TAMPA – Thanks largely to the addition of wide receiver DeSean Jackson and tight end O.J. Howard, the offense has garnered the majority of all the headlines earned by the Buccaneers this offseason.
Out on the football field, though, it’s the defense that has clearly headlined the play of the team that many believe could be on the brink of an offensive breakout in 2017.
Despite missing two key pass rushers and the two players that could start at safety this year, the Bucs defense has consistently gotten the better of the offense in offseason workouts, coach Dirk Koetter said.
“If you just went through the 11 ‘OTA practices’ we’ve had, I’d say the defense has won more than they’ve lost and that’s with (defensive end) Noah Spence out and with (end) Jacquies Smith out,’’ Koetter said.
“(Safety) J.J. Wilcox has been out the whole time, too and (rookie safety) Justin Evans has been out. But the main players in that defense – (linebackers) Kwon (Alexander) and Lavonte (David), (tackle) Gerald (McCoy) in the middle and (cornerback) Vernon Hargreaves, they’ve consistently made plays every day.’’
It was that way again on Tuesday during the Bucs first mandatory mini-camp workout, which started with defensive end Robert Ayers picking off quarterback Jameis Winston during a two-minute drill.
“It was one of those where, if you’re in a real two-minute drill Robert Ayers is probably trying like crazy to get to the quarterback,’’ Koetter said. “He’s trying to get the sack.
“But in underwear football he’s playing a little softer at the line of scrimmage and he was in the throwing lane. I don’t think Jameis saw him, but it was still a good pay by Robert.’’
It was one of several good plays turned in by the defense, which also got a pick from Hargreaves, who stepped in front of Jackson to intercept Winston on a deep throw to the end zone.
Granted, the offense had a few moments of its own, including one when Winston hit Jackson in stride on a long pass play down the right sideline. For the most part, though, it was the defense that shined again.
“Offensively we were a little flat today,’’ Koetter said. “The defense, got the best of the offense. There were some good plays on both sides but overall I thought the defense was little crisper than the offense.’’