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Can Kwon Alexander fix the Buccaneers defense

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The Bucs defense was awful against Arizona.

Chicago Bears v Tampa Bay Buccaneers Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers looked horrible against the Arizona Cardinals, at least early on. So what happened?

Preview stats

What transpired

The most identifiable differences in the Cards offense were the run production as well as the scoring. Tampa Bay boasted a top 10 rush defense, but could not stop the Cards’ run game. In this game, the Cards had their starting left guard and left tackle back into the fold along with trading for RB Adrian Peterson earlier in the week. How does one try to explain the shellacking of our swashbuckling defense? I dunno, but unfortunately I am going to try.

Pass Plays: 22 (38.6%)

Run Plays: 35 (61.4%)

When you look at the play-calling breakdown, it simply looked like Arizona just ran the ball often. This Arizona offense differs from the previous four games such that QB Carson Palmer’s fewest attempts in a game was 36 passing attempts in game one of their season. In the fewest passes thrown all year for Palmer, he threw for three TDs. Those were the most TD passes thrown in a single game for Palmer all year.

The Bucs inability to stop the run made Palmer that much more dangerous as it made the Cardinals’ offense two-dimensional.

Drive Chart

Drive Chart by the halves

The Good:

The second half performance for the defense was good as it created two turnovers. Brent Grimes had an interception and returned it into Arizona territory. WLB David showed tenacity in the second half as well by punching the ball out for a fumble and stripping another ball out. He was able to recover the stripped ball and returned it for a touchdown.

The Bad:

The first half and the first drive of the second half (Drive 6).

The Ugly:

The fact the defense, actually the whole team, did not show up to play at all in the first half. They simply could not stop anything in the first half at all. Two simple components were the culprits for the first half demise: effort and fundamentals. We know the effort was not there, but coach Koetter spoke about fundamentals. Players were not playing their gaps correctly and not tackling. There are gifs and videos showing a certain CB trying to avoid tackling as well as playing soft. The difference in play can be noticeable by the production splits in halves.

Red Zone defense was 4/5. Granted, one of those attempts started at the TB 1 yard line. So 3/4 still is not a great production.

Production by the Halves

There was a distinct difference in play from the first half to the second half. The defense could have easily not cared to show up, but they showed some mettle to not give up. Although there were 14 points given up by the defense in the second half, they were put in a no-win situation due to the Bucs’ offense turning the ball over in their end of the field. Notice how short both scoring drives were.

The Cardinals were not simply giving up offensively as Palmer was intercepted going deep in drive 7. Arizona was going to try to rack up as many points as possible. This notion is important because it does show the Bucs defense had to put in a lot of effort in preventing the Cardinals from continuing to walk all over them.

In the first half, Palmer was 13/13 for 205 yards. Then in the second half, Palmer was 5/9 for 67 yards and an interception.

The Cards’ rushing game was devastating to the defense, averaging 6.1 yards per carry on 16 rushing attempts. Come the second half, on 19 carries, Arizona’s rush rate was 3.2 yards per carry.

Conclusion

A team game requires all players to be on the same page, along with the coaches. If one player is not on the same page, then the opposing team can exploit that deficiency. Arizona and its run game did exactly that to the Bucs’ run defense. The coaches pointed to players missing their gaps, or assignments, as well as missing tackles. That is all fundamental stuff and things the defense finally decided to do in the second half after being scored upon once again to make it Arizona 31, Tampa Bay 0.

Gap play often refers to everyone else behind the defensive line. In the run game, usually it implies a lot of responsibilities upon the linebackers and strong safety. What happened to tackling machine Kendell Beckwith? In the first half, Beckwith only factored in with 0.5 tackles on a run play. Did Lavonte David’s return to the lineup affect Beckwith? Is CB Vernon Hargreaves III allergic to tackling a running back?

In the first drive, it looks very odd to see our defensive linemen tackling the RB 8-yards down from the line of scrimmage. This happened again in the second drive, but 6-yards down from the line of scrimmage. LVD, Beckwith, Bond, nor Glanton appear on the run tackling sheet often.

Arizona running backs had eight runs of 6-yards or more out of a possible of 14 plausible running attempts. That is over half the running attempts!

Something clicked in the second half for the run defense. That means there is a lack of effort in executing the defense. This recognition is good and bad. Good because we know it is a lack of effort. Bad because this is the NFL and players are pushing out a lack of effort. Should an NFL head coach need to get players ready for the game or are players who are paid to play with full effort supposed to be already fired up on their own? Witnessing the debacle on both sides of the ball as well as eventual production, it appears the coaches need to coax up the players.

Sander wrote an article stating the New Orleans Saints were the biggest disappointment in the NFC South and I disagreed because the Bucs invested much in the offense for it to be mediocre. Now, I have to make an amendment and say the offense and defense have been invested upon to produce mediocre results. The Bucs have the talent this year, but they sure are lacking the mentality to want to play 60 minutes at a high level.

Enter: Kwon Alexander

Starting middle linebacker Kwon Alexander is hoping to return this weekend to the lineup for game six of the year. He has been out of the lineup since the first half of the first game of the season against Chicago, where in only 17 plays he snagged an interception. The Bucs were dominant in week 1, holding the Bears running backs to only 20 yards total rushing!

Kwon has always had a chip on his shoulders for anything and everything. He always feels as though he is disrespected and needs to prove to the NFL he is or will be the greatest player at his position. He is loud and emotional. He performs very well on the field too. DC Mike Smith is a soft spoken good guy. McCoy, David, and Grimes are great lead by example leaders who are soft spoken. Alexander will kick your ass into gear so everyone in the stadium can hear. I hope the return of Alexander can unite all three levels of the defense to act as one intimidating force that never relents to making opposing offenses one-dimensional like the first game of the season.

Poll

Do you think the Bucs’ Defense can be good for the rest of the season?

This poll is closed

  • 44%
    Absolutely!
    (175 votes)
  • 26%
    They will be average.
    (103 votes)
  • 18%
    I dunno.
    (73 votes)
  • 8%
    They will be below average.
    (34 votes)
  • 2%
    The coaches lost the team!!!
    (10 votes)
395 votes total Vote Now