When a team’s defense is ranked near or at the bottom of the league in most major categories and losses start piling up, it’s easy to point at the scheme and say it’s just not working.
There’s been plenty of that going on around Tampa Bay in regards to its once-vaunted Tampa 2 system that’s not producing the type of results it once did in its heyday of the late 1990s and early 2000s.
Glaringly bad has been the Buccaneers’ vulnerability to the pass. Tampa Bay’s pass defense is 31st in the NFL in yards allowed per game (294.5), 31st in yards per completion (8.4), last in opposing quarterback passer rating (111.9) and last in completion percentage (71.6 percent). The six quarterbacks Tampa Bay’s faced, including two backups, have hit their targets on 156 of 218 pass attempts.
With results as poor as those produced throughout a disappointing 1-5 start, blame can understandably be distributed to all levels of the Bucs defense and its coaching staff.
One of those underachieving areas is at linebacker. As of right now, and when healthy, the trio of Lavonte David at weakside, Mason Foster in the middle and Danny Lansanah at strongside is what the Bucs are relying on each Sunday. So far their collective effort in defending against the pass in the Tampa 2 scheme is nowhere near where it needs to be and David said earlier this week that the growth process is still ongoing.
“We’re real close,” David said. “There’ve been some real high points and there’ve been some low points sometimes. But it’s just simple things that we’ve got to get back to. It’s small errors that are killing us and that’s why we’ve got to get back to the basics and make sure everybody’s on board with everything.”
Foster’s return last week from a shoulder injury was supposed to inject some much needed stoutness to the unit, but then Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco proceeded to carve up the Bucs for most his 306 yards and five touchdowns before fans could settle into their seats.
Foster’s backup, Dane Fletcher, picked up three consecutive starts in Foster’s absence and was seen on too many occasions unsuccessfully trying to keep up with a receiver finding soft spots overtop of the linebackers and underneath the secondary. Plays like those can also be partially attributed to the front four failing to disrupted passers in the pocket. The return of Foster and its impact is uncertain, though, considering the fact that his ability to effectively drop into coverage continues to be a question mark in his game.
Foster spoke about the defense’s struggles on Tuesday and said that while there are plays in every game when the other team simply just makes plays, too many correctable mistakes are adding up.
“It’s one of those things where there’s a lot of little things happening here and there that turn into a big plays, or somebody just gets beat straight up-and-down, or he makes a good play on the ball and the guy still catches it,” Foster said. “And it’s just stuff like that happens all of the time, but to be a good defense you have to be able to play through that and make more plays than they make, especially in a scheme like this. It’s on us. You just have to beat the guy in front of you and start winning some games.”
Providing glimmers of optimism has been the development of Lansanah, a third-year pro that unseated incumbent strongside backer Jonathan Casillas and started since Week 4’s win in Pittsburgh. Lansanah’s made plays on six passes thrown in his area of responsibility and picked off two of them, returning both for touchdowns.
In terms of learning the Tampa 2 and executing its requirements, Bucs linebackers have a mentor, Hardy Nickerson, who starred in the scheme himself for four of his seven years in Tampa Bay, and a head coach in Lovie Smith who instructed the position here for five years. Nickerson took over the linebacker room in January and on Wednesday he largely echoed his player’s comments that the unit needs to iron out inconsistencies that can result in big plays or extended drives.
“We pride ourselves on rushing and covering and sometimes the opponent does make a play here and there, he said after practice Wednesday. “We’ve just got to be in position and work together in sync to make those things happen. I think we’ve just been a little bit off, but we’ve had a good week of work this week and we’re looking forward to our next opponent.”
Coaching is the 600lb gorilla I the room. Steve White, former Buc, just roasted the Buc’s defense and all but called Hardy Nickerson a great player, but a terrible coach. Has cronyism destroyed any chance of having a great defense? Does Mikal Smith have the resume to make Goldson and Barron better safeties? I’ve previously posted resumes of Arroyo and Warhop – speaks volumes!
correction: in the room.
I knew that Foster with only 4.75 speed in the 40 could not possibly cover the deep seam and losing weight was going to result in his being run over by opposing backs. I also told the Bucs where to get an Urlacher clone but of course they didn’t listen. Here is the simple solution Mr. Licht: get Max, the MLB, off the Houston Practice Squad for free. They got him to stop the run but say on their Internet site that he could cover too. Watch the Ohio State v. Michigan State game from last year when Max stopped the top RB in this year’s draft from sideline to sideline and had the speed to cover passes and 6’3″ height to knock them down too. Hardy was a great player but is a bust at coaching because he thought Foster could play Tampa 2. However, Foster would be a great SLB for us and was rated the top Outside LB by Lindys when we drafted him. Our problems at LB can be fixed.
I have no problem with up and coming Coaches that are still in a big learning curve; why is that? In my life the hungry ones are still willing to learn and adapt; they on;y lack some more experience. I hope we all calm down some. My goodness, so many of the same Posters last year who criticized me for wanting Schiano fired after his 2nd game in his second year seem to have no patience for this Head Coach after just 6 games. Why is that? Hmmm… Coach Smith has plenty of history of success and also failure, but I believe he still has the fire in him to learn and adapt. He got dealt a history of bad drafting and I am willing to give him time to straighten it out. Why can’t some of you? Hmm…
“Posters last year who criticized me for wanting Schiano fired after his 2nd game in his second year seem to have no patience for this Head Coach after just 6 games. Why is that? Hmm…” Horse, I wonder what you are hinting at here? H mmm…
Watched NFL redzone yesterday paying attention to who was running a 4-3, and who was running a 3-4. It seems to me the 3-4 is more suited to defend todays offenses. Linebackers are better athletes then linemen so you’re putting one better player on the field. Also noticed that three D linemen occupy 5 O linemen freeing up an extra defender, also in pass rush it’s hard to figure what linebacker might be rushing the passer. Another advantage is it’s harder to throw crossing routes against 4 backers instead of 3. One other important fact. Most plays get past the line of scrimidge, in a 3-4 that leaves an extra man to make a play. Another other thing. Our D likes small fast linebackers, the 3-4 usually employs bigger backers, that can shed blocks, and actually rush the passer, look at Sugg’s sack totals. From what I can see, the 3-4 D is way better then the 4-3.
The best defense in the NFL in 2015, Detroit uses a 4-3 Cover2. The best defense in 2014, Carolina uses a 4-3 Cover 2. However 7 of the top 10 defenses in 2014 uses a 3-4 defense. Pick your poison. Would you rather be the best or just one of the best? My opinion – all defenses can work with the right personnel. With the NFL split about right down the middle on the type of defense deployed tells me it’s more coaches preference, than which is hands down the best defense or they would all be running one or the other!
NFL teams using a 3–4 base defense as of 2014————–
Green Bay Packers
Kansas City Chiefs
New Orleans Saints
New York Jets
San Diego Chargers
San Francisco 49ers
New England Patriots
The Top 10 Defenses in 2014—————–
1 Detroit Lions
2 San Francisco 49ers
3 Indianapolis Colts
4 Miami Dolphins
5 San Diego Chargers
6 Denver Broncos
7 Washington Redskins
8 Seattle Seahawks
9 New York Jets
10 Kansas City Chiefs
76buc; you’re right. Hmm…
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