The Buccaneers are off to a miserable start defensively this year. Through three games no team has allowed more points per game than the Bucs (33.7), no team has allowed more big plays of 40 yards or more than the Bucs (six) and only three teams have allowed opposing passers to produce a higher passer rating than the Bucs (106.4).
We could go on but you get the idea. The bottom line is that the much ballyhooed defense that former Falcons coach Mike Smith brought to Tampa has yet to deliver the desired results. That’s come as quite a surprise to most but one who doesn’t seem to be all that surprised by the stumble from the gate is Smith himself.
Smith admits his defense is a very complicated one. That’s why he was adamant that the Bucs bring in veterans of the scheme such as cornerback Brent Grimes, who played for Smith in Atlanta, and linebacker Daryl Smith, who played for Smith when he was a defensive coordinator in Jacksonville.
Smith was hoping players such as Grimes and Smith would help flatten the learning curve for everyone else, and they probably have. Even with their help, though, Smith said he figured it would still take the Bucs about a month before they would develop a comfort level and good working knowledge with his scheme.
“I don’t think you can really say what kind of defense we’re going to be until we’ve got at least four games under our belt,’’ Smith said last week. “In the preseason you’re getting vanilla looks and we’re doing vanilla things. (Now) it’s a little more complicated. So what I’ve got to find is the fine line where we don’t put (our players) in situations they’re not ready for.”
One thing to keep in mind as the Bucs continue to adapt to Smith’s scheme is that this is not a one-way street. While the players are learning Smith’s system, Smith is learning what his players are capable of doing in his system. The best read on that, Smith said prior the Rams game, will come during the first month of the regular season.
“It will come to fruition what we’re capable of doing and we’ll know as a coaching staff,’’ Smith said. “But there are going to be growing pains, because we’re playing some guys who have experience in the NFL, but they don’t have experience in our system that we’re trying to put together and evolve into this system.”