Tougher Times Call For Tougher Defense

April 20th, 2022

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A dive inside the numbers suggests this should be a defensive draft for the Buccaneers.

You’re not going to get that acknowledgement publicly from Jason Licht, who spent 24 minutes with the media this week leaving every draft door open wide. Any question that began with the phrase “Would you rule out drafting a …” was met with a quick response that ruled out nothing but a substantive reply.

Smart man.

Smokeblower GM Jason Licht

With 31 other organizations eager for any draft tidbits, Licht’s too savvy to give away any tells at this poker table. Can you blame him?

Why should he show his hand before he has to turn in a card?

But when you look at this depth chart and how the 2021 Bucs fared against elite quarterbacks, it’s easy to conclude Licht should indulge Todd Bowles by filling some defensive needs.

This offense is still in very good shape — even if Chris Godwin isn’t fully recovered by Week 1. Russell Gage should be productive opposite Mike Evans and Rob Gronkowski figures to give it one more go with Tom Brady.

The offensive line is solid despite Ali Marpet’s retirement and Leonard Fournette is just hitting his stride as a 3-down back Brady has learned to trust on screens and checkdowns.

The metrics suggest the Buc defense was quite stout last year. That’s not entirely true, although Tampa Bay allowed an average of only 20.8 points per game, ranking fifth.

That’s an impressive effort, especially with a flurry of injuries at cornerback and Jason Pierre-Paul’s struggles to overcome a bum shoulder that robbed him of his power off the right edge. But when the Bucs faced some of the NFL’s premier quarterbacks, this defense did not hold.

Rough times against top QBs.

When going against Dak Prescott, Josh Allen and Matt Stafford (twice), the Bucs allowed an average of 30 points and 438 yards, losing twice to the Rams and winning shootouts against the Cowboys and Bills. Collectively, those three quarterbacks completed 71 percent of their throws in four games against Tampa Bay, with 11 TD passes and only two interceptions.

When opponents stepped up in class under center, the Buc defense struggled to get off the field as the Cowboys, Bills and Rams combined for a 45 percent success rate on third down.

Schedule Impact

At this point, the future of Ndamukong Suh is uncertain. The Bucs need to get younger on the defensive line and there’s no guarantee Joe Tryon-Shoyinka is ready for prime time. Vita Vea is the only proven commodity up front younger than 30. If the Bucs make a deep playoff run, Lavonte David will have turned 33.

A glance at the upcoming schedule also presents a compelling case for a defense-oriented draft.

Once the Bucs leave the comfort of the NFC South, here are some of the remaining quarterbacks standing — and running — in their way this fall: Stafford, Patrick Mahomes, Aaron Rodgers, Joe Burrow, Lamar Jackson, Kyler Murray and Prescott.

That’s enough firepower to keep cornerbacks coach Kevin Ross up all night.

Defensive tackle, edge rusher, inside linebacker and corner are all areas of concern in terms of depth. As Bowles says, he knows how to teach football. For Licht, no longer shaping his draft around Bruce Arians, it makes sense to give Bowles some new defensive pieces, knowing Brady will take good care of the other side of the ball.

While this remains a good defense, good may not be good enough when facing down these gunslingers. This schedule looks a lot more challenging.

Tougher times call for tougher defense.

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30 Responses to “Tougher Times Call For Tougher Defense”

  1. Guzzie Says:

    Every team struggles against elite QBs, that’s why they are elite, that being said, anything short of Revis Reggie White, and Ray Lewis getting drafted this year to fill our defensive weaknesses, giving the only TB that matters more weapons isn’t the worst idea. Shootouts win more these days than defense, it’s Madden out there, this isn’t 20 year’s ago, no matter how much us older guys want to believe defense wins championships, who scores last wins championships

  2. Zzbuc Says:

    As usual agree 100% Sage!
    This draft should be all about Defense…… maybe a TE!

  3. Guzzie Says:

    So top ranked Breece Hall in 1st, TE Jelani Woods (6’7 260 ran a 4.61) or top remaining TE in the 2nd, you might get 2 elite players for the next decade instead of taking 3-5th ranked DT, Edge or DB

  4. Tampabaybucfan Says:

    Hard to argue that the defense needs strengthening……first two picks….CB, DT (not necessarily in that order) Then you can go for LB for depth & perhaps to eventually replace LVD…..we should wait until round 4 for OG..(Licht will work his magic…..
    Round 6-7….whatever (I wouldn’t be surprised if we cut Pinion for cap space and drafted a punter in round 7.

  5. Biff Barker Says:

    Nice writeup Ira.

    The pragmatic fan should readily agree.

    The Bucs know who we’ve got on the roster and what our direction should be. Let’s see how the chips fall during the draft.

  6. geno711 Says:

    Sage. I appreciate your wisdom.

  7. TheBradyBunch Says:

    I agree but I just don’t want us trotting out an undrfted career backup OG to protect our most valuable asset. Any shot at SB depends on Brady being protected and staying healthy. I think too many fans are taking it for granted that because Stinnie played well in a couple of games that we can simply plug and play a guy that was essentially a scrub and get the same level of production that we got from a pro bowler.

  8. D-Rome Says:

    Nice article, Ira.

    Good points, Guzzie.

  9. Steven007 Says:

    Um, we’re not drafting a running back on the first round Guz.

