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System of a (let) down

I have a secret for all you Bucs fans.  It's been pretty much kept quiet all year and I'm wondering if and when other teams will figure it out.  Want to know what it is?  Here you go.  The Bucs defense is bad.  Oh, that's not a secret?  I just figured with all the "Fire Raheem Morris" talk and virtual silence on Jim Bates and his run contain scheme that no one had figured out that this system with current personnel was a monster fail.

Last week I wrote an article about the inconsistencies and lack of identity that the Bucs suffered from.  On Sunday against the Iggles, we saw more of the same.

To snap back to reality, anyone who has watched more than 4 minutes of Bucs defense understands how bad it is.  We've gone from a system (Cover 2) that emphasized pressure with the front four and two deep safeties with everything coming underneath, to a system (Run Contain) that is supposed to funnel all plays to the middle of the field and beat the passing game by playing man up on defense with pressure forcing the ball out early.  News flash:  it ain't happening.

Bates' scheme is one of two things.  Antiquated or mismanaged.  A change in scheme is not a bad thing, and generally takes time.  Unless there are massive roster changes, most teams adjust from a 4-3 to 3-4 or a different scheme over the course of a few years.  And this Bucs defense may be in transition for a few years, but it's a massive fail for the time being. 

Bates was brought in with his scheme and it was forced on the players.  He took several years of Cover 2 drafting and then tried to fit those players into his scheme.  Now, he was hired as the DC, so it's no surprise his scheme came with him.  I'm a bit surprised we haven't seen more of a hybrid defense or a bigger split between Cover 2 and man up.  All players are not equal at all schemes.  Each player has talents and weaknesses that can be hidden or exposed based on responsibilities.  What we are seeing now is players built and tutored on the Cover 2 being exposed in the man defense game. 

Three years from now, we may look back with a dominant defense and say that the ends justified the means, but it's hard to say that from this point. 

And just to make sure I don't disappoint, here are some numbers, comparing 2008 and 2009 on the defensive side.  All numbers are per game averages.  I ran with 2008 just because it was the closest comparison talent wise that I could make.  2008 was not a special defense by any means, but here is a look at the defensive numbers allowed in 2008 and 2009.


Total Plays Total yds/game Avg yards/play Rush yds/game Rush yds/play Pass yds/game Pass yds/play
2008 59.06 306.12 5.2 118.81 4.3 187.31 6.7
2009 60.80 379.8 6.2 152.6 4.7 227.2 9.1

 No explanation needed.  More yards a game, more yards per play, by land, by air or by sea. 

3rd down % Sacks/game Int/game TD/game
2008 37.85% 1.81 1.38 2.13
2009 40.32% 1.8 1.4 3.2

The sacks and picks per game are relatively the same, but the touchdowns allowed per game is a killer. 

Of course, we are comparing a 16 game season that's been completed to a five game "season" thus far.  It's not a huge sample size yet and certainly a lot can change with more than two thirds of the season left. 

We all have our own thoughts on this mess.  No one is particularly happy about seeing Elbert Mack always running 3 yards behind a receiver, or seeing another bomb thrown to end up in our opponent's hands on his way to the end zone.  There is certainly a need for the players to be accountable for their mistakes and missed assignments, but I wonder how Bates is getting by with only a few words of anger in his direction.  The hire was made, good or bad.  But the scheme was instilled with no precautions for a young defense who had grown up on the Cover 2.  Maybe the fire Raheem chants are justified, but perhaps some of that ire should be directed towards the architect of our new defense.