FAB 3. Arians Has Already Brought Change To The Buccaneers

New Bucs head coach Bruce Arians was brought to Tampa Bay to change things – most importantly the team’s record, which has been stuck at 5-11 in each of the last two years.

The Bucs also want to change the franchise’s fortunes when it comes to the playoffs after a 12-year absence. Arians, who took Arizona to new heights with three playoff trips before retiring after the 2017 season, was hired due to his proven track record, winning Super Bowls with Pittsburgh and NFL Coach of the Year honors in Indianapolis and Arizona.

Bucs GM Jason Licht and head coach Bruce Arians
Bucs GM Jason Licht and head coach Bruce Arians – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

Will Jason Licht’s luring Arians out of retirement work, or will Arians be the latest former successful coach who can’t recapture his past glory in Tampa Bay like Sam Wyche and Lovie Smith? Time will ultimately tell, but Arians has already brought some real fundamental change to the Bucs in several areas. Let’s take a look.

Switching To A 3-4 Defense

The Bucs have come full circle and return to running a 3-4 defense that the franchise first started with under head coach John McKay and defensive coordinator Abe Gibron over 40 years ago in 1976. Todd Bowles had great success as the Cardinals defensive coordinator running the 3-4 from 2013-14 before taking the New York Jets head-coaching job in 2015.

Tampa Bay becomes one of 12 defenses to feature a 3-4 scheme in 2019 along with Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Green Bay, Houston, the Los Angeles Rams, the New York Giants, Washington, Chicago, Tennessee, Denver and Arizona. New England and Detroit plan on running hybrid defenses, and there has been some talk of that as well in Carolina, too.

Bowles has a reputation for blitzing often and being aggressive with his calls, while asking for his cornerbacks to play press-man coverage. The Bucs seem to have the personnel for it with the likes of nose tackle Vita Vea, first-round pick Devin White at middle linebacker, edge rushers Carl Nassib and Shaq Barrett, some big, physical cornerbacks in Carlton Davis, Vernon Hargreaves III and rookies Sean Murphy-Bunting and Jamel Dean, and with newly acquired three-technique defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. How quickly the rookies get up to speed, Nassib’s production as an outside linebacker and Vea’s improvement will likely tell the tale of how successful Tampa Bay’s transition to a 3-4 defense is.

Different Camp Practice Times

Gone are the two-a-day practices under Tony Dungy and Jon Gruden, the latter of whom had morning and blistering afternoon practices in the sweltering heat of Orlando. The latest Collective Bargaining Agreement mandates just one practice per day for today’s NFL players, and Arians will have Tampa Bay practicing at four different times throughout August.

Bucs head coach Bruce Arians
Bucs head coach Bruce Arians – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

The Bucs begin with five straight camp practices at 4:00 p.m. because there are three 4:05 p.m. kickoffs on Tampa Bay’s schedule this year, in addition to a 4:25 p.m. start in the season opener against San Francisco. The Bucs then have three straight 6:30 p.m. practices as Tampa Bay travels to Carolina for an 8:20 p.m. kickoff on Thursday Night Football in Week 2. The Bucs then have an 8:00 a.m. camp practice because the team will travel to London to play the Panthers in Week 6 on October 13, followed by four more 4:00 p.m. practices and then two final 10:00 a.m. joint practices with Miami to end the preseason.

Former Bucs head coaches Greg Schiano and Dirk Koetter typically stuck with morning practice times throughout most of camp, while the bulk of Arians’ camp practices will take place in the late afternoon or early evening. The hottest part of the day in Tampa is typically at 4:00 p.m., but that’s also when it usually rains in the summer, too. Expect a couple of those afternoon practices to be moved indoors.

Bucs Invest In Sports Science

According to Football Outsiders, the Bucs were the most injured team in 2018 and paid for it with their “Adjusted Games Lost” statistical model, which said that Tampa Bay’s players – mostly on defense – totaled the most games missed of any team in the league. As a result, the Bucs hired a new strength and conditioning staff led by Anthony Piroli and featuring a speed and conditioning coach in Roger Kingdom, a two-time Olympic gold medalist, and kept head trainer Bobby Slater. The big difference with Piroli is that he is doing position-specific training where wide receivers aren’t doing the same exercises as the offensive linemen, which makes a lot of sense given the different body types.

