2022 Season Big Test For Retooled Defense

July 19th, 2022

Bucs coach Todd Bowles.

Stagnation is often a bad thing.

Of course, what’s wrong with stagnation when you are the best? The Bucs won the Super Bowl two seasons ago in part because of defense. It was the best against the run and who will ever forget the murderer’s row of quarterbacks the Bucs stomped out to win the Super Bowl, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers and Pat Mahomes? Incredible!

And no one will wag a finger at Bucs AC/DC-loving general manager Jason Licht for bringing that starting defense back. How could you?

But alas, the Bucs defense dropped off last year as handicapper-turned-statgeek Warren Sharp details in his Warren Sharp’s 2022 Football Preview.

… … The 2020 defense literally ranked top-10 in every single critical metric. The 2021 defense was fringe top-10 against the easiest schedule of opposing offenses, but saw drops in several key metrics.

They dropped from first in run defense in 2020 to 12th in 2021 and from seventh in rate of explosive runs allowed in 2020 to 28th in 2021. This came despite playing the NFL’s fourth-easiest schedule of run offenses in 2021.

They also dropped from 10th in third down defense in 2020 to 13th in 2021. This came despite playing the NFL’s easiest schedule of passing offenses in 2021. The reality was even worse than the final ranking. That’s because they played the Panthers twice and Jets once in their final three games of 2021. But over the first 13 weeks of the season, the Bucs ranked 24th in third down conversions allowed. They allowed 42.2% of third downs to be converted.

Licht and new coach Todd Bowles apparently noticed the defense needed adjusting because they waved goodbye to Ndamukong Suh and Jason Pierre-Paul. And they signed defensive tackle Akiem Hicks and defensive backs Logan Ryan and Keanu Neal, and drafted defensive tackle Logan Hall and corner Zyon McCollum.

Sharp noted this season the Bucs will face offenses expected to be significantly better than last year.

The key to the defense turning things around? Well, having the new guys ball out, of course. But just as important is keeping guys healthy. Starting corners Carlton Davis and Sean Murphy-Bunting missed 15 starts combined in 2021. JPP missed five games and was basically playing with one arm.

All the injuries left Bowles scrambling, constantly and constantly adjusting to cover the absences. This partially led to a diluted Devin White and relying on washed-up Richard Sherman and the (currently) unemployed bottle of cologne, Pierre Desir.

Joe believes the Bucs will be better defensively if they can just stay healthy.

23 Responses to “2022 Season Big Test For Retooled Defense”

  1. FrontFour Says:

    Our D line dominated in 2020 and was average at best is 2021. Injuries no doubt played a big part, but so does age. I still expect we’ll see some additions before the season starts, especially at Edge and ILB behind LVD.

  2. 1#bucsfan Says:

    If we can consistently get pressure on the QB n stay healthy it’s going to be a great season for this defense

  3. Beeej Says:


    Had a PFF ranking of 50. He was getting pushed around

  4. geno711 Says:

    There is a reason JPP and Suh got less snaps last year (percentage wise) than any other year. That being said, Suh always seems to play his best in big games. He played well through the playoffs in both of the last two years.

  5. Defense Rules Says:

    ‘Joe believes the Bucs will be better defensively if they can just stay healthy.’

    And the 2021 defense could’ve played MUCH better defensively IF they’d just stayed healthy. But alas, that wasn’t the case. DEPTH counts. Is our depth really any better this year?

    As an aside, our average yds/rush allowed was 3.6 in 2020, ranking us #1. Our average yds/rush allowed slipped to 4.3 in 2021, ranking us #15. So yes, we weren’t as stout against the run last season, but teams ran outside & off-tackle more against us last year, yielding a number of longer, more explosive runs that really drove up that average. Doesn’t take a genius to figure out why opponents ran more out there.

    Doubt that JPP will be back, but I’m still convinced that Suh will.

  6. Stone crab sam Says:

    I hope they bring suh back
    The man is like a ‘71 lafite Rothschild.
    He gets better with age.

  7. BucsFanSince1976 Says:

    LVD being 100% is required as Bucs are very thin at LB , which was evident in the Jets game last year when Minter was required to play the whole game. Bucs need to pick up a final cut experienced LB.

  8. Wild Bill Says:

    It’s hard to make it to the top. And it’s even harder to stay there. Win or lose I will remain a huge fan. Bring it on!

