Ah, Mike. We find ourselves here once again. Mike Smith‘s stock with the Buccaneers has been steadily dropping for the last two seasons, and Sunday against the Bears it hit a new low. Never before has a defense looked so blatantly out-coached
Here are a couple of facts about the Buccaneers defense. They objectively have a talented front seven. Jason Pierre-Paul, Vinny Curry, Gerald McCoy, Kwon Alexander, and Lavonte David are all veterans who have made their abilities clear and apparent over the years.
Under Smith, most of these characters have seen their careers level off or straight up decline. David, for example, doesn’t have a sack or interception since 2016 and has had his play-making nature stripped away. Alexander is a similar story, although he doesn’t have the resume to fall back on that David does. The flurry of missed assignments and under-performing players every week is staggering and has been a constant every year of the Smith era.
Don’t get me wrong: the players share a large chunk of the blame in this disaster, as you’ll see in the next couple sections. But as I stated last week and the weeks prior, the head of the show needs to be at the front of the blame train. Sell your Mike Smith stock and try to forget you ever bought it.
The Tampa Bay offensive line is one of this team’s biggest enigmas. In some games, like Philadelphia and New Orleans, they look like a formidable unit capable of handling superstar talents on the opposition like Fletcher Cox and Cameron Jordan. Then, there are games like Chicago, where they get slapped across the face and don’t dare to slap back. Their rotation at right guard has proved to be a knee-cap to the entire unit – while one thrives in pass pro the other gets crushed in run blocking, and vice versa.
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Both Ryan Fitzpatrick and Jameis Winston struggled to get anything going against this Bears defense, and for no greater reason than the fact that they were under duress too often. Winston was forced to pull vintage magic tricks in the pocket two separate times thanks to pressure in his face or on the edges. The good news is that this is the best defense the Buccaneers will face all season.
The bad news is that we’re still not sure what to expect from this line week to week. For now, their stock is technically neutral, but I’m not particularly confident it will rise.
Lavonte David and Kwon Alexander
What should be a strength for the Buccaneers has turned into a weakness. I’m not sure how this has come about, but the play-making pair of Lavonte David and Kwon Alexander has been nothing but bystanders in the disaster of defense we’ve seen so far this season. With the team’s secondary as bad as it’s been, the team has sorely missed the splash plays that both of these linebackers have made careers upon.
Like I mentioned earlier, it’s easy to heap all the blame on Smith because quite frankly, it’s deserved. But when we see Alexander consistently getting yoked by running backs both on the ground and in coverage, it bears talking about. Due for a new contract this off-season, Alexander has to start taking better angles to the ball and getting off blocks more frequently if he wants to earn a big contract. Inexplicably, David has essentially gone ghost mode on the team and is stuck in the midst of a turnover drought.
Things are very likely hopeless for the Buccaneers defense, but one of their only roads to redemption is paved by the potential renaissance of David. If the team can start getting elite play from he and Alexander, perhaps that will be enough to cover for abysmal pass defense. I wouldn’t necessarily sell stock on David or Alexander yet, but until they get a capable coordinator overseeing everything I would not recommend buying in.