“Those Days Are Over”

May 3rd, 2024


Todd Bowles is a heck of a defensive coordinator, but at some point, you need the right bodies.
The Bucs have lost a lot of defensive firepower since winning the Super Bowl. As a result, opposing quarterbacks are way too comfortable against this pass rush.

Jason Pierre-Paul and Ndamukong Suh are out of football. Shaq Barrett will be lining up for the Dolphins this fall. Devin White is now an Eagle. Those were four key contributors during that glorious 2020 championship run.

Although Barrett’s production fell off markedly in recent years, he still demanded attention coming off the left edge. White may have worn out his welcome at One Buc Place, but his rare speed allowed him to make up ground in a hurry as a blitzer.

What now?

Impact opportunity for rookie Chris Braswell.

Bowles faces a major challenge because Joe Tryon-Shoyinka and Logan Hall, Tampa Bay’s top draft picks in 2021 and 2022, have made little impact as pass rushers. That’s why second-round choice Chris Braswell will be given every opportunity to play significant snaps this fall.

“I was frustrated with the 4-man pressure,” Bowles says. “The pressure we get when we go five or more is outstanding. The 4-man pressure at times went stale and they had too much time to throw the football that resulted in a lot of big plays in the secondary.”

Bowles has done an effective job cobbling together impressive sack totals since arriving in 2019, but other metrics suggest Tampa Bay’s pass rush fails to meet expectations.

Last season, the Bucs tied for seventh with 48 sacks, even though rookie YaYa Diaby led the team with 7 1/2 takedowns. Only two teams dialed up more blitzes, but the Bucs finished 18th in hurries, tied for 24th in QB knockdowns and 21st in pressures at 19.7 percent.

The Bucs are hoping Diaby has only scratched the surface as an edge rusher. They hope Braswell makes a smooth transition to the pro ranks. They expect veteran Randy Gregory to contribute. Perhaps the light goes on for Hall and Tryon-Shoyinka.

That’s a lot of wishing and hoping.

Overtime In The Lab

Todd Bowles

Consistent pressure has been lacking, so Bowles keeps trying to scheme up offensive coordinators with disguise and guile. That has worked very well near the goal-line as Tampa Bay boasted the NFC’s No. 1 red zone defense last season.

But when it counted most — in the fourth quarter of a divisional-round playoff game at Detroit — Tampa Bay’s pass defense was shredded.

With the game on the line, Jared Goff completed 11-of-12 passes for 131 yards in those final 15 minutes to end the Buc season.

Goff, who averages a mere 4.2 rushing yards per game in his career, was simply way too comfortable, despite being no threat to scramble. It wasn’t the only time a pocket quarterback made life miserable for Bowles last season. Who can forget what rookie C.J. Stroud did in Houston’s 39-37 triumph?

Only four teams featured a leading sacker with fewer takedowns than Diaby in 2023 — Atlanta, Washington, Chicago and Arizona. Those teams were a combined 22-46, not exactly the kind of company the Bucs want to keep.

In the first three years that Bowles oversaw the Buc defense, Tampa Bay ranked ninth, third and No. 1 in hurries. They finished first, third and tied for first in knockdowns during that span.

Those days are over.

Sacks are important because, in theory, they are drive killers. But disrupting timing consistently may be even more impactful in the big picture.

There were 611 pass attempts against the Bucs last season: only five teams faced more throws. That’s a big number and the results weren’t pretty as Tampa Bay was burned for 65 completions of at least 20 yards.

Only the Lions allowed more.

“You’re always looking for that 15-sack guy and sometimes that’s just a case of luck,” Bowles says. “Sometimes you get back there and the ball’s out.”

And sometimes a quarterback like Goff has enough time to go through his progressions undisturbed.

Goff threw 43 times in that playoff game and the Bucs were credited with only two sacks (Lavonte David, Calijah Kancey) and five QB hits. The Lions have a solid offensive line, but those numbers are unacceptable.

Pressure does more than burst pipes … pressure bursts offensive game plans. Bowles can’t be happy with the downward trend of his pass rush.

Here comes Mr. Braswell, looking to lend a helping hand — or a forearm shiver.

26 Responses to ““Those Days Are Over””

  1. SlyPirate Says:


    1. IOL was soft.
    The Bucs selected Barton and brought in 3 new IOL.

    2. Bucs new more sacks.
    Vea has been ordered to be faster. CK is working overtime. JTS and Hall had their come-to-Jesus meeting with Licht. Bucs drafted Braswell.

