The Buccaneers defense is searching – searching for solutions after starting the season as arguably the worst pass defense in the NFL, and they have to find answers.
On Wednesday, veteran Pro Bowl defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul was trying to help come up with some of those answers, as the Bucs get set to take on the Browns back home on Sunday.
The first and most dramatic change this week is the firing of defensive coordinator Mike Smith on Monday. It really was not a surprise that the move was made, as the outcry had grown louder and louder for Smith’s dismissal with each passing week. And, when it was obvious the pass defense in particular, seemingly could not stop any quarterback for any extended period of time going all the way back to the beginning of 2017.
As for Pierre-Paul, he was acquired in March in a trade from the New York Giants- a place where he’d been to the Pro Bowl twice. And then, there’s something that should excite Bucs fans that JPP was talking about on Wednesday, the Superbowl:
"The main goal is trying to make the playoffs this year. That's the main goal."
— Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@Buccaneers) October 17, 2018
Pierre-Paul saying “I’m doing it for another Superbowl,” will undoubtedly be mocked by some, but it’s also a standard that is worth striving for in that Buccaneers locker room.
And what Pierre-Paul means is everyone being held to that standard to improve the pass defense in specific, and get the Buccaneers back on track.
For his part, Pierre-Paul has five sacks in 5 games to go along with six tackles for loss and 10 total quarterback hits. While none of that he’s going to replace how bad the Buccaneers pass defense has been overall, the point is jpp has been doing his part so far this season.
Will the elevation of linebackers coach Mark Duffner to defensive coordinator make a difference in terms of scheme and bringing the blitz more early and often in games? Pierre-paul addressed being more aggressive in games early on Wednesday, also:
“At times, we come out flat….and then, we change it up at halftime. I think we come out like we did (after) halftime last week, and stick to that, don’t care what the score is….we’ll be fine.”
Pierre-Paul also joked about Browns rookie number one overall pick Baker Mayfield coming to lead the Browns on Sunday:
“He’s a rookie quarterback, man. I love it. Grasping be in the NFL….and I’ll be chasing him this Sunday.”
The bottom line, as stats like these from Pro Football Focus show, the Bucs are at the bottom defensively in most measurable stats against the pass. And, veteran Pro Bowl defensive tackle is Gerald McCoy is nursing an injured calf and may not be able to play this week or in the short-term.
So, it’s an even bigger role for JPP to lead the defensive line specifically, get after Mayfield and get the Buccaneers pass defense some confidence back.
And, when he speaks of the playoffs, he speaks from experience, JPP has been there for previous times in his career, including the G-Man winning the Super Bowl over the Patriots in the 2011 season.
That should be the Bucs goal.
But, first things first, they must snap their three-game losing streak, get back to. 500 Sunday and then start worrying about the postseason, much less a Superbowl.
Bucs looking for three in row leads our primer
Week 14 of the NFL sees two Florida teams at home and the other one facing a familiar foe in New York. The Bucs try to make it three wins in a row hosting the Colts, the Dolphins travel to play the Jets and the Jaguars have gone back to their rookie QB, while hosting the Chargers.
First in Tampa Bay, the Buccaneers come off of back-to-back road wins, where they accumulated 11 sacks and six turnovers defeating Atlanta and Jacksonville. They will take on another AFC South opponent in the Indianapolis Colts. The Colts are stumbling with three losses in their last four games and have fallen out of the AFC Wildcard picture for the moment.
Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston has played better over the course of the last two games, but returns to Raymond James Stadium, where he threw four interceptions it a loss to the Saints three weeks ago. Winston is working with two of the premier receivers in the NFL in Mike Evans and Chris Godwin (above) who both have over a thousand yards this season and look to have a big day today.
The Colts have had success this season with Jacoby Brissett at quarterback and want to run the ball against what is the best run defense in the NFL, the Buccaneers.
Tampa Bay must win to keep slim playoff hopes alive trying to get into a 9 – 7 tiebreaker in the NFC Playoff Picture.
Next, the Dolphins come off a euphoric 37 – 31 win over the Eagles at home for their third win of the season. DeVante Parker had his best game as a Dolphin catching three touchdown passes. And, Miami scored on a trick play that saw punter Matt Haack throw a touchdown pass to kicker Jason Sanders. They now rematch AFC East rival the Jets who were humbled a week ago, as Cincinnati earned their first win of the season at their expense.
The Dolphins also defeated the Jets, and former coach Adam Gase, at home earlier this year
Finally in Jacksonville, the Jaguars have turned back to rookie QB Gardner Minshew. After three dismal offensive showings in a row under free agent Nick Foles, Minshew replaced him in the second half of last week. And, he sparked the Jaguars to a field goal and a touchdown in their 28 – 11 beat down by the Buccaneers.
The rookie did win four games in Foles’ absence due to his broken collarbone earlier this year. Fortunately for Jacksonville, the Chargers come in reeling having lost dramatically in Denver a week ago and questions are swirling whether it is the end of the tenure of Philip Rivers at quarterback.
Jacksonville’s defense is beaten up, including putting Myles Jack on injured reserve earlier this week with an injured kneed.
Fantasy Football “Start/Sit” for Florida players Week 14
Everyone’s favorite time of year has arrived, that is if you had a good season. The fantasy playoffs are here, and if you made it, chances are some Florida players helped get there.
This week the Buccaneers will host the reeling Colts. The Jaguars will host the under-performing Chargers, and the Dolphins travel to play the ever-disappointing Jets.
The Buccaneers will entertain the Colts, who have the 13th overall defense. The Colts are 1-4 in their last five games and desperately need a win. Last week, they were torched on the ground by Titans RB Derick Henry. However, this was the first 100-yard rusher against the Colts this season.
The Bucs again surprised fantasy players last week, when Ronald Jones was benched in the first half for not picking up a blitz. This led to Peyton Barber scoring two touchdowns, while Jones had zero points. The Colts have surrendered two passing touchdowns in each of their last three games. Last week the Tampa Bay offense didn’t have to do nearly as much as usual.
This week, expect the Bucs vertical passing to be back throwing the ball at least 35 times. With a stout run defense, Jameis Winston will need to be at the top of his game in a big test for this Bucs team.
The Jaguars offense has been rough through the air with Nick Foles back. Now, Foles is back on the bench in favor of rookie, Gardner Minshew. The Chargers come into town with the 4th ranked pass defense, but let Drew Lock and Cortland Sutton connect for 74 yards and two touchdowns. The Chargers own the 18th ranked rush defense, and that is music to the ears of Leonard Fournette.
It has been a rough couple of weeks for the running back facing some stout run defenses. This weekend look for Fournette to get back on track. With the return of Minshew means the D.J. Chark becomes even more attractive. Chark was still the top guy with Foles in, but he and Minshew have a good connection.
The Dolphins are coming off one of the stunners of the year beating the Eagles in a 37-31 shootout. This week they set their sights on the Jets, who just gave the Bengals their first win. The Jets have the leagues’ best-run defense, which is usually significant. However, the Dolphins can’t run the ball effectively at all.
That means Ryan Fitzpatrick will be throwing a lot against the 19th ranked pass defense.
Last week Fitzpatrick and Devante Parker destroyed the Eagles secondary. This week they will have all the opportunities to do the same thing to the Jets. With the tight end position a mess, Mike Gesicki is an option again, who has scored in two straight games.