Young Bucs Defense Gives Hope for Present, Future
As the Tampa Bay Buccaneers struggles throughout the first half of the 2019 season, much of their failure could be traced back to a defense loaded with youth and inexperience.
Sure, there were veterans like Lavonte David and Ndamukong Suh, but the defense would be relying on youth at every level. In particular, the secondary was stuffed full of rookies and second-year players.
It showed throughout the early going, as the young defenders experienced growing pains in defensive coordinator Todd Bowles' aggressive scheme. Though the Bucs boasted the league's best run defense for much of the year, their pass defense was in the NFL basement.
But as the second half of the season began, the young talent started to show flashes of their lofty potential. Those slivers of hope have grown larger over the past two weeks, as the defense has led the charge in back-to-back road wins.
Head coach Bruce Arians likes what he's seeing from his young core on defense, and loves what they could become in the near future.
"That first and second-year bunch on defense – that’s going to be fun for a long time," Arians said earlier this week. "It’s just going to get better and better. Just add a piece or two or just keep them together. I think the veterans that are over there are not old. Lavonte [David] looks like he’s a four-year guy [with] the way he flies around, and [Ndamukong] Suh’s playing at a high level. So, yeah, just keeping them all together and just continue to grow."
Tampa Bay's veteran core, with Jason Pierre-Paul, Shaquil Barrett and Carl Nassib joining the likes of David and Suh, give the Bucs experience they can rely on, if they're able to retain them in the offseason. Vita Vea has proven to be a dominant force in the middle of the defensive line, and the kind of anchor the unit can build around.
It was rough going to start 2019 for this group, but the sky is the limit for a promising crew of defenders.