By Max Luckan
With the offense being the most prolific in the NFL over the past couple of weeks, many people are simply forgetting about the struggles on defense for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Ranked fifth in the league in points scored with an average of 28.2 per game, the Bucs’ offense has been lighting up the scoreboard recently.
But on the flipside, the defense is ranked 29th in the league, allowing 398.4 yards per game. The good news for the Bucs’ defense, however, is that the Bucs are ranked first in rushing yards allowed with an average of 77.2 per game. But that’s just about where the good news ends.
There is a legitimate cause for concern in the secondary for the Bucs’ coaching staff. In Sunday’s game against the Oakland Raiders, the defense allowed 414 passing yards on 61 attempts by Raiders’ quarterback Carson Palmer. Yes, Palmer is a good quarterback, but he’s certainly no Drew Brees or Peyton Manning.
E.J. Biggers and Eric Wright have started the past couple of games and while Wright has done his job for the most part, Biggers has struggled in coverage and has periodically been attacked by opposing quarterbacks.
The cause of Biggers’ struggles?
Well, if the answer were simple, the problem would have been resolved by now. It could be the fact that Biggers only has 37 games under his belt and it takes time to master the art of playing cornerback.
But Biggers is hardly the only issue in the secondary. CB Myron Lewis has become a liability in coverage. Against the Raiders, Lewis came into the game for Leonard Johnson and almost instantly gave up a touchdown pass.
The secondary has been tormented for a better part of the season, and a lack of depth could be an underlying cause. Obviously, a depth issue isn’t easy to solve and has to be dealt with in other ways. Head coach Greg Schiano is aware of the issues that have arisen.
“Defensively, you know the obvious issues with the pass defense,” Schiano said. “It’s not any one person; it’s not any one thing. We just need to get better and we’ll work very hard at that this week.”
The defensive line, meanwhile, has coped well with the loss of DE Adrian Clayborn so far. The Bucs’ run defense is among the best in the league, and the return of DE Da’Quan Bowers from an Achilles injury has helped with that. Furthermore, the linebackers haven’t really been talked about much, but they’re there. Lavonte David is having a stellar rookie campaign, and quietly, Mason Foster is turning into a very consistent linebacker.
Still, the yards allowed per game remains a key issue – one that can’t be fixed instantly. The defense is very young still and the play of the defense should improve naturally as the season progresses.
A lengthy acclimation process usually comes with the installment of a new coaching staff, so one could argue that the struggles were inevitable. Yet at times, the defense has looked elite. But at other times has surely raised a few eyebrows.
A struggling defense, specifically a struggling secondary, is nothing new. Teams go through rough stretches all the time. But just know that the issues are there and will need to be worked on as the season progresses.
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Max Luckan is a freelance writer covering all things Tampa. His work can be found on Examiner.com.