Fixing The Run Defense

May 16th, 2022

In 2019 and 2020, the Bucs had the best run defense in the NFL. No team allowed fewer yards per carry than Tampa Bay in that span.

Last year was a very different story.

The Bucs ranked 15th in the NFL in yards allowed per attempt. Joe’s still not sure what happened in January against the Jets.

While the Antonio Brown freakout is how that New York game will be remembered by all, Joe recalls the Bucs allowing the Jets to rush 26 times for 150 yards and two touchdowns. And their quarterback didn’t run for one stinkin’ yard!

How did that happen? Joe still isn’t sure, and Pro Bowl nose tackle Vita Vea played nearly two-thirds of the snaps against the Jets (39 total).

A week later, the Panthers were in a one-score game with the Bucs in the fourth quarter, and lowly Carolina found 110 yards rushing on 26 attempts in that game.

Head coach/defensive playcaller Todd Bowles is a stop-the-run-first guy, but that might be changing this season. The drafting of Logan Hall wasn’t done to tighten the run defense, and neither was the team standing down when it comes to re-siging Ndamukong Suh.

Defensive backs Logan Ryan and Keanu Neal are strong tacklers, but it’s unclear how much they’ll see the field.

The Bucs really need Lavonte David and Devin White to have rebound seasons. Not that they were bad, but both can play better. Joe Tryon-Shoyinka learning to play the run after a rocky rookie season in that role would help immensely, too.

55 Responses to “Fixing The Run Defense”

  1. Guzzie Says:

    It was the poor tackling by the secondary guys would bounce off all the arm tackling, look like a college team getting out classed by a stud RB, but it was JAGs looking like studs

  2. Mort Says:

    Ryan is your nickel, and Neal is in the mix for strong safety, likely to evenly split time with edwards.

  3. Casual Observer Says:

    I think Guzzie is right. I noticed terrible tackling in the pre-season. And not sure if enough attention was paid to that aspect all season.

  4. #8 Says:


  5. A Bucs Fan Says:

    It was concerning for sure. Especially after what Josh Allen did to them. Although, I don’t know if it was the defense being worse at run defense or they were more so cheating the run to play the pass because most teams didn’t even try to run on them until late in the season. I mean opposing QB’s averaged what 42 passing attempts a game? That’s insane.

    Now had teams figured out they were leaning on their reputation (hoping teams wouldn’t run) instead of playing the run I believe they would have made the proper adjustments, but the bucs offense scored so much that they didn’t need to really.

  6. Darin Says:

    45’s play needs to live up to his talk. Be the best if you say you are.

  7. Bucsfan4ever Says:

    On another BUCS site they showed clips where Suh was getting off blocks and filling gaps kinda slowly.
    He’s not what he used to be.

  8. Tampabaybucfan Says:

    I think it was a collective effort (or lack of effort) coupled with some injuries…..namely to JPP, LVD…..and perhaps White wasn’t 100%………

  9. GOB Says:

    Had the bucs offense not been historically great, the run defense problem could’ve been much worse. Most teams didn’t even bother trying to run against the bucs last year. Even when they did, the offense put them in a position to abandon it. After all, points come through the passing game.
    The modern NFL is almost backwards. Coaching staffs are more than happy to concede the run, and stop you in the red area, and force field goals. Unless teams stick with a running attack all game, it’s hard to get points out of it. I’d be more worried about a secondary that can’t tackle, and a scheme that is unnecessarily aggressive most of the time

  10. D-Rok Says:

    Not hard to figure out – late in the season, the run D wore down, got tired, perhaps. We do have some old dawgz on the D-Line, yes? Either they got tired or were saving their efforts for the playoffs. Exhibit A: Jets. Exhibit B: Panthers. Those were “breather” games for the big guys on front 7. Not sure I’m concerned yet.

  11. Richard Says:

    I’ve said it many times before….DW or 45 as a previous post said…. needs to turn in on. Notice that I didn’t say turn it around because he’s not been the player the media thinks he is. He was horrible last season and barely average in the 2 before that. Yes. He had an interception against the saints and also the chiefs in the playoffs/ super bowl but overall he’s missed way too may tackles, poor technique, overrunning plays, inability to shed blocks, excessive yardage allowed after contact….it goes on and on!!!! Yes, I’ve constantly dissected his poor play. I’m a huge BUCS FAN and I really do want him to be great but the tape doesn’t lie….if you doubt what I’m saying…WATCH THE TAPE…IT DOESN’T LIE!!!

  12. Craig Says:

    LVD had bum wheels for half the season, and you can’t let Devin run wild and expect to win. He overran too many plays and tried halfarsed arm tackle half a dozen more times.

