Weakness Unearthed In Red Zone Defense

September 7th, 2023

Bucs coach Todd Bowles.

Joe isn’t sure there is a simple answer to this, but Joe has a pretty strong guess.

Last year, without an edge rush and and the threat of Bucs sacks king Shaq Barrett, the Bucs defense was decent and sometimes good. Not so much, however, in the red zone.

Per handicapper turned stathead Warren Sharp, the Bucs were poor in allowing red zone touchdowns. Only six teams had a worse percentage and only was a playoff team (the Super Bowl champion Chiefs!).

So with a weak Bucs edge rush, did opponents just take advantage of that? Did quarterbacks have too much time to throw in an area of the field where getting points is so vital?

Joe isn’t sure of that, but it seems reasonable to believe.

A consistent, strong edge rush tends to make an entire defense look better. It’s certainly a cornerback’s best friend.

Joe is of the mind the Bucs defense could be good this year. Perhaps very good if the team can find an edge rush.

Yes, Shaq is back after a blown Achilles last October. But will he be back to his pre-2022 form?

18 Responses to “Weakness Unearthed In Red Zone Defense”

  1. Jack Burton Mercer Says:

    Can’t help but think Devin White’s weaknesses last year had a lot to do with it. Would really have to watch film to be sure.

  2. Defense Rules Says:

    Joe … ‘the Bucs were poor in allowing red zone touchdowns.’

    So apparently once teams got in the Red Zone, the Bucs allowed them to score TDs 63% of the time (ranking us #26). Got it.

    Two questions seem relevant though to make a reasonable assessment as to the why:

    1 – How many Red Zone attempts to opposing offenses were allowed?
    2 – How many were RUSHING TDs versus PASSING TDs?

    Found the answer to the 1st one (Bucs allowed 48 attempts which ranked #6 last season, so we did very well) but not the 2nd. Bucs allowed 30 Red Zone TDs all together, of their total 41 TDs allowed on the season (74%), but no idea how many of those 30 were rushing vs passing TDs. It would seem relevant though because if all the TDs we gave up were rushing TDs, then pass rush probably isn’t the problem.

    One stat that I come across on Pro-Football-Reference shocked me. Bucs’ defense was on the field for 197 total drives last season. Wow! The only other team that was on the field for more was the Denver Broncos with 198 drives. And yet that seems to have been the case for several years now. In 2019 our defense was on the field for 198 drives (#32 in the NFL). In 2020 that decreased to only 178 drives (#21), but in 2021 that increased to 191 drives (#26) then further to 197 drives in 2022 (#31). That seems to say that our offense wasn’t getting it done last year (which we know). That kinda coincides with the TOP decreasing to 28:54 last season (from 30:11 in 2021). A defense’s best friend is a strong offense.

  3. Hodad Says:

    D rules, no wonder Bowles wants to run the ball more. Too many three, and outs last year. When that happens, you also lose the field position battle. Always defending less field. We might actually be better this year. Maybe Todd knows what he’s doing.

  4. ATLBuc Says:

    DR – That seems to say that our offense wasn’t getting it done last year (which we know).

    The main culprit for this stat was the offensive incompetence. From my perspective it seems like we should have led the league in 3 and outs.

  5. Defense Rules Says:

    That 197 drives allowed shocked me. Giving up 41 TDs in that number of opportunities is respectable I think, but you’re right … too many three-and-outs hurt us last year.

    Todd Bowles clearly wants more of a ball control offense, one that can score points (what HC wouldn’t want that) while also eating up some clock & increasing TOP to cut down on the number of drives his defense has to contend with. Hopefully Canales can produce that. Seattle’s defense had 188 drives against last year, and their offense had 187 drives (I guess that’s kind of inline with their 9-8 record?).

  6. HC Grover Says:

    No worries. Plan 9 will fire his Rero Rockets and zoom in from outer space for the win.

  7. Joe in Michigan Says:

    HC Grover Says:
    September 7th, 2023 at 6:15 am
    No worries. Plan 9 will fire his Rero Rockets and zoom in from outer space for the win.
    Make up your mind HC, you wanted to trade JTS for an All Pro Running Back a few days ago…Are you special needs?

  8. Defense Rules Says:

    ATLBuc … Actually our offense probably did OK on 3-and-outs (couldn’t find a stat for that though). I think our bigger problem was that our scoring percentage was WAAAY DOWN last year … 32.0% ranked us #25 in the league. (Our scoring percentage was 44.3% in 2021 ranking us #8 … much higher). Last year we also ranked #25 in terms of Average Drive Time Consumed (2:36 minutes). I would guess that not scoring as much & not eating up as much clock impacted our defense substantially (ie, complementary football wasn’t nearly as … complementary?).

  9. Brandon Says:

    No. Our offense DID NOT do okay on three and outs, especially in the first three quarters. We were one of the worst.

  10. Pickgrin Says:

    So how is it that Joe still hasn’t reported yet about Shaq Barrett’s contract re-structure?

    The Bucs now have over $11M cap space available in 2023…..

  11. Defense Rules Says:

    Brandon … Bucs ran the MOST plays in the NFL last year … 1159. It would seem logical that a team that has the most offensive plays probably isn’t producing a massive number of 3-and-outs. But as I said, I can’t find any stats for 3-and-outs to verify that.

  12. Beej Says:

    The fewer snaps our D is on the field the larger % Vita can participate in

  13. ATLBuc Says:

    Just the eye test says that there were far too many possessions when the offense couldn’t start or sustain drives. The defense did great early on but wore out as the season progressed

  14. Davefan76 Says:

    So BA’s offense wore out the offensive players, And Bowels offense Wear’s out the defensive players

  15. All_da_way Says:

    That is why complimentary football is important.

    The Broncos had a super bowl caliber defense last year and all the Broncos offense had to do is sustain some drives and score some points.

    Similar problem with the Bucs offense stalling and the defense wearing down the stretch.

  16. Fred McNeil Says:

    DR, I can’t find a direct statistic on BUCS three and outs either, but I found three articles dated after the Ravens, Rams, and Browns games. SI reported the Very first drive against the Ravens as a three and out directly but emphasized the offense stunk to high heaven. I didn’t read the whole thing to see if there were any more. The Bucsreport reported six three and outs against the Browns, and JBF reported 7 against the Rams.

    I seem to remember almost every game starting with Fournett up the middle for no gain and usually a run on second down for nothing and dumpoffs and dirtballs galore on third down.

    Here’s to a better offence this year. Raising bottle.

  17. unbelievable Says:

    Our offense seemed to have a lot of “6 and outs” last year… we’d get 1 first down, but then couldn’t convert again.

    We were also abysmal in the red zone. Could move the ball easily between the 20s (really it was more like between the 30s) but then could not punch it in and would stall out.

    As for defense- prob a combo of no pass rush, poor run stopping, injuries on the back end (Winfield, Ryan, Dean, etc) and D White. being a liability in the passing game…

  18. garro Says:

    No huge surprise there Joe.

    A lack of pass rush and trying to manufacture one with stunts and blitzes. Yeah. add to that that we tackled like crap and had a freelancing linebacker who can’t tackle or cover and it could easily have been worse.

    Go Bucs!