Defending the defensive backs
I guess I could have used Yazz as the final line of this week's column about the Buccaneer secondary as "the only way is up". Ranked 32nd in the NFL in pass defense, the butt of numerous message board postings and police files, just how do you go about saying anything positive?
By sharing around the blame to be honest. I did some research this week into the numerous big-plays given up by the secondary this season and comments posted on message boards on both sides of the Atlantic after they happened.
Last Sunday in Oakland, EJ Biggers was beaten for a touchdown in the fourth quarter so he therefore should have been cut. Earlier in the game, Leonard Johnson gave up a couple of big plays so therefore he is not good enough.
Eric Wright got lit up by the Saints in the Throwback game and went arse over tit in the process so that free agency signing was a waste of money and he therefore needs to be released pronto. Myron Lewis has to be named in every thread about bad defensive back play under new internet guidelines and Aqib Talib was just too good a target to miss despite actually being the best man coverage player on the roster.
And then over in Tampa you had people questioning whether Mark Barron was a good enough safety to play in the NFL. In the very same week as one football sports publication named him to their mid-season All-Pro team.
All of which leaves the Buccaneers with Ronde Barber playing alone in the secondary if everyone had their way. Donnie Abraham only celebrated his 39th birthday last month and I talk with the likes of Mike Washington and Ricky Reynolds if we want to go down that path.
The problem with the 32nd ranked pass defense is all over the unit. Since Adrian Clayborn went out injured, offensive lines have changed their priorities as most tackles can handle Daniel Te'o-Nesheim alone enabling them to double Gerald McCoy all the time. Michael Bennett got a sack in Oakland when the right tackle decided to try and qualify for the World League, but from then on he was handled by chip blocks by the tight end and backs.
So with limited pass rush, the linebacking trio do not make the kind of drops as the original Cover-2 defense would have done as they are being emphasised to stop the run and the No.1 ranking there shows that side of things is being done better than anyone.
Which means when it came to choosing your poison, the coaching staff drank from the huge passing yardage number bottle. Not ideal and yes work needs to be done but you cannot just cut every corner just because he gives up a touchdown More times than not, the guy chasing the receiver into the endzone is not the person responsible.
Case in point was a touchdown from the Giants' game. Eli Manning threw a touchdown to Hakeem Nicks where it looks like Talib is just flat out beaten on the play. But I have checked with the coaching staff on this one and he was expecting help inside from Mark Barron thereby allowing the receiver to get inside on him. And yet on boards in the minutes after the play, Talib should have been run out of town on the spot for being the one in the vicinity of the touchdown.
Another touchdown later in the game had Victor Cruz being beaten by Ronde Barber on a double move with no additional safety help. For a free safety as Ronde now is, to be alone one-on-one with the opposing No.1 receiver has to be a scheme breakdown. But Ronde has the veteran exception from any criticism on any board anywhere in the world.
With the likes of Drew Brees, Horse Face Manning and Matt Bad Nickname Ryan on the horizon in the next few weeks, perhaps we should be grateful that the Bucs' pass coverage cannot fall any longer in the standings. But they have pulled off a bunch of turnovers and to simply blame the corners is both naive and unnecessary.
You've been great, enjoy Men without Hats.