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Tampa Bay’s defense is off to a slow start after three games

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No one in the National Football League has given up more points in three games than the Tampa Bay Bucs.

And guess what? Here come the Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos.

The Bucs are the only team that has given up more than 100 points (101) through three games. The Bucs are giving up 370 yards a game, 19th in the league.

“I think we’re dead average, to be quite frank,” said defensive coordinator Mike Smith. “We’re not rushing the quarterback near at the level that we need to. It doesn’t matter who’s out there, it doesn’t matter how many guys are not there, we’ve got to go out and put pressure on the quarterback. And it’s not going to be just one guy, it’s going to be an effort by the entire line and it’s going to be what the secondary is doing as well. If we’re in phase and with them in the coverage, then we’re going to have an opportunity for the quarterback to hold the ball a little bit longer. Last week, with the way that they presented their formations, they had overhang tight ends, they were going to block, there was a lot of seven-man protections and when you’re rushing four and they’re protecting with seven, it’s going to be tough to get there because they’re going to be doubling three and one guy’s got a one-on-one.”

There had been some optimism early about the Bucs, who added a free agent and a draft pick to both the line and the secondary. But the Bucs are giving up too many big plays along the way.

“We’re making strides, but we’re making big time mistakes and that includes me. I’ve got to do a better job,” Smith said. “I would love to have a couple plays back through these first three games, I’d love to see some technique played differently, but that’s the process that we go through. And it is a process and ultimately, we’re going to be judged – in this league you get judged week-to-week, there’s no doubt about it. You’re up and down, week-to-week.”

So far, the Bucs gave up 40 to Arizona, which hasn’t beaten anyone else. They gave up 37 to the Rams, who scored only nine points in their first two games.

“I think we’re a lot closer than we are away from it, I can assure you that,” Smith said. “And really there’s one guy to me that’s got to do a better job and that’s Mike Smith. He’s the guy that’s got to make sure that these guys understand what we’re trying to get accomplished, what we’re trying to get done. It’s never as bad – one thing I’ve found in this league is when you have a loss, it’s never as bad and when you have a win, it’s never as good. When you shut somebody out, you think it’s great and then you watch the tape and you’re going, ‘Holy cow, we missed fit, four things, if they would’ve seen this.’ So it’s a group effort, everybody’s contributed to it. But I don’t want to start talking about where we’re having problems. We’re having problems with Coach Mike Smith and he’s the guy that’s responsible for it.”

Nose tackle Gerald McCoy said the slow start is understandable.

“Guys just really need to trust in each other,” McCoy said. “It’s a new defense, you’re trying to get it down yourself and you’re trying to learn the ins and outs of what you can and can’t do, what you can and can’t get away with. If you miss doing that, you’re putting your teammate at risk and you’re hurting yourself by doing that. I think guys just got antsy last week, trying to make a play instead of doing the things it takes to make a play, which is just do your job.”

So far, Denver is 3-0, but their offense is tied for 21st in the league.

Game time is 4:05 p.m. at Raymond James.

Gary Shelton is one of the most recognized and honored sportswriters in the history of the state. He has won the APSE's national columnist of the year twice and finished in the top 10 eight times. He was named the Florida Sportswriter of the Year six times. Gary joined SaintPetersBlog in the spring, helping to bring a sports presence to the website. Over his time in sports writing, Gary has covered 29 Super Bowls, 10 Olympics, Final Fours, Masters, Wimbledons and college national championships. He was there when the Bucs won a Super Bowl, when the Lightning won a Stanley Cup and when the Rays went to a World Series. He has seen Florida, FSU and Miami all win national championships, and he covered Bear Bryant, Bobby Bowden and Don Shula along the way. He and his wife Janet have four children: Eric, Kevin, K.C. and Tori. To contact, visit [email protected]

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