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Mark Duffner comments on defensive growth this season

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The defense has seen progress under Duffner.

NFL: Washington Redskins at Tampa Bay Buccaneers Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have had a lost season and currently sit at 5-10, which is good for last place in the NFC South, yet again.

The Buccaneers will play host to the Atlanta Falcons this week in the season finale. Tampa Bay lost the first matchup of the season 34-29.

Since that game, Mark Duffner took over as the interim defensive coordinator after the Buccaneers fired former defensive coordinator Mike Smith. Smith’s defense was on pace to be the worst in NFL history in several defensive categories, but since the firing, the defense has been better for the most part.

Wednesday, Duffner spoke to the media ahead of the season finale and commented on several defensive topics, including what the defense has improved on the most since week six.

“I think our ability to generate rush has been one of the areas for sure. We’ve also cut down explosive plays which is important for us to get done – so that’s been a plus for us,” Duffner said. “Obviously, there’s much, much [more] room for improvement across the board. We’re having I think less mental errors and these type of things. The execution is what we’re striving to be as consistent as possible and I think we’ve taken some strides in that.”

One of the talking points all season long for this defense was the development of the rookies on the defense. Those rookies are Carlton Davis, Vita Vea, M.J Stewart and Jordan Whitehead. Most of them have had their ups and downs all season long, but from week one, Carlton Davis has been the most consistent and Duffner commented on his long term status as a starter in the NFL

“I think he is. I think he’s got the length and the speed and the change of direction. He’s certainly a confident player – that’s a spot you need to be confident in. He’s got a lot of the attributes that we think are necessary for a guy to be a successful corner. So yeah, I’m excited about where I think he’s heading, Davis said.”

A big question Tampa Bay faces this off-season is the contract situation of Gerald McCoy. McCoy is due to make $13 million next season and his production hasn’t quite matched the cap number. He is also turning 31 in February. Duffner did speak highly of McCoy today in terms of what he does for this team.

“He’s out there in pre-practice. He’s out there before practice working out and doing sprints, doing different things – skills, bag drills, rush drills and things of that nature that is not required. He’s doing the extra, if you will, Duffner said. “A lot if of it’s what he does in the classroom in terms of the study – very studious in terms of his preparation. Again, a lot of extra work on and off the field – on and before practice.”

Duffner has certainly made his case to return next season as the Buccaneers defensive coordinator and another high first round pick on defense including the possible return of Kwon Alexander could really elevate this defense.

We’ll see which direction the Glazer family chooses to go.