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Does the Bucs defense just lack talent?

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Carolina Panthers Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are struggling on defense, and we have a simple explanation for it: they don’t have enough talent on that side of the ball. That, at least, is what Scott Reynolds of Pewter Report suggests in his latest column.

And sure, I can see that. The Bucs have issues at safety, and have had problems there for years on end. They haven’t had a good edge rusher in ages, either, and free agent Robert Ayers was injured for a decent spell this season, while Jacquies Smith was lost for the year in week one.

But if we’re going to excuse Mike Smith’s defense because of injuries and a lack of talent, why did the Bucs ever bother firing Lovie Smith? Because clearly, his defense lacked talent last year. That’s why the team signed Robert Ayers and Brent Grimes and Daryl Smith and drafted Noah Spence and Vernon Hargreaves. They replaced four starters in one offense, and added significant depth.

And yet, the results are pretty much the same. Football Outsiders ranks them 20th in overall defense, 20th against the pass and 15th against the run. Last year they were ranked 18th: 26th against the pass and ninth against the run. The slight improvement in pass defense is probably attributable to the two new starting cornerbacks.

So if the lack of progress is due to a lack of talent, why did the Bucs fire Lovie Smith, again? Because hey, all Lovie needed was some more talent. He certainly didn’t have much of that on defense, what with getting all of one draft pick spent on that side of the ball through his two years.

And if the Bucs still don’t have enough talent on defense after three years of Jason Licht, after Licht spending a pick on a kicker who has been arguably the worst in the entire NFL so far, why are we talking about Mike Smith and not Licht? What makes him so untouchable?

Not that I think either one should be fired, necessarily, but it’s interesting how these stories shift over time, who is assigned blame and who is not, and how arbitrary it all is.