Defensive line – B
What appeared to be the strength of the defense heading into the 2018 season has been just that.
Even with a banged-up unit, the Bucs held teams to just 87.8 yards per contest, the sixth-best mark in the league.
Opponents have become one dimensional against Tampa Bay. Sadly, it hasn’t made a difference. The struggles in the second and third levels have allowed teams to drop back comfortably and shred the Bucs defense.
Unfortunately, even the Buccaneers’ best unit has faced its struggles. Although Pierre-Paul has four sacks on the season, the pass rush hasn’t been that impressive. The sack totals are an improvement compared to last season, but the lack of pass rush has made the secondary look even worse.
Linebackers – C-
With a pair of star linebackers, the Buccaneers have still struggled at the second level. Lavonte David and Kwon Alexander are consistently left on an island in coverage against running backs and speedy wideouts.
Defensive coordinator Mike Smith has the talent at linebacker, but there are issues with how they are deployed. Our Michael Horan broke down why Smith is the reason that David hasn’t made an impact play in an abnormally long time in his weekly stock report.
He’s right. There are quality players in the front seven, and they should be making more plays. They’re being picked apart in coverage. Smith needs to get these players in a position where they can succeed.
What Smith and the linebacking corps don’t have is depth. Adarius Taylor will continue to start with Kendell Beckwith out for a few more games. Taylor has struggled when on the field and its forced Tampa to play even more nickel.
Behind Taylor, the remaining linebackers leave plenty to be desired. Jack Cichy and Cameron Lynch are the only other linebackers on the roster. Both have made a handful of plays on defense and special teams, but they are going to be exposed if they play for more than a few snaps.
For now, the players get the benefit of the doubt. Mike Smith will get most of the blame. However, if things don’t turn around quickly, questions are going to be raised about the starters.