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Buccaneers were very good at preventing YAC

NFL: New Orleans Saints at Tampa Bay Buccaneers Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers had a disappointing year on defense. So disappointing that it led to Lovie Smith’s firing. Football Outsiders found one encouraging stat, though: apparently the Bucs were pretty good at tackling receivers before they could get very far, which is of course a major part of Smith’s general approach to defense: completions are okay, as long as they don’t do too much damage.

As you might expect from a defense with a lot of zone principles, the Bucs were good at preventing yards after the catch. Their average of 4.7 YAC allowed ranked sixth in the NFL.

While the Bucs allowed a lot of completions last year (some 70%), the defense wasn’t as disastrous as that completion percentage alone would have suggested. The team was good against the run, and the completions it did allow were mostly short, and limited in terms of yards after catch. While that made the Tampa Bay defense frustrating to watch, as teams were able to rack up first down after first down, it also means opposing teams often broke down at some point during their drives. Outsiders ranked the overall defense 18th. That isn’t good, and it’s certainly very disappointing given Lovie Smith’s status as a defensive guru, but it’s not a complete disaster.

Mike Smith, of course, has a bit of a different approach. He’s not going to blitz all that much, and he’s not going to be all that varied on defense, but Smith is more about preventing completions and taking risks to force turnovers than the other Smith was. Hopefully, that’ll lead to better overall results — but it wouldn’t be surprising to see the team give up more yards after the catch this year.