Bucs DE Howard Johnson sacks Jags QB Blake Bortles - Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
It wasn’t all pretty in the backend, but the Buccaneers got the effort they needed from the front four and linebackers, en route to six sacks and just 51 yards allowed on the ground. From an interception before half time to a forced fumble-turned-touchdown in the third quarter to reclaim momentum, the defense made the plays they needed to propel Tampa Bay to a 38-31 victory against the Jaguars. Read how each defensive position group graded out according to PewterReport.com and share your thoughts.
Collapsing the pocket on multiple successful blitzing attempts and holding the Jaguars to 51 yards rushing, the Buccaneers defensive line turned in a great performance in Sunday’s 38-31 victory. Gerald McCoy was giving guard A.J. Cann and center Stefen Wisniewski all they could handle, leading to double-teams and linebackers hitting the gap for tackles for losses. In the first series alone, McCoy set up Danny Lansanah and Kwon Alexander for tackles behind the line before slingshotting Howard Jones, who had two sacks, in for his first QB takedown on third down. On the ends, Jacquies Smith battled Jeremy Parnell through most of the afternoon, and while he didn’t record a tackle or sack (recovered a fumble for a TD, though) he kept containment fairly well. As far as George Johnson’s day, the former Lion rose to the occasion against the run, getting around Jags tackle Luke Joeckel for three stops behind the line, as well as making the play of the game when he forced a fumble-touchdown in the third quarter to reclaim momentum for Tampa Bay. The front four made the plays when they needed to and allowed the Bucs linebackers and secondary to capitalize on blitzes and run stops all afternoon.
The Bucs linebackers were stout against the run, and seemingly always there to stop an underneath route for a short gain. While Alexander and Lansanah were each beat over the middle at least once in the first quarter by Allen Hurns, both players, along with Lavonte David, were quick to recognize screens and exceptionally fast to the run gap. David led the team in tackles with nine and added a third down sack in the final minutes of the game. Alexander added five tackles and a sack, and had a tipped pass in the red zone during the third quarter as the rookie linebacker continues to get better in coverage. Alexander also had a fourth quarter sack off a blitz. And Lansanah had seven tackles, while Bruce Carter’s best play came in the first quarter when he forced an off-target pass by Blake Bortles after shadowing him outside the pocket. Linebackers were flying around and assisting sacks – David drawing block from Wisniewski to free Jones for his second quarter sack and Alexander drawing Zane Beadles to allow Alterraun Verner to come in untouched from the nickel spot to take down Bortles one drive later – en route to another solid outing from the Bucs corps.
While it could’ve been worse, this was undoubtably the Bucs weakest defensive unit on Sunday. Tim Jennings had another tough day, getting beat by Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns a combined seven times and allowed two touchdowns to the latter. There were even plays when Jennings held or interfered – illegal hands and PI on Hurns in the third quarter – and still gave up the reception. A missed tackle on a screen to T.J. Yeldon in the first quarter that went for a first down seemed to complete Jennings’ rough outing. On the other side, Mike Jenkins name wasn’t called too often in coverage, though he was the unsung hero on one play in the second quarter that would set Tampa Bay up for a touchdown. On first down Jenkins blitzed and forced a bad out route throw by Bortles that resulted in Bradley McDougald’s interception. It’s always a risk to bring corner blitzes, but it worked to perfection on that play thanks to Jenkins interfering and McDougald capitalizing. Alterraun Verner, who was physical throughout with five tackles, also came in untouched from the nickel spot for a sack in the second quarter. Moving to safeties, McDougald and Major Wright shared the blame for Robinson’s TD before half time and Chris Conte was late for help once Robinson beat Jennings for the first, but they were solid again in run support. Wright, who replaced Conte (ankle) in the second half, had a tackle for loss on Yeldon in the third quarter after forcing his way past Beadles, while McDougald added another three to go along with his pick. At the end of the day, however, safeties were late on a few throws that kept Jaguars’ drives alive the game closer than it should’ve been. Bortles completed 23 of 33 passes for 303 yards and four touchdowns.
