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Fresh off signing his four-year deal to stay in Tampa Bay, defensive tackle Ryan Sims spoke with PewterReport.com about what it means to remain a Buccaneer, his impressions of new defensive coordinator Jim Bates and defensive line coach Robert Nunn and what the new role of the defensive tackles will be in Bates’ 4-3 scheme.
“It feels really good to know that the coaches and the new staff saw the film and they wanted me and wanted to have me back,” Sims said. “It really feels good. I’m just happy to see my hard work pay off. It’s nice to know that I do have a home in Tampa.”
After being acquired in a post-draft trade with Kansas City in 2007, Sims has been a key reserve for Tampa Bay and has recorded 50 tackles, including seven for a loss, 2.5 sacks, two passes defensed and forced one fumble. Bates told Sims he has a chance to improve that production with more playing time in 2009.
“I talked with Coach Bates yesterday and from what I understand, the way this defense is going to be put together, I’ll have a good chance to start,” Sims said. “I just have to go in and work and put myself in position. He likes big, physical defensive tackles and I think that’s exactly what I am. His main thing is that he likes big, physical defensive tackles inside. That was the number one thing he was stressing. He told me to get stronger in the offseason and work hard.”
At 6-foot-4, 315 pounds, Sims has the size that Bates prefers in interior defensive linemen and his re-signing could lead the Buccaneers not to re-sign undersized Jovan Haye, who was the team’s starting under tackle over the past two seasons at 6-foot-2, 285 pounds.
The reason why Bates needs bigger defensive tackles is because they will be zero shading or playing a zero technique, which means playing right over the guard or center rather than in the gap as was the case in former defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin’s defensive front.
“We’ll be playing more heads up on offensive linemen and playing in the gaps has kind of gone by the wayside,” Sims said. “In [Bates’] system, he goes with a left and right tackle – it’s not necessarily the nose and the under tackle anymore. That’s good because it allows me to essentially play both tackle positions. I can be more versatile. His system has you line up head up on the guard or the center – not in the gaps.
“He’s not much of an in-gap kind of guy. He wants to pressure the offensive lineman, not the gap. He wants us in the offensive lineman’s face right now. In this whole new change of philosophy, the defensive tackles are not gap players. We have to play our guy head up and then the linebackers can run free. That’s going to pull the offensive line off of us. I’ve played in this scheme before at North Carolina. It’s not a two-gap, because you aren’t playing the gap, you are playing your man, but you are lining head up. We’re supposed to keep our guy from getting to the linebacker and then go make a play. He wants to definitely put a person on the offensive lineman and get pressure right in their face right now.”
Sims shed some light into what the Bucs’ plans are with coaching staff as it pertains to the defensive line. Todd Wash is a hold over from Kiffin’s staff and enters his second year as Tampa Bay’s defensive line coach. Robert Nunn, who worked with Bates in Green Bay in 2006, will also be coaching the D-line alongside Wash.
“Robert Nunn falls right in line with all of the other coaches I’ve met,” Sims said. “He’s very intelligent and passionate. He has a plan and he wants the plan implemented. I’m happy to be a part of the plan.
“From what I understand from talking to Coach Wash yesterday, he said they may split up and coach two different groups – defensive tackles and defensive ends – but most of it will be coached together in a group.”
Sims knows that the pass rush has to improve in 2009 after the defense notched only 29 quarterback captures last year – 23 of which came from the D-line – and is excited to hear about the change in coverage philosophy. While the Bucs will still be playing some zone coverage under Bates, that will be done only as a change up. The primary coverage scheme has shifted to tighter, bump-and-run man coverage that is expected to force the quarterbacks to hold on to the ball an extra second or two to help the pass rushers pile up the sacks.
“There’s no more quick reads by the quarterback where he knows where people are going to be while under center,” Sims said. “That element alone will cause more sacks and more pressure on the quarterback.
“Over the course of games, those receivers get beat up from the corners and they get frustrated because they have somebody in their face every play. They don’t know if it’s man or if it’s zone because they play everything off that bump. The philosophy is great because it’s been proven. All we have to do now is just do it.”
Sims came away impressed with meeting Bates and is even more fired up about remaining a Buccaneer with his new four-year deal.
“I’m really happy to be back,” Sims said. “Coach Bates has a plan and knows what he wants to execute and how to execute it. I was watching some film from Green Bay and some old Miami film. He puts number one defenses on the field [like Kiffin], also. He just goes about it a different way. It’s a different way to skin a cat, but the cat still gets skinned.”
Scott Reynolds is in his 25th 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 spent six years 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: email@example.com