This week the Detroit Lions will be going up against a surprising 8-5 Tampa Bay Buccaneers team. Their defense is mainly coached by their head coach, Raheem Morris, who has coached in Tampa Bay since 2002. In his eight year stint, he has coached as their defensive quality controls coach, defensive assistant, assistant defensive backs coach, defensive backs coach, and of course now as both the head coach and defensive coordinator. When Morris took over in 2009, Jim Bates coached the defense and was fired later in the season by Morris. Since then, the Tampa Bay defense has made some schematic changes that has led them to play far better this season.
Tampa Bay of course still plays the Tampa Two defense, but it has changed considerably since the days of Tony Dungy. First off, Tampa Bay no longer plays the two gap style of the Tampa two, where the defensive tackles are used more to eat up blockers and occupy holes/running lanes. Instead, Tampa Bay runs a one gap style, where each of the defensive linemen is responsible for one gap, which allows them to be far more aggressive. This is a far better suited version of the defense for young, under-sized defensive tackles in Gerald McCoy and Brian Price. The other key change that Morris has made this year is the difference in how corners play wideouts. In past years, Tampa Bay corners would most likely play bump and run coverage, but now they play more of zone coverage.
These adjustments, along with some solid play has allowed Tampa Bay’s defense to be very competitive this year. Compared to last year, they are allowing five fewer points per game, and 20 yards less rushing per game. Also, Tampa Bay had 19 interceptions in a full season last year. They already have 18 in 13 games this season. On the other hand, Tampa Bay’s line is still struggling to get pressure on the quarterback. Last year, the Buccaneers registered only 28 sacks, which was tied for 28th in the league. One would’ve thought that they would’ve improved on those numbers with the addition of 3rd overall pick Gerald McCoy and second rounder Brian Price, but that’s hasn’t happened. Tampa Bay’s 20 sacks in 2010 so far ranks 30th in the league.
Now to how to attack a defense like Tampa Bay’s. I think the Lions match up pretty well against the Bucs. Anytime you give a quarterback time to throw the ball, you can expect good things to happen. Lions offensive line will have their easiest matchup of the season against a Bucs line that lost their best athlete and pass rusher in Gerald McCoy earlier in the week. The Bucs only have one guy with 5+ sacks this season, while the Lions have four (Lawrence Jackson, Turk McBride, Ndamukong Suh and Cliff Avril), so that should tell you about how weak the Tampa Bay pass rush is. Defensively, the toughest matchup for the Lions is going to be Aqib Talib (one of the most underrated corners in the NFL) against Calvin Johnson. Talib hasn’t played too many elite widouts this season, but he has held Roddy White to 11 receptions for 118 yards and no touchdowns in two games.
Overall, Tampa Bay’s defense is sort of a bend but don’t break defense. It’s definitely not a top notch defense, but it will keep them in games. I expect the Lions to put up 24+ points in this game if Shaun Hill starts. If Stanton is the man, then I would expect the Lions to score around 17 points.