Can the Bucs defense convince you it’s better?

by Gary Shelton on June 22, 2016 · 0 comments

in general, NFL, Tampa Bay Bucs

Gerald McCoy and the Bucs believe the defense will be better.

Gerald McCoy and the Bucs believe the defense will be better.

Wednesday, 6 a.m.

Lavonte David says the team can be the best there ever was.

Robert Ayers, on the other hand, says the Bucs' defense is “a little less terrible" than it was.

So who is right? And, as the months go flowing past, how good can these Bucs be?

First things first. The Bucs finished 10th in the NFL last year, which may be the biggest falsehood that a statistic has ever told. The Bucs

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didn't rush the passer, and they didn't cover the receiver. They didn't tackle well, and they couldn't stop a lot of opponents when the game was on the line. No one who watched the Bucs came away with the impression that they were watching a Top 10 defense.

That's the thing about numbers. They are politicians. They will spin whatever tale you want to hear. The Bucs were 10th? So was Washington in 2009. Washington won four games. Cleveland was 10th in 2011. They won four, too.

In other words, you need to be good to be in the top 2-3 defenses? Tenth? Not so much.

In fact, over the last 10 years, the 10th-best defense in the NFL has averaged 6.6 wins per season. That includes seven losing seasons and one that is .500. Only New England, in 2008, and Baltimore, in 2010, won while finishing 10th. Which may have a little to do with how unimportant total yardage allowed per games is. If the Bucs had allowed only 10 more yards per game, they would have finished 19th.

Want some other numbers? The Bucs were 32nd in percentage of opposing quarterbacks' completion percentage. They were tied for last in passes of 40 yards or more. They were 31st in passes of 20 yards or more. They were 24th in penalty yardage. They were tied for 25th in most touchdown passes allowed. They were 21st in interceptions.

This is where Mike Smith, master of the universe, comes in. Smith is supposed to instill a little more energy, a little more consistency to the Bucs. The new defensive ends are Robert Ayers and Noah Spence, who are supposed to meet at the quarterback. The new corners are Vernon Hargreaves and Brent Grimes, who are supposed to at least be in the same camera shot as receivers. The linebackers are thin, but they're good.

But can this really be a better defense? Look at the opposing offenses. The Bucs play seven games against the nine top offenses in the league, nine games against the top 11. They play against Cam Newton twice and Matt Ryan twice and Drew Brees twice. They face Carson Palmer, Derek Carr, Jay Cutler, Philip Rivers and Tony Romo.

Are the Bucs going to be better?

They'd better be.

How do you see the schedule? Atlanta in the opener is a toss-up. Against Arizona, they'll be underdogs. They should get the Rams. They'll be the underdog to the Broncos and the Panthers. They'll be favored over San Francisco.They'll be slight underdogs to the Raiders. Another toss-up with Atlanta. Let's say they upset the Bears.

They'll be underdogs to the Chiefs, the Seahawks, then the Chargers. Also, the Cowboys and the Panthers.

So where are we? Five wins or so? Unless Jameis Winston is magnificent. Unless the defense covers up its flaws.

I know this. The Bucs' best run in their history started when the defense played surprisingly well in a win over San Francisco. If this team is going to make a run at .500, it will have to do the same. Spence will have to make teams regret passing on him. Hargreaves will have to be terrific. Ayers and Grimes will have to have something left. Mike Smith has to be inspired.

Otherwise?

The Bucs will backpeddle it's way to a bad record.

Again.

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