Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebackers coach Gus Bradley has heard the rumors and set the record straight after Monday's practice at One Buccaneer Place in an interview with PewterReport.com.
No, 10-time Pro Bowl linebacker Derrick Brooks has not switched positions.
After 11 years of playing the weakside (Will) linebacker in Monte Kiffin’s defense, Brooks is not suddenly playing on the strongside at the Sam linebacker position due to the arrival of Cato June, who played the weakside linebacker spot in Indianapolis. In fact, multiple team sources have told PewterReport.com that Brooks has yet to take a snap at the Sam linebacker position this year, despite assertions that he has from NewsChannel 8’s Bucs pre-game show and a recent article in the Tampa Tribune.
“He hasn’t switched positions since he’s been here,” Bradley said of Brooks, who is in his 13th season in the NFL. “I think people are getting confused just by how we are labeling our guys. He’s played Will linebacker for years and that’s where he’s playing right now. He plays our Will in our base defense and he’s our Will linebacker in our nickel [defense]. That hasn’t changed at all.”
The confusion for some might stem from the fact that the Buccaneers play two defensive fronts in their 4-3 alignment (four defensive linemen, three linebackers) – an “Under” front and an “Over” front. But these aligments are nothing new. Kiffin has deployed the “Over” and “Under” fronts for years.
“People are getting confused because back when this whole defense started under Coach [Tony] Dungy and Coach [Monte] Kiffin, we played primarily an “Under” front,” Bradley said. “In that defense, our Sam (strongside) linebacker always traveled to the tight end and the Will linebacker always lined up away from the tight end.
“Over the years, the Bucs defense has evolved to being more of an “Over” defense. That puts the Will over the tight end and the Sam away from the tight end. That’s the Tampa 2 – an “Over” front – with the Will to the tight end. We’ve been playing that for years. There’s been no change at all.”
On Monday after practice, Bradley seemed shocked over the reports he heard that indicated Brooks was playing on the strongside this year.
“I can’t believe it,” Bradley said with a smile. “Some people get confused. I know Cato, when he was in Indy, they ran a lot of the same defense, and in [the Colts’] “Over” defense, their Sam did align over the tight end. People may be getting that confused with what may have been happening in Indy and what we are doing here. But nothing has changed here. The Will is always over the tight end in the “Over” front.
“In an “Over” front, the Will travels to the call, which is to the tight end. In an “Under” front the Sam travels to the call, which is to the tight end. We mix it up between the “Over” and the “Under” fronts so teams don’t always know which front we’re going to be in.”
To keep it simple, Bradley said that Brooks always lines up on the same side as the Bucs’ three-technique tackle. If the term “three-technique tackle” is foreign to you, it really means under tackle, which is the position that Warren Sapp played for years in Tampa Bay, and is currently manned by Jovan Haye. The three technique refers to the gap alignment that a defensive tackle like Haye plays in Tampa Bay’s 4-3, one-gap defense.
The term “under tackle” is actually a bit of a misnomer because when the Buccaneers are in an “Over” front, the “under tackle” actually becomes an “over tackle.”
“Just remember that the Will is always to the three-technique tackle’s side,” Bradley said. “That’s the key.”
Pewter Report magazine illustrated the Bucs’ basic 4-3 formations in a story called “Winds of Change,” which detailed the differences between the 3-4 defensive alignment and the 4-3, in its July Training Camp Issue.
An Adobe PDF of the 4-3 "Over" and "Under" fronts from Pewter Report’s July Issue can be downloaded for illustrative purpose by clicking on the Download Podcast button above (NOTE: It's not a podcast, it's just a graphic download).
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Scott Reynolds is in his 23rd year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds enjoys giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: [email protected]
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