Has the Bucs defense really Improved?

How much will the Bucs defense improve this year? It wont take much as the Bucs are coming off one of their worst defensive performances in recent memory.

Here are some numbers to chew on:

—Allowed 378 YPG last in the NFL

—Allowed 261 YPG passing the worst in the NFL

—Allowed 118 YPG on the ground 23rd in the NFL

—Allowed opponents to convert 48% on third down conversion. The worst in the NFL.

After this performance to the surprise of many, the Bucs opted to retain DC Mike Smith and bring him back for another year. Granted the Bucs had a ton of injuries on the defensive side of the ball. Noah Spence missed the majority of the season recovering from surgery. Brent Grimes missed some time and with Grimes not in the lineup opposing QB’s had a field day.

Despite the injuries this was probably one of the worst coaching jobs by MIke Smith in his distinguished NFL career. Smith numerous times throughout the season said he had to do a better job of coaching.  We kept waiting and waiting….

The first big off-season move was hiring Brenton Buckner to coach the DL. Buckner brings a fiery presence to the Bucs and from what we observed during OTA’s and mini-camp, just might be what the doctor ordered for this DL. Buckner brings a no-nonsense style of coaching and zero tolerance for stupid mistakes. Just ask Gerald McCoy.

Last year the Bucs started the season with McCoy, Chris Baker, Clinton McDonald, Channing Ward, Robert Ayers, and Sealver Siliga as their top DL. All except McCoy and Channing Ward are gone and have been replaced by Jason Pierre-Paul, MItch Unrein, Beau Allen, Vita Vea, Vinny Curry, and a healthy Noah Spence.

Make no mistake this is still Gerald McCoys’s team and he is still the leader of this defense.

On paper this group is much better than what the Bucs started with in 2017. But we won’t really know for sure until the games start counting in September. With the suspension of Jameis Winston, the defense and the DL will be counted on to make their presence felt early and often.

If the job of the DL is to get sacks and put pressure on the QB, the job of the DB is to cover the receivers and prevent the opposing QB from moving the ball downfield. Neither did that very well last year. The play of Vernon Hargreaves really hurt this team last year as he took a step back from the 2016 season.

All indications are is that Hargreaves has improved dramatically and was even called out by Koetter for his improved focus and playbook knowledge in this years OTA’s.

Gone from last years squad are Robert McClain, TJ Ward, and JJ Wilcox. They have been replaced with a couple of rookies. MJ Stewart, Carlton Davis and Jordan Whitehead will get their shot at improving this Bucs secondary.

Justin Evans and Chris Conte return and sooner rather than later, one of the young guns will need to step up and take charge in that secondary as Brent Grimes the Bucs best cover guy is another year older and we don’t know how long he continue to play at the level he has played at the last few years.

On paper this Bucs defense is much better than the defense we saw going into last season. I think you will see a much improved Bucs defense this season. If the Bucs are going to challenge for the NFC south crown, and improve on their win loss record from last year, pressuring the opposing QB and stopping the run will be two big keys to the Bucs success this year.