Through two games, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense -- long one of the best in the NFL -- has surrendered more than 30 points each to the Dallas Cowboys and Buffalo Bills. Certainly, there was the expectation that there would be a period of transition from Monte Kiffin's Cover 2 to Jim Bates' more matchup-oriented approach. But the defense, particulary the pass defense has not looked good. Is it time for Bucs fans to push the panic button on the defense? Or, will the Bucs find a way to turn their defensive issues around by midseason.
Tyler Frazier, Bucs co-publisher
After playing in only two games this season, it is not time to press the panic button yet. That doesn't mean the finger isn't already on the button though.
Once Tanard Jackson returns from suspension that should help improve a defense that is ranked 31st in the league and has given up 900 yards and 67 points in only two games. The only team to allow more yards is Houston with 911 while the only team to give up more points is Detroit with 72.
Some may claim the team in only struggling due to the fact that the defense is transitioning from Monte Kiffin's cover two to Jim Bates' system. I don't agree with this.
I think the problem is that they just don't have the athletes needed for this type of defense to succeed. That and apparently they forgot how to tackle. Raheem Morris said at Monday's press conference that the team had 24 missed tackles against Buffalo.
Ronde Barber has had an excellent start to the season. Although he was beat at least once for a score in Buffalo, he came back and made a few nice plays and has proven why Tampa decided to keep him around. Barrett Ruud and Geno Hayes have looked good through two games.
The area that seems to be having the most problems is at defensive line. Raheem Morris called out Gaines Adams earlier this week for his recent play and not playing as well as last season.
This is something that needed to be done, although he is not the only one.
It is not only Adams' fault though. In this defensive scheme, the tackles need to be able to get pressure in order for the ends to succeed. Chris Hovan has been doing what he does best, but Ryan Sims has struggled so far this season. I would like to see more of the younger guys like Roy Miller, Kyle Moore, Quincy Black, and Stylez G. White.
The defense has the ability to turn this thing around, but with the Bucs having the fifth hardest schedule in the league, it doesn't get any easier. This means if the team wants to avoid pushing the panic button, they need to find the right combination of defensive linemen to start. Most importantly, they need to tackle. If not, it is going to be a long season for the Bucs defense.
Adam Caplan, Scout.com Senior NFL Reporter
Gaines Adams hasn't been giving very much effort and as a result, the pass rush has been slowed. The lack of any consistent pass rush has hurt their secondary. The other problem is teams are able run all over the defense. The lack of quality personnel in the front seven is the big issue. The talent level is just not there anymore. Bates is known for using a physical scheme, but he may not have the players yet to run it.
Matthew Postins, Bucsblitz.com contributor
I'd have to disagree with Tyler on this one. Take that finger and depress it firmly on the panic button.
Yes, the Bucs are transitioning from the Tampa 2 to a more aggressive defense under new coordinator Jim Bates. There are some growing pains to be expected. But those numbers after two games are just woeful. Woeful. And unacceptable under any standard.
The only team worse defensively than the Bucs? The Lions. Sounds like an old NFC Central reunion from the mid-1980s, when both teams were just putrid.
The problem is most noticeable in the secondary. Yes, the safeties have been racked by suspension (Tanard Jackson) and now injury (Jermaine Phillips). But this secondary is woefully miscast in Bates' system, which is more focused on man-to-man coverage. Cornerbacks get less safety help, and this group of corners, led by Ronde Barber, were drafted to play Cover 2 and Cover 4 zones. None of them has that top-end speed you'd expect from a capable man-to-man corner, such as Denver's Champ Bailey and Philly's Asante Samuel. So, you can expect this secondary to be continually burned more and more as the season wears on, even as they begin to come around under the new defensive system.
Bates' defense rewards linebackers, and no one will reap the benefits more than fourth-year man Barrett Ruud, who will put up Pro Bowl-type numbers this year. Unfortunately, there's isn't enough talent around him at that position to make the position group truly dominant, like Bates' linebackers in Miami were several years ago.
The pass rush is awful. The problem is two-fold. There are players who are miscast in Bates' system, like DT Chris Hovan. I love Hovan. He's a fine player, but Bates likes his tackles beefy and a bit less mobile. He likes them to eat up space. That's not Hovan's best trait. The old Bucs wanted Hovan moving upfield more. Now the Bucs need him to hold up linemen.
Second, Gaines Adams is turning into a bust. Let's just throw it out there. He's not a complete bust yet, but given where he was picked and his production after 2-plus seasons (12.5 sacks), that's simply not enough. The Bucs expected him to be dominant. He hasn't been, and he may never be. Not that it's all his fault. The cast of characters around him – most notably Jimmy Wilkerson and Stylez G. White – aren't exactly taking the heat off of Adams. It's a symptom of the struggles the players up front are facing.
It's all a recipe for disaster. Now, I don't think the Bucs will be the worst defense in the league. The good news is there's plenty of room for improvement. But their days of being a Top 10 unit are done for at least two years. That's the minimum amount of time that Bates and head coach Raheem Morris will need to turn over the old Cover 2 talent and replace it with the talent that it will take to fully implement Bates' system. It took the Dallas Cowboys three years to move from a 4-3 to a 3-4 under Bill Parcells. Expect it to take the same amount of time in Tampa.
And expect more performances like the last two weeks. It's unavoidable now.