Each Thursday, the media gets a chance to talk to both the offensive and defensive coordinators. Ahead of the Bucs’ first home game since September 22, Defensive Coordinator Todd Bowles took to the podium to talk about rookie cornerback Jamel Dean’s performance, the reasons for a high blitz percentage against Seattle and the challenges Arizona’s offense presents. Here are some of the highlights:
1. Rookie Jamel Dean’s Baptism by Fire Against Seattle Should Help His Career Going Forward
By the time the Buccaneers got news that cornerback Carlton Davis suffered a hip injury in pregame warmups, the game had nearly begun. The game plan called for Davis to man the outside against two big and speedy receivers in Tyler Lockett and rookie D.K. Metcalf. With the injury though, it was time for Plan B.
Enter rookie Jamel Dean.
Dean had seen most of his work this season on special teams. He hadn’t taken more than two defensive snaps in a game all year. Sunday, he took 58 - or 77% of the overall defensive snap count. He had five solo tackles and broke up four passes. He also had some plays he probably winced at on tape. That’s to be expected as a rookie when you’re thrown into a game last minute and end up playing more than you’ve ever played as a professional – against one of the league’s best quarterbacks, at that. It was a quick welcome to the NFL, but sometimes that can end up being a good thing. Just ask Bowles.
“I think it will benefit him a lot mentally because when he [did] the right thing, he did it well,” he said of Dean’s increased work on Sunday. “As the game went on and they got faster in the fourth quarter, he had some things that he’d like to have back that he can learn from, from an experience standpoint, that we’ve been working with him [on]. I think that game will carry him the rest of his career and probably fuel his career.”
2. Bucs Blitzing Percentage Dictated by Multiple Factors
The Buccaneers blitzed quarterback Russell Wilson a lot last Sunday. There’s no denying that. But what maybe isn’t so evident is the reasoning for it. The reason isn’t just: ‘because, Todd Bowles,’ like my fantasy team name might suggest. While the Bucs are blitzing at the highest rate in the league this season (52.2% of the time), it’s really dictated by the particular opponent. It so happened that Seattle was about 20 points above normal, with Tampa Bay bringing extra men 76.1% of the time. So, what was the reasoning behind the inflated percentage we saw on Sunday?
“Part of it was game plan [and] part of it was adjusting to certain injuries with people going in and doing what they do best,” Bowles said. “Then part of it was because of things we’ve seen, so it’s all-inclusive. It’s never one or the other. We can go the opposite way just as much, this game just happened to be higher.”
Indeed, the Bucs have blitzed as little as 34.1% in a game, which came in Week Three against the New York Giants. But consider that the Seattle game saw the aforementioned injury to Davis happen late. With fellow rookie Sean Murphy-Bunting opposite Dean on the outside – you kind of have to take matters into your front seven’s hands and hope they get home. There’s no pressure on a young secondary if the ball doesn’t end up in the air, right?
What matters is the pressure it put on the quarterback. And while the Bucs had 10.0 pressures 'officially' in Seattle, that stat is pretty arbitrary – not to mention subjective. Things like giving the quarterback less time to throw (outside of hurries) or flushing him from the pocket are far less quantifiable. So, it isn’t as concrete as just sacks, hurries and knockdowns incurred by the quarterback.
“No, pressure is all cumulative,” Bowles said. “It’s about whether the ball gets out quick or whether something happens on the play. I would have to go over film to see that, but I did not bother. I know the pressures we had up were set – some he ran away from, some he got the ball out, some they blocked. It’s all cumulative.”
Moral of the story? There's more to pressuring a quarterback than a blitz - or blitz percentage, for that matter.
3. A Well-Balanced Offense and Speed Make Arizona QB Kyler Murray a ‘Tough Task’
There isn’t any more time to dwell on last week’s game, though. In fact, that’s probably been out of Bowles’ mind since Monday evening. He’s been preparing for the Bucs’ next opponent – which happens to be a familiar one in a lot of ways. Bowles was Arians’ defensive coordinator in Arizona from 2013-2014 before he departed to take the Jets’ head coaching job.
He may be familiar with the organization itself, but this is an entirely new offense under first-year head coach Kliff Kingsbury. They also have a new face under center in first-overall pick Kyler Murray. He’ll be the second ‘dual threat’ quarterback the Bucs will face in as many weeks. Except they trade Russell Wilson in for a faster version, according to multiple coaches, including Coach Arians.
“First, it’s tough because they have a good run game so it’s not just pass, pass, pass,” Bowles qualifies. “They offset. [Murray’s] speed can’t be matched, obviously. We’ve just got to continue to get after him. If we can get him to throw the ball then we’ve got to try to be in our pass-rush lanes, but at the same time not be tentative. We’ve got to make sure we take our shots and if one misses, the other has got to follow up. It’s got to be a group effort. [He is] a very talented guy, with his arm and with his legs. He matches their offense really well, so it will be a tough task.”
Murray is complemented by a run game that will include both David Johnson and Kenyan Drake on Sunday, presumably. Johnson has been a full participant this week in practice after being injured. If there’s such a thing as a dual-threat running back too, Bowles says both of these guys would be it.
“David can catch the ball like a receiver,” Bowles said. “He runs receiver routes, as well as Kenyan Drake does. In the run game they can play inside and outside as far as running the ball. Outside they can kill you like a wide receiver, so they create mismatch problems in that regard.”
View some of the top photos from Buccaneers Week 10 practice at the AdventHealth Training Center.