The Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ fan community has grown tired of the defensive performance they are forced to see each and every Sunday. Defensive Coordinator Mike Smith has had three years to get this Tampa defense back on track, and honestly, it hasn’t looked great.
This week, the writers of the Full Press Coverage Tampa Bay Buccaneers were asked the following: Mike Smith has continually said that his defense will be great as soon as the communication aspect of it has been achieved. Heading into year three as defensive coordinator, is it the communication, execution, or the scheme of Smith’s defense that isn’t working?
We are 36 games into the Mike Smith era and he is still preaching communication. I can’t be the only one who finds this ridiculous. It’s of my belief that this is simply a guy grasping at straws. If I was as bad at my job as he is, I would be looking for excuses too. In all actuality, if I was as bad at my job as he has been I would have been unemployed a long time. The communication talk is classic coach speak.
What’s the real problem?
In my opinion, the real issue with Mike Smith and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’
defense is the scheme. We are all aware of the cushion that Mike Smith wants his defensive backs to give opposing receivers, and how many times have we seen that exploited? This team has some of the most talented linebackers currently in the game. I refuse to believe that they are simply incapable of covering running backs coming out of the backfield on a weekly basis.
Perhaps most damning of all is statements we have heard from opposing coaches as,
well as analysts. Chicago Bears Head Coach Matt Nagy stated after that game that they knew what the Bucs were doing on defense before they did. Former Bucs quarterback Chris Simms is on record as saying that Mike Smith hasn’t changed his scheme at all since he was the defensive coordinator of the Jacksonville Jaguars. That was over 10 years ago!
Enough with this communication garbage!
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ defense has struggled for a while now. They have yet to be at the same level they were when they won the Super Bowl over fifteen years ago. The team struggled under every coordinator they have had, and the rotation of coaches every two years or so likely stunts player development. Mike Smith has been this team’s coordinator for two-plus seasons now, and the team seems to have regressed each season. Opposing coaches, most recently Coach Nagy, have said that the Buccaneers have been predictable.
Former player Robert Ayers said in a Twitter chain about last season, “well, we only ran two coverages.. all game all season.. ain’t all their fault.. but let me shut up.”.
While we don’t know exactly what is called each play, this is the closest we’ll get to some “insider” information. This season, the Bucs defense is trotting out four rookies, but
it seems like everyone doesn’t know what they are doing on some plays. The Buccaneers are failing on all three fronts of communication, execution, and scheme. Mike Smith is the leader of the defense and it’s on him that the defense is struggling. If this team continues to struggle, it only proves that Mike Smith is either teaching a system that these professional athletes can’t understand, or he’s doing a bad job formulating a game plan.
This Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense has been among the worst in the league during Mike Smith’s tenure. Looking back on the 2016 season, Mike Smith’s defense allowed 367.9 yards per game, which ranked 23rd in the NFL. That is understandable for a defensive coordinator’s first season with a team, but much improvement was expected to lead into the 2017 season.
However, during 2017, Mike Smith’s defense allowed a league-worst 378.1 yards per game. Fast forward to the 2018 season, Tampa Bay is allowing 34.8 points per game through the first four games. To put that into perspective, only one other team is allowing more than 30 points per game. Making matters worse, the Buccaneers are allowing a pathetic 445.8 yards per game, which is on pace to be far worse than the 2016-2017 seasons. Only the Kansas City Chiefs are allowing more yards per game.
If communication was the issue for Mike Smith’s defense, it is reasonable to think that the defense should be improving with Smith at the helm each season, because the players should be communicating better as they develop chemistry. Instead, the Buccaneers defense has proven to be getting worse. Therefore, execution and scheme must play a role. If Mike Smith does not find a way to schematically create pressure and players do not execute against Matt Ryan on Sunday, this defense is going to be carved apart by a lethal Atlanta Falcons offense.
I think the main issues with Mike Smith’s defense is the game planning and adjustments. Every team the Bucs play know what they’re doing schematically on defense and have a gameplan of attack. But, we seem to never know what’s coming and look confused at the beginning of games, especially on the road. It’s not uncommon for teams to run different formations than what they’ve shown in previous games, but the Bucs never can adjust to what’s not game planned.
I don’t neccarsarely think the scheme is the issue. The problem we’re having is mainly due to having inexperienced guys starting in the secondary. They don’t yet fully understand the rules to all route combinations, which are leading to blown coverages.
Mike Smith wants to make things simple, but in the NFL today, you can’t be predictable with play calls. Analytics has taken over modern sports, and offenses in the NFL are taking full advantage of all tendencies they can exploit. To have any success defensively, you have to disguise different coverages and find ways to consistently pressure the quarterback.
The answer is it’s a little bit of all three points. Communication seems to be an issue each year with this defense. Where is the communication is what I want to know?
Execution is a big part of being successful or failing. The Bucs’ defense is not executing in all areas on defense. The defensive line is not getting consistent pressure, missed tackles are haunting this defense once again, and who is covering who is a mystery to me. The number of wide receivers running wide open during the showdown with the Bears should never happen in professional football.
It’s hard to blame the scheme because within the last ten years, no matter what scheme the Bucs defense was running, they would still get blown up.
Overall, I think communication and execution, or lack thereof, that are the reasons why this defense is last in the NFL, yet again.
How great it is to see Simeon Rice, Warren Sapp, Derrick Brooks, Ronde Barber, and John Lynch out there destroying that Chicago Bears offense. Oh, wait a minute. That was long ago. What I meant to say is that how does a renowned defensive minded coach, put some of the worse film on his defense, week in, and week out? Weren’t the great Tampa teams built on defense?
The reason Mike Smith’s defense is struggling so much, in my opinion, is the scheme and the communication aspects. Mike Smith has to realize that his secondary is so young and wet behind the ears that calling plays that’ll allow them to execute their basic knowledge of their position, should benefit them in winning their matchups.
But doesn’t the pass rush make the secondary?
It sure does, but I don’t believe the pass rush is the issue. When teams game plan against the Buccaneers defense they have to assume the mix of mostly younger talent and veterans in the defensive backfield couldn’t possibly have a complete grasp of what each position group does to create success for the defense as a whole.
There are simply too many new faces on this defense to allow Smith’s defense to flourish. Not to mention the injuries of Chris Conte and Vernon Hargreaves have clearly haunted this young defensive back group.
To conclude, Mike Smith should create opportunities, within his scheme of defense, to allow for an easier understanding of the defense. Then, the communication aspect of it all should follow suit.