likely be first in line to succeed him if he chooses.

Question: With the Bucs at 4-2, which loss is worse? After watching the Saints and the Nick Foles-led Bears, I’m thinking the loss to the Saints was a more winnable game and a lost opportunity. I think the loss to the Bears will be similar to the loss to the 49ers last year.

Answer: I disagree with you 100 percent. To me the loss to the Bears was so much worse as the Bucs squandered a 13-point they had approaching halftime. The mistakes that were made were almost all self-inflicted and that makes it even harder to accept. While the Bears are 5-1, they are not an overly talented 5-1 football team with Nick Foles at quarterback. I just don’t buy it. They have a very good receiver in Allen Robinson, but barely a running game to speak of, and a quarterback that doesn’t strike a lot of fear in opponents.

Bucs QB Tom Brady

Bucs QB Tom Brady – Photo by: Getty Images

Defensively, Chicago is very good and creating match-up problems for opposing offenses, but I am really not a believer in the Bears despite their record through six games. Tampa Bay should have absolutely won that game, and if not for 11 penalties and poor officiating, the Bucs would have easily handled Chicago. I could be wrong and we will know if the Bears are for real over the next 10 games.

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About the Author: Mark Cook

Mark Cook currently is the director of editorial content and Bucs beat writer and has written for PewterReport.com since 2011. Cook has followed the Buccaneers since 1977 when he first began watching football with his Dad and is fond of the 1979 Bucs team that came within 10 points of going to a Super Bowl. His favorite Bucs game is still the 1979 divisional playoff win 24-17 over the Eagles. In his spare time Cook enjoys playing guitar, fishing, the beach and family time.Cook is a native of Pinecrest in Eastern Hillsborough County and has written for numerous publications including the Tampa Tribune, In the Field and Ya'll Magazine. Cook can be reached at [email protected]
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WeAretheChamps2002+2021
WeAretheChamps2002+2021
1 year ago

I completely disagree that Todd Bowles, with 100% certainty, will be a head coach again. I can’t think of one guy who became a head coach, flopped, then became a coordinator, and then got a second chance to be a head coach, who went on to be successful. Look no further than:

Jack Del Rio, Ken Whisenhunt, Norv Turner, Dom Capers, Mike Mularkey, Dick Jauron, Jim Haslett.

Let’s be honest, there are coaches who are only great coordinators and not great head coaches.

DT25
DT25
Reply to  WeAretheChamps2002+2021
1 year ago

I’m also not even sure he WANTS to be a head coach again. I remember him saying something along the lines of “I’m happy I get to focus all my energy on the defense again” when he was hired here. I really believe he doesn’t necessarily feel the need to jump back to head coaching. Now, if the right opportunity and paycheck come along, sure, maybe he will. But nothing about his time in NY has made be believe he’s in a huge hurry to leave a really good coordinator job to help attempt to rebuild another franchise.

Naplesfan
Naplesfan
Reply to  DT25
1 year ago

You are missing the point. Bowles can stay right where he is AND get a head coaching job. He is the natural successor to Bruce Arians. Arians is 67 years old, not in great health, and at the present trajectory he has a very good opportunity to complete his coaching career on an extremely high note with a championship, working with the GOAT. This season, or if not this season, then next season.

DT25
DT25
Reply to  Naplesfan
1 year ago

Not really missing the point at all…he can stay here and still not want to be a HC too…there’s good reason to believe he may NOT be the next in line, regardless. For one, Harold Goodwin is currently the assistant HC and may very well be considered the successor for that very reason. Also, Leftwich is widely considered an “up and coming” HC candidate, although I have my doubts about him being deserving at this point, he has earned some good will around the league. There are other options outside of Bowles for life beyond Arians…and my original point still… Read more »

Naplesfan
Naplesfan
Reply to  WeAretheChamps2002+2021
1 year ago

That is simply a stupid thing to post. It does not deserve even a rebuttal other than to say it’s stupid.

WeAretheChamps2002+2021
WeAretheChamps2002+2021
Reply to  Naplesfan
1 year ago

You say it doesn’t deserve a rebuke yet you respond… methinks you don’t know the meaning of rebuttal, but thanks for trying 😀

Naplesfan
Naplesfan
Reply to  WeAretheChamps2002+2021
1 year ago

Obviously you don’t understand the difference between a rebuttal and a rejection. Look it up in a dictionary.

magoobee
magoobee
Reply to  WeAretheChamps2002+2021
1 year ago

You can include Wade Phillips in your list.

FLBoy84
FLBoy84
1 year ago

Hoping as well that Bowles’ aspiration is simply being a DC the rest of his career, maybe with an Asst HC label attached for extra $$. He seemed to indicate as much during his initial PC, but things can change. Irregardless, it’s likely that he’ll get HC inquiries from other teams if this D continues to perform at the level shown yesterday.

