Crash Course

May 20th, 2019


Todd Bowles deserves a bigger toolbox.

When he accepted an invitation to become Tampa Bay’s new defensive coordinator, Bowles began examining the weapons at his disposal.

He had every reason to believe Jason Pierre-Paul would return to anchor his pass rush. There was also a realistic chance that Kendell Beckwith, who enjoyed an outstanding rookie season in 2017, would return from a car crash that fractured his ankle and forced him to miss all of last year.

Instead, Beckwith’s NFL career is likely over and JPP’s fractured neck vertebrae will keep him out until at least November … best-case scenario.

Two automobile mishaps, almost a year apart, have jeopardized the future of two key players and made the hardening of this soft defense far more challenging.

Life changed quickly for Todd Bowles and GM Jason Licht

The ramifications of Pierre-Paul’s injury have dominated local headlines, with good reason. Even with JPP enjoying a big first year in Tampa, this pass rush needed a serious upgrade.

How good could the pressure have been if opposing quarterbacks completed 72.5 percent of their throws? The 2018 Bucs were limited to two sacks or less in nine of 16 games.

During a 1-7 stretch that destroyed a promising start, Tampa Bay registered only two takeaways. That’s two forced turnovers in half a season.

So yes, Pierre-Paul’s absence is significant.

Kendell Beckwith

But make no mistake — Beckwith could have been a very useful player in a more aggressive scheme installed by Bowles and his staff of 31 assistants. Buc fans haven’t forgotten just how effective Beckwith was after joining the team as a third-round pick out of LSU. He started nine games as a rookie, posting 73 tackles, including 7 tackles for loss, and added a sack and a forced fumble.

In a Thursday night loss against the Patriots, Beckwith was all over the field before a national TV audience, turning in 14 stops against the eventual AFC champions.

He played outside, he played inside, and he never looked out of place, no matter where he lined up.

That promising career was shattered on April 12, 2018, when Beckwith’s Camaro, driven by a former LSU teammate, veered off the road and crashed into a fence.

Beckwith needed surgery and he never regained enough mobility and strength in his ankle to return last season. Now, he’s been placed on the Reserve/Non-Football Injury List and he has probably made his final tackle.

“I’m continuing to work and get it as strong as I can,” Beckwith said in the middle of last season. “I’m gonna roll. I’m not gonna let that hold me back.”

But a widely anticipated comeback wasn’t to be.

Major Adjustment

Beckwith could have been a nice piece in the Bowles arsenal. He could have lined up inside next to rookie LSU linebacker Devin White when the Bucs were in a 3-4 base, keeping Lavonte David on his accustomed right side.

Now the plan is to move David toward the middle of the field, a change which will require a major adjustment.

Yes, the Bucs have been dealt quite a blow by the rules of the road. A pair of one-car accidents has robbed them of two major components in a defense that could ill afford critical setbacks.

With Pierre-Paul and Beckwith in the mix, Bowles had a fighting chance to make this defense respectable. He would have had options and the flexibility to create favorable matchups.

Without them, the Bucs have to hope they can find some new additions at the end of training camp, when teams shed veterans because of age or salary concerns.

Two players, two car crashes.

Too, too sad.

27 Responses to “Crash Course”

  1. Dusthty Rhothdes Says:

    Good article, but I hope everyone realizes due to how the NFL is basically an offensive passing league that the bucs lining up in a “traditional 3-4” is going to be maybe a handful of plays per game. You line up in a traditional 3-4 and drew brees will send kamara on a wheel route for 90 yds per play. Every QB and RB that can catch in the nfl will do that against a mismatch…bucs are going to be running a defense with 5-6 dbs each series for better or worse

  2. unbelievable Says:

    Pretty spot on Ira, though I’m not sure how much they were actually banking on Beckwith being available, given his slow recovery process.

    The loss of JPP is huge. Add in not having GMC either, and this D-line looks thin as rice on paper. What was the stat, something like 23 sacks last year from GMC, JPP, and Curry who are all gone now?

    Guess we’re all praying that Bowles turns into a magician.

    Also, who are the rest of our starting linebackers? Who are their backups?

    It’s Jason Licht’s 6th year and we still have holes at almost every position on the roster besides QB, TE and WR. How is that even possible?

