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There’s a lot to like about this pairing.

When the Tampa Bay Buccaneers drafted Gerald McCoy third overall back in the 2010 NFL Draft, it was clear that he would be the focal point of the defense.

One could argue the same point when the Bucs took Vita Vea 12th overall in the 2018 draft.

McCoy is no longer on the roster, but Vea remains. Regardless of the reason(s) why, it’s now Vea’s job to man the defensive line.

Vea is arguably the biggest key to the Bucs’ defense in 2019. His development will help determine how effective the unit can be and without McCoy, things weren’t going to be easy.

But the Bucs were able to bring in Ndamukong Suh who should slide right on in and take McCoy’s place, due to the fact that he is indeed a better fit for this defense.

More importantly, Suh’s presence should help Vea immensely. Maybe he’ll even help accelerate Vea’s learning curve.

The Los Angeles Rams used Suh all over the defensive line last season, which the Bucs should - and will likely - do as well. Not only will they form arguably one of the league’s strongest defensive interiors, but they can play off each other as well.

Hopefully Suh’s versatility will allow Vea to get to the quarterback often in 2019, something he showed he could do in 2018.

Vea’s primary responsibility in Mike Smith’s defense was to eat up blocks. Watch the play below and you’ll see what I mean.

As you can see, there were times where this worked, but you don’t take a nose tackle 12th overall to be a complementary piece or a space-eater. Arians knows this and that’s exactly why he brought in Suh - to make Vea into the player he is meant to be.

It’s no secret that Vea is an absolute beast on the football field. He has an excellent combination of quickness and strength for a man of his size - he’s 6-foot-4, 347-pounds - and he really improved his game toward the end of the 2018 season.

Obviously, the first thought that comes to mind is to have him plug gaps and take up space for his teammates to fly around and make plays, but there is more than just size to Vea’s game.

This is a perfect example of how agile the big man is. He is able to stop on a dime and chase down Redskins quarterback Alex Smith - who is pretty mobile - for the sack.

Here’s a better look in slow motion. Vea basically starts on the chin of the skull of the Bucs’ logo at midfield. Morgan Moses, the Redskins’ right tackle (#76) is who is on Vea.

Watch how he is able to suddenly stop, accelerate, and chase down Smith. The hashmarks are 18-feet-6-inches wide in the NFL. Vea is on the left hash and Smith is on the right when Vea begins the chase.

That’s pretty impressive. Sure, Vea didn’t have as much ground to cover as Smith - Vea had to run about six yards while Smith had to run 10 yards - but the ability to stop and move laterally like that is not common for interior defensive linemen.

With this type of agility, Vea can certainly be more than a run-stuffer - he can be a pass rusher as well. It will be fun to see how Todd Bowles uses both of them in his defense.

On this sack, he shows off his strength as he bull rushes Joe Staley while JPP executes the stunt. But if you pay close attention there is another factor at play that helps Vea bring down the quarterback - outside of the wide alignment and his ability to man the 3-tech.

McCoy takes on a double team which allows Vea and JPP to get the 1v1 matchup that every pass rusher dreams of.

Now take a look at the play below and see if you can find any similarities:

Suh draws the double-team, which allows Donald the 1v1. We’ve seen Vea draw double-teams before, but to see Suh do it means that other players - including Vea - will be able to bring pressure from other areas.

This one right here is beautiful because Vikings center Pat Elfein literally has to pick his poison between Donald and Suh, which I’m sure is what the Bucs hope to accomplish with Vea.

As Vea becomes more established as pass-rusher, the Bucs will able to use these wide alignments more often.

Interior pressure is what keys the some of the most successful defenses in today’s NFL and the Bucs now have the potential to create havoc inside.

And this one is off topic - BUT - just for fun, here is another example of how Todd Bowles can use Suh in this defense. Bowles’ defense has a lot of the same traits as Wade Phillips’ Rams.

Suh lines up out wide on the left side of the defensive line and uses some quick hands to beat right tack Rashod Hill at the top of the arc to get the sack.

And here is one last video is another example of how Suh’s versatility can help out Vea. On this one, he lines up at the 1-tech, which allows Donald to man the 3-tech. If you remember from the earlier video, Vea showed that he can indeed take down opposing quarterbacks from that very spot, so again - why shouldn’t the Bucs be able to pull this off?

