Secondary Improvement

June 23rd, 2019


Does competition breed excellence? Time will only tell but the way the Bucs have been drafting for secondary help the past few years, sooner or later one would hope the team hits on one or two of its draft picks.

Over at, writer and Bucs historian Scott Smith fielded mailbag questions and one asked about if the defense can improve. Smith suggested it almost certainly will but let’s wait and see if it returns to the top-10 in the NFL for pass defense.

Still, Smith likes what he saw in underwear football.

If you think confidence is important, then things are definitely looking up … Head Coach Bruce Arians has opined more than once that the personnel shortcomings in the secondary have been “fixed.” The players agree. The three rookie draft picks – cornerbacks Sean Murphy-Bunting, Jamel Dean and Mike Edwards – all looked very promising during the offseason program, though one must take that with a grain of salt due to the lack of pads. We’ll find out a bit more about whether that optimism is well-placed when we get to training camp.

The Buccaneers have invested tons of draft capital in the defensive backfield in the past four years, and they don’t need all of it to hit in order to field a talented lineup. There’s a huge amount of competition brewing at both safety and cornerback, and the coaching staff believes that competition is the key to producing a strong lineup. I like the speed and playmaking ability the Bucs added in this year’s draft, I like the press coverage that should suit Vernon Hargreaves and Carlton Davis well, and I like the history of turnovers produced by the Arians/Bowles combination in their days together in Arizona.

Joe has maintained that the defense could still be the worst in the NFL and yet be improved from last year. That’s how brutal the Bucs defense was in 2018.

Since Smith brought it up, Joe decided to see where the Cardinals ranked with picks and pass defense when Todd Bowles was their defensive coordinator.

In 2013, the Cardinals were fifth in the NFL in picks (one less than the Bucs) with 20 interceptions. In 2014, the Cardinals were tied at No. 7 with 18 interceptions.

Now to be fair the Cardinals had “Honey Badger,” Tyrann Mathieu, and Patrick Peterson. The Bucs don’t have anyone remotely close to those two unless someone totally blows up this fall.

Does Joe expect the Bucs to be in the top-10 in interceptions this year? No. But Joe is willing to bet they have more than nine, which is what they had last year (four from a guy who isn’t even on the team any longer).

23 Responses to “Secondary Improvement”

  1. dmatt Says:

    The additions of Bunting, Dean,Edwards, 2018 picks Davis n Whitehead combined with Hargreaves, JEvans n Todd Bowles, can only improve the secondary. I didn’t mention MJStewart n Ryan Smith because neither one gave me a reason to add them to the aforementioned group.

  2. WhatdaBUCisthis Says:

    Man Joe, imo I’d rather keep VH3 at the nickel. Seeing how he seem to be playing well there. Again, imo I think he’s too slow for the outside, even with pressing.
    Go BUCS

  3. BucEmUp Says:

    Your first pararaph should be an answer to anyones question at corner. Nobody…NOBIDY could draft that many high round corners and have them all just bust. That is all the evidence anyone should need how bad the coaching has been here. Even with names like Revis and Grimes the secondary has been poorly coached and under performing for much longer than the mike smith era.

    This team being so stuck on playing tampa two soft zone because the “tampa two” was created right here has held the team.down for the last decade from being unwilling to chanfe and adapt. This will finally be the year we can truly judge this team.on its talent with coaching on par.with the other top teams in the league

  4. Dreambig Says:

    Even if these guys are future pro bowlers there is going to be some growing pains. Interceptions are icing on the cake. I would just be happy if our secondary knocks down a pass once in a while.

  5. kyle Says:

    You would think that a couple of these kids will stick and be nfl caliber starters. We have lost so many close games over the past couple of years, turnovers can definitely be a quick fix to the awful pass rush.

  6. Magadude Says:

    I like Mike Smith and he does a good job for the Bucs, and unless he’s reporting an injury or other tragedy, he’s always a ray of “sunshine.” It’s what a guy at has to do, should do. Then there are those writers on the HMS Tampa Bay Timestanic who know next to nothing. They primp their hair, talk into a mike, write what they said into the mike, publish it two days later for others to read, and then charge them if they have any thoughts to put out there.

    Then there is JBF, where many don’t agree with everything Joe puts up (I know I don’t), and where there are posters who like to call Joe and other posters names (everything from moron to racist) for providing opinions, encouraging them to somewhere else. Maybe they are used to places where you have to conform with the site owner’s view or get the boot. So it’s good Joe let’s things “run” a little here.

    So what I like here is the real collaboration of the range of fans views plus getting the inside story on a lot–even when the Bucs aren’t in the building. So it’s good for JBF to bring it all back into some sense of reality: that is, as much as it hurts to think about, the Bucs could still be the worst i the NFL yet be improved from last year. Someone has got to say what needs to be said. Kudos, Joe.

  7. Magadude Says:

    @BucEmUp…I totally agree, but add it’s likely as much GM fault as well as the coaches…and you’d never hear Mike Smith at say such a thing.

