Where are the defensive adjustments?
Todd Bowles started the season as one of the best coordinators in the entire NFL. Bowles clearly deserves another shot as a head coach in the NFL and is a favorite to take over the Bucs’ head job when Bruce Arians inevitably retires soon, but he has stumbled over the past few weeks.
It’s easy to blame players for missed coverages or blown plays, but their initial positioning and play-calling is directly on the coach. Bowles shifted away from his initial alignments that worked so well during the start of the season, and the past few weeks have been marred by defensive under-performance.
Bowles has one of the best man corners in the league in Carlton Davis and has been one of the biggest press coverage users over the past few seasons. The Buccaneer secondary immediately improved with this new strategy, but Bowles has stopped falling back on his bread and butter.
During the past four weeks, the Bucs have faced 140 passes, 98 of which have been completions (70% completion rate). If a quarterback switched teams every week to play this version of the Buccaneer defense, they would have a completion percentage good enough for fourth in the league right now (third amongst active starters).
How could a defense that has been rated so favorably end up in a position like this? The past four quarterback opponents were Derek Carr, Daniel Jones, Drew Brees, and Teddy Bridgewater. None of these players are athletic freaks, but there is one common theme here.
As anyone who has watched a game the past four weeks can tell you, Bowles has switched up his corners’ defensive alignment at the snap. Instead of playing one to two(max) yards off in standard press, Tampa Bay’s corners have lined up seven to ten yards off against the opposing receivers. Which of the previous quarterbacks have a strong enough arm to warrant a seven to ten-yard cushion?
You can trust that no amount of screaming at the T.V. will cause the corners to take a step down to break up the slant or the drag routes, but Todd Bowles has to plan accordingly to improve the coverage for the remainder of the season if Tampa Bay wants to do more than beat the bad teams.