Mark Duffner Vs. Mike Smith

December 9th, 2018

Hidden differences.

Yes, we know the Bucs have been playing better defense with Mark Duffner as the defensive coordinator as opposed to defrocked defensive coordinator Mike Smith.

The obvious differences are pressure on quarterbacks and takeaways. But Jenna Laine of ESPN uncovered three elements of Duffner’s defense that may not be so obvious to the naked eye.

In short, it is Duffner’s secondary packages Duffner, where he positions players both in the box and in the defensive backfield.

The Bucs now use their dime package heavily on third down (they used it for all eight of the Panthers’ third-down attempts last week), and they have improved significantly in this area. In five games under Smith this season, they allowed opponents a 42.9 percent third-down conversion percentage. Under Duffner, that number has dropped to 33.3 percent — tied for third best in the league.

Under Duffner, the defense has been more active near the line of scrimmage. Cornerbacks are continuing to play “off coverage” but with far less cushion. For example, against the Atlanta Falcons, corners were giving Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley a full 10 yards of cushion, which made them more susceptible to easy completions underneath. Under Duffner, it has been closer to seven yards at the most, allowing cornerbacks to better disrupt the routes of receivers.

Has it worked? Under Smith, opposing quarterbacks completed a league-high 76.8 percent of passes. Under Duffner, that number has gone down to 68.4 percent — still not desirable, but an improvement nonetheless. Also under Duffner the defense has played 115 snaps loaded (eight players close to the line of scrimmage) — 27.57 percent. Under Smith they played 71 snaps loaded (19.88 percent).

The 10-yard cushions Smith gave opposing wide receivers bordered on idiotic, even for flag football standards. Joe’s pretty sure even coaches in the Pasco County High School summer flag football leagues wouldn’t give receivers that kind of cushion.

Julio Jones or Michael Thomas or Antonio Brown getting 10-yard cushions, what the hell did anyone think was going to happen?

We will find out in a few hours if this defensive rebound is the real deal or just a fluke.

12 Responses to “Mark Duffner Vs. Mike Smith”

  1. Defense Rules Says:

    Interesting analysis by Jenna on this one Joe. And agree with you 100% … a 10-yd cushion was ridiculous (it mostly indicated to me that Smitty didn’t trust his Secondary to be able to keep up with the better receivers in the league, nor did he trust his DLine to pressure opposing QBs). But Paul Harvey used to in essence say that there was more to the story, and I personally think there is. Much more.

    Smitty feared the run IMO, and that’s what he focused on FIRST with the DLine. As an example, we held the Saints to only 43 yds rushing in our first meeting this season, but got eaten alive by Drew Brees’ passing (432 yds). Duff has modified that focus considerably. Our defense has given up over MORE 60 yds rushing YPG on the average, BUT the defense has given up 140 YPG FEWER passing yds on average. That’s a good trade-off IMO … UNTIL you meet up with a great rushing team. Then it takes some refocusing to keep from letting them have you for lunch.

    Duffner has also changed Secondary composition on various downs/situations considerably it turns out (according to an excellent article that was on yesterday). Duff used Adams as both a safety and as a sort of LB in different situations (love creative solutions). It worked obviously (largely because of the DLine pressuring Cam relentlessly). Hopefully we see more of those ‘creative solutions’ today against the Saints.

  2. Tampabaybucfan Says:

    I am concerned about the NO running game….glad we have LVD back but need Kwon…….remember the first game they didn’t have Ingram….our defense will have to be very stout.
    As for the Offense……..don’t turn it over.

  3. Conte Piscatelli Says:

    I think the move to more dime on 3rd down had been a big help. Our linebackers were getting killed in pass coverage, and I feel like the additional DB on passing downs has helped in that area.

  4. 941bucsfan Says:

    Hey Joe lets see if they play close to julio and ridley this time around… keep in mind duffner has not faced an offense like pittsburgh, atlanta or new orleans yet… lets hold off on those stats, yea we played close coverage against the browns, 49ers, cam with a bum shoulder,. But remember what happened when dalton needed to pass they were back playing 10 yards off AJ green and Tyler boyd. Long story short, duffner hasnt even played ANY offenses even remotely Near to the talent that Mike Smith has faced and He was on the Road AT Atlanta, AT New orleans, and on prime time against big ben. If the weather permits, drew brees will throw for nearly 400yds today. And I know for a fact the cusion in coverage will be back in action against some real WRs

  5. Slugglife Says:

    We just need the defense to play average and we win.

    Above average and we run away with it. They can’t stop our offense.

  6. Slugglife Says:

    That’s rich. One day Newton says he’s playing the best football of his career, then he throws four picks in a loss, where he also threw TDs, and we won due to his “bum shoulder?

    This fan base really sucks.

  7. Buccaneer Bonzai Says:

    Xan anyone refresh my memory? Monte Kiffin had them playing man, but with a five yard cushion at the line. Am I remembering right?

  8. BUCS BAGIJ Says:

    The DB’s are definitely playing looser and more aggressively. Before Duffner, when opposing receivers caught the ball, there was not a DB on the screen, and I have a HUGE screen. Lately, throws to the receivers are being contested.

  9. Buccaneer Bonzai Says:

    Today’s game is the true test. If we pull out a win here, we can win out. I don’t care how we win, so long as we win.

    Today, to me, is also Duffner’s job interview.

    And it would be nice if Rojo played and had his first big game running.

  10. TouchDownTampaBay Says:

    941 Smitty was the DC when we played Cleveland.

  11. D1 Says:


    You asking about the Bucs when Monte was DC?
    I’m sure you are but it doesn’t hurt to verify.

    I’d yes, the scheme that the d played , cover 2, the corners line up 5 yds from the LOS.
    So you’re 100% correct. The only thing is that they didn’t play man often. When they did , the percentages were in favor of the same 5yd alignment. Someone may recall a game that is opposite of that but that’s not the norm.

  12. BucEmUp Says:

    everyone has to be accountable for their man to beat the saints. Continue blitzing, tighter coverage and smart offense.

    Today will be wet and windy. Lots of opportunities for.both defenses. If mistakes are limited it will be a coaching matchup. I hope Dirk uses his challenges and timeouts wisely.