Bucs’ Secondary Gets Hammered

January 17th, 2018

Damning review.

There was no mincing on NFL.com for the Bucs defensive backs, whew!

Matt Harmon decided to do a piece on the most under-performing units in the NFL and he took Bucs defensive backs to the woodshed.

Harmon blasted the Bucs secondary and all but typed they weren’t fit to be on an NFL field this season.

The Buccaneers’ defense ranked 32nd in Football Outsiders DVOA. The unit’s inability to cover on the back end was a primary culprit for the ignominious mark. Former first-round pick Vernon Hargreaves and his primary injury replacement at right corner, Ryan Smith, ranked inside the bottom 11 at the position in terms of yards per coverage snap allowed, per Pro Football Focus. The team struggled with several types of receivers. The Bucs allowed 1,046 yards and eight touchdowns to slot receivers and gave up the fifth-highest passer rating (100.4) to left wide receivers. None of their defenders seemed to win over opposing players at the catch point this season, allowing a 43.4 percent catch rate on tight-window passes, ahead of only the 49ers.

And mind you, this is all with Brent Grimes playing top-shelf football. That’s how bad the rest of the secondary was, though Joe personally believes safety play wasn’t that awful (cue the ConteHate).

What Harmon typed is why Joe hopes the Bucs — despite needing corners — should go the full-blown free agency route and not draft a corner. There is zero evidence the current defensive staff can develop a young corner. So why waste valuable if not coveted draft picks on a position the current defensive staff is likely to uin?

The offensive staff has clearly demonstrated it knows what it is doing with young talent. The defensive staff, unless a guy is a linebacker, has primarily demonstrated how to destroy — not develop — a young player.

Defensive coaches seem to do a nice job with veterans in the secondary, Grimes and Robert McClain, for example, raised their games. But the corners the Bucs have drafted and/or undrafted free agents signed at corner? The word “disappointed” is an understatement.

40 Responses to “Bucs’ Secondary Gets Hammered”

  1. What in the buc Says:

    Question is would that have faired better with a pass rush? Odds are yes! Are they great no but as warren Sapp front end and the back end work together if we don’t have a front end at all!!! and the back end plays 10 yards off = failure

  2. tnew Says:

    Problem with this philosophy, albeit a good point, this is a very solid CB draft in the “Jason Licht Zone” (3rd and 4th rounds). Just draft the best CB from LSU and hope it works. After Kwon and Beckwith every draft the Bucs should draft an LSU player in the 3rd or 4th.

  3. firethecannons Says:

    Well you know how I feel on this topic. I am in complete agreement because it is fact. The defensive coaching is NOT WORKING! VH3’s play was/is an embarassment. The kid had potential and should be one of the best out there yet he has graded out awful. Somebody needs to be held accountable.! This seems like what happened to Johnthan Banks also, had great potential and was destroyed by the coaching staff. Honestly , the Bucs defensive backs coaching team cannot be trusted with any rookies. Either you can ball in the NFL already or forget it as you will end being a Bucs loser.

  4. AC Says:

    @TNEW gotta agree with you on that LSU take bro.. those guys play against th4e top talents in college and most of those guys play with passion and love the game. Those are the kind of players we need on our squad

  5. Alaskan Abdominal Snowman Says:

    Vh3 was a freaking ball hawking playmaker is college. I don’t know what this coaching staff has done with him but its disappointing to say the least.
    VH3 played a lot of Left Corner in college and played his best over there. I was curious all season when he was struggling, why they didnt try moving him over to the other side? Did Brent Grimes refuse to move over or was the coaching staff too dumb to try it?

  6. Tom Edrington Says:

    Tell us something we don’t already know, this post is stating the OBVIOUS!!!

  7. Defense Rules Says:

    @Joe … “The defensive staff, unless a guy is a linebacker, has primarily demonstrated how to destroy — not develop — a young player.” Destroy Ryan Smith? Seems like I remember Jason Licht drafting him as a SAFETY. Lost year there, plus he was just middle-of-the-pack to begin with. Destroy Javien Elliott? Really? Destroy Jude? Ya right. Destroy Vernon Hargreaves? Guy should never have been drafted in the 1st round to begin with. Ball-hawking in college is quite a bit different than in the NFL I’d surmise. He’s short, slow and lacks quickness. What in the world makes anyone think he’d be a superstar?