    In short, Devin White whiffed about as many times as there were running plays, and that allowed an extra ten yards per play.

  13. Bucsfan13 Says:

    The tackling is bad because they’re not allowed to tackle Brady in practice.

  14. Buccos Says:

    We need Suh fo’ sho’!

  15. #8 Says:

    Bucsfan4ever–didn’t even know that site existed–thank you. Honestly–(I’m only a TB12 tourist).

    Suh is up there in age, but we need more DLine help. I’m open to any legit help on the DLine. Suh probably cannot work the snaps he once used to, which ends up being a $ issue. They also used only late season tape, so perhaps he was gassed after a 17 game season…who knows.

    In the end, I’d simply like to see us shore up the DLine more.


  16. GOB Says:

    If the bucs wanted to pay 8-10 million, Suh would be back in a heartbeat. He’s just not worth that money anymore. Along with the decline in his play, he sometimes has effort issues. Licht must feel like he can equate his production, or at least mitigate the loss. It isn’t a cap issue either, because the cap doesn’t exist.
    Suh was never the difference maker he was lauded to be, even in his prime. I really don’t get the love for this guy. We’re talking about the guy who admitted the only reason he went to Miami was money. That may be true for most players, but it’s a really bad look admitting it publicly

  17. Defense Rules Says:

    Good article Joe; enjoyed it. Contrary to the article title however, our run defense doesn’t need fixing, although admittedly our opponents’ rushing yards per attempt (Y/A) was considerably higher in 2021 (4.3 Y/A) than in 2020 (3.6 Y/A) and in 2019 (3.3 Y/A). At the same time however, the reverse can be said of our opponents’ net passing yards per attempt (NY/A); it was considerably lower in 2021 (5.6 NY/A) than in 2020 (5.9 NY/A) and in 2019 (6.1 NY/A).

    Interestingly Bucs ranked #4 in opponents’ rushing attempts in 2019, #1 in 2020 and #1 again in 2021. Looked at in terms of rushing attempts per game however, opponents ran on us 21.5 times per game in 2021, 22.4 times per game in 2020, and 22.6 times per game in 2019. So last year opponents ran on us less but we surrendered more yards per carry average.

    Seems to me there’s a possibility at least that Todd Bowles intentionally sacrificed a little on the rushing defense side to help out the passing defense (considering the magnitude of the injuries our LBs & Secondary had?). It apparently worked because we gave up fewer passing yards per attempt last year than in 2020 or 2019.

    As an aside, Bucs’ defense gave up 100 or more rushing yards in 8 games last season, all to relatively strong rushing teams. Bucs won 7 out of those 8 games (we gave up 153 rushing yards to the Saints in our 1st meeting … and lost after pulling ahead 27-26 with under 6 minutes to go, but failing to convert a 2-pt conversion attempt, surrendering a FG and then a Pick-6 with a little over a minute remaining). Bummer.

  18. Defense Rules Says:

    GOB … Bringing back Suh is simple: how badly do you want to win the Super Bowl this year? Without him, this DLine is average at best, and that’s assuming that 2 youngsters (JTS & Hall) have good years.

    And as far as him going to Miami for the money goes, pay me $20 mil a year and I’ll go to Miami. And so would you. That contract made Suh the highest paid DLineman up to that point. Detroit played hardball and lost; Miami showed him the respect that comes with becoming the highest paid at your position.

  19. Smashsquatch Says:

    We need to disrupt the QB. It’s a passing league and if we can’t pressure the QB there will be no SB for the Bucs. We beat the Packers and Chiefs and won a SB in large part due to injuries along their offensive lines. Last year we couldn’t get to Stafford and lost. If I were in charge, my focus would be on pressure. Stop the run on your way to the QB.

  20. Biff Barker Says:

    We’ve historicaly had good linebackers. LVD is getting brittle and showing his age. White had a really poor season. Out of position? Poor tackling? Whatever. We’ll soon see. Bucs need, gasp, better Linebacking.

    Both JTS and White need to step it up big time. They better start playing up to their draft position.

    Ryan and Neal will crack the lineup and contribute right away.

    Praying for the sudden death of Camp Cupcake, I hope Bowles pulls a Coach Schiano and works on tackling drills. We were just too soft last year.

  21. Cobraboy Says:



    Next question.

  22. Francisco Guzman Says:

    More like fixing the pass defense. 🤦‍♂️

  23. cover deuce Says:

    Nobody played more snaps than this defense up to that point in the season (Jets and Panthers). I think part of the thing nobody is talking about is the fact that especially the front-7 guys were already pretty old. I think they just ran out of gas, which I don’t mean as an insult. Couple that with the DBs getting injured more than usual and I’m not surprised the defense just couldn’t hold together for another run.

