McCoy and David Must Lead Defense for Buccaneers

Sep 14, 2014; Tampa, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive tackle Gerald McCoy (93) gets the crowd pumped up during the first quarter against the St. Louis Rams at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 14, 2014; Tampa, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive tackle Gerald McCoy (93) gets the crowd pumped up during the first quarter against the St. Louis Rams at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

Despite being a franchise that used to be known for its defense, the Buccaneers have fielded some bad defenses lately.  But, Tampa Bay with defensive tackle Gerald McCoy and linebacker Lavonte David, can turn things around quickly.

Back when the Buccaneers were winning and winning consistently, their dominant defenses led the way, which produced the term “Buc ball”.  Those defenses featured  the Hall of Fame duo of Warren Sapp and Derrick Brooks, John Lynch, Ronde Barber and a wealth of other talented players.  Looking over the last few years, the Bucs have fielded talented players on defense, but the unit as a whole has looked bad.  Really bad.

Perhaps that was the most frustrating thing about the two-year Lovie Smith era in Tampa Bay. Promises of a return to “Buc ball” were made, but they clearly weren’t kept.  The Bucs gave up an average of 25.6 points per game in 2014 and 26.1 points per game in 2015.  Back in 2007, the last time Tampa Bay made the playoffs, its defense allowed 16.9 points per game, which was third-best in the NFL.

In two years under Smith, the Bucs gave up 40-plus points three times.  They have given up 40-plus 10 times since 2008.  Between 1995 and 2007, they gave up 40-plus one time.  Yes, one time.  Tampa Bay used to be a franchise known for its defense.  The Bucs need to get back to that.

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Today’s NFL is different.  Offenses are better nowadays and, as a result, games are usually higher-scoring.  There’s not much of a debate about that.  But, the fact is, the Bucs have to be better on defense.  With the additions of Robert Ayers, Noah Spence, Brent Grimes and Vernon Hargreaves III to the unit of new defensive coordinator Mike Smith, Tampa Bay could finally see its defense improve in 2016.

But, even if the new additions produce as they’re expected to, a turnaround has to start with the two bright spots of the defense in recent years: Gerald McCoy and Lavonte David.

McCoy and David have led the Bucs on defense for years, and with the expected improvement of the secondary, they need to stay consistent in 2016.

McCoy, despite what critics may think, is one of the top talents in the league.  He has been named to the Pro Bowl four times in his six seasons to go along with first team All-Pro honors in 2013 and second team honors in 2014.  With Ayers and Spence joining the line on the ends, some of the pressure is taken off of number 93 up the middle.  With less pressure, he will have the opportunity to be the dominant force that everyone knows he can be.

He has delivered eight-plus sacks in each of the last three years, despite often facing double-teams because of the lack of other effective pass rushers along the Bucs’ line.  Consistent production from McCoy up front will help the rest of the line, as well as the defense as a whole.

It’s still a mystery to many as to why, but David is still wildly underrated as far as linebackers are concerned. He was a first team All-Pro in 2013 and was finally selected to his first Pro Bowl a year ago.  His ability to make plays all over the field is what makes him stand out, and he will need to continue to produce at the same level this year to keep the team’s linebackers trending upward.

A strong rookie season from Kwon Alexander made things look extra promising for the position group, which should still be led by number 54 this year.  His continued leadership will help further the development of Alexander and assist the effectiveness of veteran Daryl Smith, who is new to Tampa Bay this year.

McCoy and David will presumably be the team’s defensive captains once again in 2016, and for good reason.  Both of them have playmaking ability that will benefit not only their position groups, but the entire defense.

If opposing offenses focus too much on McCoy, it frees up the likes of Ayers, Spence and Clinton McDonald.  If the offenses don’t double up on McCoy, then he will be even more dangerous. David, who is coming off of an 85-tackle year, will again be all over the field, which will help Alexander and Smith cause problems for opposing offenses.  All of this activity up front should bode well for what looks to be an improved secondary.

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It’s time for the Buccaneers to turn things around on defense. With a new defensive coordinator and a group of players that is talented but still young, it may finally be time for the defense to bring back “Buc Ball”. If that turnaround is going to happen, Gerald McCoy and Lavonte David must lead the way.