This Defense ain't gettin' any younger

I'm going to do something I don't normally do and piggyback on a column about the Buc's defense by Roy Cummings. Cummings, who might be the best Bucs beat columnist, points out the recent slump the Bucs defense has been in.

In their past three games -- two of which the Bucs have managed to win -- the defense has surrendered a total of 96 points and 412 yards rushing and allowed opponents to convert 41.8 percent of their third down tries.

That three-week point total marks the worst stretch the Bucs have had under the guidance of 10th-year defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin.

Cummings continues by blaming this un-Kiffin like stretch of poor defense on the injuries in the secondary, which is a good point. Third string safety Kalvin Pearson has been getting beat more often than Mike Tyson does in scrabble.

But where is the young talent on this defense? The best players are all over 25. And the only young guys who look like they could possible be studs are Will Allen and Barrett Rudd. Which means there is no reason to predict that this defense will suddenly turn around its play.

If I had time to do further research, my guess is that this is because the Bucs have not had the same emphasis on drafting defensive players under Gruden as they did under Dungy. But just looking at the small sample size of first round picks, Gruden has taken Cadillac and Clayton with his two first round picks, while the last defensive player taken in the first round was Booger (under Dungy).

In the era of the salary cap every defense needs to bring in young stud defenders through the draft in order to stay at the top. Sports Illustrated ran an interesting article on just this subject a week ago where they pointed out that the top defenses this year, for example the Bears, Steelers and Broncos, all have young guys (i.e. players who have been in the league three years or fewer) making plays, Charles Tillman, Troy Palamalu and Darrent Williams respectively.

Anyway, feel free to post your thoughts on why the Bucs defense has been in decline.

And to take you in a completely different direction, check out the intro at Buccaneers.com. First decent intro I've seen at the site all season (much better than the Packers/Bucs eating cheese intro).


Anonymous said...

I think you're right about the defense not getting any younger, and surely we need to draft some studs for the D. I'll give Gruden maybe one more year of using all the high picks on O before I go crying too much.

Gax said...

To be fair though, the offense needed the help. To this point the defense had been pretty solid. Middle-aged, sure; but solid none the less.

It is now crystal clear that we need some new young defenders next off-season. The offense is now in good shape. And with a likely mid-late first round pick we can probably get a quality DB, LB, or DL guy for not too much money.

Scott said...

Total Draft Picks:
Dungy: 31 D, 24 O, 1 ST
Gruden: 12 D, 22 O, 0 ST

Top 3 Rounds:
Dungy: 11 D, 9 O, 1 ST
Gruden: 5 D, 7 O, 0 ST

Cutthroat Pirates said...

OK here is my point of view from a fan since 1979. Yes, our defense has not played up to speed in the last two games. Its just two games, we are still number 3 in the league. Now for Gruden, you got to remember we did not have a first rd choice for over two years and besides when Dungy and Rich Mckay was here their last number on draft pick was Kenyatta Walker, so even Dungy and Mckay knew the offense needed more help then the D.

2002 enter Gruden with no 1st rd draft choice. Gruden wants to rebuild the offense right? Well then why did he pick DE - Dewayne White with the second rd pick. Sure he used the 3rd on Chris Simms and if you watched the draft, everyone said we got Simms at a low cost. Then 5th Rd Jermaine Phillips was selected, who Kiffin must like because it was him who gave the green light for Phillips to replace Lynch. I heard the Kiffin Radio show where he said it was Phillips time to play and LEARN. Then in the 6rd CB Torrie Cox was drafted. You say they both suck. Remember Ronde Barber sucked very bad his first few years as did Brian Kelly. It takes time to learn this D. I remember I hated Ronde at first he blew so many coverages and allowed so many points. But now look we love him and he is by far one of the best if not the best corner back in the league.

2003 we drafted WR - Michael Clayton with the 1st rd no brainer there. Besides like gax said we needed help on the offense side of the ball. But look at the next picks no number 2 still paying for Gruden, but 3rd LB - Marquis Cooper still a Buc and S - Will Allen at 4th rd. Again Allen is young and we hate him now, but lets face it Kiffin knows what type of players he wants it just takes them a few years to get with the program. You watch a few more years, Will Allen, and Jermaine Phillips will be household names like Barber and Kelly are now.

2005 yep we went offense with the 1st rd and drafted Cadillac nobody is crying there, right move. We needed a running back and boy did we get one. Not since James Wilder and Erric Rhett have we had a great one. Yes, Cadillac will be great. I am talking RB too I know Alstott is great but he still is a FB. Then with the 2nd round we went Barrett Ruud LB. Who is going to be great. So to say we are not taking care of the D is wrong. It has been the Offense that has needed help and that is where Gruden's problem has been with this team. I think things have been pretty fair at the draft. It is only the in the last two drafts where Gruden and Kiffin really started rebuilding anyway. Before that we were paying for OUR COACH. Even Gruden says we paid to much and he would have never given up that many draft picks for a Coach. You must also remember that we have been paying for Keyshawn too with hefty draft picks. Plus our Salary Cap was messed up because of Rich Mckay. Just ask the players and they will tell you that Mckay gave hefty contracts over 5 years that were backload and all hit at the same time.

Ski said...

I agree with you cutthroat, there are good reasons why the Bucs have not drafted a good defensive player in the last couple of years.

my point is that I think the recent three game performance is more indicative of how good this defense is than any statistical ratings. This is a defense that has given up game ending drives to Joey Harrington and the 49ers waterboy. this is a defense that has given up 34, 35 and 27 points in their last three games.

you have an aging defense built on speed, which is never a good combination.

my question would be, what position would you like to see Gruden spend a draft pick on, i.e. what do you see as the biggest weakness in the defense? corner, linebacker or defensive line?

Cutthroat Pirates said...

See I still can't say because there is replacements out there. I guess I would say the defensive line, because it has already been reported on the Bucs Radio Network that Rice or Brooks or even Barber are gone after next year. I would say that this is Rices last year as a Buc. I think they Keep Brooks (at least I hope but at 9 million who knows) At least McFarland reworked his contract to help sign Rattay. So if I had to pick I'd say we need new D line for the future. However, I just remembered that they did draft Anthony Bryant who is huge almost reminds me of old Gilbert Brown from Green Bay. Now are old players are LB with Brooks and Shelton, but we have Nece, Ruud and Cooper for the future and corners we have Allen, and Phillips, who I think will be pretty good when it is all said in done. So I would work on the D Line first.

Ski said...

I would say the exact opposite, that the Bucs should draft a corner on the first day.

Barber is 30 and Kelly is 29, Much like the runningback position, corners tend to loose a step when they hit 30. And if you're a corner speed is what you rely on the most.

And on a completely random note, any one else notice how Atlanta's center moves his shoulders right before he snaps the ball? In the first quarter he forced at least three offsides on the Detroit defensive line, just by moving his shoulders.