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Tampa Bay fans and SR’s Fab 5 readers were largely supportive of Bucs defensive coordinator Mike Smith despite the shoddy play of his defense the last two games. Bucs fans feel the lack of talent on the team is the primary issue. What does PewterReport.com publisher and Bucs beat writer Scott Reynolds have to say? Find out right here.

Welcome to another installment of SR’s Fab 5 Reaction where each week I take the time to answer your questions and respond to your comments from the previous week’s SR’s Fab 5 column. Due to time constraints from my responsibilities as publisher, I am unable to respond to every reader comment each week, but I do read every one of them.

Comments have only been edited for clarity and grammar. Now on to your comments.

The topics in this week’s SR’s Fab 5 include: Given How Bad Bucs Defense Is, Will Smith Survive; Adams Would Look Great In Tampa Bay’s Secondary; Winston Consistently Inconsistent; Bucs Have Little Confidence In Verner, Robinson

This is the second defensive scheme there have been “whispers” that’s been too complicated. Seriously? Professional football players and coaches can’t collectively figure it out? Do we have lower intelligent players or brainiac coaches?

Since the core group of players has said this with two different schemes, I would say it’s the players. Since both coaches have been successful defensive coordinators it the past, it also looks like the players.

Bucs CB Vernon Hargreaves and Falcons WR Julio Jones - Photo by: Getty Images

Bucs CB Vernon Hargreaves and Falcons WR Julio Jones – Photo by: Getty Images

SR, I’m glad I see frustration in your Fab 5! Sounds like you are feeling what we fans are. Where is the “attacking” style of D we heard about all preseason. Where is the D that Lavonte David said could be one of the best ever?

Why can’t Mike Smith see his guys are gassed? If every Bucs fan knew safety was a concern, why couldn’t Jason Licht? Ugh!

Didn’t we as Bucs fans have to suffer enough of this in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s? At this point, I wish the Glazers would just let it ride out. They are the ones that caused this garbage when they intentionally ran lean through the non-cap/floor years. Now we all suffer for it. – dfk68

Greg Schiano’s defense was complicated, and Mike Smith’s defense is complicated. Lovie Smith’s defense was too simplistic. What makes it complicated is the communication that is necessary to make sure all 11 defenders are on the same page. Schiano’s checks came from the sideline and had to be relayed across the field prior to the snap. That’s why there were wide-open receivers at times when Schiano was here. Communication seems to be the problem with Mike Smith’s defense and they need to get it ironed out.

I’ll admit I am surprised that the defense is regressing, although the Bucs have played against two high-powered offenses in Oakland and Atlanta. I disagree with the coaches’ stance about giving their cornerbacks a breather. While I understand that Ronde Barber and Brian Kelly didn’t come off the field back in the day, they were playing 60-70 snaps because the defense got takeaways and got off the field on third downs. Playing cornerbacks for 75-90 plays is a different story and Vernon Hargreaves III and Brent Grimes were gassed over the last two games in my opinion. – SR

Scott, as always, your Fab 5 is my favorite weekend read. I think the keg blew based on all the response this week! Wow!

Tampa Bay needs better players, and I fear we don’t have enough premium picks in the next two years to get it done. It is not Mike Smith’s fault, and he shouldn’t be fired. How damning is it that we have two gassed cornerbacks in overtime (everyone could see it on TV), and our backups are so bad that they can’t sub. Wow.

Look, Dan Quinn was considered a defensive guru at the University of Florida and Seattle, but Atlanta’s D is still bad (winning with offense). Why? They don’t have enough good defensive players. Tampa Bay and New Orleans changed their defensive coordinators last year, and the defense is still bad. Why? Not enough good players. No pass rush which puts stress on a weak secondary. We need players, and please don’t forget about the offense. As you know that helps the defense.

Bucs WR Mike Evans – Photo by: Mark Lomoglio/PR

Bucs WR Mike Evans – Photo by: Mark Lomoglio/PR

We have Mike Evans and Jameis Winston, and that is it. Adam Humphries and Cameron Brate are average and not game-changers. No other wide receivers at all.

No running back because Doug Martin is only healthy in contract years, and plays 50 percent of the other years. Charles Sims is only a third-down back (we saw that). If Evans gets hurt our scoring goes to zero. We need better players.

