The Tampa Bay Buccaneers seem to have found a new yearly thing: start the season with a horrible defense, then suddenly get better around midseason as every defender learns how Lovie Smith's defense actually works. It'd be nice if that didn't actually need to happen every year. As in: perhaps the players playing well now can, like, remember how this scheme works for next year? Maybe?
At least for now, though, the Bucs' defense is actually playing pretty well. Greg Cosell noted this week on the Fantasy Guru podcast that it's starting to look more and more like Lovie Smith's defense.
"It's a Lovie [Smith] defense. They play with discipline. They don't necessarily have great players in the back-end where you go 'Wow, these guys are tough to throw against.' But they play a lot of zone, Cover 2, Cover 3, with discipline. Bradley McDougald has kind of emerged as a pretty solid strong-safety-type player and when they play Cover 3 of course he's down in the box. Chris Conte is essentially their deep safety, occasionally blitzes, and Chris Conte again, they've been able to keep him from being a liability in coverage."
"So it's a disciplined defense. It's becoming a Lovie Smith defense. He doesn't have all the pieces he'd like to have, and that's what you draft for, that's what you sign free agents for, but they're beginning to take shape in the way that he wants them to play."
"Beginning to take shape" is not quite where you want your team to be one-and-a-half years into a head coach's tenure, but at least the future's looking bright again.