Dungy set a template long ago with a devastating defense. We all know the cliches of "Defense wins Championships". Heck, Sander had us re-live how we nearly beat the Rams in the Conference game with defense. Yet it was offense that we needed to put us over the hump to win a Super Bowl - at a cost.
We tried to recapture that defense in promoting Raheem Morris to head coach. There was promise, but the team gave up. (No, seriously, the team gave up.) Then Schiano came out of college. Things looked promising too. Then the second year came about: Revis, Goldson, and the "No Fly Zone" defense title during pre-season. Let's not comment about that title; it still stings.
With Lovie, we're going back to the Dungy well, but this time around we have a more established head coach instead of young ones to the NFL from internal promotion or a collegiate HC. If we are using history to project a similar pattern, then we can share comfort in Lovie's first two years in Chicago. From Pro-Football-Reference:
The jump from year 1 to year 2 for Chicago was tremendous! The jump itself was not due to one off-season, but rather in-season improvement; I am basing this off of what has transpired in Tampa this past season. Yes, we were ranked 25th overall in points allowed and yards allowed (just using basic stats as barometers of play) this year, but if we do a split of before the bye week and after the bye week, we notice a jump in improvement in production. After the bye week, we're a top 10 ranking defense in points allowed average and yards allowed average. The bye split stats can be found here: Defensive Year End Review. Note, that article only accounts opposing offensive responsible scoring, not defensive scoring points, which may confuse one with the different stats.
In my estimation, we are already a good defense going into this season. Hopefully, we have improved at the linebcking corps by the addition of Bruce Carter with young guys, Khaseem Greene and Kwon Alexander. The addition of other Tampa-2 defensive players this off-season shouldn't go unnoticed, but they have. The first six games of Lovie's defense were abysmal. So that means from OTA's to mini-camp to pre-season to the first six games of the season was all spent trying to learn, implement, and execute the Tampa-2. Having former Tampa-2 players removes that length of learning and implementation to where players can simply execute the Tampa-2. The other aspect of acquiring said Tampa-2 veterans are that they can also pass along knowledge to those still learning the nuances of a Tampa-2. Hopefully, those nuances can help improve second half play, to which the Bucs' defense has shown to struggle.
|After Bye Week Scoring Averages|
|Team||1st Half||2nd Half||Totals|
Even though I harp that the defense needs to clean itself up in the second half of games, it is still a top 10 defense. The best defense last year, Seahawks, allowed 15.9 ppg average. At 20.6 ppg average, the Bucs would be ranked 9th overall. So the defense is doing something correct already. Although there were not a lot of big splashes on defense, they are probably attuned to what they can patch first for the best improvement for production. Aside from FA and the draft, the Bucs' first right to sign waiver wire talent has grabbed LB Greene and S Swearinger. I do not know if they will pan out, but they are improved talent.
The emphasis on the offense is not just a "splash" thing; it is a "production and best bang for your Buc/buck" thing. In 2013, the Bucs' offense averaged 18.0 ppg. In 2014, it averaged 17.3 ppg. Recent years reveal the offense has not been producing. It has actually regressed.
Looking at the After Bye Week Scoring Average chart, there exists a 4.9 points differential average between opponent's scoring and TB's scoring. We do not possess a dominant, established DE pass rush and so I do not believe we can improve the defense to prevent scoring a TD per game. At best, maybe a FG per game, or 3.0 points, is what the defense could reduce in scoring against. And yet, the Bucs are still in the negative in scoring differential. Now where can we add more points to help be on the positive side of the scoring differential? The offense.
The average scoring in the NFL last year was 22.6 ppg. The Bucs' total average last year was 17.3 ppg. After the bye week it was 15.7 ppg.
|Scoring Differential, PPG Avg|
|TB Avg||NFL Avg||Differential|
|Last 10 games||15.7||22.6||-6.9|
|Atl Avg||NFL Avg||Differential|
So the question arises, "What's the best way to make up 4.9 points difference per game?"
It seems quite obvious that the offense is in dire need of talent, direction, and coaching. If the offense can simply become an average scoring team in the NFL, then it easily surpasses the 4.9 points threshold that may factor into more possible wins. The team did lose two games in overtime, allowing the Saints and Vikings to come back in the fourth quarter to tie the game. An extra point would have sealed both games as wins. The team lost four games where the point differential was 3 points or less. So that 4.9 point differential threshold could have potentially given the Bucs six more wins for a total of eight wins. That means they would have represented the NFC South in the playoffs. The stats for point differential per game can be found here: Uncovering Blown Leads.
Atlanta's offense put up more than the average scoring in the league. Compared to the last 10 games production for the Bucs with Atlanta's scoring, that's an 8.1 ppg differential. We only needed 4.9 points per game last year just to tie after the bye week. The Bucs now have Atlanta's OC, Koetter.
From a probability point of view, the Bucs are better off focusing on improving their offense than to rely on its defense to make up for the 5 points per game difference to add more notches to the win column. The team is doing both, but more emphasis on offense because that's where the team is devoid of tolerable play. Although there has been only one defensive player drafted in the past two drafts, the drafting of WR Mike Evans and QB Jameis Winston are not solely for a media surge. Addressing the offense isn't about making a "splash", it's about "making it rain". I'd rather be in a deluge of possible wins than holding onto the past with a splash of hope.