Mike Smith Praises His Buccaneers’ Defense

Jun 14, 2016; Tampa Bay, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive coordinator Mike Smith (right) talks with cornerback Alterraun Verner (21) works out during mini camp at One Buccaneer Place. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 14, 2016; Tampa Bay, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive coordinator Mike Smith (right) talks with cornerback Alterraun Verner (21) works out during mini camp at One Buccaneer Place. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

Buccaneers’ defensive coordinator Mike Smith had many positives to report about his defense.

The Buccaneers had a lot to be excited about coming out of their week one victory, on offense and defense. We have talked about Jameis Winston and company, but let’s take a look on the other side. On defense, they sacked Matt Ryan three times and had several other pressures, and against the run they held the Falcons to 52 yards.

Pretty good I would say.

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Thursday is a coordinator day around the NFL, and the Bucs followed that protocol yesterday. Defensive coordinator Mike Smith talked to the media, and had some great things to say about his defense.

First on the resiliency:

"“I was very impressed. Disappointed in the way that we gave up some of those big plays, we had way too many explosive plays in the ball game. But when we did, we were able to bow our neck, bow our back and stop them. All those red zone stops are huge and we wouldn’t have been able to do that if we didn’t have the hustle and the effort that we had. Both times, [safety] Chris [Conte] was a guy that got them on the ground, but as you watch the tape, the effort was outstanding. We knew we were going to make mistakes, those were the first game mistakes that you think are going to pop up, but we were able to overcome them with our red zone defense and our hustle.”"

He was a bit cautious with it, but all in all quite happy. What about the communication?

"“I was impressed with the ability to communicate. On one of the touchdown passes, we had a miscommunication on a formation adjustment and those are things that are going to be a learning process for us as a defense. But I was pleased. I was really pleased with the way that we stopped the run. That was one of the things that we felt we had to do. That’s a team that wants to run and play play-action. We just had too many explosive plays and it was really not about them, it was about us. And those are things that we’ve addressed and ultimately, it’s not one player, it’s on me and on the coaching staff. We’ve got to make sure that the guys understand when we put a game plan together, that they can go out and execute.”"

It’s good that he is always looking ahead. Yes they were good, but there are things they can do better.

Any coach is able to identify his great players and leaders. Smith knows one, and his name is Kwon Alexander:

"“Kwon is an exceptional athlete and he plays the game so hard. We had guys that were running to the football, but when you compare them to Kwon, sometimes they don’t look like they’re going as fast as they need to because he was all over the football field. Reminiscent of some of the great linebackers, to have 17 hits and a sack, a tackle for a loss. He has a will and a desire and when you have that will and desire on the football field, it’s going to show up. He’s a very good athlete and he also has a great desire off the field because he’s not only coming in and sitting down with me every morning, but he’s also getting extra time with [Linebackers] Coach [Mark] Duffner. He just is a sponge right now and he wants to take as much as he can in and we’ve got to go through baby steps. I think he wants it to happen a lot quicker than it’s probably going to happen, in terms of understanding the defense, but he has a pretty good understanding of playing football and getting to the football.”"

Every morning. Kwon is a guy that is hungry to be great, and Mike Smith knows it and is cultivating it.

He was also proud of his young cornerback, Vernon Hargreaves:

"“Vernon probably of any rookie player, probably had the toughest draw in the NFL this week. And he played every snap in the ball game for us, both inside and outside. It says a lot about his football knowledge, his football intelligence. I felt like all of us, including me, we’d like to have a couple plays back, but overall I thought it was a very good start. That was a very good wide receiver that they tried to put on his side quite a bit and at the end of the day, we like what we were able to do, in terms of stopping what we call their ‘game wreckers.’ We wanted to stop [Atlanta wide receiver] Julio Jones, we wanted to stop [Atlanta running back] Devonta Freeman in the run game and we were able to accomplish that. Although it wasn’t perfect, I think Vernon is going to be a very, very good football player in the National Football League.”"

It would have been something if Vernon had been perfect, going up against that guy. Playing Julio Jones is a tall order for anyone, much less a rookie. The fact that he was able to hang in there for the entire game is a testament to how good “VHIII” can be.

Next: Five Game-Changing Players in Bucs vs. Cardinals

Mike Smith has a lot to be excited about. His defense is good and will only get better.