  24. sasquatch Says:

    Suh isn’t what he once was, which was part of the decline.

  25. MadMax Says:

    Thank God for Big V and Big Will, but they cant do it alone. I dont know if it was scheme, decline in other players maybe due to injuries or whatever, but if we’re gonna make a run this year, we need our D! Thats why I was pushing for Logane Hall….I think he’s gonna have a great rookie season. We’ll see.

    Need to be drafting ILB first next year if TB12 stays. If not, QB Will Levis.

  26. MadMax Says:

    Logan….sorry guys for the misspelling.

  27. ModHairKen Says:

    The Jets and Carolina games were trap games late in the season. The Bucs were tired and injured. That’s why they were close and that’s why they gave up yards. There is nothing to fix.

  28. Hodad Says:

    For all the talk of needing Suh, and JPP notice no other teams are signing them either?

  29. alton d green Says:

    well, ESPN has us starting at 5-0. Thanks for the confidence. I hope they are right but…………………………………………………..!!!

  30. bucfan34 Says:

    Sign #93!!

  31. Joe in Michigan Says:

    Hodad Says:
    May 16th, 2022 at 6:35 pm
    For all the talk of needing Suh, and JPP notice no other teams are signing them either?
    There are still good/serviceable players that haven’t signed anywhere. If the Bucs did re-sign Suh, he would just need to be serviceable while splitting snaps with Logan Hall.
    If Devin White and Mike Edwards can learn to tackle, and JTS stops missing sure sacks, the Bucs should be okay.

  32. Leighroy Says:

    sCam had a 33 yard scramble on a broken play in the panthers game…. which we won 32-6 and otherwise yielded a 3.08ypc. Not exactly a home run supporting argument to this thesis.

  33. SlyPirate Says:


    In 2021, Tampa’s Defense ranked #3 in rushing yards allowed per game (92.5) and total rushing yards (1,573) in the NFL

    Rush per Attempt? Winston in one game threw a single pass for 60-yard TD. What were his per attempt stats? Per attempt stats are pointless.

    Big picture, sheep. Big picture.

  34. GOB Says:

    Defense, if you think Suh is the difference between a Superbowl or not, I strongly disagree. Answer me this, was he worth the real dollars last year? Cap aside, because all businesses have a bottom line. He wasn’t worth the real dollars. What makes you think he’ll be any better this year? It’s always, I repeat always better to be a year early than a yr late on guys like him. Yes even with a Superbowl ready roster. See the 07 Patriots defense. Licht already tried the bring all the boys back thing. I’m not saying Suh still can’t contribute, but if it’s my business, he’s a rotational 3-4 million dollar DT at best these days.

  35. #8 Says:

    If not Suh then who?
    Bottom line is out D front seems a gaping hole.

  36. Jason Says:

    Suh played on a torn up knee last season and still played better than most. If he is healed and the Bucs medical staff gives the green light then it is a no brainer to resign him. It clearly makes sense why our 1st pick in the draft was DL just in case Suh’s rehab takes longer than expected. Maybe an article on Suh’s rehab is justified Joes.

  37. GOB Says:

    Akiem Hicks for starters

  38. SPARKY Says:

    I think a lot of the tackling problem is everybody trying to cause fumbles instead of just getting the guy on the ground. I see guys trying to grab at the ball as runners go by. Get the guy on the ground.

  39. #8 Says:

    I’d be fine with hicks. I suggested him also somewhere amongst my random comments. Brady knows him and will help keep him in line. He had some locker room issues in Chicago.

  40. Defense Rules Says:

    GOB … Big picture: In 2018 Bucs’ run defense (title of this article remember) ranked #24 in Yards Allowed, then Suh arrived in 2019. That year we improved to #1 run defense in Yards Allowed. Coincidence? I think not. In 2020 (yes, our Super Bowl year) we remained the #1 run defense. Hmmm, Suh was still here anchoring the DLine (Vea missed a ton of games). Then in 2021 we slipped to #3 run defense, but as I postulated above, I think we sacrificed some run defense intentionally. Did I mention that Suh was still here?

    For all 3 of those years Vea, Gholston & RNR were also here. So were JPP & Shaq, as well as LVD & White. Now with no JPP & Suh unsigned, but with a couple of newbies in there (JTS & Hall), do you REALLY expect this Front-7 to be better this year? Sorry, but without Suh it’ll be the Achilles Heel of this team. Unless of course you find someone of equal talent & capability, for oh ya, the $3-$4 mil you’re willing to offer him. Good luck with that.

