Todd Bowles Might Struggle To Follow His Own Act

July 14th, 2023

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No pass rush did more with less than the Buccaneers’ last season.

With Todd Bowles working his deceptive magic, Tampa Bay somehow finished with 45 sacks. Only six teams posted more takedowns as Bowles sent defenders flying from all angles in an effort to disrupt the timing of opposing passers.

Eight different Bucs finished with three sacks or more and Vita Vea led the club with 6 1/2. Those metrics were a marked contrast from previous years, when Bowles annually featured a pocket-collapsing edge rusher.

“When your nose is your leading sack guy, I don’t think the pass rush was good enough,” Bowles says. “We fell off some, we missed some. They came from a multiple group of people. You want to get there with four so you can play more coverage.”

Rookie defensive tackle Calijah Kancey, the Bucs’ first-round pick.

Getting there with only four figures to prove quite challenging this fall, even for a defensive guru like Bowles. Unless first-round pick defensive tackle Calijah Kancey makes an immediate impact, the Bucs will struggle to maintain their astonishing consistency in putting quarterbacks on the ground.

Only two teams saw their leading sacker post a lower number than Vea in 2022. Rookie safety Jaquan Brisker topped the Bears with four sacks while defensive tackle Grady Jarrett’s four sacks led Atlanta.

Lacking a stud pass rusher, Chicago ranked last in the league with 20 sacks. The Falcons were next-to-last with 21 takedowns.

But somehow, someway, Bowles generated 45 sacks from a group that offered little juice off the edge. Perhaps rookie YaYa Diaby can provide some heat, but don’t be shocked if the Bucs add a proven edge rusher before the season opener.

“If the situation becomes available, we’ll definitely need more sacks from the position,” says Bowles. “That’s one of our money positions where we count on sacks to come from — the majority of them anyway. We need more production from a sack standpoint out of that position.”

Former Bucs edge rusher Jason Pierre-Paul.

During his 4-year tenure running the defense, Bowles has seen his unit accumulate between 45-to-48 sacks per season. But last year had a different edge — and a different feel.

In 2019, Bowles saw Shaq Barrett post 19 1/2 sacks, primarily off the left flank. During the 2020 championship season, Jason Pierre-Paul and Barrett combined for 17 1/2 sacks as edge rushers.

Barrett compiled 10 sacks in 2021 to lead the way, but JPP departed a year ago and Barrett wasn’t the same force, even before suffering a torn Achilles tendon in midseason.

Other teams in the division boast stellar edge rushers like Carolina’s Brian Burns and Cameron Jordan of the Saints. The Bucs counter with situational pass rusher Anthony Nelson and 30-year-old Barrett, coming off a significant injury.

That’s why the development of Joe Tryon-Shoyinka is so pivotal this fall. JTS has shown impressive athleticism, but he continually frustrates Buc Nation with his struggles to close the deal.

“I think he can get a lot better,” Bowles says of the former first-round pick. “He’s got all the talent in the world and we’re waiting for this guy to break out. When he does, if he does, he’s going to be a heck of a player.”

Kirk Cousins and Justin Jefferson will be waiting when the Bucs venture to Minnesota in Week 1. It would be lovely if Bowles comes in armed with the winning edge.

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12 Responses to “Todd Bowles Might Struggle To Follow His Own Act”

  1. WillieG Says:

    “I think he (JTS) can get a lot better.” Bowles

    Every Buc fan in the world “Ya think?!”

  2. Caleb M Says:

    I will contend that when JTS was drafted he was more of a “raw” project player. So in my opinion it would seem normal to have a few growing pains. Also agree this is the “show me” year for him though..

    I would postulate that this is the year we actually see if Licht is a draft genius or just above average. Especially when adding Cody Mauch, Logan Hall, Rachaad White and Luke Goedeke to the “lets see what we’ve got” trend. Rather exciting, I’d say.

  3. Mostly Peaceful Trask Fan Says:

    Bowles can coach defense – especially the blitz.

