The Buccaneers' defense has started off the 2022 season slate firing on all cylinders. Under the tutelage of Head Coach Todd Bowles, the unit ranks in the top five in nearly every statistical category. Tampa Bay comes in on top in three categories: points allowed per game (6.5), sacks (10) and fewest opponent touchdowns (one). The Bucs rank fifth overall in total defense, with optimized growth in Bowles' 3-4 base, hybrid subpackage system.
Shaquil Barrett and Devin White have become catalysts, wreaking havoc on offensive game plans. However, much of the success can be attributed to the innovation of Todd Bowles, the defensive mastermind and play-caller. With a plethora of talented players on the depth chart including veterans and athletic newcomers, Bowles has the versatility and personnel to rotate through players, culminating in an array of pre-snap disguises and exotic blitz packages/stunts. The effectiveness of the defensive front in pressuring the opposing quarterback has allowed the secondary to feast off errant throws, and the line's ability to eat up blocks has resulted in the Bucs' linebackers being freed to roam sideline-to-sideline.
It is one thing to achieve success and quite another to attain it over the course of a 17-game season in the NFL. Despite the esteemed recognition through two games, cornerback Carlton Davis III stressed the unit's narrowed focus: consistency.
"I am not really looking into the numbers of it," Davis described. "It is early, It's week three. We have a long way to go before we start looking up at what we are doing. We have to be consistent at what we are doing to make it mean something."
On Sunday, the Buccaneers' defense will face a unique test with the Packers coming into town. Aaron Rodgers – a four-time league MVP and future Hall of Fame quarterback – possesses pinpoint precision and has a reputation for carving up defenses. Among the star-studded cast is the one-two punch of Aaron Jones and A.J. Dillon. Jones poses a threat with his elusiveness in space, vision, and upside as a pass-catcher/nuanced route-runner. Dillon is a power back, efficient in short-yardage and goal-line situations. The one-cut, downhill runner complements Jones' shifty running style.
The Bucs' defensive philosophy is simple: stop the run and force teams to become one dimensional. That will be the key for Tampa Bay against the Packers.
"Going up against the best, that is why you play in this league and why you prepare every day," Davis exclaimed. "How I look at it – every day is an opportunity for someone to make a name for themselves. You never know who it is going to be."
The NFC clash on Sunday provides a fresh slate for the Buccaneers. The accrued stats become irrelevant, and a new battle takes shape for the defense on the field every snap. If Tampa Bay continues the trend, the defense is on pace for a record-setting campaign on the gridiron; one to usurp the previous decade of production.