There is no doubt there will be pressure to win right away for the Buccaneers up coming in 2018. And if you’re pointing at one side of the ball that realizes and feels that pressure the most, it’s their defense. The Bucs were the worst passing yardage defense and had the fewest sacks of any team in the NFL. And no one has to tell them that it has to be better or else, in this upcoming season.
With their team OTAs getting underway soon, defensive coordinator and former Falcons head coach Mike Smith met with the media on Wednesday. And let’s just say he laid it on the line, directly.
— Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@Buccaneers) May 16, 2018
The one quote that stood out the most was, when asked about the expectation for the defensive unit upcoming, Smith got right to it, “It’s got to be a Hell of a lot better than what we put out there.”
Talk about not mincing words.
And, the good news on paper is Smith has got plenty to work with. We’ve well-documented the free agent defensive line acquisitions of Vinny Curry and Beau Allen of the Eagles, as well as Mitch Unrein of the Bears. Plus with Jason Licht swinging a pre-draft trade to acquire Jason Pierre-Paul from the Giants, there is now no excuse for veteran help and depth to be there.
You add to that first round pick Vita Vea from Washington, as well as second round picks MJ Stewart and Carlton Davis for the secondary, and Smith has got to be pleased with the talent upgrades.
Now it’s a matter of getting everything in order, and everyone on the same page.
Speaking of the draft picks, Smith was complimentary of the versatility of Vea in particular, making mention of having seen the big defensive tackle from Washington in high school video of him not only running down on kickoff coverage, but also having played running back.
The Buccaneers have to be exited to put Vea next to perennial pro bowler Gerald McCoy to wreak havoc on that defensive line.
And as for the cornerback competition, Smith made it clear that they still believe in Vernon Hargreaves, but that’s easy to say, but the actions of drafting two guys at his position in the second round speak to: either they want to light the fire under Hargreaves or groom his replacement immediately.
Smith even told the reporters Wednesday, “you’re going to enjoy watching the cornerback competition will have this year.”
That will definitely be one of the positions to watch, and make no mistake, everyone will be watching for Buccaneers defensive improvement.
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