clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Free Agency: Buccaneers overreact by pursuing familiarity on defense

Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have been oddly focused on players familiar with their scheme. Specifically, players who played for Lovie Smith in Chicago or Monte Kiffin and Rod Marinelli in Dallas, as the Tampa Tribune points out. Bruce Carter, Chris Conte, Sterling Moore and Henry Melton all fit that description.

That's something they didn't do at all last year, and the result was obvious: a defense where players struggled to adjust to a new scheme. The Bucs were one of the worst defenses in the NFL over the first six weeks of the season, but then improved to a top-five defense over the second half of the year. A large part of the problem was simply players adjusting to a new scheme. The Tampa 2 isn't a difficult defense, but it requires a tremendous amount of discipline and trust in fellow players -- and the defenders simply didn't have that early on in the year.

That adjustment period is part of why rookies almost never got playing time under Monte Kiffin: they needed time to understand the defense, and to learn to trust their fellow players. Even first-round picks would take a while to take over for established veterans -- Aqib Talib played in 15 games as a rookie in 2008, but still made just two starts.

Still, this approach feels like an overreaction to what happened last year. Signing a few established players makes sense, but the Bucs effectively passed up anyone who didn't already know the scheme -- not entirely by their choosing, as they did try to sign Trent Cole and Derrick Morgan, but still. The defense is fairly talented, but they didn't manage to find a reliable replacement for the overpriced Dashon Goldson or an edge rusher who could take this defense up a notch.

But at least we won't have to worry about players not knowing the defense.