FAB 4. Bucs – Bears Game Notes

If time permits in my schedule, I plan on adding some notes about the previous week’s Bucs game from my film study during the week into each week’s SR’s Fab 5 column. I’m not going to spend a lot of time rehashing the obvious. Instead, I’ll try to dig deeper and offer some insight you may have missed when watching the game and tie it into the up-coming match-up.

Here are my thoughts from re-watching the Bucs at Bears game.

• As expected, the Bears ran right at cornerback Brent Grimes, especially on Mitchell Trubisky’s 23-yard QB keeper on the run-pass-option. Grimes was playing way too far off his man in off coverage – almost like Vernon Hargreaves III did at times last year. Grimes was flagged twice in the first half for defensive holding and illegal contact and was benched at halftime in favor of third-year cornerback Ryan Smith, who didn’t give up a pass in the second half.

Bucs CB Brent Grimes - Photo by: Mary Holt/PR
Bucs CB Brent Grimes – Photo by: Mary Holt/PR

“We made a decision to play Ryan in the second half,” Koetter said during Monday’s press conference. I asked him what the basis was for his decision and Koetter said, “I thought it would be a good idea.”

Koetter was then asked if that could be taken as a negative against Grimes, to which the head coach said: “You can take it any way you want to.”

Good move by Koetter. Grimes shouldn’t be entitled to play just because of his experience and his salary cap number. It’s time to give Smith a chance, and Grimes should be angry about being benched and be anxious to play better if he gets another shot.

• The book is being written on 33-year old right tackle Demar Dotson right now, and it doesn’t have a happy ending. Dotson has been far from stout as a run blocker this year and that showed again on Sunday in Chicago. On the Bears’ first run attempt of the game on second-and-10, linebacker Khalil Mack knifed inside Dotson and tackled Peyton Barber for no gain to set up third-and-10.

This isn’t the first time a defender has beaten Dotson to the inside to stuff the run, and it won’t be the last. I’m not sure Dotson’s surgically repaired knee is 100 percent and that he has the power to push off on it quickly in the run game and close the inside gap. This has caused several runs over the first month of the season to stop before they have a chance to start.

• What has happened to the Bucs defense since 2016 when Tampa Bay actually had the top-ranked third-down defense? Do you know what the key to that defense was? A gap blitzes by middle linebacker Kwon Alexander and double A gap blitzes by Alexander and linebacker Lavonte David. They were nowhere to be found in the first half.

The Buccaneers didn’t blitz one time in the first half, and when they did on the Bears’ first drive of the second half, Alexander came free and drilled Trubisky as he threw the ball, forcing an incompletion. Except that a bogus call on cornerback Ryan Smith bailed Chicago out and gave them a first down on that play. The Bears were in max protect on that play and yet Alexander still got to Trubisky. Defensive coordinator Mike Smith needs to stop coaching scared and bring more pressure as giving quarterbacks all day to scan the field and open receivers isn’t proving to be a sound defensive philosophy.

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

• On Tampa Bay’s lone sack, the Bucs used an exotic look on third-and-7, standing defensive end Carl Nassib up and having him blitz the A gap with defensive end Vinny Curry on the left side playing a wide 5 technique, defensive tackle Gerald McCoy playing nose tackle over the center and defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul standing up and playing a wide 5 technique. Nassib and McCoy run a stunt inside to force Trubisky to wheel to his left and right into Pierre-Paul. A great outside rush from Curry also played a role in Trubisky trying to escape the pocket and winding up in JPP’s grasp. Why Smith didn’t even try this look one more time baffles me.

• Right guard Caleb Benenoch really struggled in Chicago. Like really struggled. He gave up two sacks – one to Akiem Hicks and one to Roy Robertson-Harris – and two pressures to Hicks. Benenoch also whiffed when blocking Jonathan Bullard to start the third quarter, allowing Bullard to tackle Barber for a two-yard loss. Evan Smith, who played 22 snaps while Benenoch played 41, fared much better in his assignments in Chicago and probably deserves to start.

