Most Improved Pass Defense

January 17th, 2017
"How did you do that Smitty?"

“How did you do that, Smitty?”

Last year the Bucs were beyond woeful in pass defense.

This past season? Pretty good.

That’s the conclusion made by the head hocho of the Football Outsiders outfit, Aaron Schatz. Typing for BSPN, Schatz ran his numbers and determined the Bucs had the most improved pass defense in the NFL in 2016.

Why? Credit the secondary, Schatz typed.

A lot of Bucs fans will point to new defensive coordinator Mike Smith replacing Leslie Frazier, and they got worried when it looked like Smith might leave for a head coaching position elsewhere. However, just as important has been a healthy, consistent secondary. In 2015, the Tampa had only one cornerback start over half the team’s games, journeyman Sterling Moore, who wasn’t even on the team this past season. Instead, rookie Vernon Hargreaves and free-agent pickup Brent Grimes each started all 16 games.

One thing that’s clear is that the improvement was about coverage far more than the pass rush. Despite their overall struggle against the pass, the 2015 Bucs ranked fifth in adjusted sack rate. This year, they ranked seventh.

Maintaining this improvement in 2017 will be difficult for the Bucs. They certainly can’t count on another year of relatively good health in the secondary. And 27 of the 32 previous teams that improved their pass defense DVOA by 30 percentage points or more had some relapse in pass defense the following season.

Imagine what this defense would do if it could ever develop a friggin’ 10-sack guy?

This is why Joe is of the mind that given the Bucs’ short window, why not go buy a proven beast to play up front?

43 Responses to “Most Improved Pass Defense”

  1. Stpetebucsfan Says:

    OK Joe if we’re allowed to imagine….we sign Eric Berry AND get ten sacks from Noah. That’s an improvement!

  2. DB55 Says:

    Solomon Thomas – He probably won’t be there when we pick but good Lort this dude is like a tall long Aaron Donald.

  3. ZonaBuc Says:

    U should credit this article to schatz. You get paid for these gems?

  4. ZonaBuc Says:

    O-line or WR in the first round joe?

  5. Defense Rules Says:

    So Schatz contends that our defense improved “far more” because of secondary play than DLine play? Apparently the addition of Robert Ayers & Noah Spence & improved play by Will Gholston wasn’t that significant in the big scheme of things. Maybe it’s just me, but I thought our DLine overall did a much better job this year of pressuring QBs. But then again, if it doesn’t result in a sack, obviously it doesn’t count.

  6. Buc50 Says:

    I credit it to cornerbacks backpedaling and playing tight coverage instead of letting WRs catching EVERYTHING thrown to them on quick slants and outs. Lovie’s defense was totally ridiculous.

  7. ZonaBuc Says:

    Completely agree. Most picks were caused by the passer being rushed.

  8. Joe Says:

    U should credit this article to schatz. You get paid for these gems?

    You should read. Joe did just that; as he always has; as he always will.

  9. Joe Says:

    O-line or WR in the first round joe?

    Ha! No brainer! WR.

  10. ZonaBuc Says:

    Buc50- that quick slant killed us early. That was the raiders go to. We did eventually adjust. Our defense as a whole helped eachother

  11. ZonaBuc Says:

    Gets paid or credits? Just joshin man. I read your stuff every morning

  12. Amar Says:

    It’s what happens when u sign guys like Michael Johnson

  13. ZonaBuc Says:

    Its gotta be someone quick opposite evans right? These mocks are baffling

  14. Lord Cornelius Says:

    I hate the “window” mentality and hope that the GM / owners never think like that.

    Are the Seahawks / Patriots / Packers in “windows”? No and they never act like they are by spending tons in FA that will later screw them down the road

    I want a team that can be competitive and a contender for the SB every year that Jameis Winston is healthy. Not a team that goes all-in for 1 or 2 seasons and then has to blow everything up and start over due to cap problems and lack of youthful developmental talent.

    And why is our window “short”? Wtf? Last I checked most all our superstars are extremely young. We only had a couple vets that we relied on at all in Grimes / Ayers and maybe Dotson which is a position that is already being developed in youth backups. McCoy is like the only stud player we have that is going to be getting old in a few years

    We should be looking at our supposed “window” as whatever length of time Jameis Winston plays QB – which I hope is another 15 years

  15. Miko Says:

    Grimes had a lot to do with the improvement….”simple as that”

  16. Defense Rules Says:

    Agree Miko, and hopefully he’ll be with us for several more years. Great having someone like Brent for younger CBs like VHIII & Jude to learn from. Should have added Ryan Smith into that group too. Got a hunch that we’ll be seeing a LOT more of him next year.

  17. salish_seamonster Says:

    The Patriots window has been open for 10 years. They have the QB, they develop coaches and players, and they draft well. It can be done. Don’t buy the short window business unless your QB is approaching the end.

  18. Bob in valrico Says:

    also want to see what Ryan Smith can do before we draft another corner.
    I thought he was miscast as a safety from the time we drafted him.

  19. Chris Says:

    I’m with you Lord. Why do we have a short window? We have a 22 yr old Jameis at QB, not frigging Billy Kilmer or Sonny Jurgeson. We have a window of 18 years as long as Jameis is healthy. The Over The Hill gang analogy is very poor. We have Spence, Kwon, Hearthraces, Evans, a whole slew of young promising players

  20. Chris Says:


  21. Bucsfanman Says:

    I don’t see how the pass defense could’ve been worse than last year. If we can ever develop a pass-rush and look at the future beyond Grimes, I think we’ll be fine.

