In our summer time film study we take a look at new head coach Greg Schiano and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
By the time that the Cowboys made that December trip last season to south Florida, the rumors were already starting of coaching and personnel changes for the Buccaneers for the 2012 season. The three year run for head coach Raheem Morris left the Bucs with a 17 - 31 record and what was once a talented team under Tony Dungy and Jon Gruden no longer had the players that could compete in the NFC like they once did.
At the end of the season, GM Mark Dominick made the decision to remove Morris and replace him with Rutgers head coach Greg Schiano who enjoyed the success of taking a program in the Scarlet Knights that was one of the worst in college football and bringing them back to respectability.
Schiano is a tough, no nonsense coach that will totally be the opposite of what Morris brought to his job at One Bucs Place. You can already see in the moves that the Bucs have made in this offseason in their personnel moves, signing guard Carl Nicks and wide receiver Vincent Jackson. Nicks brings a nastiness and toughness to the middle of the Buccaneers offensive line. Jackson is a big physical receiver that fights corners for every inch and not afraid to match it up on the outside. In the draft, Schiano added the explosive safety Mark Barron from Alabama, the multi talented running back Doug Martin from Boise State and the athletic linebacker David Lavonte from Nebraska to play on the weak side to rush the passer but also run the ball down from that backside.
For the players that were on the roster in 2011, I sat down and studied the Buccaneers against the 49ers, Packers and Cowboys and here is what I observed.
Where I thought that the Bucaneers would make the biggest jump during the 2011 season was at quarterback with Josh Freeman but he took a huge step backwards from his rookie season in 2010. Freeman has impressive size and an arm to match. There are some limitations with his mobility and there were too many times in these games that I studied where he was forced to try and make plays on the move and the pressure led to poor decisions and throws. It was rare that you would see Freeman stand in the pocket and deliver the ball.
Some of the biggest breakdowns were on the right side with tackle Jeremy Trueblood who is a poor athlete that struggles with anyone that is physical with him. Trueblood doesn't play with any type of power and he has a hard time controlling rushers and getting movement in the running game. Donald Penn on the left side was the best offensive lineman that the Bucs had until they added Nicks. Penn is a bad body guy but for a big man, he moves well but more importantly, he plays with power. I have always been surprised in his ability to handle some of the league's better rushers. With him and Nicks on the left side it will be interesting to see if the Bucs do become a left handed team when they run the ball. Davin Joseph is a tough guy at right guard that is better when he can get his hands on you. Quick moves gave him trouble. The line should be better at left guard but there still a big problem at right tackle.
At tight end, Kellen Winslow is now in Seattle and in steps former long time Colts' tight end Dallas Clark. This is an interesting move because when he is healthy, Clark can be one of the best to ever play the position when it came to catching the ball. The question is how healthy he really is and will we see him break down in Week 4. Clark can be a reliable option for Josh Freeman but again, can he stay healthy for 16 games? He has had a history of a wrist and neck injuries, so that is something that we need to keep an eye on.
At the running back LeGarrette Blount was the featured back but that will now change with the drafting of Doug Martin. I have always respected Blount's style but Martin can do so much more when it comes to being a complete back but regardless, both backs will get plenty of opportunities.
On defense I think this is where the Bucs have a real future. I am a big fan of defensive ends Michael Bennett, Adrian Clayborn and Da'Quan Bowers. All three of the players have the ability to get up the field and cause problems in the passing game. Bowers does a better job of using his hands to disengage blockers but all three have non stop motors.
Mike linebacker Mason Foster can really run but weak side linebacker David Lavonte has a nose for the ball and like Foster can run.
At corner long time veteran Ronde Barber moves inside to safety to be paired with Mark Barron. This move reminds me of when we drafted Roy Williams and he played next to Darren Woodson. Williams was never the same player when Woodson retired. Barber will be able to make checks which will allow Barron to just go to the ball. Cornerback Aquib Talib is back and free agent Eric Wright comes over from the Lions to take Barber's spot at corner. I have never been a huge Wright fan and it's strange that the Bucs would go this route because when you studied the Lions, one of their biggest problems on defense was the way their corners played.
It's always dangerous playing a team with a new coach early in the season because the players are looking for something that they can buy into. New coaches are looking to build credibility with their players and early season success helps with that. The Buccaneers will look a lot different from the ones that we all saw last December not only at head coach but at wide receiver with Vincent Jackson, at guard with Carl Nicks and their draft class. The Cowboys did a nice job of handling this team in Tampa last season that was looking to quit on its coach. I have a feeling that will not happen this time around.