Can Bucs’ secondary be markedly better this year?

by Gary Shelton on July 30, 2019 · 0 comments

in general, NFL, Tampa Bay Bucs

Carlton Davis III believes the secondary will be better./JEFFREY S. KING

Tuesday, 3 a.m.

So Drew Brees was talking to Eli Manning. Whee, he said.

And Matt Ryan was chatting with Jared Goff. He's excited, he surmised.

Then there was Cam Newton, who was talking to Andrew Luck. Yippee, he summed up.

There was Jimmy Garappolo and Marcus Mariota, Nick Foles and Matthew Stafford, Deshaun Watson and Russell Wilson. And none of them can wait for their coming shot against the Tampa Bay Bucs.

If you can stand the memories, you will remember that the secondary of the Bucs was dreadful last season. Other teams passed with the efficiency of a handoff. It was a grand connect-the-dots scheme, and the Bucs never recovered.

Bucs defenders were commonly lost, routinely fooled and often embarrassed in a 5-11 season in which they allowed the highest percentage of completions in the league, the highest opposing quarterback ratings and tied for the most yards per attempt. It was like watching a toy electronic football game where all the pieces ran in tiny circles.

Well, they're back.

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This time, they swear they will be better. They have bought into the new defensive scheme of Todd Bowles, and they think they're ready to challenge the receivers of the NFL. As the man said, we'll see.

“I feel like we can be a really good defense this year," cornerback Carlton Davis III was saying Monday. "From the schemes to the personnel, I just feel like the ceiling is really high for us. It’s all about taking it one day at a time, just growing every day and coming in every day to compete and get better.”

Granted, the Bus have three newcomers to the their secondary: Cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting, Mike Edwards and Jamel Dean. But the scorch marks are all over this secondary.

Think of this. A quarterback grade of 100 is considered pretty good. The Bucs allowed that 11 times in 16 games They had seven 300-yard games against them. They allowed more than two touchdown passes per game.

Want a comparison? Last year, the opposing quarterback had a rating of 110.9. In the team's Super Bowl season, opposing quarterbacks had a rating of 48.4.

Still, in the training camp bravado that guides most teams, the Bucs swear they will be better in the year to come.

“We’re really competitive right now," Davis said. "This team has grown more as a group. We’re a lot more closer. Whatever I said about what we went through las year, it made us stronger. The chemistry is better this year. You see guys wanting to play for each other."

Last year was tough, obviously. Other quarterbacks were throwing darts. The Bucs' secondary was helpless.

"Playing in a defense where you guys aren’t getting the job done is never a good feeling," Davis said. "But we learned from our mistakes last year. We got a chance to grow from where we weren’t the best defense on the field. Last year’s struggles were last year. It made us a better defense. Moving forward, we want to show we can be better."

The key to that is Bowles, the new defensive coordinator.

“For whatever reason, the schemes didn’t work last year,” Davis said. “It just didn’t work. Our players are a lot more comfortable with the schemes we have right now, I feel like it fits us a lot better as a defense and our personnel.

“(Bowles) is really cool. Obviously, he’s like a genius when it comes to defense, but he’s a really cool guy. He allows us to be ourselves like I said earlier. I feel like he’s a player’s coach and he really cares about how we feel as far as the scheme and how we feel as far as his play calling. I feel like he’ll lean more towards us when it comes to play calling and really calls plays how it fits our strengths. Having him as a coordinator is a player’s dream because he’s really a player’s coach. He’s dedicated to wanting to see us do well on the field.”

If the Bucs are to have a successful season, this is where it starts. Tampa Bay allowed 29 points per game last year. It's daunting for an offense to come into a game and have to score 30 to win.

But if the Bucs can at least be in the middle of the pack on pass defense, they have a shot. It won't be easy with so many young defensive backs, and the absence of pass rusher Jason Pierre-Paul will make it harder.

And all those opposing quarterbacks?

A few incompletions would be nice.



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