Defense Is Good, But It’s Not A Lockdown Bucs Defense

September 23rd, 2023

Bucs coach Todd Bowles’ defense leads NFL in an ugly stat.

The defense has led the way for the undefeated Bucs, shutting down Justin Jefferson (in the second half) of the Bucs’ Week 1 game and throttling Bears quarterback Justin Fields to the lowest rushing output of his career.

This doesn’t mean the Bucs are suffocating opposing offenses. The Bucs are giving up a ton of explosive plays. Rich Hribar of Sharp Football Analysis has the surprising breakdown of the Bucs defense breaking down too often for comfort.

Tampa Bay has allowed a gain of 20 or more yards on 9.7% of their opponent plays, the highest rate through two weeks.

Reading that gave Joe acid reflux. Not only is Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts dangerous (he’s certainly no worse than Kirk Cousins and he’s light years better than Fields) but the targets Hurts has are lethal. With A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith as the Eagles’ top two receivers, Philadelphia may be one of the few teams to boast bookend receivers on par with Mike Evans and Chris Godwin.

Joe admits that a hair below 10 percent of offensive snaps against the Bucs going for 20 or more yards is alarming. That’s got to be cleaned up.

36 Responses to “Defense Is Good, But It’s Not A Lockdown Bucs Defense”

  1. Fansince76 Says:

    Absolutely has to get cleaned up!
    To be a great defense this year the amount of explosive plays has to get reduced big time!

  2. ATLBuc Says:

    Most of that came against the Vikings in the first half. We’ve tightened up since then

  3. Tampabaybucfan Says:

    We tighten that up and we won’t lose many.

  4. BA’s Red Pen Says:

    Reflecting on last week after being surrounded by the other team’s fans in our own stadium……It still blows my mind that the bears fans actually thought they were going to beat us last week, what a garbage team. The D-coordinator’s house gets raided for kiddie porn, allegedly, the QB blaming the HC for his own robotic nature and lack of development. What a spit show.
    But the Bucs are in the Caleb Williams sweepstakes? Laughable.

  5. garro Says:

    Could it be that our back end id not as good as advertised? Diva really cant cover my gramma? AWJ spending a bit too much time in the box? Neal been playing hurt all year? Dean is not who we thought?

    Go Bucs!

  6. Defense Rules Says:

    Joe … ‘Tampa Bay has allowed a gain of 20 or more yards on 9.7% of their opponent plays, the highest rate through two weeks.’

    Monster stat Joe and totally unacceptable. Looked through the 2 games play-by-plays and it’s easy to figure out what the culprit is: pass defense. Bucs gave up 11 plays of 20 yds or more out of the 114 plays our opponents have run. Of those, 10 plays were pass plays and only 1 was a run.

    In the Vikings game, Bucs gave up 5 pass plays of 20 or more yds: 3 deep & 2 short totaling 158 yds, but no runs over 20 yds (did give up 7 runs though in the 10-20 yd range).

    In the Bears game, Bucs also gave up 5 pass plays of 20 or more yds: 3 deep & 2 short totaling 129 yds, plus 1 run (29 yds) over LT (also gave up 3 runs in the 10-20 yd range).

    Far too many explosive plays, and something that needs to be cleaned up obviously. That could really hurt us against teams with really high-powered offenses. Saving grace INMO is that our defense has only allowed opposing offenses to run 114 plays in 2 games. That looks to be because our offense has a great TOP (over 33 mins average) and our defense has been doing great on getting turnovers (5 thus far).

  7. Pewter Power Says:

    Giving up explosives is nothing new to Todd Bowles in fact it’s common. Ever since he got here we’ve given up big plays, how they getting that cleaned up in a few days? You got press corners playing zone

  8. Beej Says:

    “Could it be that our back end id not as good as advertised? Diva really cant cover my gramma? AWJ spending a bit too much time in the box? Neal been playing hurt all year? Dean is not who we thought?”

    We were playing zone for whatever reason. (I think Davis and Dean BOTH are poor at zone) When we went man, that was the end of THAT

  9. CHRISTOS Says:

    Defense has played solid but not at a top/elite level that some think.
    A top Defense does not rely on turnovers mostly to stop the opponent but make many stops and doesnt give up many 3rd downs.
    The bent but dont break mentality cant make a top defense, we give up many yards and plays. The coverage is not as good as it should be. Receivers are making most of the catces uncontestent. We need to have more hands on balls, more passes defended and more contested catches. Coverage is not good and you can see that. Dont play soft and scared on coverage.
    Go Bucs

  10. TampaBayBucsFanSince1976 Says:

    Flip side is our D is 4th in takeaways , which is hugely important. Keep it up with the takeaways and clean up the rest. BEAT THE IGGLES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  11. Craig Says:

    The defense will continually get better. The current training schedule does not let the safeties learn the nuance of how the other DBs will play.

