Could it be that head coach Lovie Smith made a difference in Monday night’s preseason win over the Cincinnati Bengals? It’s hard to tell because it’s just that, preseason. But boy did this defense look like the old opportunistic Bucs defense we were used to seeing in the late ‘90 into the early 2000’s.
Smith decided to relieve defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier of his playcalling duties and assigned those duties to himself. As a result, the Bucs starters got to Bengals’ quarterback Andy Dalton three times for sacks and intercepted him twice.
The defense was flying to the ball. And that was refreshing to watch.
“The main thing that the d-line wanted to do was send a message about how we can get after to the quarterback,” defensive end George Johnson who recorded 1.5 sacks against Cincinnati. “Our defense is based on our d-line and how well we do. If our d-line does well, our team will do well, and [Monday night] you could just see that when we get clicking, you see how it goes.”
Tampa Bay’s defensive rides on the success of the front four. If they are clicking on all cylinders, then the rest of the defense is as well. Smith talked about that after the game.
“They were in game-week mode, which we have to be,” Smith said about his defensive front. “You got to learn how to win first. It was good to see the front put pressure like that. When you put pressure it kind of leads to some of the takeaways. Of course (cornerback) Alterrraun Verner’s touchdown helped a lot and it was a great interception by (safety) Bradley McDougald also.”
It’s only preseason, but it’s important to get a good look from your starters. The staff saw the potential now it’s up to the players to continue this good play throughout the rest of their exhibition matchups and build momentum heading into the regular season.