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January 19, 2011 @ 7:10 am
Current rating: 5.00 Stars/2 Votes

Bucs Now Open To Drafting Players From 3-4 Defenses

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Bucs head coach and defensive coordinator Raheem Morris talked about how the Bucs are open to a new kind of defender in the draft due to his highly variable defense. Morris discloses how his defense has the Buccaneers targeting something new.
The Buccaneers were in full force scouting college players at the East-West Shrine Game practices in Orlando, Fla. on Tuesday with general manager Mark Dominik, director of college scouting Dennis Hickey, head coach Raheem Morris and Morris’ assistant Jay Kaiser in attendance. With Morris serving as Tampa Bay’s defensive coordinator, the Tampa 2 defense made popular by long-time defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin is long gone, replaced by a hybrid scheme that features a lot of three down linemen and multiple fronts.

“It’s Tampa 2.5,” Morris said. “Now if you draft [linebacker] Derrick Brooks and [strong safety John] Lynch again, we’ll play Cover 2 every snap.”

During the 2010 campaign in which the Bucs went 10-6 fueled by quarterback Josh Freeman and the offense, which had to carry the slack for a defense that was decimated by injuries, Morris played a good deal of 3-3-5 and 3-4 defensive schemes to help make up from the lack of pass rush from Tampa Bay’s front four. The Bucs generated only 26 sacks with just 15 coming from the defensive line.

Tampa Bay, which ranked 17th in total yards (332.7 yards per game) last year, also struggled mightily to stop the run, finishing 28th in the NFL, allowing an average of 131.7 yards per game.

“If we can’t stop the run? Okay, then we’ll stop the [heck] out of the pass,” Morris said.

And that’s what happened last year, as the secondary was the strength of the Bucs defense, finishing ranked seventh in the league by surrendering an average of only 201 yards per game. That’s amazing considering that starting free safety Tanard Jackson was suspended indefinitely by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell after the second game of the season, and the Bucs lost his replacement, Cody Grimm, and top cornerback Aqib Talib to season-ending injuries.

Now it’s time for Tampa Bay to shore up its front seven, and with the 3-3-5 and 3-4 formations continuing to be part of Morris’ regular defensive alignments, the team will be looking at hybrid 3-4 pass-rushing outside linebackers like Texas A&M’s Von Miller (6-3, 250), UCLA’s Akeem Ayers (6-4, 255) and Georgia’s Justin Houston (6-3, 258) as first-round draft options for the Buccaneers.



All three players proved to be skilled pass rushers in college. Houston had 11 sacks, one forced fumble, one interception, 18.5 tackles for a loss, and 67 tackles. Ayers had a career-high 68 tackles, 10 tackles for loss, four sacks, four pass breakups, two forced fumbles, and two interceptions this season.

Miller led college football in sacks in 2009 with 17. He also added 21.5 tackles for a loss, four forced fumbles, and 47 tackles. This year Miller battled through injuries but played in every game and produced 10.5 sacks with 68 tackles, three forced fumbles, and 17.5 tackles for a loss.

In the past the Bucs ruled those kinds of players out, but now with Morris’ defense those players are now viable candidates to be drafted by Tampa Bay. Pewter Report asked Morris if his defense has opened up other types of players for general manager Mark Dominik to select from.

“No doubt,” Morris said. “No question. We talk about that all the time. We talked about it last year going into the draft. Don’t close the door on all the hybrid players that you get in the draft like we did before.

“I’ve figured some stuff out. Go take Dekoda Watson. I don’t care if he isn’t keyed yet or has been sharp enough to play linebacker. He played some significant snaps for us based on [pass-rushing] situations where he was given a chance to go be successful. That’s how I kind of look at things. It may be a little bit different. It may be a little bit out of the box, but you have to be a little bit.”

Morris is the self-proclaimed greatest thief in the NFL. While studying 3-4 teams like the Pittsburgh Steelers, Baltimore Ravens, and New England Patriots, Morris was influenced to add some of their blitzes and formations to the Buccaneers defense. Sam (strongside) linebacker Quincy Black stayed on the field when the Bucs used  their 3-4 and 3-3-5 scheme in passing situations. Black primarily served as an edge rusher in those packages. With Black entering free agency it wouldn’t be surprising to see Tampa Bay target a player like Ayers, Miller, or Houston to be their new "Redskin" hybrid linebacker and pass rusher.

