Tampa Bay Buccaneers fans had gotten used to Jon Gruden's version of the West Coast offense over his seven seasons as head coach of the Bucs. Gruden threw ball often and had a reputation of preferring the passing attack. Prior to Gruden, head coach Tony Dungy had run based offense that was derided for years as being too conservative, and not throwing the ball enough.
Under new head coach Raheem Morris, the Buccaneers have a new direction under offensive coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski. The Bucs will be run a first attack in their new offense that features zone-blocking.
"I think it has to start with the run game," said Jagodzinski. "If you can't run the football in this league, I think you are going to have a hard time because off the run – if you get that established – everything else will fall into place for you.
Bucs head coach Raheem Morris gave fans an idea of what Tampa Bay was attempting to accomplish in terms of establishing an identity on offense.
“When you talk about being physical and violent, you’re talking about tackling and blocking,” said Morris. “We have to be more physical blockers. We’re talking about violent football. When you talk about violent and physical football teams you’re talking about the Pittsburgh Steelers, you think about downhill running and people smashing. You are talking about the Jacksonville Jaguars. You’re talking about people smashing you and running downhill. We want to become those guys and become that violent. We want people to look at us in that same light.”
The zone-blocking scheme has been a successful rushing attack for the Denver Broncos and Atlanta Falcons for many seasons. Jagodzinski and offensive line coach Pete Mangurian helped install the system in Atlanta. While Jagodzinski expects to be a run oriented offensive attack, he is not implementing a big amount of rushing plays into the game plans. That is very common under teams that run a zone-blocking attack.
"It's the same type of concept," said Jagodzinski. "In our game plan, we won't have more than 10 runs. That's what we're going to have," Jagodzinski said. "There will be variations of what we do as far as the zone scheme. The thing that we're trying to do right now is teach them the concepts and getting into the fit and the backs seeing it the right way. I thought Derrick [Ward] did a really good job yesterday on it. With Clifton [Smith], you can't find him. He can hide behind those guys and pop out of there. I'm pleased right now. From the first practice to the third practice we've had today. We've made improvement at all positions."
Jagodzinski said those improvements came from the quarterbacks as well. Luke McCown is in the drivers seat to be the starter at this time, and second-year pro Josh Johnson is getting a chance to compete as well. With the offense being a rush-oriented attack, Jagodzinski was asked if McCown is a good fit to be the quarterback for that system.
"The way we have our run game structured and what we are going to ask him to do, I think he will be more than good enough," Jagodzinski said.
Jagodzinski spent a good amount of time discussing the implementation of the offense.
"I think it's the way that you drill it and the way that you coach it," Jagodzinski said. "Pete has run this scheme before in Atlanta and they were successful. Actually, Warrick Dunn was one of his backs. I had him also. Pete is very familiar with how it's done.
"We're going to do the same things over and over and over and over again. That's how you get good at this running game. As far as the drill work, we've been doing this for a while and knowing what works and what makes these guys see things. That ball drill is a great drill because what it simulates is the defensive line coming and we roll it at different speeds. One time you have to cut soon and one time you go outside of it. It's a really good drill to teach the running back. It's three steps, man. On his third outside step he's got to put that foot in the ground. He's going. He's either going to take it to the edge or he's going to cut it up."
The players discussed their new offense, and all the comments are positive. New running back Derrick Ward sounds very optimistic about the new offense.
"This offense will be explosive," said Ward. "We'll run the ball, we'll pass it down field. We're going to put up some big numbers. Touchdowns all day. Nothing but touchdowns.
"You have to talk big like that. That's something I learned in New York. You don't back down from anybody. You just do what you do. We know we have a great offensive team and know what we can do."
Jagodzinski spoke glowingly about Ward on a few occasions, "Other guys have done this scheme and he's as good as any guy I have been around this early."
Pro Bowl guard Davin Joseph said he wasn't sure the new system played to his strengths yet, but he was excited about the potential the offense has. Joseph felt that offensive line would be able to run the system effectively.
"We should really do well in this offense," said Joseph. "It highlights a lot of our players. We have some very versatile backs, and we are going from a drive-blocking scheme to a stretch outside zone-blocking scheme. Really the guys are doing well adapting and learning. We have some excellent coaches on this staff. It is exciting.
Jagodzinski gave a preview of the overall offense that he would like to feature.
"I want to have a run game that is downhill and make teams commit eight people to the line of scrimmage to stop the run. If we get that, I think we've got good match-ups with the tight ends that we've got. As far as a group of tight ends, I feel really good about them from the first guy to the third or fourth guy. I feel really good about who we have in there. We have some pretty good skill on the outside, too. If they want to stop the run, then we'll go ahead and throw it. That means we're going to get some good match-ups. Those receivers on the outside are big. I didn't know how big [Michael] Clayton was until I stood next to him. Man, he's a big, physical guy. I'm really enjoying working with him, too. And [Antonio Bryant], he's a physical guy."
"All of those receivers – Richard Mann has done a fantastic job with those guys. Those guys aren't afraid to go in there and get safeties. In this run game, our receivers have to go block. They have to block."
JAGODZINSKI DISCUSSES SEVERAL TOPICS
In his first media-wide press conference since mid-February, Jagodzinski was asked about several different topics from the reporters in attendance.
On starting left tackle Donald Penn not being present for the mini-camp, Jagodzinski said: "I think we'll find out when he comes back how Pete drills it. It's going to be a little bit different from what he's used to. It may be a little bit of a shock to him."
"You have to coach the ones that are here. You can't worry about the ones who aren't."
On punter Josh Bidwell helping the wide receivers and running backs warm up by throwing them passes, Jagodzinski said: "Josh Bidwell. Did you see Josh throw it at the team take-off right there? Throws a pretty good ball, doesn't he. He doesn't move around good, though."
On how he will know which quarterback to go with, Jagodzinski said: "Seeing how the offense operates when that particular quarterback is in there. Are we making positive yards? Are we making the right decisions? You can know it. You can know the scheme and understand the scheme but you still have to make the right decisions. I've been around guys who can tell you and they can do it on the boards, but when you get out on the field, they have a hard time processing it as it happens and how it unfolds. That's going to be a big point when we start getting into our live stuff."
On Josh Johnson, Jagodzinski said: "He's a young guy. For him to just start hearing the terminology for the first time, sometimes there is just a lot of stuff to process. There is a lot of stuff to process for everybody – but at that position, he's been better from the first practice to the last practice this morning."
On Michael Clayton as a pass receiver, Jagodzinski said: "So far, I like what I've seen. He had a couple of things where he was playing physical. We were playing some bump outside on the corners. He is a big guy."
On communicating with his players, Jagodzinski said: "Communication between coach and player has got to be there. We're going to ask them to do it and do it the right way, but if there is no communication there is no trust. There cannot be. I don't care what kind of relationship you are in. If there is no communication, there cannot be any trust. That works hand in hand."
For a funny April Fool's Day Bucs story check out ESPN's Pat Yaskinskas blog here.