Tougher times call for tougher defense – JoeBucsFan.com
BY IRA KAUFMAN
A dive into the numbers suggests this should be a defensive draft for the Buccaneers.
You won’t get that recognition publicly from Jason Licht, who spent 24 minutes with the media this week, leaving all doors wide open. Any question beginning with the phrase “Would you eliminate writing a…” was met with a quick response that ruled out nothing but a substantive answer.
Along with 31 other organizations hungry for draft information, Licht is too savvy to give clues at this poker table. Can you blame him?
Why should he show his hand before he has to hand over a card?
But when you look at this depth chart and how the 2021 Bucs fared against elite quarterbacks, it’s easy to conclude that Licht should indulge Todd Bowles by fulfilling some defensive needs.
This offense is still in very good shape – although Chris Godwin is not fully recovered by Week 1. Russell Gage should be productive against tricks from Mike Evans and Rob Gronkowski to give him one more chance with Tom Brady .
The offensive line is strong despite the retirement of Ali Marpet and Leonard Fournette just hitting its stride as a 3-try fullback Brady has learned to trust screens and checks.
The metrics suggest Buc’s defense was pretty solid last year. That’s not entirely true, though Tampa Bay has allowed an average of just 20.8 points per game, ranking fifth.
It’s an impressive effort, especially with a flurry of injuries at cornerback and Jason Pierre-Paul’s struggle to overcome an injured shoulder that robbed him of his power down the right edge. But when the Bucs faced some of the NFL’s best quarterbacks, that defense didn’t hold.
In facing Dak Prescott, Josh Allen and Matt Stafford (twice), the Bucs allowed an average of 30 points and 438 yards, losing twice to the Rams and winning shootouts against the Cowboys and Bills. Collectively, these three quarterbacks threw 71% of their shots in four games against Tampa Bay, with 11 TD passes and just two interceptions.
When opponents went up in class under center, the Buc defense struggled to get off the field as the Cowboys, Bills and Rams combined for a 45% success rate on third down.
At this point, Ndamukong Suh’s future is uncertain. The Bucs need to get younger on the defensive line and there’s no guarantee Joe Tryon-Shoyinka will be ready for prime time. Vita Vea is the only front-proven commodity under 30 years. If the Bucs have a long playoff run, Lavonte David will be 33.
A look at the upcoming schedule also makes a compelling case for a defense-focused project.
After the Bucs leave the comfort of the NFC South, here are some of the remaining quarterbacks standing — and running — on their way this fall: Stafford, Patrick Mahomes, Aaron Rodgers, Joe Burrow, Lamar Jackson , Kyler Murray and Prescott.
That’s enough firepower to keep cornerbacks coach Kevin Ross up all night.
Defensive tackle, edge carrier, inside linebacker and corner are all areas of concern when it comes to depth. As Bowles says, he knows how to teach football. For Licht, no longer shaping his draft around Bruce Arians, it makes sense to give Bowles new defensive pieces, knowing that Brady will take good care of the other side of the ball.
While still a good defense, good may not be enough against these gunslingers. This calendar seems much more difficult.
Tougher times call for tougher defense.
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