The Buccaneers’ defensive woes in the last several years are well-documented. There are a variety of reasons behind Tampa Bay’s struggles, but one of the bigger ones is the lack of pressure on the quarterback.
Yes, the secondary has been pretty awful for quite some time, but the absence of pressure up front has contributed to that. That’s not to say the secondary isn’t to blame, but it’s generally hard to hold coverage on NFL receivers when the quarterback has all day to throw.
Two years ago, Tampa Bay put together a season with just 22 team sacks. That ranked dead last in the NFL. In 2018, the Bucs’ sack numbers did improve. They totaled 38 as a team, though that still only tied them for 19th in the league. Despite still being in the back half in sack total, it felt like the defense’s pass rush improved last year.
Only it didn’t improve all that much. The Bucs were just 30th in pressures, with a 9% success rate. @PFF_Buccaneers tweeted Tuesday insinuating that one certain addition could help that pressure rate/total in 2019:
In 2018, the #Bucs ranked 30th in total pressures with 226 on 2,505 pass rush snaps, a 9% success rate (league average was 10%)— PFF TB Buccaneers (@PFF_Buccaneers) July 2, 2019
At #LSU last year, @DevinWhite__40 had a total of 33 pressures on just 95 pass rush snaps, a success rate of 35%
Photo: Kim Klement - @usatodaysports pic.twitter.com/JzIc6iryCJ
That level of success on pass rush snaps at LSU was impressive for No. 5 overall pick Devin White. Coming into the league with Todd Bowles as his defensive coordinator should lead to similar production as a pass-rusher. The rookie linebacker himself has said that the system he is coming into with Bowles is similar to the one implemented by Dave Aranda at LSU. The attacking style that Bowles features could produce more pressures as it is. Last year with the Jets, Bowles’ blitz rate was one of the highest in the league. Having a guy like White in the middle of that effort should be huge.
But despite the additions of Bowles and White, the Bucs are losing some significant pass-rushing threats. Gerald McCoy is gone, but the bigger loss is Jason Pierre-Paul. His 12.5 sacks in 2018 led the team and made him the first Buc to record double-digit sacks since 2005. His pressure numbers were just as solid. He owned 43.8% of Tampa Bay’s pressures last year. With his injury keeping him out for at least half of the season — if not more — the Bucs will need to make up a lot of production. Maybe the attacking style of Bowles and the familiarity White has with such a style can offset the loss of Pierre-Paul. But that’s no certainty.
Which way do you lean, Bucs fans? Will the additions of Bowles, White and others be enough to get the defense’s pressure rate up? It would be hard for that rate to go down, but without Pierre-Paul, could it get even worse?