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Buccaneers shift in philosophy led to player purge

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Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

When the Tampa Bay Buccaneers still had Greg Schiano as their head coach, they built their defense around a simple philosophy: blitz the hell out of opponents and rely on the secondary to shut down the resulting quick passes. That went so far that they called the secondary the "No Fly Zone." Probably should have gone with American Airlines, though.

With Lovie Smith in town, that philosophy has shifted to the exact opposite. The Bucs now want to blitz sparingly, and rely on seven defenders in coverage to limit big plays.

That's also meant overhauling the entire defense. Not just in terms of personnel, but in the way resources are allocated within the defense. Under Schiano, the Bucs traded for cornerback Darrelle Revis, signed free safety Dashon Goldson to a massive contract, used a first-round pick on safety Mark Barron and a second-round pick on cornerback Johnthan Banks. Meanwhile, the total investment in the pass rush under Schiano consisted of third-fourth-rounder Akeem Spence, who's more of a run-stopper anyway, and two fifth-round picks.

With Lovie Smith in charge, though, the Bucs have signed three free agent defensive linemen, all of them pass rushers. They're still actively searching for another defensive end, too. But in the secondary, they've mostly cut players or gone to the bargain bin to find starters. Alterraun Verner, Chris Conte, Mike Jenkins and Major Wright are the major investments the team has made there, while getting rid of Mark Barron, Darrelle Revis and Dashon Goldson -- the latter two because of their massive salary. Yes, those free agents were overpriced, but with Schiano they may still have been in Tampa.

That kind of turnover is to be expected whenever you see a change in coaching staff, and hence a change in philosophy. But the contrast between Lovie Smith and Greg Schiano's approach really couldn't be larger, despite the fact that both are defensive head coaches.

That massive shift has left the Bucs with a lack of depth across the defense. They now have only three starters from the Schiano era: Lavonte David, Gerald McCoy and Johnthan Banks. Players had to learn a new defense, and that took time last year. The Bucs hope that things will go more smoothly this year, but it's hard to build a quality defense when you have to overhaul everything -- even more so when you have little young talent because you refused to spend a single draft pick on defense last year.