Bull Rush: D-Line Average; Game Plan Hinders

November 17th, 2009

Former Bucs DE Steve White

Former Bucs DE Steve White

JoeBucsFan.com analyst

Steve White spent every season of the Tony Dungy era playing defensive end for the Bucs. He’s spent countless hours in the film room with the likes of Warren Sapp, Rod Marinelli and more. Joe is humbled to now have White, also a published author and blogger, as part of the JoeBucsFan.com team. Below is White’s weekly Bull Rush column that breaks down all things defensive line. It’s simply a can’t-miss read for the hardcore Bucs fan.

We were average up front Sunday. Not good, not bad, but average.

The problem is that as a team the Bucs can’t win when our defensive line is average.

Now I actually had to think long and hard about how to write this column because I know there will be some who look at the stats — pretty close to 200 yards rushing by the Dolphins — and conclude that we must have played horrible up front. And of course, if I don’t say that in this post, there will be some who think I am covering for the defensive line.

I can only tell you the truth. And the truth is nobody on the defensive line had a really bad day. But you see the real problem is nobody had a good day, either.

There are gonna be games when guys are called on to do more than just play their blocks correctly and stay in their gaps. Yesterday was one of those days. With Greg (Stylez) White out we needed somebody or somebodies to step up and do more than what was expected of them.

Unfortunately, that didn’t happen.

Our pass rush collectively was average. Our run defense collectively was average. Our effort, normally a constant, was even just average.

Now out of the big running day by the Dolphins, I would put one crucial run at the end of the game in particular on our guys. On that play at the end of the game, Jimmy Wilkerson basically got done in by what I was say was a perfect play call.

With the Dolphins driving down to score and win, they gave Wilkerson what looked to be a rollout pass look. In reaction he went up field to try to pressure the quarterback Chad Henne. In reality they were running what turned out to be a lead isolation play strong with Williams. Because Wilkerson was upfield, the hole opened up and made it much harder to fill. Really though there wasn’t much he could do. If he had played run and it was pass, then Henne would have had all day to throw.

On that same play Ryan Sims got double teamed initially and then one guy came off to block a linebacker. But he wasn’t able to recover and make the tackle on Ricky Williams running through his gap. Because the gap was so wide and he was coming off a double team, it wasn’t an easy play to be sure. But its a play we have to have if we want to win that game.

Other than that play, I would actually say we were ok up front against the run. But again ok just isn’t good enough. We needed guys to make plays in the backfield. We needed guys hanging all over Henne whenever he dropped back to pass.

That didn’t happen, and we didn’t win.

I do have some major questions about this game plan though.

Why in the world would you move Wilkerson, the starter at left end all year, to play right end for this game?

I know some people don’t think it’s a big deal but I certainly beg to differ. I don’t believe that Wilkerson has played right end much if at all this whole season, but Tim Crowder has and he has looked decent doing it. So why wouldn’t Crowder instead start at right end and let Wilkerson stay at left where he has shown the ability to really get after the passer?

Not only that, but then we bring in Michael Bennett on third downs yet kick him inside to rush the guard? This is a kid who has shown a good ability to pass rush against offensive tackles. But it’s a whole different world trying to pass rush inside and it showed yesterday over and over.

Another question is why would we finally allow our weakside tackle to play on the edge of the center but ONLY when the Dolphins were in Wildcat formation?

If putting him over the center against the Dolphins’ most potent rushing formation makes sense, then why wouldn’t it make sense to do it against their second or third or fourth most potent rushing formation? I am having a very hard time trying to figure out how keeping our weakside tackle lined up on the guard all game is beneficial to our defense.

Not only that but if the weakside tackle is lined up on the guard, there is no way for the tackles to ever slant across the face of the center. That’s not even to mention how letting the center up on our linebackers is still creating running lanes up the middle.

I also can’t understand why we are still using a 5-man defensive line on the goalline. How many times do teams have to score on us before somebody admits it’s a bad scheme for our defense? Don’t get me wrong, it’s always going to be tough to keep a team out from the 1 yard line. But jeebus man, can we at least get in a 6-man line and give ourselves a chance?