Now, I realize Vea isn’t Donald - no one is.

But this example shows how Bowles will be allowed to have flexibility and versatility within his roster.

Suh is a better fit for this defense than McCoy and Vea should reap some major dividends throughout the season.

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Tampa Bay was close to receiving something for the former player.

Not to continue to beat the dead horse here, but at least this is better than just talking about Gerald McCoy as if he’s still here.

Many wanted something in return instead of just flat out releasing the veteran defensive tackle and it looks like the Buccaneers tried to do so right before they parted ways. At least that’s what Pewter Report’s Mark Cook is reporting.

Per Cook, the Bucs were close to a trade involving McCoy and picks in return but something happened that eventually led to the team just releasing him.

A league source told PewterReport.com that Tampa Bay and an undisclosed team were very close to a trade deal that would have sent McCoy to that team for a draft pick or picks, but the deal fell through in the 11th hour. The Cleveland Browns, which are hosting McCoy on his first free agent visit, had been the most linked team to McCoy this offseason in terms of interest, but PewterReport.com can also confirm it was not the Browns that the Bucs were dealing with in regards to a possible trade.

So there you have it. The Bucs tried, for what it’s worth. It’s unclear what the demands were but at least they were exhausting all possibilities before they just let him go for nothing.

As for McCoy’s next move, BucsNation.com expects his new deal to be in the $8-million range with incentives and Cleveland may be the team that gives it to him. Previous reports of “offers” north of $10-million seem to have been leaked by his agent to drive up his price and negotiations.

For those still interested in the former Buc, his visit with the Cleveland Browns went “great” and is still committed to visit the Ravens on Tuesday.

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Web links on the Buccaneers.

Big week for Ndamukong Suh includes not only joining Bucs, but getting engaged
Now we know why the Bucs new defensive tackle was in France instead of Tampa this week.

Bucs rookie CB Sean Murphy-Bunting has one proud mama
See what rookie cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting's mother had to say about her son in his Tampa Bay Buccaneers uniform.

Twitter Reacts to Bucs Signing of Ndamukong Suh
See some of the fan reaction to the Bucs’ signing of defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. Did your tweet make it?

Seahawks catch slight break with Ndamukong Suh heading to Buccaneers
Disruptive defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh has left the Los Angeles Rams and the NFC West, to the Seattle Seahawks' benefit.

Buccaneers' Jason Pierre-Paul Shares First Picture on IG Since Car Accident | Bleacher Report
Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul posted his first picture on Instagram since recovering from a car accident in early May that resulted in a fractured neck ...

S.S. Mailbag: Potential 2019 Improvements
Questions from Bucs fans send this week's mailbag into discussions about areas of possible team improvement this year, potential breakout players and more.

Ali Marpet: Bias Vibe Vacates One Buc Palace - JoeBucsFan.com
A reasoned and seasoned Buccaneer spoke out this week on changes for players who were here last year.

"Get Over It" - JoeBucsFan.com
Mike Golic has a special message for fans who think GMC should have taken a paycut in order to stay with the Bucs.

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Tampa Bay’s star wide receiver continues to be a fantastic influence off the field.

There are a lot of negative stories that come from professional sports these days. So, when an athlete does some good to better the lives of others off the field, it’s always special to see.

That’s what Buccaneers star wide receiver Mike Evans has continuously done throughout his time in the NFL. The latest example from Evans came just recently, when the 25-year-old and his wife, Ashli, gave $40,000 to Texas A&M University for two need-based scholarships for students from his hometown.

Former Aggie standout Mike Evans and his wife Ashli presented a $40,000 check to Texas A&M to establish two need-based scholarships for students from his hometown of Galveston, Texas.

Thanks and Gig 'em Mike! pic.twitter.com/wy6bcjDDzp

— Texas A&M Foundation (@TXAMFoundation) May 21, 2019

Awesome. For all of their failures on the field as of late, the Bucs have continued to make a positive mark off of it. Evans himself has been a huge part of the team’s efforts in the community, largely through the Mike Evans Family Foundation. The foundation, according to its website, exists “to support, empower, encourage and motivate today’s youth with an understanding the NO goal is unattainable.”

