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The Tampa Bay Buccaneers Need To Stop The Run - And They Know It

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have had one very big deficiency on defense since December 8, 2008. That was the day of the Bucs' last Monday Night Football appearance and the day on which the Panthers ran all over the Bucs. The numbers were ugly - really, really ugly. The Panthers rushed for 299 yards that night. That total was only surpassed once in Bucs history: the Falcons managed 306 rushing yards at home in 2006. But the 6.95 yards per attempt the Falcons rushed for in 2006 didn't come close to the record 8.08 yards per attempt the Bucs gave up against the Panthers in 2008. That Panthers game was one of the ugliest games the Bucs have played since the Glazers bought the team.The run defense has remained a problem ever since. 

In 2009, the Bucs gave up a league-worst 2,531 yards on the ground, for another league-worst 4.8 yards per attempt. Football Outsiders had the 2009 Buccaneers ranked as the 28th worst rush defense of that season. So the Bucs added two premier defensive tackles in the draft in an effort to improve their run defense. But did it work? Nope. Rushing yards given up: 2,107  - 28th in the league. Yards per attempt given up: 4.7, 31st in the league. Football Outsiders rank: dead last. Of course, one of the defensive tackles barely got on the field and the other was still a rookie, so there's reason to believe that'll get better this year. 

The Buccaneers weren't content to just let potential improvement fix their run defense. They went out and added 3 run stuffers in the first three rounds of the draft. For all the talk of adding defensive ends to get to the quarterback, the Bucs didn't add glamorous pass rushers. Adrian Clayborn was a terrific college player, but there are questions about his ability to consistently beat NFL-quality left tackles as a pass rusher. And while Bowers was projected to be a top 5 selection before the injury concerns surfaced, he is a complete defensive end who's play is based on power. He is not an elite edge rusher. However, both of these guys are terrific run-stuffers,  and they should improve the Bucs' run defense immediately. 

The Bucs' third round pick was another one aimed at improving the run defense. Mason Foster is a physical linebacker who will be aggressive at the line of scrimmage. The Buccaneers have a lot of athletic guys at linebacker who are good at defending the pass, but there was no real run-stopping thumper on the roster before last season. They added Tyrone McKenzie during the season, and have now added another run-stuffer with Mason Foster. 

The more I look at this draft, the more I'm convinced the Buccaneers didn't come in with a need to fix the pass rush. I think they wanted to fix the run defense. But that doesn't matter, because by adding two defensive ends they may have fixed both.