Buccaneers have NFL's lightest front seven

Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are back where they were ten years ago: with one of the lightest defensive front sevens in the NFL. A matter of philosophy and policy, not just a coincidence. According to Jimmy Kempski of Philly.com, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers boast the second-lightest front-seven in the NFL. The lightest being the fellow Tampa-2 acolytes: Monte Kiffin and Rod Marinelli's crew over in Dallas.

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Kempski even slightly overestimates the Bucs' weight. He uses the OurLads' depth chart, which has Akeem Spence as the starter at nose tackle. If instead they'd taken Clinton McDonald as the starting nose tackle, which seems likely, the Bucs would come in at 1,828 pounds -- seven pounds lighter than the Dallas Cowboys. Yay! The Bucs have the lightest front seven in the NFL! What do the win?

Lovie Smith's answer would be 'speed', which is what his defense is built around. Size isn't important for the Tampa 2 coaches. The ability to get to the ball, to disrupt an offensive line's blocking scheme, and to get into the backfield off the snap are what matters.

This core philosophy was lost when Mark Dominik took over as the team's general manager. While the Bucs were still fairly light under Raheem Morris and Greg Schiano, Dominik consistently tried to get bigger on defense, although this was mostly felt in the secondary. Kempski's projections last year had the Bucs as the 24th-heaviest team in the NFL. Still not exactly heavy, but it's a step up from where they are now.

That speed on defense should allow the Bucs to get to the passer, and get to him quickly. Under Lovie Smith, the Bears notched fewer than 30 sacks just once, and they managed 40+ sacks three times. Under Dominik's "bigger is better" program, the Bucs managed 30+ sacks all of once (in 2013), with 2011's 22 sacks as an absurd low point.

The conventional wisdom is that smaller front sevens lead to worse run defenses. And the Bucs have kind of demonstrated that in the past. Even their most dominant defenses under Tony Dungy and Monte Kiffin were always worse against the run than they were against the pass. And Kempski notes that there appears to be very little correlation between the size of a defense's front seven and its run-stopping ability.

So prepare for a new day in Tampa. One of pass-rushing and run-stopping built on speed. A defense that will be fun to watch, and one that will actually get after the passer. I wonder what that will look like. I seem to have forgotten.

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