Bucs head coach Todd Bowles has a easy precept that he bases his protection on. This precept could be summed up in three phrases: “Cease the run.”
You see it in the best way the group makes personnel selections. Think about Vita Vea, Keanu Neal, Lavonte David, Devin White, Shaq Barrett and Rakeem Nunez-Roches. All of those gamers are recognized for his or her talents to assist shut down opposing offenses within the run recreation.
And whereas the group’s run protection has historically been elite in Bowles’ tenure, it definitely took a step again in 2021. The group’s general dashing yards towards rating was a nonetheless a really spectacular No. 3. Nevertheless, that was extra a mirrored image of opponents selecting to not run the ball towards Tampa Bay, reasonably than a relative lack of success when truly working.
Of the ten greatest groups towards the run in 2021 when it comes to yards allowed, the Bucs ranked lifeless final in yards per carry allowed at 4.29. That’s backed up by Tampa Bay’s No. 11 rating in PFF’s run-defense rankings from final yr.
Trying over the Bucs’ 2022 schedule, the run protection is about to be examined greater than ever. Between Baltimore, New Orleans, San Francisco, Arizona and Cleveland, Tampa Bay is about to face groups that completed within the Prime 10 in dashing final yr in additional than one-third of their video games. For those who add in Pittsburgh and Atlanta, who’ve moved on from future Corridor of Fame quarterbacks and look poised to emphasise the run recreation extra, it’s attainable Tampa Bay may play as much as 9 of its video games towards run-first groups.
Final 12 months
Final yr was an analogous story, with the Bucs matching up towards Prime 10 dashing items six occasions. How did the group fare in these matchups?
Week 1 noticed the Bucs face off towards the Cowboys. Dallas, as many groups did in 2020, determined to not check the Bucs’ run protection all that a lot. They managed to run the ball simply 14 occasions for a mere 52 yards. Dak Prescott dropped again to cross 63 occasions within the season opener. The three.7 yards per carry common was missing, and Tampa Bay’s 69.6 PFF grade was a solid-if-unspectacular mark. The Bucs ultimately received the sport 31-29 in a passing shootout.
@ New England
In Week 4 towards New England, the Bucs have been in a position to get the Patriots to desert the run utterly. The Patriots solely rushed the ball EIGHT occasions all recreation. These runs netted them NEGATIVE one yard. That earned the Bucs a season-high 87.3 run protection grade from Professional Soccer Focus. This helped Tampa Bay win 19-17.
The checks continued two weeks later towards the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 6. Over the course of that recreation, the Bucs restricted the Eagles to solely 19 dashing makes an attempt. This represented a 41% discount from Philadelphia’s season common of 32.35. Now, the Eagles have been in a position to generate some success on these carries, as they created 100 yards of offense and a wholesome 5.3 yards per carry. Tampa Bay’s PFF grade in run protection additionally mirrored this, standing at simply 54.2. Regardless of the struggles defending the run, the Bucs nonetheless received 28-22.
In Week 12, the Bucs traveled to Indianapolis to face Jonathan Taylor and the Colts. Taylor was simply beginning to enter the MVP dialogue and represented essentially the most gifted working again Tampa Bay would face all season. The Colts’ remaining dashing marks belie the true story, as Colts head coach Frank Reich would later talk about following the sport. Formally, Indianapolis had 20 carries for a really environment friendly 107 yards. Nevertheless, as Reich would clarify, the group referred to as many extra run performs by way of RPOs and quarterback Carson Wentz ended up passing in lots of these conditions. The Bucs had hassle dealing with Taylor within the second half when he did get the ball in his fingers, and their PFF grade confirmed that with a dismal 51.8 rating. Tampa Bay did get the victory, successful 38-31.
This recreation will principally be remembered for the Breshad Perriman time beyond regulation catch and run for the win. However wanting past that thrilling play, we see the Bucs had some actual points with the Payments’ working assault. Buffalo was in a position to rip off 173 yards on simply 19 carries. Whether or not you have a look at the 9.1 yards per carry common or the equally abysmal 46.2 run-defense PFF grade, it was unhealthy. Josh Allen led the best way with 12 carries for 109 yards in a quarterback possibility masterclass, whereas Devin Singletary contributed 52 yards on simply 4 carries. Regardless of these struggles, the Bucs have been in a position to maintain on for the aforementioned time beyond regulation win, 33-27.
As soon as the common season concluded, Tampa Bay’s run protection was put to the check as soon as extra in a rematch towards the Eagles. Within the authentic matchup, Philadelphia was restricted in alternatives however exploited Tampa Bay in effectivity. This time, the Eagles determined to decide to working the ball to the tune of 31 carries. These carries created simply 106 yards of offense. The general 3.4 yards per carry was disappointing for the guests. Now, it is a recreation the place the PFF grade and the standard stats diverge. Tampa Bay’s grade was certainly one of its worst of the season (36.7) regardless of limiting the Eagles to minimal yardage.
This yr, the schedule favors the Bucs to a sure diploma defensively, at the least when taking a look at philosophy. The protection feels it’s at its greatest when it’s successfully shutting down a group that’s dedicated to the run. In apply, that has been a combined bag. With a number of run-first groups looming in 2022, Bowles and his protection have a possibility to re-establish that “cease the run” mentality.