Morris says Bucs' defensive issues related to personnel
Statistics never tell the whole tale, but the Bucs' defensive numbers against the run seem to tell an ugly story.
With Tampa Bay allowing 167.3 rushing yards per game (third worst in the league) and 4.9 yards per carry (tied for second worst), it's impossible to ignore the problem.
After Sunday's game, in which the Dolphins rushed for 199 yards -- including a 45-yard run by Ronnie Brown that was the longest against the Bucs this season -- coach Raheem Morris was grilled this morning on the performance of his run defense. That led to what sounded like a surprising admission.
"We’re just not made right now to knock people back," Morris said. "That’s not how we’re cut. We don’t have big, intimidating linebackers or big, intimidating linemen. We have to hit you. We have to be perfect."
That's at the very least a suggestion the Bucs aren't built to play the aggressive style of defense they now employ, one that requires defenders to make physical plays at the point of attack.
Morris added, "We don’t have the big people, the big personnel that you need to knock out runs, the physical person up front that absolutely dominates the block and gets the tackle for loss for a third-and-13. We’ll get there or we’ll find those guys. We’ll get out there and get them. But we have to play with the guys that we have and they have to continue to play the way they played yesterday as far as having five series with three-and-out, having two series with a four-and-out and having two turnovers. We have to get the big guys in there and let them play a little bit."
When pressed as to why, then, the Bucs didn't do a better job of stacking the roster with personnel that could perform such tasks, Morris simply said the team won't decide until the offseason who does and doesn't fit. Those who can't do it will be judged later, he said.
"Ryan (Sims) has got to be evaluated just like all of us," Morris said. "You have to evaluate Dre Moore. We’ll have a chance to evaluate all those guys: The Kyle Moores, the Michael Bennetts -- all the guys that we have. We’ll have to make a decision at the end of the season. But right now, they have to get better. We have to go out there and get better with technique. We have to go out there and see somebody make a splash play."
The irony here is that Morris, general manager Mark Dominik and defensive coordinator Jim Bates were asked frequently during the offseason whether the players on the roster would fit the style of scheme the team is now using. Because many of the current players were drafted or acquired by the former regime to play in former coordinator Monte Kiffin's scheme, it seemed like quite a leap to assume they could make the switch.
One thing seems certain: Morris and his staff will be watching closely the rest of the season to see who can and can't make the transition.