Horrid Pass Defense

December 1st, 2020

Remember me?

During the 2017 and 2018 seasons, the Bucs’ pass defense was so ungodly awful, Joe felt like puking sometimes watching opposing quarterbacks complete passes at will.

Those were the dark days of nice guy but overmatched Bucs defensive coordinator Mike Smith. In 2018, opponents completed 67 percent of their passes against the Bucs, fourth-worst in the NFL.

The next year, when Smith was bounced at the bye week, the Bucs finished the season allowing 72 percent of opponents’ passes to be completed.

That’s flag football numbers, folks. (Joe fondly remembers Lovie Smith, in 2015, lecturing local media that completion percentage doesn’t matter. Those Bucs finished last in the NFL allowing 69.9 percent.)

Well, this season it isn’t a whole lot better. Despite a secondary stocked with two second-round picks, a guy who was in the running for rookie defensive player of the year and another who may a Pro Bowl corner, the Bucs are still garbage at allowing passes to be completed at a sick rate.

Through 12 games the Bucs have allowed opposing quarterbacks to complete 69.74 percent of their attempts. The only two teams with a worse percentage are the Jets, who are barrelling towards a winless season, and the one-win Jags.

How can the Bucs have this awful pass defense with so many good players on the roster? (Last year the Bucs ranked No. 7 overall in completion percentage of opponents, allowing just 61 percent of passes to be completed.)

Asked about this Monday, Arians said a lack of pass rush pressure and lax coverage are both culprits.

“We’ve got to cover tighter and we’ve got to get home faster,” Arians said. “We can’t let a guy in man coverage have 3.7 [or] 3.8 seconds to throw a ball – it’s got to come out in three or less. We can cover for 10 to 12 yards, but we can’t give them that much time.

“Again, Patrick [Mahomes] is an unbelievable guy and he just keeps backpedaling. He was backpedaling to his left for about 9.5 yards and then throws a dime. We don’t see him every week, but I think tighter coverage – against the Rams it was tighter coverage – but when we’re playing man, we have to get home.”

It’s like old times, right?

This is a perfect example of why Joe has such an erection for pass rushers. You cannot have too many. You cannot have too much. And sorry, pressures are not better than sacks. Stop, please.

Even though Al Davis said this some 50 years ago, it is as true today as it was then.

“The quarterback must go down, and he must go down hard.”

These are words Joe lives by.

36 Responses to “Horrid Pass Defense”

  1. Bradinator Says:

    Piss poor planning=Piss Poor Results. Any questions?

    Thanks for bringing up Smith, Joe. My psychiatrist will be very unhappy you triggered my PTSD from that era of Bucs football.

  2. All lives matter Says:

    We should’ve doubled up on Hill ..plain and simple.

  3. Bobby M. Says:

    At some point maybe we should go back to examining what’s the common denominator? Lovie couldn’t coach…..Koetter/Smith couldn’t coach….now Arians/Bowles cant fix the issue?

    Maybe the issue is the GM blows at building a roster. We had Evans/Godwin along with Howard/Brate heading into this season….did we really need more depth at WR and TE?…Was adding Gronk, Fournette and Brown worth the investment? We have $14 million in those 3…..go check their stats and tell me if we are getting our money’s worth. The same GM that signed them, did nothing for a secondary that everyone recognized had little experience and no depth. Our line is ONE injury away from being a disaster.

    At what point do we say Licht is the common denominator and place the blame on the person who built the roster and hired all the coaches?

  4. Buc1987 Says:

    Bobby….soooo Brady wants to bring in Gronk and Licht was supposed to tell him no.

  5. Tampabaybucfan Says:

    Methinks we miss Vita….

  6. Beeej Says:

    I’m kinda hoping they shut down the whole league for a month or so, play Super Bowl in March (saw this on espn) Would provide a chance for Vita to come back

  7. Leighroy Says:

    All lives – yes 100%. They doubled Hill and Kelce finally, after adjusting way too late after the damage was done. But once they did, it worked! Imagine that. Only 10 pts scored by the Chiefs after that train wreck of a 1st quarter.

    Blaming Licht is misguided. Gronk is worth every penny of that 10 mil from his blocking to now expanded role catching too. Fournette is and always was insurance. AB is contributing enough that he’s not even a top 20 issue on this team rn.

