Aside from new uniforms, a new coaching staff and new personnel, the Buccaneers unveiled their new offense on Tuesday. Offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford, who was the former head coach and playcaller at the University of California, brings his diverse system to Tampa Bay under new head coach Lovie Smith.
While Tedford’s offense is quarterback-driven, it relies on a strong running game to set up the pass. Tedford’s attack is diverse, featuring a five-receiver set on one play, and double tight ends and double backs on the next play, and that will keep opposing defenses guessing this season.
PewterReport.com attended Tuesday’s mini-camp and made the following depth chart observations with regards to Tampa Bay’s offense.
QUARTERBACKSAs expected, Josh McCown took all of the starting snaps at quarterback, followed by Mike Glennon and Mike Kafka. McCown was razor sharp on all of his throws – short, medium and long – while Glennon had his positive moments, too.
“He’s been a pro about everything,” Smith said of Glennon. “We’ve asked him to take a step back and let Josh take the lead position, he’s done that. He’s just trying to get better, that’s what we’re asking all of our guys to do. To come in and prove your game, you’re competing against you as much as anything and he’s done that. Mike made some good throws out there today. He has good control of the offense at this stage. I like what he was able to do. Of course I like what Josh McCown was able to do also today.”
Where McCown – and even Kafka – has the decided advantage is mobility and quick feet in the pocket. All three quarterbacks looked very well prepared by Tedford and quarterbacks coach Marcus Arroyo, and all three got into a strong rhythm early. Tedford’s offense features some play-action rollouts that call for a mobile quarterback. It’s not that Glennon is a terribly bad fit, but if the team selects a QB early in the 2014 NFL Draft, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Glennon dealt for a mid-round pick.
Tedford’s offensive playbook is so diverse that it features everything from immediate smoke routes to quick slants to comebacks and deep go routes. The offense seems to be predicated on getting the ball out of the quarterback’s hands quickly.
RUNNING BACKSTuesday marked the return to action of starting running back Doug Martin, who was rudely welcomed back by linebacker Lavonte David, who chased Martin down and punched the ball out from behind on a deep run and recovered the fumble, too. Martin made a couple of nice catches and had a few nice runs, but didn’t look as flashy as the Bucs’ other running backs.
Bobby Rainey and Jeff Demps displayed some serious quickness in both the running game and as outlet receivers out of the backfield. Rainey and Demps appear to have a burst and wiggle about them that make them hard for defenders to corral. Demps has world-class speed and it showed as he was a blur on a handful of opportunities catching passes out of the backfield.
“I love what I’ve seen from them,” Smith said. “We have three running backs that have a 100-yard game on record and that’s hard for most teams to say. I like their quickness that they have. I went in the room the other day and I asked them if there was a requirement of being under 5-foot-10 to be in this room. I like everything about all of them, they can catch the ball even though they haven’t been used that way, they can run inside the of the tackles, [they] have good quickness, they can make you miss, they come to work with a smile on their face every day, again that group of guys that we’re going to have and as far as how many play, we’ll have – Doug Martin is our starter but Bobby – they’ll all play – we’ll let them have their reps.”
Mike James did not participate in Tuesday’s workout as he continues to recover from a broken ankle he suffered last October. He is expected to be cleared to return to action later this summer and will compete with Rainey and Demps for playing time.
Martin has the strength and build to be an every-down back, but don’t be surprised if the speed and quickness of Rainey and Demps forces Tedford to play them even more than the new offensive coordinator thinks he might initially. While Tampa Bay’s receiving corps lacks some speed and electricity, the running back unit is providing the juice right now for the Bucs’ offense.
Lonnie Pryor, Josh Baker and Jorvorskie Lane all split time at fullback, but the Bucs ran a lot of one-back sets on Tuesdays.
WIDE RECEIVERSAt wide receiver, Vincent Jackson and Louis Murphy received the bulk of starting reps, followed by Chris Owusu and newcomer Lavelle Hawkins, who played for Tedford at Cal. The next wave of receivers was Eric Page, Tommy Streeter and Skye Dawson. Russell Shepard attended practice, but did not participate.
“It’s safe to say Vincent Jackson will be out there once the season starts and from there we have some other younger players that will take chances, be in a position to prove to us that they belong in that position opposite him right now,” Smith said.
Jackson and Murphy looked like veterans, running crisp routes, getting open and catching the football. Owusu and Page flashed some sneaky speed at times on a couple of touchdowns on go routes down the sidelines. The 6-foot-5 Streeter, who has impressive size, had a nice touchdown from McCown on a deep fade in the end zone in 1-on-1s.
Tedford’s offense at Cal got receivers open and his scheme did that again on Tuesday at One Buccaneer Place. However, do the Bucs have the elite athletes that can take a 14-yard catch and turn it into a 40-yard catch? That clearly remains to be seen, and it’s likely the Bucs will take a speed receiver or two in the 2014 NFL Draft, which is less than three weeks away.
TIGHT ENDSAt tight ends, the Bucs used a two-tight end formation at times that featured newcomer Brandon Myers and Tim Wright. Luke Stocker also got a fair share of playing time on Tuesday. However, the results were mixed as Stocker still looks the part of a slow, lumbering tight end that doesn’t display much athleticism or leaping ability.
Tedford plans on using all of his tight ends, and Wright hinted that he might see some time at wide receiver in certain formations this year. As expected, the tight ends worked the middle of the field on vertical routes and did their fair share of in-line blocking, too. Wright has bulked up into the mid-230s after playing last year about 10 pounds lighter at 225 pounds.
Six-foot-7, 280-pound tight end Steve Manieri is a big target for his quarterbacks and had a nice 20-yard catch down the seam in practice.
OFFENSIVE LINEAlong the offensive line, Evan Dietrich-Smith was at center, as expected, and Anthony Collins and Demar Dotson were at left and right tackle, respectively. Jamon Meredith started at left guard in place of Carl Nicks, who missed practice and is hoping to return to action by training camp, and Oniel Cousins started at right guard.
“I think it’s definitely a realistic goal,” Smith said of Nicks being ready to participate in late July. “We like to think that until someone tells me otherwise, but he’s been good. He has a ways to go, but it’s good for Carl to just get back into the mix with the rest of the group.”
The second string offensive line featured Meredith at left tackle, Patrick Omameh at left guard, Jace Daniels at center, Jason Foster at right guard and Emmett Cleary at right tackle.
Without pads on, it’s incredibly difficult to gauge anything more than footwork with regards to the offensive linemen. The mini-camps are a non-contact environment, so there is very little to evaluate the line play on, especially run blocking.
Here’s two personnel observations. The 6-foot-2, 308-pound Dietrich-Smith doesn’t look like a chiseled athlete. Instead he looks like a big, burly tough guy, but that’s how he plays. Meredith looks like he’s put on some muscle, especially in the upper body, and has a legitimate chance to lock down a starting guard role in 2014.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
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