Lately in our fanposts and comments, there is active talk among our readers on the upcoming draft and draft needs of our beloved Bucs. Ndomekong Suh the monster that he is dominates everyones wish list, as he is a special someone that most feel would come closest to cloning the great pressure cooker that was Warren Sapp. Gerald McCoy of Oklahoma fits the bill too. He is another Defensive Tackle who, like Suh, excels at the Three Technique which is a must for playing the Bucs defense the way old no. 99 used to.
Then, the next most popular name brought up in our boards in Alabama Nose Guard Terrence Cody. Cody is a massive beheamoth who is likely to be one of the top 5 defensive players taken in the draft. There is only one problem with Cody as far as becoming a Buccaneer. He just doesn't fit; and I don't mean because of his size!
Well, actually, I do. In order to get into the how's, what's, where's and why's of this, we will look at the originator, not the imitator, Tony Dungy; and reference his source materials from his first book "Quiet Strength". We will also look back at a few of the guys who made the Tampa Two famous and what it took from them to 'fit' in the greatest defense in Tampa history.
To begin with, we will start with the Master himself, Mr. Dungy and excerps from chapter 13 from "Quiet Strength" titled "Tampa 2 and Open Hearts"....Dungy talks about how the Buzz around the NFL after the 1999 NFC Championship game when the Bucs held the greatest show on turf to 11 points, probably the biggest upset in a non-win environment ever in playoff history. So much so the Rams emulated the Bucs after stealing away Linebackers Coach Lovie Smith to be a Ram Defensive Coordinator.
Funny thing was the defensive philosophy of the Tampa Two was the mixing of a couple of concepts that had been around since 1977. Most teams play a form of the Bucs defense which is called the Cover 2, it is a basic zone defense in which players are responsible for covering receivers who enter their zones. The Tampa variety offers up a quick and speedy middle linebacker to cover the deep middle of the field in addition to the safeties who take a side, thus breaking up the deep field into thirds.
"We actually began to formulate this system back in 1992, when I joined Monte Kiffin in Minnesota. Monte was coaching the inside linebackers when I arrived, and the vikings scheme was to rush the passer and have their secondary in man to man coverage. I had always favored zone coverage, and I began to introduce these concepts. Monte in turn, taught me about his 'One Gap' style the Vikings used with their linemen and linebackers. Most teams ask their linemen to protect two gaps, playing head up on an offensive lineman, stalemating him, and then being able to tackle a ball carrier on either side of that lineman (sound familiar? This is what Jim Bates wanted to do). The Vikings only asked their linemen to handle ONE side of the offensive lineman, using the linebacker and safeties to compensate. Because they never had to take on a man directly, Minnesota's linemen didnt have to be as big, and were generally smaller than the men on the other side of the ball and quicker. They were exceptional pass rushers. "
So when you take a look at the history of the Bucs defense under the Tampa Two, their choice of defensive ends and tackles has always been a meticulous one. Instead of large men lining up right in front of O linemen, Smaller D linemen will line up off, or to the side, of the O lineman. They then 'Shoot' that gap in front of them, not the man. There is no "clogging' of men in a Tampa Two defense. The whole reason Warren Sapp was called a '3 technique' pass rusher, is because he lined up in front of the 3 gap in the offensive line, which is just between the O line's Guard and tackle. Sapp would like up just on the guards outer shoulder. Suh and McCoy are three technique linemen. Lets take a look at some of the measurments of these men...
Warren Sapp - 295-305#
Anthony Booger McFarland 300#
Ndomekong Suh- 305#
Gerald McCoy- 295#
Terrence Cody- 354#
One quick look, and you can see that Cody does not fit the mold of a Tampa Two lineman. Quoting Both Sports Illustrated and ESPN the Magazine, " Cody represents that rare find of a two gap Nose Tackle for NFL's 3-4 defenses."
It's understandable Bucs fans are tired of giving up chunks of yardage to opposing backs, going on almost two years now, and there is not doubt Cody would do that....in another system. But not THIS system.
Getting back to Dungy's book..."The Defensive line was critical to the success of our scheme. John Teerlink was our line coach in Minnesota and I saw how important he was in setting the tempo necessary for our undersized guys to excel. Rod Marinelli in Tampa, who held the same position, started out each season by telling our Defensive linemen that they were the key to our defense. It would not work unless they controlled their gaps and put great pressure on the quarterback."
When an opposing team would run the ball for a big or moderate gain, Sapp was famous for his " Whose gap was that" scoldings in the defensive huddle. The weakness of course to the Tampa Two is the undersized line is susceptible to a strong physical running game. of course, if the your team is down in the 4th quarter, it can no longer afford to run the ball. The Tampa Two is a great defense for holding the lead.
So while the thought of Cody replacing Chris Hovan and clogging up the middle and not allowing anyone to run around him sounds appealing, the fact is, the Bucs appear to be hopefully on their way to recapturing the glory of their Tampa Two scheme thanks to the take over by Raheem Morris in November; A Tampa Two defense that nether requires a 'clogger' nor allows for one to 'fit' in.