I think Winston has done a great job in his second year. And yes, he should and will get better. But have we ever had a QB this good? No. He is playing his tail off with no running game, an average NFL offensive line, and one wide receiver. Everyone knows Evans is going to get the ball – that is what doomed the offense in Oakland.

We need two safeties, one or two cornerbacks, and a pass rusher (a real one). Mike Smith can’t make chicken soup out of chicken poop. By the way, where has Lavonte David gone? Coaching matters, but great players make great teams. Was Tony Dungy brilliant or did Warren Sapp, Derrick Brooks, Ronde Barber, John Lynch, Brian Kelly, Booger McFarland, Simeon Rice, and Shelton Quarles make him a defensive guru.

I don’t remember his defenses in Indy being that good. It is the players. Talent matters.

I fear we are miles away from the players we need without two homerun drafts. I fear Vernon Hargreaves III becomes shell-shocked in his rookie season from the beatings he is taken. I fear Winston crumbles down the stretch trying to do too much with little help. – MudManVA

You are right, MudManVA, and thank you for your kind words. You are right about the lack of talent in Tampa Bay, especially on the defensive side. Rookie defensive end Noah Spence needs another year’s worth of experience to develop, and the Bucs need to add more speed upfront from a pass rush perspective.

The Bucs do need to overhaul the safety position and find two new starters unless Chris Conte and Bradley McDougald have a major turnaround in the second half of the season. And yes, Tampa Bay needs to draft and develop another young, talented cornerback to eventually replace Brent Grimes.

On the offensive side of the ball, the Bucs could use a game-breaking wide receiver to pair with Mike Evans, another pass-catching tight end to go along with Cameron Brate and another running back that is better and more explosive than guys like Peyton Barber, Russell Hansbrough and Mike James.

I thought that the Bucs had enough talent to surprise this year and make a playoff run, but injuries cut into that prognostication and exposed some thinner than expected depth. Yes, it looks like Tampa Bay is another draft or two away from making a playoff push. – SR

Everybody is so quick to wanting to fire coaches remember last year Matt Ryan was playing horrible under first year offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan. Nobody was fired. Now this year he seems like a genius. Let’s give the coaches some time. Also, the defense needs to overhauled. – Mad Dog

That’s a good point, Mad Dog. And for the record, I wasn’t calling for Mike Smith to be fired. I was merely speculating that if the defense does not improve down the stretch that he could be a scapegoat. I know the Glazers are sick of losing, losing at home and seeing bad defense just as much as the Bucs fan base – if not more. It’s just something to keep an eye on. I hope it doesn’t happen. I think Smith needs more talented players and time to get his scheme perfected. – SR

Man, oh man. I didn’t think we would be at this point. Contemplating draft picks halfway through the season. I truly believe that no team can withstand the injuries that the Bucs have had. Trotting out players picked up off the street and backups.

They’re good backups, but you need some real players to compete. Did I hear Scott Reynolds correctly? That we need to draft a safety in the first round? Tried that already and how did that work out?

Former Bucs SS Mark Barron – Photo by: Getty Images

Former Bucs SS Mark Barron – Photo by: Getty Images

Traded Mark Barron for a seventh-rounder. C’mon, man. Think this through – D-line and O-line. I’ll start screaming it from the rooftops if it will get through to the Bucs. Build our lines up. You cannot win unless you have the meat up front.

Ezekiel Elliott looks like a super human because of Dallas’ line. Denver is great because of their D-line. And here is a news flash. The Bucs were once great because of the lines.

Gerald McCoy cannot do this alone. Opponents can get a pedicure in the pocket due to our anemic pass rush. Having Clinton McDonald out is killing us. I think you draft the best lineman available defensive or offensive. Period. Go Bucs. – chetthevette

I hear what you’re saying, chetthevette. I’m not necessarily advocating the selection of a safety in the first round, but four out of the six safeties in last year’s Pro Bowl, Malcolm Jenkins, Minnesota’s Harrison Smith, Kansas City’s Eric Berry and Oakland’s Charles Woodson, were first-round picks. Chicago’s Mike Adams was a second-rounder, while former first-rounders in San Francisco’s Eric Reid (2013) and Seattle’s Earl Thomas (2011-15) didn’t make the Pro Bowl last year but are tremendous players. That’s worth noting.

