Why The Lockout Helps the Bucs: Simplicity

TAMPA - JULY 31: Offensive Coordinator Greg Olson of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers watches the offense during Training Camp at One Buccaneer Place on July 31 2010 in Tampa Florida. (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)

The lockout hurts the Buccaneers in a number of ways. They have a lot of young players on the roster who need practice time, but aren't getting any. The Bucs can't monitor the rehab of several injured players. It is impossible for coaches to expand their schemes right now, and they will probably have to cut down on more complex concepts. While this isn't a rookie coaching staff, they're only going into their third year, and for Greg Olson and Raheem Morris it'll be just their second full year as coordinators. And new coaches have been brought in at two of the weakest positions for the Buccaneers: Offensive Line and Defensive Line. It's obvious why the lockout is hurting the team, then. 

But there's one reason why the Bucs may be better off than other teams with this lockout: the simplicity of their schemes. The Bucs run a relatively simple base defense: the Tampa 2. Plugging in players in a base defense is quick and easy, as they need to know their gap in run defense and need to know the spot they're dropping to in zone coverage. This is a relatively easy defense to teach, and it's a big reason why the Bucs could be successful with a number of rookie starters on defense last season.

That's not to say that the Bucs' defense is simple and doesn't have any complex concepts, as Raheem certainly experimented and devised a number of complex plays to fool quarterbacks. As the season progressed he implemented more and more of those plays, and a number of key impact plays were the result of less straightforward coverages and pressure concepts. 

On offense, though, the need may be more dire. The Bucs didn't have a particularly complex offense, although a number of trick plays were implemented. Josh Johnson took a couple of snaps, Donald Penn caught a touchdown pass, and Earnest Graham threw one. But despite that, Mike Tanier of NBC Sports and Football Outsiders claims the Bucs run one of the least complex offenses in the NFL. He calculated this by looking at the number of non-standard formations the offense used, and at the number of runs in standard situations. The Bucs used those non-standard formations just 16 times throughout the season and came up with 225 'True Runs'. 

This is just an indication, but it does cut to the core of the matter: the Bucs want to run the ball (although they aren't afraid to abandon it if it doesn't seem to work) and they run most of their offense through just a handful of formations, most notably 2 Backs in I formation with 1 Tight End and 2 Wide Receivers, the same set but with 2 Tight Ends and no Fullback, and a shotgun set with 1 Back, 3 Wide Receiver and 1 Tight End (well, Kellen Winslow). If we look at the most complex offenses, though, this doesn't seem to bode well for the Bucs' productions. The Top 5 most complex offenses: the Packers', the Eagles', the Saints', the Bills' and the Patriots'. Aside from the Bills, these teams were some of the most effective teams on offense in 2010. Complexity does seem to work in the NFL. 

At the same time, this says very little about the complexity of the Bucs' actual pass concepts. Peyton Manning runs basically his entire offense through one formation (1RB, 3WR, 1TE), but no one can accuse him of running a simple offense. It isn't the tools, it's what you do with them. But the simplicity of the Bucs' tools will allow them to run a functional offense more quickly than teams that relied heavily on funky formations and a lot of movement. Basically: be glad Jon Gruden isn't the offensive coordinator for next season if this lockout continues. 

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