Buccaneers: What is happening with the defense in 2021?

Steve McLendon, Tampa Bay Buccaneers Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Steve McLendon, Tampa Bay Buccaneers Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

The Buccaneers still need their defense to step up as the team gets closer to the playoffs. 

The Buccaneers came into the 2021 NFL season with one of the most hyped defenses in the league. Tampa crushed the Chiefs and their high-powered offense in the Super Bowl, which probably hyper-inflated the view on this unit coming into this season.

To be fair, the Bucs have dealt with more defensive injuries than most teams in the league, but that still doesn’t excuse some of the performances this season. Even the best players have their moments of looking lost when it matters, and the production has to be better going forward if Tampa really wants to compete.

You have to look beyond the box scores to see some of the more concerning aspects of this unit, although being 17th in the league in points allowed is hardly a stat to brush away.

The Bucs aren’t doing terrible; they did just hold the Falcons to just 17 points after all, but every Bucs fan knows that this number could’ve been much lower. Long touchdown runs early in the game never should’ve happened in the first place, and there are still far too many instances of questionable coverage decisions.

We didn’t see too much of Vita Vea dropping into coverage yesterday, which actually is on the table with this unit, but the third downs did tell the story of the defensive struggles. 9/17 on third down conversions, with some coming on third and long from behind the chains, is not good enough. This may work against the bad teams like Atlanta, but good teams will feast if these are the decisions by the defense going forward.

The sacks and interceptions have picked up from their slower pace at the start of the season, but the defense as a whole will need to start improving on these key downs if the unit wants to live up to its full potential. This may mean Todd Bowles can’t line defenders up 10 yards down the field against a route that only needs three, but no one will complain about that.

The pieces are all there, but the Buccaneer defense still has plenty of room to improve before it reaches its full potential.

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