Defensive Point Of Attack: Buccaneers vs Panthers


In what has come down to a must-win game for the Buccaneers to reach the playoffs a lot will be asked of the defense. The defense has been carrying this team through the season and is the biggest reason the Buccaneers are chasing a playoff berth in the first place. Unfortunately, that means they’ll likely have to step up in a big way and be almost perfect to secure a victory.

Last Match Up

In the first match, the Buccaneers failed to come out with a victory, losing 21-3. During that match, the defense struggled mightily against a dynamic pair of running backs they’ll have to face again this week. D’Onta Foreman and Chuba Hubbard both averaged seven yards a carry or more in that matchup. Even if you remove Foreman’s 60-yard dash he still averaged 4.1 yards a carry. Stopping the run will be priority number one.

Second, the Buccaneers defense allowed P.J. Walker to look every bit the part of a competent starter. He would go 16 of 22 for 17 yards and two touchdowns. Buccaneers fans know all too well the plight of facing rookie and first time starting quarterbacks. Luckily (or maybe not) Walker won’t be starting this week.

Stopping The Run

Things will look a little different this week. Akiem Hicks, who did not play in the first match up, will start. Hicks is a stout run defender, earning an overall season grade of 66.9 (via PFF) so far this season. Additionally, he aids everyone around him. William Gholston and Vita Vea have had better outings against the run this season when Hicks has played. This is evident in the PFF run defense grades as both players had a higher  average in games where hicks was on the field. Hopefully Vea will be healthy enough to play.

In order to stop the run the Buccaneers defensive staff needs to be aware of who is in and when. Hubbard has had great success with seven players lined up in the box averaging 6.7 yards a carry from base formations. Stacking the box while in with eight players or more will reduce his effeteness this week. Conversely,  Foreman is most effective when the box has six or fewer defenders. By adding another defender to the box, making seven, his average yards per carry goes from 5.5 to 4.4. Knowing when to add or drop a defender in coverage can make a huge difference this game. (Stats via

Essentially the defense needs to remain aggressive against the run and make the Panthers and Sam Darnold beat them through the passing game.

Locking Down D.J. Moore

In the passing game the Panthers have multiple assets but none more viable than D.J. Moore. He’s been their primary target week in and out and provides them the best opportunity to make plays. Carlton Davis, if he’s able to go) will be assigned lock down duties again this week. Like Hicks he too did not play against the Panthers in week seven. With the way he has been locking down players recently this could swing the outcome this week. Add to that he’ll free up a defender, as he won’t require as much help over top to defend Moore, to stack the box and kill the run game. Cross your fingers he practices and plays.

Final Thought

Simply put, Todd Bowles needs to trust Davis in coverage against the Panthers number one target and slide an eighth defender in the box to stop the run game from taking over. With that at play it will really be up to the offense to move the ball and put points on the score board to win this game.

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