FAB 3. Buckner Introduces Bucs To The Shiver Board

Tampa Bay’s defensive line was soft last year, and former defensive line coach Jay Hayes allowed that to happen.

That’s a big reason why he was fired in the offseason and replaced by Brentson Buckner. Bucs general manager Jason Licht, head coach Dirk Koetter and defensive coordinator were tired of seeing the Bucs get pushed around upfront and they wanted to get tougher and more physical.

Bucs DE Noah Spence and DL coach Brentson Buckner - Photo courtesy of the Buccaneers
Bucs DE Noah Spence and DL coach Brentson Buckner – Photo courtesy of the Buccaneers

Buckner started that process right away upon his arrival in Tampa Bay back in the OTAs by introducing the shiver board, which is akin to a blocking sled, although the shiver board is lower to the ground and doesn’t rock back or upwards when its hit.

It’s basically a lightly padded piece of metal with one purpose.

“It creates toughness by callousing your body all the way to your jaw,” Buckner said. “As defensive linemen we don’t play. We hit offensive linemen and they don’t feel like air. They feel and they stop, and you’ve got to get used to doing that. That’s why boxers punch heavy bags and don’t just punch speed bags. They’ve got to callous their hands to fit their power and that’s what the shiver board is.

“My whole mindset in practice is individual work. We’re not going to do nothing that we can’t use in a game, and we won’t hit air in a game. As D-linemen we sign a contract that we’ll make contact every play, so you’ve got to get your body used to it because you don’t want to be shocked when you get there and have to hit. So you might as well get used to it. It’s a way to warm your body up and wake your body up and say, ‘Okay, here comes the pain.’”

When I first watched the Bucs defensive linemen engage in this exercise during practice back in the OTAs I actually winced. Buckner and assistant defensive line coach Paul Spicer use a big rubber band to keep their players’ wrists close together and then the linemen get on their knees, lunge forward, roll their hips and strike the shiver board with their open palms.

It looks like hurt. Some of the players grimaced and massage their hands and wrists after the first few reps.

My wrists and hands hurt just watching it. The shiver board is hard, immovable and unforgiving.

Bucs DT Beau Allen - Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Bucs DT Beau Allen – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

“We hit that shiver board, man,” Bucs defensive tackle Beau Allen told me during an interview for one of his Bucs Training Camp Diaries. “Yeah, we’re going to put some dents in that (f*#%@*$) – and you can print that. You can’t hit offensive linemen in OTAs, so we used the shiver board. That thing is hard and it doesn’t move. Coach Buckner wants us calloused and ready for the season.

“With the sled, the shiver board – there is really no way around it, man. That’s how you get better at football. You hit. You’ve got to learn the details and the techniques and you’ve got to take those things seriously, but you have to hit, too. You can see us working, man. That shiver board is an important thing. You can’t take that stuff lightly. That individual work translates into team period, which translates into games. Those are the little things that make you a better player. It might hurt to hit it, but I don’t feel pain so I wouldn’t know.”

There were some OTA practices where Buckner and Spicer would have the D-linemen take turns hitting the shiver board for 10 minutes. As someone who has vocally criticized the Bucs for not having a physical training camp last summer and believing that was the catalyst for a soft year in the trenches for both sides of the line in Tampa Bay, I was encouraged by what I saw back in May.

Having the defensive linemen hit the shiver board and the 7-man blocking sled every day would harden them and lead to a more physical training camp, which is exactly what happened.

“Well, I wouldn’t say it’s painful, but it is stiff,” said Bucs defensive end Will Clarke. “It’s something that helps us with our technique and being physical because more times than not you can’t move a shiver board, but you can move an offensive lineman. For technique, it’s good to hit the shiver board because it makes moving offensive linemen pretty easy after that. So doing drills like that, constantly using the shiver board, having straight arms and going at the sled like that will always help.”

Bucs defensive lineman DaVonte Lambert noticed a big difference between this year’s training camp and last year’s camp in part because of the work the unit did on the shiver board, which wasn’t used when Hayes was in charge.

Bucs DT Vita Vea - Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Bucs DT Vita Vea – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

“I must say the shiver board helps a lot, especially with shooting hands and getting extension,” Lambert said. “It helps simulate a heavy body in front of you like an offensive lineman. I think with us just working on it each and every day is going to make us a lot better. Sometimes you play against O-linemen that just want to place block and just stay there not running their feet. So it just kind of simulates that in some way. We do it practice for warm-ups. It gets our body going and it helps with muscle memory as far a extension and being strong with hands and stuff like that.”