  3. 813bucboi Says:

    its sad but its next man….cant sit and real sorry for yourself…

    bowles will be able to develop the defensive players along with putting them in position to be successful…..the DB’s we drafted wont be forced to play in a scheme that doesnt fit their skill set…..

    dirk and smitty took bucs nation on a crash course, what not to do as HC and how to win 5games……

    we have better coaching in place now!!!!!

    GO BUCS!!!!!

  4. Dapostman Says:

    Jimmy Chitwood is not coming to save the Hickory Huskers. This is your team. No Beckwith and maybe no JPP for 2019. No sense dwelling on the past when the future is in sight. Save woulda, coulda, shoulda for another day.

  5. 813bucboi Says:


    im slightly frustrated with licht as well, but the lack of development by players is why we still have holes which is also the reason why licht was spared and not tossed overboard….

    GO BUCS!!!!!

  6. ncbucsfan Says:

    Lavonte is going to be up for DPOY in Bowles defense. Lavonte played a stack-linebacker position at Nebraska and was a DOG in that defense. He jumped off the film. If Beckwith was healthy we wouldn’t have drafted Devin White and Lavonte still would’ve been starting inside. The assessment of Lavonte playing outside if Beckwith was healthy is completely wrong. Show me even one starting 6’1″, 230lb outside linebacker in a 3-4 in the entire league!!! There isn’t!! Trust me, he is inside either way.

  7. GhostofSchiano Says:

    I just checked the current Bucs roster. Currently we have roughly 17 linebackers and 18 corners / safeties. Of course that number will be whittled down as the season draws near. It’s the defensive line that had less than ten players WTH?

    Maybe someday someone at one Buc place will decide to really FIX THE TRENCHES.

    not a sheep

  8. The Buc Realist Says:

    These coaches and front office got exactly the roster they wanted to get!!!!!!!! Is anyone trying to suggest that ole stale biscuit did not know the D-line was old and overpriced??????? They could have done any number of moves in free-agency or the draft, and they did exactly what they wanted!!!!!!!!!!!!!! NO EXCUSES!!!!!!!!!!!!!! And it does not matter how they were the most injured defense last year, or how JPP slapped around she-mc for the crown!!!!!!!!!! They can pick thru all the garbage and dumpster dive through all the cut-down days and call those rejects the heart and soul of toilet Bolwes’s defense!!!!!!!!!

    How long????? Not Long!!!!!!!!! Because what you reap!!!!! Is what you SOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    2019 will reveal answers to the sheep, that the “real” fans already know!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    GO Bucs!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  9. GhostofSchiano Says:

    Read it and weep

  10. Tampabaybucfan Says:

    These two accidents are purely bad luck……$hit happens…..usually when there is news on a player in the off-season….it’s bad news…..some sort of accident or legal trouble.

    The situation with JPP is very concerning….we simply can’t keep him….spend a ton of money on the “hopes” that he will return and be effective….we need to move on…..

  11. Jim Says:

    Question: “It’s Jason Licht’s 6th year and we still have holes at almost every position on the roster besides QB, TE and WR. How is that even possible?”

    Answer: Licht is tied to Winston’s success, hence #WEAPONS4WISTON, and the subsequent failure to build a solid, balanced team. Add in some real bad luck and now you have a problem.

  12. Maze Says:

    Beckwith should sue

  13. 813bucboi Says:

    OMG its realist getting exposed again!!!!!!!!!!!

    The Buc Realist Says:
    September 20th, 2018 at 8:01 am
    The Bucs are winning with the potential of the Defense playing well in games to come!!!!!! The “real” fans don’t want this team to peak to early!!!!!!! If both sides of the ball can “fluke” /carry this team then that will get you to double digit wins!!!!!!!!!!!!! Like the “real” fans have been saying!!!! Watch out for this defense in the back half of the season!!!!!!!!!
    #trust the coaches!!!!!!!! Fix the “real” problem!!! the roster!!!!!!!!!!!!

    LOL……they “peaked” in week2 and then we watched the defense fold like smittys paper back diary!!!!!!!!!……

    how is it that the defense was so good then(the first 2weeks of the season) and now they’re old and overpriced?…lol….stop making excuses for dirk and smitty….they both failed and got canned….smitty was so trash he got canned mid season….

