NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 28: Adrian Clayborn, #20 overall pick by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, holds up a jersey on stage during the 2011 NFL Draft at Radio City Music Hall on April 28, 2011 in New York City. (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
With the offseason getting shorter and shorter, the possibility of NFL football without any training camps beforehand looms large. If that happens, rookies will have trouble making any kind of impact, veteran players will dominate on the field and the teams that have been together for a long time will have the best chance of making an impact this season.
None of that is good news for the Buccaneers. The roster is filled with first-, second- and third-year players. The team hasn't been together for long, the players do not have a lot of experience, and a lot of these players need coaching to be able to get on the field and play well. Last season the Bucs managed to get a lot of rookies on the field through a variety of means. The defensive scheme was simplified for the rookies, so they could play without being a liability. The Bucs played with 'safe pressure' concepts throughout most of the season, protecting a young and inexperienced secondary (and being successful doing so).
On the other hand, they did this with good coaching. The Bucs had a number of rookie starters on offense with Ted Larsen, Derek Hardman, Mike Williams, Arrelious Benn and Legarrette Blount. But now these players will have to take the next step, and it's doubtful they can do that without quality coaching time. Blount did not get an offseason in the Bucs' system, and this limited him early in the season. It wasn't until week seven that he really made an impact, and he was limited in some ways during the entire season.
This is why coaching will be key this season. Yes, Josh Freeman will be a leader on offense and try to keep the offense on the same page, and the defense will be working out this week. but you can't beat a good coach. You can't beat film study of practice and games, you can't beat instant feedback on technique, and you can't beat the structured environment of an NFL team. The question is: can the Bucs coaches work wonders with rookies again?