The Buccaneers secondary is a weakness
By: Adam Hulse (@AdamHulseSports)
The defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Bucs have one of the better defenses in the entire NFL. They ranked 6th last season with 327.1 yards allowed per game and 8th in scoring with 22.2 points allowed per game. Much of this can be credited to their stout run defense, which was the best in the league by allowing just 80.6 rushing yards per game. Their front seven is extremely strong and talented, also contributing the 5th most sacks with 48 total last season.
On the other hand, their pass defense was not nearly as impressive. They ranked a disappointing 21st with 246.6 passing yards allowed per game and were middle of the road at 18th with a 94.3 passer rating against. They did rank 10th in interceptions forced with 15 total last year, but that may be more because of their solid pass rush as opposed to tight coverage. In fact, they were terrible in opponent completion percentage, ranking 29th in the NFL by allowing 69 percent of pass attempts to be completed against them in the 2020 season.
New Year, Same Results
In week one of this year, the Bucs hosted the Dallas Cowboys on Thursday Night Football to kick off the 2021 NFL season. The Bucs secondary picked up right where they left off last season, getting torched by Dak Prescott and the Cowboys passing attack. They allowed the Cowboys offense to march up and down the field through the air, with Prescott completing 72.4 percent of his passes for 391 yards and three touchdowns while posting an impressive 101.4 passer rating. In fact, if not for two missed field goals and a missed extra point by Cowboys kicker Greg Zuerlein, the Bucs may very well have lost this opening game of the season. Prescott put up a performance that would win most games but ultimately could not finish the job in this one.
Probably most concerning for the Bucs secondary is that the Cowboys found success through the air on every level. It was not just a matter of the Bucs having one weak spot but an inability to stop any aspect of the Cowboys passing game. Amari Cooper was unstoppable on the perimeter with 13 receptions for 139 yards and two touchdowns while CeeDee Lamb did all of his damage from the slot with seven receptions for 104 yards and a touchdown. The Dallas tight ends combined for 65 yards on 9 receptions and even the running backs contributed six receptions for 35 yards. Clearly, the Bucs pass coverage could not stop anything in the Cowboys passing scheme.
Making Matters Worse
Unfortunately, the Bucs lost Sean Murphy-Bunting due to an elbow injuring during the game with the Cowboys. His timetable for return is unclear at this point but he could be out anywhere from the minimum three weeks on IR to a full season. This is a big loss for the Bucs considering he is one of their very best in man coverage. He works on the outside of their base defense while sliding into the slot for nickel and dime coverage schemes. In his absence, Jamel Dean, among others, will have to step up and play a much larger role.