Monday, September 27, 2010

Bull Rush

Well, that sucked.

I have to admit that I am not as much surprised that we lost to the Steelers as surprised, and dismayed, at the manner in which the Bucs lost to the Steelers.  They gave them an old fashioned ass whupping right on their homefield with mostly black and gold in the stands cheering them on. I honestly thought the Buccaneers left these kinds of blowout losses behind them when this season started. Sure I thought they would lose some games but not by this kind of a margin.

I don't like making excuses but the truth is the defense missed Tanard Jackson out there and I don't think anybody could dispute that. Not only in pass coverage, but also in their run fits, the defense a needed a guy back there with experience who knew what he was doing against an offense as physical and as disciplined as the Steelers. I'm not throwing Cody Grimm under the bus, he played about as well as you could have hoped for him to. But he is no T Jax and that is just the truth.

On the other hand I don't believe the defensive gameplan helped all that much this week either. With a team that runs the ball as much as the Steelers do I would have expected Coach Morris to have more run blitzes dialed up. Instead they tended to stay in their base alignments on early downs with some line stunts sprinkled in here and there. Instead of imposing their will on first down to try to force the Steelers into 3rd and long situations the Bucs seemed to be allowing them to dictate the flow of the game.

The blitzes Coach Morris did call also left a lot to be desired. Since Morris took over the defense last year he has called a certain blitz where Ronde comes from the strong side, the end to that side drops and Geno blitzes the weakside B gap. I have never liked this blitz and I said so last year. As far as I can tell it has only worked once, but it still keeps getting called. Yesterday that's what was called when Charlie Batch, CHARLIE FRIGGIN BATCH, scrambled and ran for the most yards in his long long LONG career.  It might just be time to throw that play out of the playbook.

I can't understand why, when they do blitz. they don't overload one side and bring one more than the opposition can block. Failing that bring four off one side for their four blockers and give somebody a chance to win a one on one. This may be Tampa 2.5 but I know in the beta version of Tampa 2 we ran a lot of Bark and Frisco for years with success back in the day and I still see teams running some variation of them. Sometimes the upgrade should bring along the parts of the original that actually worked.

To me what this game boiled down to on defense when it was all said and done was guys being not being gap sound and or not making the play when it was their turn to make it. Unfortunately after some initial success against the run we started getting undisciplined and all it took at times was one guy to be out of their gap or one guy to let the ball break containment or one guy to miss a tackle and we were in trouble against the run. Again they could have helped themselves with some run blitzes but even without them the defense could have cut down on the breakout runs had everyone been on the same page.

Lastly, I still believe in Coach Morris as a defensive coordinator, one bad game doesn't change that. But I think at some point he should ask himself if he should use all the different schemes at his disposal just because he can. Is the defense better off by doing more or doing less? In my opinion in a lot of ways the Bucs could be doing more with less and just letting guys play, especially on third down.

And while I've been quiet about it until now I think I have to say at this point that using Gerald McCoy at end when we have a four man line does not help in any tangible way. There is nothing he is doing at defensive end that Tim Crowder couldn't do against running formations. Also, at least so far, instead of bringing in Price to replace him at under tackle they have been bringing in Ryan Sims. I actually like Sims more than a lot of people and felt he had earned a spot on this team, but you can't tell me that he is a better option than Gerald McCoy or Brian Price in there. So even if I could sign off on McCoy being at end, which I can't, I still wouldn't be able to sign off on the whole deal because we aren't better in any quantifiable way with that lineup in the game. Period.

Now on to the individual critiques:

Kyle Moore: I didn't think Moore played poorly but at the same time I didn't think he was all that productive. He gave up containment on a play when the offensive tackle reached him, he did not get much penetration against the run, he kept getting washed inside when the Steelers ran their trap plays and he didn't do much on pass rush. He also came inside and gave up contain on the opposite side from a line stunt. We were told in the preseason that when Michael Bennett did the same thing and got a sack that he had committed a cardinal sin. I await the similar outrage from the coaches toward Moore.

I'm still waiting on some enterprising member of the media to ask why Moore is in the game on third and long to rush the passer inside when we use a four man line rather than Brian Price who is without a doubt a better option for that role. I had him down with an assist for the game as far as the stat sheet goes.

