Bucs DC Mike Smith talks about Grimes, Ayers on Sirius
The Bucs haven't formally introduced new cornerback Brent Grimes and defensive end Robert Ayers at a news conference yet, but we have the first quotes from Tampa Bay coaches thanks to Sirius XM's Bleacher Report radio, which had defensive coordinator Mike Smith on air Sunday.
-- He mentioned that he will work from the booth this season and not on the sidelines -- I think that's news, but something that makes sense with head coach Dirk Koetter on the sidelines. Lots to get to from his interview, but here are his thoughts on Ayers, signed to a three-year, $19.5-million contract after a career year with 9.5 sacks for the Giants last season:
"Robert Ayers is one of the first pieces as we're going through this calibration process with Jason Licht and his staff. Robert's coming off a career year in terms of pressuring the quarterback. He gives you lots of flexibility. He's not only rushing from the perimeter of the defense, but he's also going to affect the rusher inside. That gives us flexibility to be able to add him to our defensive line with Gerald McCoy. We're going in the right direction."
-- On signing Grimes -- host Jason Cole asked about the distraction of his outspoken wife Miko and had reported that three NFL GMs didn't want to sign Grimes because of his wife. Smith sidestepped that and addressed Grimes, who he had in Atlanta for five seasons:
"My concern is about Brent Grimes, and Brent Grimes is a fantastic player. He had a great season last year with four interceptions. He's been to the Pro Bowl in Atlanta, he's been to the Pro Bowl in Miami and we expect him to continue to play at that level. He's going to make us a better football team and ultimately, that's what it's all about. It's us putting the best players on the field that we can, and we think Brent Grimes is going to be a great addition to our team. I know what kind of teammate he is. He's a great teammate and he's a great athlete and we're looking forward to working with him."
-- On the talent on the Bucs defense and the challenge of improving that unit:
"As a coach, it's your job to put the players in the best possible position they can be in. Play to their strengths, and that's what we're doing as a staff. We've got a great staff with lots of experience. It's our job to identify what their strengths are and put them in the best positions they can possibly be. We've been spending lots of time evaluating the players on our roster as well as when you go through this calibration process that happens every off-season. We're in free agency right now and the draft is coming up."
-- On his time off last year and working with the league officiating office with Dean Blandino:
"Got an opportunity to watch lots of football and see it from a different light. I was a fan this year and it was really interesting to see it from that perspective. I found out how popular this game is. When you're coaching it, you just have your head down and you're worried about the next game. Working at the league office, spending time with Dean Blandino and his staff, seeing it from their perspective. It became very apparent that the officials and the officiating department have a very difficult job but they work extremely hard at it. Got an opportunity to watch lots of tape and see what was going on each and every week instead of just worrying about the next game."
-- On the importance of addressing the defensive (and offensive) line in the offseason:
"Football is won on the lines. On the defensive side of the ball, it's probably the most difficult position to get players at. It's going to be about winning the line of scrimmage. Football always has and will be about winning the line of scrimmage, whether it's stopping the run or putting pressure on the quarterback. You've got to win the line of scrimmage."
-- On Will Gholston, who's entering a contract year and has shown himself to be a strong run-stopping defensive end:
"I'm excited to work with him. He's a big, long defensive end that has the ability to play both left and right, which gives you lots of flexibility. I was impressed with the progress he's made as you go through and watch him throughout the season. I think he's going to be a good player. He keeps improving every week."
-- On him having an extra motivation against his old team the Falcons ...
"You get 16 opportunities in the NFL. That's what you're guaranteed. We're looking forward to competing. Playing in the division we're in, you've got to win your division games. It's a very competitive division. Best team in the division is the Carolina Panthers, so our focus as a staff on the defensive side has been how are we going to play against our division opponents and what do we have to do to win in the division. That's the quickest route to the playoffs."
-- On the QBs in his division ...
"I've said for a long time, having spent a lot of time in the NFC South, that it's the deepest division in terms of quarterback play. Drew Brees, his numbers speak for himself and he's been doing it a long time. He's a little different quarterback than Matt (Ryan) or Cam (Newton). Jameis (Winston) had a great rookie season here in Tampa. It does cause problems because you're facing three different types of quarterbacks. Drew is so cerebral, does a great job getting the ball out of his hands. Of course, Matt has great size, does a good job throwing the ball down the field, and of course, Cam is a completely different type of quarterback that's really come into his own in the last year and a half. He's really become a better passing quarterback and the threat of him running the football does create problems for you defensively. You've got to account for him as a runner, so every time the ball is snapped, instead of playing 11 on 10 on the defensive side, you're playiing 11 on 11 because you've got to account for him as a runner. That's problematic and one of the reasons they're playing so well on the offensive side. I think Mike Shula does a great job in terms of game-planning and using just enough quarterback option, quarterback run plays that it creates problems for the defensive staff."