Maybe no offseason signing was as big as his for Buc’s Defense
After the 2019 season, the Bucs were faced with doing all they could to keep the defense together for 2020. Most of the attention during that process was placed on Shaq Barrett, the 2019 NFL Sack King. Quite a few teams were keeping an eye on that situation. Should Shaq and the Bucs not come to terms, teams were waiting to scoop him up. Pierre-Paul, coming off a season shortened by an injury sustained in a single-car accident in the offseason, which Pierre-Paul was the driver who finished the season with 8.5 sacks, the Bucs had re-worked Pierre-Paul’s contract so that he would become a free agent at the end of the 2019 season. Most felt that the move assured that Pierre-Paul would be moving on in 2020. To the Bucs’ benefit, Pierre-Paul was not ready to move on just yet, signing a 2-year 27 million dollar deal in March 2020 to remain a Buccaneer.
Pierre-Paul, not Barrett, leads the team in sacks
So far in 2020, Pierre-Paul leads the defense with 7.5 sacks, two and a half more than Barrett. In the Panthers’ game this past Sunday, Pierre-Paul again proved his worth, registering a sack, along with a rare interception off of Teddy Bridgewater. You won’t find many interceptions in a Defensive End’s resume, so this was special for the player and team. The interception led to a Ryan Succop field goal, which pushed the score to 29-17 Bucs. On the sack play, it was third down with four yards to go when Pierre-Paul brought down Bridgewater, forcing a punt and ending a scoring threat. Losing Vea to injury was a big hit to our line and defense overall. With Jason Pierre-Paul on the job, it makes that loss easier to take. Save for the Tom Brady coup, bringing Pierre-Paul in from the Giants may be Jason Licht’s greatest free-agent signing.
A driving force up front
As the Buccaneers winning season moves forward, Pierre-Paul will continue to be a force on a defensive line that has been the stingiest in the NFL over the past and present season against the run. How far this team will make it in 2020 will squarely ride on the defense’s shoulders as it did in the 2002 campaign. The offense just needs to score enough to top what the defense allows. So far, it’s working out more often than not. Here’s hoping that this Panthers game was the signaling of Tom Brady and the Bucs Offense moving beyond what happened in the Saints game. Pierre-Paul and the defense were able to bounce back in the second half of that game, even affording the offense a couple of extra possessions, which the offense, in turn, squandered. The defense must continue to play well, and hopefully, the unit will get stingier on the scoreboard. And while they have been great against the run, against the pass, not so much, allowing teams to put some points on us. We did double the score on Carolina, but my feeling is that’s at least 10-13 points too many to allow. I also believe that as the season progresses, the defensive backfield will continue to mature and cut down on some of our opponents’ scoring. I must admit the way they finished up in 2019 that I believed our D-Backfield would have been more advanced earlier on. From a more practical point, though, I should have considered the youth factor more. Jamel Dean seemed to take an early step backward but has been coming along better most recently. Rookie Antoine Winfield has been playing well all season and is definitely as advertised. I digress
Here’s to the Tampa D; long may it reign. Begin the Cannonade! Go Bucs!