    This is why I see the validity in Joe’s optimism – if (and that’s a big IF) Canales can get the Bucs 25 PPG they might be able to make some hay.

    No chance replicating 2020-2021 output but if they can sniff 25 the division is in play.

  4. Destinjohnny Says:

    JTS is our best outside rusher
    Strong work Jason

  5. TonySoprano Says:

    JTS’s biggest problem is not “failing to finish the play” – that’s giving him too much credit. His problem is that he plays way too soft. He only ever tries to run around the outside of the tackle, and the tackle knows this. JTS has absolutely zero power, so with no bull rush to speak of, the OT can easily veer him 7 yards out of the play, creating the illusion he’s getting close to the QB. JTS is one of those guys whose jersey is completely clean after a game.

  6. Crickett Baker Says:

    Great article, Ira. It makes me think.

  7. Defense Rules Says:

    Ira … ‘With Todd Bowles working his deceptive magic, Tampa Bay somehow finished with 45 sacks. Only six teams posted more takedowns as Bowles sent defenders flying from all angles in an effort to disrupt the timing of opposing passers.’

    Great article Ira, and it’s good to see that someone at JBF appreciates Bowles ‘deceptive magic’. His defenses have been remarkably consistent in terms of sacks since 2019 (47, 48, 47, 45). Pressures on opposing QBs increased steadily from 2019-2021 (186, 193, 224) … until last season when we only logged 144 total pressures.

    BIG drop, and it coincides IMO with 2 other things that our defense had going on. First, our blitzes fell way off. We blitzed 613 times in 2019, then 542 times in 2020, then 532 times in 2021 … but that fell way down to 250 times in 2022. Second, our run defense fell off the cliff last year, and I’m presuming that had a major impact on our blitzing numbers (had to keep guys at home to protect their lanes/gaps from runs?). We gave up a total of 2052 rushing yards last year, as opposed to only 1573 in 2021, 1289 in 2020 and 1181 in 2019. That’s a BIG change in just 1 year, and it had to affect Bowles’ strategy & tactics.

    The big question now is … Do we have the defensive talent to get back to those earlier run defense numbers? Or will our 2023 run defense become our Achilles Heel?

  8. MadMax Says:

    drafting pass rush busts everywhere….we have a history of it…oh well

  9. Voice of Truth Says:

    We better manufacture a lot of sacks, the run D is gonna be soft as a pillow

    We have Vea, Gaines and a bunch of 280 pounders – we are going to get pushed around if we don’t shore up that DLine depth – we need some size inside

  10. garro Says:

    HOF worthy as always Ira

    19 1/2 sounds crazy after last years punchless edge rush production. Come on back Shaq!

    Go Bucs!

  11. SlyPirate Says:

    Sack Prediction: 51
    Shaq – 8
    JTS – 7
    White – 7
    Nelson – 6
    Kancey – 6
    Vea – 5
    Ya Ya – 5
    Hall – 4
    Winfield – 3

  12. Funderstruck Says:

    DR with solid stats as usual. Bravo.

    An attacking defense is always trying to get to the QB. Didn’t Sapp say run defense is when you run into the runner on the way to the QB? —something to that effect. Blitzing can be good against the run or pass, but it comes at a cost of possibly giving up the big play.

    And as the Joes and Ira have said before, Bowles couldn’t afford to gamble like that if he couldn’t rely on SpongeBob to adequately give him enough points to cover those defensive misses.

    Fewer blitzes resulted in less impressive numbers, but it’s because Bowles was trying to mitigate an unimaginative offense. Keep people in coverage to not give up the big play, keep everything in front, and take the air out of the ball defensively, to shorten the game and just hope Brady can pull it out in the end.

    Enter Canales, and if he can give Bowles confidence that he can control the ball, Bowles will have the freedom to roll the dice once again. It will make coaching a lot more fun; all generals have managed skirmishes where the goal is to bleed slowly to buy time and stretch out the other side’s offensive, but it’s a lot more fun to put them on their heels and creatively expose your superiority over the opponent.

    I bet I know which version of the game Bowles wants to play.