Overseeing both strength and conditioning and the training staff is director of athlete performance Greg Skaggs, who served as the University of Oregon’s director of athletic medicine from 2007-2019. According to the team’s website, “Skaggs will help develop a program to optimize player performance and safety while collaborating with the medical services team who will implement evidence-based recovery protocols and evaluate factors to help predict and prevent future injuries.”

The hope is that Skaggs, Piroli and Slater can work together to help players avoid getting injured and to get injured players back on the field quicker. Arians and Licht are becoming big believers in sports science, and each player will have heat monitors attached to them during practice to gauge fatigue levels during training camp in order to keep the team healthy.

Women Coaches

Arians became a trailblazer for female coaches in the league when he hired Jen Welter to be an assistant linebackers intern coach in Arizona during the 2015 training camp. Arians took his trailblazing to the next level this offseason by hiring the first two full-time female assistant coaches to his staff in Tampa Bay.

Bucs assistant defensive line coach Lori Locust
Bucs assistant defensive line coach Lori Locust – Photo by: PewterReport.com

Lori Locust was hired to serve as an assistant defensive line coach to Kacy Rodgers. The 55-year old Locust comes to the Bucs from the Birmingham Iron of the now defunct AAF, and did a summer internship in Baltimore last year with former Tampa Bay defensive line coach Joe Cullen, who serves in the same capacity with the Ravens.

The other female coach is Maral Javadifar, who is a new assistant strength and conditioning coach. Javadifar received a Bachelor of Science degree in Molecular Biology from Pace and then earned her Doctor of Physical Therapy degree from New York Medical College. Her main area of practice with the Bucs will be in physical therapy.

Bucs Add A Kicking Coach

No position has been the cause of more frustration in Tampa Bay than the kicker. Licht has drafted two kickers, signed veteran kickers, signed in-season replacements and even traded for a kicker since he took over as general manager in 2014. The Bucs have entered each of the past five seasons with a new starting kicker, which is in direct correlation to the fact that the Bucs have had just one winning record – a 9-7 mark in 2016 – since Licht became G.M.

Cairo Santos, a veteran who was signed as a midseason replacement for Chandler Catanzaro last year, is vying for the kicking job this year along with rookie Matt Gay, a fifth-round pick. Santos is accurate from inside 40 yards, but doesn’t have a big leg and struggles with long field goals and kickoffs. Gay has a booming leg and seems accurate as the Lou Groza Award winner last year, but is unproven at the NFL level.

To help either Santos or Gay navigate life in Tampa Bay and the NFL as the Bucs attempt to end their kicking curse is new specialist coach Chris Boniol, who was kicker in Dallas for six years. Boniol will also oversee the tutelage of new punter Bradley Pinion, but his primary job will be to improve the field goal and extra point accuracy in Tampa Bay. Licht wanted to add a kicking coach to the staff and Arians was all for it.

Bucs Rookie Academy

Bucs director of player development Duke Preston has always done a great job of preparing the team’s rookies for the transition to life in the NFL on and off the field. This year he got a big assist from Arians and Licht with the Bucs Rookie Academy. While Tampa Bay’s veterans got to leave for summer vacation three weeks ago, the rookies, including the team’s draft picks and undrafted free agents, had to stay behind for three additional weeks before a four-week break prior to training camp.

Bucs head coach Bruce Arians and ILB Devin White
Bucs head coach Bruce Arians and ILB Devin White – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

The rookies got some extra work in the classroom as a result, which should help them on the field once training camp starts. That’s important because the team will be counting on this year’s rookie class to play a lot and produce, especially the defensive players. It will even be more important for next year’s rookie class because the veterans will have already played a full year in Arians’ offense and Todd Bowles’ defense and will be much further ahead than the 2020 rookies. This year’s rookie class might even have a jump on the veterans because it’s a new system on offense and defense for everyone at One Buc Place.

In addition to extra time in the classroom watching film and learning how to study and be a pro, the rookies also got to bond by going to a Rays game, had a social justice initiative with the Tampa police department, did some charity activities and really bonded together over the past three weeks. Preston even brought in Bespoke & Co., the official custom clothier for PewterReport.com, to put on a style class when it comes to dressing up for home and away games, team functions, charities and events, and also had Patricia Rossi come in and provide an etiquette class.