  8. Cobraboy Says:

    Even the most pedestrian QB’s will pick a defense apart left unmolested. Buc fans know this all too well.

    The Buc D looks tough when they pressure the QB, even if it just gets him off the spot and forces him to take his eyes off downfield.

    This has been, IMO, the #1 issue with the Bucs: an inconsistent pass rush. One reason is Barrett went missing. Was a wise decision to go the franchise tag route instead of a fat long-term dealio.

  9. D1 Says:


    Hopefully moving Barrett back to the right side will have the desired results. He looked better this week and JPP is…is still JPP.

  10. Bucsfanman Says:

    But Realist(o) still holds on to those years like they were the “glory years”!

    Even with the less than ideal numbers, this defense is still light-years better in terms of aggression than those “vaunted” Smitty defenses.
    I think the absence of Vita Vea cannot be understated.

  11. DavidBigBucFan99 Says:

    You know what helps the pass rush??? Press coverage!!! I mean real like you’re not leaving this line and I got 5 yards to harass your butt kind of press not stand in front of you and watch you run by me kind tootles!!! If our backs would keep the receivers on the line for just ONE second do you know how much that would affect the pass rush??? On pass plays line the linebackers a little wider to reduce give me slants. This ain’t rocket science but I guess we need some too coach this team.

  12. Mike Johnson Says:

    Any team with a decent aerial attack seals our doom. Our secondary consistently gets beat like drums……Hard.

  13. Jmarkbuc Says:

    I’m with you David

    Whatever happened to the five yard chuck rule?

    We just stand sideways and watch them run by. Disgusting.

  14. Joe in Michigan Says:

    Mike Johnson: The Bucs beat 2 of the top 6 teams that lead the NFL in passing yards per game, Chargers (280.6) and Packers (271.0).

  15. gp Says:

    “The quarterback must go down, and he must go down hard.”

    I was yelling this at my TV through the entire game Sunday!

  16. SOEbuc Says:

    If we have any money what so ever after Godwin and LVD resign, we need a boss CB. Dean and SMB still have some growing but are great for depth. Davis has become a great CB. That was a joke they put him one on one with Hill. He looked good a lot of times but Pat and Hill are unstoppable one on one. Don’t know why it keeps taking Bowels so long to realize these things against good receiver’s. This blitz every down scheme has become easy as pie for teams to read.

  17. adam from ny Says:

    gronk coming in was fine…brady needed him as security…and all the brady and gronk promotions make it well worth it for the glazers…he’ll be here next year too…dude also has close to 40 grabs for over 500 yards…go figure because he started out very very slow…

    also no one saw oj going down for the season…

    fournette was a bargain and we need a back up for rojo…even tho he’s not really being used as a back up…and hasn’t really showed out since his initial 46 yard run…also i kept saying he’s not really a big back…he doesn’t run like a big back…he’s a medium sized back…he and rojo weigh almost the same if i’m correct…give or take 5-8 pounds

    and AB, even tho he’s trouble free for the moment, he might have been a tipping point that quietly lost the team…

    you need young enthusiastic guys on the come up like scottie and tyler…the AB signing wiped out that excitement of youngsters overachieving…that type sheet gets teammates and fans crazy excited…

    AB has big time skills, just not so sure he was the right ingredient to add to the mix because since his arrival we haven’t done too well…

    also scottie was on target for a 1k receiving season…now he’s on target to work the register at target…go figure

    tyler has completely stopped growing as a receiver (in games) as well the past 4 weeks…again, go figure…

    it sure would be nice if this dream team of receivers can all get on the same page during the bye week…

    if AB works out here, and me13 and cg14 crush it, with the other guys being great accent pieces, it would be the most amazing unit…but something is way way off and it’s arians job to pull this sheet together now…

    it’s december

  18. DoooshLaRue Says:

    We were KC ready!

    God I hate Mike Smith and that pic should be used on a dart board.

  19. D1 Says:


    To play press you gotta have pressure.
    Press doesn’t help the d lineman get pressure.
    Thats why Bowles has been playing the corners at depth , because he doesn’t believe in the ability to get to the QB fast enough.

    SOE, Davis got torched by Hill. But Cockrell, he pretty much shut hill down.

