September 17, 2021

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Riddle’s Rundown: Todd Bowles’s Defense Sort of Works

3 min read

Mandatory Photo Credit: Buccaneers.com | Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Bucs defense this year has been solid against the run; however, against the pass, it’s been a very different story. When it comes to points given up by the defense, 31.3 points per game ranking the Buccaneers dead last in the NFL. Giving up 371.8 total yards a game ranks the Buccaneers defense as a whole at 24th. The Bucs giving up 290.9 yards through the air gives them a Rank of 31. It is safe to say that our secondary is a big problem. Oddly enough, ESPN has ranked Tampa’s defense as the 4th most improved in the entire NFL this year. ESPN used DVOA, meaning defense-adjusted value over average, to determine their findings.

What is DVOA, and how does it work? “DVOA is a method of evaluating teams, units, or players. It takes every single play during the NFL season and compares each one to a league-average baseline based on the situation. DVOA measures not just yardage, but the yardage towards a first down: Five yards on third-and-4 are worth more than five yards on first-and-10 and much more than five yards on third-and-12. Red zone plays are worth more than other plays. Performance is also adjusted for the quality of the opponent. DVOA is a percentage, so a team with a DVOA of 10.0% is 10 percent better than the average team, and a quarterback with a DVOA of -20.0% is 20 percent worse than the average quarterback. Because DVOA measures scoring, defenses are better when they are negative. For more details, click here: Methods To Our Madness

Although ESPN has Tampa listed as the 4th most improved defense, our defense, according to the DVOA, has us on a steady decline.

The Buccaneers started out 2019 Ranked 5th in week 1, improving to 4th in week 2, but dropping to 13 in week 5. The Buccaneers were up and down, hovering around 17- 15 for the next 4 weeks and dropping to 21 and 22 for weeks 10 and 11. Despite these fluctuations, the Tampa defense has improved significantly according to the DVOA from last year. During the 2018 season through 11 weeks, the Buccaneers ranked 32 for the most part, but did see a ranking of 29 in week 3. Aside from that, the only improvement the Buccaneers saw with the DVOA was in weeks 10 and 11 when they were ranked 31 instead dead last. *Source: Football Outsiders*

This is some of what ESPN had to say about the Buccaneers Improvement:

“Intriguingly, this is almost all driven by a huge change in run defense DVOA. The Bucs have, by far, the best-run defense DVOA in the NFL at -35.0%. Last season, they were at 3.0%, which was the second-worst in the NFL. The Bucs overhauled defensive schemes in bringing in Bruce Arians and Todd Bowles. Bowles has run an aggressive pass defense, blitzing at a 47.7% rate on dropbacks that has almost doubled the rate Tampa ran last season.”

You can’t blame defensive coordinator Todd Bowles as his system has proven that it does work. When he was the Cardinals defensive coordinator in 2013 and 2014 he built a defense that was quite formidable. His 3-4 defensive scheme is designed to disguise coverages while also applying constant pressure on the QB.

No, the problem isn’t Bowles, he is doing the best he can with what he has. The Bucs secondary is riddled with rookies and second-year players, a lot of whom look very promising, but all young players are gonna struggle, and they have. Letting go of CB Vernon Hargreaves was a step in the right direction, and as the season has gone on with rookies Jamel Dean and Sean Murphy-Bunting, who have begun to play much better.

If the Bucs hang on to Bowles for the foreseeable future, this defense has incredible potential, and with Bowles at the helm, the sky is the limit for this young defense.