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Predict the Bucs’ defensive performance next season

How many points will the Bucs defense allow this year?

NFL: Los Angeles Rams at Tampa Bay Buccaneers Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

In 2016, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Points Against (PA) average on the year was 23.1, or 369 total points against. They ranked 15th overall in giving up points. That puts them just above average

Low = 15.6, Lower Quartile = 19.9 (the start of the box), Median = 23.6 (vertical line),

Upper Quartile = 25.95 (the end of the box), High = 30.0

The purple box represents scoring within that range by 16 teams. There is a large contingent of scoring averages allowed after the median to the upper quartile, 23.6 points to 25.95 points.

Unfortunately, we only have one year of Mike Smith being the defensive coordinator (DC) as a point of reference. So I will simply do quarterly game snapshots to possibly help create a pattern for projection. Note: The PA is the total PA, which includes opponents’ pick-6’s, pickup-6’s and other return points.

QTR 1: The install

The Mike Smith era looked great in game 1, but proceeded to be lost in the ensuing three games. An average of 32 points allowed per game should have everyone cringing. This is a rough beginning.

QTR 2: The Start of the Turnaround

This is where the defense starting getting into form. It may seem odd to say that given games 7 and 8, but I can give context for both games.

Against Oakland, the team held down the Oakland offense until the waning moments of the game. On a fourth down play in the Red Zone, a stupid hug on a player on the other side of where the ball was being thrown gave life to the Raiders, who only had 17 points on the board. That penalty allowed the game tying touchdown to be scored. The Bucs’ offense went 3-and-out on its following three offensive possessions. With no offense on the Bucs, the defense stayed on the field for most of overtime. It was inevitable for them to succumb. The Bucs’ defense was on the field for 44:12.

The Atlanta game was a Thursday night game. At the half, the score was 20-14, Atlanta ahead. One of those touchdowns by the Bucs came off of a forced fumbled, deep in Atlanta territory, on the 19 yard line. That actually gave the Bucs the lead at 14 – 13. Then, the defense simply ran out of gas. Although, the final score was 43-28, 14 points scored by the Bucs were in the 4th quarter, with the game securely put away at 40-14. The Bucs’ defense was on the field for 33:28.

Without those contexts, there were many Buc fans jumping ship. At 3 – 5, I would not have blamed fans for jumping ship. The pattern I found did not deter me that the defense had turned the corner. One penalty changed the complexion for two games. One penalty could have held the Raiders to 17 points and the Bucs would have won three in a row. One penalty, looking back now, could have sent the Bucs to the playoffs.

Yet many fans only see the Bucs defense giving up 30 points. Conflate that with the short week Atlanta game, then the Bucs defense allowed 73 points in two games. Based upon end production PA, there is no prognosis to a dominant second half for the Bucs defense.

QTR 3: The Dominant Stretch

This is the dominant stretch of the four quarters as the team won four consecutive games. That 5-spot the Bucs put on the Seahawks was an amazing feat. For that game, the Seahawks were missing their starting center. Seattle came in with a three game winning streak by beating Buffalo, New England at New England, and Philly on a 29.3 point average scoring pace for those three games.

QTR 4: A Valiant Ending

New Orleans and Dallas ranked 2nd and 5th for scoring averages in the league, respectively. While allowing 21 points per game does not look impressive, factoring in the context of the high scoring offenses to below their usual scoring pace is a win for the defense.

There exists a huge variance between both New Orleans games. A big reason why was because New Orleans was missing its starting center in the first matchup. This is the second time the Bucs have faced another team missing its starting center, who were the Seattle Seahawks.

Seattle rushing game: 47 yards rushing on 14 attempts (excluding QB Wilson’s rushing stats)

New Orleans 1: 46 yards rushing on 16 attempts.

New Orleans 2: 123 yards rushing on 31 attempts.

Stat Tangents

According to Football Outsiders’ defensive rankings, the Bucs pass defense ranked 6th overall. Unfortunately, their rush defense was ranked 24th overall last year. As implied above, if the opposing team’s offensive line is strong and healthy, then Bucs will struggle on defense.

Off-season need: Shore up the run defense.

To add to the rush defense deficiency, the Bucs gave up 102 rushing first downs. That ranks 26th worst in the league.

Off-season need: Shore up the run defense.

The Bucs ranked first overall in 3rd down defense at allowing a 34.4% conversion rate, from That is an amazing production, but that production is based upon the third fewest 3rd down opportunities in the league with 195 attempts.

Off-season need: Find a way to produce more 3rd down opportunities – reduce the number of rushing first downs.


The big free agent defensive tackle that many Buc fans wanted, but thought was out of reach was Kansas City’s Dontari Poe. He was not the nose tackle that the Bucs signed this off-season.

Good Morning Football, NFLnetwork

The image above was a stat provided by Good Morning Football on NFLnetwork. Here is the video the screenshot was taken from: GMFB.

That mystery free agent defensive tackle is Chris Baker. A picture says a thousand words and that is all I need to show for Baker’s possible impact for the Bucs. One last parting shot: Poe signed for $8 mil for one year; Baker signed for $15.75 mil for three years, an annual average value of $5.25 mil. GM Licht must have used a Jedi mind trick to have stolen Baker at that price for three years!

In the 2017 NFL draft, Tampa traded up into the bottom of the third round to land LSU middle linebacker Kendall Beckwith. At 6’2” and 245 lbs, he is the biggest LB the Bucs have on the roster. His profile is a run-stuffing, downhill linebacker. Kendall is set to compete at SLB with Devante Bond as well as understudy at MLB.

So far, those are two run stuffers gathered up new to the Bucs organization. Good things usually come in threes. In the seventh round of the NFL draft, the Bucs traded up for… no, not another disposable fullback, but a huge presence on the defensive line in 6’1” and 331lbs of big Stevie Tu’ikolovatu out of USC. Here is an analysis on big Stevie from Conquest Chronicles online, SBNation’s USC site:

“Tu’ikolovatu is the most underrated prospect coming out of USC this season. A thickly-built defensive lineman with grown man strength, Tu’ikolovatu was absolute dominant in the trenches and swallowed up running backs while he plugged up lanes. Tu’ikolovatu is inept at pass-rushing, but would be subject to a rotational piece.... He won’t get much glory, Tu’ikolovatu has a future as a reliable run stuffer in a league who now shifting its focus to young, athletic running backs.”


Lowest quarterly PA in 2016 was 13.25 points per game.

Highest quarterly PA in 2016 was 32.0 points per game.

I will use the lower and upper quartile of the Box and Whiskers plot as the central place to start the predictions, since that is where 16 team results reside in.

How many points per game do you predict the Bucs’ defense will give up this season? Vote in the poll below and tell us why in the comments section.


How many points will the Bucs allow per game?

This poll is closed

  • 24%
    under 20
    (101 votes)
  • 21%
    20 - 20.9
    (90 votes)
  • 25%
    21 - 21.9
    (108 votes)
  • 16%
    22 - 22.9
    (68 votes)
  • 8%
    23 - 23.9
    (35 votes)
  • 2%
    24 - 24.9
    (11 votes)
  • 0%
    25 - 25.9
    (3 votes)
  • 0%
    26 and above
    (3 votes)
419 votes total Vote Now