When you consider the fact that the Buccaneers sent 84 guys out on the field Thursday night – 38 more than the active list during a regular season game – the 17-9 loss in Philadelphia wasn’t as bad as the scoreboard may suggest.
For one, the defense hit their marks throughout the night.
“When you look at our defensive goal chart, shoot, our defense nailed it,” Dirk Koetter said Friday after reviewing tape. “Hold the team to under 200 yards of offense, give up 17 points in an NFL game – you’re going to win most of those games.
“We were just so poor on turnovers on the other side of the ball and we put them in such tremendous field position that our defense was in (bad position). But if you look at the drive chart of the game, you’d take that every week.”
More specifically, Koetter thought the defensive line set the tone. Free agent signee Robert Ayers applied steady pressure in his limited reps, as did second-round pick Noah Spence while Clinton McDonald capitalized on the rookie’s effort with a sack on third down in the first quarter. The front four certainly gave reason to be optimistic for the regular season.
“If there was one thing that really stood out as a positive, I would say it would be our D-Line play and that we affected the quarterback,” Koetter said. “Four sacks – we would take that every week. And we hit the guy a lot more than that.”
The secondary did its part, too, as Mike Smith mixed coverage and had guys in position to make plays. As Koetter put it, “the best pass defense is a good pass rush, and we had that last night.” Rotating players and sacrificing rhythm for evaluation in the preseason, the Bucs still managed to rush and cover in sync throughout the night.
On the offensive side of the ball, meanwhile, Koetter defended Kenny Bell. The former fifth-round pick, who spent 2015 on IR, fumbled the opening kickoff, had a pass interference penalty and no catches on two targets. It took only one play in an exhibition game for many fans to write Bell off, but the head coach has a different perspective.
“Now, I’m sure everybody’s going to be crushing Kenny Bell,” Koetter said. “As far as offense goes, Kenny Bell beat his man multiple times and just didn’t get the ball thrown to him. On the very last drive, he ran a little double move and he was open and we overthrew him. There were probably five plays in the game where Kenny did his job and got open. Sometimes he wasn’t the primary, but he did all he could do and he just didn’t get the ball thrown to him.”
Make no mistake, Koetter didn’t forget about his miscues but, just like for all mistakes, “it’s one preseason game,” he said. “We’ve have 11 other practices and we’re going to go six days in the next two weeks against other teams, so there’s plenty of evaluation to go.”
The Bucs return to practice Saturday.
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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