The Bucs had their finest common season in workforce historical past in 2021. In Bruce Arians’ closing season as head coach, Tampa Bay gained a franchise-record 13 video games. That 13-4 file was ok to earn the NFC South title, which hadn’t been gained by the Bucs since 2007. Tampa Bay additionally claimed the No. 2 seed within the NFC playoffs.
However all of that wasn’t ok, because the Bucs misplaced to the eventual Tremendous Bowl champion Rams within the NFC Divisional Playoffs, 30-27. What made it worse is that it got here at residence at Raymond James Stadium, and Tampa Bay had clawed its manner again from a 27-3 deficit to tie the sport at 27-27. But, with simply 42 seconds left in regulation, Matthew Stafford hit All-Professional receiver Cooper Kupp with two large go performs, together with a 44-yarder to place Los Angeles in subject aim vary for the game-winner.
The truth that the Bucs misplaced the sport with the protection on the sphere has gnawed at new head coach Todd Bowles and his workers all offseason. Bowles, the workforce’s defensive coordinator, referred to as an all-out blitz on the Stafford-to-Kupp bomb and it wound up backfiring on Tampa Bay.
Bowles will nonetheless be calling performs as head coach. However he promoted inside linebackers coach Larry Foote and line of defense coach Kacy Rodgers to the function of co-defensive coordinators. Foote will coordinate the again finish of the protection, whereas Rodgers will focus on the defensive entrance.
All the Bucs’ assistant coaches spoke to the media on Tuesday and that recreation remains to be recent of their minds.
“We’re very shut,” Foote mentioned. “I do know that was a tough recreation, however we obtained again in it. We’re very shut. I do know accidents performed an enormous half in it. Hey, the time is now. The time is now with veterans, particularly on the again finish. We’re not younger anymore. I imply we now have plenty of four-year guys, so I’m anticipating them guys on protection to make an enormous step and I’m trying ahead to it.”
The Bucs protection weathered the storm of plenty of accidents within the secondary final 12 months. And star linebacker Lavonte David performed within the playoffs with a critical foot damage. He needs to be able to go by coaching camp, and everybody else on the protection is again to full well being.
Regardless that the Bucs gained 13 video games, it wasn’t ok. The Bucs fell wanting beating the Rams, a workforce that has now beat them thrice in a row, and successful back-to-back Tremendous Bowls.
For Foote, the Bucs want to enhance their deal with protection in 2022. That begins within the assembly rooms throughout movie examine and on the observe fields in the course of the offseason.
“I inform these younger guys you need to focus, too,” Foote mentioned. “That’s a muscle that you need to preserve getting stronger and stronger. We reside in a world with social media, so I’ve to present them guys breaks, however if you happen to focus longer, you’ll make that play. It’s a recreation of inches.”
Tampa Bay had the league’s No. 1 speeding protection (80.6 avg.) in 2020 whereas successful the Tremendous Bowl. The Bucs additionally ranked sixth in yards allowed (327.1 avg.) that 12 months.
Final 12 months, Tampa Bay slipped to the No. 3 speeding protection (92.5 avg.) and had the No. 13-ranked whole yardage protection (332.1 avg.). That’s nonetheless actually good, however the Bucs are aiming to enhance throughout the board on protection this offseason.
“Consideration to element and fundamentals,” Rodgers mentioned. “As we’re going by way of the cut-ups, it wasn’t us getting beat as a result of we weren’t ok. We have been getting beat as a result of we have been making a psychological error on the flawed time or we weren’t accountable, or approach or fundamentals. We’ve obtained proficient guys. We simply have to be higher technically.”
Bowles blitzes greater than some other defensive coordinator within the league. Tampa Bay blitzed on a league-high 40.8% of its snaps, and had a stress fee of 28.6%. However there have been too many missed sacks.
The Bucs completed with 47 sacks, which was the identical quantity that they had in Bowles’ first 12 months in Tampa Bay in 2019. The workforce had 48 sacks within the 2020 common season and added one other 10 within the postseason. However the protection fell wanting its aim of 50-plus sacks in the course of the common season final 12 months.
New exterior linebackers coach Bob Sanders put collectively a reel of missed sacks to point out the protection this previous week. The message was to hone in on approach and fundamentals as soon as the gamers hit the sphere.
“I don’t bear in mind the precise quantity [of missed sacks] on the tape, but when it was shut I went forward and put it on there as a result of they may see how shut we have been,” Sanders mentioned. “A few of them, the ball got here out, however we have been shut.
What I at all times attempt to inform the fellows is that I’m looking for you that 1/1,000 of a second. That’s what I’m looking for you. Whether or not it’s your stance or your begin, your footwork or no matter it might be. I’m simply looking for you no matter timeframe is [needed] to get you residence. Can we come tighter? Is our angle tighter? Can we flip our hips? Can we come decrease?”
If the Bucs can enhance on sacks and stress fee, then defensive stats enhance and maybe performs like Stafford’s 44-yard strike to Kupp don’t occur. The important thing to Tampa Bay’s enchancment is already underway within the assembly rooms. Now, the coaches want it to translate to the observe fields after which carry over to recreation days.