Tampa Bay Buccaneers fans, it’s time to relegate visions of Trent Richardson, Justin Blackmon or Matt Kalil to dreamland.
It’s time to face to reality. All six of the Bucs’ 2012 NFL Draft picks need to be defenders, if they hope to start turning things around.
If Morris Claiborne is there at number five, the Bucs must take him. If he’s gone, forget the draft value chart and take Luke Kuechly. If they can negotiate and get Claiborne and Kuechly, get both.
If Kuechly is gone, get the best available backer with second-round pick 36, preferably a “Mike” backer but an OLB will do. Grab the best available safety with pick 68 in the third.
With pick 140 in round five, the Bucs must start picking the best available defensive player, regardless of position. Same thing in rounds six and seven with picks number 174 and 212.
Why the defensive sellout? Sure, it’s a passing league today and the Bucs need “more weapons for Josh Freeman.”
However, the 2011 defense was in a word, AWFUL! Let’s look at the record.
Tampa’s pass defense allowed 238.4 yards per game to rank 21st in the league and gave up 30 TD passes, tying for third worst in the league. The secondary got beaten like a dirty rug and they were the “good ones.”
The Buccaneer defense allowed 494 points or 30.9 per game to rank 30th, about as useful as a screen door in a hurricane.
The rushing defense ranked dead last, allowing 2,497 yards averaging 156.1 yard per game and five yards per rush allowed. It also gave up a league worst 26 rushing TDs, seven TDs or 36 percent worse than the next worst. The front seven was a holographic image.
Compare those numbers to the 2002 Super Bowl Champion Buccaneers.
That defense ranked first allowing just 196 points or a miserly 12.2 per game. Theoretically, the Bucs could have gone undefeated scoring just 13 points per game, a touchdown, extra point and two field goals.
The 2002 Bucs ranked first in interceptions and passing TDs allowed with 31 and 10 respectively, 19 percent and 50 percent better than the next best clubs. They ranked first in pass defense allowing just 155.6 yards per game, 26.7 yards or 17 percent less than the second place pass defense.
As in 2011, the 2002 Bucs rushing defense was the worst of the bunch. It gave up 1,554 yards at a clip of 97.1 yards per game and 3.8 yards per carry, for just eight touchdowns. Not bad for the “defensive weak spot.”
Clearly, even with a total defensive “sellout” in the draft, the 2012 Bucs won’t equal the accomplishments of the 2002 defense.
Freeman and his “new weapons” may just have to revert to the Bucs’ Super Bowl Championship formula by “managing the game to not lose it” and wait patiently for their chance to win.