Todd Bowles has been known for his blitzing pressure schemes for some time now. The current defensive scheme has much of the same thought process and similarities and by no means deviates from his previous play calling. Now as we look at the pass rush stats we pit them against opposing quarterback stats to understand their effectiveness. So the big question is, how well is the blitz working?
By The Numbers: Normal Rush
First, lets start by creating a baseline with non blitz plays. Over the course of the first five games the Buccaneers have run a total of 146 plays where they have maintained a normal rush. The average yards to go for opposing teams has been 9.38 yards per play. Now, as this encompasses first through fourth down the average seems like a good sum but in actuality eschews that direction with the amount of first downs the defense has faced. The second part of that has been the offense’s inability to stay on the field and a bend don’t break mentality for the defense. So don’t get wrapped around that number and think it’s entirely good.
The results of the standard rush of four linemen has been average at best. In 138 attempts opposing teams have completed 91 passes for a completion percentage of 65.9. Those attempts have equated to 905 yards and 6.6 yards per attempt. Ultimately they have allowed six touchdowns to four interceptions and eight sacks. Furthermore its surrendered a first down percentage of 28%. Opposing quarterbacks have an average rating of 86.8 against the Buccaneers in these cases. The number of plays per sack sits at a measly 18.8 plays per currently. Now let’s stack those stats against the blitz this season.
By The Numbers: Blitz
In comparison the Buccaneers are blitzing 30% of the time. But it’s in those plays you should expect the team to yield better results. This is because the blitz should be effectively used on situations to end drives and disrupt momentum by the opposing offense. Typically seen on third downs with Bowles. Quarterbacks have completed 35 of 55 passes for a slightly lower completion percentage when compared to a normal rush. 63.6% for the blitz compared to the 65.9 for normal rushes. Yet its allowed for more yards per play (7.6) and a slightly lower rating for quarterbacks (71.8). The first down percentage is higher with 38.8%. Nevertheless these are the downs when you’re trying to prevent a first down through the blitz.
The sacks have shown up on blitz plays with an average of 9 plays between sacks. Essentially cutting the number in half from the normal rush. The interceptions shows improvement over the normal rush with 31 plays on average per interception (36.5 for normal rush). So there is some impact of the blitz. But is it enough?
The short answer to that question above is no. Not good enough. As a coach you want to see a sharp decline in completions, quarterback rating, and first downs. With the Buccaneers defense we don’t.
The hope is the Buccaneers can be a dominant unit and be somewhere at the top of the pecking order defensively. Take the 49ers defense for example. Their blitz this season has produced in greater numbers in some areas. They are currently hold opposing quarterbacks to a 47.7% completion percentage, 4.6 yards per attempt, and a rating of 40.2. Now they haven’t produced the amount of sacks but they are applying enough pressure to disrupt. This becomes more especially apparent with the 28% first down conversions on blitz plays against the 49ers versus the 60% allowed by the Buccaneers.
This is a damning indictment on the execution and scheme. If you recall as we looked at the third down and long numbers this defense isn’t performing as well as it could. I believe they have the talent, I don’t believe the scheme maximizes it.
I’m not saying the defense is not performing well. They are. But they could be dominant and even with a struggling offense they are missing on opportunities to get themselves off the field.