When we look back at the many things that went wrong with the 2018 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, one obvious scapegoat is injuries. But let’s look at the players on the injury report, including those on injured reserve.
There are currently 12 players on IR. Eight of them are on the defense, which accounts for 2/3 of the list. Among the defensive players on the list, three were starters—linebacker Kwon Alexander, safety Chris Conte, and cornerback Vernon Hargreaves. Alexander’s backup Jack Cichy is also on IR, as is Devonte Bond’s backup Kendell Beckwith.
Other defensive players include defensive linemen Stevie Ty’ikolovatu, Mitch Unrein, and corner Maurice Fleming. On the offensive side of the ball, there are no starters on the list, with first rounder tight end O.J. Howard, guard Evan Smith, running back Shaun Wilson and wide receiver Sergio Bailey.
How do the injuries affect the team? Probably not as much as you think. As much as the season’s become a marathon, the Bucs surrendered an excess of 300 passing yards every game from week 1 until week 6, which—surprise, surprise—was when Mike Smith was still defensive coordinator.
Mark Duffner took over in week 7, and the Bucs finally stopped surrendering 300 passing yards a game. He’s yielded an excess of 400 total yards to opposing offenses twice and still hasn’t surrendered as many yards as Smith has, which is a step up.
When Smith was DC, teams were less successful on the run, with the team only surrendering an excess of 100 rushing yards once against the Chicago Bears in week 4. Since Duffner’s taken over, teams have gained ground on the run, topping 100 yards in every game since.
The Bucs are losing more to balanced attacks than just being passed on left and right. It doesn’t seem like injuries have made a more significant difference in results than coaching changes, the team doing a little better against the pass in exchange for giving more against the run.
The good news is that the Bucs are no longer dead last in total defense. They’ve moved up 5 spots since the game against San Francisco.