The Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ 2018 season has disappeared into the rear-view mirror. There are new coaches with their own schemes to execute. In particular, Todd Bowles brings an aggressive and adaptable scheme that should improve the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense drastically. So what can we expect from this new defense?
The Best Fit
Bowles has coached in different schemes over the years. From working with rosters suited for the 4-3 and building defenses dominated by the 3-4. Subsequently, this unique use of individuals has allowed Bowles to tailor his schemes to be a best fit for all players involved. He consistently evaluates the players available and derives a scheme that is suited for their strengths and aims to hide some weaknesses.
During the 2014 season, the Arizona Cardinals defense was plagued by injuries. Tyrann Mathieu missed multiple games recovering from an injury the year prior and a thumb injury during the season. John Abraham had a concussion and was placed on injured reserve. Likewise, Darnell Dockett was lost to a torn ACL in August of 2014. In May of 2014, Daryl Washington was suspended, he would not play the season. With these losses throughout the defense Bowles adjusted as needed. Putting back up players in arrangements that they fit and plays that leaned on their strengths. Arizona was able to finish with a top-five defense that season.
The ability to also bring in players that fit what Bowles wants to do is also key. We have already seen this in action with the departure of Gerald McCoy and the arrival of Ndamukong Suh. Additionally, the signing of Shaquil Barrett, Deone Bucannon and the retention of Kevin Minter. All of whom are adaptable players who can fit in a multi-role system.
The Enemy Has a Vote
In the military planning process, they say “the enemy has a vote”. This means that when planning for operations military commanders must understand and adapt to what the enemy brings to the fight. Todd Bowles understands this as well. Known for studying the offense of his opponent and adjusting the game plan leading up to the contests. Something we never saw with Mike Smith.
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You can see this in Bowles use of current Tampa Bay Buccaneer Deone Bucannon while in Arizona. He was used in a multipurpose hybrid safety/linebacker role. Used to cover tight ends and running backs while having the ability to charge downhill on running plays. I would expect to see Bucannon play a similar role along with rookie Devin White.
On top of single players being used in different facets, the entire defense will switch from time to time. During his time in Arizona and New York Bowles would adjust to the opposing teams. At times he would predominantly use a 3-4 defense during a game. The next week he may change and heavily use a 4-3. It all depends on the offense he faces. I suspect that he does a vast amount of homework on offensive lines in particular to drive his decision making. Lining up his players’ strengths against the offensive lines weaknesses.
Can you really classify a defenses overall scheme when they continue to evolve and adjust? It’s hard to do. The front of the defense will change from play to play and opponent to opponent. The coverages will be mixed and the pass rushers will be disguised.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers official page quoted Bruce Arians in an article by Scott Smith (@ScottSBucs) when he proclaimed the following after being asked what Buccaneers fans can expect with the new defensive system;
“Three-4, 4-3, some call it ‘over’ and ‘under.’ We call it different [things] – they still line up the same. [We’re] not a two-gap team. We’re going to attack. As long as our players attack – in today’s NFL, you’re in nickel defense 70 percent of the time, so you’re playing a four-man line. We’ll have odd-man lines, we’ll have four-man lines. That’s just schematics to me.”
The only constant that I can draw from Bowles play calling and film from the past is this, it will be aggressive!