And somebody, for the life of me, explain why we aren’t running more pass rush games on 3rd and long. Especially Sunday, when we were missing our best pass rusher up front, you have to work together as a defensive line to put pressure on the quarterback.

Yet time and again I saw four guys making one-on-one moves. And the proof is in the pudding, no sacks and very few pressures against a Dolphins team that threw it 31 times.

Now you can say that on many of the third downs Henne threw incomplete passes, and that’s all fine and good. But when you get a sack on third down you can potentially change field position by making the other team punt from farther back. You also have the opportunity for a turnover whenever you get a hit on the quarterback. But you aren’t going to get any of that done when you are not working together as a unit.

This loss was disappointing for a lot of reasons but for me the biggest thing was that nobody up front stepped their game up.

When your bell cow is down then somebody else has to take the reigns. Now I don’t know how long White is going to be out, but regardless we are going to have to play much better to even have a shot at beating the Saints next week.

At 1-7 its time for our defensive line to adopt a “by any means necessary” mentality. If not, well get ready for another long day.

19 Responses to “Bull Rush: D-Line Average; Game Plan Hinders”

  1. Louie Says:

    Game plan = coaches.

  2. FlBoy84 Says:

    Read Raheem’s comments that the defensive problems stem from not having the guys (BIG DT’s and hard-hitting impact LB’s) that we need to run this scheme. Which begs the questions A) He’s just now realizing this? and B) Has anyone ever heard of the idea of tweaking your defensive package to fit your personnel? If the idea is to drill this package into the players minds that we have playing now with an eye toward next year, there has to be a point where Bates realizes that he could run this scheme for the next 4 years and these guys aren’t going to make it work much better than it is now. Goes back to your Ron Turner column. While I think adding an impact DT & MLB would improve the defense, there has to be a scheme adjustment to improve the 212 yds. rush/167 yds. pass we’re giving up a game. Must say though that the DB play has improved a bit from earlier in the season, though I think a SS upgrade is necessary also.

  3. Jerrjenn2 Says:

    Hey SGW- Another great article. We definitely need to find a way to get more pressure on QB. I am curious as to what you think about Raheem’s comments, about needing bigger players upfront.

  4. Jerrjenn2 Says:

    Nevermind! Just went to your blog, and you had already answered my question. And I agree, sorry to say….

  5. Jeff Says:

    Steve, this may be a little out of your DL expertise, but why is Sabby so out of position all the time. Is he a maverick trying to make plays (thus blowing his assignments) or does he just not get it (the mental part)?

  6. Jackson Says:

    Congratulations! Your column has become a must read. Could not understand why we didn’t bring ANY pressure, beside the 4, the last drive if the game. Also, don’t understand why, Geno Hayes, the fastest and most athletic LB is never called on to blitz. I think he could be very effective getting to the QB. Defensive calls are leaving ALOT to be desired.
    Break the bank for Mike Zimmer!

  7. Mr. Lucky Says:

    Steve – very insightful and well thought out posting – are you reaching for the upcoming DC vacancy for the Bucs after this season?

    Do you have any reason why the Bucs aren’t doing more delaying blitzing or bringing Rhonde off the corner more often?

    Also why didn’t the Bucs do more stunts with their personnel?

    On a side note – anyone miss Gaines lately?

  8. sgw94 Says:


    Its not really a matter of Sabby being out of position to make plays, at least not on running plays. He is where he needs to be but he just has had problems making tackles in space. The truth is John Lynch had the same problem from time to time but he made up for it with really big hits in the running game more often than not. I think Sabby’s problem is that he gets off balance, especially on the first juke move and then can’t recover well. This wouldn’t be as noticeable if he consistently was busting people on the mouth and just had a few misses. But because even when he makes the tackle it doesn’t appear to be particularly forceful then when he misses I think it looks worse.

    There have been a few times over the course of the season when it looked like he might not be sure where he was supposed to fit but for the most part here lately that hasn’t seemed to be a problem.

  9. sgw94 Says:


    Thanks for the compliment!

    As far as Geno Hayes, I would venture to say that he blitzes the most out of all of our linebackers. I think the real problem is that we don’t really blitz enough and when we do they are hardly ever clean blitzes meaning its called to the side of the offensive line where it leaves one guy free to hit the quarterback instead of always having to beat a block.