In addition to helping students from low-income families, Evans’ foundation supports “women and families battling domestic violence.” The Galveston, Texas product faced his own share of adversity growing up, which is part of what has led to this foundation, which was launched in December of 2017.

When athletes use their platform for good, it sets an excellent example for everyone. That’s what Evans does, and that will only continue as his professional football career progresses. He continues to prove that he is a face-of-the-franchise kind of guy whose difference-making abilities go well beyond the field of play.

Go on, Mike!

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Web links on the Buccaneers.

Key Numbers, Respect For Ndamukong Suh - JoeBucsFan.com
What do these numbers — 51, 38, 40, 40, 24, 40 and 55 — have in common when it comes to manbeast defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh and his expected arrival to the Buccaneers for the 2019 season?

Bucs Make Offseason Splash with DT Ndamukong Suh
The Buccaneers agreed to terms with free agent defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh on Thursday as he enters his 10th NFL season.

Source -- Suh to get $9.25 million deal from Bucs
The Buccaneers reached a one-year, $9.25 million agreement with defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh.

Takeaways from Bucs OTAs: Day 6
The Bucs wrapped their second week of OTAs on Thursday. Take a look at a few notes and observations heading into the long weekend.

Is the Bucs' addition of Suh an attempt to change the culture? - The Paywall Times
A lot of factors impacted the decision including contracts, cap issues and performance. But is there more to the acquisition?

Keyshawn Johnson: Bruce Arians Is "Sending A Message" With Suh Signing - JoeBucsFan.com
Keyshawn likes the Suh-McCoy swap for the Bucs and believes it is a bit of a wash on the field but more valuable for culture change.

SR's Fab 5: Suh Brings A Needed Edge To Bucs Defense | Pewter Report
Insight into the Suh deal.

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The veteran DT gets a one-year deal worth $9.25-million, $10-million with incentives.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have agreed to terms with free agent defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh, the team announced today.

Buccaneers officially have reached agreement with former Rams’ DT Ndamukong Suh on a one-year, $9.25 million deal that with incentives is worth up to $10 million, per source.

— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) May 23, 2019

Suh (6-4, 313), a nine-year veteran, is a five-time Pro Bowl selection and five-time Associated PressAll-Pro choice (three first team, two second team). Since entering the league as the No. 2 overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft out of Nebraska, Suh has started all 142 regular season games he has played, including the last 115 consecutively.

For his career, Suh has registered 481 tackles, including 107 for loss, 56 sacks, 166 quarterback hits, four forced fumbles, four fumbles recoveries (one touchdown), 32 passes defensed and one interception. He has added 20 tackles and five sacks in six career postseason games, including 10 tackles and 1.5 sacks in helping the Los Angeles Rams reach the Super Bowl last season.

In his first season, while playing for the Detroit Lions, Suh notched 10 sacks on his way to earning AP Defensive Rookie of the Year, Pro Bowl and first-team All-Pro nods. He repeated as a Pro Bowler and AP All-Pro in 2012, 2013 and 2014 with the Lions, and in 2016 as a member of the Miami Dolphins. In that season, his second of three in Miami, Suh collected a career-high 72 tackles, the fourth-highest single-season total among defensive tackles in the last 10 years.

Since entering the league, among defensive tackles, Suh ranks second in tackles (478), first in tackles for loss (107), third in sacks (56), first in quarterback hits (166) and first in passes defensed (32). Among all players during that span, his 107 tackles for loss rank fifth and his 166 quarterback hits rank seventh.

As a member of the NFC Champion Los Angeles Rams in 2018, Suh recorded 59 tackles, tied for second among defensive tackles, 4.5 sacks, four passes defensed and 19 quarterback hits.

A native of Portland, Oregon, Suh enjoyed a decorated career at Nebraska, culminating in a senior season in which he was earned the AP College Football Player of the Year, Nagurski, Bednarik, and Lombardi Awards, the Outland Trophy and unanimous All-American distinction.

(Courtesy of the Buccaneers Communications Department.)

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One thing doesn’t have to equal another

What if I told you appreciating the (impending) signing of Ndamukong Suh by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers was not a sign of not appreciating the nine years Gerald McCoy spent with the same franchise?