• I’ve spent a whole section talking about Vita Vea in this SR’s Fab 5, so I won’t dwell on him here, but Vea needs to do a better job of looking for the ball and not at his blocker. On a first-down run by Tarek Cohen with 7:00 left in the second half, the diminutive Bears back shot right past him while Vea was still engaged with his blocker. Vea has the tools to be a good and potentially very good player, but it’s going to take some time. The fact that he didn’t play a single snap the preseason was evident on Sunday.

Bucs CB MJ Stewart - Photo by: Getty Images
Bucs CB MJ Stewart – Photo by: Getty Images

• On the Allen Robinson touchdown with 2:11 left in the first quarter, the Bears receiver was lined up on the slot against rookie cornerback M.J. Stewart, who was in the trail position from the snap. On Taylor Gabriel’s diving 30-yard catch, he blew past Stewart and put his hand up to wave for the football after his fifth step. Stewart didn’t jam Gabriel at the line of scrimmage or attempt to re-route him and didn’t have the speed to hang with him as a result. Stewart was also caught flat-footed on Gabriel’s 2-yard touchdown on a shovel pass with 4:56 left in the first half.

If I’m Atlanta, and Tampa Bay starts Stewart at nickel cornerback next week, I’m rotating Calvin Ridley and Julio Jones in the slot and targeting the rookie cornerback all day. Stewart doesn’t have the deep speed to stay with either Falcons receiver.

• Bucs rookie running back Ronald Jones dropped a very easy, catchable pass on second-and-5 at the Chicago 12-yard in the first quarter, but that wouldn’t have been a touchdown. Wide receiver Chris Godwin failed to block his man and cornerback Kyle Fuller was in position to make the tackle. Had Jones caught the ball, he likely would have gained two yards – not scored a touchdown as it appeared he might at first glance.

Bucs RB Ronald Jones III - Photo by: Mary Holt/PR
Bucs RB Ronald Jones III – Photo by: Mary Holt/PR

But first Jones has to catch the ball, and that drop was a big reason why he was inactive for the first three games of his rookie season. After watching this happen far too often in training camp and the preseason, I have some serious concerns about Jones’ game and how it translates to the NFL. I’m certainly not calling the kid a bust yet, but I haven’t seen much evidence that leads be to believe he’ll become a quality starting NFL running back, either.

• To say that Tampa Bay really struggled with bunch formations would be an understatement. On the Josh Bellamy touchdown at 8:59 left in the second quarter, it didn’t help that the Bucs had a reserve defensive line of Vea, Nassib, Jerel Worthy and Will Clarke in the game attempting to get to Trubisky, either.

If the Bucs linebackers and defensive backs can’t get their assignments fixed over the bye week, expect the Falcons to use bunch formations all day in Atlanta next Sunday and for Matt Ryan to have a field day. You can pencil in yet another 400-yard game allowed by Tampa Bay’s defense right now.

• Bucs left guard Ali Marpet played his worst game of the season, especially in the second half. On Jameis Winston’s first interception, Marpet pulled on the play-action pass and was charged with blocking Mack. Marpet used poor technique and ducked his head, which allowed Mack to scrape by him and hit Winston’s arm as he threw the ball. Marpet whiffed on blocking Nichols, and surrendered a three-yard tackle for loss.

