In the traditional Tampa 2 defense, a nickel cornerback will replace the Sam linebacker on passing downs and serve as the fifth member of the secondary. As a result, the two remaining linebackers have an enhanced responsibility with more field to cover, particularly in the passing game.
Perhaps no coach in the NFL understands that more than Lovie Smith. From his days as a position coach in Tampa to nine seasons as head coach in Chicago, Smith has been around some of the best linebacking duos in history. The defensive-minded coach knows that in order for the overall scheme to work, there needs to be chemistry and elite play from both.
“It’s very important. It’s the Mike and Will (linebacker),” Smith said. “Which one is more important? Was Hardy Nickerson less important than Derrick Brooks? …You know. Brian Urlacher, Lance Briggs – a tandem that I’ve had in the past, you need both of them.
“They’re going to play most of the time. We normally don’t take them out. Some teams go to dime when you match up, but they (the Mike and Will linebacker) are going to be up on the field always with us. So, yes, very important.”
Assuming the roles of Will and Mike linebacker for Tampa Bay in 2015 will be Lavonte David and Bruce Carter, respectively. In regard to David, fans and media are expecting a Pro Bowl appearance from one of the league’s best sideline-to-sideline guys. As for the latter, Carter will be under a close microscope this season. Fans are anxious to see if the former Cowboy will be an improvement over Mason Foster.
But the Mike linebacker is also responsible for making defensive calls. Aside from his athleticism, a key reason for signing Carter at the start of free agency was due to his experience in the system. Part of that $20 million over four-years will go towards being the on-field leader of the defense, something Smith is already confident Carter can provide.
“There is a lot we ask of our linebackers, starting with making the calls,” Smith said. “Bruce has done that. He has good athletic ability. Just look at our history with Mike linebackers – any good defense, it’s starts there. He is the quarterback of the defense.
“Once we get going, he’ll be able to check out of blitzes, put us in the right call… a lot of things we ask of him.”
Zach is entering his 3rd year covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as a writer for PewterReport.com. Since 2014, he's handled a large part of the beat reporting responsibilities at PR, attending all media gatherings and publishing and promoting content daily. Zach is a native of Sarasota, FL, and a graduate of the University of Tampa. He has also covered high school football for the Tampa Tribune and the NFL for Pro Player Insiders.
Contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org