Tampa Bay’s defensive line is far from being a finished piece of work. Camp injuries to defensive tackles Vita Vea (calf) and Mitch Unrein (concussion) slowed some of the progress the unit was making. There is still work to do from a chemistry standpoint as far as stuffing the run and collapsing the pocket and rushing the passer.

But the Bucs defensive line is more physical this year. There’s no doubt about that. And Buckner’s use of the shiver board is one big reason why.

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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]

9 COMMENTS

  1. FAB 1:

    The points you made were well taken. Their are too many fans and even local pundits who expect every high draft pick to wow us from day one. Sapp is just one example of taking some time to emerge.

    Ian Beckles (who should know better) was all over Gerald McCoy his first two or three years in the league on the radio. Now he is considered one of the top three defensive linemen in the entire NFL by many all across the country and across the league. (There are still plenty of Gmac haters among us even now. I have recently seen him called “a marshmallow” and referred to as “Geraldine” in posts elsewhere.)

    Some of those same types are very vocal against Vernon Hargreaves and they have already started on Ronald Jones and Vita Vea. Let us see where these players are by midiseason, or better yet, by the end of this season.

    I am confident that this regime is a little wiser than that of some of its predecessors and will give Noah Spence more time to succeed or fail. His potential apparently was not destroyed by the two injuries he suffered.
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    Go Bucs!!!!

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  2. I for one hope Spence gets back into form and becomes a force but I was always bothered by his OLB type body. I know Pewter Report wasn’t because they lobbied heavily for the Bucs to draft Spence.
    At first I wasn’t concerned about Unrein’s concussion but now four games later it appears much serious. Although he wasn’t labeled as a starter, he sure seemed like he would be a valuable backup.
    Is this the price we have to pay to make the team tougher.
    Please, no more future draft looks until midway through the season and for gods sake, why would we even care about drafting a another wide receiver with a first or second round.
    Haven’t we learned enough. Get the pigs up front and let them eat.

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  3. Weight gain and shoulder injuries always limit pass rushers. But I want to see Spence do is use his hands better to fight for leverage or an opportunity to shoot a gap or the edge.

    To me I understand that he isn’t going to be sophisticated with his chess at this point in his career like JPP as he is very young with little NFL game experience.

    But what I do want to see is tenacity and violent hands.

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  4. Loved how Ronde put Licht on the spot when he asked what Spence (who was still playing in the 4th qtr) needed to show to be the team’s designated 3rd down pass rusher. Licht’s comments were less than inspiring, curious how Spence’s weekend goes. The question comes about at 7:15 or so left in the 4th if anyone pulls the game up. Have to say, like listening to Licht’s interviews during a game.

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    • I think it was a decent response. It basically reiterated what Buckner said about Spence from the Fab 5…he just needs to add more to his arsenal than he currently has. But there’s a decent chance he was playing late into the game solely because they want him to get those reps that he’s been missing the past 2 years with the shoulder injuries. Still sounds like they haven’t lost faith in him, but I’d be surprised if he replaces Curry or JPP a whole lot because, simply put, they’re better players right now.

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  5. FAB 2:
    I have listened to as many of Dirk Koetter’s press conferences and chance quickie interviews as I can over time. I try to listen very carefully to what he actually says or does not say.

    What I heard him say was that he promised Monken that he would give him the opportunity to do the play calls for this preseason. He did not add any more at the time.

    The implication may well have been that if it works out he would have him continue with this into the regular season. Putting that together with what you are reporting he indicated in January of 2017 leads me to believe what you are clamoring for was his plan all along, Scott.

    We will find out by the 9th no matter what.
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  6. Fab 2; Maybe Koetter will have Monken still call the plays but i still think it’s not so much Monkens play calling. It’s the player’s executing the plays better. Less dropped balls. All the QB’s know the system better and are executing better with less (no ) turn overs. The QB’s are changing the plays at the line of scrimmage to a better play and getting better success against the coverage the D’s are showing them. That’s the biggest changes. And there playing more pitch and catch with an empty back field. Throwing to one of our Amazing offensive weapons who has beat there coverage. Our players are more matured, exp’d and determined to be better this year. That’s how I see it. I don’t care who calls the plays as long as we win but I cant believe so many think this is all about Monken’s vs Koetter’s play calling then all that i listed above. GO BUCS!!!

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  7. Oh yeah. Great Fab 5 Scott! Thanks everybody at PR for ALL your work! Hopefully you’ll all be writing about a lot of Wins this season. GO BUCS!!!

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  8. Agree, The Bucs have let quite a few players go, only to watch them develop and come back to Tampa and whoop our asses. Adrian Clayborne, Michael Bennett, LeGarrette Blount. We drafted them and cut them all way too soon. Even though it’s Spence’s 3rd season, he’s only played a season’s worth of games.

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