How about if I told you a person could like both moves? Or even dislike both moves, yet have their disdain for both stem from unconnected reasons?

At some point during the 2010 NFL Draft a comment about Suh and McCoy being connected for the duration of their careers was made. Perhaps multiple comments about the topic. And they were correct. However, as much as they were polar opposites as football players, they are just as polarizing as Buccaneers; one former and one soon to be (or newly signed, depending on when you read this.)

However, this does not mean opinions of these two players have to be forever tied and opposing to each other. A point apparently lost on some.

Throughout the saga which has been the release of McCoy, there have been two factions. One fighting for the tenure of the Batman Buccaneer, and one fighting for the reality of age and the science behind performance balancing with paychecks.

Neither is completely right, because neither is inside the situation and those inside the situation aren’t taking (public) sides. In the end, those in favor of separating McCoy and Tampa Bay claim a small victory for the moment.

But the war is not over. From the ashes of this debate rose another. And the two factions raised new flags. One side vying for the further football canonization of Gerald McCoy through tribute while villainizing Suh the west coast invader, and the other crowning Ndamukong Suh as the veteran Prince of aggression riding in to rid the Florida gulf coast football franchise of smiles and apologetic quarterback pressures.

Again, neither is completely right. Specifically, this isn’t a Suh versus McCoy situation. Suh didn’t release McCoy. The Buccaneers didn’t release McCoy specifically to sign Suh (as far as we know) and there is no evidence to indicate they did.

Simply, the team and McCoy no longer fit and the team happened to find his replacement in Suh. This is really all it boils down to. There’s no villain to the story other than father time and nearly a decade of losing for the time McCoy and the Bucs spent together.

But here we are.

Recently, an ESPN report commented Suh was a contradiction to Bucs ‘culture’ tying him to previous failed signings like DeSean Jackson and Chris Baker. Meanwhile, the same report grazes over McCoy’s shortcomings while immediately tying those flaws to his well-documented charity work providing an interestingly descriptive account of Suh as a player and teammate while leaving little detail about McCoy; the player covered by Jenna Laine for the duration of her time with ESPN up to this point.

A link to a 2012 player votes naming Suh the ‘dirtiest player’ in the league are provided. But the link to the 2012 NFL Top-100 naming Suh the 38th best player in the league as voted by players in the league, is absent. McCoy didn’t make that list.

In fact, McCoy didn’t make any NFL Top-100 lists until 2013 when he landed at 93. Suh was making his third appearance on the list that same year, and was ranked 40th.

Speaking of charitable contributions. A 2011 article titled, “Ndamukong Suh May Be Dirty, But He’s Also The Most Charitable Athlete In The Country”, stated,

“According to The Giving Back Fund, no athlete in the United States gave a bigger charitable donation in 2010 than Ndamukong Suh of the Detroit Lions.”

In 2016, Bleacher Report published a column titled, “10 Current Athletes Who Are Ridiculously Charitable”. Russell Wilson, Lebron James, John Cena, and Ndamukong Suh are all named.

“Other than throwing large sums of cash at programs....the Ndamukong Suh Family Foundation has worked to help provide children with school supplies, offered scholarships and committed to attendance programs.”

These things are not mentioned. Instead, the lone piece of evidence used in the reporting is a 2012 poll. From the year following Suh’s two-game suspension after stepping on the arm of then Green Bay Packers and current Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive lineman Evan Smith.

Since serving his two-game suspension, Suh has missed as many games in the NFL as I have played in. None.

Now, I want to be clear here. Jenna Laine is a well connected reporter who is well respected and I have no direct issue with her as a reporter and certainly not as a person. While her recent work is the focus of this, she is not the lone example. It’s everywhere.

My point is this, Ndamukong Suh has made some mistakes. Who hasn’t. He hasn’t been suspended since 2011 and has less money spent on fines than Julian Edelman of the New England Patriots and a slew of other NFL players.

McCoy not being on the NFL Top-100 until 2013 is not a reason why McCoy should not be in Tampa Bay. Similarly though, Suh being suspended in 2011 is not a reason he should not be either.