~ by Scott Reynolds and Charlie Campbell
Last modified on Tuesday, 15 March 2011 09:35
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COMMENTS

  • avatar

    casey mathews in round 3 would be so sick his gonna be just as good as his brother and get 1 of those guys and a de our defence would be stacked
  • avatar


    My only concern with Casey Mathews is that championship game....Dude looked lost. Ya, so looks like a clone of his brother, sure. Ya, his bigger and more intimidating than what we are used to in Ruud, Sure. But he was out of place and missing tackles just like Ruud. He made a few splash plays and was non-existent the rest of the game.
  • avatar

    true that he did look lost in that game, but he also had like month or so off before that game, thats why i think we should try to get him in the later rounds in the draft he'll be some work but i think in the long run he can be a good solid player
  • avatar

    It comes down to drafting good atheltes and putting them in a position to succeed. Having a hybrid scheme opens up the door to selecting different types of players instead of always picking players that fit a certain scheme. The great coaches find ways to insert players into certain positions, even it it means changing their traditional scheme. The only problem is asking a player to play a certain role that doesn't fit their ability. I'm looking forward to seeing this defense progress.
  • avatar

    i think that they are leaning that way already with the 3-4 fronts. i just think that they mite need a corner on the other side of Talib. alot of the time they will be on an island b thereself. we need better corner back play when we play Ryan and bress twice a season. miller would be awsome. anybody think that Casey Mattheaws can be good like the rest of his family????
  • avatar


    Casey Mathews in RD 3 to be Ruuds replacement
  • avatar


    i like the idea of drafting lb/de's they always talking about having versatile players and this will give them this on defense ,now u need sum coaches to teach and coach the players up
  • avatar


    I remember back in 1976, the late John McKay was scoffed at when he instituted the 3-4 defense when every other NFL team played the traditional 4-3. His thinking then, like is the case now, was that most colleges play a 3-4 defense thus they are producing those types of players. That's what is happening now with these "hybrid" defensive ends/outside linebackers that are pass rushers. I've always believed that players, not schemes, win games.
  • avatar


    Its about time to go back to what Tampa has played in the pass years. If any of those three players are available at twenty. That would be great. But I think if any of them are still available let say at 15. Then I would go for it. Example give them Denver pick in #5 and a player to be name later. Or something like that. There will be players that will drop as the Round one moves on. A great example is this, If Tampa thinks that Tampa could get a player in Rd-2, Then example team like NE wants to move up to #20 from there later 1st rd pick. Tampa could get another pick in the 2 or 3 rd. Along with NE first rd pick. because NE has several picks in each of a few rds. GO Bucs
  • avatar


    georgehicks, I haven't seen New England trade up to the 1st round in years. I don't think that will happen with them. If anyone thinks the Glazers are tight, just look no further than New England. They have two of everything in rounds 1,2,3. I am not for trading up to still get an average DE. Now, if it was for a MLB that would be a different story since DE's are weak in impact this draft.
  • avatar

    I hope ronde comes back phan but he aint gona be around 4ever.
  • avatar


    You know, I hate to say it... but its time to move to the 3-4. Ive always been a fan of the Tampa 2, but teams have it figured out. Look around the league at all of the successful Ds. 3-4. IMO, we have the perfect opportunity to make that transition NOW. McCoy and Price on the ends. The Powerful Okam(otive) pushing the middle. Draft Miller for your edge rusher. You still have pieces to play some 4-3 to mix it up, but I would not be surprised at all to see it happen (3-4 as a primary set).
  • avatar


    sclobernocker, you and I think a like. I agree with moving McCoy to DE, but leave Okam and Price to rotate at the NT position. Those are our two best NT's right now. I think that McCoy could be a decent DE.
  • avatar

    Although i beleive our biggest need is DE, I would be really happy with either Ayers or Miller. They are both beastly. I think our top 3 needs are DE,CB,and linebaker so as long as we take 1 of those 1st rnd i'l be really happy. I love everything Raheem has done so i'l support any decision he makes. Cant wait til next season. GO BUCS!!!!
  • avatar

    @tampa 315 ronde is coming back should there be no holdout. Didnt know if you knew.
  • avatar


    Out with the old and in with the new is my response to this news, I guess. I'm not a fan of the 3-4, but I'll accept anything if it gets us back to being a top tier defense year in year out. I do agree with the statements below that suggest Morris isn't dead set on a 3-4, he is just saying he has a defensive playbook big enough or creative enough that he can use 4-3 or 3-4 defenders. So long as they are talented. We have talent on defense, but not at all positions.
  • avatar

    @phan2phear and johgruden: I don't know about you guys, but this smells like smokescreen to me. Remember, this is draft time. NO NFL team worth their salt is going to tell you exactly what they are looking for in a player for the draft. Remember how the signing of Byron Leftwich had everyone thinking we wouldn't draft a QB in the 1st round in 2009? (Hello Josh Freeman!) I think the two of you guys took the bait. Hook, Line, and Sinker!
  • avatar

