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Smith delivers scathing indictment of Buccaneers defensive effort

Roy Cummings



Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire

TAMPA – There is no more damning an indictment that can be thrown at a football team than to suggest that it quit. Buccaneers coordinator Mike Smith wouldn’t go that far in assessing his defense’s effort against the run last week but that’s only because you can’t quit something you never start.

Cardinals running back Adrian Peterson gained 8 yards on the first of his 26 carries against a Bucs defense that he gashed for 134 yards and two touchdowns last Sunday, and Smith suggested those yards and scores were largely a result of a lack of commitment by his defense.

“Our run fits were horrendous in that game,’’ Smith said Wednesday in looking back on what proved to be an embarrassing 38-33 Bucs loss. “Our tackling was horrendous in that game. We did not want to put our pads on the running back in that game last week.’’

 Like we said, that’s about as damning as it gets, suggesting that your defense as a whole wasn’t interested in carrying out one of its most basic duties. Of course, right along with the lack of will, the Bucs also displayed a lack of proper technique. Smith explained that as well.

 “It’s real simple,’’ Smith said. “You’ve got a gap (between a guard and a tackle or a guard and the center). As a defender, you’ve got to have your head in that gap. If one guy is out of his gap and the ball carrier attacks that gap, it’s into our secondary.’’

Again, that’s precisely what happened on Sunday, when the poor play of the defensive line and linebackers resulted in three defensive backs – cornerback Brent Grimes (8), safety Justin Evans (7) and cornerback Vernon Hargreaves (6) – leading the Bucs in tackles.

And that was with Hargreaves accounting for three of the four missed tackles the Bucs were charged with, according to Pro Football Focus. What those numbers suggest is that being out of position to make a tackle was more of a problem than actually missing tackles. Smith concurred.

“What ends up happening in run defense (when you don’t stay in your gap) is you end up lying to your partner,’’ Smith said. “He’s expecting you to be in this gap and then, if you move your head outside, you’ve lied to him and he doesn’t know whether you are going back or are you staying out there and we have two guys in one gap. That was the issue in the game.

 “And it was compounded by poor tackling. The bottom line was, we just didn’t execute to the best of our ability in that game. We took a hit early and we weren’t able to recover from it until we went and sat down on our bench at halftime. Then the next round started and we recovered. But in this business, you can’t do that.

 “You’ve got to make adjustments on the fly because you’re going to get hit. It’s like a boxing match. You’re going to get hit, and when you get hit, you can’t wait until you get to the corner. You’ve got to recover. If not, you’re going to get knocked out. Basically, we about got knocked out.’’ 

Roy Cummings is a native of Chicago, Illinois who grew up in the suburb of Lombard. He and his family later moved to Lakeland, Florida, where Roy attended high school at Kathleen High. He graduated from the University of South Florida with a Bachelor's Degree in Mass Communications in 1983 and immediately went to work for the Tampa Tribune. After five years working in a Polk County bureau covering everything from high school sports to college football to the Orlando Magic of the NBA, Roy moved back to Tampa and became the Tribune's first beat writer for the Tampa Bay Lightning, covering the team from its inception through the first eight years on the ice. He was then moved to the Buccaneers beat, where he stayed until the paper was folded in May, 2016. A two-time Florida Sports Writer of the Year, Roy has extensive experience covering all Tampa professional sports teams, including the Tampa Bay Rays.

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