The minor movements made by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the offseason bare a much larger end. What may seem like subtle, if not equal acquisitions have many fans bewildered as to what resolution does the current regime possess for the organization. With the NFL draft nigh on the eve, the aim has always been true.
What do CB Sterling Moore, S Chris Conte, DT Henry Melton, and LB Bruce Carter all have in common? All of them have performed in a Tampa-2 defense.
The Tampa-2 defense was an invention re-created by Tony Dungy, he of the Pittsburgh Steelers and the defensive lore of the Steel Curtain. Tony Dungy had created a stingy defense in Tampa as well as disciples of the Tampa-2. Lovie Smith and Rod Marinelli are two from that tree. Lovie was a head coach for the Chicago Bears.
Lovie implemented this defense for nine years while in Chicago, 2004 to 2012. Rod was a head coach for a few years with the Detroit Lions, then an assistant coach to Lovie for a few years, and finally two years spent in Dallas - those years being 2013 and 2014.
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers|
|Recent FA Acquisitions and Their History|
|Lovie Smith was HC in Chicago from 2004 to 2012.|
|Rod Marinelli was DL/DC in Dallas from 2013 to Present.|
Last off-season, the Bucs employed the services of one Pro Bowl cornerback in Alterraun Verner. How does a Pro Bowl cornerback quickly adapt to the Tampa-2? Here is what he had to say, courtesy of the Pewter Report:
It's not the first time I've played Cover 2, but it was the first time I've ever run Cover 2 they way they run Cover 2 with the responsibilities and discipline," Verner said. "The defense is very simplistic, but the reason why it's simplistic is because the defense is so detailed. We don't run a lot of defenses, and because we don't, they expect you to run it extremely well. Most of the time teams are going to know what we're doing, but it takes the discipline to run it well. That was more of a learning curve than I anticipated.
Mr. Verner is not alone in this thought of simplicity, but with much difficulty. Here is a snippet of an interview with reserve safety Keith Tandy, conducted by the official website, who shares the sentiment of Mr. Verner.
Q: To jump around a little bit, how are you going to look back at last year?
A: "The first thing is that it definitely was a good learning experience. I think we kind of came into the season and we heard that Lovie Smith's scheme was real simple but I felt that, as a unit, we didn't attack it the way we should... just the little details. I feel like that's what hurt us. You kind of feel like, 'I know how to play Cover 2, I know how to play man-to-man,' and you still try to learn details, but not the way you should. You saw not just me but the whole team progress. You couldn't see from the outside because we were still losing but one of the big things that we saw was that we were taking those small steps and getting better every game and every practice."
The simplicity of learning a new system is not an easy road as denoted by both Mr. Verner and Mr. Tandy. Both are defensive players with ample NFL experience. Mr. Verner has had some experience with Tampa-2 before or something similar at his previous employer.
The aforementioned quartet of defensive free agent acquisitions will not be hampered vastly like that of Mr. Verner nor Mr. Tandy. The experience in the Tampa-2 of the signed free agents will allow the defense to move as one cohesive unit. That experience is invaluable.
Now let us turn our attention to the oncoming NFL draft. Tampa Bay has only one viable quarterback of note on its roster. By quick elimination, the Bucs have optioned themselves into a singular possibility: drafting a quarterback. One does not go into the draft willingly with a backup quarterback and only a backup quarterback. Although, if Mike Glennon is to be the starting quarterback next season, then it is quite askew to not have signed a more viable reserve quarterback than Seth Lobato.
There are two prospects to select from in the NFL draft: Oregon's Marcus Mariota and Florida State's Jameis Winston. Both are Heisman winners and both are leaders of their team. And yet their greatness are significantly different. One is a pocket passer with experience of being in a pro system style offense. The other is a magnificent athlete who has mastered a specific system made for college and only one NFL team that runs a similar system. Yet both will take time to adjust as well as adapt to the NFL heights. The query is how long does the organization have to wait for either quarterback to develop?
With Winston having ample experience running a pro style offense along with reading pre-snap as well as post-snap reads, the adaption should not be perceived to be a gargantuan feat. Mariota, on the other hand, lacks the experience Winston possesses. There could be a much longer wait in the fruition of Mariota. Are we to expect Mariota to overcome the vast offensive spectrum before him in the same time line of Winston? Again, I present a Pro Bowl cornerback struggling to adapt to the Tampa-2. Also, again, I present the foursome free agents with direct background of the Tampa-2 in their histories.
The organization is set to win today, not next season. It is only quite logical that the Buccaneers select a player who will be able to adapt to the NFL game sooner than later as the theme of this off-season is to accrue players who can have immediate results. In today's NFL, time is a luxury that a coach or general manager can afford.
I will give you, the reader, one other perspective from the loquacious Jon Gruden, from an article in the NJ.com:
"What they do in Oregon is very unique," Gruden said in an interview with ESPN Radio's Mike and Mike in the morning this week. "That kind of football is on its way to the NFL. You see a lot more no huddle. You see a lot more passes that are 10-yards and in.
"But when you watch the Eagles' offense, you see the Oregon Ducks. The number one offense in football over the last two years is Philadelphia. The system works. Mariota can play in that system. Somebody is going to see a 6-4 quarterback with 4-5 speed. I want him on my football team. I'll put my system in around him."
Therein lies the crux: Does the offensive personnel already on the Tampa team set to work with Mariota? Or will the system be best suited for Winston with the likes of the dynamic play abilities of a Vincent Jackson or a Mike Evans?
While it may not seem so crystal clear that Winston was the only choice, the choices made preceding Winston dictates we select players that will transition faster with the team. No more gambles like DE Michael Johnson or LT Anthony Collins. That theme was for 2014. This is 2015. Their aim was always true which is relevancy today.