This story is intended to be read by Pewter Insider subscribers only. Sharing of the PI content with non-subscribers of this service can result in cancellation of your subscription to the service and/or further actions by the publishers.
The Buccaneers have placed extra emphasis on limiting penalties this offseason, and for good reason.
New Bucs offensive coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski's zone-blocking scheme doesn't have to be perfect to sustain drives or reach the end zone. It can survive a dropped pass, a bad route or a blown assignment.
However, Jagodzinski's offense will have a difficult time overcoming penalties, which is something he made clear shortly after he was hired in February.
"A positive thing from the particular scheme we're going to run is you really limit negative yardage plays," Jagodzinski explained. "Even if you get back to the line of scrimmage and it's second-and-10, that's okay. But if it's second-and-15 because of a penalty or a missed block that's not okay. What you're doing is always moving forward."
Jagodzinski's offense likely will be run-heavy in nature and features a vertical element to the passing game as well, but the system is crippled when negative yardage comes into play, mainly because the Bucs offense would be forced to abandon the running game and execute obvious passing plays in long down-and-distance situations.
Penalties are something that plagued most of former Bucs head coach Jon Gruden's teams, which were penalized 731 times during his seven-year tenure in Tampa Bay. That's an average of 104 penalties per season. The majority of those infractions were called on the offense, so perhaps it's no coincidence that Gruden's offense only ranked in the top 10 one time in seven seasons with the Bucs.
Gruden attempted to clean up this particular part of his team's game by bringing in officials to referee practices. As a result, the Bucs were called for just 87 and 81 penalties in 2006 and 2007, respectively.
However, last year saw a rise in Tampa Bay's penalties, which increased from 81 in 2007 to 95 in 2008.
Limiting penalties is important for all three phases (offense, defense, special teams) of the team.
Defensive coordinator Jim Bates' system is designed to get after the quarterback, but that will be difficult to do if opposing offenses find themselves in third-and-short running situations.
Bucs special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia would be beside himself if his kickoff coverage team stopped the return man short of the 20-yard line just to have the ball moved closer to midfield due to a 15-yard personal foul facemask penalty.
Each area of the team has its own reasons for needing to limit penalties, but it is critical to Jagodzinski's offensive success, and that has been evidenced in the team's offseason preparation and workouts.
Jagodzinski wasn't the only coach preaching about the negativity penalties bring to the offense, though. Bucs offensive line coach Pete Mangurian was heavily involved as well.
Mangurian's involvement makes a lot of sense seeing as most penalties called in the NFL occur inside the trenches. The Buccaneers are no different.
In fact, of the 95 penalties the Buccaneers had enforced in 2008, nearly one-third of those infractions were committed by the team's offensive linemen.
The Bucs offensive line was called for 34 penalties last year, and of that amount, only four were declined or offset.
Tampa Bay right tackle Jeremy Trueblood led the way with 11 penalties, 10 of which stood. Trueblood's penalty total was tops amongst Bucs players in 2008.
Left guard Arron Sears was the second-highest penalized offensive lineman on the Bucs last year. He was called for seven penalties, and of that amount, six were enforced.
Bucs left tackle Donald Penn was right behind Sears with six penalties (five enforced). Right guard Davin Joseph and rookie backup O-lineman Jeremy Zuttah were penalized four and three times, respectively.
Center Jeff Faine was Tampa Bay's most experienced offensive lineman in 2008, and it showed in his play. He was the least penalized Bucs offensive lineman with just three infractions, two of which were actually enforced.
But don't ask Jagodzinski and Mangurian to do back flips over Faine's penalty total. Two penalties are too many to the Buccaneers offensive line, which has to play smart football in order to live up to expectations and maximize its potential.
"That's the intelligence factor," Mangurian said of penalties. "You can call penalties whatever you want, but that's intelligence. Not knowing the snap count, false starts – that's intelligence or concentration, whatever you want to call it. In terms of holding penalties, how are officials calling the game? You have to be aware of that. You have to understand what situation you're in and when a mistake is most costly. Personal fouls and dead ball penalties will destroy you. Penalties and all of these things we've talked about go back to being unselfish and being a team guy. Penalties will kill us. They will destroy us in any given situation. We have to understand that. You can say, ‘Don't have penalties,' but until you understand what penalties can destroy your team, and your priority is to be a good team, then you won't do those things.
"You really have to understand why it's important not to have penalties and what they will do to your team, and really feel the consequences of doing them. That all falls back to being responsible to your teammates. If you make a penalty and do something dumb you destroy your team. If that's your number one priority then we'll get rid of the penalties."
While they don't like to acknowledge it in front of their players, the coaches realize penalties are part of the game and likely are going to happen.
But the one penalty Tampa Bay can't have, which Mangurian acknowledged, is a personal foul infraction. Each time one of those is enforced the opposing team gets a free 15 yards.
Perhaps the reason Mangurian is adamant about his players not committing personal foul penalties is because Tampa Bay's offensive linemen made a bad habit of committing those last year.
The Buccaneers were called for 23 personal foul penalties in 2008, which is simply too many, but the team's offensive line accounted for seven (nearly one-third) of those particular types of infractions.
Cornerback Aqib Talib made headlines earlier this offseason when he swung his helmet during an altercation at practice and accidently hit Torrie Cox in the face and head, injuring his fellow cornerback.
Bucs head coach Raheem Morris punished the team by running his players through a conditioning workout disguised as a ‘we-fense" practice. Many assumed Talib was to blame, but perhaps the player his helmet was intended for, Penn, was also being sent a reminder of how costly personal foul penalties can be to the team since the Bucs offensive linemen, Penn included, had trouble keeping their cool in games last year.
It's important to note that several players were guilty of committing penalties for the Bucs, not just the team's offensive linemen.
Tampa Bay's special teams unit was called for 21 penalties last season.
The defense had its share of penalties as well. If you're looking for the second-highest penalized player on the Bucs in 2008, you will find him on this side of the football.
Bucs cornerback Ronde Barber ranked just behind Trueblood in the penalty category with nine (eight were enforced). Still, Barber earned a trip to the Pro Bowl last season.
The top three most penalized players on Tampa Bay's roster are not rounded out by an offensive lineman. Instead, the No. 3 spot goes to defensive end Gaines Adams, who was called for eight penalties last year. Of that amount, only six were enforced.
Like Jagodzinski and Mangurian, Coach Bates also wants his players playing smart, including Adams, who was called for seven offsides penalties last season. That's just something that can't happen again this year if Adams and the Bucs are going to improve their pass rush in 2009.
Listed below is a penalty log from the 2008 season, which shows the penalized player and what type of infraction(s) they were called for during Tampa Bay's regular season contests.