  41. OBVIOUS Says:

    There it is. If not Suh then who? And btw, All options are open in my book with anyone available that has at least the potential that Suh brings. Such is just playing the waiting game but he won’t wait forever.

    Besides that, idk if you guys watched the same games I watched last year but the secondary’s issue WAS tackling. It was an embarrassment. I watched MANY of them Literally step back, turn their heads, and attempted arm tackles with their eyes closed. I’m not going to mention names but it wasn’t necessarily our 3rd and fourth string guys I’m talking about. It Was the lost decade All Over Again.

    And THAT’S why I’ve been jumping up and down about getting help for the defense. This was under Bowles watch! I KNOW he saw it. I guess that’s why I’m Personally so amazed that as a defensive minded coach that he hasn’t been more aggressive getting more guys. In fact I’m perplexed. We’re not going to win often enough to go back to the bowl as is. We simply don’t have enough experience on the front line for one and nobody is going to talk me into believing otherwise until we get serious help

  42. GOB Says:

    I think Brandon Phillips and Sheldon Richardson are also still available. If a team thought Suh was worth the money he’s asking, he would have signed with a team by now. Maybe he realizes that and just retires. I can’t see a guy like Suh playing for a three million dollar, incentive laden deal. The fact is, that’s all he’s worth now. With any the guys I mentioned above, you’d probably get the same dirty work, for less than half the cost. Or cap, depending on your view of reality

  43. BucEmUp Says:

    We had the leagues worst secondary those years as well. Worst defensive coaching ive ever seen

  44. MadMax Says:

    Hicks for cheap? Yeah! Change might be just what he needs.

    Suh will cost, and even if he gives in to a cheap contract, maybe he performs cheap….i dont know, didnt mean any disrespect. If he’s buying in and ready to be a dog for this next SB, go get him….we’re rolling with some great guys but an addition will def help.

  45. GOB Says:

    Defense, Suh’s win rate at the line has been consistently declining the last three years. According to PFF it’s been below average for two years in a row. To the tune of 8.5% below. He’s also not doubled nearly as much as you’d think. I just think you can get that for less than half the price. Admit to the lunacy of the cap or not, no sane owner is putting that kind of straight cash in an escrow account.

  46. GOB Says:

    Reporter: “how you paying that fine Randy” Moss,: “straight cash homie”

  47. steele Says:

    Sheldon Richardson is one of a few DTs still left out there along with Malik Jackson, Larry Ogunjobi, Eddie Goldman. And Suh. Some of these guys need to be checked medically.

    Bucs need to make moves on DT and edge.

  48. Im not tired anymore we Super Bowl Champs!! Says:

    Without Suh our defense is toast. We have got to bring him back. Don’t overthink this Licht. Go Bucs!

  49. SPARKY Says:

    We don’t need new guys so much as the guys we got need to get the runners on the ground. Quit trying to grab at the ball when the runner go buy and put them on the ground. They try to much to do that row the boat thing in the end zone when they should be tackling and give the ball to the offense who actually can get in the end zone.

  50. PassingThru Says:

    Richardson is more of a 4-3 DT than 3-4 DE.

    Hicks is 3-4 DE; he’s a much better fit with the Buc defense.

  51. Joe in Michigan Says:

    Remember what kind of “mentor” that Grimes was for VH3? It’s not okay to be allergic to tackling. My point is that whoever the Bucs sign needs to be a good mentor for the young guys.

  52. BucsFanSince1976 Says:

    The longer Suh renains unsigned the better the chance that Bucs will get him back at a greatly reduced rate.

  53. Foreveverblue Says:

    Bringing in veteran leadership in the secondary with Neal and Logan shores up the secondary. We could have stayed at #27 and selected DT Donte Wyatt. This would have enabled us to get younger up front and no need to resign Sue freeing up $10M. After trading down at #33 Butcus award winner LB Nokobe Dean was available and we passed on him for G Goedeke when we already have Aaron Stennie and Robert Hainsey competing for the starter position. Dean would have been perfect to replace LaVonte David after next season. Another missed opportunity by GM Jason Licht.

  54. Joe in Michigan Says:

    Blue: Jason Licht knows more about these things than you.

  55. Foreveverblue Says:

    Joe in Michigan: GM Licht would have been fired after the Lovie Smith & Dirk Koeter coaching carousel. Luckily for Jason Tom Brady became available, fell into our lap and is the Bucs savior from futility. He’s terrible as a GM!