Gerald McCoy: I had McCoy down for a pressure, that's all, and I was probably being generous. He didn't necessarily have a bad game because aside from one play when he got caught with an influence trap he was in his gap most of the day. He also had a pretty good rush with an arm over on that first touchdown pass Charlie Batch threw. He beat the guy off the line of scrimmage but he wasn't precise with his move and he didn't dip low enough to be able to turn a tight enough corner with the guard still riding his back to be able to get a hit on Batch. Instead he just made him move a little bit to his left and then he set up again and chunked it down right over Grimm's head.

McCoy's pass rush on the whole regressed though in my opinion. He is now getting stuck right down the middle of guards instead of getting on an edge and rushing the guy. It goes back to why I am not a fan of moving him around to end. Hell let the kid learn how to be a dominant undertackle first. Let him learn to set up moves and counter moves from a 3 technique with game reps. Every rep he takes at end is potentially a rep he is losing at undertackle. A rep that could make him better. A rep that could teach him something. In the end we may see another one of those jack of all trades, but master of none if they don't let him develop at the position they drafted him to play in the first place.

Just my opinion.

Roy Miller: I have Roy with two assisted tackles. He also got reached by the center twice and he was on the ground two other times. I thought at times he played a little too soft both against the double team and the zone play. I would like to see him play on the other side of the line of scrimmage a little bit more and also I'm going to need him to quit allowing the guards to pull him down to the ground because he is off balance. There is no reason for him to be on the ground as much as he is and when he is on the ground that means he's not making plays.

Stylez White: I thought Stylez started the game off pretty strong but then kind of dissappeared. I had him with two tackles including a tackle for loss and that's it. No assists, no pressures and definitely no sacks. Mind you he had several opportunities. The Steelers went max protection quite a bit leaving a tight end and back in to block on passes but most of the time they let Stylez go one on one with the left tackle Max Starks. And while Starks consistently set for White's outside move, here was another game when he never or rarely tried to come inside unless it was a counter move late. I don't know what its going to take to get him to at least try to threaten the B gap when its wide ass open for him but I do know as a potential free agent he is practically giving away money every time he doesn't. I know that he likes his hump move and he even had a good one during the game but that hump move is not going to get the kind of immediate pressure that the Bucs need most of the time.

For a guy who is as good a pass rusher as Stylez is he is not going to get the kinds of sacks he should unless and until he makes offensive tackles respect both his outside AND inside moves. Until that day he will keep trying to turn the corner and you will keep seeing the offensive tackles ride him by the quarterback most of the time.

The other problem with taking the corner route to the quarterback all the time is that Stylez slips about two or three times a game doing it. Those are two or three reps when he has absolutely no chance of getting to the quarterback even if he holds the ball for a long time. And honestly I don't so much care about the sacks as I care about getting consistent pressure and hits on the quarterback. Had we touched up Batch yesterday, I doubt he would have had the same kind of game that he ended up having. But because he was upright for most of the day then he could feel comfortable standing in there and serving up deep balls. And Stylez is supposed to be the lead dog on this team when it comes to pass rush so a lot of the blame has to be lumped on him.

Fair or not that's just the way it goes.

Tim Crowder: I didn't think Crowder played particularly well either. He had a tackle but that was about it. No pressure on pass rush and on one play when we were in under he totally gave up containment from the left end position and inexplicably went inside. Its a shame too because Brian Price had a pretty decent rush going inside of him and instead of Batch getting hit because he was flushed, he simply rolled out to where Crowder should have been and threw the ball. Its too hard to get sacks and hits on the quarterback to be giving away an opportunity like that.

Ryan Sims: Sims played ok in limited duty. He had a tackle by my count and he did a good job with staying in his gap.

Brian Price: I'm not sure whether or not Price is in the doghouse or not but there is really no excuse if he isn't in the doghouse for him not getting more playing time. I'm a fan of Roy Miller's but this kid Price can play. He gets off the ball better than any defensive lineman we have active on Sundays and he has the ability to make positive things happen. He had a couple of really good pass rushes including one from the nose tackle when we only rushed three people. He still needs to work on staying on his feet more which will come with more experience. There is no doubt in my mind that Price should be with the first nickle group. I don't care if that means Kyle Moore has to sit the bench on third downs. With he and McCoy inside the Bucs could be giving offensive guards and centers nightmares. I don't know what is going on with that situation but again it would be nice if somebody who has access would at least inquire about it.

