Anytime the New Orleans Saints are next up, a little extra attention immediately focuses on the Tampa Bay secondary.
Despite stumbling out to a similar 1-3 record through four weeks, quarterback Drew Brees and Co. own the league’s third-ranked passing attack and present the same daunting aerial challenges as in years past. Brees’ 71.4-percent completion percentage trails only St. Louis quarterback Austin Davis and his compliment of targets is as dangerous as ever. Tight end Jimmy Graham may be the best at his position, receiver Marques Colston remains a big-play threat and new addition Brandin Cooks leads all rookies with 23 grabs.
On paper, that doesn’t bode well for this current Buccaneers secondary.
Tampa Bay is currently tied for 28th in passing yards surrendered (272.5) and has allowed opposing quarterbacks to enjoy a league-high average passer rating of 118.4. Equally unimpressive are the Bucs’ seven total passes defensed this season, which ties them with St. Louis for the league-low. San Francisco’s Perrish Cox has broken up eight passes by himself this year and three other players have matched Tampa Bay’s team total.
Now enter an eight-time Pro Bowl quarterback who’s torched Buccaneers defensive backs for an average of 338 yards over the past six head-to-head matchups. Speaking to the media Wednesday, Tampa Bay head coach Lovie Smith took a moment to address the challenge of facing an offense engineered by Brees and designed by coach Sean Payton.
“As far as [Brees and Payton], they’ve been together for a long time and won,” Smith said. “I think it’s always good when you can be in a system your entire time [in the league]. Every year I’ve been in the league, defensively, we’ve run the same system. In my latter years at my previous job, we had guys who had been in that system forever and they just knew everything about it. That’s of course what Drew Brees has being in Sean Payton’s system all that time. There’s not a whole lot they haven’t seen. And for us, we’ve played [the Saints’] system quite a few times, too. We have a pretty good idea on how they’re going to attack us. That’s why we’re staying up late.”
While Brees and New Orleans have pulled out five straight victories over Tampa Bay, winning by an average of 17.2 points, this will be the first time facing a Smith-led Bucs defense. Brees faced the Bears four times while Smith was running the Tampa 2 in Chicago and lost three, including the 2006 NFC Championship game that sent Smith to the Super Bowl for the first time as a head coach.
“I have a lot of respect for Lovie Smith,” Brees said during a Wednesday conference call. “I think he’s a terrific football coach and I think that he goes out and finds the right type of people. I respect his teams and we played against them a bunch when he was with the Bears and they kind of gave us fits.
“We know the type of team they can be and obviously they’ve had a tough run just like we have this first part of the season, but they’re looking to turn it around just like we are. So we expect their best game.”
Considering how the pass defense has performed up to this point, The Bucs are going to need to be at their best to keep the Saints from marching up and down the Superdome turf. A good start toward making that a reality Sunday in New Orleans would an increased comfort level and confidence in this Tampa 2 coverage scheme, players said from the locker room Wednesday.
Safety Major Wright, who spent the first three of his five NFL seasons with Smith in Chicago, said learning the defense can take a little time getting used to.
“It’s detailed,” Wright said. “If one guy isn’t in his gap, or one guy’s not here, it can create a big crease in this defense. You have to be detailed in this defense. If you’re not [at your marks], you need to be there. If you’re not [at your mark], it can hurt you.”
“To be honest, I didn’t start playing really well until my second year [in Chicago]. It took that long,” Wright said. “So me coming from college, it slowed me down a bit, but a lot of these guys are picking it up quick. [Linebacker] Lavonte [David] and the other guys, they’re picking it up fast – a lot faster than I was. It’s like, wow, these guys are really getting after it.”
Cornerback Alterraun Verner echoed much of what Wright had to say, emphasizing the importance of players executing their assignments while also trusting that the guys around them will be where they need to be.
“It’s very dependent upon everybody knowing their job and where they’ve got to go,” Verner said. “Just the small things in this defense create a lot of ripple effects, so you’ve got to be really on point with what you’re doing or it’s going to cause other people to stumble.”
Verner said he played a variation of the Tampa 2 during his first four years with Tennessee, but not quite like this.