  22. shouldhavedraftedefiert Says:

    Still not as good as Shiano’s defense. Just saying…

  23. Lord Cornelius Says:

    “Don’t buy the short window business unless your QB is approaching the end.”

    And even then – look at what the Pats do drafting and developing backup QBs – taking guys like Jimmy G in the 2nd – Bellicheck is always trying to prepare for the next man up

    Or the Packers – with Favre to Rodgers

  24. Lord Cornelius Says:

    shouldhavedraftedefiert Says:
    January 17th, 2017 at 3:39 pm
    Still not as good as Shiano’s defense. Just saying…

    15th in PPG, top 2 in PPG final 8 weeks giving up 17 PPG compared to:

    23rd in PPG (2012); gave up 26 PPG last 8 weeks

    21st in PPG, (2013); gave up 25 PPG last 8 weeks

    Pretty sure you’re trolling but just to end this before it starts…

  25. Bucsfanman Says:

    Agreed Lord C! We should be SUPPLEMENTING with FAs while drafting the future. We’ve got a lot more holes than NE though!!!

  26. Tampabaybucfan Says:

    Most improved….most dubious award!!!

  27. ME13 Says:

    JPP !!! Is what Joe is saying!! Home is always where the heart is!!!!

  28. R.O. Says:

    It would mean they have a 10 sack guy.. Sacks are overrated. It’s pressure not sacks. Sacks thatbget you off the field are the only ones that mean anything.

  29. DB55 Says:

    Garett Bolles – Utah- Tackle

  30. Defense Rules Says:

    Bob in Valrico … Although Licht said they drafted him as a safety, I have my doubts. At 6′ and 190 lbs … with speed to burn and great corner coverage skills in college … he sounds like the perfect Bucs CB. Articles I’ve read about him on other sites say that he’s been tearing it up in practice (INTs, etc), but moreso as a corner than a safety. Suspect CB is his natural position, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see Ryan as the primary Nickel next year.

  31. cmurda Says:

    I hear a lot of wishing upon a DT like Calais. I’m not sold that he will flourish in a 4-3 and I’m also not pumped up for a guy that will be 31 when next season starts. We already have a Robert Ayers on the team. I want a DE and I would like him in the 2nd or 3rd round. It will speed Noah’s growth. Spence already looks like the real deal and if we can provide a threat on the other side of him, the entire D Line including GMC should be a force. The secondary already seems solid. This defense could approach special. Dalvin or a WR in Rd 1, DE Rd 2 and RB or WR Rd 3.

  32. Lord Cornelius Says:

    DT over DE for me

    At DE we have Ayers / Spence / Gholston (if we resign) at worst – that’s 3 guys who can all contribute well and don’t miss much time. Add Jack Smith even at ½ a season and that’s 3.4 – 4 guys. Ryan Russel also flashed a bit.

    At DT we have Gerald McCoy / McDonald / Spence? – There are no disruptive guys beyond McCoy / McDonald and both are getting older and McDonald is more of a rotational complement than a full time beast DT. He also misses a lot of time. There are no youthful DT’s on the team I am excited about at all.

    I want both (DT & DE) but would prioritize a disruptive DT who isn’t a liability in the run game.

  33. DB55 Says:


    Solomon Thomas can play inside and outside. Based on what I’ve seen he’s a monster. Link above.

  34. Bird Says:

    Here is the free agent to make bucs defense solid against the run too. He is listed as a top 10 free agent on NFL . Com. And he will test free agency cause team has too many issues with cap. His name is Brandon Williams. DT for ravens. 6’1. 340lbs. He can make the bucs more New York Giants defense like. We have two many little guys on line. And we got pushed around this year. Mike smith likes big guys in middle. Hope they pay the man. Probably around 8 or 9 which is a lot for that position but man, no one his man handling this guy.

  35. webster Says:

    Window short? The drunk uncle strikes again.

  36. SB Says:

    SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO ON Board with your Solomon Thomas with DB!!!!

  37. Billy Buc N Brazil Says:

    Give me Jpp, Poe and Berry we will rock

  38. Billy Buc N Brazil Says:

    Ok Jpp Berry and Pryor with OJ Howard 1st round would vault our Bucs to the playoffs at a minimum

  39. Blake_Bucsfan Says:

    @DB agree with you about Solo Thomas 150,000%

    But ever since his outstanding bowl game performance, people have been talking about him as a top 10 pick.

    I would freaking love to be able to draft him, but im almost certain he won’t be there.

    He is a bonafied moster though dude.

  40. cmurda Says:

    I hear you Lord C but just read that list back to yourself a few times and you will see where I’m at. Ayers, Gholston and Jack Smith. Pffft (think BK nuggets commercial for $1.49). Spence is the only DE worth anything on this roster. The other guys are roster fillers and depth. We need a pass rush. We can get a serviceable run stuffing DT in FA or late in draft.

  41. Owlykat Says:

    I too think Ryan Smith will be a solid CB this year, and I believe he can take Grimes place when he retires. Get Campbell in free agency to pair with McCoy
    and maybe a top free agent Safety to go with Tandy and our defense will be fine.

  42. Bucs Fan #7423 Says:

    I think not running cover 2 every play had a lot to do with it

  43. GhostofTedford Says:

    Brandon Williams with McCoy rotate out with Mcdonald / Siliga. Try running against that