    The D-line and LBs are in the same boat, and will learn to play together better.

    They will help slow Hurts down, because he isn’t yet on the same page as his WRs.

    I think the key Monday will be the offensive scheme and Canales might be leading the way there.

  12. Glass Half Full Guy Says:

    Philly has a great tandem of receivers and will definitely test our DBs and coverage schemes but if our pass rushers can get pressure and contain Hurts he might throw a few balls to our guys.

    Hurts has been sacked 7 times in 2 games and only has 2 TDs to 1 pick. Aside from C Kelce, their line looks a bit porous in pass pro. Run blocking is another story.

    Their run game has been very good but they probably won’t have their goal-line workhorse Boston Scott (concussion) and their #2 RB Gainwell is banged up (ribs). That said, they’ve run the ball just over 50% of their plays with 356 yards in 2 games, averaging 4.9 yards per rush with their RB1 Swift making up almost exactly half of those yards on 6.1 ypc.

    While the Eagles haven’t exactly looked dominant so far this season, there are definitely some big areas for Bowles & Co. to prepare for and I’m sure Philly isn’t taking the Bucs lightly, but will probably be looking to make a statement to a national audience and won’t be satisfied with another close win.

    I hope we can turn the tables on them and score early and often to make them play catch-up like we found ourselves doing too often last year. Make them one-dimensional, taking away a chunk of their run offense (a strength) and see what Hurts can do about it.

  13. Infomeplease Says:

    This game will be a true test of the Buc’s defense and offense! Which team wants the W more? Which team plays the hardest? Which team makes the big plays when they need too? Which team makes the right adjustments!

    The Bucs need all hands on deck for 60 minutes!! Should be a great game!!!

  14. Defense Rules Says:

    CHRISTOS … ‘The coverage is not as good as it should be. Receivers are making most of the catches uncontested. We need to have more hands on balls, more passes defended and more contested catches.’

    Agree with your analysis that we need more contested catches (seeing too many receivers running free), but I tend to think that’s a product of how much zone we play like Beej says. Even that though is probably the result of our defense being so intent on stopping the run (easy to get bitten in man coverage if you dedicate too many to run defense; ie, not enough ‘hats on hats’?).

    I think Todd Bowles has made a conscious decision to strive for a top run defense at the expense of being willing to accept a mid-level (at best) pass defense. Look at his 4 years here:

    o 2019: Run defense: #1 … Pass defense: #30
    o 2020: Run defense: #1 … Pass defense: #21
    o 2021: Run defense: #3 … Pass defense: #21
    o 2022: Run defense: #15 … Pass defense: #9

    The 1 year (2022) when our pass defense broke the Top-10 (at #9), our run defense slid a bunch (to #15). All a matter of where you put your priorities? It seems obvious through these first 2 games that Bowles is emphasizing run defense (currently ranked #3) but the result is that we’re back to average-at-best pass defense (currently ranked #24 in yardage but #15 in passing TDs allowed). Since so many of the teams on our schedule are run-focused (Falcons, Panthers, Eagles, Bears, Lions, Titans, 49ers at least), that seems like a smart ‘big picture’ move to me. We’re young and still have a lot of growing to do.

  15. Joe in Michigan Says:

    garro Says:
    September 23rd, 2023 at 8:01 am
    Could it be that our back end id not as good as advertised? Diva really cant cover my gramma? AWJ spending a bit too much time in the box? Neal been playing hurt all year? Dean is not who we thought?
    The only one I’ll agree on is Dean, he has looked bad so far. Injuries happen (if you mean Davis when you say “diva”, who CAN cover), and AWJ plays where they tell him to play.

  16. Ricki Says:


  17. Marine Buc Says:

    @ DR

    Makes sense… When you are aggressive on defense and consistently bring DBs and linebackers to the LOS on blitzes you open up opportunities for the offense.

    I would like to know out of those 11 big plays given up by the Bucs how many of them did we have a DB or linebacker blitzing and man coverage on the WRs?

  18. BillyBucco Says:

    I would be interested in that stat too Marine
    I know Bowles took the blame for a couple of those explosives because he sent both slot defenders on blitzes in the Bears game and Fields hit DJ Moore with ease
    I have also already mentioned a zone coverage play where Dean just released his man (DJ Moore again) to the safety with nobody in his quarter. He needs to stay with the guy when that happens, even though it is technically zone.
    He also flipped his hips bad on what he thought was a go route 5 yards before his man set it down. Again DJ Moore.
    For a guy with 4.3 speed, I don’t know why they are so afraid of getting beat deep. There is always the chance it is over thrown or under thrown, so quit that schit. Rely on your speed and take chances.
    I still remember his pick six off of Aaron Rodgers to D Adams where he jumped the route. He has it in him and spends almost every day in Bowles office.
    I’ve never accused him of being a smart man though.