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Scott Reynolds is in his 24th 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 spent six years giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his son's Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: [email protected]

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slaythembucs
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slaythembucs

You say the first interception is not Winston’s fault and i disagree. He had a good amount of space in the front and he needs to step up the pocket when there is pressure. All the good QBs step up when they sense pressure on the outside provided they have space in the front. Any QB can throws dimes when given a complete clean pocket. I’m don’t know if these small things are instincts or things that can be coached but sure are required to be a franchise QB. Winston for now just doesn’t have them. He is definitely a… Read more »

MudManVA
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MudManVA

No one knows better than Koetter & Smith that they are coaching for their jobs. Changing DC after 4 games is crazy. Maybe modern NFL football has passed Smith by, but making a coordinator change at this point has more down side than upside. Most defenses are getting torched with the new rule changes, shoot look at NO, Minn, Philly, ATL just to name a few (they were supposed to be good). Did Zimmer & Quinn forget how to coach D? There are only a few defenses that are good under old standards: Bears, JAX and that is about it.… Read more »

MudManVA
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MudManVA

PS-If Monken is so great then why didn’t the BUCS score more than 10 points against the Bears, and in 4 games why don’t the BUCS run the ball more effectively? (Barber isn’t great, but he doesn’t suck either) The back-up QB, OC, and DC are always better than the starter that loses. Come on we’re better than that Rate this item:Thumb UpThumb DownSubmit Rating00 No votes yet. Please wait...

Buc stops here
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Buc stops here

MudManVA – agree completely. No one should be screaming about them being 2-2. Maybe beating the high flying Saints and their offense and the Super Bowl champs made everyone think in one year this team is fixed and ready to go. It is not. One other thing to add what you wrote – who thinks Koetter, who Smith stuck with in Atlanta no matter how bad things got after they won division titles and never won a Super Bowl, is going to now turn around and dump his life-long coaching friend? I like the suggestion above to keep him on… Read more »

tbb345
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tbb345

Your comment about Vea vs. James fails to take into account context and needs at the time. Yeah, there are injuries now but even if the defensive backfield was healthy it would still be garbage. The line, when healthy, has the talent to be good. I’ve noticed in reading this column that it seems like Scott wants to make a certain point then will put in whatever work is needed to make that point. Some points have a ton of data and back-up whereas others have basically nothing and come off as lazy. It’s a distressing pattern. And the James… Read more »

Bob Will
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Bob Will

I am just a huge football fan, I really don’t know football technically but have been a fan of the game for over 60 years and a Buc’s fan since day one. That being said I listen to people who should know some of the answers, former players and coaches who announce and analyze games on television and radio. NFL TV and NFL radio on XM satellite radio. Regardless of our Head Coaches Smart Butt statement that Smitty didn’t miss a tackle or a coverage, down to the last person everyone I listen to says this system will never work.… Read more »

BigSombrero
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BigSombrero

Great point Bob. Well stated, sir. Rate this item:Thumb UpThumb DownSubmit Rating00 No votes yet. Please wait...

Ron Potter
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Ron Potter

GREAT ARTICLE! Will it get done? Probably not. But you can’t expect the offense to carry a 32nd ranked defense into the playoffs and Mike Smith is at the top of the “we’ve seen this before” meltdowns AND the two-year ranking of last place. I really sympathize with professional Sportswriters like you guys and everyone else covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. It must be incredibly frustrating to try to give us fans other topics besides the ONE MOST IMPORTANT TOPIC that could really give this team hope for improvement on the defense…. hope for more wins… hope for the playoffs.… Read more »

Alldaway 2.0
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Alldaway 2.0

If the Bucs played vanilla cover 2/cover 3 90% they would definitely not give up 400 yards per game. That is how bad things are that playing vanilla cover 2 would be an upgrade lol. Rate this item:Thumb UpThumb DownSubmit Rating00 No votes yet. Please wait...

surferdudes
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I was calling for Dotson, and Grimes to be replaced this year for the very reasons you stated Scott. Time has caught up to both players. It was obvious to many of us why not Licht? Maybe it was, but drafting Cappa, and Stewart wasn’t the answer. M.J. might be to slow for the NFL game, and Cappa coming from a small school had no experience playing either R.G., or R.T.. How as a G.M. do you move up into the 3rd for a player you have to project what they might become in the NFL? Pointing to Marpet as… Read more »

