TAMPA, Fla. -- By his conservative standards, coach Greg Schiano said something that would seem to border on the outrageous Thursday.
“We’re a couple pieces away from being a dominant defense,’’ Schiano said.
Go ahead and throw out the reminders that the Bucs are 4-10. And let’s note that the defense is ranked 13th overall (15th against the run and 15th against the pass). Nobody is going to confuse the Bucs with the 1985 Chicago Bears or the great Tampa Bay defenses of the late 1990s and early 2000s.
But I think Schiano has a point.
“We have some good players, some really good players,’’ Schiano said. “We’ll just keep working at it. I think some of those pieces are going to develop into being dominant players. We have some young kids here who I think have the upside to be special. Our whole philosophy is draft and develop, anyway, and that’s what we’ve got to do.’’
Look at Tampa Bay’s defense and you see a lot of good parts already in place, including some young ones that only should get better. Guys like cornerback Darrelle Revis and safety Dashon Goldson already are considered among the best in the league at their positions. Fourth-year defensive tackle Gerald McCoy and linebacker Lavonte David are starting to get league-wide recognition.
Some members of the organization believe second-year safety Mark Barron is having a Pro Bowl season. Mason Foster has developed into a solid middle linebacker. Rookies Johnthan Banks, Akeem Spence and William Gholston all have had an impact.
That makes for a very nice nucleus. Schiano didn’t want to get into what parts are missing, but it’s fairly obvious the Bucs could be a little better in the pass rush.
“I think it can be developed within as well as outside,’’ Schiano said. “I think we have some really fine young prospects in our building right now. Will Gholston is a prime example. Six weeks ago, you’re not talking or thinking the way you are about Will as you are now. This is such the instant society, but sometimes you’ve just got to develop guys. You coach them and they get better. They watch themselves on tape, they play in games, they learn and they get better. Physically, they’re getting better.’’
This year has been mostly a lost season. But Tampa Bay’s defense really does have the potential to be dominant next season.
“We’ve got some great pieces for this team,’’ Revis said. “We’ve got some great core guys. We’ve got some talent. We’ve just got to keep on building. Looking to the future, we can add to this team because there are some great core guys and great talent. We’ve just got to build around the core guys that we have here.’’