Bucs star defensive tackle Gerald McCoy loves the new scheme brought back to Tampa Bay by former assistant and new head coach Lovie Smith. McCoy will have added responsibility along with added pressure in the Tampa 2, but welcomes the challenge of being the defensive spark plug.
Gerald McCoy has always been one of the most positive and optimistic player since he joined the Buccaneers as the third-overall selection in the 2010 NFL Draft. Even two straight years of injuries, and three straight losing seasons haven’t diminished the gregarious personality and engaging smile.
On Tuesday, meeting with media at One Buccaneer Place for the first time this year, McCoy again could barely contain his excitement when talking about the new Buccaneers defense and his role within the scheme as the spark plug. McCoy sees this defense resembling the glory days of Bucs history, one that earned the franchise their one and only Lombardi Trophy.
“It’s definitely going to be different,” McCoy said. “We’re playing the old school, traditional Tampa 2 defense and all we’ve been watching is old Chicago tape when Lovie was there from 2002 to 2012 or however long they played it. When they were in their prime, from 1996 to 2002 or 2003, we’ve been watching all that tape, because that’s when the Tampa 2 was really thriving and took over the league so that’s how I know we’re really running the old traditional Tampa 2. I’m excited about it.”
McCoy talked about watching tape from the Warren Sapp, Derrick Brooks and Simeon Rice days and what stood out to him.
“More than just their talent, their relentless effort,” McCoy said. “And you could see they played together and their wasn’t a selfish attitude with anybody. Some guys talked more than others (like No.) 99 (Warren Sapp). But he was a team guy and it showed. How he played everything was about his team but he knew how he played would help all his teammates out. And that’s one thing they had. They were just fearless and they put fear in everybody else and were relentless.”
Seeing what Sapp was able to accomplish during his time in Tampa Bay playing in the Tony Dungy-designed, Monte Kiffin-schemed Tampa 2 has McCoy eager to learn and define his role in the system.
“I’m a get off-the-ball, get-up-field and hit anything that’s moving type of guy, and that’s kind of what they want me to do,” McCoy said. “Now I just have to perfect it. I talked to Sapp the other day, and I told him, I see now why you love this defense so much. I said this is going to be fun. And he said to me, ‘No, it’s not going to be easy. You have a lot of work ahead of you. You have a lot of responsibility as the under tackle.’
“I’m no longer a three-technique, I’m an under tackle. And this defense runs how I run, so I have a lot of responsibility and it’s not going to be easy to be great in this defense. Does it fit to my style of play? Yes. But it’s going to take a lot of work to be great in this defense, because I’m going to have a lot of one on ones, most of the one on ones, most of the two-way goes, and when you depend on four guys to get to the quarterback and the under tackle is supposed to be your guy, I have to get there. But I’m still excited about it.”
While McCoy is calling it the under tackle position, technically he will still be playing the three-technique in the Bucs base alignment. The big difference is the responsibility McCoy will have – like his mentor Sapp – in being the catalyst that makes the defense run.
“The three-technique, he can do a lot of different things,” McCoy said. “He’s your penetrating D-lineman. But you still depend on your right end to get to the quarterback and the three-technique is there to help him out whereas the under tackle is "the" guy. It’s not the corner, not your outside linebacker, not your D-end, it’s the under tackle. He’s the best pass rusher on the team, or he’s supposed to be. He’s the piston that drives the engine so if he’s not going we’re not going, and that’s the difference. If you have a three-technique in another scheme, he can be OK and you can still have a great defense. But in the Tampa 2, the under tackle has to be the guy.
“I love the space and what they allow me to do. What they want me to do, its’ fun and I look forward to putting the work in.”
While the comparisons to Sapp have been present since entering the league in 2010, McCoy knows that he has yet to even come close to the accolades that Tampa Bay's second ever Hall of Famer achieved. But when asked on Tuesday what goals he would like to meet, most of the ones mentioned were team-oriented.
“There’s a lot I haven’t done, (like) I haven’t been a Defensive Player of the Year," McCoy said. "I’ve never played in a playoff game, I haven’t been to a Super Bowl. My defense hasn’t finished in the top five. There is so much more that I can do, not personally, but just helping my team go to the next level. You just never got it. If you win one Defensive Player of the Year, go win it again. There are a lot of different things you can build off of and that I can reach.”
McCoy talked about his message to the defense when they met for the first time in 2014 last week.
“You all know me,” McCoy said. “First day when we got started I pulled the whole defense together before we stretched or anything to the side and told them we have to have a different type of mind set if this team is going to get to where we want to be. And the Buccaneers teams of the past were known for their great defenses. Seattle, which just won the Super Bowl, they did put up some great points but nobody talked about them scoring, they talked about how incredible their defense. And that’s why they won the Super Bowl. And we have to do the same thing, and I believe it starts with out leaders and how we work.”
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