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Penalties are choking the Tampa Bay Buccaneers - especially on the defensive line

The Monday Night game was ugly for two reasons: two huge plays given up on defense, and penalties. Lots and lots of penalties. In fact, in total including declined penalties, the Bucs were flagged 14 times. It got them 106 penalty yards, and nullified a whopping 129 offensive yards. Not all of those penalties were deserved, like the unnecessary roughness penalty on Preston Parker, and some of them were just unlucky, but it is starting to look like a problem. The word 'undisciplined' comes to mind. 

That's not entirely fair, though, because a lot of those penalties have nothing to do with discipline. For instance, the Bucs have been called for offensive holding 8 times this season. That happens, especially when a defensive lineman is outplaying a tight end or offensive linemen. Sometimes that player has to be held so as not to blow up the play, and players do get away with that a fair amount of the time. Those penalties have little to do with discipline, and more with ability. 

Those eight holding penalties point to a problem, but it's not a discipline problem. Instead, it's a problem with the level of play. Okay, so maybe that's not better. Of course, eight holding penalties isn't even exceptional. The Houston Texans, who may have the best offensive line in the league right now, have also been called for eight holding penalties. In fact, the number seems fairly typical for any team right now. Discipline problems on the offensive line should show themselves as False Starts - but the Bucs only have two of those on the year. 

More troubling is a trend on the defensive line: jumping early. With six Neutral Zone infractions, three Defensive Offsides and an encroachment penalty the Bucs lead the league in penalties caused by the defensive jumping. And that doesn't even include the two offside penalties the Bucs have received on special teams. 

This is a problem that you can see on nearly every down, especially passing downs, and teams have been trying to exploit it by using hard snap counts. On a lot of plays, you will see a Buccaneer defensive lineman twitch a litte, or even jump over the line. Often this doesn't lead to anything, as the offensive line doesn't react, which means there's no penalty. But ten times this year it has lead to penalties. The offside penalties are the worst, as those give the offense a free play, which means the quarterback can take a deep shot without any negative repercussions. 

I can only point to one thing as the reason that this happens: the new mentality on the defensive line. Get off the ball, penetrate the line of scrimmage and disrupt the ball. That's what everyone wants to do, but right now the defensive linemen are a little too reactive. Hopefully this is something that gets fixed over time and is simply a consequence of a young, inexperienced defensive line. But we'll see opponents try to actively exploit this as the season goes on, and it does need to be fixed. 

Other than on the offensive and defensive line there seems to be only one theme to the Bucs' penalties: Aqib Talib is penalized a lot. He leads the team with five penalties, and would still lead the team if we ignore two nullified penalties. 

While the Buccaneers have been penalized quite a lot, I don't think this points to a problem with the team as a whole. The penalties have mostly been incidental, like Arrelious Benn's illegal touching penalty. The only consistent issue has been on the defensive line, and that's something that I expect is simply a result of inexperience. The Bucs have shot themselves in the foot a couple of times this season, but the results haven't been disastrous (yet) and outside of the defensive line this doesn't appear to be a structural issue.