Is There A Fundamental Problem With Bucs Defense?

November 9th, 2023

Ugly streak vs. rookie QBs.

Yeah, there is a problem with the Bucs defense. And Joe thinks it’s much deeper than zone defense or man-to-man defense.

For example, let’s talk about the pass rush. The Bucs have heavily invested in recent years into a pass rush. If you want to go back to 2019, the Bucs drafted Devin White No. 5 overall in large part because he could rush the passer.

(White has regressed each year since the Bucs won the Super Bowl. He’s not close to the same player as he was when he was a rookie making splash plays nearly every game. In Houston last week, White snapped a 14-game sackless streak. Since White injured his groin earlier this season, he’s been damn near invisible at times and sometimes appears disinterested — Joe won’t say “loafing.”).

What have the Bucs gotten in return for their major investments in the front-seven since 2019? Pretty much bupkis, though Calijah Kancey appears to be the real deal.

So yeah, if you want to come at Joe that there is a problem with the Bucs developing pass rushers, Joe is open-minded (White was developed but has fallen off a cliff).

Here is another disturbing trend. Bucs coach Todd Bowles is thought of in league circles as being one of the best defensive minds in the game. This year, really weird stuff is going on that sometimes makes Joe think disgraced former Bucs defensive coordinator Mike Smith has snuck into One Buc Palace through a hole in the fence near the Glazer Shed.

The defense has been very un-Bowles-like.

The Bucs will host Tennessee on Sunday, led by rookie quarterback Will Levis. A rookie going against a Todd Bowles defense? Advantage Bucs, right? Well, hold on to your creamsicle floppy hat!

Bowles and the Bucs are on a four-game losing streak to rookie quarterbacks dating back to when the Bucs lost to the Steelers and Kenny Pickett last season, thought the significant culprit in that game was one of the worst offensive gameplans Joe has ever seen.

The Bucs lost to Pickett, Brock Purdy and dismal Desmond Ridder last season, all rookies. This year the Bucs were torched by Texans rookie C.J. Stroud.

Those rookies totaled 76 completions on 111 attempts (68 percent completion) for 946 yards, 10 touchdowns and zero picks.

Yes, 10 touchdowns, zero interceptions. From rookies! In four games the Bucs can’t force one friggin’ interception from four rookies? There are no words!

There is a fundamental flaw in a scope of a defense if it lets rookie quarterbacks throw for 10 touchdowns without a pick. Purdy and Stroud, Joe can somewhat understand. But Pickett and Ridder? It’s not like we’re talking about John Elway and Dan Marino here.

Joe honestly doesn’t know what to type about that.

31 Responses to “Is There A Fundamental Problem With Bucs Defense?”

  1. Buc4evr Says:

    1.Lack of talent in the secondary,
    2. JTS, and White. Where is Shaq? No defensive pressure on third downs.
    3. Bad defensive play calling.
    4. Poor clock management.

    There are only about 3 or 4 impact players on defense. The rest are rookies or bums.

  2. garro Says:

    We loked great in the first half of alot of these games and went “soft zone” at halftime.

    Your welcome

    Go Bucs!

  3. Greg Says:

    There is also a lingering cultural problem at One Buc. Many of the fans, myself included, thought that Gerald McCoy was soft as a player BECAUSE he was a genuinely nice guy. He was considered to be a leader of the defense and organization clearly liked that culture of “nice”. The Bucs defense of the 90s had an edge. When Suh was here with JPP the defense had an edge. Now? I think Devin White would rather be riding his horses.

    I don’t know what that means really. This is subjective. Many of these guys get paid and then…. You pay Devin White 100 million dollars and he’s going to pay more attention to his horses than football.

    Your remember Monte Kiffin? Super nice guy but if he saw a player loafing they were going to have words. He had edge.

  4. Hodad Says:

    The team doesn’t have a defensive coordinator what do you expect? Bowles has no DC. He has two assts working on the game plan who will never have a chance at a HC gig, because Todd won’t give them the title of DC, and let them make a name for themselves. Todd calls the defense on Sundays like a scared HC rather then a cut your throat DC looking to move up. This makes his staff not care so much about the results. By now they all know their fate is sealed being tied to the anchor that is Todd Bowles. Arians always tired to put his coaches in a position to move up, Bowles no. Look what he’s done to the up beat Canalas who now looks like a captured prisoner at his pressers. Todd needs to go. Simple as that.