    This is called chucking a bus at your two biggest problems. The Bucs will likely trade or sign stud vet pass rushers next year (ie like JPP and Suh) when they make a SB run.

  2. Defense Rules Says:

    Ira … ‘Sacks are important because, in theory, they are drive killers. But disrupting timing consistently may be even more impactful in the big picture.’

    Gotta say Ira, probably your best piece in the past year. But for taking a positive stance on QB pressures, you’re gonna have to pull Joe off the ceiling.

  3. BucsFan81 Says:

    Umm I think some of the lack in production from the defense was they were gassed. To many times the offenses would go 3 and out and the defense was back on the field. I really think if we can approve the run game and have better time of possession then the defense will be able to make more plays. To many times this past year the offense really struggled to get going.

  4. Alanbucsfan Says:

    Don’t overlook the Safeties, J Whitehead and T Smith – they may have a significant impact on Bucs’ pass rush this year.

  5. Brian in St Pete Says:

    BucsFan81, agreed and that is a great point. They call turnovers a good indicator of game outcome, but I would counter with Time of Posession being a critical factor as well. Sometimes the best defense is keeping the opponents’ offense off of the field.

  6. Crickett Baker Says:

    This was a very well-researched (and scary) article, Ira.

  7. Dave Pear Says:

    Great article Sage. Facts. But there’s another reason why the pass rush has waned and it falls right in Todd’s lap.

    Diva. Carlton. Dean. JTS. Hall. Even Vita. Not getting any better. Or worse, regressing. The DL coach called Vita out, saying it’s time for Vita to be great all the time, not just good some of the time.

    I wish Jason would hire Dungy on a consultancy to help Todd identify his defects and implement corrective action. Otherwise, this could well be Todd’s last year as a head coach.

  8. Jeremy Goins Says:

    A good offense that can put together long drives will help the defense. This this all just bulsheet until preseason gets here. Good article though

  9. Pryda…sec147 Says:

    Awesome article Ira ty for taking my mind off my Jon for 5 mins 😃

  10. Defense Rules Says:

    BucsFan81 … ‘Umm I think some of the lack in production from the defense was they were gassed.’

    Agreed, excellent point. But while the offense’s lack of production was a consideration, I think that injuries & lack of depth on defense were equally big concerns.

    Far too much detail to go into here, but if you go to Pro-Football-Reference for the 2023 Bucs, select Snap Counts (it’s hidden in ‘More’ after ‘Injury Report’ in the header line), and click on the column ‘Def Snap Numbers’ it’ll order them and show you Most to Least.

    For 2023 Winfield led the pack with 1100 def snaps, followed by LVD with 957 then Devin White with 894 … 1 Safety, 2 ILBs. Everyone else got less than 800 def snaps (less than 70%). They were the only ones to have over 70% availability. But if you look at the individual games, quite a few players logged over 70% of the def snaps in any one particular game. Injuries took their toll it appears, and not just in guys getting gassed from being on the field too much. Playing with many different guys in various position groups has to impact communications on the field.

    Interestingly if you go back to 2020 and analyze the defensive snaps distribution, you’d see a much different pattern. Bucs had NINE players on defense who were on the field for more than 70% of the def snaps that season (as opposed to only THREE in 2023). Those 9 were: LVD, Winfield, D White, JPP, Whitehead, Davis, SMB, Shaq, Suh. IOW almost all of our key defensive players in that Super Bowl year logged a ton of time on the field. Excellent availability apparently pays off.

  11. Cobraboy Says:

    @DR: also, the same guys on the field an entire game makes it much more difficult to finish games strong.

    A weak running game often ends up on the bad side of time of possession, and a worn out D.

    So strong depth matters a LOT above and beyond availability.

  12. Dave Pear Says:

    Combine 15 guys on defense sharing snaps and then playing multiple positions in Todd’ “confuse ‘em with complexity” defense and it’s no wonder they give it up like a Tijuana dinner dancer in the 4th quarter with the game on the line. No cohesion along with confusion about who is supposed to do what.

  13. Jeffrey Becker Says:

    our sack totals aren’t a positive, they’re a negative. they’re a result of leaving the middle wide open and every quarterback does the same thing. dink and dunk until we move up and then hit us for 20-plus. even backup quarterbacks. bowles’ problem imo is predictability. if he tricked people, ever, he could blitz as often as he does and at least balance out the dink and dunk failures with a few splash plays and occasional picks. it would work exceptionally well because of his reputation for being predictable. somebody please show him how to trick people. he won’t take my calls

  14. Dave Pear Says:

    Todd the hybrid HC/DC is the big problem. It’s why Jason needs to insist Todd hire a full time DC, or go back to being DC, and Jason go get a real head coach.

