The Buccaneers defense surrendered 414 yards to the Texans offense on Sunday, 228 through the air and 186 on the ground, en route to their 19-9 loss in Houston. Ryan Mallett was often able to hit receivers over the middle in space, while Alfred Blue chipped away until the fourth quarter when he eventually broke through to the second level a few times. Find out how each defensive position group graded out according to PewterReport.com and share your thoughts.
DEFENSIVE LINE Fresh off a stellar performance in New Orleans last Sunday, the defensive line couldn’t repeat their success from Week 2 in Houston. The Texans rushed for 186 yards – 139 by Alfred Blue – on 40 attempts, as the front four was often driven off the line and huge lanes opened up. While Gerald McCoy, Clinton McDonald and Henry Melton each made a few plays inside, particularly against guard Brandon Brooks and center Ben Jones, the interior tackles weren’t able to collapse the pocket enough and running backs were able to to get to the second level at full speed. It’s difficult for linebackers to make an open field tackle on a ball-carrier running with momentum, and that was visible on Sunday. As far as defensive ends, Jacquies Smith and George Johnson were relatively unproductive throughout the contest. The two edge rushers were hung up at the line of scrimmage or wheeled outside the pocket all too often by tackles Derek Newton and Chris Clark, leaving enough time for Ryan Mallett to pick the secondary apart over the middle. Overall, the Texans front five won the battle in the trenches on Sunday which set the stage for a big offensive day. GRADE= D
LINEBACKERS As noted, it’s hard to put blame on linebackers once a running back bursts through the gap untouched at full speed, but Lavonte David and Kwon Alexander both had another rough day in coverage. David got caught again (same way he did in Week 1 on a Titans touchdown) overlooking a full-back and making the wrong read to cover a wide receiver, most notable during the Texans first scoring drive when he left Jonathan Grimes open out of the backfield to set Houston up at the five-yard line. He did the same thing in the fourth quarter, doubling tight end Garrett Graham with Alexander and allowing Washington to convert on a third down with under seven minutes left. David made some nice plays bursting through the gap against the run, but it seemed the Texans exposed him a bit in the underneath passing game. Danny Lansanah and Alexander combined for the defensive play of the game in the second quarter when Lansanah tipped a pass in the air and Alexander came down with it, setting the Bucs up for their lone touchdown drive at the 26-yard line. Alexander shares some of the blame for Blue’s touchdown in the fourth quarter when he took the wrong angle, running into tackle Chris Clark and missing the gap, allowing Blue to burst through for 20 yards. The late touchdown all but sealed the Texans victory. Still, despite an underwhelming outing, the linebackers still showed how fast and stout against the run they can be with a good push from the defensive line. David finished the game with 14 tackles and Alexander added another 10. GRADE= C
SECONDARY While the defensive line was struggling to apply pressure, the secondary was not doing their part of holding up wide receivers and giving the front four time to blitz. The Texans took a page out of the Titans playbook, as they gashed the Bucs with quick slants and shallow crosses over the middle. In his first start of the season at outside corner, Tim Jennings got off to a rough start against DeAndre Hopkins who appeared to physically overmatch him at times. Hopkins finished the game with eight receptions for 101 yards and a touchdown. Nate Washington and Cecil Shorts also had success over the middle against Jennings and Sterling Moore, catching a combined 10 passes for 100 yards. Though, some of those plays reflected the safeties who were late to the ball numerous times. Jennings and Moore were solid against the run and made a few outstanding plays against the screen and swing passes, including a couple third-down stops for losses, but both gave up a lot of space over the middle and hardly redirected receivers within five yards. Alterraun Verner, who saw less snaps this Sunday, had great coverage on Hopkins on one play in the second quarter to force fourth down, but was later called for pass interference in the fourth quarter, giving the Texans an automatic first during their final touchdown drive. As far as safeties, Chris Conte and Bradley McDougald are physical, but looked lost in coverage at times. On many of the slant routes, the safeties could be seen arriving too late on passes they could’ve helped contest, including the Texans first touchdown to Hopkins when McDougald was too far back to support Tim Jennings. Conte was also called for two face masks, tacking on an extra 15 yards to first down gains. Overall, the secondary displayed their speed and physicality, but were out of place in coverage too often, allowing Mallett to complete 24 of 39 for 228 yards. GRADE= D
SPECIAL TEAMS The story on special teams was Kyle Brindza’s three missed field goals and one extra point. The rookie kicker impressed everyone with his first attempt in the second quarter – a 58 yarder – but proceeded to struggle the rest of the game. His missed field goal tries – from 41 and 33 yards out – cost the Bucs a couple of chances to take the lead or at least be in position for a game-tying or game-winning drive. Looking at kick coverage, this was one of the highlights for the Bucs on Sunday. Alterraun Verner, Danny Lansanah and Russell Shepard all had a great open field tackle on a punt. And Jacob Schum was good again, too, averaging 42 yards on seven punts with a long of 55. As far as returning, Bobby Rainey had two muffed punts in the first half, but was able to recover both and clean it up as the game progressed. He finished with five punt returns for an average of nine yards, and one kick return for 27 yards. All other aspects aside, what will be remembered about special teams in Week 3 was four missed kicks. GRADE= D-
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.
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