Mike Smith Talks Quick Fix

July 30th, 2018

The Sage of Tampa Bay sports went 1-on-1 with defensive coordinator Mike Smith


Whether you’re a gymnast or a defensive coordinator, flexibility is a beautiful thing.

Mike Smith wants no part of a pommel horse, but he can’t wait to showcase his horses up front this fall.

With five new gladiators at his beck and call, Smith is eager to unleash hell on unsuspecting quarterbacks.

“The game is won on the line of scrimmage,” Smith said when I took him aside after a recent Bucs practice. “Always has been and always will be. It’s about winning the line of scrimmage.

“You knock guys back and it’s going to create opportunities for linebackers to run through. In the back end, everything changes with a good pass rush because things get sped up and the quarterback has to get the ball out of his hands.”

We’re very early in training camp, but the versatility of Tampa Bay’s defensive front is already on display. Veteran Jason Pierre-Paul looks like a third-round steal, creating havoc at both ends and even at tackle.

“Jason’s very long, with great speed, and he’s been studying,” Smith says. “You can tell. He’s also very flexible in terms of where he can rush. That’s not common in this league. He has the ability to rush off either side and Vinny Curry is also a threat from the outside or from the interior.”

Smith spent much of the offseason ruminating about his group’s struggles to get off the field. The Bucs finished last in 2017 after leading the NFL in third-down defense the prior season. That’s an astonishing plunge.

“I think we can fix it,” Smith says. “There are 12-to-15 of those every game and they are critical plays. We’ll have more pressure on the quarterback and we’ll cover better. We weren’t good last year in any of the third-down distances … none. Third-and-9 is supposed to be to your advantage — you should win that 90 percent of the time, and we didn’t.”

Restoring Disguise

You get the sense from talking to both Smith and Brentson Buckner that they know they hold the key to the Buc kingdom in their hands.

Last year, it was a skeleton key. Teams knew the Bucs couldn’t get it done up front, so Smith’s blitzes didn’t fool anyone.

That’s a big reason why Lavonte David didn’t register a single sack.

The element of surprise needs to be restored.

“I want to have the final choice on blitzing,” Smith says. “I don’t want it to be because we’re not getting there on a 4-man rush. When you have to blitz all the time, you’re putting a lot of pressure on your back-end guys.”

Too much pressure.

15 Starters

This year is supposed to be different. When you drop seven defenders into coverage, you have more resources downfield to deal with Julio Jones and Antonio Brown. Brent Grimes and Justin Evans feel more confident about jumping a route.

It all starts with the quarterback hunters. Six months removed from a Super Bowl triumph, Curry likes what he sees.

“We had a great group and we rotated every four plays,” he said, referring to Philadelphia’s deep defensive front. “We’re building that here. We’ve got just as much talent on our defensive line in Tampa that we had in Philly. Winning is contagious. It comes down to discipline and how much you want it.”

Smith wants it bad. He wants to restore his reputation as a sharp defensive mind, knowing another abysmal showing this fall will likely cost him his job.

“We’ve got a bunch of flexibility on our side of the ball,” Smith says. “We’d like to have 15 guys we feel are starters on this defense.”

Buc fans will believe it when they see it. That’s the way it should be. Right now, it’s just talk.

The word of the day is “flexibility.” Let’s see what tomorrow brings.

Now in his 40th year covering the NFL, Ira Kaufman is the most revered sports personality and writer in the Tampa Bay area. He scored a full-time seat at JoeBucsFan.com world headquarters in July of 2016. Tampa Bay’s only Pro Football Hall of Fame voter, Ira busts out columns here every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and his award winning podcasts fire Tuesdays and Thursdays. You can also hear Ira on SiriusXM Mad Dog Radio Wednesdays at 5 p.m. during football season. Also a TV start, see Ira now on Mondays at 10:30 p.m. on Spectrum Sports 360 (aka BayNews 9). Ira also is part of the FOX-13 Tailgate Sunday NFL show and enjoys beet salads, Riesling, Chiefs victories and needling Joe.

20 Responses to “Mike Smith Talks Quick Fix”

  1. Bucsfanman Says:

    Nobody will be or should be scrutinized more than DC Smith. Get it right coach.

