Expectations around Tampa Bay are high for the Buccaneers defense in 2014. New head coach Lovie Smith’s Tampa 2 scheme has a proven track record, from his days in Tampa Bay under Tony Dungy, to turning around the St. Louis Rams and then the Chicago Bears.
Now in Tampa Bay, Smith has entrusted former Minnesota head coach Leslie Frazier to spur yet another turn around. Frazier, who met with the Tampa Bay media on Tuesday for the first time since January, said the staff and front office have done a good job of bringing in personnel they feel can help make the new system effective next season, but cautioned there are still some unanswered questions.
“You like to have a rotation where there’s not a lot of drop off, where if you take out four guys and put four other guys in there there’s not a big drop off,” Frazier said. “We’re working towards that but I can’t say we’re there yet.
“Pass rush in our league is everything. You don’t want to live and die by the blitz in our league. You’ve got to find a way to rush with four and that’s one of the reasons why Clinton [McDonald] is here and one of the reasons why Michael [Johnson] is here, and we’re hoping that William Gholston can step up for us. We expect Adrian Clayborn to continue to play well for us and step up and do a good job. We’d like to see Akeem Spence be a part of that mix as well and become a pass rusher for us, so we’ve got some guys but we’ve got to get them out there and get them indoctrinated to what we’re doing once we get the pads on.
“You’d like to have a two-deep [rotation] where there’s not a lot of drop off when you have to substitute guys, and if you get a rotation going that gives you fresh bodies on the field that can rush the passer.”
One of those new players that has caught Frazier’s eye early this offseason is former Seahawks defensive tackle Clinton McDonald who joined the Buccaneers via free agency last March.
“I was telling Joe Cullen our defensive line coach yesterday when we were watching tape from our practice that I’m so glad he decided to sign with the Bucs,” Frazier said. “He’s even more impressive being around him, not just as a player on the field but his personality. How he approaches practice, and I know it won’t be any different with the games based on what we saw on tape, he’s all business. He’s a very good leader and I think pairing him and Gerald [McCoy] together will make our defense pretty stout up front. He’s going to give us some inside pass rush but he can play the run as well.
“I really like the way he’s taking command and helping us from a leadership standpoint. He’s going to be good for us. A few weeks ago he was up in Washington D.C. meeting with the president at the White House getting his ring and I asked him to tell our players what that experience was like and what it took to get to that point, and you could hear a pin drop as he was expressing what it meant to him and what it meant to the guys in Seattle. To bring that to our team, hopefully that’s going to rub off on our guys as well.”
The Buccaneers defensive line contributed 20 sacks in 2013, led by Gerald McCoy’s 9.5, but the Buccaneers are hoping that number improves significantly with the additions made this offseason. Frazier also pointed out Tuesday that McCoy has been even better than advertised.
“[McCoy]’s been very, very impressive,” Frazier said. “I’ve watched him from a distance and seen some of his tape since we’ve played common opponents. I remember him coming out of college and he’s a joy. To have your best player working as hard as he does every single day, he sets a great example for the rest of our defense and really the rest of the team. He’s a tremendous, tremendous leader and an outstanding football player, so I’m looking forward to watching him when the fall rolls around.”
Mark Cook currently is the director of editorial content and Bucs beat writer and has written for PewterReport.com since 2011. Cook has followed the Buccaneers since 1977 when he first began watching football with his Dad and is fond of the 1979 Bucs team that came within 10 points of going to a Super Bowl. His favorite Bucs game is still the 1979 divisional playoff win 24-17 over the Eagles. In his spare time Cook enjoys playing guitar, fishing, surfing and family time at the beach. In addition, Cook can be found in front of a television or in Doak Campbell any time the FSU Seminoles are playing. Cook is a native of Pinecrest in Eastern Hillsborough County and has written for numerous publications including the Tampa Tribune, In the Field and Ya'll Magazine. Cook can be reached at [email protected]
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