    I will say that I personally would love to see Quincy Black blitz some on first down as a run blitz. All preseason we heard about his pass rush ability and its obvious that the guy is physical. I just dont think we are getting everything we could be out of him.

  10. sgw94 Says:

    @Mr Lucky

    Nah, I might coach again one day but it won’t be anytime soon and I doubt I have endeared myself to anyone over at One Buc Palace.

    As for your questions I realy can’t say why we aren’t blitzing more. We started the year off sending Ronde a ton when he was over the slot receiver but it appears that we have backed off of that some. I definitely think that blitzing more could have aided us on Sunday. I think the Bucs are calling their 5 man line a blitz so maybe thats what was going on. I don’t really see that as a blitz though because we don’t stunt out of it and the opposing offensive line gets to see where everyone is lined up before the snap.

    As far as stunts, the Bucs actually do some stunts with the line but they haven’t been particularly effective. They slant some and I have seen what appeared to be quick pass rush games on early downs but so far these stunts haven’t really equaled big plays for us.

  11. FlBoy84 Says:

    Is it just me or did it seem to anyone else that Bates didn’t seem to get that Miami only needed a FG to win the game, not a touchdown. I’ve read we switched to a Tampa 2 on the last drive, but the coverage seemed to be an overly soft zone version, intent on not giving up the big throw but leaving the middle wide open. Roberson did have great coverage on the out that Best caught. Have to give Miami credit on that one for a great throw and catch. Hat’s off Steve on more great insight.

  12. sgw94 Says:

    I thought the coverage was ok on the last drive actually. On the first catch I thought Ronde probably could have stayed back and forced the throw to the short flat. On the throw over the middle you can live with that because the clock keeps running. The other catch on the sideline by Best was just an above average play. That last run is what really killed us though. If we stop them there they might not have been able to make that longer FG.

  13. PJ Says:

    Steve…This is the best analysis about this aspect of the Bucs defense out there. You put it in terms for non-football savvy people to understand and you don’t sugarcoat things.

  14. sgw94 Says:


    Thanks for the compliment!

  15. RastaMon Says:

    I get to the stadium early….like to watch players …coaches…media interact before offical team warm ups ect… Steve White’s game day rountine was always the same … stretching with earphones on the goalline in the south endzone of the RayJay…..Martin Gramatica would follow touching the ground…the pylon…Santaria cris crosses all over his body..then kick..
    I remember THAT ! about you

  16. sgw94 Says:

    LOL RastaMon You got me on that one! I had a routine that I tried to follow every game so I could get my mind right.

  17. BigMacAttack Says:

    Thanks Steve, really enjoy it.
    I didn’t see the pass rush games either Sunday that we did on Green Bay. I was hoping for the blitzing linebacker coming behind the DE coming inside. I think you have done an admirable job of not throwing Bates under the bus like the rest of us. I have always believed in sticking with what works, but tweak it a little when you can. But when it isn’t working, try something different, as in 5 guys, 6 guys, blitz, 7 on the line with 4 rushing without showing who. All these things you speak of, things we see good teams do, and Bates won’t do any of it. It is so frustrating for us fans. I can only imagine how you must feel, having been in those guys shoes as a player. The one thing I see in our D line this year is fight. I think with the right Coaching and scheme they could be really good. I think this year’s D line is better than last year’s D line.

    Steve, are you going to the game Sunday?

  18. sgw94 Says:


    Nah I won’t be at the game. I would much rather watch it on TV to be honest with you, don’t ask me why.

  19. Jvato Says:

    Steve, Have you had a chance to watch NDamakung Suh play yet ??

    I have taken time to watch him on a few occasions this year .. He appears to be a moster .. He does not get pushed back and is ferocious shedding blocks while taking awesome angles to get the QB or even chase down a run play or screen from behind.

    I was just looking to get any feedback you have on Suh if any ??

    Thanks for the excellent analysis of the games as D-Line is definitely my favorite position to watch every Sunday!!

    And hoping our D- Line becomes more fun to watch soon