Pro Football Focus doesn’t actually hate the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but sometimes it sure seems like they do. Like today, as they ranked the defensive front sevens in the NFL. Apparently, the Bucs have the second-worst front seven in the NFL, ahead of only the Cleveland Browns. Yes, the Browns. That’s it. That’s the only team they beat, in PFF’s eyes.
For years, the Buccaneers have been a very hit-and-miss defense, providing plenty of penetration and disruption against the run, but with extremely inconsistent finishers leading to big swings in their run defense, in particular. Lavonte David has missed 42 tackles in the last two seasons, and Kwon Alexander missed 27 in his rookie campaign. Those two linebackers find the ball very well, and if they fall off fewer tackles, the Bucs will be set for an improvement. A fully-healthy Gerald McCoy and Robert Ayers (Giants) delivering immediately on his free-agent contract would only push this defense further forwards.
Look, I’m not going to claim that the Bucs’ front seven is perfect, but this sure is a myopic view of that unit’s performance. Of course, that’s what happens when you’re basing everything you do on a fairly limited and somewhat arbitrary grading system, and then emphasizing only the last year, when several players had (relative) down seasons. Even looking at just last year, this is a very harsh judgment of the team’s defensive performance, as they were mostly hurt by the secondary’s inability to stop all those short passes.
Ben Stockwell, who wrote this piece, does note that the Bucs should improve mightily this season — which leaves one to wonder why they’re even ranked this low. It’s not just that McCoy should be healthy and Ayers should provide a boost, it’s that Kwon Alexander showed a lot of potential as a rookie, it’s that Lavonte David shouldn’t have that very slow start to the season again, it’s that Daryl Smith should provide a veteran boost whenever he gets on the field and hopefully, it’s that Noah Spence should be a disruptive edge rusher sooner or later.
That’s a lot of ‘shoulds’, of course, and not all of them will ultimately turn out to be true. But barring injury, it’ll be a shocking turn of events if PFF will once again rate the Bucs’ front seven that poorly.