So will the changes that Arians has brought to Tampa Bay even matter in the end? Will these changes help the Bucs will more games in 2019? They need to because in the end changing Tampa Bay’s record for the better is really all that is important.

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Scott Reynolds is in his 24th 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 son's Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: [email protected]

18 COMMENTS

  1. You only see it if viewing this website on a wide screen monitor, but it is probably time to take McCoy’s picture off of the top left!

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  2. I really love Lavonte. It’s a shame he’s been on so many bad defenses and hasn’t received the national recognition he deserves. He’s been my favorite player and arguably the Bucs best player since they drafted him. Hoping he can recapture some of that magic he had under Schiano’s scheme when he was playing out of his mind. Seems like he’ll get the chance under Bowles after years of toiling under Lovie and Mike Smith.

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  3. Scheme,coaching do matter. They must match specific talents of the players. Instead of changing player to fit scheme. Builds chemistry. Make week to week changes within your scheme & your depth to attack other teams weaknesses. Then you doing special things like the N.E. coach. It works on both sides of the ball too. You must as coaches know your opponents very well. This is what urks me about Glazers they do not demand cohesion.

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  4. Fab 4
    I think we are getting Arians mental heavy and Arians physical light.

    When Lovie Smith came I had hoped his time away from coaching meant that he would bring a better version of his previous performances as an NFL HC. I saw what he actually did as self aggrandizement and milking the situation to enhance his net worth. I don’t want to judge the individual so I hope I have merely exaggerated the true situation in my mind. Not that it matters to anyone else. (Just to show you what is in the back of my mind.)

    Here also I was envisioning a better but not a dramatically different version of Arians. The delegation part is new and introduces uncertainty for our preseason assessments. Obviously, the differences are the new part of the improvements in his mind at least.

    At this time I am still in “In BA we must trust” mode.
    __________
    Go Bucs!!!

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  5. Well, of course it’s Arians-light. The guy was retired….for health reasons….related to the stress of being an NFL Head Coach. He has said since Day 1 that he sees Leftwich and Bowles in charge. He has been talking those two up like they’re the next coming of Bill Parcells, and has said he’s done that in part because of the personal relationships he has with them, dating back many years. He wants one of those guys to get his shot (or in Bowles case, another shot) to be a Head Coach.

    My hope was that he was going to use 2019 to ease one of them ahead, and then take over Jason Licht’s job next year, sending him out to pasture. Sadly, his relationship there seems like that won’t be the plan.

    But to answer your question Scott – no the Glazers didn’t hire Arians…they hired one of Bowles or Leftwich to be Head Coach, and hired Arians to run their interview process for a year.

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  6. After seeing Koetter focus only on the offensive side of the ball, and leave his defense totally in the inept hands of M. Smith, I’m glad B.A. isn’t locked in a room with Winston wearing blinders to what’s going on with the rest of the team. I don’t see the GOAT Belichick calling plays on defense, or offense. He has an eye for coaches, and let’s them do their thing. Of course he’s making calls on both sides of the ball, and I’m sure Arains will too. This is not a problem Scott, don’t make it one. Good to see Arians cut Wilson, showing no patients for his inability to stay healthy. To much in the past we’ve hung on to guys who spend more time in the tub then with the club. So we’ve had more players miss time do to injury then most teams. I hope the new training hires help, but I think some of the problem was our guys weren’t mentally tough enough to play through some minor injuries.

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  7. OMG! Can we PLEASE stop talking about GMC. He plays for the hated Panthers! Forget him already!!

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  8. Best part of this article is how it points out how low McCoy’s takeaway total is. Hahahahaha!!!

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  9. I love all of this, but the strength and conditioning coaches get me the most excited. Wow, what a concept, having different positions doing different drills. These types of things can only help this team. It seemed like every game a starter was going out. Love the insight for this time of year guys! Keep up the good work

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  10. Injuries and misdiagnosing drafted players and free agents have plagued this franchise for over a decade. About time the team moves forward with sports science and embracing such analytics.