    Bowles will “DEVELOP” the defense unlike smitty aka mr coach my soft zone scheme!!!!!!…..

    1 teams trash is another teams treasure!!!!!!…..

    we’ll be sure to leave smitty at the bottom of the trash can while we’re “dumpster diving”….lol…..


  14. Tony LA Says:

    The logic just isn’t there.
    JPP was on the field when they were getting only two turnovers in 8 games.
    He was on the field in all of those games where they registered two or fewer sacks as a team.

    His impact was essentially meaningless. 5-11 the season before without him. 5-11 with him (in the season they had a better offense).

    I the Bucs had made the playoffs with him and he had been in the DPOY convo, then maybe I get all the whining and tear shedding. That was simply not the case.

    Injuries happen to EVERY team. The Steelers would love to have Shazier back in November. It’s next man up. The team has better coaching now. No question.

    THAT’swhat will make the real difference.

  15. Defense Rules Says:

    @ncbucsfan … ” If Beckwith was healthy we wouldn’t have drafted Devin White.” I was thinking exactly the same thing when I read Ira’s article. But in Bucsville, if we didn’t have bad luck we wouldn’t have any at all.

    With the Bucs transitioning to more of a hybrid 3-4 defense, I wonder if JPP’s numbers would be as high this season as they were last season. JPP played 933 defensive snaps (89% of the total defensive snaps). That’s Webster’s definition of a BEAST I’m pretty sure. But realistically, even he was 100% healthy, I question whether he’d even come close to that many snaps in Bowles’ defense. Two NY Jets DLinemen had an extremely high % of defensive snaps last year: Leonard Williams 867 snaps (77%) and Henry Anderson 668 snaps (60%) … both are big durable DLinemen (300 lb range), both played in all 16 games. That’s considerably less than JPP’s 89%.

  16. Darin Says:

    Time to move on. Theyll be fine with or without them. Sounds like the Bucs front office needs to have a free driving lesson give away day, or month.

  17. Jimmy Says:

    >>> The ramifications of Pierre-Paul’s injury have dominated local headlines, with good reason. Even with JPP enjoying a big first year in Tampa, this pass rush needed a serious upgrade. <<<

    Wait, wait, wait a minute! Weren't you the guy Ira that was screaming at Joe on your podcast the Bucs needed an inside linebacker at No. 5 instead of a defensive lineman? Either you are playing both sides of the fence or you need to apologize to Joe!

  18. Lord Cornelius Says:

    We need at least 2 stud corners to emerge out of the last few years of drafts basically and another 2-3 very serviceable secondary players at nickle/S. That’s basically the Licht gamble for 2019.

    If we can go from worst coverage team in the NFL to at least average or better than average then we can easily manufacture pressure and get away with it / be at least an average D or better – which would be a HUGE improvement.

    Pats have done that style of defense more than having elite edge guys. They have historically prioritized coverage/ flexibility over freak edge rushers.

    Last year they only had 30 sacks with their two leading guys having 7.5 / 4.5. They were 7th in points given up.

    In 2017 they had 42 sacks, but the top 2 guys were at 6.5 / 5.5 with Kyle Van Noy (LB) being the 2nd guy. They were 5th in points given up.

    They are basically the formula but we need Todd Bowles to be Bill Bellicheck lol.

    Ideally Sean Bunting is just amazing and pushes VHIII to nickle, or vice versa with those guys, and Davis can be one of the better #2’s in his 2nd year on the outside. And if anyone goes down we have Dean/Ryan Smith as 4/5 at least for hope. Smith was our best rated corner last year per PFF actually.

    Then Evans can get healthy and improve while Edwards or Whitehead step up along side him as legit average starters or better

  19. Cobraboy Says:

    I don’t buy the “the Bucs won’t be able to rush the QB because JPP went down, so all is doomed” line of Fantasy Football Forecasting.

    Fact is the Bucs were the softest coverage team in the league in 2018. They were easy pickings, but not because of a poor pass rush, but because receivers were wide open at the snap of the ball and didn’t have to develop.

    Tighter coverages by itself will make QB’s hold the ball a little longer, maybe .5-1 second, and THAT is what could create more “pressure” on the QB.

    Certainly, a player like JPP will be missed, but I am not ready to say this team will have a poor D as in 2018 yet.