DT25
DT25
1 year ago

Lot of people should be lining up for the crow buffet on RoJo. Was never given a chance by Koetter, had to overcome one of the worst run blocking OLs in the league the last two years, split carries with a far inferior RB last season for…reasons (bad ones), continues to get criticized for every tiny mistake he makes…yet here he is: among the top 5 RBs in the NFL in rushing yards. And it’s not some fluke…he also averages more YPC than countless “top-name” guys. Guys like Kamara, Zeke Elliott, Gurley, Jacobs, even Derek Henry (and that’s including Henry’s… Read more »

Last edited 1 year ago by DT25
gcolerick
gcolerick
Reply to  DT25
1 year ago

Well, I am going to add to that and say there should be another line at that crow buffet bar for Mr. Jason Licht. While he may have made one of the worst draft day blunders ever with the Aguayo pick, he has more than made up for it over the last three years. Thank you Mr Licht, I am finally starting to enjoy Tampa Bay football again.

DT25
DT25
Reply to  gcolerick
1 year ago

100% agree. This defense is almost entirely made up of his draft choices with a few key FAs on board. Same offensively. He’s built a truly fantastic roster from the ground up and is a major reason we have this coaching staff taboot. He has more than made up for a few draft day blunders with a ton of absolute home runs. Like any profession, it seemed he needed to settle in and figure out how to run things. It took a few years with a questionable coaching staff. Now that he has a coaching staff he is in synch… Read more »

Last edited 1 year ago by DT25
Dave
Dave
Reply to  DT25
1 year ago

It’s amazing how a couple moves, changes the entire perception on a guy. I’ve been saying for the last couple years, that Licht(aside from that disaster 16’ draft) has done an amazing job at GM, and that the Bucs are loaded with talent top to bottom, on both sides of the ball. It’s amazing what 3 moves did to flip the perception on its rear. 1) add Brady, cut Jameis 2) cut Barber, give Rojo 20+ touches per game 3) cut Santos, add Succop Those 3 moves right there have completely changed the team. And they’ve also magnified, just how… Read more »

Last edited 1 year ago by Dave
DT25
DT25
Reply to  DT25
1 year ago

Edit: over 100 more yards on about 30 more attempts for Henry. Dude is a true modern day workhorse.

bucballer
bucballer
1 year ago

Bucs must be careful with this decision. While I’m for giving him Assistant Head Coach title to justify a potential pay raise to keep him in Tampa… as the Defensive Coordinator. This has shades of the Raheem Morris decision. They felt rushed and worried that another team would snatch him up from right under them. They gave him a promotion to Heaf Coach and we know how that turned out. I do believe some coaches just make better Coordinaters than Head Coach. I believe that is true for Bowles. Only hire him as a head coach if he is the… Read more »

eaustinyoung
eaustinyoung
Reply to  bucballer
1 year ago

Yep Raheem Morris AND Dirk Koetter are classic examples of “coordinators becoming HC” failed experiments

tpeluso
tpeluso
Reply to  eaustinyoung
1 year ago

Raheem isn’t even a good example of that… he never coached a single game as DC before he was elevated to HC after Gruden got canned (which I’d still argue was dumber than any of the coaching hires that followed).

buddah
buddah
Reply to  bucballer
1 year ago

That isn’t why Morris was selected as Head Coach. That was part of the cost-cutting of the Front Office at the time. And besides Bowles is far more experienced as a coach than Morris was when selected to be HC for Tampa. Really no comparison. And Bowles had nothing to work with in NY.

bucballer
bucballer
Reply to  buddah
1 year ago

It wasn’t exactly cost cutting as much as cost containment. When firing Gruden and GM Allen the Bucs were on the hook for about 25 mil between the two contracts. So, Morris was hired for many reasons. He was a young and up coming coaching talent and he was already on the team and knew the personnel and yes, he wasn’t exactly expensive as they were now paying 2 Head Coaches and 2 GMs.

drdneast
drdneast
1 year ago

Todd Bowles may get a second shot at being a head coach but it won’t be next year unless the Bucs end the season playing in the Super Bowl. But let’s remember we had another DC here who had such a superb second half of a season the Bucs game him a raise to keep him on staff. After that, Mike Smith and his defense fell flat on its face and he was eventually fired midway though his third season. I agree with you completely Mark, the Chicago game was like a ripe piece of fruit waiting to be picked.… Read more »

DT25
DT25
Reply to  drdneast
1 year ago

Definitely think the Chicago game was a bit of a wake up call. We sat back and let the Bears dictate the flow and it ultimately cost us the win (along with a healthy dose of penalties and some less-than-stellar refereeing, of course). This game was a complete 180 from that approach…and it was greatly needed. I hope we continue to play aggressive and treat each opponent like they have no business being on the same field as us. Being a “bend, don’t break” defense just doesn’t fit this group’s identity. Keep attacking from the opening whistle until the final… Read more »

thewbacca
thewbacca
1 year ago

Defense wins championships, and Tampa is undefeated at home.