  2. Defense Rules Says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you Ira for a POSITIVE look at what this defense has the potential to become this year. Gets old hearing descriptors like ‘gutless and ‘ugly’ used to describe what was not too long ago one of the best NFL defenses EVER.

  3. Dirty Bucs Says:

    I expect the defense to be much better this year. Note I said EXPECT. I’ll be much happier watching Bucs games when I’m not expecting to lose 3rd downs to the opposing offense. We should expect to get off the field on 3rd down, and be surprised when we don’t…not the other way around.

    Let’s do work, boys!

  4. stpetebucsfan Says:

    If the defense looks as good on the field as it does on paper…and we get an OL that can block..it won’t matter who plays QB.

  5. TheDailyAutopsy Says:

    “ This game is won on the line of scrimmage. Always has been, always will be .”, Mike Smith
    That’s what I said when the box passed on Aaron Donald and took Mike Evans.

  6. m0j0 Says:

    Buckner was a key hire, and he will help resurrect this defense. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that we loaded up on D-Line talent.

  7. m0j0 Says:

    TheDailyAutopsy, I too called for Donald, as it was clear he had Sapp like ability. However, selecting Evans was my #2 choice and that has worked out well for the Bucs so far!

  8. Buccfan37 Says:

    Seeing is believing, what I’ve seen from Mike Smith led Buc defenses since he arrived I ain’t believing. This certainly is his make or break year.

  9. 813bucboi Says:

    We’ve got just as much talent on our defensive line in Tampa that we had in Philly.

    glad curry put that B.S. to rest…..came straight from the horses mouth…..the talent is there….the coaching, not so much…..


  10. The Buc Realist Says:

    Soon Joe, the sheep and the so-called fans will learn that the defense was just depleted after all the injuries last year!!!!!!! The defense was ordered to die the slow death was by design to hopefully have the offense out score teams last year!!!!!!! That why they saw so much prevent lite defense run!!!!!!!!! The defense roster still is not quite there, but Coach Smitty can cover up holes as we saw in 2016!!!!!!!!!!

  11. Lucious Selmon Says:

    “Whether you’re a gymnast or a defensive coordinator, flexibility is a beautiful thing.”

    Mike Smith is kind of attractive, I guess. I’d rather watch the girls on the balance beam, myself.

  12. Lucious Selmon Says:

    “We’ve got just as much talent on our defensive line in Tampa that we had in Philly.”
    ~ Vincent Curry

    Straight from the horse’s mouth! I officially just got excited for the first time since the draft.

  13. Mike Johnson Says:

    Yep..Ira..All talk. Us Buc fans want to see less verbalization and more implementation!! We want WINS..By any means necessary. At this point the only thing we are gonna accept is WINNING> No moral points. No points for gallantry or Courage. Don’t tell us how rocky the ocean is..Bring the GD Ship in with Wins baby!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  14. I’m a Tandyman Bucs Fan Says:

    I’m with Bucsfanman. Smith screwed it all up last year!!! Playing the wrong people, having corners play soft on receivers, etc…That’s why they ended up being ranked 32nd. With the studs he’s got this year if he doesn’t get it right. I’m flying to Tampa and strong arm the Glazers into getting rid of his arse!!! The. Bucs defense this year should be damn good!

  15. rrsrq Says:

    3rd and 9, but you play off 15 yards, mmmm,

  16. Buccaneer Bonzai Says:

    This is a team built to make a Superbowl run.

    People may be skeptical now, but in 2 months, everyone will have become a believer.

  17. Buccaneer Bonzai Says:

    I’m a Tandyman Bucs Fan Says
    “I’m with Bucsfanman. Smith screwed it all up last year!!”

    There can be no denying that his defense was horrid last year.

    But if we consider the reasons objectively, we know it was not Smith’s fault.

  18. Darin Says:

    You call plays depending on your personnel and opponent coach. My goodness. Your back end guys will get toasted regardless if given too much time. Should have blitzed much much more last year. Terrible coaching. I hope he has some sort of fix this year because he is much better than what he has shown, at least we all hope.

  19. I’m a Tandyman Bucs Fan Says:

    Who you blaming it on then Buccaneer Bonzai????

  20. Destinjohnny Says:

    We totally upgraded the line that’s for sure.
    Secondary is close to being the worse in the nfl though.
    The d line should be a blast to watch