    As an aside, I don’t think it’s sticking to Tampa Two use that has been as problem (though I’m fine Arian’s ditches it) as much as not having the speed to make it work. It was sure a lot of fun to see Brooks, Nickerson, Lynch, and the like play it though. We may never see that again.

  8. Magadude Says:

    @dmatt…I’ve said it before, but Ryan Smith on the final roster (or not) could be litmus test for how much or if the secondary has really improved. He can walk away with about $1M for his time as a Buc and pro player with his head held high for trying, but he’s not cut it at all, save for some special teams plays.

  9. Todd Says:

    Off topic Dad Joke:

    Q: What’s the opposite of soft?

    A: Suh.

  10. macabee Says:

    I think Maga is referring to Scott Smith. And for the record it seems BA is also liking what he sees from Ryan Smith. This from PFT June 1, 2019…

    Via, Arians was asked to identify a position that makes Arians believe, after 10 OTA sessions, that it’s not as bad as feared.

    “Probably secondary, we’re really, really good,” Arians said. “With Carlton [Davis] and Vernon [Hargreaves], we knew we had two solid corners. Now we got five solid corners. Ryan [Smith] came along. So, yeah, earmarked as a problem set back in January, it’s totally fixed. Just knock on wood they stay healthy.”

  11. Pickgrin Says:

    Magadude Says:
    “Ryan Smith on the final roster (or not) could be litmus test for how much or if the secondary has really improved.”


    Ryan Smith is a valuable asset to this team – especially while still in his rookie (4th rd) contract.

    A young, inexpensive, special teams ace gunner who has game experience and can provide solid back up play at CB if needed – is exactly what Ryan Smith is right now. No more no less.

    That in itself is more than enough for Smith to be a Buccaneer in 2019.

    So he absolutely WILL be on this team. And the secondary absolutely WILL play better….. despite your “failed” litmus test of Ryan Smith still hanging around – dragging the talent level of all those around him down by his very presence… LOL

  12. casual observer Says:

    I’m guessing the D will be impressively (not just a little bit) better this year. Have to see after a couple of games. But things are looking pretty good.

  13. Magadude Says:

    Thanks macebee…yes…Scott Smith.

  14. Race to 10 Says:

    It’s amazing they had as many interceptions as they had playing ten yards off the line of scrimmage even on 3 & short. I’ll feel much better about the secondary if justin Evan’s was not injured. I do expect soft VH3 to get injured again this year so glad they got 2 corners

  15. SB Says:

    Someone remind me again why we let Andrew Adams go again when he led the team in INTs with significantly less playing time.

  16. Christopher Schiefen Says:

    Different 3-tech
    Different MLB
    Different RCB, NCB, and potentially different FS and SS. Vita improvements, Nassib improvements, Davis improvements. And the system is a night and day improvement. And then JPP riding in with fresh blood.

  17. GrayBalls Says:

    @SB Andrew Adams had a couple good games, none of which were great. His 3 int game was more Cam than Adams. If Arians and Bowles felt he was worth bringing back, he would be here

  18. Bird Says:

    To be honest , joe has covered him
    Not all or nothing either
    Only boom or in his boom boom

  19. Ghost of Darrell Henderson Says:

    “Nobody…NOBIDY could draft that many high round corners and have them all just bust.”

    When you select a Division 3 CB from a loser directional school and a CB with 3 bad knees, there’s a pretty good chance of failure. About 90% chance and that’s being charitable.

    When virtually all of the top CB’s fell to the 2nd round and were available, it might be a reach to pick the 35th rated CB. They could have gotten a very good offensive lineman with that pick and got SMB in the 4th or 5th.

  20. Jean Lafitte Says:

    Just the fact that we’ll be playing more press coverage with all this youth and speed should result in more opportunities for INT’s. No more 10-15 yard cushions.

  21. K2 Says:

    “Joe has maintained that the defense could still be the worst in the NFL and yet be improved from last year.” I see your point Joe…no way could this coaching staff build substantial on Mark Duffner…a defensive genius. No Way…it just stupid to think that you can really improve on Duffner. I’m surprise New England didn’t fire Belichick and hire Duffner. Suh, Vea, David, Barrett, Brice, Bucannon, Bunting, Davis, Dean, Edwards, Nassib, Nelson, Pierre-Paul, Spence, Stewart, Watson, White, Whitehead…should just stop trying…without Duffner there is no hope. Maybe Duffneris a first Ballet Hall of Fame coach…just flying under the radar (stealth Duffner advanced weapons technology).

  22. firethecannons Says:

    have to wonder why they did not keep andrew adams –he was a pick machine against cam newton

  23. macabee Says:

    The Bucs refused to tender S Andrew Adams making the safety an unrestricted free agent. The Bucs were unwilling to pay him the $2.05 million tender. They had limited cap space and wanted more speed at the position in a 3-4 defense.

    S Andrew Adams signed a 1 year contract with the Detroit Lions with a $720K base, $100K signing bonus and another $100K if he makes the roster.