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
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