I can not find a single report saying Suh was a problem on or off the field with the Miami Dolphins or with the Los Angeles Rams. Every report I find says he was moved from Miami for monetary reasons, and Rams articles about his not returning are largely focused on age and minimal impact during the 2018 regular season. No, I haven’t read everything, but I read a lot.

Every negative comment or article about Suh is tying back to things that happened in 2011, 2012 or near the same timeframe. If we’re to use these dates as a gauge of who to or not to add to 2019 NFL teams, then I can’t wait for Ray Rice (2011 NFL All-Pro and 2012-13 AFC Pro Bowl running back) to sign with someone.

Gerald McCoy did a lot of great things for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and was often times the lone bright spot in some dismal days for Bucs fans. Nobody should take this away from him.

He did a lot of work in and around the community and has a smile that you can’t help but smile back at. His love of comic book characters and his willingness to keep a loose attitude even in storms could frustrate some, but is one of the reasons he was an ambassador of the team. Nobody should undersell or minimize those characteristics.

Ndamukong Suh made a lot of mistakes early in his career and derailed his time with the franchise that drafted him. Nobody will ever forget it.

He also took the opportunity to learn from those and start fresh in Miami with minimal success as a team, but consistent success still as an individual. He was then signed by a team with a young coach to help improve a defense and contributed to a Super Bowl run as recent as last year.

While nobody should take away what McCoy meant and did while he was in Tampa, nobody should take away Suh’s demonstrated production and improvement in his on field conduct either. And certainly his off-field contributions shouldn’t be hidden away while targeting his character while accentuating McCoy’s own charity and foundation work in an effort to prove your devotion to McCoy either.

No matter where you work. No matter what your platform. No matter how you feel about a football player past, present or future, this doesn’t have to be Ndamukong Suh vs Gerald McCoy. It just doesn’t.

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The Bucs will have a radically new - and modern - scheme this season and possibly for the foreseeable future.

This is the introduction to a multi-part series that will dive into the various schemes, disguises, and other elements Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive coordinator Todd Bowles will employ in 2019. Be sure to check back in the coming weeks for more.

Jon: You could argue that Tampa Bay’s legacy is built on defense. Their first Hall of Fame player was Lee Roy Selmon, a defensive end. The Bucs rode a historically good defense to their first Super Bowl championship, and the players from that defense are now legends in their own right, with some of them also in the Hall.

But the defenses in Tampa Bay haven’t been good lately. In fact, they’ve been awful. They haven’t had a top ten defense since 2013. The closest they’ve come recently was in 2016, when they were 13th. And even that was a bit of a mirage, as an unsustainable interception rate provided cover for a defense that was still among the league’s worst in giving up yards.

One of the big reasons for the lackluster defense, besides an arguable lack of talent, is the evolution of the game. The Spread has finally reached the NFL. It started slowly at first, in an upwards trickle from the college game over a decade ago, but after the Philadelphia Eagles won the Super Bowl in 2018 the floodgates opened. Everyone has spread concepts in their playbook now. The Kansas City Chiefs have been running a completely “college” offense. Even the Buccaneers last year had spread concepts sprinkled in.

What is the spread, though? To put it simply, the spread attempts to get the ball to dynamic skill players in the negative space of the defense - the holes in the coverage. That’s what all defenses try to do, but the spread does this by creating easier and quicker reads and throws for the quarterback, while still designed to create opportunity for skill players to make big plays.

Instead of the thousands of static plays in the old West Coast playbooks of Bill Walsh that all had to be learned, the Spread has a handful of concepts, sometimes multiple ones packaged into a single play, it can run from a multitude of formations and personnel groups with runs and play-action passes and the like all designed to appear the same to the defense. Then it is often repped over and over to perfection and sometimes run as quickly as possible to force defenses into mistakes and coverage busts. Many of those concepts resemble ones you’d find in basketball. It looks to make things as simple as possible for the offense (like reading just a single defensive player instead of the whole field) while still making it difficult and complex for the defense to figure out and stop. Defenses in turn have adopted many of the same principles.

