Mike Smith: Reducing penalties a priority for Bucs
The Bucs tied for the NFL lead in penalties in 2015 and reset the franchise records for penalties and penalty yards, but lowering that significantly will be a priority for new coach Dirk Koetter, as well as defensive coordinator Mike Smith.
"I think it has to be an emphasis point from the very beginning," Smith said Wednesday in his first news conference since being hired. "That was one of the things we did well in Atlanta, in terms of talking to players about how important it is to play penalty-free. ... We want to be tough, we want to be aggressive, but we've got to play smart. We always talked about taking it right up to the edge, but let's not go over."
Smith's numbers as head coach with the Falcons are impressive -- his Falcons teams had the fewest penalties in the NFL in 2010 (58) and 2012 (55) and tied for second in 2008, his first year with the team. Consider, by comparison, that the fewest penalties ever by a Bucs team in a full season is 75, set in 1999.
In Smith's first season in Atlanta, the Falcons went from 26th in the league in penalties (105 total) to tied for second (71). What's more, he spent this past season working as a consultant with the league office, learning more about the officiating process.
"I got an opportunity to see how the game is officiated, and I think that it'll be an advantage," Smith said. "The things that really hurt you are the defensive pass interferences or the silly, dumb penalties. As a defense, we're going to strie to play on the edge, but not over the edge. That's a fine line."