It has been a long time since 2002 and that Super Bowl win for Buccaneers fans. As Redskins fans we know all about that sort of pain too. The Bucs team of the early 2000's is long gone, and since then the team has struggled through a handful of winning seasons and just two Wild Card Playoffs, which they lost. Last year, similar to the Redskins, the team regressed to a 4-12 record and underwent a tumultuous time behind the scenes, but is there light at the end of the tunnel?
The Redskins are facing a lot of new coaches this year. Greg Schiano's tenure at Tampa Bay came to an end at the end of last season after two years of controversy and conflict. Schiano was always fighting battles, whether it was defending his aggressive play calls at the end of games, or his relationship with former QB Josh Freeman. He certainly wasn't everyone's cup of tea (one for you Ken) and many people were pleased to see him go, and the GM with him.
In steps Lovie Smith. This seems like a match made in heaven with his return to the team where he helped develop the infamous defensive scheme - Tampa 2 (albeit as a linebacker coach, but that position is central to this particular scheme). Lovie spent his years in-between building a well respected Bears team, yet was recently fired by them after another season without the playoffs. His long spell at the Bears earned him much praise and respect for his part in building a strong and renowned defensive unit.
Based on his experience at Tampa, Lovie is an advocate of the Tampa 2 defense but has gone on record to say that it is not the 'be all and end all' of his defense. Matt Bowen (who is a must follow on Twitter to all you social networkers) played under Lovie and went into glorious detail here about what this defense will really be doing.
Breaking Down The Lovie Smith Defense
•Bucs NationThere's nothing special about the Cover 2 defense. It's a boring, simple scheme that's easy to break down. So why has Lovie Smith seen so much success over his career as a "Cover 2 coach"?
On offense the Bucs added ex-Cal and respected offensive coach Jeff Tedford, who has a reputation for developing talent; Aaron Rodgers is the most notable of many impressive names at both QB and RB positions. It will be interesting to see how much control Tedford has in this offense, or if Lovie will be running it. Reports suggest it will be up tempo, but other former players came out to say how complex and difficult it is to learn his playbook. This may indicate that there is a slow learning curve for the Bucs offense this year, but no one really knows what to expect from this side of the team. Fortunately the Redskins will have some tape on it by this point in the season, and a full bye week to prepare.
In terms of the playing staff, the Buccaneers seemingly drafted pretty well, with SBNation giving them a B+.
MIKE EVANS (WR, TEXAS A&M, 1ST ROUND, 7TH OVERALL)
AUSTIN SEFERIAN-JENKINS (TE, WASHINGTON, 2ND ROUND, 38TH OVERALL)
CHARLES SIMS (RB, WEST VIRGINIA, 3RD ROUND, 69TH OVERALL)
KADEEM EDWARDS (OG, TENNESSEE STATE, 5TH ROUND, 143RD OVERALL)
KEVIN PAMPHILE (OT, PURDUE, 5TH ROUND, 149TH OVERALL)
ROBERT HERRON (WR, WYOMING, 6TH ROUND, 185TH OVERALL)
A group of receivers featuring Vincent Jackson, Mike Evans and Robert Herron is an intimidating bunch. Throw in the addition of Seferian-Jenkins and this offense could rival any other unit in the NFC South. The quarterback situation is still a question mark.
Note that they did not draft a defensive player. As mentioned in Bowen's article above, the Bucs added key defensive players through free agency, namely Michael Johnson, Alterraun Verner, and Clinton McDonald. They also added Josh McCown from Chicago to be their QB. Of course they lost Revis Island, which can not be underestimated, despite not being used to his strengths enough by Schiano last year. In general the draft and free agency have been great for the Bucs. A recent article on Yahoo says:
The Buccaneers got one of five A grades in our free-agency grades, dinged only a little bit because they cut cornerback Darrelle Revis. But that move allowed them to load up elsewhere. Johnson and Verner are two elite defensive players. Center Evan Dietrich-Smith and tackle Anthony Collins are good starters on the offensive line. Defensive tackle Clinton McDonald was a really smart addition. Tight end Brandon Myers is coming off a disappointing year with the Giants, but he did have 79 catches two years ago. A good draft that yielded potential help for the offense with Evans, tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins and running back Charles Sims in the first three rounds capped a nice offseason.
The new coaching staff seems like a solid move by the Bucs, and Lovie Smith steps into a good position in terms of the defensive side of things. Many experts are predicting this defense could be a surprise break out unit this year, which means the Redskins face yet another strong defense in 2014. There are many unknowns on the offense, but it seems like the plan is simply to tick over, keep the ball and utilise playmakers like Jackson and Martin to convert in the redzone. May not be spectacular viewing but with a solid defense it could be functional enough to win.
An obligatory mention of Doug Martin's amusing nickname is in order as the ‘Muscle Hamster' makes his return after injury midway through his 2013 campaign. An excellent powerful running back with good hands. The Bucs have solid RB depth if Martin gets injured. The Redskins will need to keep Martin quiet to keep control of this offense.
At 6'5" Jackson is a huge threat, especially in the redzone. He has consistently got yards and TD's every year in the NFL. His age (31) may start to spark some doubts about durability, but that is more wishful thinking, and rookie Mike Evans will help take some of the pressure off.
The highly rated defensive tackle has had two good years in the NFL after an injury plagued start to his career. Look for him to continue his form in 2014 in a Lovie Smith scheme that relies on pressure from the front 4. He gets good numbers in tackling, sacks and deflections, so he is always involved and making plays.
Free agency signing from the Titans, Verner is a solid fit with Lovie Smith's scheme and an underrated corner. He steps in as an immediate upgrade in a very solid secondary, and will be their #1 CB, so DeSean Jackson will have his hands full.
One to Watch
Whilst McCoy will get a lot of attention from the Redskins OL, Johnson should not be ignored. Lovie Smith and the Bucs front office went for Johnson in free agency to help upgrade that defensive line and pass rush, and teams simply can't double team both him and McCoy.
Keys to the game
- Stunting what could be a bland Bucs offense. Stop Doug Martin first.
- Attacking a rebuilt but new offensive line whilst containing McCown and Martin. There are questions at guard in particular.
- RGIII needs to be aware of the pressure from the Bucs front four and check it down if nothing is on. As Matt Bowen says in the article above, the flats are usually on with Lovie's defense, so perhaps we could use someone like Thompson or Seastrunk out there to make plays and gain yards. RGIII may also find more running room here as Lovie doesn't like to send extra blitzers.