Surprising Good Defense

December 21st, 2019

Overseer of turnaround.

The Bucs lead the NFL in rush defense. The Bucs have the NFL leader in sacks. The Bucs have a pair of rookie corners and a second-year corner that have demonstrated they are not overwhelmed in the NFL.

And one follicly-challenged spreadsheeter is shocked.

Joe admits to being very surprised as well.

And this gentleman with scant hair, Billy Barnwell of BSPN, is giving mad kudos to Bucs defensive coordinator Todd Bowles for turning around what was a totally wretched squad.

Stopping the run doesn’t mean as much as it used to in a league that is so pass-happy, but Tampa Bay’s long-miserable pass defense actually has rounded into competency this season. This is a recent development, and the improvement has been driven partly by the benching and release of former first-rounder Vernon Hargreaves after the Week 10 win over the Cardinals.

Since cutting Hargreaves, the Bucs have blossomed. Through the Cardinals game, Tampa Bay ranked 24th in both passer rating and QBR. When it didn’t get pressure on the opposing quarterback, its young secondary was overmatched and frequently made mistakes, producing a passer rating of 117.5, the third-worst mark in football.

In a five-game sample, Tampa Bay’s defense suddenly has rounded into form. It ranks fifth in QBR allowed and 11th in passer rating. When its pass rush doesn’t get home, its passer rating is at 83.5, which is the sixth-best mark in the league. Some of this is due to a schedule that has included Nick Foles and David Blough, but the Bucs also have faced Drew Brees and Matt Ryan over this stretch. There’s something to monitor here, with a lot of young players and a wildly underrated defensive coordinator in Todd Bowles all coming back next season.

That run-stopping was actually was the foundation from which the team began to improve elsewhere, Barnwell and the Bucs believe.

There is a lot more there in the link above from Barnwell about the Bucs defense. The turnaround is listed as one of Barnwell’s biggest surprises of 2019.

Joe believes the turnaround was with two players.

Yes, Shaq Barrett has been a wonderful story. But teams were starting to constantly double-and triple team him. Barrett said in the London game against the Stinking Panthers he had never seen anything like it. The Stinking Panthers were determined to take him out. And they did.

So when Jason Pierre-Paul came back from his broken neck, now offenses couldn’t double Barrett as much anymore.

The second element was when Verbib Hargreaves was run off the team for loafing. Now Joe has spoken with Bucs types and Joe has been told it is not so much that the better play in the secondary was generated by Hargreaves’s absence, but Bucs types believe a strong message was sent: Bust your tail or hightail it out of here.

What has gone unspoken is, Joe believes, is Hargreaves was expendable once the team became comfortable that  rookies Jamel Dean and Sean Murphy-Bunting could handle more snaps.

Today is a helluva test for the rookies against a star quarterback and stud receivers. Joe believes they will get loads of snaps with Carlton Davis coming up with a gimpy ankle late in the week.

16 Responses to “Surprising Good Defense”

  1. Tampabaybucfan Says:

    VH3 was not going to be a Buc next year…….the timing for cutting him and the upsides were too good to pass up…….sent a big message to vets & rookies alike…..hustle… hard…..don’t loaf….ever!!!

  2. stpetebucsfan Says:

    Loafing is inexcusable and so the decision to ship Hargreaves was easy.

    However IMHO Licht/Arians/Bowles were looking for an excuse to unload what was clearly a huge draft mistake.

    To speak like Sam Wyche…VHG may have been too small for the position but at least he was slow.

    VHG would have needed exceptional heart and brains and desire to make it in the NFL with his limited physical skills. Too much to make up.

    Again I think the Buc powers knew this but couldn’t find an out until VHG loafed.

  3. TheBucsAnthem Says:

    It should be a blowout……too many injuries and no bucs motivation for playoffs


    Texans +30

    Bucs – 21


  4. adam from ny Says:

    maybe jpp will smack the sheet out of vernon today…for absolutely no reason 🙂

    or kong suh will pick him up and slam him down wwe style…

    once again, for absolutely no reason 🙂

  5. Cobraboy Says:


  6. 813bucboi Says:

    when Jason Pierre-Paul came back from his broken neck, now offenses couldn’t double Barrett as much anymore.

    thats been the key….

    GO BUCS!!!!!

  7. SB Says:

    Hey Joe how many times do you think Jameis will pick on VH3 today?

  8. unbelievable Says:

    @Joe can you give us some details on your issue with this Bill Barnwell guy?


  9. unbelievable Says:

    So much moderation lately 🙄

  10. Brandon Says:

    All the dunces on NFLN wanna talk about is the Bucs #30 against the pass. Good for them. They look at numbers. What they haven’t seen is how much better they’ve been. They don’t even know that DND Davis and Dean are giving up less than 48% completion percent. Of that SMB is a damn thief and a game wrecker.

  11. #1bucfan Says:

    Joe irk why but I think Hargraves gets a int today lol mark my words. Wasn’t a fan of him but not a hater either. Just think it will be funny if he picks one an takes it to the house

  12. Howard Cosell Says:

    Awesome job Mr Bowles!
    Please try to tolerate scheme glaser and don’t leave!
    I know glaser is thankless to work for, but think about the
    fans: the poor little *ock-holders of glaser-land. You are truly
    helping what is probably the most tortured, neglected and
    disrespected fanbase in pro sports.
    You are truly a good man!

  13. Howard Cosell Says:

    Since cutting Hargreaves, the Bucs have blossomed.

    ^See this is just executive brilliance right here. Take note slackers. This is an example of what great executives do to change a culture. Thanks BA and Mr Bowles.
    (Howard is certain the Mr Bowles had significant input into the Cancer28 excision!!)

  14. Howard Cosell Says:

    Lol Bucs are finally turning it around while McCoy has buried yet another head coach in a nameless grave.
    In BA I trust

    #Turing cancer into Winning

  15. Howard Cosell Says:


  16. MadMax Says:

    We still need a dynamic safety and Ive found one….small school Div II Kyle Dugger…we could get him in the 2nd, maybe top 3rd…..and yes, another first on here from me 🙂 go watch some vids on him and some interviews, VERY smart kid. 6’2 215

    As long as we can keep our current D together, draft O line and RB…O line is good but not much depth…that RT beast Jedrick Wills, man he would fit us…and Dotson is getting old, is what it is.