Mike Smith: Flexibility is priority for Bucs' defense
As the Bucs continue their transition to a new defense under coordinator Mike Smith, he's made it clear that the most defining aspect of his defense seems to be its multiple looks and roles for players across different positions.
"We're looking for as much flexibility as we possibly can, to be able to scheme against our opponents, to be able to prepare for injuries," Smith said. "You have to have multiple guys prepared at different positions."
So while the Bucs have only three defensive tackles with significant NFL experience, Smith said he's preparing for a nickel defense -- which accounts for about 65 percent of the defensive snaps -- to include conventional ends working inside as interior pass-rushers.
"You've got to have guys who can rush inside, and a lot of our defensive ends in our sub package will be able to move down inside -- that's what we're looking for," said Smith, pointing to Robert Ayers, Will Gholston and Kourtnei Brown. "Ayers had very good success last year in New York in terms of his production at the defensive tackle position."
What's more, Smith said he could see the Bucs using linebackers -- such as veteran Daryl Smith, who he had in Jacksonville -- being able to slide up as third-down or nickel pass-rushers from the outside as well.
"We're going to line these guys up in different spots, try to confuse the quarterback, keep it simple for us and make it complex for the (opposing) offensive staffs," Coach Smith said.
And as the Bucs shift to their nickel defense -- they'll even use a dime sometimes with six defensive backs, Smith said -- don't presume that Lavonte David and Kwon Alexander will stay on the field in the nickel, as they did last season. Smith said Daryl Smith is used to playing in maybe 90 percent of his team's snaps and will have a chance to compete for one of the linebacker slots in the nickel defense as well.