  10. Bucsfan Says:

    Darlington is a fraud. Tom sr called him at a couple of weeks ago pre maturely saying Brady is retiring. Darlington is out of Brady trust circle. Go look it up March 2 he was on get up and said Brady wasnt coming back. He said Brady was enjoying he retirement with his family. He said maybe in june he will get itch but in my opinion he is done. Google Get up march 2. That same week Schefter on his podcast said Brady is not coming back. Darlington today also said i thinks Brady will play for Dolphins next year. He said where there is smoke their is fire. He is talking out of both sides of his mouth. He is finished with the Brady camp

  11. Mike Johnson Says:

    What an ignorant statement by Guzzie here. Thats why you must have a great Defense like LA had to stop Offenses from scoring. If you don’t have a decent Defense, Your opponent’s offense will surely score easily. Keep thinking a good Defense cannot win a championship. And we will be right back where we were last year.

  12. Guzzie Says:

    The lack of weapons is why we scored 3 points in the 1st half, pretty ignorant thinking if we had a Breece Hall to supplement hobbling Lenny, we are talking Saquon athletic in Breece, he’s not KVaughn athletic, and decent depth at wr, not 5th rd and free agent depth, we wouldn’t score more than 3, Rams defense didn’t stop Brady, injuries stopped our team

  13. Guzzie Says:

    Last one to score wins championships, defense is a luxury

  14. David Says:

    Merging 12 mocks from CBS, espn, and The player most likely to land with the Buccaneers is Jordan Davis DT Georgia. If he falls to them I would be absolutely ecstatic.

  15. Guzzie Says:

    One last thing, I mentioned taking Breece over the 3rd to 5th rank defensive player, meaning loading up the offense with elite talent over getting subpar talent just based on need, not over a Wyatt or if a top CB was available, we can outscore most teams if we have qualiity backups, our defense has plenty to get by as you say

  16. Guzzie Says:

    No way Davis gets out the teens

  17. David Says:


    Everyone keeps saying that but he was initially projected as a late first early second round pick. The combine elevated him some. Most GM’s don’t put a lot of stock into the combine other than interviews.
    This draft is heavy on WR, DB, a few OL, and edge rushers in the first 20 picks. Plus there will always be teams to overvalue two or three QBs.
    I would not doubt for a second that he drops into the 20s. If he does I would have no problem with the Buccaneers trading up to get him.
    In theory, to move from 27 to 20th to get him could be done with 2 third round picks or their second, which would even be overpaying a little.

  18. Guzzie Says:

    That would be sick having those two monsters Vea n Davis

  19. David Says:

    I know I’m being optimistic but the thought of him and Vea next to each other taking up 3-4 lineman for the next several years is beautiful. It would make the edge rushers better. It would make Devon White all pro every year. That would make all the DBs better. It all starts with the trenches

  20. Defense Rules Says:

    Ira … ‘For Licht, no longer shaping his draft around Bruce Arians, it makes sense to give Bowles some new defensive pieces, knowing Brady will take good care of the other side of the ball.’

    I hope you’re right Sage.

  21. Coburn Says:

    Yikes the only thing is hate more than a wide receiver in the first I’d giving up an additional value pick to do so when we have needs all over the defense

  22. geno711 Says:

    Buccaneers get: 2-47, EDGE Montez Sweat
    Commanders get: 1-27, 2-60

  23. Aaron Says:

    So drafting a bunch of defensive rookies in this years draft will help us against the NFL’s premier quarterbacks that we play this year? Did our 1st round DE really impact any of the elite QBs we played last year? He very well may become a good football player but this draft has to be about this year only…If one of the WR falls to us at 27 and they can return punts – that’s a player that helps us this year…

    Guards drafted late in the 1st round seem to be able to jump in and start – I do trust in our GMs ability to find one later.

    Defensive tackles at 27 – pretty much don’t rush the passer…maybe there is a corner we like at 27…but I’m not 100% sold in our ability to draft corners…

    I do agree we need to add depth to our D but expecting rookies to have a major impact is scary…..

    Go Bucs!

  24. Coburn Says:

    Have to give it our best attempt. Right now our defense has a lot of holes and unfortunately I don’t expect any other cavalry to arrive…. I’d rather try to draft some guys high than to rely on undrafted free agents. We only have one decent 3-4 defensive end right now… Need at least someone opposite Gholston and a depth guy. Suh would help fill one of those spots. And yeah corner would be nice in there

  25. Coburn Says:

    And yeah you usually see more sacks from edge guys but if you have don’t have a decent line it can be easy to scheme then out altogether

  26. David Says:

    Other than quarterback, and even that is going by the wayside, the only position that has trouble starting and excelling as a rookie seems to be Edge rusher. DBs, LBs, DTs, O-line, WR, RB, & TE all can have immediate impact.

  27. Buczilla Says:

    Chris Olave if he’s there and if not I’m fine going defense. Our receivers after Gage are not good and we should be desperate to grab one within the first three rounds. Why gimp our best player (Brady) , by not providing him enough bullets for his gun? With all of the depth at receiver this year we can easily pick up a starter in round three.

  28. jvato24 Says:

    Amen Ira!!

  29. DEEEMO Says:

    OK…Been saying this for weeks now…D-LINE…D-LINE….D-LINE with the first pick. Everyone saying Offense wins games. Not True…DEFENSE WINS GAMES…Offense puts people in the seats. Look at the last 5 Super Bowls (including the Bucs win over KC)…Defense won those games!!!! This Draft needs to be about DEFENSE for the BUCS!

    BTW…Great Article Ira…

  30. Masterlock majic Says:

    Get jordan davis best drive seen since sapp ..with him and vea itll be 750 lbs of run stopping force..almost like the goose and sam Adam on the ravens who ran away with the superbowl with Trent as the qb
    Go bucs