  19. Defense Rules Says:

    Marine Buc … ‘I would like to know out of those 11 big plays given up by the Bucs how many of them did we have a DB or linebacker blitzing and man coverage on the WRs?’

    Me too. Pro-Football-Reference full play-by-play gives a lot of information about the play (WHEN the play occurred, WHAT happened, WHO was involved, etc), but nothing about the big picture of the play (defensive alignment, blitzers, etc). I’m sure anyone could go back to rewatch the game & focus on those plays exclusively (knowing when they occurred), but I’m admittedly too lazy to do that. I’m guessing that Bucs’ coaches do exactly that though, and adapt future defenses accordingly.

  20. UKBuccaneer Says:

    BA’s Red Pen – might be wise to avoid making claims about why Alan Williams’ home was apparently raised by the FBI.

  21. Defense Rules Says:

    BillyBucco … I think several have alluded to breakdowns in communication in the Secondary, and that’s probably what happened when Dean released his guy to the Safeties. Not the first time, and unfortunately it probably won’t be the last time.

    In all fairness to the Secondary though, our defense has been on the field for 114 plays (quite low), and only 33 of those were runs (29%). So the remaining 81 plays (71%) were passing plays. Front-7 has gotten 8 sacks so far, so that gets us down to 73 passes that actually flew. Of those, opposing QBs completed 47 passes (69%). That’s too high IMO.

    Our pass defense only allowed 64-65% completion rates in 2021 & 2022, but we were at 69% back in 2020 when we won the Super Bowl. Actually quite consistent for Todd Bowles defenses. My guess is that blitzing as much as he does comes at a price (higher completion rates?), but pays off in the ‘big picture’ (his defenses ranked #8, #5 & #13 in Points Allowed for those 3 years).

  22. adam from ny Says:

    biggest issue thru 2 games has obviously been these big chunk completions on the pass defense…or as many mention “explosives”…

    and no we didn’t fix it from game 1 to game 2…

    in fact it got worse because cousins is an experienced skillful nfl passer, fields really isn’t, he’s just a scrub that can run, yet he was rattling off those same big chunk yardage plays against us…

    philly will of course try the same thing – because that’s been our glaring weakness thru 2 weeks…

    and it wasn’t fixed on any level vs. da bears…

    fix this and we are like a top 3 to 5 defense

  23. Duane in Sanford Says:

    You live with the big plays because your defense is aggressive and feasting on the turnover margin. Its working as intended. Its playing well, and WILL get better. I see the pass rush coming to life, and look forward to Kancey healing up that calf and getting snaps during the season. This team is undefeated, and we can all agree that it still has better ball to play.

  24. adam from ny Says:

    dean hasn’t looked locked in yet…and neal out of position a bit…

    and cd3 out last game…

    so they should at least be able to get the issue under control in the coming weeks…

    also zion is looking so much more like a player this year over last

  25. Pickgrin Says:

    Being worst at giving up big plays after 2 games does sound alarming…

    But the much more important stat is points given up – which is 17 ppg thus far…

    Tied with Atlanta for 8th best in the league.

    The Bucs are playing good Defense overall to start 2023. Borderline very good.

  26. stpetebucfan Says:

    I agree with those who questioned Dean’s play so far….otherwise I don’t remember guys getting whipped so much individually as looking confused at times, especially the Minnesota game, and being totally out of position.

    Yep Philly has some good receivers but Justin Jefferson is the man. He’s like ME13 and really hard to stop.

    Bottom line though is it’s the NFL…EVERY week there is at least one GREAT WR.

  27. NE Fan Says:

    No difference from the last 3 seasons. DB’s give up many big plays. I’ll take Hill & Waddle over all of them.

  28. Marine Buc Says:

    @ Pick

    “The Bucs are playing good Defense overall to start 2023. Borderline very good.”

    I agree.

    @ DR and BillyBucco

    Solid input and analysis guys.

    Another thing to consider is the turnovers that are a result of sending these blitzes and creating more pressure on the opposing QB. The Bucs are winning the turnover battle so far 5-0…

  29. ThatAintRight! Says:

    Jamel Dean use to get so many PDs and hands on a lot of passes. He’s always had brick hands and cannot catch anything , but was really good at finding the ball with his long arms and athletic traits. Idk what happened to him. Carlton Davis is kinda struggling also at times. He’s really not that bad. Also tbh neither of them guys we’re gonna stop them Vikings receivers. The bears game they were more focused on pressure than coverage I think. So just all our bull rushing them. The D really isn’t that bad. LVD – White – and a few other Lbs are holding it down in the middle. The D-line could be better but it’s still better than most rams. Vita and Will Gholston are major run stoppers. We’re getting a lot of sacks and tbh a good amount of FFs and Ints also. I don’t see the problem really. I think a lot of it has been about the matchup and age of talent coming in vs age of talent leaving. Skewed #s is expected. We can judge a guy after a few games but what goods it going to do wait like 6-8 games at least mid season.