So how do you stop the Spread? Lovie Smith had a spot-dropping zone coverage that mostly played a soft Cover 2 shell that tried to keep everything in front of them. But when they faced teams with spread concepts, like the Tennessee Titans in the opening game of the 2015 season, they were woefully unprepared. Second-level RPOs destroyed Smith’s scheme as it put linebackers in conflict and targeted the open holes in the coverage. It turned into a rout.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports Marcus Mariota and the Titans throttled the Bucs in 2015.

Mike Smith adopted a similar soft coverage don’t-give-up-the-big-play philosophy, but with Cover 3 and Cover 4/Quarters as his base. He fared even worse than Lovie. The game against Chicago last season, a 48-10 brutalization, was reminiscent of Lovie’s 42-14 Titans game. His scheme had checks for every scenario an offense could throw at it, but the secondary didn’t communicate and the Bucs either didn’t have the talent or the coaching staff couldn’t teach the system; likely a little bit of both. After Smith was fired the scheme was “dumbed down” to make it easier and faster for the players to execute. Smith may have lacked a true or comprehensive vision for the Bucs’ defense and the types of players he wanted in each position, but he did want to build the defense from the inside-out, starting with interior defensive linemen.

Both coaches saw their antiquated and over-matched units repeatedly torched by modern offenses, and they never adapted. If I were building a defense, I’d build it from the back to the front.

In steps new defensive coordinator Todd Bowles. So what is Bowles’ philosophy? What can Bucs fans expect to see from their new defense in the fall? If we had to choose one word, it would be aggressive. Bowles wants to be as aggressive as possible. But another just as important tenet shines through - his defenses are positionless. As offenses began to put more skill position players on the field they also began to collect tweeners - WR/TE and WR/RB hybrids (even TE/FB). In response, defenses have done the same. Linebacker/edge rushers, cornerback/safeties, safety/linebackers. To stop athletes in space you need your own versatile athletes that can play in space, that are big enough to stop the run but also have the athleticism to run and cover.

Not to beat a dead horse, but that’s probably why the Bucs should have taken Derwin James in last year’s draft. He’s perfectly made for this era of football. He can rush the passer off the edge, drop into coverage, line up at nickel, play the box safety role or as the overhang defender, or even single-high in a pinch. The game is about matchups, and he can match up with just about anyone, lined up just about anywhere.

Bowles appears to understand this. Being positionless also means Bowles’ scheme can be extremely multiple. He can and does mix and match different personnel in the same role (say, switching out a linebacker for a third safety), allowing him to run the same calls and blitz packages from different looks and alignments. He will let a player do what they do best. All of that also helps with disguise. He loves to play man coverage, especially on the outside, but he does mix in some zone-matching too, especially in the middle of the field (MOF). Defenses coordinated by Bowles often lead or nearly lead the league in blitzes, as pointed out by Jenna Laine:

From 2015 to 2018, Bowles’ Jets blitzed 936 of 2,501 dropbacks (37.4 percent), second most in the league, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Those blitzes resulted in 125 quarterback hits and 26 interceptions, ranking third most and second most, respectively, of any team when blitzing.

When he was the defensive coordinator of the Cardinals from 2013 to 2014, Bowles’ defense blitzed 620 of 1,333 dropbacks (46.5 percent), which was the most in the NFL. Quarterbacks were contacted on 92 of those dropbacks and threw 17 interceptions, both numbers more than any other team in the league.


Over the last three seasons the Bucs only blitzed about 23 percent of the time, probably because they got burned worse when they did blitz. Bowles especially likes blitzing on first downs and off the weak side. But he’s creative with his blitzes and stunt games, and because they disguise what they’re doing (who’s rushing, and in what gap, and who’s dropping) he often gets free rushers at the quarterback. One problem the Bucs have often had is they don’t have the players to win their 1v1 matchups, and they weren’t creative enough to manufacture a rush. So, far too often you saw Bucs defensive linemen get stoned at the line of scrimmage off the snap. It is probably also why the Bucs made inside linebacker Devin White the 5th overall pick in the draft. Especially with Jason Pierre-Paul’s status up in the air, the Bucs will be sending White early and often.

Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports Devin White will be a crucial piece to the defense in 2019.

