06 DEC 2015: Bradley McDougald (30) of the Buccaneers during the NFL game between the Atlanta Falcons and Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, FL. (Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire)
The flashes have been there. There was the big hit against Cleveland tight end Gary Barnidge in 2014 that caused an interception by defensive tackle Clinton McDonald. There was diving interception against Jacksonville last year and the game-clinching pick in the end zone to preserve a win over Dallas.
The talent is there. Now it’s time for Tampa Bay safety Bradley McDougald to put it all together and find consistency after signing a one-year, $2.553 million tender offer from the Buccaneers as a restricted free agent.
“I don’t want to show any more flashes and leave questions on the table, whether it’s with this organization or another one,” McDougald said. “I want to show I can become an every down safety and that you can count on me. I came into the league with this defense in Kansas City, so there is some familiarity to it for me. I just want to come in and show this team that I can be the safety that they need.”
Bucs SS Bradley McDougald – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Former Bucs defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier and head coach Lovie Smith loved McDougald’s potential. He replaced Mark Barron in the starting lineup halfway through his second season, recording 50 tackles, breaking up seven passes and picking off a pass. Last year as a 16-game starter, McDougald was the team’s third-leading tackler with 87 stops, four pass breakups and two interceptions.
The 6-foot-1, 209-pound safety showed flashes of big-play ability, but the team wanted to see more, which is why Tampa Bay opted to give him a high tender with a second-round compensation designation instead of signing him to a long-term contract.
“It definitely felt good – it was something I was working for,” McDougald said. “At the end of the season my agent and the team worked out a deal, so it’s time for me to prove myself again. Honestly, when you go undrafted in this league, every year is a contract year. Every year you have to prove yourself just to get on a roster. This doesn’t change anything. Nothing is guaranteed. You still have to come out and make the roster. Whenever you are in a contract year you want to ball out and make as many plays as possible. This year is no different.
“I was definitely happy with my tender. I just want to come out and be consistent and do the things that got me the tender in the first place.”
McDougald isn’t the only member of the Bucs’ beleaguered secondary that is getting a second chance under new defensive coordinator Mike Smith after the defensive backs bombed in Lovie Smith’s too-predictable Cover 2 scheme. Fellow safeties Chris Conte and Keith Tandy were re-signed, and cornerbacks Johnthan Banks and Alterraun Verner were retained by Smith, new head coach Dirk Koetter and general manager Jason Licht.
The Bucs hope that a scheme change can reveal the true talent of the team’s defensive backs.
“I definitely agree with that,” McDougald said. “The talent is there. I question nobody in the room. We’ve brought most of the guys back together. We’ve got something to prove. There’s nothing against Lovie Smith or his coaches, but maybe it just wasn’t the right fit for some of the guys out there. It just wasn’t happening. It’s not that the guys weren’t all in or not trying, we couldn’t seem to get it down as fast as we needed to.
“We’re all prideful men. In the secondary we’re prideful about our technique and our craft. You should be, or you shouldn’t be here. It’s a new year. It’s time for us to prove that we are good defensive backs.”
McDougald loves Tampa Bay’s new defensive scheme, which will feature multiple looks designed to confuse quarterbacks and create more turnovers. The Bucs secondary only had six interceptions in 2015, and that’s a big reason why Lovie Smith and his defensive staff were fired in early January.
“It is a more aggressive defense and guys are more able to make more plays on the ball,” McDougald said. “They see the potential in guys and they saw flashes in all of us. Now it’s time to not only be flashes, but to show up and be consistent and accountable. We definitely have playmakers in the back end that are able to cover and come up and be sure tacklers whether it is me, Chris, Major or Keith. It’s time for us to make up for last year and show what we can do.”
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
Its always the scheme when players don’t succeed, its a convenience excuse for poor play, problem is these guys are near the bottom of the league for talent in the secondary cast offs Major Wright and Conte, and Mediocre McDougald followed by Tandy who plays better in the preseason, just not a lot of talent in the safety group. It needs a total over haul, I miss the days of Damien Robinson, Mark Robinson, Marty Carter, Lynch, Jackson, J Phillips, Harry Hamilton etc, this group is worse than when we had Sean Jones and Sabby running around back there, draft can’t come soon enough unfortunately we probably won’t address this position early. I really like Karl Joseph from W Virginia he flies around and plays physical for his size reminds me of a poor mans Earl Thomas
Why does it have to be an excuse jonnyg? Are you saying the coaching and scheme weren’t contributing to no one covering the quick slants? In management there’s a philosophy that the system is what allows the worker to achieve maximum success/production.
Don’t forget Mark Cotney, Cedric Brown and Mike Washington who led that 1979 # 1 Defense.
Sadly Jongruden you are correct. Need more talent.
Yes sadly you are correct. We need more talent.
Worse than Sabby? No frigging way. These young guys will see this year of its system or lack of talent and pass rush. I lean towards the later.
Poor system and coaching and pass rush= sscondary looks bad. Smith was a joke. Will see how it plays out this year. Not saying they couldn’t use one more good starting safety though.
There is definitely talent in the secondary. This is their year to prove it.
Nope – the time to prove you could play was last year when you were asked to play…now it’s time to step aside and let Karl Joseph, or maybe, just maybe Jalen Ramsey to show they can play.
This might surprise you jongruden, butI somewhat agree with you in regards to blaming the scheme for poor play.
It doesn’t take a Robert Oppenheimer to know the safety’s main job in the Cover 2 was to make sure they provided over the top coverage.
Unfortunately, on more than one occasion I can remember McDougal jumping on a short route. specifically in the Colts game.
Whatever the case, you can’t replace the entire unit in one swipe like Lovie did when he dismantled the offensive line when he first got here.
I’m not sold on Major Wright either but I am willing to give McDougal, Verner, Banks and Conte another look.
The secondary has already made a big improvement with Mike Jenkins being let go.
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