Monday, June 18, 2018
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tampa Bay Buccaneers' fate hinges on fixing the defense

TAMPA — They are called explosives, those big-bang plays that detonate and destroy the game.

The NFL defines them as runs of 10 yards or more and passes of 20-plus yards.

The Bucs already have given up 13 in two games.

In fact, the Bucs have yielded three pass plays of more than 50 yards — fifty! — or as many as in all of 2015.

"We've had 12 plays that have gone for over 400 yards" combined, defensive coordinator Mike Smith said. "Sometimes they're missed tackles, sometimes they're missed assignments and sometimes they're bad calls by me. So we've got to get better. We've got to tackle better, we've got to execute better and I've got to make better calls."

Fortunately for the Bucs, today they play a Los Angeles Rams team that is last in the NFL in passing behind QB Case Keenum. Of course, that's the same Keenum who had the best game of his career and a near-perfect passer rating (158.0) in a 31-23 win over the Bucs last December.

The only thing Smith's defense has done well is stop the run. The Bucs are eighth, allowing 76.5 yards per game and only 3 per carry. But there have been hiccups. Last week LB Lavonte David did not have a tackle for the first time in his 64 NFL games.

The most important stat in football is the giveaway/takeaway ratio, and the Bucs are last in the league at minus-6. Worse yet, they have not created a turnover.

"We've got to own it for two games, that's where we're at," Smith said. "We've got to do better, we're 0-6 after two games, we're going to (have a) hard time overcoming it, but every week's new."

Smith said it will take another two games to know what kind of defense they will have this season.

"There's going to be growing pains," he said. "We're playing some guys that have experience in the NFL, but they don't have experience in our system that we're trying to put together and have it evolve to be their system."

For all the talk about QB Jameis Winston and the offense, it's the play of the Bucs defense that will determine the outcome of the season.

BUCS TRIED TO HELP ASJ: The Bucs have drawn some criticism for cutting ties with TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins after his arrest for misdemeanor driving under the influence. It's misplaced. The team spent several years trying to get help for ASJ's alcohol abuse problem. This is his second DUI in three years. He had one in Washington in 2013, and, yes, the Bucs took him in the second round anyway.

"There's more to every story than meets the eye," coach Dirk Koetter told Sirius NFL radio. "Sometimes, there's more to it than things I can say on the radio. But we wish Austin well. The No. 1 thing is I'm glad Austin is safe and healthy. I hope he can get himself healthy."

Seferian-Jenkins said all the right things. But his lack of focus made it difficult for him to follow the playbook. He now faces a possible suspension and will likely go into the league's substance abuse program, where one of the banned substances for him, you would expect, will be alcohol.

ONE OF THE GOOD ONES: DT Gerald McCoy gave ESPN a rare look at what a typical game week is like for an NFL player. Reporter Bob Holtzman and a camera crew were with McCoy from the time he woke up Monday morning after the 40-7 loss at Arizona through today's game vs. the Rams. Segments have aired throughout the week, and a longer piece will be today on ESPN.

What you will discover about McCoy is that he is the same guy on and off the field. A good guy. A good husband, father, son and teammate.

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