Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Pass rush showing progress


Things didn’t look great after the Buccaneers first preseason game of 2015 against the Minnesota Vikings. The first string defense allowed 10 points to the Vikings’ first string offense in just the first quarter. The Bucs were not generating any kind of pass rush and even Gerald McCoy was getting pushed around.

After over a week over preparation, though, the Bucs defense looked much sharper against the Cincinnati Bengals on Monday Night Football. The D-line put pressure on Andy Dalton early and often. He dropped back to pass 18 times and was sacked three times, hurried twice and threw two interceptions. 

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Free-agent addition George Johnson was responsible for 1.5 of those sacks. Jaquies Smith (the other presumed starting DE) was out with an injury so Henry Melton (traditionally an interior lineman) started on the outside in his place and had a sack of his own in the second half.

What was really impressive was that the Bucs only blitzed twice in the first half. One of those blitzes resulted in a sack on third down and on the other the Bucs were called for defensive pass interference.

Lovie Smith has said that he wants his defense to be able to operate while only rushing four players and that was evident Monday night. I have been weary about this strategy, but it seemed to work out fine against the Bengals. The Bucs front four was able to sack Dalton twice in a row in the first quarter without any extra pass rush help.

Overall, I was pretty surprised with how well the Bucs defense played, especially the D-line. Obviously the two INTs (one of them being a pick-six) meant a lot, but one was a flat out drop by A.J. Green and the other was a bit of an overthrow by Dalton.

Even though Dalton didn’t seem to be under much pressure on the plays that he wasn’t sacked, he never had very long to throw. He was able to find his receivers a lot, but many were short throws and dump offs. That’s part of the Tampa-2 defense: don’t allow big plays and force the offense to settle for small gains.

If the Bucs defense can show up again like this on Saturday night it will be very encouraging for fans as the season opener is just over two weeks away.

It will be interesting to see how Jaquies Smith plays as he should be back starting at one of the DE positions against the Browns. The Bucs seemed to do okay without him, so be on the lookout to see if he can add even more pressure himself.

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