    @doc bravo I hear what your saying but at the same time, the last two drafts have been fairly clear who the bucs are interested in early. Everyone knew it was gonna be gmc once St. louis showed interest in Bradford. Freeman was pretty obvious too. I think some of us didnt want to believe we would still take Freeman, even with leftwich but all the signs were there. I wonder are the defensive ends better next year in 2012? that would tell us alot
  • avatar

    I still have to believe that drafting a DE or TWO is priority. Getting a stud LB in the top 1-4 picks is also a key. It is all about the defensive front 7. Personally, I think having McCoy, Price, a rookie DE, and and Bennett or a another DE (FA or rookie) will suffice. These guys are young and will get better. Also, the more they keep switching the line up and moving people to different positions, I think it stunts their growth at their primary position. Just my opinion. Listening to Raheem, I basically get the sense that no one is off limits. If they like a monster pass rushing LB better than a DE that is available, they'll go with it. I can understand that but I still think getting a D-Line set with a good DE is priority. Plus, it could be pre-draft posturing.
  • avatar


    dcrum35, don't forget abou tDT Okam.
  • avatar


    Sounnds to me that PR is saying the same thing that I have been criticized for without mentioning his name. Don't reach for anything; take best availalbe player not including QB, DT, WR. I doubt that we will be able to trade down because everybody else wants to do the same thing because this years talent level is 2nd round material and below. I would really consider sliding McCoy to the DE spots. I think he might be more suited there if we go to more of a 3-4. The good news about this draft is that we have options because our talent pool on the team is much better than two years ago. Go Bucs! Stay in shape!
  • avatar

    While most, 4-3 defenses still blitz linebackers, we move to a 3-4 to accomplish this. The reason why we were so good against the pass is because we still rushed 4 and dropped 7 in coverage. Problem was the rush was so poor that even the great coverage cant hold up as long as qbs were getting. We play against Brees and Ryan twice a year. Do we really think this is going to work against them? I'm all for these guys 3-4 guys listed above playing linebacker. Great. it would improve a pass rush but limit the redskin package.
  • avatar

    It seems pretty clear to me the Bucs are edging ever closer to a 3-4. I might be wrong but I am fairly sure Morris ran a 3-4 at K-State as D Coordinator. Mark at down as what we will learn this offseason #1 Will the Bucs be a primary 3-4 team or a 4-3 team ??
  • avatar


    Whether or not you agree what I got out of the column was finding players that are going to help stop the run. If Tampa can stay at 7 on pass defense and move up to 15 on run defense don't you think they would be much improved? I agree with other posts that said best player available to a degree. Change the scheme of defense to fit the players strength.
  • avatar

    This sounds good in theory, but we saw just how well that hybrid defense worked last year. Did we get beat deep? no. Where we able to do decent on 3rd down? Sure. But the key things a 3-4 defense is supposed to do is stop the run and rush the passer...We did neither. Our redskin blitzer was a joke. How many sackd sid we even get out of the 3-4 defense and what was the percentage of successfully getting to the qb? Terrible. This is also stunting the growth of our young defensive line. It's hard enough mastering one technique such as a 5 or 3 but now they play 1 and a whole bunch of formations. The ravens d coordinator said they had success bc they made it simple. a hybrid linebacker sounds good, but is he even going to e better than quincy black coming out of college? Rah we spent a 7th or Dekoda Watson, not a first. Experiment with the lower picks. Dont get crazy with the draft. This tells me the Bucs dont think they can get what they really want in the draft, a right end and drafting a left end is not a premier need. This is just a band aid for a gash. PR, if the Bucs are so excited about Dekoda than why draft a guy to put him back on the bench and rush the passer? Weren't hayward and Watson supposed to compete at that position? Why not replace Hayes, or Ruud, both who underwhelmed last season. Why not bring in a free agent pass rusher we know can get the job done?
  • avatar

    So if we draft a hybrid LB to replace Black that kind of bothers me because our greatest need is a fulltime DE and what your suggesting is a situatuational type of pass rusher. I would like Kerrigan or the kid from Ohio St., then maybe the second or third round draft that hybrid player.
  • avatar


    No. He would be a full time player either lining up as RDE in the 4-3 or SLB in the 3-4 ans 3-3-5.
  • avatar

    I think if we could get a guy kind of like Brian Cushing he could be a 3 down type pass rushing base OLB... There are not too many players as good as him though
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