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Tampa Bay Buccaneers' defense is updated, high-tech version of its famed two-deep zone scheme

Cornerback Ronde Barber, left, and linebacker Quincy Black are key parts of the revised Tampa 2 defense, which Barber says coach Raheem Morris has made more complex. “It gives us a chance … to mix some things up,” he says.

DANIEL WALLACE | Times

Cornerback Ronde Barber, left, and linebacker Quincy Black are key parts of the revised Tampa 2 defense, which Barber says coach Raheem Morris has made more complex. “It gives us a chance … to mix some things up,” he says.

TAMPA — Cornerback Ronde Barber has named it the Tampa 2.1.

It's the updated, high-tech version of the two-deep zone defense that has been synonymous with the Bucs for nearly 15 years.

"Can I take credit for that (new name) before somebody jumps on it?" Barber said.

Barber smiled and leaned back in a black leather chair in a players' lobby at One Buc Place. Entering his 14th season, he looks much younger than 35, though he is a year older than second-year coach Raheem Morris, who took over the play-calling on defense for the final six games of 2009.

Morris did more than return the Bucs to their Tampa 2 roots last season. He put his handprint on the defense by adding an array of blitz packages and odd-man fronts with some 3-4 alignments and multiple coverage schemes behind it.

"In theory, it's a lot like the original," Barber said. "(But) there's a lot more complexity to it. It gives us a chance — because we have … some really good athleticism in the secondary and the linebacking corps — to mix some things up. You guys will see it."

Some of Morris' concepts enabled the Bucs to go from allowing an average of 29.4 points per game last season to 17.6 in the final six contests.

But by kicking then-defensive coordinator Jim Bates overboard, Morris did more than game-plan. He stepped out of his paneled office, rolled up his sleeves and took full control of his team.

"I do feel like I'm more in control," Morris said. "It's because of the situation I put myself in on defense and how I was able to finish the year last year and dictate the game through defense, and how I was able to manage the game through a defensive mind-set and defensive plan, and how we want to win football games."

From Morris' role as defensive coordinator, he can dictate the tempo of a game. The Bucs return to their style of keeping two deep safeties (hence, Cover 2) to prevent big plays in the passing game. That forces teams to be patient and try to grind it out one first down at a time.

A year ago, the Bucs got away from their identity on defense and tried to play a two-gap system with lots of man-to-man coverage. Getting away from the Tampa 2 in Tampa never made sense to Barber. "They named the defense after us," he said.

So Barber and his teammates were all in when Morris, who coached defensive backs from 2002-08 in jobs with the Bucs and at Kansas State, was teaching again.

"That's what he needed to do," Barber said. "Being a head coach is administrative. It's pushing papers, unless you're (former coach) Jon Gruden, and Jon Gruden was a hands-on head coach. (Former coach) Tony (Dungy) was kind of hands-on, but really, he was kind of an administrator handling his team. I think Raheem is better suited being the dirty guy, getting down and drawing up blitzes with (defensive backs coach) Jimmy Lake, being able to call what he wants on Sundays. The guys that knew him before he became a head coach missed that.

"He's our captain now. He's the guide of the ship. … We need to assume who he is. Great teams do that. They take what their coach says and who they are personality-wise, and they become that. They put his vision on the field. The best way to do that is to be involved."

Quincy Black, a 240-pound linebacker with the ability to rush off the edge or drop into coverage, is a big key to Morris' defense. Linebacker Barrett Ruud immediately saw the not-so-subtle differences in Morris' schemes over the ones deployed by former defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin, who left after the 2008 season.

"It's a little more attacking but more versatility," Ruud said. "Monte's was basics. There was no gray area. With Raheem's, there's going to be more give and take. It's a little more aggressive. We have more options to mix things up, whether it's a blitz or different fronts, different stunts. It's good."

So how will Bucs fans recognize the Tampa 2.1?

"It won't be a surprise when you're looking at yourself going, 'What … was that?' ” Barber said. "That's the new version of it."

Tampa Bay Buccaneers' defense is updated, high-tech version of its famed two-deep zone scheme 09/09/10 [Last modified: Friday, September 10, 2010 7:43am]
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