Tuesday, April 24, 2018
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs defensive coordinator Mike Smith ready to turn tables on former team in opener

TAMPA — Bucs defensive coordinator Mike Smith will take the elevator up to the coach's box at the Georgia Dome on Sunday, a perch from which he can get the best look at what formation the Falcons plan to utilize in their attack.

"You see so much more when you have that view,'' Smith said.

In the season opener, it will be a different vantage point from the one Smith had from 2008-14 as Falcons coach. He was fired after the 2014 season.

Smith has intimate knowledge of the Falcons' personnel, particularly the nuances of quarterback Matt Ryan, receiver Julio Jones and running back Devonta Freeman, three of the most dangerous offensive players in the NFL.

"We're familiar with a handful of guys,'' said Smith, who has the best coaching record in Falcons history, 60-36. "That roster has turned over for the last two years. I think there's less than 15 guys on their roster that were there two years ago. So we know some of the players, and I think it is somewhat of an advantage, but it could be a disadvantage because you know too much.''

Meanwhile, Tampa Bay is still are receiving a crash course on Smith's defense, which features multiple fronts, pressure blitz packages and a smorgasbord of pass coverage.

Defensive tackle Gerald McCoy said the Bucs are still only beginning to grasp all the concepts in Smith's defense but the scheme has been well received. The team averaged four sacks per game in the preseason.

"(Smith is) very crafty with what he does and how he does things,'' McCoy said. "You never know what's coming. Very versatile front. You can be a 4-3, 3-4, five-man, you never know. Sometimes there are people all over the place.

"We're going to get pressure, whether it's four-man (rush), blitzing. We did a great job with four-man in the preseason, but it's preseason. We weren't dealing with Matt Ryan and a game plan. I love it, though. I love playing in the defense.''

Before he became a head coach, Smith earned a reputation as one of the league's best defensive coordinators in Jacksonville from 2003-07 after spending three seasons coaching the defensive line and then linebackers with the Ravens.

The only thing hindering Smith's installation of his defense with the Bucs is the lack of time to teach it in the offseason. But players such as former Jaguars and Ravens linebacker Daryl Smith and former Falcons cornerback Brent Grimes have helped tutor teammates.

"They've been a big help because they've heard this multiple times through the years what we're trying to get done,'' Smith, 57, said. "They can translate it. Sometimes they can sit back and say, 'Hey, this is what that gray-haired man really means.' So they've done a very good job of helping these young players and putting it in a player's perspective. ''

With more moving pieces, there is a greater risk of missed assignments, especially early in the season. The system requires pinpoint communication on every snap, safety Chris Conte said.

"There's a lot of stuff, a lot more going on than last year,'' Conte said. "It makes us be a lot more aware of things, forces us to communicate. We have to make sure we're on the same page.

"In our past system, there was a little less to communicate. Now there's a lot that needs to be communicated. You just have to be vocal. If you see something, say something.''

Coach Dirk Koetter, who was the Jaguars' offensive coordinator when Smith called the defense, said the Bucs' defensive-line depth will help keep players fresh to pressure Ryan, who passed for 666 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions in two losses to Tampa Bay last season.

"I think just that we're going to play a lot of guys,'' Koetter said. "We're going to rotate that front. … I think we have a lot better ball-hawkers in the secondary as far as getting after the football. And I think we'll see an improved pass rush.

"We will not sit in one look. I think 'Smitty' will dial up several different looks. … I know they're giving us fits in practice right now. … But I just feel like the multiplicity will show up."

Comments
Polly want a sacker: Bucs’ 4th-round draft pick to be delivered by parrot

Polly want a sacker: Bucs’ 4th-round draft pick to be delivered by parrot

Late-round NFL draft picks are often made on a wing and a prayer.The Bucs' fourth-round pick Saturday will be no different. The team announced Monday that as part of the NFL draft TV broadcast, the team's fourth-round pick will be delivered to an ann...
Published: 04/23/18
How Baker Mayfield can benefit the Bucs

How Baker Mayfield can benefit the Bucs

TAMPA — The buzz surrounding this year's NFL draft is a class of talented quarterbacks deep enough to challenge the record six taken in the first round in 1983, a group that included future Hall of Famers John Elway, Jim Kelly and Dan Marino.Th...
Published: 04/22/18
Ex-NFL kicker Jay Feely apologizes for ‘joke’ gun photo

Ex-NFL kicker Jay Feely apologizes for ‘joke’ gun photo

Former NFL kicker Jay Feely, who was born in Odessa and starred at Tampa Jesuit, has apologized for a photo he intended as a joke, showing him holding a gun as he poses with his daughter and her prom date."Wishing my beautiful daughter and her date a...
Published: 04/22/18
Shaquem Griffin: ‘I’m not just a feel-good story’

Shaquem Griffin: ‘I’m not just a feel-good story’

TAMPA — Shaquem Griffin wakes up knowing each day will be better than the last and barely able to wait until tomorrow."It's just a whirlwind,'' Griffin said.On Thursday, he will walk the red carpet with his family, including his twin brother, S...
Published: 04/21/18
Bucs not listening to outsiders, but expectations remain high for 2018

Bucs not listening to outsiders, but expectations remain high for 2018

TAMPA —Wait 'til this year seems to be the refrain at One Buc Place, even though the team was strangled by expectations in 2017. But a solid offseason that has already brought a rebuilt defensive line, new center and place-kicker has renewed th...
Published: 04/21/18
NFL draft confessions: The Bucs set the trap, and I took the cheese on Johnny Manziel

NFL draft confessions: The Bucs set the trap, and I took the cheese on Johnny Manziel

TAMPA — The NFL draft is one big game of Liar's Poker. Deal me out.Even the guys with a seat at the table don't know when someone is bluffing.Bucs general manager Jason Licht knows that the team's No. 7 overall pick this year will be affected b...
Published: 04/20/18
Bucs’ Jameis Winston, Mike Evans catch Miami Heat game from courtside

Bucs’ Jameis Winston, Mike Evans catch Miami Heat game from courtside

We've seen Jameis Winston and Mike Evans bonding this offseason, going to Texas A&M pro day together, among other events. The two Bucs stars and their significant others double-dated Thursday night, getting courtside seats to watch the Miami Heat in ...
Published: 04/20/18
Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Bucs have a tough start to their schedule

Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Bucs have a tough start to their schedule

The NFL did the Bucs no favors with their 2018 schedule, Rick Stroud says, making them open at New Orleans, followed by home games against Philadelphia and Pittsburgh Plus, linebacker Kendall Beckwith had surgery to repair a broken ankle, p...
Published: 04/20/18
Here’s the Bucs’ full 2018 schedule

Here’s the Bucs’ full 2018 schedule

TAMPA — How good can the Bucs be in 2018? Fans will get a good sense in the first three weeks, as Tampa Bay opens the year with three of its toughest games, all against reigning division champions. The Bucs open 2018 in New Orleans on Sept. 9 ...
Published: 04/19/18
Updated: 04/20/18
Bucs linebacker Kendell Beckwith fractured ankle in car accident

Bucs linebacker Kendell Beckwith fractured ankle in car accident

TAMPA – Bucs linebacker Kendell Beckwith had surgery to repair a broken ankle he suffered in a car accident in Louisiana last week, putting his status for the start of the season in question.Beckwith was passenger in car driven by former L...
Published: 04/19/18