December 2nd, 2018

Bucs DB coach discusses grooming rookies, coaching through injuries.

The Bucs defense has been better of late.

No, it won’t remind anyone of the 2002 Bucs, but it’s no longer on pace for a 99-year NFL record worst defense.

Baby steps.

Since Mark Duffner took replaced fired defensive coordinator Mike Smith, the Bucs are second in the NFL in sacks (22). And the team is no longer getting lit up for 30 points… regularly.

The coach who may have had the biggest mountains to climb to get the Bucs game-day ready is defensive backs coach Jon Hoke. Not only did Hoke have three rookies dropped in his lap and was ordered to develop them quickly, Vernon Hargreaves and Chris Conte were lost for the season. Justin Evans and Brent Grimes have missed games, and today corners Carlton Davis and M.J. Stewart will not suit up because of injuries.

Still, the defense has improved. True, it could only have gotten better.

“They are challenges,” Hoke said of dealing with both rookies and injuries. “But there are challenges all the time. This is just a little bit different because you have all the rookies. Then we had some injuries and had to move guys around a little bit.

“But I will say this: They have embraced every opportunity. They have done a good job. They have stayed focused trying to do a good job. The challenge is because they are new and inexperienced and then you get guys playing different roles.”

It might be too easy to point to Smith’s firing as the reason for the defensive improvement. Dirk Koetter seemed to think more pressure up front has been the key. So Joe asked Hoke if the rookies are just getting comfortable in the NFL or perhaps the defense after injuries and accident, found a right combination of players to run the defense Duffner and his assistants want.

“Sometimes it has been a little bit of both,” Hoke said. “I attribute a lot of it as guys getting a lot of reps and learning and figuring it out. It is a whole different game than college football the way we play. And, it is different from the guys you are going against. It is a little bit of [rookies] learning how to play, learning what to expect and getting used to the speed of it and the concepts being taught.”

The biggest thing Hoke said rookie defensive backs must learn is they’re facing multiple playmakers including the guy behind center, unlike in college where a team might have none.

“Just the quality of receivers and the quality of quarterbacks,” Hoke said. “I mean, you may go one week in college where [an opponent] they don’t have a great quarterback or doesn’t have a great receiver. Here? Every team has talent and they all have talent at the quarterback position.

“So, that is a big difference for them. Just to see how fast it is and how good the receivers are and seeing how and where the quarterback can put the ball.”

Granted, two rookies won’t be on the field today. But it will be interesting to guage whether he defense truly made strides or just took advantage of subpar opponents. The Stinking Panthers are anything but subpar.

12 Responses to “Challenges”

  1. Tampabaybucfan Says:

    There will be those who think I am crazy…..but my defensive gameplan would call for Jordan Whitehead to go man against McCafferty……and I mean on every play……stick on him like glue…..Whitehead is fast enough, has good instincts and can tackle.
    Then I would put Adarius Taylor on Newton…..every play…..blitz….get in the backfield….sit back and key on his runs.

    If we get beat by the pass….so be it….but don’t let these two guys beat us on the ground.

  2. WutdaBucisthis Says:

    BUCS 28
    Panthers 21

  3. El Buco Realisto Says:

    Soft part of the schedule!!!!!!!!!

    Go Bucs!!!!!!!!!!!!

  4. Dooshlarue Says:

    That’s what our DB coach looks like?
    I think I gave him some pocket change outside of Winn Dixie last week.

  5. Not there yet Says:

    Being rookies is no excuse when that’s the route you chose while overpaying for a guy contemplating retirement. No excuses so I surely don’t want to hear them now, could have signed a veteran. You do have guys you’ve been coaching but the fact that the team is playing rookies over them proves you suck as a coach. Yea take guys with no experience over someone like Ryan smith and others because we don’t really coach players up around here anyway

  6. Alanbucsfan Says:

    DLine is playing better –
    If Bucs continue to eliminate turnovers, wins will come.

  7. El_Buc941 Says:

    @Dooshlarue LMFAO. I thought the same like wtf?mabe it’s cause these guys are the true coaches behind the cameras. My respects to the man for being able to pull something together out of the scrap pile.

  8. bucsnole Says:

    Tampabaybucfan – who do you put on Olsen????
    I think Funchess is out for today – not certain

  9. Larry Says:

    They will miss Carlton Davis for sure. MJ Stewart is too slow to even be in the NFL. He needs a try out at safety, IF he can tackle. Grimes best days are far behind him. The secondary needs a major make over this off season. The last draft didn’t do the trick. The Bucs need a game wrecking safety.

  10. stpetebucsfan Says:


    I don’t think you’re crazy at all and like your strategy. My biggest fear is getting Cam on the ground….dude is a monster and I long ago lost count of how many times teams did a good job of preparing for him…get him cornered…only to have him run through the tackles.

    I think we are just discovering our defensive potential. We ALL of course had hopes that JPP was still the real deal. Obviously those hopes have been answered. Nassib has been the diamond in the rough….Vea is a first round pick and is finally playing like one and appears to be healthy at last…and GMC may have lost a step…he’s getting long in the tooth…but he is still a very talented DT….NO NOT SAPP but he’s not a liability when he doesn’t have to be the lead dog.

    Now if all those FA’s Licht signed in the off season turn out we’ll have some depth as well.

    BTW If anybody is holding their breath waiting for ANYBODY working for the Bucs to slam Smitty’s D….take a deep breath.

    The NFL is a good ole boys club and nobody’s gonna trash another club member. However the absence of excuses or defense of Smitty seems pretty damning to me.

  11. Tampabaybucfan Says:

    I’m putting another LB on Olsen or Evans……let the CBs fend for themselves….but we simply can’t let them run on us…..

  12. BucEmUp Says:

    This defense sucks