Buccaneers secondary: A history of struggle


Death, taxes and top receivers scorching the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ secondary.

Unfortunately, these are three things that are inevitable in life.

In a much anticipated Week 5 matchup against the New Orleans Saints, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers fell 31-24 a week after handing the Los Angeles Rams a loss in a 55-40 barn burner. While the performance against the Rams came as a surprise to most, what wasn’t a surprise, was the way Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas routed the Bucs secondary once again.

How Good Has Michael Thomas Been?

With 11 receptions, 182 yards, and two touchdowns, Thomas sure lived up to his Instagram handle, @cantguardmike. The only thing he didn’t catch on Sunday was the flu.

We all knew Thomas would be a load to handle, as he has been since he entered the league in 2016. In six games, Thomas has accounted for 58 receptions, 717 yards, and three touchdowns against the Bucs. In those six games, the Bucs were 2-4.

Now, Thomas isn’t the only stud on the Saints. An offense that also boasts Alvin Kamara, and usually led by Drew Brees, is tough to control. But, in a one-score game like Sunday, it’s hard not to wonder what may have been if the Bucs had a premiere corner shadowing Thomas.

Is It Really That Bad?

The Tampa Bay defense has surpassed the expectations of the majority of NFL analysts thus far. Between the pass rush led by Shaq Barrett, and a rush defense that sits atop the NFL, it’s been exciting for Bucs fans to see improvements. However, with the improvements against the run, the narrative still rings true about this secondary: They can’t stop the pass.

Hey Ronde, You Still Got Some Juice Left?

Five games into 2019, the Bucs have surrendered nine passing touchdowns and 1,618 passing yards. Those stats crown the Bucs dead last in the NFL in passing defense. But, this shouldn’t come as a surprise when reminiscing on the past decade.

What does come as a surprise is how the Bucs have yet to make a move for Jalen Ramsey or Patrick Peterson. Both Ramsey and Peterson are touted as the league’s top shutdown corners. And they’re both currently available via trade.

What The Buccaneers Have In The Secondary

The Bucs have addressed their defense and secondary through the draft. Especially in the 2019 draft, selecting Mike Edwards, Sean Murphy-Bunting and Jamel Dean. But, if this team wants to compete now, the Bucs need a proven defensive back to anchor the secondary and allow the young guys to follow suit.

Vernon Hargreaves has shown glimpses of being the guy, but between injuries and inconsistent play, it’s hard to imagine he is the guy.

Edwards, Murphy-Bunting, Dean, M.J. Stewart, and Jordan Whitehead have all been drafted in the last two years. If these are the guys the Bucs are getting in the second and third rounds of the draft, wouldn’t it be something if the front office considered trading a couple of top draft picks for All-Pros Peterson or Ramsey? It sure worked out for the Chicago Bears when they traded multiple top picks for Khalil Mack. Not to mention, Mike Evans and Jason Pierre-Paul have already restructured their contracts. Could this be hinting at the Bucs making some cap room for a midseason pick-up?

Could Tampa Bay Find Some Help?

Peterson, currently on the Arizona Cardinals roster, has one game remaining on his six-game suspension due to violating the NFL’s performance-enhancing drug policy. While it’s exciting to think about the impact Peterson could make to the Bucs secondary, it’s even more exciting knowing he already played for Bruce Arians in Arizona.

Ramsey, currently on the Jacksonville Jaguars roster, has voiced his desire to be traded. Among the conflict between him and head coach Doug Marrone, Ramsey has continued to be a player that the Jaguars defense has rallied around and have clearly shown their respect for the cornerback. So the talks of Ramsey being a cancer in the locker room should be thrown out the window.

As fans have recognized Ramsey as a top shutdown corner, so has Houston Texans wide receiver, DeAndre Hopkins. When speaking of Ramsey in an interview in early September, Hopkins said, “He’s the only player in the NFL that actually follows me everywhere I go. So, you’ve got to respect that.”.

When looking at the NFC South, the Bucs have struggled to follow receivers everywhere they go. Don’t forget this division also has Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones knocking on Tampa’s front door. In 14 games, Jones has torched Tampa with 102 receptions, 1,695 yards, and 11 touchdowns. The Bucs are 5-9 in those games.

Does It Get Easier?

So, when looking at how Thomas and Jones have had their way with the Bucs, is it fair to wonder if Tampa will do anything beyond the draft to right the ship?

Tampa has already struggled with WRs Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods, Sterling Shepard, and Thomas. Tampa will also be graced with Thomas’ presence again in Week 11. Some other notable receivers yet to play the Bucs in 2019 are Tyler Lockett, Larry Fitzgerald, Julio Jones (twice), Calvin Ridley (twice), DJ Chark, T.Y. Hilton, Kenny Golladay, and DeAndre Hopkins.

Unfortunately, death and taxes are unavoidable. But, being the last ranked team against the pass certainly is not.