  30. ThatAintRight! Says:

    I think Cam Gill and Anthony Nelson need more reps tbh. Nelson is super underrated as a pass rusher. He’s big and has long arms and can push guys around off the edge with ease. His hands and speed are everything. Bullying big OTs around is his entire job. When that doesn’t work use the faster stronger guys like white. 🤷‍♂️
    I like the strategy because different teams employ different strategies and tactics from their O-Linemen. For instance comparing a guy like Demar Dotson who was like almost 6-10 was insane then to put him with Donovan Smith 6-6 330 was insane also. Two big physical problems for pocket awareness but we’re kinda slow off the jump. Now we got a more complete T in Tristan Wirfs. You have to have guys show up on Sundays and be ready to beat the Oline and get to the QB again. Defensive minded coaches want nothing more from their defenses. No sacks or pressure and no FFs or Ints. That’s what it takes. Secondary kinda needs the pass rushers and the front 7 kinda need the secondary.

  31. ThatAintRight! Says:

    I think we should be looking at benching Cody Mauch and starting Aaron Stinnie or Nick Leverett at RG. That has to be an overall team improvement that helps the offense. I think tbh Cody isn’t really up to speed right now and he’s hurting Robert Hainsey’s ability in pass protection. In high school we use to be very good at pass blocking because we all were on the same page. RG has to help C from those bigger DTs. C and RG almost always paired together. The RT handled his own pass rusher as did the LT and LG usually. If there was a hole it was the RBs job to find the hole. The problem for Rbs is even with a hole it doesn’t matter much. So many good LBs every year and you can’t ever get passed or through them not even with a holding penalty. You need an extra blocker on the line when rushing these days. Ko Keift or an added OL. That’s why I like Ko lining up at FB he can block. He’s physical and has good instincts. He can be the lead blocker and stop that 1st LB and get him to the ground. Wirfs stops the OLB/DE. Matt Feiler has to put his guy on his butt like Ali Marpet used to do and get to the next level if he can’t do it then he’s not the long term LG 🤷‍♂️

  32. Bring back the lawn chairs Says:

    When the Bucs play tight man to man and bring the heat, with double Mv playing the nose, opposition qb doesn’t have time to throw and it usually works out well for the Bucs.
    When the Bucs go into that soft zone, double V on the pines, where the db’s are 15 yards off wide outs, and the safeties are into another time zone, and the backers are playing a space, ( I call this their 2 deep lawn chair package) that’s when we give up those large gains imo.

  33. Rod Munch Says:

    They Bucs are playing almost exclusively a super soft zone defense, and they’re rarely playing man, and they leave big gaping holes all over the place. Zone doesn’t have to be soft, the 2002 Bucs are, easily, the best passing defense in the history of the NFL, and they primarily ran the Tampa 2. Those were not loose, sloppy zones like they run now. Also, just before that era, the Panthers ran a zone blitz, which is similar to what Tampa is running now, and again, their zone wasn’t nearly as sloppy as what we see now.

    I don’t really get it, why you sign Davis and Dean to huge deals, then stop doing what they do best, man-to-man coverage, and start playing zone, more or less a soft zone. Why pay them? You’d have been better off to keep Whitehead and Cappa over Davis if this is how you’re going to use him (on the rare Sunday when he’s healthy).

    But, whatever, if it works, then great. But there’s a lot of room for improvement with this defense, and I’d love to know why they’ve made such a big switch to zone which does not seem to match their personnel all that well.

  34. Rod Munch Says:

    Bring back the lawn chairs – I doubt they use much man to man, part of the reason why is because against mobile QBs, you generally don’t want to turn your back on them, because that’s when running lanes open up.

    But the Bucs haven’t played much man-to-man at all. In week 1 it was literally 85% zone, and I’m going to guess in week 2, it was even higher.

    I agree on it being a soft zone, that part I don’t understand. If you’re going to run zone, keep it tight, instead they just seem to run these sloppy zones that let people run free all over the place, and just hope they can hit the QB before they can find the receivers.

  35. orlbucfan Says:

    Great analysis guys, mucho gracias! I gotta say, I’m fascinated by this one stat: o 2020: Run defense: #1 … Pass defense: #21. That was the SB year, and we had the best offense in Bucs history, and a decent ST.

  36. NE Fan Says:

    Oral thanks to your old man QB.