Spitfire
Spitfire
1 year ago

The loss to the Saints was due to the team not knowing each other at all on Offense and the young Defensive secondary trying to get warmed up to what they did at the end of last year. The Bears loss was bad officiating and the Bucs allowing that to frustrate them into handing the game away. Both losses are not season ending signs, they are warning signs. This team has room to build on their stellar performance yesterday, the sky is the limit. Although with the Bucs the basement is always a possibility if they beat themselves. I’m hoping… Read more »

buddah
buddah
1 year ago

Overreaction Monday. Yes, this was a terrific win, a dominating win that showed this team’s potential. I called this win last week when I looked at Green Bay’s terrible defensive stats and that three of their wins were against teams ranked 27th or lower in defense. Now comes Las Vegas and this likely is going to be a very tough call. Trust me, John Gruden wants this win about as much as he wanted to beat Oakland in the 2003 Super Bowl. For the second week in a row, we must play a team off a bye. The Raiders just… Read more »

PatrioticChief
PatrioticChief
Reply to  buddah
1 year ago

It’s a big opportunity for the Bucs to show they have the consistency, not just the capacity, to be a championship contender.

macnupe
macnupe
1 year ago

Great insight, Mark. While I think Todd Bowles can definitely be a HC somewhere else, is it possible Jason Licht and crew have set up a succession plan with Bruce Arians and Todd Bowles similar to what they appear to be setting up with TB12 and Josh Rosen?

Naplesfan
Naplesfan
1 year ago

Well, the thing with Bowles is, he works for a head coach who is 67 years old and probably does not want to do the head coaching grind much longer. If Bruce Arians is successful in getting this team deep into the playoffs, or even a Super Bowl, chances are good he will hang up his guns and retire on a high note. In which case, as this season progresses, if the owners have any brains at all – which is not obviously the case – they will want to lock up Bowles as the natural successor to Arians. And… Read more »

fredster
fredster
1 year ago

If they make him one higher paid Defensive Coordinators he will likely be happy and stay in that capacity a while. Being head coach is so hard on you and the family. Could be wrong but that’s my hunch.

EastEndBoy
EastEndBoy
1 year ago

Best D in the league? Looking at yards/game is not a good measure anymore…with all of the rules changes and the emphasis on passing it’s just much easier for offenses to rack up yards. The best D is the one that gives up the fewest points…and there we’re top-10, maybe top-5 if Vea hadn’t gone down. Still some glaring holes that need addressing – like SMB, White in coverage, Whitehead in coverage…basically teams with guys that can catch over the middle have an advantage on us…but still top-5 is fantastic! I still think Arians moves upstairs once the Glazers realize… Read more »

Dave
Dave
Reply to  EastEndBoy
1 year ago

Aside from the Steelers(who are the other team in the discussion), who would you rank as a better defense than the Bucs? Because I can’t come up with one

EastEndBoy
EastEndBoy
Reply to  Dave
1 year ago

we’re 8th in ppts/game

Ron Potter
Ron Potter
1 year ago

Packers and Bears seem pretty even to me this season, SR. Packers wins have been against teams with losing records, except for the Saints. I know we made a lot of mistakes against the Bears but Khalil Mack surely impacts the situation and Foles is no slouch of a QB either. (Coaching in Chicago might be a better situation too, than Packers. Bucs did admit they were out-coached). Foles did help the Eagles win a Super Bowl, and Rodgers only has one ring too. I’m also not a firm believer of the LaFleur/Rodgers marriage just yet. So I’ll take this… Read more »

Dman
Dman
1 year ago

My vote is to keep Bowles in the fold. Make him Asst. HC, add some $$$ and groom as a successor to BA. His run with the Jets is looking more like a problem with that organization. Since he left they freed up money to sign players and had what seemed like a couple pretty good drafts. And two seasons for Sam Darnold. So far the results aren’t any better.

76Buc
76Buc
1 year ago

I thought Ro Jo came in last year bigger and stronger too? It was said he was 225 lbs last year. So as a rookie he was 209, last year 215, this year 225?

captain ahab
captain ahab
1 year ago

Ronald Jones just now did not learn how to run the football, It’s the improved play of the offensive line. I have said multiple times last season that Jim Brown would struggle running by this offensive line.

Dave
Dave
Reply to  captain ahab
1 year ago

That’s so ridiculously false. He ran just fine behind that line last year. 4.2 ypc. He just never got enough carries to get into a rhythm, because of Barber laughably getting 150 carries. This is the EXACT same line as last year. So unless you’re saying that Wirfs is already playing at a HOF level, the line wasn’t the problem last year. Same with the pass protection. It wasn’t the line, it was career numbskull JW not getting rid of the ball. Brady is on pace for 26 less sacks than JW had last year. Give me a break

Last edited 1 year ago by Dave
Theerealdiehl
Theerealdiehl
1 year ago

What if Licht officially declared Bowles the HC in waiting? BA won’t coach forever. If we win a Super Bowl this year, I’d even bet he’d retire.

surferdudes
1 year ago

Before Bowles, or Byron can take over for Arians, we have to actually accomplish something. We seem to be moving in the right direction, but we’re getting way ahead of our ski’s here. We’re a 4-2 football team. Not a division winner, not even in the playoffs yet. Haven’t won a playoff game, let alone been to the NFC championship game, or super bowl. So before we decide what asst. coach might take over for Arian’s, all, or most of what I just said has to happen. If not, all bets are off.