DrT1066
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DrT1066

As a 42 year season ticket holder I reflected upon having spent about $100,000 on season tickets! What could I have done with the money instead? More things for the children and grandchildren? An MBA that I’ve thought about? 42 years of primarily frustration must be some sort of psychopathology, don’t you think? Yes, I spent time in the Old Sombrero with the paper shopping bag,when they had them, over my head. I’ve sat through raging thunderstorms like many other fans. Yes, I have been entertained. Record-setting games by the opponents. There are many more than just Mitchell Trubisky. And… Read more »

Deborah Hall
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Deborah Hall

I can only respond to negative comments regarding my son, Brent. One minute you like him and the next he is a liability. Obviously none of you know Brent or you wouldn’t say the things you do. The person that wrote this story with his comments needs to meet with Brent and just maybe you would understand real football actions. Rate this item:Thumb UpThumb DownSubmit Rating00 No votes yet. Please wait...

BucRy
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BucRy

Brent was good in his prime, but he is 35, always injured, and just not the player he used to be. These are facts, he was good, but it’s time for him to hang it up. He has been a liability this season. Rate this item:Thumb UpThumb DownSubmit Rating00 No votes yet. Please wait...

BigSombrero
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BigSombrero

No one hates the man. As fans, I think we all admire his journey. I think we’ve been entertained by his game. He just hasn’t been the same this season. There’s plenty of blame to go around for the two losses. Fitzpatrick, Alexander, David, and Grimes will shoulder much of the blame for their performances on the field in those two losses. They played poorly and they aren’t rookies. These are the savvy veteran leaders of the team. Everyone expects better performances from those guys, probably including themselves. Rate this item:Thumb UpThumb DownSubmit Rating00 No votes yet. Please wait...

Buc-in-Philly Fan
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Buc-in-Philly Fan

Ms. Hall, you have every right to be proud of what your Son has accomplished. By no means would any crticism be meant towards the person, son, husband or father but to a level of play that is backed up by game film. This does not question the character of the man but it does question the ability of his skill sets at this point in time. His playwas a factor in an embarrassing loss. I am sure he recognizes it as well. To say that reporters or fans should not comment on this level of play is naive to… Read more »

Deborah Hall
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Deborah Hall

Brent has been hurt and no one knows that better than him. Yes it is a reporters job to write about the players, but shouldn’t they know and report the truth. Maybe we are looking at different tapes, but Brent does what he is told. Rate this item:Thumb UpThumb DownSubmit Rating00 No votes yet. Please wait...

BucRy
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BucRy

We are not hating on him as a person so please don’t take it that way. Rate this item:Thumb UpThumb DownSubmit Rating00 No votes yet. Please wait...

Horse
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Horse

Deborah Hall, I believe it was stated for weeks Brett had an injury. I was quite surprised once Brett was given the okay to play that he would be the starter after missing so much time. It wasn’t fair for him or the fans for Mike Smith to start Brett after missing all those weeks. Chicago took advantage of the situation, but it is the game of football. I know you’re a very proud of your son and well you should. Brett has had a successful career, but everything must come to an end eventually. I I have the greatest… Read more »

Ron Potter
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Ron Potter

It’s an honor as a Bucs fan to read your post, Deborah. Makes me feel good to see that Brent has a very supportive family. Hope he continues being successful here in whatever capacity he plays, and when football is done, I hope that true success follows him and his family in all his endeavors! God bless! Rate this item:Thumb UpThumb DownSubmit Rating00 No votes yet. Please wait...

BucRy
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BucRy

Doesn’t matter, Mike Smith is garbage! Rate this item:Thumb UpThumb DownSubmit Rating00 No votes yet. Please wait...