  8. Bob in Valrico Says:

    Secondary players take time to develope. That’s the reason why Lynch an Ronde
    were not instant starters. Agree with Defense’s points on Vh3. Problem is: with no depth on the team any drafted secondary player probably will struggle their first year. Too many needs to keep reaching for a Jalen Ramsey type player in the first round.

  9. Bucsfanman Says:

    Defense Rules Says:
    “Guy should never have been drafted in the 1st round to begin with.”

    BAM!!!! He was a reeeeeaaaacccccch! And, he clearly can’t cover lined up 10 yards off the WRs. I might dislike him less if he stops the finger-waving after the guy he’s covering drops the football!
    Too short, too slow= TOAST!

  10. Rrsrq Says:

    How about scheme, even Grimes, when the CBs are playing 8-10 yards off the receivers it is easy pickings, they propelled Case Keenum to the NFC championship, gave him mad confidence. Our DBs played ten yards off on 3rd and 3, we don’t know what they might’ve been in a different scheme, ijs

  11. Rrsrq Says:


    Exactly, stop finger waving when the receiver just drops the ball or QB just missed the receiver running away from you

    I know some of you are LSU partial to DBs, I’m still going with the U with CB Michael Jackson, bringing the Swagger back along with B. Chubb.

  12. AlteredEgo Says:

    free CLUE…..pass rush

  13. Dylan Says:

    DERWIN JAMES DERWIN JAMES DERWIN JAMES. Said the same sh*t about Jalen Ramsey and this dude is a better prospect idc what anyone says st the end of the day I think he won’t even be there at 7. Sean Taylor 2.0, Eric berry went 5, Jamal Adams went 5? He’s hands down a better prospect then both of them.

    Some random guy 😉

  14. Bucsfanman Says:

    @Altered- Yes sir! A pass rush would certainly help!

  15. darin Says:

    Exactly Joe. Ive been saying the same thing. Well except i think they need to draft DE after DE and hope they turn out good in spite of coaching. With this terrible defense theres no reason whatsoever to draft a secondary player. Without pressure with 4 this defense will sadly look the same. Theyve shown NO willingness to adjust.

  16. The Buc Realist Says:

    So because of no D-line and VH28 had a bad year, the Bucs should not draft CB??????? LOL, I have to put this up with the ” Bucs should remove the deep ball because JW3 cannot connect with it!!!!!! BG24 who is our best CB did not have a good year until year 4!!!!!! Sometimes it takes a little while to develop and it becomes almost impossible when their is no pass rush!!!!!!!!!!

    Fix the “real” problem, the trenches!!!!!!!!!!

    Go Bucs!!!!!!!!!

  17. LUVMYBUCS Says:

    This year we have to be hyper aggressive in free agency.

    At least sign (2) cornerbacks in FA:

    Corner Prospects:
    • #26 Bashaud Breeland CB 25 5-11 195 Clemson
    • #23 Kyle Fuller CB 25 5-11 190 Virginia Tech
    • #37 Ross Cockrell CB 26 6-0 191 Duke
    • #21 Malcolm Butler CB 27 5-11 190 West Alabama
    • #30 Rashaan Melvin CB 28 6-2 196 Northern Illinois

  18. Stevbobucsfan Says:

    Don’t matter who come in from free agency or who we draft on the defensive side of the ball, Our defensive staff must develope the young talent and mesh the vets and young players together to create a solid defense. Just look at the teams who are in the playoffs

  19. Joe Says:

    Tell us something we don’t already know, this post is stating the OBVIOUS!!!

    No one is forcing you to read anything.

  20. Joe Says:

    Seems like I remember Jason Licht drafting him as a SAFETY.

    Not sure about the genesis but the coaching staff was all in on Smith being a safety until a year later they realized, well, he wasn’t a safety.

    As far as Hargreaves, OK, you thought he was a fifth round pick, fine, whatever. Try to tell Joe his play wasn’t demonstrable worse this past season than his rookie season.

    Ball-hawking in college is quite a bit different than in the NFL I’d surmise.

    OK, cool. So NFL teams should start instructing scouts that rather than do homework and draft corners who are always around the ball, they should monitor and research and draft guys who regularly get fried by receivers so bad they are never within 20 yards of a play? Gee, that makes sense.

  21. Bucsfanman Says:

    LUV- I agree. We can ill afford to expect anything from VHIII or Smith, and we might lose Grimes anyway. I would be looking for (2) CBs, (2) DEs, DT, safety, and RB in free agency. At least 3 starters but definitely need capable back-ups in that group as well.
    Go get the Hokie!

