The first entry in our 2010 Buccaneers Top Ten list is the Next Man Up mentality that was embodied by this Buccaneers team, particularly the defense, throughout the course of the season. Starting with the loss of Brian Price early on and followed by the suspension of Tanard Jackson and a rash of players heading to the IR on a near weekly basis, the Buccaneers depth was tested throughout the course of the season.
Fortunately for Tampa, their young coach had instilled a next-man-up mentality in his team since day one of OTA’s. The Bucs boasted the youngest roster in the league, at some point or another in the season 25 different rookies made contributions. It wasn’t exactly a secret that the Buccaneers were going to have to use a lot of players this season, conventional wisdom said it would be because they were going to be so very bad (who doesn’t love preseason predictions), but regardless entering the season it was obvious Tampa would have a number of young players getting an opportunity for PT this year.
There’s a difference between knowing that and instilling it in your team though. And Raheem Morris managed to get it through to his team that it takes on play and you’re the starter. It takes one mistake and you’re in the game. You could be in the fire at the drop of a hat, so always be ready. And fortunately this young team got that.
Morris talked throughout the season about the Bucs need for the next man up to be ready, and all year (as with other Morris talking points) the Bucs lived up to his expectations. When Tanard Jackson was suspended, Cody Grimm stepped in and played admirably until he was injured. When Jeff Faine went down Jeremy Zuttah and Ted Larsen stood up. When Jeremy Trueblood went down James Lee jumped on the opportunity. EJ Biggers seemed to grow on a weekly basis in replacing the injured Aqib Talib.
That opportunism on the part of the Bucs young players can’t be understated. This team was hungry all year and it stemmed largely from their coach instilling in them the next-man-up mentality, getting through to them that at any moment, it could be their shot. Their one and only shot. So they had to be ready, and in 2010 they were.