Recently re-signed kicker Connor Barth was perfect in his 2015 regular season debut, hitting field goals from 35, 45 and 47 yards out while going 3-for-3 on PATs. Barth also kicked off all eight times to the end zone, five of which went for touchbacks. It’s too early to exhale, but Sunday’s kicking effort would suggest the front office and coaching staff corrected their earlier decision. Better late than never. Another specialist who turned in a great performance was Bobby Rainey, as the ascending return man took one back 58 yards to the 17-yard line and another for 25 inside Jaguars territory. Both punt returns led to scores, proving that favorable field position can be the difference in a one-score game. The Bucs also shored up their coverage, with Lansanah making the unit’s tackle of the game in the fourth quarter. After weeks of finding success in one aspect while failing miserably in another, the Bucs finally pieced together a complete performance in special teams Sunday.
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]
The secondary gets an A+ for their play as D-linemen but an F for their play as coverage guys. sacks or pressures from your CBs or safeties are all well and good, but their primary job is to win in coverage and they just never did. let’s hope the bye week gives that group some time to self-scout and fix some things. On a positive note, the performance defending the run was really encouraging with the Redskins’ 3-headed monster and then the Devonta Freeman show on the horizon
Special teams showed HUGE improvement all around. Defensive grades are right on point I believe. We get that secondary working properly and we’ll be real hard to beat. Go Bucs!
Your game grades are right on point. Special teams were terrific and Bobby Rainey really made the most of his opportunities. The glaring problem is with Jennings and Jenkins. Their problems can’t be fixed…..they are backup corners at best. I will be glad to see Banks come back and the BUCS need to find another CB before the Redskins game in two weeks. Verner was terrific and I hope that continues. With six sacks, an interception and a returned fumble for a touchdown, you have to be concerned by the 31 points scored by the Jags!!!
Bill: Got a chance to sit next to your Mike G and his dad at the Panthers game. Great guy.
Yes DB’s had better be high on the list at draft time (plus DE and OL…then to be greedy, a receiver that is speedy enough to stretch the field). Boy, I guess we still need a lot of players to fill all of the holes!
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Sorry, I don’t think the Bucs corrected their mistake when they chose Brinzda since Barth didn’t impress when he was here in camp.
But Barth was right when he said kicking is 90 percent mental and he has been toughend over the year whereas Brinzda hasn’t.
Hopefully Banks will be back in two weeks and half of our CB problem will be corrected.
Despite what many boneheads believe, I really think Lovie is starting who he thinks is the better player.
He also picked up Verner in FA so there is no reason he wouldn’t want him to succeed.
Verner needs to sharpen his game up as well and reclaim his starting job.
Jennings coverage just stinks.
Don’t get the fascination with Jenkins, and Jennings had a terrible game. Need to get back Banks, and Verner needs to play……
People keep thinking Lovie has a fascination with Jenkins because one looney Bucs site loves to harp on it.
I can assure you most coaches think the same way as Raheem Morris who was famouse quoted as saying, “I will tolerate you until I can replace you.”
This other Bucs site has also said Lovie didn’t like Doug Martin and that he liked Simms better and also that Simms wasn’t that good.
So today I noticed the same site saying they should use Simms more.
The site attracts trolls, haters and racists and one of the reasons I rarely go there anymore and now only post out here.
As Jack Nicholson said, “Go sell crazy somewhere else, we’re all stocked up here.’
There’s only one m in Sims.
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I guess you must be holding off on the F for the secondary because McDougald got a pick…in my view, that wasn’t enough to get them off the F.
We really need to draft a CB early next draft. Jennings and Jenkins couldn’t cover my grandma. I would think any guy they pull off practice squad could play better than those two. Man they were terrible. Grades seem about right.
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