  22. Bucsfanman Says:

    Those FA’s would be aside from any draft picks. I would STILL look to draft DE, DB, OL, RB, DT, S.

  23. doctor_berto Says:

    If we can’t get Chubb, we need to get Derwin. He’s gonna destroy the combine so doubt we will be able to trade back to get him.

  24. Lamarcus Says:


    If Grimes played top self football then we are definitely in deep deep trouble

  25. Mike Johnson Says:

    Every Defensive secondary I’ve ever seen in the NFl gets hammered when THEY have to do the majority of the Defensive work. Bucs had better get a pass rush abd give McCoy some help. And they had better get a Defensive coach With some fire and energy who truly knows defensive Schemes. I’m of the opinion Our Bucs really don’t want to win now. If they did, Mike Smith would have been gone yesterday. Their wait and see attitude coupled with Koetter’s Loyalty to Smitty is going to set us back at least 2 yrs minimum.

  26. Tom Says:

    Do not let Licht have anything to do with drafting in the first two rounds. Let him start in the 3rd round. Wish the Glazers would sell the team to someone who wants to win.

  27. StPeteBucsFan Says:

    We’ve had two years of VHG. He may have been drafted to high but do we really think he’s not an NFL player…even if he should have been a 3rd rounder.

    I don’t know why we always blame the coaching for VHG and the rest of the young DB’s.

    Put the Seattle defensive backfield behind our DL and yea it would be an improvement but they’d all still get toasted.

    It’s a fundamental truth in the NFL that if you give ANY QB enough time they will slice and dice your secondary.

    Chicken and egg I guess but as for me…give me a freaking pass rush and then we can start judging our DB’s. And this is a sliding scale….the DB’s will become as good as the DL permits them. If the DL is top 20 we should see some improvement…if they were top ten even more….but if we had one of the top three pass rushing units in the league I predict our DB’s will look a whole lot better.

  28. Lord Cornelius Says:

    I wanted Sheldon Rankins but wasn’t mad about VHIII.

    He was the consensus best pure CB in the entire draft per pretty much every draft analyst site (not including Ramsey since he was a S/CB). His measurable’s are fine. Plenty of CBs his size/height that are some of the best in the league. Hell he’s bigger than Grimes and has a better vert even. He just needs to get his head right – which may not happen I guess. Really confused by him falling off a cliff last year…especially after looking good in preseason

  29. Pickgrin Says:

    “There is zero evidence the current defensive staff can develop a young corner”

    Ryan Smith visibly progressed in 2017. Justin Evans obviously got better with playing time last year and looks to have a very bright future.

    You’re take here is off base Joe. This is a “Hargreaves thing” and its up to Vernon to fix it if its going to get fixed. Fingers crossed VH3 comes back raring to work and gives 100% towards his development/learning this year.

    Its just my suspicion mind you – but my guess is Hargreaves didn’t put in the hours nor commitment he could/should have last offseason. When things started going wrong quickly in the regular season – Vernon lost confidence – thus losing his aggressive nature which is one of his best natural attributes. It was kind of down hill from there and then he got hurt…. and lost his chance to “rebound” at the end of the year like a lot of good players do.

    This is a VERY important off season for VH3 and I hope he gives it 1000% in terms of doing all he can to improve his game heading into next TC and season.

  30. Bucsfanman Says:

    Pick- This year for VHIII is pretty much ‘make or break’. Lets pray the Bucs address the enormous black hole that is our pass-rush. It might be the elixir that kicks this dude in the fanny. At least we have to hope, anyway.

  31. 813bucboi Says:

    gotta agree with joe……

    this defensive staff cant develop cb’s to save their life…..

    you fools claim VHG shouldn’t have been a 1st round pick are just idiots….VHG had the best skill of ball skills and technique of all the cb’s coming out in his class….

    yall talking about speed and height-The 2016 NFL Combine concludes today in Indianapolis with the defensive backs participating in drills, notably the forty-yard dash.•Vernon Hargreaves, Florida: 5’10” 204 30 5/8 (arm) 8 3/4 (hand) – 4.41…..•Ryan Smith, North Carolina Central: 5’11” 189 30 1/2 (arm) 8 7/8 (hand) – 4.49…..(jetswire)

    but yeah he’s short and slow…..

    if smitty would try playing to the strength of his players and play man press you would see a big difference…..everyone saw how much better he played when he was up at the LOS…..GO BUCS!!!!

