The way it was and is now, again.
It’s a well-known fact that our Tampa Bay Buccaneers have had a history of mostly futility and failure. That narrative being interrupted only by a short stint of a handful of years in which we were able to climb and claw our way to the top of the mountain and plant our Jolly Roger firmly at its pinnacle. That path was paved by a smothering cover 2 defense that became our identity, our business card if you will. Opposing teams knew when they saw the Bucs on their schedule, they could no longer check the win column ahead of time. In fact, it was exactly the opposite during that stretch. The team earned that respect and reverence through a daunting pass rush that often would lead to interceptions, forced fumbles, and bad decisions. Haste makes waste, and more times than not, that was the way it went for our opponents.
The offense during that stretch was simply a complement to our strength, that being, of course, the defense. Tony Dungy, who changed so much here during that time, and oversaw the creation of that dominating defense, lost his job here because he could not find an offensive coordinator able to raise the performance of the offense to a place that would get us over the NFC Championship hump. Jon Gruden, an offensively minded successful coach proved that fact when he was hired to replace Dungy. He made changes in personnel that better suited his offensive scheme, and immediately won a Super-Bowl in his first season. The lack of credit and love afforded Gruden by the Bucs Fanbase as a whole is upsetting to me and always has been. While it’s true that without Dungy and his incredible staff, and his changing of the losing culture here none of it was possible, Dungy had taken the team as far as he could get them. This fact was staunchly backed up by the fact that when Dungy was hired by the Indianapolis Colts, the only stipulation was that he accept Tom Moore as his offensive coordinator, who was already in place. Obviously, the Colts saw how things went down in Tampa, and fixed Dungy’s only weakness as a head coach. That being his lack of knack for the other side of the football. Subsequently, Dungy went on to become the first Black Head Coach to win a Super-Bowl. It’s worth noting that the Buccaneers could have intervened and chosen an offensive coordinator for him and more than likely won a Super-Bowl with Dungy here. Hindsight is always 20/20, but it ended up working out for both teams. It could be said that his offensive lacking being addressed led to two Championships.
Back to the present.
Much has been made about the off-season addition of the most successful NFL Quarterback of all time to a team loaded with talented receivers. Then the Bucs went out and added Brady’s good friend and one of the very best tight ends to ever play in Gronkowski. What there hasn’t been much talk about, are the defensive draft picks and free agents that Jason Licht has been quietly assembling around an under-rated Lavonte David. Veterans like Jason Pierre-Paul and Ndamukong Suh were brought in to upgrade a defensive line that sorely needed it. Through the draft, the Buccaneers added some incredible talents. Players like Vita Vea, Carlton Davis, Sean Murphy-Bunting, Mike Edwards, Antoine Winfield Jr., and two players that if they can stay relatively healthy during their careers, in my opinion, will be Hall of Fame candidates in Devin White and Jamel Dean, both drafted in 2019.
The perception is not the reality.
If Buccaneer’s Social Media Sites are a litmus test for the fan-base, the perception of the defense, in particular the Defensive Backfield, is mostly subdued. While many fans understand that we will be solid on defense, a great many are not sold on the Defensive Backfield’s woes being fixed, yet. In my opinion, nothing could be further from the truth. I believe that not only has Arians and Licht fixed the problem, but they have also supplied the talent to take the defense to a whole another level. A level, that combined with the defense as a whole, will allow us to rise to the Dungy/Gruden era of success. Dare I say that this unit as it stands could be better than any unit ever assembled along Dale Mabry Highway? The main difference is that this unit is pieced together, partly, through one-year deals, so the longevity of this unit could end up shorter than that of the past. This will be decided by future drafts and the development of players already here; players like Anthony Nelson, a big, but agile edge player that the Bucs are expecting good things from going into his second season.
Defensive stars abound.
The number of big stars on the offense will pale in comparison to the defense; when all is said and done. While it’s true that the offense of today’s Buccaneers is flashier than that of the Brad Johnson era, like those team’s defense will again be the backbone of this 2020 version. It will dictate every bit as much as the offense, but it will also set up our offense in good field position more times than not. It will also score points for us with the best defenses in the league. Whether or not you are aware of it or not, we will return to defensive prominence, and when discussions are brought up about who’s the best defense in the league, Tampa’s name will again be brought up. We should be number one against the run again, and our passing defense should be a top 3 ranking. That should give make us the number one defense in the league overall. I can hardly see a way, save multiple injuries, that this unit doesn’t end up top 5, our potential, though, is higher.
A big weakness for so long, our pass coverage abilities are as good as any team out there now. They are youthful but with boatloads of talent. Watching that talent evolve will be a lot of fun for us, for the opposing team, not so much. So have no fear old schoolers, we are at no risk of losing the defensive team persona. It’s just now we park a fancy sports-car in the garage, instead of the family sedan. I can see no drawbacks to that. Go Bucs!!!