  20. Defense Rules Says:

    Cobraboy … You nailed it IMO with the ‘inconsistent pass rush’ bring our biggest problem. Vea going down blew this whole thing up; Nacho & McLendon really took his place & they just doing cut it. Vea had 2 sacks, 3 QB Hits & 4 TFL in his 5 games based on playing an average of 70% def snaps each game. Nacho & McLendon TOGETHER have ZERO sacks, 1 QB Hit & 2 TFL in the whole 12 games we’ve played. They’re not bad against the run, but they’re providing very little pass rush.

    Will Gholston on the other hand is having a very good year, but he was having a good year even before Vea went down. Gholston & Suh TOGETHER have 6 sacks, 30 QB Hits & 14 TFLs, PLUS 63 combined tackles. Together they’ve done well, but they need help if we’re to have any semblance of a pass rush going forward.

    Biggest part of our DLine problem IMO is that we’re missing SOMEONE in the interior besides Suh who commands double-teams AND we don’t have enough quality pass rushers. JPP & Shaq are both excellent far as I’m concerned, but there’s no one behind them so they stay on the field (far too many def snaps). And when our offense doesn’t hold up its’ end in terms of TOP, those 2 are dragging. IOW they have they’re biggest impact in the games (from what I see) when they’re reasonably well-rested. We NEED more quality pass rushers to rotate in.

  21. D1 Says:


    The Bucs just brought up from the practice squad a nt. Played beside Vea at Washington and he’s big . Hopefully, this helps occupy two linemen in the way Vea did. I forget the kids name…Point is, if there’s hope it’s resting on a practice squad player.

  22. Tampabuscsbro Says:

    I love the logic in this article

    >Pass defense sucks

    It makes you think. If we had DBs that could consistently cover the pass defense would be better.

    Also in the era where the QB is the most protected position Coverage>pass rush.

  23. TOM Says:

    Poor pass rush. DB’s lax at times. Hey BA, didn’t you forget the crappy defensive coaching? I think you did. Of course in your mind your coaches can’t do no wrong. Don’t even get me started on Suckwich. I think its time for a big change. Don’t you?

  24. UKBuccaneer Says:

    Coverage and pass rush are symbiotic. One can make the other look great.
    Since Vea went down, we’re learning which one was doing the heavy lifting in that early season defense.

  25. Cobraboy Says:

    Bucs pass D plays best with man coverage and strong pass push.

    Zone with the rush stonewalled is a recipe from Mike Smith’s pathetic playbook.

  26. stpetebucsfan Says:


    EXACTLY! Which came first the chicken or the egg…tight coverage or getting to the QB…there’s a balance to be had. I totally respect Bowles but I’m not sure he’s worked out his pass coverage yet,

  27. D1 Says:

    Our DB’S can’t play zone all that well, but to play man you gotta have pressure.

    If we can’t get to the QB , we can play zone which weren’t not good , or play man and at some point well get beat depending on the matchup. So what does Bowles do?

  28. stpetebucsfan Says:


    You’ve laid out the conundrum very well. It’s part of what makes sports so entertaining…picking your poison so to speak.

    Bowles and his young DB’s got major props at the end of last season and the beginning of this…especially claiming the young Bucs finally had enough time in Bowles defense to master it. Perhaps that’s not entirely true?

    I think at least part of the solution to the problem you laid out D1 is in the game plan. And yes because of the conundrum you laid out it requires gambling. I get that Bowles thought he had to have Davis single handedly eliminate KC’s most potent threat…next to Mahomes of course. That freed the rest of his defense to run what he wanted.

    He didn’t adjust. In the second half it wasn’t so much Bowles adjustments as our DL really came to life and we started pressuring Mahomes. And how did that work out for us…Mahomes simply ran around our pressure and picked up the most important yards himself.

    And so how do you ever stop Mahomes…cut off Hill and perhaps let D White spy him much as DB55 used to do to Vick. White runs a 4.4 while Mahomes is a 4.8. Mahomes wouldn’t be able to outrace White.

    In the end nothing would be certain no matter how smart. KC is the BEST team in the league…Mahomes is the best QB I’ve seen…perhaps ever..although his style is so different from the older QB’s like Marino or Kelly…but it’s not his fault that he can run and they couldn’t. Still he isn’t fast…just super athletic and talented and I would have enjoyed putting DWhite on him mano a mano.

