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The Buccaneers need defensive line help everywhere

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Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

From previous articles, I found that tackles for loss (TFLs) from the defensive line has an impact on pass defense.  The research was a small sample of four years and only covered the Bucs, but there's some logic. If the defensive line can be more productive or schemed to be more productive and reliant to stop the run, then it will improve pass defense. The reasoning behind the thought is there are more players dedicated to defending the pass than the run.

Tampa Bay Bucs
2012 - 2015 Sacks and TFL's with Football Outsider Def Rankings
Year Dline Sacks Total Sacks DL% of total sacks FO Def Rush Rank Dline TFL's Total TFL's DL% of TFL's FO Def Pass Rank
2012 17 27 62.96% 3rd 24 95 25.26% 26th
2013 20 35 57.14% 8th 36 58 62.07% 11th
2014 33 36 91.67% 8th 31 67 46.27% 23rd
2015 27.5 38 72.37% 9th 17 59 28.81% 26th
http://espn.go.com/nfl/team/stats/_/name/tb
http://www.footballoutsiders.com/stats/teamdef

The best year for pass defense in the four year sample was year 2013. In that season, the defensive line was responsible for 62% of the total TLFs. For more info click here:  Defensive Line, Sacks and TFLs.

2012

TB Bucs
2012 Dline Production
Player Games Played Games Started Sacks TFLs Accounted Pressures Sacks Per Game TFLs per game
Bennett 16 16 9 10 19.0 0.56 0.63
McCoy 16 16 5 5 10.0 0.31 0.31
Bowers 10 0 3 2 5.0 0.30 0.20
Miller 15 14 0 2 2.0 0.00 0.13
Gibson 16 1 0 3 3.0 0.00 0.19
Clayborn 3 3 0 1 1.0 0.00 0.33
Levingston 3 0 0 1 1.0 0.00 0.33
DL total 17 24 41

For the life of me, I still cannot comprehend not re-signing Bennett. In retrospect, his TFLs actually fit in with Schiano's defense when you peer at 2013 season. A bookend of Clayborn with Bennett would have been devastating.

2013

TB Bucs
2013 Dline Production
Player Games Played Games Started Sacks TFLs Accounted Pressures Sacks Per Game TFLs per game
McCoy 16 16 9.5 8 17.5 0.59 0.50
Clayborn 16 16 5.5 16 21.5 0.34 1.00
Gholston 13 2 2 4 6.0 0.15 0.31
Spence 16 14 1 4 5.0 0.06 0.25
Landri 9 1 1 1 2.0 0.11 0.11
Bowers 13 2 1 0 1.0 0.08 0.00
Te'o-Nesheim 16 12 0 2 2.0 0.00 0.13
Gibson 13 1 0 1 1.0 0.00 0.08
DL total 20 36 56

With the loss of Bennett from the defensive line, the defense did improve the sack and TFL rates. Clayborn was effective in TFLs with 16. Just for reference, Olivier Vernon last year had 7.5 sacks and 11 TFLs.

In the four year sample, the defensive line had the most TFLs this season. The team, like 2013, was still only a two man disruptive front four, but a very disruptive duo.

2014

TB Bucs
2014 Dline Production
Player Games Played Games Started Sacks TFLs Accounted Pressures Sacks Per Game TFLs per game
McCoy 13 13 8.5 5 13.5 0.65 0.38
J. Smith 15 7 6.5 0 6.5 0.43 0.00
McDonald 13 13 5 5 10.0 0.38 0.38
M. Johnson 14 13 4 4 8.0 0.29 0.29
Spence 16 5 3 4 7.0 0.19 0.25
Gholston 15 9 2 8 10.0 0.13 0.53
Bowers 11 2 1.5 2 3.5 0.14 0.18
English 12 1 1 0 1.0 0.08 0.00
Solomon 6 0 1 1 2.0 0.17 0.17
Fatinikun 10 0 0.5 2 2.5 0.05 0.20
DL total 33 31 64

2014 ushered in a new defensive scheme away from the previous one with the Tampa-2. There was an increase in sacks from the defensive line here alone. That is an increase of 13 sacks between the two seasons!  And yet our pass defense faltered. That is alarming.

Our defensive line had help across the board in sacks and TFLs, not a two man army like the previous two years.  Free agent pick up DT Clinton McDonald and DE Michael Johnson did help contribute towards defensive line production. 2013 fourth round defensive linemen in DE Gholston and DT Spence also improved to help with the defensive line.

2015

TB Bucs
2015 Dline Production
Player Games Played Games Started Sacks TFLs Accounted Pressures Sacks Per Game TFLs per game
McCoy 15 15 8.5 1 9.5 0.57 0.07
Smith 12 11 7 2 9 0.58 0.17
Jones 12 5 5 1 6 0.42 0.08
Gholston 16 11 3 6 9 0.19 0.38
Melton 16 1 2 0 2 0.13 0.00
McDaniel 14 3 1 2 3 0.07 0.14
Spence 8 7 1 0 1 0.13 0.00
McDonald 6 6 0 3 3 0.00 0.50
G. Johnson 11 5 0 2 2 0.00 0.18
Total 27.5 17 44.5

Between the two years, the top five sack artists do not have consistency. McCoy and Jacquies Smith remained the same, top two on the list. Howard Jones came out of nowhere. Falling out of top five are McDonald, Michael Johnson, and Spence. Both McDonald and Spence were plagued with injuries. McDonald was lost for the rest of the season and Spence was lost for the beginning of the season.

From the past two seasons, Smith is a pass rushing specialist, but lacks to do much outside of it. Gholston has lead the team in TFLs for the past two seasons, but is not your great pass rusher. Howard Jones is a pass rushing specialist.

Projection

Offseason acquisition of a pass rushing DE Robert Ayers production last year with the New York Giants was 9.5 sacks and 3 TFLs (or stuff stat). Ayers fits the mold of pass rush specialist but not good in creating TFLs.

Pass Rush Specialists have generated at least 5 sacks in their history.

DE Pass Rush Specialists:

Robert Ayers

Jacquies Smith

Howard Jones

DT Pass Rush Specialists:

Gerald McCoy

Clinton McDonald

DE TFLs Producers:

William Gholston

DT TFLs Producers:

Gerald McCoy

Clinton McDonald

While it seems as though we do not have any real depth in the middle of the defensive line, there is still promise looming for DT Akeem Spence. In 2014, Spence showed a lot of promise, but incurred an injury weight lifting that derailed him for months. The Bucs still need to add quality depth in the middle of the defensive trenches.

As for the defensive ends, we have three pass rush specialists not known for TFLs and only one who is strong in TFLs, but not strong in sacking the QB.  In my opinion, we are missing that all around DE that can pressure the QB as well as be strong with the run.

In short, the Bucs need that all around defensive end who is a pass rush specialist as well as who can run stuff, and more quality depth being developed down the middle of the trench.