The Mark Barron pick didn’t work out. Neither did drafting Gaines Adams in the first round, but that shouldn’t prevent the Bucs from drafting another defensive end, right? Personally, I’d like to see the Bucs draft a talented speed rusher in the first round, but given the fact that the safety position is the weakest link in Tampa Bay I wouldn’t oppose Jason Licht selecting a player like LSU’s Jamal Adams in the first round, either. – SR

Couldn’t disagree with you more in regards to who we should draft. This team is always trying to solve its defensive problems from the back end and the end result has been the same for the last six or seven years. This team is in desperate need of a pass rush that won’t allow a QB four or five seconds to rest comfortably in the backfield waiting for his third or fourth receiver to break free.

There are not too many cornerbacks or safeties in the league can cover that long, All-Pro or not. William Gholston and Akeem Spence are quality backups, but so far, after four years, that is what they have proven to be. For years this team has brought in and played numerous cornerbacks and bargain basement D-line to no avail. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. – drdneast

Will Gholston and Akeem Spence are good players, but their game is power and not speed. Neither are great pass-rushers. They are better against the run.

The Bucs do need more speed upfront to bolster the team’s pass rush, and may need to find one in the first round this year after spending a high second-rounder on Noah Spence next year. I’m not for drafting a defensive back in the first round, nor am I against drafting a defensive lineman in the first round, either. I’m for the Bucs drafting the best defensive player because they have multiple positions where they need new starters. But don’t rule out a guy like LSU’s Jamal Adams in the first round next April for Tampa Bay. – SR

Scott, the whispers of Mike Smith’s defense being too complicated, can you share any more detail? I have to assume those would be whispers from the players that you are hearing. Are player(s) coming to you flat out saying that? Like off the record? Are you reading between the lines of what players/coaches are saying to the media? Are you hearing these whispers from many sources or just one you trust?

I haven’t followed Mike’s career closely, I don’t recall ever hearing about him over complicating his defenses before. Also, a lot of these secondary players could not figure out their assignment for Lovie Smith or Leslie Frazier. We put that on the coaches and their defenses, but if this is another defense these guys can’t get, might it be our secondary personnel? – threadkiller

I can’t say much more than what I wrote. I don’t write things that don’t come from sources that I trust. I do think some players are looking for answers as to why the defense is playing so poorly. I think the answer is that better communication is needed on the field. The Bucs also do need more talented players. That’s a fact. – SR

With all due respect, SR, it is way too early to begin discussing replacing Mike Smith. He needs at least two years to show he can turn around this defense that is not exactly littered with talent.

Bucs DL Will Gholston - Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

Bucs DL Will Gholston – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

After only drafting one defensive player in his first two drafts, let Jason Licht get a little bit more talent on that side of the ball before looking to replace Smith. Looking at the corners alone, Tampa is starting a 33-year old, a rookie, and a second-year undrafted free agent. Combined with possibly the worst pair of starting safeties in the NFL, there isn’t much more Smith can do with this defensive backfield.

This problem is exacerbated by a D-Line that only has one player consistently able to get pressure. Give Noah Spence a chance to grow and Robert Ayers the chance to get healthy and at least see what progress can be made.

While your point that they didn’t force Atlanta to punt is very valid, the Falcons do have the No. 1 weighted offense in the NFL. Smith needs at least one more year to implement his scheme and one more offseason for Licht to infuse some talent before hitting the coaching reset button yet again in Tampa. – Brandonges

Brandonges, I think you’re right. I do think the Bucs need continuity within Mike Smith’s scheme. That means two years to get this defense down and show improvement. But improvement is the key word.

If Tampa Bay’s defense doesn’t show improvement over the last eight games of the year, the heat on Smith will be turned up. There’s no doubt about that. That’s the point I was trying to illustrate.

I was the first to point out that Schiano had to win in his second year or he would feel the heat after a second-half collapse at the end of his first season in Tampa Bay. I pointed out the same thing with Lovie Smith after his dismal first year. I also called for both Schiano and Smith to be fired.

I’m not calling for Mike Smith to be fired. I agree he needs more time. But if the Bucs defense doesn’t play better over the second half of the season there will be questions about whether Smith is retained, especially if Dirk Koetter and Jason Licht really start feeling the heat. Winning solves everything, though.
– SR

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About the Author: Scott Reynolds

Scott Reynolds is in his 25th 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 sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: sr@pewterreport.com
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4 years ago

We need pass rushers before we can discuss Safety or another Corner. I’m not sure Licht understands the importance of trading down not up with acquired additional draft picks.
Our drafting has hurt us for many years, but I will say it has gotten better these last two years; the problem has been we haven’t had enough draft picks we have hit on yet.