  29. Joe in Michigan Says:

    Bad news and good news…

    Bad news: The Bucs are 24th in the NFL, averaging 255.8 yards per game against them.

    The Good news: The Bucs 3 remaining opponents have even worse pass defenses, statistically, anyway.

    25th) Minnesota, 255.8 yards per game
    26th) Detroit, 262.8 ypg
    31st) Atlanta, 291.5 ypg

  30. lowercaseg Says:

    Devin White is a huge liability in coverage. Teams always attack the middle and Devin can’t do anything about it.

  31. Defense Rules Says:

    @Joe … “This is a perfect example of why Joe has such an erection for pass rushers.” OK, for the future Joe, MUCH MORE INFORMATION than we needed to know. It’s like his key advisers used to tell George W when he was prez: ‘George, there are INSIDE words, and there are OUTSIDE words. Those are INSIDE words.’

    D1 & StPete … Todd Bowles certainly does have a conundrum, in more ways than one. Without an effective pass rush, combined with his defensive philosophy of ‘Stop the run first’, it seems that he only has 2 reasonable choices: (1) go heavy blitz, knowing that if the blitz doesn’t get there you’ve just left gaping holes in your defense; or (2) keep more pass defenders back, playing man-to-man most often, in the hope that the pass rush gets there before ‘someone’ gets open & the QB hits him.

    Unfortunately our blitzers are getting there often enough, and we’re getting eatne alive … especially (but not entirely) underneath. Forget the Secondary, just look at our LBs.

    o LVD has been targeted 69 times in 12 games & allowed 52 completions (75.5%) for 302 yds. He’s blitzed 55 times & has only 1.5 sacks, 1 QB Knockdown, 3 Pressures but 0 Hurries.

    o White has been targeted 65 times in 12 games & allowed 55 completions (84.6%) for 505 yds. He’s blitzed 74 times & has 5 sacks, 5 QB Knockdowns, 12 Pressures and 2 Hurries. Doing better than LVD at blitzing it appears, but not-as-good in coverage.

    o Shaq has been targeted 17 times in 12 games & allowed 14 completions (82.4%) for 117 yds. He’s blitzed 103 times & has 6 sacks, 6 QB Knockdowns, 32 Pressures and 20 Hurries. His blitzing is relatively effective it appears, but in coverage he’s doing about as well as White (I know, not his primary job).

    o JPP has been targeted only 10 times in 12 games & allowed 7 completions (70.0%) for 57 yds. He’s blitzed 52 times & has 8.5 sacks, 2 QB Knockdowns, 17 Pressures and 6 Hurries. His blitzing doesn’t appear to be as effective as Shaq’s has been, but it’s not all that shabby either. His coverage for an OLB/DE has actually been quite good.

    Seems to me that LVD & White aren’t getting home very often when blitzing, and that’s leaving some gaps in our coverage that QBs are easily exploiting. Why run on a team that commits itself to stopping the run at the expense of pass coverage? Smitty did exactly that, and he got burned. Looks to me like Todd’s doing a very similar thing, albeit with better personnel, but the results look eerily similar.

  32. Buczilla Says:

    Vea opened things up for everyone else and even though he’s never put up big stats, his presence is dearly missed. JPP is an animal and will get his numbers regardless of who he’s playing with, but guys like Shaq need help in order to flourish. The way that our corners have played recently, it’s looking like we’ll be in need of at least one new starter there next year.

    Look, when we started winning in 1997 it took us five years to reach the Superbowl. If we make the playoffs this year it will prove to me that we are headed in the right direction regardless of whether Brady is here next year or the year after. He’s not as good as I expected him to be and we need to cover our bases with a talented young guy next year.

  33. Piratic Says:

    “Totally fixed.”🤥

  34. BucEmUp Says:

    No jamming at the lines.No intensity, playing scared. This is so stupid the same coaching crap from smith and smitty.They play well when they jam and if you jeed some help give em a safety. Also no blitzing anymore.

    Coaching scared from all corners on this team

  35. unbelievable Says:

    Vea and even Carl Nassib are both missed.

    Also not seeing our linebackers get home. So many times I watch White or LVD blitz and they don’t move right at the snap but instead there is a delay.

  36. BucEmUp Says:

    Our corners are playing off enough to park a school bus in between. Anyone can complete those passes