Bucs Defense Earns No. 2 Preseason Ranking

May 21st, 2021

Tampa Bay didn’t have the NFL’s second-best defense last season, but a strong case is being made that it will this season.

Statistically speaking, a punishing and versatile Bucs offense should help with that. Every defense improves when the offense helps it out.

But this post is about defense. Jared Dubin of CBS Sports typed up a thoughtful ranking of NFL defenses and placed the Bucs at No. 2 overall behind WTF, aka Washington Football Team.

The one thing keeping me from anointing the Browns with the No. 1 spot is the prove-it factor. The Bucs have that in spades. They return all 22 starters from last season’s defense that ranked sixth in yards, eighth in points, and fifth in DVOA. They brought in Joe Tryon to spell Jason Pierre-Paul and Shaq Barrett and K.J. Britt to develop behind Lavonte David and Devin White. They can provide a bunch of different looks with Vita Vea, Ndamukong Suh, Steve McLendon, and William Gholston on the defensive interior. They’ve still got Todd Bowles. The only issue here is age, with JPP, Suh, and David all in or near their mid-30s. But that shouldn’t be a major drawback, for the most part.

Dubin overlooked what might be the Bucs’ biggest key to defensive improvement next season, another giant step forward for the young secondary. Sorry, but JPP and Suh and Lavonte David won’t get much better, if they improve at all; the Bucs’ variable — and their opportunity — rests in the back-4/5.

But almost more important to Joe is the Saints losing Trey Hendrickson, Janoris Jenkins, Sheldon Rankins from their defense, and Drew Brees. Good luck with those key losses, guys, and the garbage field position Jameis Winston turnovers will deliver too often for Saints fans.

26 Responses to “Bucs Defense Earns No. 2 Preseason Ranking”

  1. Medicated Pete Says:

    I’ve never seen a Bucs CB w/ a longer looking body than SMB #23

  2. Casual Observer Says:

    To my way of thinking the best part of the Bucs defense was the trend. They figured things out as the season progressed. Coaching and players both to have managed this together. Impressive. And should continue. They adjusted.

  3. Mitch Says:

    I like SMB the most in our secondary. He is supremely athletic, and overcame adversity by playing most of the year injured last year. I hope he can stay healthy this year so he can lead the team in takeaways.

  4. Flying Dutchman Says:

    You are kidding, right? Number one offense and number two defense!!! That has to be the best one two punch combo in all NFL history. If true the 2002-2020 debate is over. We never had this good of an offense. You can’t even say this team is balanced because it’s off the charts. On paper ladies and gents… Can’t wait for real football. Rams are no joke and Bills neither but this could well be Tom Brady’s finest opera. Go Bucs!

  5. Jimmy Says:

    The Bucs defense was No. 2 under Mike Smith and Lovie.

    No. 2 as in shiite!

  6. AlabamaBucsFan Says:

    Easier schedule might equate to better stats.

  7. Defense Rules Says:

    Interesting to break down last season into 4-game increments. Offense first:

    o Games 1-4: 120 pts scored (30.0 PPG average) … Won 3, Lost 1
    o Games 5-8: 127 pts scored (31.8 PPG average) … Won 3, Lost 1
    o Games 9-12: 97 pts scored (24.3 PPG average) … Won 1, Lost 3
    o Games 13-16: 148 pts scored (37.0 PPG average) … Won 4, Lost 0
    o Playoffs (4 games): 123 pts scored (30.8 PPG average) … Won 4, Lost 0

    Over those 20 games the Bucs’ offense scored 615 pts (30.8 PPG average). Only in Games 9-12 did our offense miss their average by more than 1 PPG, and in reality we would’ve made it if not for our Game 9 loss (38-3) to the Saints. IOW, our offense was extremely consistent throughout the season … with the exception of 1 game.

    Now looking at our defense in 4-game increments:

    o Games 1-4: 92 pts allowed (23.0 PPG average) … Won 3, Lost 1
    o Games 5-8: 73 pts allowed (18.3 PPG average) … Won 3, Lost 1
    o Games 9-12: 115 pts allowed (28.8 PPG average) … Won 1, Lost 3
    o Games 13-16: 75 pts allowed (18.8 PPG average) … Won 4, Lost 0
    o Playoffs (4 games): 78 pts allowed (19.5 PPG average) … Won 4, Lost 0

    Over those 20 games the Bucs’ defense allowed 433 pts (21.7 PPG average), a significant improvement over 2019. Our defense wasn’t as statistically consistent though as our offense, but reality to me is that they only had one bad quarter of the season (Games 9-12). Could’ve had something to do with the late BYE, or maybe the fact that we played (and lost to) 3 high-powered offenses in those 4 games. In any event, the defense apparently used that as motivation to finish strong in the last 8 games (after the BYE).

