Defense underperformed for the Bucs in 2017

By Ken Filler
Jan. 03, 2018

The Bucs ended the 2017 season on a high note in beating the playoff bound New Orleans Saints 31-24 to finish 5-11. Overall it was a disappointing season for the Bucs as expectations were sky high all off-season. The Bucs were 9-7 a year ago and narrowly missed the playoffs, so a playoff birth was expected this year.

Most disappointing was the defense. After a strong finish to the 2016 season where the Bucs led the league in turnovers, steady improvement was expected this year and instead the team took about three steps back. The Bucs could not create turnovers consistently. At one point the Bucs went 14 quarters between turnovers. The DL as a group was one of the worst in the league. Thank God for Gerald McCoy.

McCoy was the most consistent player on the DL this year. When he could have shup it down after a pec injury, McCoy missed one game and elected to play out the season despite not being 100 percent.

The Bucs registered a a total of 20 sacks which was the lowest total in the NFL. When Noah Spence went down with his shoulder injury, there was no one to step up and apply pressure to the QB from the DL which costs the Bucs dearly when it came to closing out games. A lack of DL depth was magnified as the injuries mounted. Chris Baker was a waste of money. Hoping he will not get another year. Although with Dirk Koetter bringing back Mike Smith as DC, nothing would surprise me.

The DB’s excluding Brent Grimes needs an upgrade. Vernon Hargraves was a major disappointment in his second season. This upcoming season will be very important for Hargraves to see if he can finally be the corner everyone thought he could be coming out of Florida. TJ Ward was another waste of dollars as he did not do a whole lot except complain about his playing time. For a guy with a couple of Pro Bowls on his resume I expected a bit more. The good news is Grimes is thinking about coming back for another season at age 35. The Bucs definately need his playmaking ability and leadership at that position.

The LB’s as a group were the strength of this defense. As the injuries mounted and Lavonte David and Kwon Alexander missed time, Kendall Beckwith the rookie from LSU stepped in and performed well. It seemed though he kind of hit that wall that some rookies hit about three quarters through the season and his production dropped off, but overall a nice rookie season.

Although injuries were a major part of the poor defensive performance this season, MIke Smith has to take a lot of the responsibility as well. In Arizona the defense allowed 31 points in a quarter and a half. That happened to be Adrian Peterson‘s best game as a Cardinal. Smith just did not have his defense ready to play.

All season long we saw guys not lined up properly, guys out of position, a lack of tackling fundamentals. Outside of Brent Grimes and Robert McClain who played well, the Bucs played prevent defense against opposing WR’s because they had no one that could cover one on one except for Grimes. All the prevent defense does is prevent you from winning games. I cringe when i see that defense deployed.

Will we see more of this type of defensive performance in 2018 with Mike Smith coming back? Hard to say.. But the decision to bring back Mike Smith could come back to cost Dirk Koetter his job in 2018. The Glazers went out on a limb to bring him back for his third season. Some changes are in order. It looks as if Koetter is voting for the status quo and not wanting to make the tough decisions that will lead to improvement in 2018. I hope I am wrong.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports