In 2010, the Buccaneers were one of the surprise teams in the NFL, finishing with a 10-6 record under Raheem Morris. However, in 2011, the fortunes reversed, and the Buccaneers would limp to a 4-12 record, culminating in the firing of Morris. In his place, the Bucs hired former Rutgers Head Coach Greg Schiano, along with former Giants QB Coach, Mike Sullivan as Offensive Coordinator, and ex-Giants Defensive Coordinator and Dolphins ILB Coach Bill Sheridan to help run the defense.
The Buccaneers website shares this blurb of Schiano's past endeavors:
Schiano joins the Buccaneers from his previous position as the head coach of Rutgers University, where he served 11 years, transforming the Scarlet Knights from an unknown into a a consistently competitive, winning and respected program. Under his leadership, Rutgers - which had advanced to a postseason bowl just once in the team's previous 135 year history - developed a new tradition of not only competing in, but also, winning bowl games. In his final seven seasons with the team, Schiano's Scarlet Knights qualified for six bowls, and won five.
Much like our own coach, Ron Rivera, Schiano will be playing an active role in his team's defense this season. Schiano and Sheridan will be installing a 4-3 One Gap defense.
Basically, a 4-3 One Gap defense is a regular 43 Defense, in which, the defensive lineman each occupy one gap on the offensive line (a la, NT holds the A gap, UT mans the B gap, and DE's seal the C gaps), hence the naming of the defense.
With 4 down linemen, 3 linebackers, 2 safeties, and 2 cornerbacks, the Coaches are free to dial up blitzes from any position. In addition we may see a variety of zone and man coverage, along with a variance of nickel and dime packages when the situation calls. All in all, without having seen Schiano's defense at the NFL level, there is no telling how aggressive the defense will be, or which coverages Schiano prefers.
However, from some soundbites and interviews that Schiano has provided this offseason, it looks like the Buccaneers defense will strive to Inhibit the Run Game, Reduce the amount of Big Plays, and Create Turnovers. [In my opinion, this looks like a list necessary to defeat the Panthers Offense; Wishful thinking Muahaha].
Another goal of Schiano's and Sheridan's is to instill the fundamentals into the young Bucs Defenders, including correct tackling techniques, so as to allay mishaps such as the one in the image above.
Offensive Coordinator Mike Sullivan will run the Buccaneers Offense after spending 8 seasons with the New York Giants (six as WR's Coach and the past two as QB Coach), helping to coach up Eli Manning towards an elite season in 2011, culminating in a Super Bowl victory.
Sullivan looks to establish an offensive scheme similar to that of the New York Giants, and OC Kevin Gilbride. Gilbride and the Giants run a variation of the Erhardt-Perkins Offense, which was established by long time Coaches Ray Perkins and Ron Erhardt in the 1980's with the New York Giants and New England Patriots. The Erhardt-Perkins Offense is one of the more common offenses in the NFL, and is run by multiple teams including the Patriots, Giants, Vikings, Steelers (Cowher era), Chiefs (under Weis), Rams/Broncos (under McDaniels), and even the Panthers under ol' Jeff Davidson.
The Erhardt-Perkins Offense seeks to set up the pass with the run, utilizing a smash mouth run game, in tandem with a vertical passing game. The offense tries to dominate possession of the ball, pounding the ball through the run game to maintain ball control. The passing offense is largely set out of play action, with wide receivers set out wide, drawing influences from Don Coryell's offense.
The Giants variation, Strike and Read Principle Offense relies on the QB and WR reading the defensive coverage alignment, and making adjustments. Oftentimes, the WR and QB will alter routes with out ever communicating a change. This stresses the trust between the QB and his WR's, as well the QB's ability to read both the defense as well as his own WR's.
Being a first time coordinator, with a new team, one would guess that Sullivan will rely heavily on the run game of Legarrette Blount and Doug Martin before placing a high level of trust in Freeman and his WR Corps. On a side note, Sullivan is a former Army Ranger and has a blue belt in Brazilian Jiu-jitsu.
Expectations for 2012:
On defense, I expect the Buccaneers to experience growing pains, as the youth of the defense will have to pick up a new defense, while adjusting to a new Coaching Staff. The Bucs Defense has talent, and if Schiano and Sheridan can instill discipline in their players, the Bucs could produce an effective defensive unit going forward. Gerald McCoy and Brian Price are returning healthy, while DaQuan Bowers and Adrian Clayborn provide a solid pass rush, in addition, rookie Safety Mark Barron will be looked to for big plays and turnovers.
Offensively, it remains to be seen if Sullivan will operate a more traditional Erhardt-Perkins Offense, or if he'll opt for the risk-reward of the Strike and Read Principle Offense. Sullivan has the tools for success with Mike Williams, Vincent Jackson, Preston Parker, Legarrette Blount, and Doug Martin. Much of the future success of the Bucs will depend on whether or not QB Josh Freeman can return to his 2010 form.
When it's all said and done, the Buccaneers are not devoid of talent, and if they fall in line with Greg Schiano, they could see success sooner rather than later. I predict that the Bucs could finish anywhere from 5-11 to 9-7.