Tackling First

May 3rd, 2019


Tackling has almost become a lost art in the NFL. It’s sad.

One hallmark of the great Bucs defenses of the late 1990s and 2000s was that the Bucs tackled. Joe remembers hearing John Madden on “Monday Night Football” say the only two teams that tackled well were coached up by Monte Kiffin and Dick LeBeau, two old school football guys.

Years later when inept Lovie Smith came in, the guy talked about takeaways like they were winning lottery tickets. Joe doesn’t know what Lovie talked about more with shining eyes and a lustful voice, takeaways or Mike Jenkins.

Tacklers (in name only) only seemed moderately interested in bringing down ballcarriers because they were brainwashed by Lovie. Would-be tacklers would go for the ball, of course, and often be dragged down the field two or three yards for a first down.

Joe remembers once telling Bucs AC/DC-loving general manager Jason Licht that punts are takeaways too. He didn’t disagree.

Once after a practice, Joe asked Lovie if guys were so focused on takeaways, that they weren’t tackling properly, and by concentrating on takeaways so much, were defenders not making tackles?

Let’s just say that didn’t go over very well with Lovie. (What likely made it worse was then-Tampa Tribune humorist Martin Fennelly saying loud enough to be heard at Jesuit High School, “That’s a good question! That’s a good question!” This only irked Lovie more, and Joe had to bear the full brunt of Lovie’s response.)

Well, this week Bucs linebackers coach Mike Caldwell was talking about forcing turnovers and Joe asked him if there was a fine line between striving to force a takeaway and not bringing a ballcarrier to the ground.

Caldwell seemed to agree and said the first objective is to tackle. The second is to get the ball.

“First thing in, you want to get the tackle,” Caldwell said. “Second guy in is going to get the ball. But as you get the guy wrapped up, now that’s when you want instill in him… get the ball out, punch it here, punch it there. It is just different ways. But you want to secure the tackle first.”

What refreshing reasoning!

Look, Joe isn’t saying the Bucs shouldn’t try to force fumbles. But if a defender isn’t fully focused on wrapping up and tackling, to Joe, that leads to sloppy fundamentals and helps allow a ballcarrier to break tackles and move the chains.

Like Joe told Licht way back when, punts are takeaways too. Get the defense off the field for crying out loud.

23 Responses to “Tackling First”

  1. Defense Rules Says:

    Bucs great defenses were known for gang-tackling … swarming to the ball. In recent years we’ve seen far too many solo tackles (Bucs were #2 in the NFL in solo tackles last year … right behind Arizona) and far too little gang-tackling (we were #31 in Assisted Tackles). Personal opinion is that too many guys are being left ‘on islands’ without adequate support. That’s NOT the hallmark of great defensive teams IMO.

  2. Kobe Faker Says:

    “How bad is this defense?

    This defense will shatter all worst defenseive records in the HISTORY of this game

    Its all about the players and what and how Gump is building this defense is contrary to all the methods of the competent and legit GMs

    This “flooding the position” of drafting rookies in 1 position is mystifying lacking true foresight

    Who is the leader of this group? This secondary with no pass rush will be like 11 headless chicken running around

    7 games of 40 pts scored against

    Koetter will try to drop 50pts

    Are you apologists ready for the blame game?”

    Kobe Faker

  3. Tampabaybucfan Says:

    In order to make a tackle you have to be in a position to tackle. That is why I’m so excited about Devin White……he can move so quickly from sideline to sideline with great closing speed.

  4. Bird Says:


    Not a big jersey guy.
    But I may have to get a devin white jersey

    This kid’s ceiling is the dang moon

  5. Ludicrous Speed Says:

    That’s a big 10-4 regarding Madden’s comment on how well coached up that Monte Kiffin led defense was by the late ’90s. It stood out in stark relief against the Bucs’ defense of the early 90’s.

    I can still vividly remember all those sweltering afternoons sitting on aluminum benches lamenting to my wife about my two biggest complaints:

    1. They couldn’t tackle.

    2. Coverage guys chasing receivers down the field would NEVER turn their heads in
    an effort to locate the football, but would invariably end up running into their
    guy as the ball arrived resulting in huge chunks of pass interference yardage.

    Then Hardy Nickerson came along and began to change the culture, and when Tony & Monte with their group of teachers came in and emphasized across the defense what I consider to be the essential fundamentals, it didn’t take all that long before you saw the defense as a unit playing the game the right way.

    Those were the days.

  6. Dusthty Rhothdes Says:

    If you watch college football at all especially the SEC teams like Bama, UGA, UF, A&M, UT, LSU, UK, etc they teach tackling and can do that because there are no rules like the NFL, these schools work in live full speed in their indy periods and then in team. There are many schools who only go “thud” during team period and then the product is evident on saturday much like the abysmal display of tacking in the NFL on sundays. Devin White will always be a textbook tackler and under control and with great angles, he will be so much better than kwon it will be crazy

  7. DB55 Says:

    Well if you like missed tackles and PI calls you’re in for a treat!

    With this draft class. From what I’ve seen the only one who can actually tackle is Mike Edwards but wtfdik

  8. passthebuc Says:

    As I remember we had a prolific tackling LB by the name of Barrett Ruud. The only NFL player that led in tackling from behind. (always 10 further yards downfield)

  9. Chris Simms 2020 GM Says:

    Interesting topic since the #1 draft pick is fundamentally one of the worst tacklers I have ever seen.

    He gets there quick, arm tackles too high. Coach him up!

