It’s time for yet another edition of Pewter Plank mailbag, and this edition brings a very interesting question given the moves the Buccaneers have made this offseason:
@ThePewterPlank will the bucs actually blitz more with 3 man to man corners? And who is the man to cover Gonzalez and graham. Barber did it
— Mike Tallman (@bucs3000) June 2, 2013
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Obviously, this discussion hinges on a healthy Darrelle Revis. But assuming Revis is the same Revis we’ve seen dominate the AFC East for the past few years, then how will the Buccaneers approach the newfound freedom provided by having Revis Island isolating a wide receiver all on his own?
Last season, Lavonte David was among the most frequent pass rushing 4-3 outside linebackers in the NFL, coming on the blitz 22.3% of the time, according to Pro Football Focus. That ranks him fifth among 4-3 OLB’s, and right in the ballpark with all the other high-volume pass rushing backers not named Von Miller.
He was not overly productive when he did blitz, only getting a “result” (a pressure, hit, or sack) on about 10% of those blitzes. And with no better option as a pass rusher heading into 2013, it figures that David will see the field in this role again. So when the Buccaneers are using their usual defensive arrangement, David will be the primary option to rush the passer, and his lack of efficiency in that area means the Buccaneers aren’t incentivized to give him any more chances than he had last year.
But do the Bucs have another wild card in the deck? Our friends over at BucsNation pointed out that the Buccaneers have been working on a three-man line during OTA’s, a format that could allow for more creative blitzes featuring defensive backs or Dekoda Watson. And while Sander is not a big fan of the three-man line, a three-man line with a good blitz package can be a dangerous thing. The Buccaneers would be feeding Gerald McCoy to the center of the opponent’s offensive line, but if that translates to interior gaps for linebackers and DB’s to have a free run at the quarterback, I am inclined to think there is potential to use this package in the right situations. This is something to keep an eye on, because while I don’t want to see the Buccaneers overusing a three-man line, it would provide an interesting changeup compared to the fastball that is the standard 4-3 defense or 4-2-5 nickel.
The other wild card here is Johnthan Banks. The reader mentions Banks as a man-to-man corner, but as a converted safety who played zone corner quite a bit at Mississippi State, he is certianly capable and familiar with the role of getting into the backfield. In fact, in 2011, Banks had 8 tackles for loss and 3 sacks for the Bulldogs. He’s definitely not afraid to get into the backfield and mix it up, so he may play similarly to Ronde Barber in passing situations, and occasionally find himself rushing the passer just like number 20 did so well for the Bucs.
Overall, I think the Buccaneers will only blitz more often if they find a defensive back worthy of the task. Lavonte David isn’t suited to rush the passer any more than he did in 2012, so unless Johnthan Banks or Mark Barron provide a very compelling argument, I think the Bucs’ personell just doesn’t suit an increased number of blitzes.
As far as who will cover Jimmy Graham and Tony Gonzalez, this can become more of a team effort, but I am going to out on a limb and say that Mark Barron is going to get the lion’s share of snaps covering big name tight ends. Barron was certainly not ready to line up as a deep safety and read a defense and make the right plays last season, and this season he won’t have to thanks to the addition of Dashon Goldson. So this provides an opportunity for Barron to line up closer to the line of scrimmage, and also to line up on tight ends. If you read through all of Mark Barron’s draft profiles, you see his ability to cover tight ends is mentioned frequently. His size and speed combine to provide all the tools he needs to cover tight ends, and he is able to really use his strong instincts and hard-hitting nature against tight ends, as he can read and react to the run game, and still provide solid coverage on his assigned receiver.