  5. Defense Rules Says:

    You had me through your ‘there is a problem with the Bucs developing pass rushers’ conclusion Joe, but why focus on rookie QBs after that? Lately we haven’t been able to stop anybody. If you give ANY NFL QB enough time (because of an ineffective pass rush), AND don’t adequately cover his receivers, THEN … any of them will pick you apart. Rookie, veteran, cheerleader, water boy, doesn’t matter; they’ll take your lunch & ridicule you afterwards.

    And yes, we’re being ridiculed in just about everything I read elsewhere. Ineffective offense, now ineffective defense. Worse yet, there are no solutions in sight. The BYE has past. The trade deadline has past. Our list of walking wounded is growing, and we had very marginal depth to start with. Our coaches see no obvious answers. It does not bode well when your HC says ‘Everything just fell apart (Sunday). You have to regroup’.

    Regroup? Got a hunch that General Custer said the same thing at Little Big Horn.

  6. Defense Rules Says:

    Greg … ‘There is also a lingering cultural problem at One Buc’.

    Excellent analysis Greg, but I’m still uncertain what ‘cultural problem’ it identifies. Are the players slacking (?) or are they doing what they’re being asked to do (?) by their coaches and it’s not working. When 4 veteran players (Davis, Dean, White, Shaq)
    who were all instrumental in us winning a Super Bowl fall off a cliff, then there’s something more going on. Could easily add Nelson & Gholston to that list, and Vea once again seems to be ‘spotty’. Two new adds (Neal & Gaines) have contributed little thus far. Only LVD & Winfield are having quality years IMO.

    I might be way off-base on this one, but the problem on defense seems to two-fold. First, FIELD LEADERSHIP. We don’t seem to have any of significance; we’re missing those guys who can light a fire under others & inspire them to ‘play big’. Second, Bowles seems to have modified his defensive scheme in the ass-end (OK, Secondary) to compensate for obvious inadequacies in the front-end (pass rush). Once that became obvious to our opponents, we got picked apart like a Thanksgiving turkey.

    We’re essentially halfway through the season and are on-track for maybe a 7-10 finish, putting us in 3rd place in the NFC South. That’d most likely have us drafting someplace in the #8 to #10 spots. We’d probably miss out on the best QB prospects, but still HOPEFULLY be able to get draft a pretty good one. Time will tell.

  7. BucU Says:

    Bowles has embarrassed this franchise with that disgusting defensive performance last Sunday. Until he and his staff are gone I hope we lose every single game left. At least then there’s hope for the future. I’m done done done with this coaching staff and garbage picks from this front office. Licht you’re next if you keeping bums in the draft. Sick of being embarrassed every week. FIRE THEM ALL.

  8. Voice of Truth Says:

    The anger subsided by mid week, but common sense doesn’t

    Todd is just taking up space at this point – even an ugly win against the lowly Titans will mean squat

    This is a 5-6 win team with Todd and a 8-10 game winner with any competent NFL staff

    It’s just a matter of time

  9. bob in valrico Says:

    You have identify the the players that are not playing up to expectations and determine if its on them, or being let down by another player not doing their job.
    There is no lack of effort from Shaq Barrett. But there is not an equal and opposite effort from the other OLB to form a pincer effect on the QB. We need to opt out of the JTS experiment. He doesn’t get off blocks well, and it shows in the pass rush and his inability to stop the run. I watched him attempt a one arm tackle on a running back who blew right past him last week. That was his responsibility.
    We also need a dependable safety to play opposite Winfield. I have suggested Bowles put Izien in some plays to see how he does in that role. Its his natural position and he has enough speed to actually to give safety help to our struggling corner who are best at playing man.
    Last but not least, Bowles has been slow to change things, and put his players in position to make plays. Same, same old isn’t working so whats you gonna d
    do Todd.

  10. Time to Fire Coaches Says:

    Combination of too much cover 3
    Lack of pass rush
    And overrated talent

    Other than Wirfs and 45 for one yr, pur 1st round picks on have been busts.