Reply to  Horse
4 years ago

We need to anchor the lines. Another stud DT beside McCoy and a C. I was screaming for us to take Rankins at #11. Two guys that can collapse the pocket and force the QB into the DE’s. Having Smith back next season, and another year of development for Spence should be good for our pass rush. Until we boost our talent in the trenches, we don’t consistently win. You’d think a “meat head” like Licht would understand that fact.

Reply to  RootsCrew
4 years ago

Licht understands that notion, Roots. He went out and got us a very productive veteran DE and a highly regarded, bargain priced second round DE this year. But you can only do so much in a single offseason, and with Clinton McDonald being injured for most of this first half of the season, and Gerald McCoy being injured a couple of games too, that was just too much this year. I would be shocked if DT weren’t high on Licht’s wish list in the coming offseason. A draft pick will likely address that long term, and I wouldn’t be too… Read more »

Reply to  Naplesfan
4 years ago

My last statement was sarcasm. I’m sure he does understand it, which makes last offseason so head scratching. It’s why I wanted a DT added in the draft, since McCoy is often injured. Losing Smith in game one really sucked. Ayers is a one, maybe two year guy. So, we’ll need another DE this cycle for depth & replacement. I agree with your entire second paragraph. Also why I feel last draft put us behind the 8 ball a bit. Drafting a DT, S, WR, DE, with the two picks used on Aguayo, would be less holes to fill (in… Read more »

4 years ago

I agree with Horse depending upon where we end up drafting and what players are available. Drafting Aquayo instead of two other players is still a damning testament to our draft thinking. While I understand why Jason did what he did, the fact of the matter was that it was a pick that shouldn’t have been made because of the needs elsewhere. While I admit we don’t know if those players could have made a difference this season or not, it’s pretty apparent, at least to me, even if Aquayo was perfect this season his impact on any of the… Read more »

4 years ago

Absolutely agree we need to address both lines before a safety or corner. We can replace either/both in free agency. I want us to go after Cook from FSU. After that, lineman, lineman and lineman.

Reply to  Amo
4 years ago

Have to do both. We can add a handful of players in the draft, and then there’s free agency too.

Teams that focus on only beefing up one position in a given year are, well, non-existent. Everybody drafts and signs multiple positions every year. The issue is the quality of those acquisitions. Teams that do well in the long run are those that add a couple of new starters on each side of the ball virtually every season, to account for injuries and retirements.

4 years ago

Yep it has and always will start up front period. Fix the lines and average players elsewhere look great. Don’t understand why they can’t get this?

Reply to  fredster
4 years ago

You mean like John Lynch was only average? And Derrick Brooks was only average? And that Ronde Barber was only average? And Donnie Abraham was only average? You coulda fooled me. I agree that great defenses absolutely have to have great linemen, but they also have to have great linebackers, great safeties and great corners too. Average defenses can have a great line but only mediocre linebackers, safeties, and corners. They frequently are exactly that. It’s silly to focus on just a single position group and expect to produce more than average results. Our goal isn’t to be average –… Read more »

4 years ago

One thing that may prove beneficial. Other teams will be reluctant to come calling for Mike Smith to interview for head coaching opportunities. I know we all see the need for a pass rush. I wonder though if the pass rush would be adequate if the rostered players could just get on the field together. They’re either on IR, in the infirmary or still developing. Perhaps we’re not so weak there as it looks. Greater evaluation needed here in the off-season. The secondary is an entirely different story. The rostered players do not look adequate at all. We have an… Read more »

4 years ago

Forget the draft, it’s hard for a rookie to come in and make an impact. Licht needs to get it right in free agency. Think of the cap space we’ll have when players like V Jax, and Verner are off the books. We also might want to move on from certain players who’ve been here long enough to make a difference but haven’t by trading them while they still have value. This team isn’t a draft, or two away, we’ve been sold that crap for the last ten years! If we’re to improve enough for a play off run, we’re… Read more »

