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Coaching and progressing in the second year in the Tampa 2

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Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

In mid March, I had written an article about the learning process that utilized Bloom's Taxonomy: Cognitive Doman as well as Fitts and Posner's model. Alterraun Verner had discussed how the defense had progressed during the year on NFL live in March.

Recently, DT Gerald McCoy gave an interview after one of the mandatory mini-camps in late June on the official website. There were several insightful nuggets of information directly tied to the learning process instead of your usual, regurgitated responses of "the team practiced well and we're getting better." Bloom's taxonomy fits well in this response from Gerald. There are four levels of Bloom's taxonomy: level 1 is recalling, level 2 is comprehension, level 3 is application, and level 4 is upper level thinking of analysis, synthesis, and evaluation.

The first observation is about the team:

Question:  Gerald, how far are you guys are from last year.  I mean, It's gotta be night and day, right?  Learning the system and coming in your second year.  Talk about the difference and how far along you guys are?

GMC:  Definitely.  If anything, mentally, just knowing what coach expects.  A Big part of last year was trying to do it the way coach wanted it.  He brought in guys this offseason that had played in this system that know how he wants it done.  Then he had guys who had a year under their belt with coach Smith's system, how he likes to do it.  I think coming in we can hit the ground running.  There's some rookies we brought in, young guys, you know they can just get on board.  And we know how to lead them now.  Last year we didn't know how to lead them because we were learning ourselves.  In that aspect we've grown.

If you read the learning process link, then it described that the defense was quite awkward in its first six games before the bye week giving up 31.33 points per game, 429.17 yards per game, and 72.17 plays per game. The following ten games thereafter the defense allowed 19.8 points per game, 329.7 yards per game, and 67.6 plays per game. The team went from basic recognition in the first six weeks of the regular season to understanding and application in the last 10 games.

Gerald noted how the team can hit the ground running because of the second year players in this system as well as the free agents brought in who already knew the system. This offseason, there are many players who can lead the new rookies because the veterans of the Tampa-2 have comprehension of what Lovie wants done.

Teaching the rookies actually makes the person teaching or leading more depth into what they are teaching them, to which Gerald alludes to later in the interview.

The second comment from Gerald that acknowledges the learning process is the assessment of Jacquies Smith.  Smith's assessment aligns with the Fitts and Posner's three stage model of learning, which are cognitive, associative, and autonomous, in that hierarchal manner.

Question:  You got a new RDE, Jacquies Smith, this year.  How do you feel he's coming along?

GMC:  He's a completely different guy from last year.  When he first came in, we would do individual [reps] and he looked a little unorthodox, kinda uncoordinated, and just kinda he couldn't get it. Well now, he looks like he's been doing it for like 10 or 15 years.  Completely different guy.  His knowledge of the game and things he has to do, especially at the RDE position.  He can play...  he's versatile.  He can play both sides.  It's just the aspect of him growing as a player, mentally and physically.  He's a completely different guy.

Jacquies Smith's progression went from stage 1 cognitve, basic movement pattern, to stage 2 associative, reveals refinement of movement pattern. And with the way Gerald was describing the progress of Jacquies, it seemed as though Jacquies might become a show stopper over night!

The last response that pertains to the learning process is Gerald's own self-assessment:

Question:  Gerald, in terms of your offseason training, is there a particular aspect that you want to focus on like getting quicker or stronger?

GMC:  Just my overall knowledge of the game, man.  Just knowing what's coming at me.  I've grown every year.  But this year I've got to take it to a different level.  I've been meeting with coach Cullen about different coverages, why we do this?  Why we do that? Who's behind me?  Talking to linebackers: Why are you here?  Well, when this happens, what are you doing?  That way if you know what everybody's doing, you can play a lot faster ‘cause you know "now I can take a risk because I know this guy's behind my back on this particular play."  If you know you're facing Drew Brees, if you know you're facing Matt Ryan, Cam Newton, [then] you know what they're capable off, what they can, can't do, What they like to do, their tendencies, their snap count, different things I've noticed with before they snap the ball, when it's run or pass.  That type of thing.  Really for me it's gonna be the mental part of the game.

In this response, I am going to utilize Bloom's taxonomy as Gerald was able to give elaborate more on the mental aspect of his game. Gerald's thoughtful answer shows he is at level 4 of Bloom's taxonomy, where one is able to analyze, synthesis, and evaluate.  He wants to know the ins and the outs of the scheme to improve his play within the scheme.

Verner had mentioned about being at certain landmarks and trusting your teammates.  Gerald supports that comment made by Verner and says it will help him play faster. Which means it will help the whole team play faster.  Here is a chart to help visualize the progression:  (Of course there's a chart!)

Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Tampa -2 and Bloom's Taxonomy
Year Time/Game Level Description
2014 Offseason, first six games of the season 1 Remembering
2014 last 10 games of the season 2, 3 Understanding, Application (Implementation of levels 1 and 2)
2015 Offseaon 4 Analysis, Synthesis, and Evalutaion

Knowledge is everything. With this knowledge, the Bucs' defense is going to look scary good despite not acquiring a prestigious named DE. While many national pundits believe the defense will remain mediocre, I am giving you insider notion of what to expect so as not to be surprised with their play.

On a tangential note, Gerald saying he can play better than before is a scary proposition for any opposing offense and it drew a smile on my face.