  11. Time to Fire Coaches Says:

    ME 13 too

  12. Ufcguy32 Says:

    That’s funny and first thing I think is a rookie is gonna shred Todd toilet Bowles loafing defense. You won’t say it joe….really? Devon white, Davis, Dean. There’s your core issues. Besides Ryan Neal who just sucks. The rest of them are loafing

  13. Bucnjim Says:

    The one flaw that no one really talks about is the fact that other teams know what’s coming on both Offense and Defense. This has even been talked about by players from other teams. It’s not the lack of scheme its the lack of creativity. Once there was enough situational tape on Bowles opposing offenses pick us apart. He’s stubborn to the point of continuing to do what has worked in the past instead of creating weekly game plans no one has ever seen.

  14. ModHairKen Says:

    Yes. The fundamental problem is none of them have the ability to inspire the others. “I’ll show them with my strong play.” Yeah. That does not work. You need guys like Sapp. Suh. Brooks. Lynch. Guys that will grab a loser like Davis and berate him and call him out. F this “set an example” crap. We need guys that will fight in the locker room. I mean actually fight. With fists.

  15. Bucnjim Says:

    Arians; thank you for the great coaching and the Super Bowl. Unfortunately you left us with several individuals that struggle with game planning and time management. Stubbornness in the NFL and unwilling to change only equals losses.

  16. Alanbucsfan Says:

    3 defenders standing side by side 20 yards from the nearest receiver in a “soft zone” is worthless defense- no DB disruption of receivers’ routes or timing- that and a clean pocket for an NFL QB, rookie or not, is a recipe for disaster.

  17. Joe Says:

    but why focus on rookie QBs after that?

    Because there is a fundamental problem with the defense. The rookie quarterback issue further supports this premise.

  18. Joe Says:

    When Suh was here with JPP the defense had an edge. Now? I think Devin White would rather be riding his horses.

    Excellent point. JPP and Suh would be tearing Devin White’s head off for his uninterested play. That stunt he pulled against Baltimore last year? JPP and Suh would have run him off the field.

  19. Kgh4life Says:

    There is enough talent in the secondary, however, since TB has been the DC and now HC, there’s been miss communication and coverage busts in the back end.Either the scheme is too complex or the coaches are not doing a good job teaching it.

  20. Scott Says:

    Mike Caldwell left and our defense went to crap

  21. Scott Says:

    He is doing a great job in Jacksonville

  22. larrd Says:

    White almost got two sacks blitzing in the first half and Stroud was good but somewhat pressured and contained. Then, Genius Todd had White drop back into zone coverages all second half.

    There’s plenty of talent. Bowles outsmarts himself and doesn’t unleash it enough, imo.

  23. I remember 21 Says:

    @ Greg

    Very good point. I’ve been noticing and saying that for a while. Geraldini – always smiling, Shaq – always smiling, JTS – always smiling, Vita – always smiling. Philly Dlinemen, I’ve never seen them smile. Not a lot of smiling on the Baltimore Ds of old and new. We need some dogs up front on D. I know Donald smiles a lot, but he’s got the roids to help him. Now I don’t necessarily want a bunch of thugs, but there’s a lot of in between that are where we are now.

    Deion Sanders said it PERFECTLY “Well, we have different attributes. Smart, tough, fast, disciplined with character,” Sanders said. “Now, quarterbacks are different. We want mother, father. Dual-parent. We want that kid to be a 3.5 [GPA] and up because he has to be smart. Not bad decisions off the field at all. Because he has to be a leader of men and so many different attributes in what we look for when we see a quarterback. Defensive lineman is totally opposite,” Sanders said. “Single mama, trying to get it. He’s on free lunch. I’m talking about just trying to make it. He’s trying to rescue mama. Like, mama barely made the flight, and I just want him to go get it. It’s a whole bit of different attributes you look for in different positions, and we have that stuff just chronicled. We know what we want, and we go get it,” he said. We need to go get some of that.

