Bucs defense showed improvement the last half of 2019
There was a lot to like and a lot to dislike about the Bucs defense in 2019.
The defense was horrible the first eight games of the season as the Bucs compiled a 2-6 record as the young secondary took their lumps.
The second half of the season saw a resurgent Bucs team go 5-3 with the defense overall, and especially the secondary showing good improvement.
The Bucs overall defense improved from 28th in the league in 2018 to 15th in 2019 as the defense gave up 344 yards a game.
The run defense showed the most improvement as the Bucs went from 29th against the run giving up 124 yards a game in 2018, to the number one run defense in the league in 2019 giving up just 74 yards a game.
The improved run defense can be attributed to the aggressive scheme used by defensive coordinator Todd Bowles along with the addition of Ndamukong Suh along the defensive line and the improved play of Vita Vea.
The pass defense actually took a step back when you look at the final numbers from the 2019 season. The Bucs allowed 271 passing yards a game which was good for 30th in the league in 2019. In 2018, the defense allowed 259 yards a game good for 26th in the league.
The biggest mistake the Bucs made was keeping veteran Vernon Hargreaves on the roster and starting him all nine games he played in.
In training camp, Arians sat Hargreaves for a day saying he had to get his mind right. He was also benched on a couple of occasions during the regular season due to his lack of hustle.
The pass defense improved greatly after the Bucs released Hargreaves and played well the secondary played much better the last two months of the season.
The Bucs defensive takeaways improved in 2019 as they ended up fifth in the league with 28 takeaways. They could have led the league in takeaways and interceptions had they not dropped so many potential interceptions.
Rookie Sean Murphy Bunting made the all rookie team as he really improved the second half of the season and finished his
rookie season with 44 tackles, 1 sack, 8 pass deflections, 3 interceptions, 1 interception return touchdown, and 1 forced fumble.
Another Buccaneer rookie, linebacker Devin White also made the all rookie team. After a slow start due to a hamstring injury and learning the NFL game as a defensive play caller, White finished the season strong with 91 total tackles, 2.5 sacks, 3 pass deflections, 1 interception, 3 forced fumbles, 4 fumble recoveries, and 2 fumble return touchdowns.
The Bucs defense would not have been nearly the force it was without the play of linebacker Shaq Barrett.
Playing on a one year deal, Barrett broke the Buccaneer single season sack record with 19.5 and also led the NFL in sacks.
Barrett also had 37 tackles, one interception, six forced fumbles, and two passes defended.
The return of Jason Pierre-Paul also gave some life to the defense when he returned in mid-October. Pierre Paul finished with 24 tackles, 8.5 sacks and 16 quarterback hits.
The Bucs were hit hard by injuries in the secondary as safety Justin Evans missed the entire 2019 season with various injuries.
Carlton Davis, Jordan Whitehead, Jamel Dean, and MJ Stewart also missed time with injuries.
This secondary was one of the youngest in the NFL and took their lumps early. But they learned from their mistakes the first half off the season and gave Buccaneer fans some hope for the future.
There is still work to be done on the defense. There are free agents, like Barrett, Pierre-Paul, and Carl Nassib that need to be re-signed.
What about Ndamukong Suh? Do you re-sign the 33 year old to a new contract, or let him walk. A true shutdown corner would be a nice addition to this defense.
Arians say that this Bucs team will be a tough out next year. If the defense continues to improve there will be a lot to look to forward to as Buccaneer fans in 2020.