  32. Bucsfanman Says:

    813- Smitty literally said that he left it to the DBs as to how they lined up. Hargreaves played scared and it showed.
    Now, you can disagree that he’s short and slow but his on-field performance in 2017 says otherwise.
    Because he’s a Buc, I truly hope he rebounds, but I’m going to call a spade a spade. He stunk.

  33. 813bucboi Says:

    Bucsfanman Says:
    January 17th, 2018 at 1:14 pm
    813- Smitty literally said that he left it to the DBs as to how they lined up

    so you mean to tell me smitty witnessed VHG struggling and never thought to instruct him to play at the LOS?…..

    or you mean to tell me smitty was just fine with the way he played?

    or you mean to tell me smitty was comfortable letting VHG and the defense “die slow”…..

    C’MON MAN!!!!!…..THATS BS….that’s smitty’s scheme…..he was forcing a scheme on smith and VHG…the only cb that performs well playing soft/off coverage is a 35 year old vet that has seen it all…..GO BUCS!!!!!

  34. LUVMYBUCS Says:


    No doubt brotha

  35. Bucsfanman Says:

    @813- Dude! We watched this defense get torched over and over and over and nothing ever changed.
    Somewhere, Smitty is quoted that he gives his DBs leeway as to how they want to line up in certain packages.
    I agree that scheme plays a big part in it but you said it yourself, Grimes did OK. What was Vernon’s problem?
    Don’t kill the messenger bro!
    Bottom line is VHIII struggled AND Smitty’s defense stinks!

  36. Bucsfanman Says:

    I don’t know why you won’t admit that he struggled. Scheme or not, he forget how to cover people?!
    Sorry man. It’s not JUST Smitty’s fault that he struggled.

  37. bucs_365 Says:

    The lack of success for young Bucs corners might just be attributable to the players themselves.

    VH3 is just short and slowish. Ryan Smith is still raw after spending his rookie year as a safety. I expect Hargreaves will become a good slot CB. Smith could still develop into a decent CB going into his 2nd year there. Regardless, the team can’t count on either of them as starters going into next year.

    I’m interested in seeing what Maurice Fleming can do – he was a Hard Knocks storyline who got hurt and released. They resigned him to a futures contract.

  38. JimmyJack Says:

    This is why I won’t mind seeing us draft this Fitzpatrick guy. Been hearing he has elite potential. I think we gotta wish for Chubb first. 2nd choice is tough between Barkley and Nelson. If all those guys are gone we still by a much needed addition with the corner.

    If all four are gone there should be some QBs still there and hopefully a team wanting to trade down(or is it up?) for our pick………Lots of good options for our spot. Will be exciting(it the most excitement TB fans get) to see how it will unfold.

  39. Duke Says:


    So you’re suggesting that CB’ s play Man press? You do realize that the defensive front isn’t great at getting to the QB. I’m asking what else can you add to the idea. Playing press is awfully popular, but with out a better pass rush it’s pretty f in stupid!

  40. Rod Munch Says:

    I don’t get why the Joe’s suddenly love McClain – I watched the games as well and the guy wasn’t that much better than Ryan Smith – and Ryan Smith is the worst corner I’ve ever seen, ever. McClain shouldn’t be more than maybe a 4th or 5th corner, but ideally you’d have younger guys in those slots if they had talent. Ryan Smith should for now be restricted purely to special teams and not be on the field otherwise, he’s terrible.

    Also Joe I disagree a bit on Grimes, he was playing well, but I thought I saw a pretty good sized downgrade from the way he played in 2016. I’m not putting it all on him as the defensive line and S play was insanely terrible for the most part (S play mainly meaning Conte), but Grimes wasn’t quite the guy he was in 2016 when he legitimately was a pro-bowl player and a case could be made he was an all-pro level guy – I didn’t see that this last season.

    I’m not sure what is happening with VH3, but I’m expecting/hoping he gets back to where he was in 2016 – I don’t know why he had the sudden fall off – and he was fine in preseason and opening day, it all happened during that Vikings game and he just didn’t recover. But he’ll be back and hopefully be better. Also J Evans at S, he had a very very rough preseason but once it was gametime he played fairly well for a rookie S, assuming he continues to improve he shouldn’t be a liability in year 2. Grimes, if he comes back, obviously he’s your #1 corner, but literally everyone else in the secondary could change and the team would be better for it.