“It’s still an adjustment for me,” the fifth-year corner said. “It’s different. Even though it’s Cover 2 it’s definitely a different type of Cover 2. There are things they ask me to do I haven’t done in my whole career as a football player … just being a little bit more physical on the outside and really paying attention to detail on our depth and where our landmarks are and where we’re supposed to be. Usually it would be you’re in Cover 2, so you’re in the flat. You’ve just got this area and do whatever you want. But here there are more set parameters on where we’re supposed to be, how we’re supposed to be and how are we supposed to react to different routes. So I’m still learning and it’s definitely coming along.”
Going back to the Bucs’ inability to disrupt pass attempts downfield this season – only three of the seven breakups are attributed to DBs – Verner said that stat’s telling of the unit’s struggles through the first four games.
“I wouldn’t say that we haven’t really had opportunities,” he said. “I think we’ve had opportunities but we haven’t been seizing them. And that’s why we’re 1-3, I think, to be pretty honest. That’s something that we do pride ourselves on and that’s something that we’re not happy with. We’re not happy that we haven’t made enough plays on the ball. We’ve only got one interception and that was in the linebacker group. I don’t think anybody in the secondary’s got an interception yet and we’ve got to pick that up. Once we start doing that then things will probably be a lot easier for the offense and things like that. So I would say that’s mostly on us. It’s something that we have to do better at.”
If the front four put pressure on Brees, LB’s stay close to the TE and RB out in the flats. and Safties/Nickel play any Receiver tight in their area, and the CB’s do the same, then Brees will only get about 20-24 point. If our offense can use the clock to our advantageand Glennon strikes when he can, then we can get 20-24 points. It just might come down to Special Teams in this game. Go Bucs!
Bucs can win if they don’t make mistakes and turn ball over. Need to run and keep breeze on sidelines. Saints looked flat in Dallas. Their defense stinks. Still if breeze gets going. I’m concerned about graham over middle and bucs inability to get off field on third down so often.
Lovie admitted that they are “staying up late at night” trying to figure out how the defense can stop Drew Brees. Think Rob Ryan is taking No Doze worrying about Mike Glennon……..or just watching game tapes of our offense the first three games to keep from nodding off? ZZZZZZZZZZ
This article says it all with regards to our biggest concern…DEFENSE! Our defense is a bottom dweller in the NFL right now. We all know what it will take on defense to have a chance and thus far this year it hasn’t happened. I just hope we can make it competitive. That would mean a better defense overall up to this point in the year, if not what happened in Atlanta may very well happen again.
Drew Brees is gonna pick us apart. our secondary sucks and our pass rush has been very inconsistent. Can we even stop the run? i dont think so. New Orleans will run away with this.
Pass rush, then stop Jimmy Graham and the down the middle passing lanes need MLB to drop into coverage, and safeties closing in. Will need ground game to slow the game and keep saints off the field. And oh yeah – we need to score.
The only numbers you need to know (and the only thing Mark Barron and Dane Fletcher need focus on): Game 1..Olsen = 83yds + 1 TD, Game 2…Cooks/Kendricks = 71 yds, Game 4 Miller = 85 yds + 1 TD, and last year against the ‘Aints Grahame in round 1 = 179 yds + 1 TD and in round 2 = 71 yds + 1 TD. STOP THE FREAKIN TEs PLEASE!!!!!
If the defensive secondary improves and they spy Graham at least part of the time, we have a shot, but this one looks like a bad match up for us.
I’m w/ Horse on not conceding hardly anything. Compete for balls, and if you get beat a couple of times, it’s better than Brees finishing 35-of-45, Saints dominating time of possession, and ultimately the Bucs Defense imploding due to frustration & exhaustion by midpoint of the 3rd Qtr. Based on this yr’s film, not playing soft in coverage should catch them off guard.
Bucs win. Wont be easy but I believe they can get it done. I love goldson but wright is a better in coverage. So I believe we will have a few int. Front 4 will have a few sacks also. Now on offense run ball keep our D off the field and no turnovers which I think shouldnt be hard to do. And Bucs will come out on top
This thread reminds of the old adage, “If ifs and buts were candy and nuts we’d all have a Merry Christmas” If our D-line … if our O-line … if we contain Brees … if we contain Graham … if we cover the flats … if we do this, that, and the other thing we might win … Whew, it’s going to be a tough game.
richbucsfan, you are right, that is what struck me, that all parts of the defense have to have an exceptional game to be able to stop Brees from putting up big numbers…and I don’t care how much some are enamored with Glennon, he is not a QB that can put up 35 points in a game, so the D better keep it in the low 20’s.
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