Cornerback Aqib Talib threw his body onto the bench in frustration after a blown assignment in the secondary led to another long touchdown pass in the Buccaneers’ season opener against Dallas on Sunday. And as he pounded the bench with his fist, nearly knocking others to the ground, he embodied all that it meant to be a Bucs fan for that moment.
And maybe for most of the year.
While the offense showed promise with great offensive line play and a solid running attack, the defense proved inept at times, and there’s not much signaling that better days lie ahead.
It’s never seamless when transitioning to a new defensive scheme, but with the Bucs’ schedule, they may be running short on time. They still have to face offenses like the Giants, Eagles, Patriots and Packers, not to mention meeting the Falcons and the high-powered Saints twice. So, for a fan-base that is accustomed to counting on defense to win games, this looks like the year to adopt a new philosophy.
And it’s hard to pinpoint just what went wrong on Sunday when the secondary got torched for 353 yards and three touchdowns.
Perhaps Jermaine Phillips thought he was still playing linebacker. Maybe Sabby Piscitelli thought they were still running Monte Kiffin’s defense from a year ago. Or, maybe they just miss Tanard Jackson a little more than they thought.
The good news is, there is a solid core of young players for Jim Bates to build on, including Talib, Jackson and Piscitelli, who could become an elite secondary unit within the next few seasons. They’ll just need to take their lumps this year.
A lot of fans suggest the defense will rebound strong and become the strength of the team once again. But the truth is, Kiffin is not walking through that door. Jackson’s door is locked until week five, and other than the Lions and Rams, the Bucs are the team quarterbacks are circling on their schedules.
So, when you look at the defensive rankings for the top-ten in the NFL this season, don’t be shocked when the Bucs are not included.
– Paul Mueller, Publishing Editor