By Tom Krasniqi
Even though the Bucs are 0-2, their defense has improved leaps and bounds from where they were a year ago. Last season, the Bucs finished dead last in the NFL in pass defense. So far through two games, the Bucs are 18th in passing yards allowed per game at 255.
The pass rush has certainly improved with the team being more aggressive and successful in blitzing. The Bucs are tied for the NFL lead with 9 sacks so far. Tampa Bay had just 27 sacks all of last season. Last week, they sacked Saints quarterback Drew Brees four times and pressured him repeatedly.
You can point to several reasons as to why the defense is playing so well. The additions in the secondary—notably Darrelle Revis and Dashon Goldson—have made a big impact. The defensive line is active and because of it, the linebackers are making plays. The starting linebackers—Dekoda Watson, Mason Foster and LaVonte David—each have recorded at least one sack and one interception.
“They’ve had two good games. As I always say to them, it’s about consistency,” head coach Greg Schiano said of the linebackers after Thursday’s practice. “That’s what we need to do. We need to perform week-in and week-out. They’re talented guys that have the ability to do things. They can all run, they can all hit, they can all, athletically, do some things in coverage. But you’re only as good as your last play, so it’s all about New England now—will they do it against them? That’s my challenge and I know it’s their challenge.”
And what a challenge that will be Sunday in Foxboro against the 2-0 Patriots. New England is struggling on offense with some key injuries but they still have Tom Brady at quarterback.
That means the Bucs have to apply more heat this week. DE Adrian Clayborn hasn’t skipped a beat in making a triumphant return from a torn ACL. Clayborn has registered 8 tackles, one sack, one pass break-up and one forced fumble so far through two games.
“I feel good,” Clayborn told me on Thursday. “I’m feeling like I’m almost back to where I should be.”
That’s a great sign for the Bucs. Clayborn had a terrific rookie season where he racked up 7.5 sacks back in 2011. With Gerald McCoy making explosive plays inside, Clayborn has been coming off the edge and making a big impact.
As for the Thursday injury report, Bucs LG Carl Nicks (foot) practiced again with the first team. He was listed as a limited participant. CB Michael Adams (knee) and OL Gabe Carimi (illness) did not practice. DE Adrian Clayborn (hip) and LB Mason Foster (toe) practiced fully today after both were limited on Wednesday. TE Tom Crabtree (ankle), CB Rashaan Melvin (hamstring) and TE Luke Stocker (hip) were limited on Thursday.
On the Patriots injury report, WR Danny Amendola (groin) and TE Rob Gronkowski (back/forearm) were limited on Thursday. Their status for Sunday remains up in the air. Other notables: TE Zach Sudfeld (hamstring) practiced in full. RB Leon Washington (thigh), G Dan Connolly (finger), and RB Brandon Bolden (knee) were limited.
News & Notes:
- Safety Ahmad Black confirmed on Thursday that he was fined $21,000 by the NFL for his late hit on Saints TE Jimmy Graham. Black was flagged for a personal foul on the play.
- Black had a silly quote today on defending the tight end last week: “We did a good job on Jimmy Graham. He caught that one pass.” Really? And 9 others for a total of 179 yards and a score.
- I asked Schiano if he was preparing as if Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski will play on Sunday: “We need to make sure we’re ready for that. You can’t control that, but you can be prepared for it.”
- Bucs LB Dekoda Watson on the first thing that comes to mind when Patriots QB Tom Brady is mentioned: “Super quarterback.”
- Defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan on why CB Darrelle Revis wasn’t covering Saints WR Marques Colston on that last drive: “No, we definitely thought about it afterwards for sure.”
- More clarity on the status of speedy RB Jeff Demps. The Bucs have until 4pm on Monday to activate him from the exempt list. The feeling is that the team will do so.
- The Bucs travel to New England on Sunday to take on the Patriots. You can catch the game on 620 WDAE and 95.3FM with our coverage beginning at 9am with the Floor & Décor Countdown To Kickoff show.
- For the latest Bucs news, keep it locked all day long on 620 WDAE and 95.3FM, your home of the Bucs and the best Bucs coverage. Don’t forget to check out the Bucs blog at 620wdae.com for the latest news and audio clips.