When discussing the 2015 Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ defense, it’s clear that depth does the mind good. In their first full year together, Lovie Smith and general manager Jason Licht are crafting the entire defense to their liking and the approach is very different from former head coach Greg Schiano’s philosophy.
"“You never want to put somebody in jeopardy of injury. But as long as they feel that’s not the case … 95 percent because fatigue maybe has a 5 percent edge off his game. Ninety-five percent of Gerald is still better than most guys at 100 percent. Your elite guys you want to keep out there as much as you can and Gerald certainly is elite in this league.”"
Lovie is different. He believes in a strength in numbers approach where nearly every position has multiple players who can come in throughout the course of a game and contribute just as well as the player they replaced. “If we have seven guys up, all seven play,’’ defensive line coach Joe Cullen told ESPN. “Very simple. No one’s going to play 65 snaps and play every down.” It’s a mentality that will extend beyond the defensive line.
With Lavonte David holding down the Will position, Licht and Smith have three other linebackers in Danny Lansanah, Bruce Carter and rookie Kwon Alexander, who have very similar skill sets and will be interchangeable pieces at the remaining Mike and Sam spots. It’s a luxury that the Bucs didn’t have last year and it’s something that will not only offer different looks for the opposing offense, but will keep each guy fresh for an entire game.
The same can be said for the secondary where the Buccaneers stockpiled their options by adding Chris Conte, Sterling Moore and D.J. Swearinger to join the likes of Alterraun Verner, Johnthan Banks, Bradley McDougald and Major Wright, who proved that they can efficiently execute the Tampa 2 scheme. Then, there’s cornerback Mike Jenkins who had an unfortunate end to his 2014 campaign after suffering a season-ending injury in Week 1, but has the tools to turn into a solid contributor. So, if you’re keeping track at home, that’s four cornerbacks and four safeties with Conte and Swearinger open to occasionally playing as a slot corner.
With so many choices and variations at his disposal this upcoming season, Lovie will finally have the defense he wants to see out on the field every Sunday. His strength in numbers approach will keep his players fresh, satisfied with their playing time and competitive. There’s a lot to like about what Smith and Licht are building on the defensive side of the ball in Tampa. Don’t forget that after going 5-11 and allowing 20.7 points per game in his first year with the Chicago Bears, Smith’s team went 11-5 and allowed a league-best 12.6 points per game the following year. Now do you believe?
More from The Pewter Plank
- Devin White posts cryptic message to Lavonte David on Twitter
- ESPN predicts surprising outcome to Devin White trade saga
- Updated Buccaneers depth chart after signing two players from rookie minicamp
- Todd Bowles sends clear message about Baker Mayfield’s role with Bucs
- The Athletic is wrong about Bucs one ‘must-watch’ game in 2023