As the 2019 season is getting ready to start, Tampa Bay Buccaneers fans desperately want the defense to make a turnaround. Specifically, in the secondary. Brought over from his time in Arizona, Bruce Arians has Nick Rapone to help him. The goal is to create a stingy secondary to compete in a pass-heavy league.
With Age Comes Wisdom
With over 35 years’ experience, Rapone has coached at all levels. From New Castle high school to the professional ranks. Notably, he coached at Delaware University earning honors as 2010 FootballScoop NCAA Division I FCS Coordinator of the Year. His specialty has been the secondary. Molding and instructing players to meet and exceed their potential. With all his experience he should have plenty of wisdom to pass on to the players.
Rapone moved to the NFL in 2013 joining former teammate and fellow coach Bruce Arians. During his time in Arizona, he coached the secondary. A secondary that included players like Patrick Peterson. Peterson earned two of his three All-Pro appearances during Rapone’s time. In 2014, Antonio Cromartie played his way to a Pro-Bowl appearance. Additionally, in 2015 Tyrann Mathieu was voted to his only All-Pro honors and his only Pro-Bowl. 2017 would be Rapone’s final year with the Cardinals. During that season he pushed Budda Baker to an All-Pro level. Baker would also be a Pro-Bowler. If anyone can help turn around this secondary it will be Rapone.
Brilliance in the Basics
Rapone brings a lengthy history of instructing players in the secondary. Certainly, he is well versed in individual techniques and can get the best out of players. Furthermore, he seems to embody a brilliance in the basics approach. Where winning is based on the mastery of the basics. Under his watchful eye, I anticipate the secondary will turn these basics into habits. Once habits are embedded into the players, they become calmer in stressful situations. They will keep their composure and be more disciplined during play. Secondly, he will help the young players mature much faster. Maybe helping them play like well-seasoned veterans.
For more on the basics, Rapone will engrain into the players you can purchase a Coaches Choice DVD. Titled “Individual Techniques for Defensive Back Play” Rapone covers a lot of the techniques to train defensive backs. Rapone directed and was featured in it himself.
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Under Todd Bowles from 2013-2014, the Arizona Cardinals started to build a strong secondary. The fruits of their labors started to show up in 2015. That year the Cardinals total pass defense ranked eighth. In 2016 they matured even more and ended up being ranked fourth overall. Unfortunately the following year they did not fare so well. The Cardinals as an entire team had taken a step back. The passing defense finished fourteenth. Additionally, Per Rapone’s Tampa Bay Buccaneer’s biography;
“During Rapone’s time with Arizona, the team’s pass defense was among the best in the NFL, holding opponents to a 61.0 completion percentage, the ninth-lowest mark in the league, and an 83.2 passer rating, the sixth-lowest in the NFL. The Cardinals were also one of the best teams in the NFL at intercepting passes, with the team’s 86 interceptions ranking third during that span and their 14 interceptions returned for touchdowns tying for the league best.”
What to Expect
As the year begins, we may see some growing pains. This secondary is full of young players brought in through the draft recently. But under Rapone they will become disciplined intelligent players. This will be key to the success of the secondary.
The secondary, much like the linebackers will need to play multiple roles. The corners and safeties will combine a vast array of defensive looks. Mostly based on mixed coverages that change by play and player. Hopefully, a cornerback can break away from the pack of players on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers roster. As a result, if one player does emerge they may get to play a Patrick Peterson type role. They will follow a teams’ number one receiver and mostly remain in man coverage.
Safeties will see time in traditional roles and in the box from time to time. They will be in a man to man coverage when assignments require them to cover a tight end. The corners/safeties that have a slightly larger build will see the field as the fifth member of the secondary. In that scenario, it will be in nickel packages. Furthermore, they will play a hybrid safety/linebacker position. Deone Bucannon played that role for Bowles and Rapone.
Todd Bowles loves his corners and says you can never have enough of them. So, expect a new secondary this year. One that is aggressive, complex and uses players to the best of their abilities.
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