TAMPA — Having watched his struggling defense surrender big play after big play during a six-game losing streak, Bucs coach Raheem Morris said Monday he will scale back the scheme to help young players react faster.
The less-is-more plan was announced one day after a 38-19 loss to Carolina in which Tampa Bay allowed a dozen plays of at least 19 yards.
"We'll cut back on some of our defensive calls," Morris said. "We'll cut back, we'll cut this thing down pretty good and go out there and execute and play consistent and smart.
"We had a pretty small menu (Sunday). But in order to get it better, you make it smaller and get these guys consistent in what they're doing and let them go out there and play. You've got to cut back, there's no doubt about it. Get these guys to play a little bit faster."
The Bucs are 30th in total defense (393.8 yards per game) and points allowed (27.4) and are on pace to have one of the worst units in franchise history. Three rookies started on defense against the Panthers — ends Adrian Clayborn and Da'Quan Bowers and middle linebacker Mason Foster.
Since taking over as defensive coordinator 10 games into the 2009 season, Morris has taken the Bucs further away from their Tampa 2 roots in favor of more exotic blitz, man-to-man concepts.
What made Morris believe the young Bucs could execute that scheme?
"The way we came out of the box," Morris said. "We came out of the box 3-1. We came out of the box playing really fast and we got better as we moved around. People are playing fast, Mason is looking like a stud and getting better and better every week. I think he still is. He had the setback with some injuries and we lost some people and right now we've got some people in position trying to play as hard as they can. Now we've got to give him a little bit of help."
The Bucs also have been one of the league's most penalized teams, committing nine Sunday for 73 yards.
Morris' frustration was evident when he ordered defensive tackle Brian Price to leave the field after Price's third-quarter unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.
"Brian Price is somebody I expect so much from because he's probably one of our best D-linemen. … We cannot make those kind of mistakes and he's got to be an example-setter," Morris said. "Until you take playing time away from guys, they won't get it."
With only four games to play, Morris indicated the Bucs will evaluate young players such as running back Mossis Madu, cornerback Anthony Gaitor and safety Larry Asante.
"You'll get a chance to see a bunch of people," Morris said. "It's not different than we did even last year when guys got hurt. … These young guys are going to get their opportunities right now and it's time to check them out and evaluate them.
"Obviously, we're nowhere near where we wanted to be.… So we'll cut back, we'll get these guys better, we'll get their confidence higher, running around, speeding around, flying to the football."
Morris said he still has faith in the Bucs' plan to build with young players — even if that means continuing growing pains.
"Every once in awhile, you need a little bit of ball bounce, we didn't get that ball bounce this year," Morris said. "But I got a lot of confidence in this group, I've got a lot of confidence where this organization is going, I've got a lot of confidence what can happen and that's a part of looking at some of these other guys, too, and seeing where they fit in their pieces. We've always talked about not being a finished product. It's more clear now than ever."
Bottom five explains Tampa Bay's dive
The Bucs, losers of six straight, are among the worst five teams in the 32-team league in both yards and points allowed.
|Team, yards allowed|
|28. Indianapolis Colts||387.1|
|29. New York Giants||387.3|
|30. Tampa Bay Bucs||393.8|
|31. Green Bay Packers||397.8|
|32. New England Patriots||412.1|
|Team, points allowed|
|28. New York Giants||26.3|
|29. Carolina Panthers||27|
|30. Tampa Bay Bucs||27.4|
|31. Minnesota Vikings||27.5|
|32. Indianapolis Colts||29.8|