Endorsing The Formula

May 18th, 2021

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Even in a pass-happy league, the ability to stop the run provides a reason to smile.

There’s a compelling reason Todd Bowles has presided over the NFL’s No. 1 rush defense in three of his four seasons as a coordinator — he dwells on it every day in practice and in the meeting room. The Bucs have heeded the call, allowing the fewest rushing yards in each of the past two years.

Bowles offers up a simple selling point to his defensive players: if you want to hunt quarterbacks, you’ve got to play the run first.

Run-stuffer DE Will Gholston

“It’s still important because most offenses in this league, if they can bludgeon you with the run, they will,” says Bears coach Vic Fangio. “Now sometimes there isn’t as much patience as there used to be around the league with that. But if you’re not doing well against the run, now you start playing stuff that makes the passes even better for them.”

The numbers of the past decade strongly suggest that a stingy run defense is a key metric for NFL success. In the past 10 years, the leaders in rush defense have combined for a 107-53 record. Only two of those 10 teams failed to reach double-digit wins. You guessed it — the 2019 Bucs and the 2012 Bucs both finished 7-9.

You can’t make this stuff up.

Building The Wall

Several factors can contribute to a No. 1 run defense. Teams that score a lot of points — the Packers, Bucs, Saints and Ravens — don’t face as many rush attempts because the opposition is often trying to play catch-up.

That’s why it’s revealing to also look at the defenses that allow the fewest yards per carry. And yes, the Bucs also led in that category in both 2019 and 2020. The cumulative record of the past 10 leaders in lowest yards per carry allowed is 95-64-1.

Ira Kaufman outlines Vita Vea’s impact

Not too shabby.

And there’s more good news on the horizon for Buc fans. The broken ankle that sidelined Vita Vea for the final 11 regular-season games and the first two playoff matchups has healed. The big, athletic nose tackle is raring to go and that means the NFL’s premier run defense might be even stingier this fall.

In the 13 games Vea missed, Tampa Bay allowed an average of 91 yards on the ground. That average shrunk to 67 yards in the seven games Vea tied up blockers and swallowed up ball carriers.

That’s called impact.

That’s why Vea will be in line for a lucrative contract extension beyond the 2022 season.

We’ll know soon enough if Tampa Bay’s grudging rush defense has lost its mojo. The Cowboys roll into Raymond James Stadium in Week 1, led by Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott.

Prescott averaged 44 pass attempts through a 2-3 start last year before suffering a compound fracture and a dislocation of his right ankle. Dallas found itself in too many early shootouts as Elliott languished. He finished with only three games of more than 20 carries and that’s a criminal offense when you’re talking about a back who has averaged 89.9 yards per game during his first five pro seasons. That ranks No. 5 all-time, behind Hall of Famers Jim Brown, Barry Sanders, Terrell Davis and Eric Dickerson, just ahead of Walter Payton.

Elliott should hit the ground running on the evening of Sept. 9, providing a sturdy test for Tampa Bay’s voracious run stuffers.

Stop the run, hunt the quarterback. It’s a formula endorsed by 32 NFL teams, but nobody does it better than the Bucs.

It’s worked very well for Todd Bowles as his unit seeks for the rush defense Triple Crown.

Buckle up, Ezekiel.

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6 Responses to “Endorsing The Formula”

  1. Craig Says:

    Don’t forget that our DBs are a year older too. They will be ball hawking all season.

    Look for Prescott to look more like a certain ex-Buc QB than the guy who tossed twp perfect games in 2019.

    Pressure will be big if Shaq really does want another sack record

    Three sacks of Prescott, who will know fear after the second one. He will force things to try to keep up with the Bucs offense.

  2. Swampbuc Says:

    Does anyone really call Elliott “Ezekiel?” Maybe his mom.

  3. Buc1987 Says:

    Who misses GMC?

  4. Winny Testaverde Says:

    Who misses GMC? His accountant & financial advisor from his 100 million dollar + Bucs Days/Daze. And a few misguided fans…

  5. SlyPirate Says:

    Who misses GMC? The rest of the NFC South. No one to help them up after the play.

  6. 813bucboi Says:

    cant wait!!!!

    GO BUCS!!!!