Bombs-away. Bucs can’t figure out a forward pass

by Gary Shelton on October 8, 2018 · 4 comments

in general, NFL, Tampa Bay Bucs

Brent Grimes hasn't had much reason to celebrate./STEVEN MUNCIE

Monday, 4 a.m.

A horror show never changes. You watch it through your fingers. Your palms get sweaty. You brace for the next bloody scene. You prepare to scream.

And so it goes with the secondary of the Tampa Bay Bucs.

For a decade, they have been a nightmare. It doesn't matter who plays. It doesn't matter who coaches. All that matters is an opposing wide receiver flashing across another goal line. Wait a beat. Wait two beats. Finally, there he is. A Bucs' cornerback finally crosses the goal, chasing in futility, like a chubby dog chasing a sports car.

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It never changes. It is Freddie Krueger and it is Jason and it is Leatherface and it is Ghostface and it is Michael Myers. Around here, we call them "Toast." French Toast and Jellied Toast and Cinnamon Toast and Buttered Toast. They are the guys who watch receivers make plays.

This year, it was going to be different, right? The Bucs had a star who had been a lucrative free agent in Brent Grimes, and they had a No. 1 draft pick in Vernon Hargreaves, and they had No. 2s in Carlton Davis and M.J. Stewart. And yet, they have become the sons of Rod Jones, never quite in the picture.

Consider this, if you can bear it. This year, opponents have thrown the ball 157 times against the Bucs. They've completed 121 of those (77.1 percent). They've intercepted one pass. One. That means they've been there for 35 incompletions ... on the year. They've given up 358 yards per game. Teams don't hit 77.1 percent of their passes in warm-ups.

They are the dead-last pass defense in the league for the second straight year, and for the third time in seven years. They are allowing a franchise worst rating of 130.5. (For comparison's sake, the 2002 World Champion Bucs allowed a rating of 48.4).

For a decade, it has been that way. Never have the Bucs been in the top 10 of pass defenses, and only once have they been in the league's top half. They've given up a quarterback rating of 88.8 or more eight times. The terms "man" and "zone" are merely labels to identify the burn victim.

I know, I know. By now, you probably think that I'm shredding the secondary unfairly. Well, doesn't everyone?

In a league that is more pass-happy than ever, how is this supposed to get better?

Consider this. In the NFL, a rating of 90.0 or better is very good for a quarterback. Of the 12 games the Bucs have left, they play nine against quarterbacks with a rating of 96.0 or better. They have Drew Brees (115.3), two games against Matt Ryan (114.0), a game against Washington's Alex Smith (102.2), two games against Cam Newton (99.7), a game against the Giants' Eli Manning (99.1), a game against the Ravens' Joe Flacco (96.7) and a game against Cincinnati's Andy Dalton (96.0).

Then there are the receivers. Soon, Atlanta's Julio Jones will be on a conference call with New Orleans' Michael Thomas and Cincinnati's A.J. Green and the Giants' Odell Beckham. The subject? Just how much all of them are looking forward to playing against the Bucs.

Then there are the partners-in-crime of the secondary -- the defensive line. The Bucs have ranked 20th or worse in eight of the last 10 seasons, including two last-place finishes and one next-to-last. They aren't very good, either.

Think about this: The defensive backs are supposed to be world class athletes playing for the best coaches on the planet. And there are times that the Bucs look like they're playing in traffic. They slip more than imaginable. They bite on breaks. They allow big-time catches. To tell the truth, opponents do the Bucs a favor whenever they run the ball. I'd fling it on every down.

Forever, it seems, it has been that way. Frankly, the reason that John Lynch and Ronde Barber are having so much trouble getting into the Hall of Fame is that voters can't remember the Bucs' secondary ever being good. Every cornerback is Toast Jones. Every safety is Sabby Piscittteli.

For this year's Bucs, there are 12 games to change the current slide. Twelve games to make a play. Twelve games to save a job.

Hint: the opponents are going to throw it. A lot.

Is there any hope of a rare incompletion?

10 Years of Non-coverage

Year       Pass Def.         QB rating     Sacks

2018            32               130.5 (32)       23

2017            32                 94.6 (27)       32

2016            22                 88.8 (18)         9

2015            17                102.5 (31)      14

2014            28                  97.4 (27)      21

2013            16                  88.9 (22)      23

2012            32                  93.5 (27)      20

2011            12                  97.2 (29)      32

2010            26                  77.6 (7)       30

2009            23                   87.2 (21)    26

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Carlos Ubinas October 9, 2018 at 12:48 pm

I feel for Jason Licht, just as he was starting to look like a smart guy, they lose by a million points. I think it’ll be a while for this young secondary to grow. I see a bunch of shootouts coming, some wins, some losses.

Reply

Gary Shelton October 9, 2018 at 5:01 pm

I like Jason, but he’s always had a hit-or-miss reputation. This will eventually be a telling draft for him, don’t you think?

Reply

BILL MYERS October 8, 2018 at 9:13 am

I am sure someone will lose their job next season and it will not be all about the pass defense. Is there no bright spots to talk about ? Nothing left to build on? I guess the Bears exposed the weakness of the Bucs pass defense and by shutting down the passing game were able to dominate the scoreboard at will! That game plan should be copied by the rest of the teams if some changes are not made soon! Since they can’t seem to cover the offense will have to carry the load.

Reply

Gary Shelton October 8, 2018 at 9:29 am

But the offense can’t run and struggles to block. The Bucs have good receivers and pretty good quarterbacking. They’re a limited team with limited improvements, I’m afraid. Overall, we would all have taken a 2-2 start, but there are too many bad units. Right?

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