  20. gotbbucs Says:

    The defense was horrible with both GMC and JPP on the field, so tell me again how this defense is that much worse without them?
    We’re down 21 sacks from last year…yada yada yada. Gave up 72.5% passing…yada yada yada.
    Is any of the local media considering that maybe, just maybe, the scheme was the biggest part of the problem? Licht has been collecting multi-scheme defensive players for the last three or four years and the previous staff had no idea how to use them.
    I’ll wait and see what a defensive staff with a little bit of imagination can do with what we’ve got before I concede that the sky is falling.
    I contend that losing the overpaid vets will lead to some cream coming to the top and the defensive staff being allowed to experiment with who’s on the roster. GMC and JPP are traditional 43 players, they pigeonhole the defense.

  21. Defense Rules Says:

    Lord C … I’m seeing a lot of HOPE in that defensive improvement scenario. Pats’ defense works because the key players are very experienced in Belicheck’s defense IMO. Devin McCourty (S), Chung (S), Hightower (LB), Van Noy (LB), Roberts (LB), Brown (DE/DT), Flowers (DE/DT) have all been starters/key rotational players for 3 years or more. And when you’ve got CBs like Stephon Gilmore, Jason McCourty & Malcolm Butler to go with them, that’s a pretty experienced defense with some strong leadership in all position groups.

    I’m HOPEFUL that the Bucs can eventually get to that point, but we’re starting a long ways behind teams like the Patriots in terms of experience. Bucs last year actually put more pressure on QBs & RBs than the Pats did. We had 86 TFLs, 93 QB Hits, 38 sacks (total of 217) while the Pats had 49 TFLs, 100 QB Hits, 30 sacks (total of 179).

    Still, this is a new year, with new coaches, many new players, a different schedule, etc. I think it’ll be interesting to see how it all fleshes out. Should be a fun ride.

  22. Bucnjim Says:

    First let me say if you are looking for intelligent posts check out defense rules! He may voice his opinion but does the research to back up everything he says. It’s fans like him on JBF that keep me coming back. There are a ton of other fans as well who bring intelligent thought out posts that are greatly appreciated. Doesn’t matter if I agree we are all fans (most of us) who desperately want the Bucs to be successful.

  23. Bucnjim Says:

    I still believe the pass rush HAS to be a combination of both coverage and pressure. If a QB like Brees can get the ball out in 2 seconds because the WR is open even Aaron Donald will have trouble getting pressure. The opposing QB has to be forced to his second or third option and that’s were I think the Buccaneers will Improve the most this year. Speed in the secondary will really help against that two and three step quick pass.

  24. SOEbuc Says:

    When BA and Bowels got to town, first thing that was talked about was much more blitzing. Now you have White and LVD, two of the fastest LBs in the league, playing behind a double teamed Vea. Not to mention a group of young press DBs known for blitzing skills. I can see a different rotation of White and LVD with one blitzing and one dropping back constantly.

    And as far as the car accidents, is it irony that I-4 is the deadliest interstate in the US? Not where they were driving but come to Tampa Bay to kill your game.

  25. unbelievable Says:

    @813- I hope you’re right.

    I definitely think the lack of development at some positions was due to the past coaching staff(s).

    And I was pretty high on Licht the first few years, but I’ve now watched him ignore some blatant areas of need several years in a row. And this is with drafts that were deep at those positions. There’s no excuse for that.

    It seems like almost every single year we are banking on just 2 DEs staying healthy and being our only guys at that position. It’s ridiculous, even in a 3-4 where DE is not quite as important for rushing the passer…

    I really hope I’m wrong, but this is actually the least optimistic I’ve been during the offseason is a long time. I really really hope I’m wrong.

  26. 813bucboi Says:


    you wont hear me disagree with you….

    i was expecting to exit the draft with 2DL’s and 1 OL but instead we got 3 DB’s…..

    like you said, no excuse not to draft DL earlier in one of the deepest DL class in recent times…..

    im hoping the root of the problem was lack of coaching and development…..

    and judging by the moves we’ve made, im hoping the staff feels the same way…

    GO BUCS!!!!!

  27. stpetebucsfan Says:

    I can’t really feel too opinionated without even seeing some August practices and at least the first two PS games before I start getting a “feeling” about players.

    I agree with D.R. Whatever happens this should be a fun ride.