Thursday, April 26, 2018
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tampa Bay Buccaneers must fix pass defense before facing Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo

TAMPA — After watching his defense get riddled for 813 yards and four touchdowns through the air in the first two weeks of the season, Bucs coordinator Bill Sheridan is re-evaluating how many times he wants to strand cornerbacks in man-to-man coverage like castaways on a dangerous island.

"When you give up the amount of yards we did the other day, that makes you rethink a lot of stuff," he said Wednesday.

The damage Sunday was caused by Eli Manning, who passed for 510 yards and three touchdowns in the Giants' 41-34 win over the Bucs.

Now here comes another beast from the NFC East.

In his three games against the Bucs, Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo's passing numbers have needed to be tested for steroids: 11 touchdowns, no interceptions and passer ratings of 148.9, 140.6 and 133.9.

Does Bucs coach Greg Schiano expect Romo to air it out at Cowboys Stadium on Sunday?

"Oh, I would think so," he said. "They're a run-pass mix anyway, but they're not afraid to throw the ball. And until we stop it, why wouldn't they?"

It's unfair to heap the blame for this season's skewed passing numbers on cornerbacks Aqib Talib and Eric Wright. The Bucs did intercept Manning three times in the first half, including one Wright returned 60 yards for a touchdown

The line failed to get pressure. And when Sheridan called for blitzes with only one deep safety, the Bucs didn't sack Manning. That left receivers Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks free to work outside the numbers for back-shoulder fades and deep routes.

"There's no doubt it's stressful for the corners, especially with the skill level you see every week from the wide receivers," Sheridan said. "But it's an 11-man play when something like that happens.

"It's not an easy task to be playing out there on an island, three, four or five seconds into a down. So when we call pressures, we expect guys to execute and get on the edge of the blockers and affect the quarterback."

Sheridan admitted he called too many stunts in an attempt to confuse the Giants.

"Some of the things we could've done to help our defensive linemen out was to have given them an opportunity to be more conventional, straight rush," Sheridan said. "I think they probably felt they would've had more success."

Former Bucs defensive tackle Warren Sapp, in Tampa for a book signing, watched film with tackle Gerald McCoy on Wednesday.

"I told Gerald, 'The orders come from the sideline, but the general on the field has to be able to direct that stuff,' " Sapp said.

"I said, 'Gerald, walk in the man's office and tell him we've got this. You can mess around on first and second down, but third down has got to be mine.' "

Whereas Carolina's Cam Newton, who passed for 303 yards in the opener against the Bucs, is a threat to run when he leaves the pocket, Romo does it to extend plays.

After watching the Bucs on tape, Romo complimented their defensive scheme and said he couldn't explain why he has had so much success them.

"I think we've just executed well," he said. "Sometimes, stats … can go in segments of two, three, four games here and there. It's that way with other games as well. I just think we've just executed at the right times."

Like Manning, Romo has two explosive receivers: Dez Bryant and Miles Austin. If the Bucs leave their cornerbacks on an island too many times Sunday, they could be sunk.

"You can help with play selection. You can help with better technique," Schiano said. "We have to coach them better and get them in a better position to make the play."

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