    Seems to me like almost all Bucs fans are assuming that the CONSISTENCY that characterized BOTH the offense AND the defense over those last 8 games will carry over to the 17 games plus playoffs that represent the 2021 season. That’s a tall order, and a very high expectation. Gut feel is that the Bucs’ hierarchy … and Tom Brady … are also looking for that CONSISTENCY. But I doubt that any of them will utter a single word about going 20-0 for a perfect season. Every week is a dogfight.

  8. chris L Says:

    AMEN to that about the saints!!!

  9. Cainishere Says:

    lol funny stuff above from Jimmy. Yes as I said in March of 2020, “You are looking at a HOF team on both sides of the ball. Teams fear the Buccaneers devastating attacks. Defensive coordinators do not know how to stop them. It will be monumental if a team whips ours. You will see domination from our team the likes you have never seen. Week in and week out demolishing teams in the NFL. I respect Derrick Brooks but to compare 2002 to 2020 or even 2021 is just plain silly. There is no contest 2020 and 2021 wins hands down game over.

  10. Gofortheface30 Says:

    Flying Dutchman, would have to agree. And I’m not like 24 or something that was barely alive to even see the 02 team, hell I was 24 in 02 so I remember the team vividly. It’s impossible to objectively look at the 2 rosters and say 02 was more talented. They weren’t. And all due respect to the 02 team, it’s a laughable comparison from a pure talent perspective. In fact, it’s been thrown around on lots of talk shows such as “stay in bed” and undisputed etc etc that this iteration of the Bucs is the most loaded NFL team in general of all time. That’s almost so overwhelming to consider that I have a hard time processing that. That ultimate proof will be this yr with the same team. The 03 bucs fell apart, were bad, and had a receiver kicked off the team – whereas this team may jackhammer the entire league with a 15-2 record and home field advantage. The 02 Bucs were a nice story, but this iteration has a chance to be legendary. That’s the difference

  11. SB~LV Says:

    Preseason rankings are for loser wannabe’s
    Like Satchel Paige said
    “Don’t look back someone may be gaining on you “
    I am getting uncomfortable with all this projecting last year onto next.
    17 games of hard fought football ahead and every team and every player is looking to make a statement.
    This is where TB will bring his intangible leadership!

  12. Jmarkbuc Says:

    Defense was actually played on 2002. Hard hitting, fearsome defense. Defensively the two eras do not compare, in fact Buc Defenses from 99-2002 are responsible for some of the rule changes to defensive play. They were just that fierce.

  13. Defense Rules Says:

    @Gofortheface30 … “And all due respect to the 02 team, it’s a laughable comparison from a pure talent perspective.”

    ‘Pure talent’ means nothing UNTIL it produces on the field (ask the 2007 Patriots). The PERFORMANCE of the 2002 Bucs team is written in the record books: #1 defense (196 Points Allowed in 16 regular season games, plus 37 TOTAL Points Allowed in 3 playoff games). And oh ya, the #1 defense with 4044 Total Yards Allowed in 16 regular season games, plus 1002 Total Yards Allowed in 3 playoff games).

    The Bucs 2002 offense was nothing special in the regular season though, ranking #18 (346 Total Points Scored … 21.6 PPG average … in 16 regular season games), but they did blow up in the playoffs, scoring 106 points in the 3 playoff games … 35.3 PPG average. And BTW, that was largely due to our defense created 13 takeaways in those 3 playoff games. Yup … 13 takeaways.

    The 2021 Bucs offense & defense have yet to write their PERFORMANCE story, although expectations are certainly extremely high. Can’t really effectively compare our 2020 Super Bowl team to that 2002 Super Bowl team though because those 2 teams had completely different strengths. Our 2002 Bucs’ defense is still considered by many to be one of the Top-5 defenses in NFL history. The 2021 Bucs’ defense kicked ass in the playoffs IMO, but they weren’t nearly as CONSISTENT as the 2002 defense throughout the season.

