2013 NFL Draft: Buccaneers will improve their secondary this season

Jeff Griffith-US PRESSWIRE

The Buccaneers are ranked 32nd in passing defense out of 32 teams for the 2012 season. There is a dire room for improvement. What can we fans expect for this upcoming season? First, let’s believe today is February of 2012. “A-ah!” says Doc. “For that answer, Marty, we have to go… Back to the Future!”

The team had signed CB Eric Wright to complement the Bucs’ best CB Aqib Talib. In the 2012 draft, we snatched up safety Mark Barron in the first round and traded up for LB Lavonte David in the second round. There was news that Ronde Barber would make the switch from CB to safety for this upcoming season. 2011 first round pick rookie DE Adrian Clayborn had a stellar season with 7 ½ sacks and 3 forced fumbles. And what if I had told you (remember I’m telling you this with the date of February 2012 of last year) that Gerald McCoy would be healthy for all 16 games and become an outright pro bowler? Every Bucs fan would be ecstatic for the defense for the 2012-13 season. I’m ecstatic about that upcoming season even though I already know the outcome and I’m the one writing this article!

Unfortunately, a lot of not-so-fortuitous things occurred. Clayborn only played in three games. The psycho-stimulant drug Adderall claimed both CB’s Wright and Talib, with the latter being traded before his suspension ended. We lose a pass rusher and gone are both starting CBs that leaves our rookie safety exposed as well as our newly transitioned CB to safety Barber for a majority of the year. So what is so good about this coming 2013 season with last year’s dismal performance?

Defensive Snapshot of 2012-13


Points Allowed


Sacks


INTs


Personnel Comment


First 4 Games


22.75

8

6

Clayborn played the first three games only.


Middle 6 Games


23.2

9

9

*No Clayborn.

*Talib was suspended at beginning of the six game set and then traded before suspension ended to NE for a fourth round pick.


Last 6 Games


27.3

10

3

*No Clayborn.

*No Talib.

*Wright never played any of the last six games. He was injured in the first game of this set, then his four game suspension, and remained injured for the last game of the season.

Sum


27

18

The first four games showed the defense at its best. They behaved like ball hawks as they were able to get 6 INTs. The sack rate was the best as they collected 8 sacks in only four games. Also, the defense posted the lowest scoring rate of all three segmented portions of the season. We lost DE Clayborn after the third game, except he was not having a great season. Record: 1-3

In the following games, the middle six game set, we lost CB Talib for the rest of the season as he was suspended and then traded away. Our defense could have and should have faltered as we lost our best cornerback, but instead the team was resilient as there was barely a drop in play from the first four games. The defense still was able to nab 9 INTs despite being down their best CB for all of the middle six game set. Record: 5-1

In the last six game set, we have lost two starting CBs. Not surprisingly, our INT rates dropped dramatically. As bad as our rag-tag secondary may have been perceived, they only allowed four more points than our best output at the beginning of the season. Record: 1-5

Points allowed seem to be an underrated and often overlooked statistical number. We see a first ranked rushing defense and last ranked passing defense. Those rankings are based on accumulated yards given up. All of us can scream and point at the secondary as a liability without a second thought. We have given up more passing yards than anyone in the league, but, surprisingly, we were ranked 23rd overall in points allowed per game. The points allowed average of all teams is 22.8 points. Taking that number into context and the Bucs allowing 24.6 points per game, then the defense does not seem as dire as we are all making it out to be, statistically speaking. The opposing team can generate as many yards as possible, but if they’re not scoring, then collecting all those yards become meaningless.

Any quality help this offseason for our defense will have an immediate and positive result. The team was surprisingly consistent at points allowed this season. All Buc fans can at least share the relief that our defensive secondary will improve. For the first 10 games the Bucs hovered at 23 points per game allowed. Considering we lost Talib after game four, we should be able to project to allow between 23 to 20 points per game (PPG), provided we retain Wright because the basis I’m working off from is last year’s results. If the baseline is 23 PPG, then our defense should rank around 19th overall. If we reach a high of 20 PPG, then our defense would project to be a top 10 ranked defense for points allowed.

Whether via free agency or the draft, our secondary can be infused with high talent. If we keep Wright, then that leaves this team with the necessity of acquiring two talented cornerbacks. The quality of players we had playing last year overachieved. Now replace them with one FA corner and one first or second round corner would automatically elevate the level of play. Also, it would open up one of the draft spots available for another position such as safety, DT, or TE in the top two rounds.

The aforementioned has two caveats. Keeping Wright and his $7.5 million per year for the next four years makes anyone cringe considering that we could probably throw a lot less than that at the SteelersKeenan Lewis. The other caveat is expecting a rookie to be more than competent at the CB position. If last year’s top CB Morris Claiborne struggled in his first year, then we can expect the same from any rookie CB we draft. Although losing Wright and starting one rookie corner may have its negative components, acquiring three top talented corners this off-season will still improve our secondary as it could not get any worse than it did for the last six games of the year. And yet with the scrubs we had out there for the last six games, the system kept us somewhat competitive where there was only one blowout loss.

With or without Wright, everything should point towards a huge improvement in the secondary provided our GM Dominick puts an emphasis on acquiring at least three talented corners. Hopefully he will limit starting rookie corners to only one. And if GM Dominick does not address our secondary concerns immediately with actual talented players, then I suppose someone named Witty will have a special gift for him that starts with Na… Palm trees that can be found locally because our defense will mimic the bending attribute of one.

The future of the secondary already looks bright in spite of having no one to fill those positions right now. Because of the last six games, that is essentially what the Bucs put out on the field. So we know we’re going to be getting an upgrade, but it is simply waiting for it to occur that has us Buc fans in great anticipation. This is similar to the Harlem Shake: you know when the music drops, and that is when the chaos reigns supreme!

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