Over the years, we have known the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for quite a few things. Their stadium’s pirate ship, the old school creamsicle uniforms, and their suffocating defense.
The Buccaneers’ defense in 2002 however, really put that over the top. With names like Warren Sapp, Ronde Barber, and Derrick Brooks, other teams feared them.
Today’s Buccaneers defense, however, has some similarities to their once fearsome defensive core in 2002.
First, the ’02 defense won a Super Bowl which automatically makes them better than the current defense. Plus, they had the best overall defense in the NFL and the best pass defense. With stopping the run, however, they were ranked fifth in the league.
Tampa Bay’s defense in 2002 had 31 interceptions, with 10 of them being brought back for a touchdown. Derrick Brooks alone had five interceptions, with three touchdowns. He also ran his interceptions back for a sum of 218 yards throughout the year.
Warren Sapp and Simeon Rice led the team in sacks. Rice had an insane 15.5 sacks, while Sapp had 7.5 sacks. This Buccaneers defense was also home to three First-Team All-Pro players; Derrick Brooks, Simeon Rice, and Warren Sapp.
The 2020 Buccaneers defense could be just as terrifying as the 2002 roster. In 2019 they had the best run defense in the NFL, although their defense ranked 29th. They only gave up 11 rushing touchdowns and 1,181 total rushing yards.
Compare that to their 2002 run defense who gave up eight touchdowns and 1,554 rushing yards, 2019’s is a little better. in that aspect. The Buccaneers have the chance to recharge those glory years with a high-octane defense. Although their overall defense was one of the worst in the league, the Buccaneers can have an incredible year in 2020.
A defense led by franchise sack leader, Shaquil Barrett, and Jason Pierre-Paul. The Buccaneers’ defense looks to take a page out of the ’02 handbook and become lethal again.
If we had to compare players, I think the easiest comparison is Antoine Winfield Jr. and Ronde Barber. The Buccaneers selected Winfield Jr. in the second round of the 2020 draft. Winfield Jr. like Barber, has incredible awareness and makes his presence known. And although he has yet to take the field in Tampa Bay, he has the potential to revive the secondary.
Both have similar playing styles and will wreak havoc on the other team. A big reason the Buccaneers won the Super Bowl in 2003 was Barber and his skills. I feel Winfield Jr. will have the same impact later on in his career.
Sapp and Pierre-Paul are similar in the way they attack the offensive line. While their positions are different, both players are explosive off the ball. Although they both have Super Bowl Rings, I think their playstyle is equal, but without the dominance and star power, Sapp had. Sapp and Pierre-Paul create destruction to any offensive line.
In 2019, Pierre-Paul had 8.5 sacks. In 2002, Sapp had 7.5 sacks. Pretty even mostly.
Both defenses had their bright moments; in 2002 they were the best in the NFL. But, the similarities are there, however. I think this Buccaneers defense comes closest to the ’02 defense. The talent this defense has isn’t better but isn’t far off either. In 2020, I expect the Buccaneers to have a staunch powerhouse defense again.