  24. doolnutts Says:

    Bowles plays to not lose not to win its that simple his philosophy sucks. The final drive of the season he rushed just 4 playing back and hoping Texans didn’t score. Whtie was effective on pass rush why not rush him? Why not rush infield in an exotic blitz that has worked all season? At the end of the day Bowles philosophy sucks he coaches the game scared.

    Its the biggest different between him and Arians, Arians was a fighter and aggressive. Bowles wants to just pray to god we pull it out.

  25. Sam Says:

    Like others have said….the secondary needs talent. 31 is the exception and is having a great year….. the rest have struggled…and its why the bucs have to blitz so much. Thats not TB being aggressive its trying to shorten the time the guys have to cover. If the rush doesnt get home they more than most suffer. Thats a basic tenant of any blitz…get home or you are toast….but the bucs lack of coverage ability means that rush has to get home quicker.

  26. I remember 21 Says:

    @ Hodad

    I’ve never thought of it from that angle before, but that’s great analysis. Maybe if bowles wasn’t so focused on futilely trying to figure out how to prevent them from driving down the field for the win, he would’ve made the right call on the 10sec runoff situation. Altho I’ll never understand his insistence on wasting the last possessions of halves when we have time, timeouts, a kicker with a live leg, and an impotent offense. And even tho I don’t subscribe to the “there needs to be more black head coaches” narrative, you’d think with bowles being one of the few in the league, and even fewer to get a second chance, he’d be more aware of giving either of his two minority co defensive assistants a chance to make a name for themselves. But no, Arians has done more for black coaching candidates than bowles would do in 1000 years. And I think it’s an underrated storyline that bowles has NO coaching tree. Not only that, he’s an OC career killer. As far as I know, there’s not even anyone imitating his defensive philosophy. This should tell us something. People copy what works. Look how many patriots coordinators and assistants have at least gotten HC jobs in the league or college (results haven’t been great, but at least they got the chances). Like I’ve said before, he doesn’t have it, he’s never gonna have it, we know we’re gonna get rid of him, let’s do it now.


  27. Aaron Says:

    I feel like our D was built to stop the run and use creative blitzes to get after the QB to get sacks or create turnovers. Either Bowles has lost his blitzing nerve and / or he doesn’t trust his corners. So he goes into cover 2 zone or quarters…but you absolutely have to have a pass rush to play those defenses (which we do not)…plus, you paid your 2 starting corners $28m for man coverage not zone coverage and its obvious they are not at their best in zone.

    Bowles knows we have major issues on D and can’t play his style of Defense and is just hanging on.

  28. D-Rok Says:

    Remember 21,

    Although Sanders has publicly and adamantly stated he has no desire to coach in the NFL, I believe he would make better-than-average NFL coach. He gets the best out of his available talent, is creative/innovative, and is a great motivational leader of men. Plus, he has massive street cred on the NFL level due to actions on the field(s) of football and baseball.

    The reason he doesn’t want to coach in the NFL? He states he likes college players better because they are still teachable and moldable.

    I’d love for the Bucs to get Prime Time. To a lesser extent, he would also bring Brady-esque media attention back to the Bucs.

    But he aint coming here. Instead we are stuck with pathetically stoic Todd Freakin’ Bowles. SIGH.

  29. Andrew Fish Says:

    I’ll say this until I’m blue in the face… Dean and Davis are press man corners. play press man!

    This Year
    When playing soft zone 73% completion rate
    When playing press man 40% completion rate

    Press Man also gives the front 7 time to get home.

    Todd Bowle says not all the guys are good at press man. Then use that guy and a safety to double the other teams #1 and have davis and dean close down the #2 and #3 option. If the stats are telling you one thing and you ignore it thats a problem.

  30. Boltsfan17 Says:

    There’s a fundamental problem with the GM, coach and players.

  31. Bucs33Saints14! Says:

    When Bowles elected to lose the time out vs ten second run-off, keeping 49 seconds on the clock, I was surprised. A timeout is a way more flexible option and more valuable than those 10 seconds in that situation. Baker scored on the next play and those 10 seconds became a Texan’s asset. The time-out would have stayed in our pocket.

    Of course, who would think a rookie QB could score a TD on a Bowles defense with only 46 seconds on the clock — let’s ask Ridder.