Short sacks: D-Line excellence and coverage problems

TAMPA, FL - OCTOBER 03: Defensive end Michael Bennett #71 and Cornerback Ronde Barber #20 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers sack Quarterback Curtis Painter #7 of the Indianapolis Colts causing him to fumble the ball at Raymond James Stadium on October 3, 2011 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images)

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are the best team in the league at sacking opposing quarterbacks quickly. At least, that's what Football Outsiders' numbers say. The Bucs have 11 sacks that take place in 2.5 seconds from the snap of the ball, which ranks second in the league behind only the Vikings. When adjusted for the number of passes faced the Bucs lead the league in short sack percentage, however. 

That is obviously good news: the Bucs have an up-and-coming defensive line and this stat shows just why it's so potent: the individual players can beat their opposing linemen very quickly to get to the quarterback. Unfortunately, there's also one less fortunate implication: the Bucs' coverage sucks. 

That shouldn't be news to anyone. The Bucs have struggled to stop anyone through the air, as opponents have regularly been able to find holes in Tampa Bay's secondary. And these sack numbers bear that out: the Bucs have 11 quick sacks, but they have only one sack that's not a quick sack. They have no 'long' sacks, which Football Outsiders defines as a sack taking three seconds or longer. 

That shows the problem in coverage: quarterbacks only need a little time to find a receiver against the Bucs. The number also shows some deficiencies along the defensive line, though. More specifically: the line still isn't rushing as a unit, rather than a collection of individuals. 

The Bucs haven't been able to get a quarterback on the ground after an extended amount of time in the pocket. Not because of a lack of effort, but because it's easy for quarterbacks to break contain and extend the play - and then throw the ball away. Too often one player will be focused on making a play, giving up contain and allowing the quarterback to scramble away from pressure. 

Overall these numbers don't show us anything we didn't already know: the defensive line is talented but not a complete unit yet, while pass coverage has been terrible this year. But it's good to see the talent on the defensive line showing up in some concrete form. 

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