Half of a good defense is not enough. - Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE
The secondary lost games for Tampa repeatedly due to poor defensive schemes and a dearth of talent. Some fans are calling for Bill Sheridans' head, but he's got a few quality excuses.
Those excuses are each defensive back other than Mark Barron and Ronde Barber. Bill's scheme was less of a culprit for the awful collapses than his players, though one would be wrong to say that he was anywhere close to being without fault.
Most fans know that the 2012 Buccaneer defense allowed close to the most passing yards of all time. Anyone who watched them can avoid becoming mired in the statistics because it was obvious just how terrible they were. This off season is going to allow the coaches and players to shore up their schemes, increase roster depth, and acclimate to the system.
Ultimately, the reason why the pass defense won't be as poor (for at least a long while) is due to the myriad of unfortunate events all occurring at once. Both projected starting defensive ends went down in preseason (Bowers) or in week 3 (Clayborn). A year that both were supposed to take a step forward in production was either wiped away or haggard with injury. Opposing quarterbacks had ample time to make their reads and step into their throws.
Starting CB's were both suspended and Wright missed time with injury. This thrust Leonard Johnson and E.J. Biggers into the starting lineup. Play became nightmarish once Danny Gorrer and others saw action. Once Talib was traded away and Wright received his suspension there was no hope for improvement.
With both the defensive line and secondary succumbing to serous injury and/or suspension, what could have been a serious problem turned into an abysmal catastrophe. While selling out for the run put the Buc run defense as the best in around a decade, the untalented CB's got abused.
What will assuage fears is the upcoming off season. Mark Dominik and Schiano will undoubtedly draft a CB in the first round and again later on, unless one of the elite defensive prospects falls into their laps. In that scenario if Banks is still on the board it's hard to see them passing on him. Another one if not two CB's will be brought in through free agency or possibly trade. Brent Grimes, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, and Leodis McKelvin are seemingly the top free agent corners becoming available. Each is far better than anyone currently on the roster, and Leodis would significantly improve the return game.
Even with mediocre corners, the 2012 Buccaneers would have been a much improved team. Perhaps even a ten win team. The odds that a third of all key defensive players will miss more than eight games next season in very unlikely. Serious injuries are bound to occur, yet will hopefully be limited by chance. Suspensions on the other hand are rectifiable as Schiano is hell bent on weeding out those he considers less than gentlemen.
If the team can retain Michael Bennett, avoid overspending, and catch enough luck to only lose fewer starters than last year, the defense will noticeably improve. Hopefully the team will avoid major injuries and act like adults so we don't have to vapor lock in the fourth quarter each Sunday.
As an aside, we should take this opportunity to laud the staff for what they have done with the run defense. It sucked for five years and Greg came in and made it memorable. Lavonte David had a serious hand in that as did a healthy Gerald McCoy. An off season focusing on the back four should create a significantly better product.