When the 2019 season ended it was pretty clear how Bruce Arians felt about his defense.
As of earlier this week, it’s clear that nothing has changed.
ESPN’s Jenna Laine was able to catch up with Tampa Bay’s second-year head coach at the NFL’s Coaching Academy, and as usual, Arians was upfront and honest when it comes to his current assessment of the Bucs.
“To me, it’s the whole defense,” Arians said. “You can’t get ‘em all, but ... those young guys grew. We can’t let that go. I don’t care who’s my quarterback. We’ve gotta have a defense.”
According to Football Outsiders, the Bucs finished with a top-5 defense in 2019 after a rough start to the year. 11 of Tampa Bay’s 19 pending unrestricted free agents are on defense and five of those 11 players started at least eight games.
Certain names include Shaquil Barrett, Jason Pierre-Paul, Ndamukong Suh, Carl Nassib, Andrew Adams, and Beau Allen. Those six players played an average of 56% of the Bucs’ defensive snaps in 2019, and that was with Allen’s floor of 16% of snaps on the season.
That’s a lot of depth to potentially lose. When you add the fact that Todd Bowles’ defense is complicated and is not easy to learn, it makes it pretty clear as to why it’s important to bring back guys who have experience in the system.
Hey, I’m just glad the Bucs have a defense worth building around again.
Laine’s piece also contained some very interesting tidbits relating to other topics of discussion.
She reports that a source close to ESPN said that Jameis Winston’s recent LASIK surgery was done at his own behest. It had nothing to do with the team.
Arians also shed some light on the Bucs’ current quarterback situation for 2020. Laine asked him if he had any more clarity on the matter.
“No, because you don’t know who’s available (in regards to potential free agent quarterbacks). You’re just sitting and waiting to see, is there someone available? And is he a better option?”
“That’s the problem. You get about three days to decide — the legal tampering [period]. Is somebody else gonna get let go? What’s the trade values? It’s really monotonous right now because you don’t really have any answers.”
He’s right. Talks really don’t begin to heat up until after the combine. Right now, there’s not much concrete evidence out there to determine who will stay, go, get traded - whatever.
Regardless, free agency is almost here. And that in itself is plenty to get excited about.