  9. David Says:

    The first comment here, and a lot of people‘s misconception, is the Buccaneers‘s dominating pass rush in 2020. Against the run they were dominant but not the pass rush. It was extremely inconsistent yet again. Everyone’s memory seems to be recalling the playoffs where it leveled up five times and became dominant. This defense will be good if they get a pass rush and if they can stay healthier than they did last year

  10. Craig Says:

    If the retooled line can get consistent pressure, everything will be fine.

    Part of the reason for so many injuries in the defensive backfield was the intermittent pass rush, it didn’t get there enough. That caused the backs to wear themselves out trying to cover for too long.

  11. Goatfarmer Says:

    Warren Sharp has the metrics that confirm what many of us thought we saw.

    Hey Todd — how about linking classroom work to on the field drills and scrimmages, making sure that your DBs know what the hell they’re supposed to do in zone coverages, especially when sending more than 4? Speaking of blitzes, time to invent some new blitz schemes. Last year reminded me of too many Bucs teams of the past where the blitz was giving the opponent an automatic uncovered 20 yard catch.

    And what happens if LVD goes down again? Or DW? That’s really more of a question for Jason.

    Speaking of Jason……Suh.

    I expect further regression in 2022 on defense, given the offenses and quarterbacks we will be facing. I guess get ready for more of that bend and hope not to break too much philosophy. Yuck.

  12. Goatfarmer Says:

    Oh yeah. There’s something called “tackling.” See if can teach your guys how to do it before the Rams game.

  13. BucsfanFred Says:

    I have no doubt at all our D will be better. Especially if Logan Hall plays ok and we sustain long drives on O

  14. SPARKY Says:

    I wonder if Suh wants a lot more money than we want to give him. Maybe Jason told him we will give you xxx amount of dollars and that’s it. Jason tells Suh go ahead and see what you can get, our offer is there if nobody will give you what you want. Maybe the same for JPP?

  15. Upstate NY BUC Says:

    GOAT agree 100%, Tackling is an issue and had been for the past few seasons!!! Bowles better shore that up or we are in for a long season on “D”… Go Bucs!!

  16. Tampabaybucfan Says:

    We need a TE, LB & Edgr Rusher more than Suh…..Love Suh but if he want’s too mo much money….move on.

  17. Bucsfanman Says:

    There’s another scenario as to “why?” While everything stated here is true about injuries and age, it’s also the job of opposing teams to scout and exploit teams’ weaknesses.
    To cover for a 3rd-string corner, DW may be forced to play zone more. If I’m a DC, I run the ball right at that spot which is most likely outside the box. If they start cheating a safety down, double-move.
    Can’t run? Why bother? Throw the ball more.
    It’s the other teams’ job to study our tendencies. We need to adjust accordingly.

    Oh, by the way, we were 13-4 last season. Just how “bad” is that?!

  18. Defense Rules Says:

    Bucsfanman … ‘it’s also the job of opposing teams to scout and exploit teams’ weaknesses’.

    Yea verily. Sometimes we don’t give our opponents enough credit for playing an outstanding game. Instead we just whine about how one or more of our players (or coaches?) screwed up.

    In our 5 losses last season, we got whooped in the trenches. But it wasn’t just our defense; it was our offense too. In those 5 losses, our offense averaged 19.4 PPG, down slightly over 2 TDs from the 33.7 PPG we averaged in our 14 wins.

    But the same held true for our defense. It surrendered an average of 27.6 PPG in those 5 losses, up nearly 1 TD + 1 FG from the 18.6 PPG average we gave up in our 14 wins.

    Bottom line to me is that the Rams, Saints & Washington whooped us good. The only question now is ‘What are we gonna do about it?’ to keep it from happening again this year.

  19. geno711 Says:


    Agree with the talk about the trenches. Not enough people talk about how many games we actually control the trenches. 2nd half of 2019, the coaching started to take effect and we started winning the trenches much more than we had in the past. We seem to now have 7 to 10 games a year where we are clearly the team controlling the trenches on both sides of the ball.

  20. LOL Says:

    Bucs should sign Carl Nassib to a vet minimum contract for some depth this year

  21. Goatfarmer Says:

    Nassib might be a lot Coker room distraction, explaining why he is currently unemployed. Nelson >> Nassib.

  22. Goatfarmer Says:

    Locker room

  23. unbelievable Says:

    Still feels like we have a massive hole where JPP was.

    We’re all hoping JTS steps up (with maybe some of the rookie Hall too), but I mean those are HUGE shoes to fill…

    Without a consistent pass rush, this defense will get exposed again. I do think we’ve fortified the middle (if Hicks stays healthy, another big IF), so being better against the run again should help overall.