  14. TampaTown Says:

    I also was thinking the 02 – 20 debate was over as well but then I listened to Tampa Two and boy does Derrick Brooks make a compelling argument. He’s very convincing that the 2002 (when he was DPOY) defense would shut down the 2020 offense.

  15. Mitch Says:

    I believe the bucs offense of 2020 would be crushed by the bucs defense of 2002. I mean the 02 bucs defense had 31 INT’s, allowed only 10 passing TD’s, had 50.5 sacks, and. They allowed only 12.2 points per game (5th all-time). They also allowed only 2400 pass yards to be thrown all season. That number has only been reached once since then in almost 20 years. They also were 7th in rush defense. Not to mention over half of their schedule that year was played against top 10 offenses. I believe Brooks.

  16. ModHairKen Says:

    Stats are for losers. Win games. Win Championship. Period.

  17. kyle Says:

    great breakdown defenserules! thx brother

  18. Flying Dutchman Says:

    Great break down indeed… So the same dudes that take the one game at a time, keep it real approach want to say the 02 defense would crush the 20 offense. Go play Madden!

  19. Alanbucsfan Says:

    Just wondering- How consistently good would the 2002 Bucs D have been if Sapp was out most of the year?

  20. Mitch Says:

    @Flying Dutchman It’s funny you said to go play madden because the fantastical element of the match-up is exactly why I can say the 02 defense could crush the 20 offense. That is because the match-up is pure fantasy, and plays into my own memories/opinion of the 02 defense and what they accomplished.

    It has no relevance to real life, and what my or anyone’s opinion of current day buccaneers should or shouldn’t be doing to prepare for their present day opponents.

  21. gofortheface30 Says:

    I agree the “story” is yet to be written for this yrs Bucs – im just sayig HYPOTHETICALLY, going in to the season as prohibitive favorites (the 03 Bucs did not i might add,) if the Bucs make it back to the Superbowl, or hell even win it – it becomes silly and non sensical to even argue for the 02 Bucs. Referencing a Derrick Brooks Podcast hardly reinforces an argument because what do you expect Derrick Brooks to say – OF COURSE he will make a case for his team. “C’mon Man.”

    Defenserules – im aware of the stats, I’m pretty sure most people are. They certainly are recognized as a top 5 defense of all-time, but they dang sure arent realized as one of the great superbowl teams of all time. Not even close. This particular Bucs team have expectations from national media that are an order of magnitude higher.

    I fail to see the 2007 Patriots as being some sort of cautionary tale, considering they were the only team in NFL history to go 18-0. It takes bigger brass ones to go for it, as opposed to resting guys. In any case – by dominating the league, Im quite certain the Patriots felt comfortable about “showing it” on the field

  22. SB Says:

    Different Times. Useless argument.
    2020 Team couldn’t survive in 2002
    and 2002 Team couldn’t complete a game in 2020.
    Different rules and different mindsets.

  23. geno711 Says:

    SB Says:
    May 21st, 2021 at 7:09 pm
    Different Times. Useless argument.
    2020 Team couldn’t survive in 2002
    and 2002 Team couldn’t complete a game in 2020.
    Different rules and different mindsets.

    I agree. Well stated.

  24. Cainishere Says:

    02 team played against the number 1 offense using the Bucs head coach’s game plan, even John Lynch said it best “It’s as if we know exactly what they are going to do before they do” There was no such advantage for the 2020 team, oh and you are saying that the 02 team could have stopped 2020? Finding that super hard to believe. First 2020 defense could have stopped the 02 offense easily. The 02 defense never faced a Brady in his prime before so how can you say for sure. Different times you say? Yeah they could hit a guy in those days but they didn’t have prolific offenses the likes we have today including 2020 Bucs. Difficult to predict but a few things are for sure, 3 of 02 games came down to field goals. NONE of that on the 2020 team. 2020 defense would destroy 02 offense ond 03 team was not projected to do anything close to repeating whereas 2021 is an expected repeat. To me 2020 team wins hands down no contest.

  25. Redblud Says:

    You can’t compare a defense from 2002 to one from now. The rules and league are different. The defense from that team would look different in today’s nfl. You have to compare them relative to era. Not saying which is better. I have no opinion.

  26. Hope springs eternal Says:

    I agree with Redblud. The overall speed of the game has increased. Alstot up the middle would not work against the bigger faster defenses today. Linemen are faster and more athletic. That Bucs defense had one great year but would struggle against today’s top teams. Same with the 02 offense.