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Schiano leading Bucs rush defense from worst to first

Under Raheem Morris, the Tampa Bay rush defense was always… what is the polite way to put this… accommodating to opposing running backs. Over Morris’ three-year tenure, the Buccaneers joined the Bills as either 31st or 32nd in all three major rush defense categories: rushing yards allowed, rushing yards per carry allowed, and rushing touchdowns allowed.

This was the case despite the organization’s best efforts to find players that could stop the run. The Buccaneers’ second selection in the 2009 draft was used on defensive tackle Roy Miller.  That season, Tampa Bay finished last in both rushing yards and rushing yards per carry allowed.   The following April, the Bucs used the third pick in the draft on Gerald McCoy and the 35th selection on Brian Price, making them the rare team to take multiple interior defensive linemen with top-40 picks.  That season was the one successful year of Morris’ tenure, but Tampa Bay still finished 28th in rushing yards allowed and 31st in yards per rush allowed.

Linebacker Lavonte David has been a monster for Tampa Bay.

So Tampa continued to focus on the defensive line in the 2011 draft, this time taking Iowa’s Adrian Clayborn and Clemson’s Da’Quan Bowers with their first and second round picks and middle linebacker Mason Foster in the third round. In 2011, Tampa finished the year 32nd in rushing yards allowed, 32nd in rushing touchdowns allowed, and 31st in yards per carry allowed.

Enter Greg Schiano and defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan.  With a horrible run defense for three consecutive years, the Bucs couldn’t ignore the problem just because they had failed in prior attempts to plug the leak.  With the seventh pick, the team selected Alabama’s Mark Barron, an in-the-box safety who was considered one of the safest picks in the draft.

Schiano, Barron, McCoy, and second round pick Lavonte David (who was just named the NFC defensive rookie of the month for November) have completely reformed the Tampa rush defense. The team currently ranks first in both rushing yards and yards per rush allowed. That’s unbelievable. Nothing more could be said about the magnitude of a leap from 32nd to 1st, so let me close with a look at the biggest jumps in rushing yards allowed and rushing yards per carry allowed in NFL history.

Biggest improvement in Rushing Yards Allowed Rank:

Year
Tm
Yd Rk
N-1 Rk
Impr
2003NWE43127
2009GNB12625
1990ATL32825
2007TEN53025
1980DET12524
1999STL12423
2003JAX22523
1979NYJ32623
2004SDG32623
2007WAS42723
2004NYJ52823
2002CAR83123
1996DEN12322
1992BUF22422
2004WAS22422
1974NWE42622
2008NYJ72922
2008MIA103222
2010CHI22321
1971WAS42521
1980CLE62721
1989DEN62721
1992MIA62721
2003BUF82921
2004ATL82921
1995HOU82820
2002MIN103020

Biggest improvement in Rushing Yards Per Carry Allowed Rank:

Year
Tm
YPC Rk
N-1 Rk
Impr
2007IND63226
2011JAX53025
2006ATL63125
1990ATL12524
2009GNB22624
1992MIA42824
2002OAK42824
1980OAK12423
1994ARI22523
1974NWE32623
1991NWE42723
1995CHI52823
2003NWE62923
1998DEN73023
2001DAL83123
2003SEA93223
1981NYG12322
2002CAR12322
1974CHI22422
1979NYJ32522
1987DAL32522
2007WAS32522
1975HOU12221
1976PIT12221
1992RAI22321
1993PIT22321
2008CHI32421
1980CLE52621
1989DEN72821
2004WAS12120
1982DEN22220
1996NWE32320
1971WAS42420
1975CLE52520
1994SFO82820
2009ATL82820
1999CIN92920
2001DEN92920
1996ARI103020

{ 4 comments… add one }

  • Bob December 1, 2012, 12:11 am

    Tampa Bay’s passing defense

    Passing yards per game allowed: 315.5 (32nd)
    Passing first downs allowed: 156 (29th)
    Completion percentage allowed: 66.4 (T-30th)
    Passing attempts faced per game: 38.9 (3rd most)

    Whether the pass defense is actually that bad or is merely a reflection of a good run defense is anyone’s guess.

    • Chase Stuart December 1, 2012, 1:21 am

      Thanks Bob – the horrible pass defense is an interesting point. Tampa was horrible against the pass last year, too, but it’s interesting how much improvement they made against the run despite making none against the pass. I will add that the schedule (Newton 2x, Ryan, Brees, Eli, Romo, RG3) has done them no favors – and now they get Peyton.

  • Chase Stuart December 3, 2012, 12:53 am

    Held the Broncos to 91 rushing yards on 3.1 YPC… but Manning threw three touchdowns and Denver won.

  • Jim A December 3, 2012, 2:01 pm

    I’ve always thought that your p-f-r articles a few years ago on defensive scheming was among your most clever research pieces.

    http://www.pro-football-reference.com/blog/?p=4533
    http://www.pro-football-reference.com/blog/?p=4563

    So in that context, maybe the takeaway shouldn’t be that the Bucs’ rush defense has gone from worst to first, but rather their overall defense has gone from among the worst to mostly average. And perhaps there’s an argument to be made that their defense could be even better if they focused more of their schemes and play calls on stopping the pass rather than stopping the run.

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