The Tampa Bay Buccaneers struggled in almost every aspect of pass defense in 2012, but most of the blame initially involved pointing at the defensive backs. And while it’s certainly reasonable for the corners and safeties to take some of the blame, there must also be a finger pointed at the defensive line, and the rest of the front seven, who were unable to generate a decent pass rush.
Because as we’re seen with our own quarterback in Tampa Bay, pressure can really have an impact on the accuracy and decision-making of a quarterback.
Last year the Buccaneers were tied for 29th in the NFL in sacks with only 27 over the course of the season. That left the defensive unit tied with or ahead of only the Chiefs, Jaguars and Raiders.
But according to Pro Football Focus, it was a bit of a different story. Using their grading system, the Buccaneers as a team wound up ahead of seven teams in pass rush grades, and just behind the Super Bowl Champion Baltimore Ravens. This is because the Buccaneers still managed to pressure the quarterback on occasion, even if there weren’t actual sacks happening.
So let’s take a look on an individual level, and see how well the returning Buccaneers for 2013 did on a per snap basis at pressuring the opposing quarterback.
|Total QB Pressures||Snaps per Pressure||Snaps per Run Stop|
So as you can see here, I have listed some of the Buccaneers’ top pass rushers from last season, and to make the playing field a bit more even, I have shown the average number of snaps between pressures or run stops for each player. I only considered run snaps or pass rush snaps depending on the statistic being used, as charted by Pro Football Focus.
So none of the Buccaneers who are returning for 2013 had an elite level of pass rush pressures per snap, except for linebacker Lavonte David, who was very effective at pressuring the quarterback on his somewhat limited pass rushing opportunities. It’s also interesting to note that Mark Barron performed well on his pass rushing opportunities, but he did it so rarely that there’s no value in such a small sample size.
The encouraging news is that some of the Buccaneers’ linemen weren’t far off from the elite level players I included at the bottom of the chart. For example, Da’Quan Bowers (who has been highly scrutinized this offseason) was fairly efficient at getting pressure on the quarterback in his limited snaps, and that’s likely why the coaching staff is demanding so much from him this summer.
It’s even more encouraging to see how good Bowers was against the run. Many writers and analysts have speculated that the loss of Michael Bennett might hurt the Buccaneers’ stalwart run defense, but in his shortened 2012 campaign, Bowers showed he could make big plays against the run on a frequent basis.
Likewise, it’s great to see that Gerald McCoy is fairly close to having the QB pressure frequency of an elite pass rushing defensive end. McCoy doesn’t appear to have slowed down at all this offseason, and he might even improve from year-to-year with a slimmer frame and a year of confidence and experience.
And finally, the Buccaneers appear to have solid depth on the line thanks to Daniel Te’o-Nesheim. Thrust into action as a relative unknown, the Buccaneers’ backup defensive end did reasonably well, all things considered. He won’t be starting this year, but he’ll likely see the field and spell Clayborn and Bowers. He’s not fantastic, but he did prove to be consistent, and that’s something the Buccaneers can rely on to help keep their other linemen fresh.