Bucs' defense slowing down

Jon Gruden must deal with the possibility that the years might finally be catching up to his defensive stars, writes KC Joyner.

Updated: May 24, 2007, 11:20 AM ET
By KC Joyner | ESPN Insider
The way Jon Gruden chooses to stock his roster is a bit reminiscent of George Allen. Allen built very successful teams in Los Angeles and Washington, largely by trading for veteran players, especially on defense. Gruden has taken the same approach, as six of his defensive starters are in their 30s, while two of his other starters have seven or more years of experience.

The biggest dilemma in coaching older players is what to do when they struggle. It can be very hard to discern the difference between an older player who is having a bad game or two and one who has hit the wall and needs to be replaced. The metrics from the Buccaneers' first two games indicate this could be a dilemma Jon Gruden and his staff are now facing.

Starting defensive end Greg Spires has allowed 121 yards on the 15 running plays directed at him during the first two games, including eight plays of 8 yards or more. Much of this was due to Michael Vick running circles around the entire Bucs defense Sunday, but the right side of the Ravens' offensive line gouged Spires for nearly 5 yards per run in Week 1. Considering the Ravens' right guard and right tackle had the worst run blocking metrics in the league in 2005, Spires' lack of performance is even more troubling.

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