DT25
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DT25

Still giving Jones the benefit of the doubt. The dropped pass was ugly, but the definition of a rookie mistake: trying to run before he caught the ball. He’s not the first to do it and surely won’t be the last. When he had blocking, he looked solid on the ground. Unfortunately, he also got completely blown up in the backfield multiple times again, so until our OL gets their shit together, I don’t expect him to break out. Same goes for whatever QB we put back there…the OL was able to protect Fitz well the first two games and… Read more »

FLBoy84
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FLBoy84

Not sure how the Bucs scouting staff works, but would be curious if the same scout that pimped McNichols also rec’d Jones, being that they are both West Coast RB’s. Sadly Aaron Jones was picked 20 spots after McNichols, would’ve loved to see him as a Buc. Rate this item:Thumb UpThumb DownSubmit Rating00 No votes yet. Please wait...

Jordan Chavez
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Jordan Chavez

Gotta hate writing about this because it means at week 5 we are already thinking about coaching changes. I’ve gotta say though If the Glazers do decide to clean house after this season if Koetter posts another losing record… I’m not sure who I would be advocating for as the new GM.. But I definitely know who would be the right choice for Head coach. None other then Chris Peterson coach at UW. If you follow Coach Pete at all you know his programs are built first on a character and secondarily a winning mentality. I think that’s exactly what… Read more »

scot pederson
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scot pederson

He got 1 thing right. Mike Smith did not call any blitzes and has not been. On the other side we have not been leaving protection in or changing protection. Why for a full half we let K. Mack rush against just the Tackle with no TE help? Putting Winston back in just means more of the same Turnover Machine and he cant connect on the deep ball like Fitz can if Fitz has time. 5-6 wins this season. Another wasted season, poor coaching and sub-par Scouting. Rate this item:Thumb UpThumb DownSubmit Rating00 No votes yet. Please wait...

Mike Wright
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Mike Wright

I always knew this franchise was not truly serious about Winning another superbowl anytime soon. After all, they hired 2 rejects from the ATL Falcons. Arthur Blanks knew. Due to Koetters Loyalty to his old coach, He will Go down with the ship. Its sad because he will take a few good people with him. Not many fans thought Smitty should have been retained after last yrs sorry Defensive showing. And now, its happenning all over again. Yes, we will flash defensively here and there. Will probably even win in ATL. But I don’t see this team taking off under… Read more »

bucballer
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bucballer

Still think i would like DC Mike Smith on sideline! I see no apparent advantages of being upstairs… at least it doesn’t appear to have helped him make calls! i’m just saying… Rate this item:Thumb UpThumb DownSubmit Rating00 No votes yet. Please wait...

FLBoy84
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FLBoy84

He might have an “accident” if he’s that close to the players when he’s making such weak calls during a game… Would love to hear how the players REALLY feel about the D he’s running. Rate this item:Thumb UpThumb DownSubmit Rating00 No votes yet. Please wait...

76Buc
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76Buc

I wish we could all get over the Florida State Washington thing. IT IS OVER!!!!!!!!! We chose the DT not the Safety. Let’s get over it! Please! It’s irrational to keep harping on something that is in the past and can’t be changed. DT is harder and takes longer to develop than safety. Both players are probably going to be very good. Very good safety’s are always available, but 345 pound DTs with speed and athleticism are not. Let’s act rationally. We just don’t what will happen, but we do not have a “way-back machine.” Rate this item:Thumb UpThumb DownSubmit… Read more »

owlykat
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owlykat

Thank you Scot Patterson. There is no excuse for not having a TE help our Tackles by chipping K. Mack. It could have helped avoid a beat down. There also is no excuse for retaining Smitty who is a total BUST of a DC. Otherwise, thank you, thank you, thank you Scott for your written detailed analysis on how to improve the Bucs. Koetter should follow your advice. Your plan is brilliant as usual, and it is a huge improvement over Koetter’s plan to trust Smitty to fix it. Rate this item:Thumb UpThumb DownSubmit Rating00 No votes yet. Please wait...

