Approaching week 7 of the 2018 NFL season, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers seemed to not have made any real progress on defense with one glaring exception, right defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul.
Why do you suppose that is? As a team that can easily be 0-5 given the poor play of the defense, the new acquisitions on the front line with the former Philadelphia Eagles Vinny Curry, New York Giants JPP, and first round pick Vita Vea are supposed to help line vet and perennial Pro Bowler Gerald McCoy generate more pressure on the QB. Unfortunately the ONLY Bucs player who’s gone over two sacks is JPP at 5, accounting for over half the team’s sacks.
The Bucs might not be dead last in sacks in the NFL, they’re just next to dead last at 29th above the Oakland Raiders, New England Patriots, and the Giants who are tied at 7 sacks. The Bucs are also dead last tied with the San Francisco 49ers at 1 interception for the season. The lack of any consistent pressure and the atrocious defensive play cost defensive coordinator Mike Smith his job.
Linebackers coach Mark Duffner was promoted to interim DC and has a tall task to salvage any pride left in this unit.
Let’s look at the front line and what they have done. Curry, who plays left defensive end has 1.5 sacks for the season so far, but he was never a sack machine as he tends to average about 3-4 sacks a season with the monster 2014 where he had 9 as well as 4 fumbles forces and one recovery. He’s progressing as expected.
McCoy is also sitting at 1.5 sacks this year, which he averages about 6 sacks a season. His best years were from 2013 – 2015 hovering around 8-9 sacks a season. Beau, who filled in for Vea early in the season, like Curry, also came from the Eagles, but he was never one to break through regularly either. There’s no surprise he has no sacks for the year. In Vea’s two games, he hasn’t shown up on the stat sheet yet.
The most disturbing stat unfortunately is that only JPP is among the top tacklers of the unit at 6th in the team with 19 total. McCoy and Curry are tied at 10 total and Allen has 2. Aside from Allen, the other three have 2 tackles for losses.
All of this means, they’re not stopping the run much in the backfield and they’re not getting the much needed pressure on the quarterback. The top teams in sacks like the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers have more than double of the Bucs at 26 and 22, respectively.
Whatever Duffner has planned in working with DL coach Brentson Buckner to make the unit respectable is going to be quite the tall task with the dangerous up-and-coming Browns and division contenders for the following three games in the Bengals, Panthers and Redskins. If the Bucs continue to struggle, the team might just barely win 5-6 tops and we’ll likely see another front office clean sweep.