    Lavonte David has been quietly grinding and he is putting up a resume that will probably go the distance. I am proud of him and even when people doubted him I was in his corner. The guy plays with so much heart and it shows.

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  11. Abnormal high injuries last few years have cost this team as many wins as anything really. It’s been nuts. I always wondered if it was bad luck, bad conditioning coaches, or both.

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  12. So Arizona didn’t have a quarterback coach?

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  13. SR on vacay?? Where does a FL boy go on vacation? As Sapp said to Meshawn, “We got it all right here man.” Enjoy yourself sir, have a safe and wonderful time. As to BA light, I agree his successor is very likely already coaching on this team. Certainly Winston’s success is the team’s best case scenario. But I honestly believe that BA’s #1 job is to change the culture on the entire team. He has to get these guys to play a whole game. All 3 phases for all 4 quarters. To not play up to the competition but to play up to each other. Even in the 10 wins we’ve watched over the last 2 years, I don’t think we have seen that.

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  14. Derrick Brooks played from 95-08 or for 14 seasons.
    Lavonte David has played for 7 seasons so far.

    I really hope I get to watch Lavonte for 7 more seasons in pewter and red. He’s been my favorite Buc for 7 years.

    He may go down as the most unsung superstar in team history. With all the stats in the world to make the case that he was consisitently one of the best linebackers in the entire league, he was snubbed year after year for the meaningless pro bowl. When comparing his first 3/5/7 years in the league to Hall of Famer Derrick Brooks, he compares favorably in every category except playoffs and wins.

    I can’t wait to see the dependable ‘Husker in this new defense.

    Some Lavonte Highlights:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7C8SBKJHwSg

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  15. Great article once again Scott! You will be missed while you are on vacation, but enjoy your time away. David has been my favorite player on defense also and I know he will shine as an ILB and will be in plenty of Pro Bowls before he retires. BA has already turned around this culture! I love all his innovations he has brought to do so. His keeping the rookies here to learn will pay off this year and I expect four of them or more to be starters and play like veterans based on all the superior development BA has brought. His strength program will also make all his players stronger and less likely to be injured and putting heat monitors on players in practice is genius given his practices in high temperatures this year.

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  16. I don’t think BA needs to bring in another RB unless it turns out Jones can’t cut it this year. I am glad to hear that BA likes Anderson too. I think he will bring a lot of flexibility. If he uses Ogunbowale to return kicks he needs to keep five RBs. Ogunbowale also could be the best sub backing up Barber in case he goes down. Anderson could be a good third down back, Jones a good change of pace back who can go all the way, and Ellington is great for attacking the perimeter and comfortable as a pass receiver too. We can use them all.

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  17. Ariana wasn’t just brought her to mentor Winston, if that was the case, he would’ve been the oc, not the hc. For far too long I’ve made myself excited and emotionally invested in players/coaches that I knew deep down weren’t the answer. We’ve had plenty of teases along the way. Hell raheem Morris still have us the best season we’ve had this far this decade. We’ve been through a lot as buc fans. But I do believe in arians. The drafting of Devin white out any of my doubt to rest. We will be healthier and not burnt out simply because of our new indoor practice facility. Our guys will get more reps because because we’re having multiple groups going with first stringers with first stringers, second stringers with second. So on and so forth. Arians while being looked at to help Winston put it all together, is changing the way we do things around here for the better. Scott do you honestly think Asians isn’t doing anything to help Winston? Do you really think Winston hasn’t had Asians in his ear? Just because Arians isn’t physically showing you what your were looking for doesn’t mean he’s not getting through to Winston in other ways. I’m pretty sure Asians is helping out leftwich where he sees he needs help, but let’s not forget that leftwich was an NFL qb for years and was a pretty damn good backup in Pittsburgh. Bowels I’m not worried about at all and he might be the one that replaces Arians once he decides he’s done done. I know we’ve been burned, believe me, WE ALL KNOW THAT lol. But this isn’t the same thing. Players are being held accountable, the tough but correct roster moves are being made, and our draft picks from Devin white to sc try Miller are turning heads, making plays, and showing leadership. Enjoy your vacation and don’t worry about getting arians “light”. BA is here and will be getting us more wins than losses. He’s in control, trust me.

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  18. Sorry for all the typos /errors. Please do your best to read through it!

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