  10. Billy_43 Says:

    LOL at KOBE

    I’ll wager $1,000 you are DEAD WRONG.
    No pass rush?

    I’ll throw in I bet this team hovers around 50 sacks this year as well.
    15-20 from the linebackers alone.
    Throw in 5-10 from the nickel.

    The fastest guys on our defense came from this draft.
    The 2 fastest guys on offense came from FA and THIS draft.

    Spitting nonsense as usual!!!

  11. Cobraboy Says:

    Old Bucs Ball: First guy tackled, the second guy punched the ball.

    Two different responsibilities.

  12. down in the dirt doug Says:

    Kobe–unless you have a crystal ball or advanced insider knowledge,than you are spitting into gale force winds.You are selling our head coach way short.He did not become two time coach of the year by playing bingo or bar hopping.GET REAl l!!! I am pushing all my chips to the center of the table.GO GET UM GENERAL BRUCE!!!!

  13. 813bucboi Says:

    why bring up lovie….it was smitty and his defense that nearly broke a 99year old record for horrible defense…..

    the tackling during the dirk and smitty era was straight garbage….worst than ive ever seen…..and smitty had talent to work with…..

    and folks wonder why smitty and most of the defensive staff are still fishing….

    GO BUCS!!!!

  14. BringBucsBack Says:

    Remember the footage of Monte asking each & every defensive player, “Are you gonna tackle?”, as they boarded the bus to St. Louis for the ‘99 NFC championship?

    Possibly the greatest waste of a magnificent defensive effort!

    “I was never taught how to tackle properly until I met Coach Shiano.” -G. Mc

    Far too many players enter, play & exit the NFL without the fundamentals!

  15. LakeLand Says:

    There are some teams in the NFL that excel at tackling
    There are teams in the NFL that’s great on defense

    But it’s obvious the Bucs are not one of these teams

  16. TOM Says:

    Your are so right Lakeland, on both counts.

  17. BA FAN Says:

    The first player that needs lots of tackling training is Justin Evans. Not only to wrap up but how to figure out the right angle to reach the target. Gang tackling is just a matter of hustling to the target. Love the emphasis now on fundamentals. If you watch the Patriots their defenses all show the result of good coaching on fundamentals. And if you watch their offensive lines they do a lot of pulling and they use their TEs to be integral parts of their blocking schemes. BA is definitely old school which means his teams will show plenty of training in fundamentals on both sides of the ball. Our present OL have been very poor at zone blocking. The Patriots use a power blocking scheme and I hope the Bucs use the same this year.

  18. Lord Cornelius Says:


    I’m not going to defend Licht at all anymore.

    The thing with the draft is – it’s hard to screw up athletic freak specimens on DL or OL. It’s a lot easier to project those talents typically than CB or S. IF you are a big fast freak with college production you are likely going to be able to pressure a QB in the NFL. If you are a big athletic freak OL that dominated everyone in college you are probabyly going to do well in the NFL. And rookie CB/S will have MUCH easier life and learning curve if they come to a team that has elite pressure from the front 7.

    Been saying it for so many freaking years. Carolina has had MUCH better D than us for the last decade and it’s because they draft DL in R1 or R2 every freaking year and they go after athletic pass rushing DTs.

    New Orleans went from 7-9 to SB contendors because they invested hardcore in their O-line/run game/ defensive front 7 and nailed the drafts in those areas and FA pickups. But they invested hevaily in DL & OL. Lattimore was their only non front 7 or OL premium pick.

    Max Unger / Ramzcheck / Rankins / Davenport – the Saints know wtf is up.

    Falcons same thing – loaded up with pass rushers / front 7 LBs to compliment corners they had already drafted in guys like Alford/etc that weren’t amazing or anything. When that D was healthy they were much better than ours.

    DE/DT are much more premium positions in terms of value / pay scale / where you need to draft them compared to Corners / Safeties and MOTHER F*CKING KICKERS

  19. unbelievable Says:

    Tackling is important, huh? Well it’s a good thing we drafted a LB at #5 who tries to tackle people by their shoulders and heads… cuz we all know that works in the NFL…

  20. Bucsfanman Says:

    “Tacklin’ fuel!”

  21. BucAllNight Says:


    Its not always a 1-to-1 exchange. Falcons also drafted DT Perry Jerra(sp) and Beasley who were both considered Busts.

    Saints had the DT who got hurt the one year and underachieved.

    We did draft Clayborn, Bowers, Spence, Vea and others so its not like we aint been trying.

    But its time for us to stay AHEAD of the curve for once. NFL is now 7-on-7 and we need guys who can run and cover. The days of pulling DB’s off the street after groin pulls are over.

    Go Bucs!!

  22. stpetebucsfan Says:

    It’s not just the desire to get turnovers. The other prime culprit in the lack of tackling is the desire to inflict pain…to hit.

    Tackling frequently takes a back seat to HITTING. Wrapping up is not the main deal for many guys. They want to be the guy who blows up the opponent. We were always taught to use our shoulders, even which side to place our heads but now they had to create a special penalty because guys want to lead with their helmets and best of all if they can get a helmet to helmet hit.

    Dude won’t forget me awhile…perhaps…then again since you just concussed him strong chance he won’t remember anything.

  23. SOEbuc Says:


    “In order to make a tackle you have to be in a position to tackle. That is why I’m so excited about Devin White……he can move so quickly from sideline to sideline with great closing speed.”

    And Lavonte next to him. These two are going to be dangerous. Becoming hyped about a Bucs defense for the first time in over a decade.