The scheme places a tremendous amount of pressure and responsibility on its cornerbacks. Bowles likes to use them in press man alignments, though he’ll also have them play off-man at times. They need to be big, long, and can run, as they are often left on islands in coverage. I believe that is probably the biggest reason why the Bucs targeted multiple defensive backs in the draft.

At its core, it is a single-gap system, so the hybrid-gapping from Mike Smith is gone, except for the occasional play. Don’t let the 3-4 label fool you. The Bucs won’t be two-gapping like in traditional 3-4s. The DL aren’t there to eat blocks. The Bucs might have only three down linemen on most snaps (and sometimes just two) but they could easily be lined up just like how a 4-3 defense would be. It’s just that one edge rusher from an outside linebacker spot is standing up where a defensive end is normally found with their hand in the dirt. It looks to create penetration in the backfield just like any other traditional 4-3 system. There is still a defensive tackle often lined up as a 3-tech in this defense.

It’s also a big deal that Bowles will build his scheme around the talent he has, whatever he has. Not a lot of good edge rushers? Bowles will put more safeties on the field, and blitz. He will also switch his scheme up from week to week if not in-game. Playing a run-heavy team this Sunday? Bowles will come out and play with four down linemen the whole game, and then go back to three the following week. If his personnel dictates it he will play with four down linemen the whole year. Because of Mike Smith the Bucs already have a mix of traditional 3-4 and 4-3 players, but some of their roles will change. Vea won’t be asked to eat up blockers anymore as a nose tackle. And while he still may line up in a nose tackle’s 0 or 1 tech alignment, he’ll be asked to get upfield in the quarterback’s lap just like everyone else.

This isn’t all to say that Bowles will be a sure-fire success. Just that Bowles understands the way things are, and how to build a defense, especially in today’s game. He understands being scheme flexible, getting talented versatile players, and doing his best to marry the scheme to the personnel. And that’s a lot more than the last guys could say.

Evan: Versatility. Adjustments. Blitzes. Disguise. Adaptability.

All of these words have been absent when discussing the Bucs’ defense over the past two decades. The infamous Tampa 2 that helped them win a Super Bowl is no longer a defensive scheme that can be relied upon in today’s NFL. Dropping up to seven into coverage and relying on a four-man pass rush simply doesn’t get the job done like it once did.

What you have to love about this defense, like Jon mentioned, is the fact that it won’t be the same type of defense from week to week. Bowles will take a page from the Book of Belichick and have his defense adapt to whatever offense the Bucs play that week.

Frankly, that’s what the Bucs must do this year if they want to be effective on defense. There is not enough experience and depth for this team to remain stagnant scheme-wise.

But let’s get on to Bowles’ defense. For context’s sake, let’s take a look at his 2014 season with the Arizona Cardinals, when he was voted the first-ever AP Assistant Coach of the Year.

According to Football Outsiders, Bowles’ defense was seventh overall in DVOA against the sixth-hardest offensive schedule in the NFL.

And this was without players such as Darnell Dockett, Karlos Dansby, and Daryl Washington - three key players that helped the Cardinals finish second in defensive DVOA in 2013.

Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images Bowles found a way to overcome Daryl Washington’s suspension.

Arizona’s defense was hit hard with injuries that season, but they still managed to be one of the best units in the NFL.

The Cardinals finished 24th in the league with 35 sacks that year, but Bowles’ scheme and disguise still gave quarterbacks fits. This was evidenced by the Cardinals finishing just outside of the top-10 when it came to quarterback rating allowed.

He was still able to find ways to scheme around the players he had, putting them in the best position possible to compete, which is the complete opposite of the Lovie/Mike Smith regimes over the past few years.

Take a look at Lavonte David, the Bucs’ senior defensive player now that Gerald McCoy is gone.

David had 13 sacks in his first three years because believe it or not, Lovie Smith knew that he can get after the quarterback. When Mike Smith was brought on, David racked up just eight sacks - including a goose egg season in 2017 - in three seasons under Mike Smith.

(side note: David finished with 3.5 sacks in 2018, but all of those came after Smith was fired)

16 Cardinals finished with at least one sack in 2014. The Bucs haven’t had anywhere close to that type of production from that many players, eclipsing a dozen players with sacks just twice since 2010.

