Entering the season, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers secondary was thought to be of more concern than their front seven, but three games in, Bruce Arians is directing his critique toward the latter.
The Bucs were shredded by Los Angeles Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford this past Sunday to the tune of 343 passing yards and four TD passes; he was sacked once and hurried just four times. For the season, Tampa Bay is at the bottom of the NFL in passing yards allowed (338.3 per game), and has generated just three sacks -- one in each game. At times this season, the Bucs pass rush has been effective, particularly late in a season-opening win over the Cowboys. But pressured quarterbacks can throw TD passes; sacked ones can't, and for Arians, pressure alone isn't enough.
"Yeah, the sacks are probably the biggest thing that disturbs me because we can rush the passer," Arians said Monday, per the Tampa Bay Times. "Now, we're getting close; we're not finishing deals."
In particular, Arians challenged Shaquil Barrett, who has one of the club's three sacks on the year.
"Shaq knows it's time to get to the quarterback," said Arians. "He got shut out in this game. People are very aware of him but that's not an [excuse]. He needs to get to the quarterback, as do a bunch of other guys, and finish it when you get there. Just one sack is not good enough."
The Buccaneers secondary is dealing with injuries to Sean Murphy-Bunting and, now, to Jamel Dean. Safety Jordan Whitehead missed the season opener, so there's been no continuity in the lineup behind the Bucs' front seven. In fact, free-agent cornerback Richard Sherman is heading to Tampa Bay for a visit, NFL Network's Tom Pelissero and Ian Rapoport reported Tuesday.
Pelissero added that Dean appears to have escaped a serious knee injury, but his status is in doubt for Week 4 against the Patriots. It's one more reason the Bucs are pushing to get a deal done with Sherman.
"You can't ask our secondary, especially with the shape it's in, to go play a ton of man-to-man, which limits you," Arians said Monday. "The ball's not going to be held for sacks to happen. It's a little bit of both. We've got to do a better job of getting some man-to-man pressures and going in there and getting after the quarterback. And then also when we're playing zone we've got to get home."