Buccaneers must change defensive values to win in 2022

Vita Vea, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Vita Vea, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images) /

Defending the run does not matter for the Buccaneers like some fans think it does.

It might be time for those of you who are stuck in the early 2000s to start clutching your pearls. The modern football world is based on the abilities of teams to successfully establish and shut down opposing passing games, not the run, and no team in the NFL shows this more than the Buccaneers.

Running the football is dead for the vast majority of NFL teams. It doesn’t matter how good your running back is or how much the players “like the physicality,” the league has become one that lives and dies by the pass.

Mike Alstott isn’t coming through that door. Derrick Henry is excellent, but he isn’t changing football games. Running backs and running the ball has taken a back seat to throwing the ball.

Planning to face the run doesn’t matter for the Buccaneers

Passing the ball is all that matters, and the Buccaneer defense shows this perfectly.

While last season is a bit of an outlier due to various injuries, the Bucs have been known for the last few years for a dominant defense versus the run, and an average defense versus the pass.

How does this grade out as a whole? The Buccaneer defense has generally been average to above average (with one all-time game versus the Chiefs in the Super Bowl).

The issue is that the numbers never tell the whole story. The Buccaneers have consistently been so bad at shutting down the pass that most teams abandon the run early, and dinking and dunking quarterbacks can get consistent yards against the Bucs with ease. It is also worth acknowledging that the Buccaneer run defense being so good plays into teams focusing on throwing too, but stopping there short-yardage passes has been difficult for Todd Bowles and his unit.

Again, last year is still an outlier, but the Buccaneers have to recognize that planning to stop the run is a waste. We even saw this on display against the Colts in a game that was way too close for comfort.

The Colts and the Cowboys, two teams that were supposed to disappear on offense because the Bucs had the talent to slow down their run games, were able to stay in the game against the Bucs by throwing the ball with ease. If Carson Wentz is able to look comfortable against your defense, you know you’re doing something wrong.

The days of planning to stop the run are over. Teams that run first will lose the offensive race against the Buccaneer group, so let them run. But the Bucs have to recognize that doing so much to stop the run is actually forcing opposing teams to pass, and that has to stop if the Bucs want to win in 2022.

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