Even the most pirate-garbed Bucs fan contemplated wearing two eye patches when the team played defense last season.
Tampa Bay was last in the NFL a year ago with only 23 quarterback sacks, down from 26 in 2010, and missed tackles contributed to the Bucs ranking last against the run.
No surprise that the two main areas of emphasis for the defense this offseason has been finding a way to pressure the quarterback and improve tackling.
Coach Greg Schiano said the starting defensive line got decent pressure on Miami QB Matt Moore, who went 7-for-12 passing for 79 yards with no touchdowns and an interception on Friday. But the Bucs, who won 20-7, did not record a sack against three quarterbacks who combined for 50 pass attempts.
"Early on, I felt like we kind of moved the guy off the spot a little bit, which is the key," Schiano said Saturday. "Later, I don't think we did as good of a job and that showed. They threw for a lot of yards. Some of that was coverage, some of that was lack of pressure. But overall, I thought there was some good things."
Schiano said the defense had seven tackles for a loss, but his players also missed 12 tackles.
How far has the defense fallen over recent years? From 1999 to 2003, Tampa Bay went a record 69 consecutive games with at least one sack. Even more mind-boggling is that during that stretch, the Bucs went 50 games with at least one sack and one forced turnover.
Schiano is taking the Bucs back to the basics.
"You see the circuit we do every day. We work on tackling," Schiano said. "Although it's not live tackling, you're practicing the fundamental parts of the live tackle. We just need to get better. We need to do it more. So the more games we play, the better we should get."
DOT, DOT, DOT: The Bucs need Donald Penn at left tackle, but his backup, Demar Dotson, is proving to be capable.
Dotson played well Friday night against Dolphins sackmaster Cameron Wake. Dotson is a converted basketball player who played only one year of football at Southern Mississippi, as a defensive lineman. He has played in 22 games for the Bucs since 2009, though he missed the 2010 season with a knee injury.
"I thought he did a solid job," Schiano said. "I'm sure he will use this experience and really use it as a reaching out or stepping out point. I hope that's what he'll do with it. There are certain things, fundamentally, he's got to get better at. But it's a great story. I mean, for having not played — what did he play, one year — and it was defensive line in college, and he was the starting left tackle last night in an NFL football game.
"Good for him. He's a guy you root for. He works his tail off, he's got a great attitude, great team guy, so you love when guys like that do well."
INJURY UPDATE: Rookie S Mark Barron was expected to start at Miami, but he felt discomfort in his injured toe during warmups and was a late scratch. Schiano doesn't expect the injury to linger.
"If it keeps dragging on, then certainly it becomes a concern," Schiano said. "Is there something more wrong than initially thought? I don't think that's going to be the case. But until he starts going, you can't say that."
TE Dallas Clark did not play, but Schiano said the Bucs were just being smart, preserving the 11th-year veteran.