Reply to  surferdudes
4 years ago

It’s never, ever “forget the draft” … teams that do so are spectacular failures, both in the short run and the long run. All great teams are built in the draft, and only supplemented here and there with quality free agent signings. Our great teams in the late 90s and early 00s were built in the draft. We had only an occasional FA signing that was successful in filling in a gap here or there. Brooks, Sapp, Lynch, Barber, Abraham – all those guys were drafted and developed right here in Tampa. Simeon Rice was the standout free agent acquisition… Read more »

4 years ago

Lack of talent is an issue, sure. But that cannot be the sole reason, but one of several that are affecting us concurrently. Every team that is good lacks talent at every position. Even the greatest Bucs defenses of the late 90s/early 00s did not have a Hall of Famer or Ring of Honor guy at every position. Excessive injuries, particularly on the D-line, have been a huge factor on the Bucs this season. We all know that. Is that a matter of luck, or is there something we can go better in terms of coaching and conditioning to lessen… Read more »

4 years ago

I agree with several of the above comments. There is a lot to be said for “It all starts up front.” The OL and DL are critical for a run game oriented team, and constant pressure on opposing QB’S. Obviously both free agency and the draft are important. IMO free agency is where you try to fill immediate needs, the draft with few exceptions is future driven. Occasionally you get a Jameis Winston, Zeke Elliott type but for the most part like Hargreaves and Spence they have learning curves that take time. The old axiom that you never know how… Read more »

4 years ago

Thanks for the response Scott! Love the work you guys do. You all are the best in the business

4 years ago

Not sure why we need another RB when Doug, Jacquizz and Sims seem to be more than capable of handling the load. I dont buy the whole “one of two drafts away” mantra either bc we simply dont consistently draft well. When have a chance to take Rankins, Spence and Bell on a defense that sorely needs help but you end with a nickel back, Spence and a kicker its hard to get behind that. We have plenty of cap room but his last batch of FA were Doug Martin, JR Sweezey, Grimes, Conte, Ayers and Robinson…..not exactly the group… Read more »

Reply to  stlbucsfan
4 years ago

Nobody consistently drafts well. Some draft better than others, but it is a myth that there are teams that always draft well. I analyzed the results of the best roster-management team in history – Bill Belichick, as both head coach and general manager for the last 17 years in which he produced consistent winners, took his team to the playoffs in nearly all of those years, and won four Super Bowls. Even the great wizard Belichick only managed to produce successful players – i.e., as defined as being still on the roster after their rookie contracts expired, or traded to… Read more »

4 years ago

The problem with your assessment is that it doesn’t factor in the awful free agency that goes with our suspect draft picks. Also there’s a difference in missing on a draft pick at an area of need versus missing on a draft pick that was a luxury pick. Bill Belicheck doesnt trade up into the draft and select Roberto Aguayo when the defense has more holes that swiss cheese. Bill Belicheck wouldnt have a team building around a young QB and waste late round draft picks on kick returner and fullback when a OL with a 1st round grade is… Read more »

4 years ago

I’m not too familiar with this upcoming draft class so I can’t speculate on where the best targets would be. I do know that through the draft and FA we need to address S, WR2, OL, DL, and CB. I feel like we’re good at RB with Martin, Rodgers, and Barber. Maybe swing a trade for Sims or keep him as a change of pace/ receiving back. We DEFINITELY need better safeties and another receiving threat to pair with Evans. Not sure what the plan is with Josh Huff, but he should provide a speedy threat to complement. We have… Read more »

4 years ago

Naples I wasn’t talking about the Bucs defense when Dungy was here so why are you throwing that in my face like I was? Yes they had great players in the secondary. We have two great LB’s now and need help at safety the most and CB after that. Nobody is arguing we don’t. All I’m saying is you can have the best secondary and no pass rush and your dead. You can have best D line and average secondary and be top 10 defense. All positions are important but none more so than both lines. I also agree on… Read more »

4 years ago

I couldn’t agree more with this article. This was always about the talent, or lack of. We have a nucleus of players that are very good, but we have way too many who wouldn’t start on most other teams. And we are at least two drafts away from being competitive. Rehashing the drafts that have delivered nothing or very little would be pointless, but clearly we need to stop reaching for players. And we have to stop giving up multiple picks for players who spend most of their time on injured reserve or who are cut within two yrs. Beyond… Read more »

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