This is a big deal because as we all know, Tampa Bay will be without its leading sack master from 2018 in Jason Pierre-Paul for a good portion of the season. Players are going to have to step up to fill the void and it’ll be up to Bowles to make it happen.

The misuse of players will change under Bowles. He has shown that he know how to use his players correctly and won’t attempt to fit any square pegs in round holes.

And with the addition of Ndamukong Suh, the defense should be better.

Suh will bring more versatility to the defensive line than McCoy offered. While McCoy is a better pass rusher at this point in his career, Suh will allow players like Vita Vea, Devin White, and David to create havoc all over the field, which is something that McCoy wouldn’t have been able to do.

McCoy may be the better player at this point in his career, but Suh is the better fit.

Deone Bucannon is also another player to look out for. I mean, hell, we as may as well go ahead and start learning every defensive player’s name now!

Despite the challenges ahead, it’s an exciting time to be a Buccaneers fan when it comes to this new era of defense.

I can’t wait to see what’s in store.

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Second year player starting to hit his stride with the new coaching staff

The second week of OTA’s have begun for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the last 24 hours have been incredibly busy for the franchise.

The team released Gerald McCoy, who was the franchise’s longest tenured player of nine years. A short twelve hours later, they signed Ndamukong Suh as his replacement.

While many were talking about the Suh signing today, Bruce Arians made a promising comment surrounding second year player Ronald Jones III.

It’s not secret that RoJo had a forgettable rookie season in 2018 and his confidence was clearly shaken heading into the off-season. With that being said, since the day Arians has taken over, he has had nothing but positive things to say about Jones and that continued on Tuesday.

Arians has unsolicited praise for RB Ronald Jones: "Some really young players really stepped up, especially Ronald Jones. He had a really good (day) today. I really enjoy watching where he's at right now."

— Greg Auman (@gregauman) May 21, 2019

This recent news should be music to Buccaneer fans ears, because if Jones can be that pass-catching back that the Buccaneers desperately need, it can take the offense to another level.

Of course, results need to be seen on the field, but to get praise from a coach who has no problem criticizing his own players, should be a big confidence booster to the former Trojan.

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With so much money invested into one unit, surely it’s worth it... right?

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will roll out one of the NFL’s most expensive offensive lines in 2019. To be exact, the Buccaneers offensive line is the 4th highest paid line in the NFL behind the Dallas Cowboys, Atlanta Falcons and Green Bay Packers. For a team with so much volatility up front when it comes to protecting the quarterback and getting the run game going, it just seems a bit crazy to sit back and look at the numbers.

Before getting too overwhelmed, this high cap dollar amount has a lot to do with having to go out and get a free agent center (Ryan Jensen), paying Ali Marpet with an extension and bringing back Donovan Smith on a new deal. Again though, how was there so much inconsistency from a group that this front office has deemed worthy of the contracts?

As our own Jon Marchant has written before, the scheme Dirk Koetter and company utilized on offense didn’t exactly put the quarterback or offensvie line in an easy spot with so many downfield throws and long developing plays. With a new staff surely that will change. Or will it? Bruce Arians will undoubtedbly do a better job with the flow of the game and playing to strengths, but this offensive line will still be asked to block for extended periods of time as Arians and his staff love to push the ball downfield.

By the numbers, Ryan Jensen was the leagues 30th ranked center and Caleb Benenoch was the leagues 84th ranked guard according to Pro Football Focus. Jensen is back at center and will have to do better. But what about right guard? Earl Watford could compete with Benenoch and last years draft pick Alex Cappa for that spot and given the play fans witnessed, that spot is for sure up for grabs going into this years Pre-Season games.

Demar Dotson is another name that could be an X-Factor for this line should he be able to maintain his health for 16 games. Dotson hasn’t played a full 16 game season since 2014 and while he managed to play 15 this past year, nagging injuries did him no favor as he fought through it.

The staff and front office showed this line some love by not going out and getting immediate upgrades. The investements have been made and those investments are in charge of keeping Jameis Winston protected. Those investments are in charge of turning around one of the leagues most disappointing rush attacks over the last few seasons. Those investments may very well be what keeps this team back in 2019 or what allows this group to excel. All eyes on the big men up front this season. Time to show the world why you guys are worth that money.

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