fredster
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fredster

So what we know about our Bucs this year. We still have lots of holes. Safety,DT,CB,RT,RG. Benenoch and Dot both stink. Koetter is too stubborn to fire Smoth or at least demote him. Looks like will be blowing it up again at end of year. Koetter is an idiot. Smiths scheme is garbage. It will not work. I just hope they can maybe keep Monken as coordinator. I’m 50/50 on Licht too. He’s made some good moves and some really bad ones. Rate this item:Thumb UpThumb DownSubmit Rating00 No votes yet. Please wait...

fanofdabucs
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fanofdabucs

Good God Buc fans have become as predictable as Mike Smith’s defense. I knen that when Dot struggled against Mack, that the idiotic Buc fans would say that Dot is garbage and washed up. Although he shut down the DEs he face in the first 3 weeks. I understand he had a bad mistake on a blitz pick up against the Steelers, but other than that was very good. Then he was asked for most of the game in which the Bucs trailed, to block to best DE in football..and you yahoos want to say he’s no good because Mack… Read more »

fredster
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fredster

Fanofdadabucs your the idiot. Go watch games again you moron. He stinks right now period and to say otherwise makes you a jackass. Don’t put words in my mouth I didn’t say “he was washed up” I said he stinks and Benenoch does too. Given his age and knee surgery he just had it’s not looking good this year but who knows maybe he will bounce back. Grimes is washed up and you quote me on that. Rate this item:Thumb UpThumb DownSubmit Rating00 No votes yet. Please wait...

fredster
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fredster

We also have no depth behind Dot or C. benenoch which is also an issue and why I listed RT and RG as holes. Rate this item:Thumb UpThumb DownSubmit Rating00 No votes yet. Please wait...

fredster
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fredster

The right side of Bucs line cannot run block either. It’s not all about pass protection from that side but the pass protection has been horrible two games now. Benenoch should be benched like the article says. Benching Dot won’t help there is nobody depth wise it’s bad situation and I wouldn’t bench him just yet anyways. Rate this item:Thumb UpThumb DownSubmit Rating00 No votes yet. Please wait...

EastEndBoy
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EastEndBoy

Can we please stop talking about switching to a new DC being the equivalent of our players having to earn a PhD. These are professional football players. Every DC in the NFL asks his players to do the exact same things. All of our linemen (some better than others) know how to pass rush, play run defense, and stunt. All of our LBs (some better than others) know how to cover TEs and RBs, and they know all of the blitzes ever devised. All of our DBs (some better than others) know how to play press-man and zone. What a… Read more »

plopes808
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plopes808

Agreed, too many people here are talking as if a DC change could possibly make this defense any worse. Rate this item:Thumb UpThumb DownSubmit Rating00 No votes yet. Please wait...

owlykat
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owlykat

Benenoch should be held accountable by cutting him and picking up another guard to try. Smith should be given a shot and if he cannot do it give Leidkey a try. He should be available at every game because he can play well at Guard and Tackle if needed. Rate this item:Thumb UpThumb DownSubmit Rating00 No votes yet. Please wait...

plopes808
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plopes808

Mike Smith HAS to go at this point. His defensive scheme has done absolutely zero for this team the last 2 seasons so far and there is little to no chance that it will suddenly click and help the team win this year. Our offense has carried the team so far and the defense has done nothing but drag us down. Koetter’s foolish blind loyalty to Smith will result in the entire staff being blown up and starting from scratch again. This is a shame as our offensive staff has done a really good job not only this year, but… Read more »

EricNV
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EricNV

Why is it that Mike Smith seems to want his players to play his scheme regardless of where the players’ strengths lie? I’m quite certain he was influential on each defensive draft pick over the past 3 years, so I’m sure he knew ahead of time these DBs excel at press-man coverage, not zone coverage. The only player on the entire team who seems comfortable in zone coverage is Grimes, and he completely sucks so far this season. It seems like Smith wants to put square pegs into round holes, and hasn’t learned a damn thing from his previous failures… Read more »