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Prisco: How much will the Buccaneers defense be improved?

It’s a valid question, and crucial to the team’s success.

Carolina Panthers v Tampa Bay Buccaneers Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

When last season ended for Tampa Bay, they knew they had to make some changes heading into the offseason. Those changes were to address the trenches, especially on the defensive side of the ball.

They did so by acquiring Jason Pierre-Paul, Vinny Curry, Mitch Unrein, and Beau Allen. At first, not addressing the secondary which was perhaps the worst unit on the team looked bad. But they did address it in the draft and the hope is that the defensive front will make the back-end of the defense better,

But how much better? Pete Prisco of CBS Sports ponders the biggest questions for all 32 teams, including how improved will the Buccaneers defense really be.

Let’s put it this way: It can only go up after finishing last in yards allowed last season. The defense struggled to get pressure on the passer, which led to a lot of big plays and a passing defense that was putrid. But coordinator Mike Smith now has pieces to help him call his defense. The Bucs added edge rushers Jason Pierre-Paul and Vinny Curry, and signed tackles Mitch Unrein and Beau Allen as a free agents. Plus, they drafted massive tackle Vita Vea in the first round. They also drafted some much-needed secondary help. There is no doubt the defense will be improved, but it needs better play from corner Vernon Hargreaves and some others. If this defense can get into the low teens in terms of yards allowed, the Bucs could be a playoff team and more.

Prisco singling out Hargreaves is understandable. The third-year corner also understands he needs to play better. But the defense needs to play better collectively as a unit. There seemed to have been major coaching issues, too. (Remember when defensive coordinator Mike Smith said they played 14 different coverages to cover Julio Jones and none included Brent Grimes?)

The defensive line will undoubtedly be improved which will carry into the play of the linebackers as well as the secondary — hopefully. It has to be a group effort. And if they improve as a unit, it’s not only because of the players, but because the coaches got their acts together as well.