The Buccaneers are 1-2 heading into Thursday night’s preseason finale against the Washington Redskins, but Tampa Bay’s starting defense already has established itself as a unit to be reckoned with.
The Jaguars, Dolphins and Bills each failed to score a touchdown against Tampa Bay’s first-string defense, which played without Pro Bowl CB Alterraun Verner until Saturday’s 27-14 triumph at Buffalo.
“We’re still not there yet. We need to get better,’’ said fourth-year DE Adrian Clayborn, who has shifted to the left side to accommodate free-agent addition Michael Johnson. “We got more reps Saturday and that helps to build chemistry.’’
Tampa Bay’s rush defense has yielded 2.8 yards per carry. And the Bucs posted five sacks, seven QB hits and three takeaways against the Bills, hounding second-year QB EJ Manuel for two quarters.
“Our defensive line is in the other team’s backfield,” Tampa Bay C Evan Dietrich-Smith said. “And what jumps out at you is the overall speed of this defense.’’
Tampa Bay is building depth along a defensive line charged with fueling the pass rush.
“We like to have the other team’s quarterback on his heels, and I feel like we did that in Buffalo,’’ Clayborn said. “This defense allows you to play free. You don’t have to think as much ... you can just go.’’
Did you know?
Second-year CB Johnthan Banks, still listed behind newcomer Mike Jenkins on the depth chart, is tied for the team lead with 11 tackles in the preseason and tops the Bucs with two passes defended.
Quote of the day
“I’ve been around it and seen it and it’s a fun way to play.’’
— QB Josh McCown, who played for coach Lovie Smith in Chicago, on Tampa Bay’s emerging defensive prowess.
Aug. 8: Jaguars 16, Bucs 10
Aug. 16: Dolphins 20, Bucs 14
Aug. 23: Bucs 27, Bills 14
Thursday: vs. Washington, 7:30 p.m.