That's all I have for today. Not a whole lot to say when we get our asses handed to us like that. I will say that a lot of the breakout runs weren't the defensive line's fault, but you have to wait for my The Good, The Bad and The Ugly column later today to find out who was screwing up. One thing is for certain though, EVERYONE on defense needs to get better over the next two weeks if we expect to go to Cincinatti and beat the Bengals. If not it could be another long day...


  1. It was an ugly sight from second quarter onwards Steve. I thought you would be a bit more mad about our defense, what the hell is up with our guys letting Rashard "scrub" Mendenhall run at his will in 4th quarter? Was it the D-linemen not sticking to their assignments or was it our LBs or was it our whole defense packing up before the game ended?

    Also, how do you think Ruud played? I know you always say Ruud is adequate for our defensive scheme, but should not a MLB have a stronger presence against the run game?

  2. Always appreciate your insight and info. The game got out of hand quickly on some obvious bad bounces. If we had played to our strengths (no huddle to start the game, pound the rock, and spread the wide receivers) we might have had a different score at half. But what was terribly demoralizing was the way the Steelers ran at will on the right side all second half for 6-34 yards at a clip. I didn't see any adjustments made by Raheem to counter that. What are your thoughts?

  3. It seemed to me that there were too many big holes for people to run through. Also, I was disappointed that there didn't seem to be as many guys swarming to the ball as usual. I surely wish we had an experienced Offensive lineman to critique the O line you do the defense, Steve. Any old buddies out there to add their two cents? I've learned a lot from you which helps when watching a game.

  4. @Jonny

    I don't really know what else I can say to convey my anger above and beyond what I said. The problem wasn't that we were over matched. The problem is that we were out schemed. It is what it is.

    Ruud had 3 solo and 6 assisted tackles by my count and played well aside from a a missed tackle and another play when he got pushed down. The problem wasn't any one guy. It was different guys at different times either not filling the right gap or not making the tackle when they got there. Simple as that.

  5. @Jeffery

    Coach Morris did make an adjustment. Before the half we played under defense with our Sam linebacker off the line whenever the Steelers put two tight ends on one side. I'm not sure why they did that but it certainly made it harder to defend the run. In the second half Quincy Black was up on the line against that set and it helped a little.

  6. The lack of swarm was mostly due to the running scheme the Steelers employed. Basically they would block everyone up and then leave one guy free who had to make the play and often times didn't. That doesn't allow for a lot of swarming of the ball because everyone had to be conscious of their own gap. I will say though that the guys gave a great effort. It was more about being off on details than anything else when it came to the running game.

  7. I'm not terribly worried about the run stopping. Only once did I see both DTs get blown out on a run play. The rest was either pretty good blocking by the Steelers or missed tackles by the second level. I know Geno missed at least one (which is unusual, he has done pretty well wrapping up). I think it was Sean Jones that whiffed on the play Barber had to take Mendenhall down by his jersey. Cody Grimm played pretty well overall, but did look a bit lost at times which couldn't help filling gaps and making tackles. I think I saw him whiff once, but slowed the guy down enough for Stylez to get there.

    It looked to me like they were really attacking our DE's and OLB's with the run game. At least until late in the game. A lot of off-tackle stuff. And our DE's were getting pushed around a lot in my opinion. Don't know if you'd agree on that, Steve.

  8. It was an old fashioned ass whupping, made even worse by all the Steeler fans in Tampa. I swear I almost saw a big fight about to go down as they danced and paraded in our "House". I am glad it didn't, cause there was way more of them then us Tampa fans. Harrison of the Steelers actually raised his arms for Fan Support in our stadium, and the roar was deafening. Then, we let a 35 year old man run and pass all over us. He had all day back there to pass. IMHO, the only bright spot was discovering Blount.

  9. Steve, how could Kyle Moore not have had a poor game? You said:

    "He gave up containment on a play when the offensive tackle reached him, he did not get much penetration against the run, he kept getting washed inside when the Steelers ran their trap plays and he didn't do much on pass rush. He also came inside and gave up contain on the opposite side from a line stunt."

    Morris is really losing credibility with fans for the competition that he didn't create at LDE.