The Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense is one of the absolute worst in the NFL this year, ranking 28th in total yards (395.9 avg.), ranking 28th in passing defense (282.3 avg.) and is allowing 32.9 points per game, which ranks dead last in the league. The Bucs have already fired defensive coordinator Mike Smith and replaced him with linebackers coach Mark Duffner.

The defense is currently missing four starters with cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III (shoulder), strong safety Chris Conte (knee), middle linebacker Kwon Alexander (knee) and strongside linebacker Kendell Beckwith (ankle) all on injured reserve. And the Bucs will be without starting weakside linebacker Lavonte David (knee) and starting free safety Justin Evans (toe) for a second straight game as they face the visiting San Francisco 49ers this week.

But if you’re looking for a silver lining through all the defensive turmoil this year, at least Tampa Bay is getting to the quarterback on a more regular basis. The Bucs’ pass rush was an embarrassment last year, recording a league-low 22 sacks. That prompted the firing of defensive line coach Jay Hayes, who was replaced by Brentson Buckner this season.

Bucs DE Jason Pierre-Paul - Photo by: Mary Holt/PR
Bucs DE Jason Pierre-Paul – Photo by: Mary Holt/PR

Entering this week’s game against San Francisco, Tampa Bay has already surpassed last year’s sack total and has 25 quarterback captures with six games to play. Tampa Bay ranks 19th in the league in sacks and is tied with San Francisco and Buffalo. Pittsburgh leads the NFL with 37 sacks, followed by Kansas City’s 36. Chicago and Green Bay are tied for third with 34 and Arizona ranks fifth with 33.

Believe it or not, Tampa Bay is on pace to record 40 sacks, which would be the team’s highest sack total since the Bucs recorded 45 in 2004. The closest the team has come to reaching 40 sacks in a year was notching 38 sacks in both the 2015 and ’16 seasons.

The Bucs’ sack total is mostly comprised of newcomers, led by Jason Pierre-Paul’s team-high 9.5. While six-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle ranks second on the team with five sacks, defensive end Carl Nassib, who was a waiver wire claim at the start of the season, is closing fast with a career-high 4.5 sacks, followed by new defensive end Vinny Curry’s 1.5 sacks in limited action due to a high ankle sprain. Defensive tackle Vita Vea, the Bucs’ first-round draft pick, also has one.

Pierre-Paul needs just half a sack to reach double digits this year, which is a feat that hasn’t been done since Simeon Rice last recorded double-digit sacks with 14 in 2005. Curry should be back in the lineup this week able to help too after missing the last two games with a high ankle sprain.

Bucs DE Jason Pierre-Paul - Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Bucs DE Jason Pierre-Paul – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

Tampa Bay’s defense has recorded at least two sacks in each of the last five games with most of them coming at home. The Bucs had a season-high five sacks against Cleveland in their last win, and recorded three sacks against Washington at Raymond James Stadium two weeks ago.

The 49ers offensive line has allowed 31 sacks this year, although quarterback Nick Mullens hasn’t been sacked in either of his first two starts against Oakland and the New York Giants. Yet neither of those teams has as good of a pass rush as Tampa Bay does. With Mullens completing 70.5 percent of his passes with four touchdowns and two interceptions, the Bucs will need to pressure him to get him off his game and continue to rack up the sacks.

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Scott Reynolds is in his 23rd year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds enjoys giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: [email protected]

7 COMMENTS

  1. I suspect the Bucs defensive line will be able to get some pressure on Mullens. The question will be whether the defensive backfield will be able to cover which is our true weakness.

    I’m optimistic that the long commute and lack of talent will be in the Bucs favor at home against a weak 49ers squad.

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  2. Also I’m not using mybookie.ag but Vegas has the Bucs favored as -2 at home against a 2-8 team and I would guess that as a favorable margin as you’ll find all year if you want to bet on the home team.

    There’s a little bit of an overreaction on the Bucs failures and this is coming from someone as deeply anti-Licht and anti-personnel as you’ll find.

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  3. A 2-8 team that just got worse. Breaking news: 49ers LB Reuben Foster arrested on domestic violence charge in Tampa 12 hours before the Bucs game.

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  4. as a season tkt holder i’m hoping for a loss…bucs need much better talent so higher draft picks for new bucs gm (i hope)

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  5. Not impressed with Curry at all, I’d start JPP and Nassib.

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    • Agreed. Curry has been absent in pass rush and against the run. At least Gholston plays the run well with the same level of pass rush production we see from Vinny

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  6. I do expect our defensive line to get at least three sacks today.

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