  15. Saskbucs Says:

    Suh and JPP have been replaced in Kancey and Diaby. Between the 2 of them they will make up that production because Kancey has a chance to be prolific on the inside.

    Barrett, not so much but in his decline, hopefully Braswell is the guy to make up for him.

    No D.White replacement either but he was a liability at times anyway. The upgrades in the secondary should make up for his speed loss.

    If the offence can improve with the additions they made and hiring Coen, maybe the D is better rested and we roll!

    I agree there is a lot of speculation and hoping being done on our side, needing guys to take the next step. If it happens we are great, if it doesn’t we are in trouble and Bowles better have his best year yet game planning.

  16. unbelievable Says:

    Careful Ira, you’re going to send Joe into a frenzy by noting that sacks aren’t the only thing that matters when it comes to bringing pressure on opposing QBs

  17. Dave Pear Says:

    The better head coaches and OC’s in the NFL have passed the defensive masturmind by. Even if he rushes four and they get pressure, someone is going to be running wide ass open because he’s calling a defense that requires a masters in philosophy and a PhD in subatomic particle physics to understand. The Bucs are a football team, not a Mensa club. Quick slants and cover 3 beaters work all the time. A quick passing game neuters the pass rush, and Todd has no answer for it. Drop the corners 7-10 yards and let the receiver catch the ball in front of you. Then you can miss the tackle and give up a huge play. That is the base defense now. Not good.

  18. DoooshLaRue Says:

    Dave Pear is on a tear….
    ….and not completely wrong.

  19. 74 Bucs Fan Says:

    Dave Pear – we’ve all seen that and it sucks, but that’s a stretch to infer that is Bowels D. There are plenty of games where the D played pretty solid. You can do better.

  20. Hodad Says:

    When you get sacks is also important. What good is a sack on second down if you give up the 3rd down? Bucs were horrible on 3rd down last year. Need to fix that.

  21. Dave Pear Says:

    Hahaha….of course I can’t do better than Todd, I’m a fan just like some of you .BUT — I can look at the facts and the data. Since he is a professional the data show there are many others better than him to compare him to

    — back to the facts

    – Todd is a losing head coach for two teams (excuses excuses, Jets blah blah, Leftwich blah) Todd is the Head Fargin Coach. No excuses.

    – He always has fielded a mediocre at best to horrific at worst offense.

    – his special teams tend to suck

    – His offense never – NEVER — scored a touchdown in the 1st quarter last season.

    — at least his defense usually gave up a score on the opponents first possession, because Todd can’t play with a lead

    —. But at least Todd can play catch-up. Oh, wait.

    —. His teams too often come out flat against the most important rivals in most important games.

    —. His teams all too often fold up in the 4th quarter like the tux someone shat up at the wedding and are trying to hide in the groom’s suitcase.

    Maybe the answer is, like others, he needs to stop trying to wear too many hats. He also needs to stop trying to make his players wear too many hats.

    Hire a full time DC. Be a full time HC.

    Let your players actually play one position well and ensure they understand wtf they’re supposed to be doing.

    Then there’s a chances he can pull above .500 as a Bucs HC in 2024. Maybe.

    But he won’t. He’s a genius.

  22. SenileSenior Says:

    “Dave Pear is on a tear” I get it. 😊

    Whether or not Bowles’ defense is outmoded remains to be seen. We shall see if this year’s cast will be exhausted in the 4th quarter.

    I may be ignorant but I have learned to respect and trust our coach.

  23. Capt Ahab Says:

    The Bucs as a team need to improve dramatically this year. The schedule is not as kind as last season. I can see another 9-7 or 8-9 season.

  24. Jerseybuc Says:

    Trade for hendrikson!

  25. Mike Johnson Says:

    Bowles constantly defends JTS. But the guy has not produced. I don’t see him doing so either. We lost 3 definite games because of no pass rush last year. Maybe 4. Hope we see improvement this season.

  26. garro Says:

    That’s why you are the Sage Ira!
    We failed miserably with four rushers last year.
    One of the things that made Simeon special was his ability to get the sack at some pretty opportune moments in the game.

    We have not had that kind of guy since then really. Shaq was pretty damn good as well as Suh. But neither was Simeon. JPP may have been close though. But the body started to go south and father time got him.

    Those elite edge rushers are harder to find than most realize. Dumb luck plays a major role as you said Ira.

    Go Bucs!