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Which players will fit into the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' new schemes?

When Raheem Morris pulls on a baseball cap and some warmups, the 32-year-old Bucs coach blends in with a crowd of NFL draft hopefuls.

He prefers it that way.

It's the players Morris is scouting at this week's scouting combine in Indianapolis who are willing to do anything to get recognized.

But identifying which ones will fit into the Bucs' offensive and defensive schemes will be a little more difficult this year.

That's because former Boston College coach Jeff Jagodzinski will be calling the plays as offensive coordinator and Jim Bates will be directing the defense.

Both are going to put their own spin on things. There will be new twists in their schemes, so some current players could thrive while others might struggle with the change of systems.

Let's take a closer look.



Offensive philosophy: West Coast principles but with a zone blocking scheme, bigger emphasis on the running game and more play-action passes downfield. "Our running game is going to be downhill and physical," Jagodzinski said. "We will run the lead zone, both strong and weak, inside and out, and we'll also run some gap schemes because of the personnel we have. We will run some power-gap schemes, which I thought our personnel was very good at last year. We've got a big, physical, strong offensive line, which is one of the strong areas we have on this football team after watching the film for the last two weeks."



The 27-year-old has a strong arm and can drive the football. He also has four years of experience in a West Coast system. What he lacks is experience. McCown is 1-6 as a starter, four of those losses coming during his rookie season with the Browns. Last year, he threw one pass during the regular season. It's a bit of a projection, but Jagodzinski likes what he sees on film. "He's not beat up," Jagodzinski said. "When you play a young quarterback too soon, you can ruin a guy. He's been around, but he doesn't have a lot of mileage on him. I don't know him. Until I have a chance to go out there and work with him and our offensive staff, I think we'll get a better feel for him in the next couple of months."


The key behind gaining yards in a zone blocking scheme is the running back picking a gap, squaring his shoulders and being physical. Graham has proved he can do that. He led the Bucs in rushing in 2007 and was on his way to a 1,200-yard season when injuries to the fullback position and a high ankle sprain derailed his production. "(Earnest Graham) can do it. He's shown he can do it," Jagodzinski said. "I've always seen him when he runs the ball, he's always going downhill and gaining yards. You rarely see him get knocked back. He's always going forward. I think that's a good trait for a running back. He played both running back and fullback, so he's a very unselfish guy."


Although he'll be 34, Dunn had the best season of his career in 2005, when Jagodzinski was Atlanta's offensive line coach. He rushed for more than 1,400 yards and was named to the Pro Bowl.


Big and physical, Askew will easily adapt and still be used as a lead blocker on power plays. His ability to catch the ball in the flat is a key because Jagod­zinski makes good use of his fullbacks and tight ends in the passing game.


Bryant would fit in any scheme after setting career marks for catches (83), receiving yards (1,248) and touchdowns (seven) last season. Luke McCown will be able to get the ball downfield to him.


Davin Joseph, Jeremy Trueblood, Jeff Faine, Arron Sears and Donald Penn are athletic players who can run and hit. The zone scheme should play to their strength, which is run-blocking. And there won't be that missed block on the backside that leads to second and 16.


QB BRIAN GRIESE: He does his best work in a pure West Coast system, where his ability to read defenses and react quickly to get the ball out of his hands is his biggest strength. A better running game will help slow down the pass rush, which in turn helps Griese.


Poor man's Warrick Dunn is a Pro Bowl kick returner and not the most physical runner on the team. But he will be good in one-on-one receiving situations.


Primarily a run-blocker, he caught a career-high 15 passes for 147 yards last season. Jagod­zinski is used to working with pass-catching tight ends such as Bubba Franks and Alge Crumpler.


Kansas State QB Josh Freeman: The 6-foot-5, 226-pounder has a big arm and great mobility. He also spent a season with Raheem Morris, who was the Wildcats' defensive coordinator in 2006. Freeman is projected by some to go with the 19th overall pick to Tampa Bay. But the Bucs haven't used a first-round pick on a quarterback since Trent Dilfer in 1994.




Uses a 4-3 scheme without much movement from the down linemen. Bates prefers to use bigger players at those positions, particularly at tackle. He also plans to use a steady rotation on the line to keep players fresh. More emphasis on bump-and-run coverage on the corners, which forces the quarterback to hold the football and, in turn, generates more sacks and pressure.


DE GAINES ADAMS: The Bucs' first pick in 2007 has yet to reach his full potential, particularly as an elite pass-rusher. He has 121/2 sacks in his first two seasons. But Adams should take confidence in the improvement Jason Taylor and Trace Armstrong made as pass-rushers after Bates took over in Miami. "We've had tremendous success improving a lot of sacks as far as our four-man rush," Bates said. "Jason Taylor had 2 1/2. We went in there, and he went 141/2 and 17. Trace Armstrong went from single digits to 161/2, the only Pro Bowl he made. … We've had a lot of success."


Smart, physical middle linebacker who can make all of the calls and play equally well against the run and pass. Ruud isn't as undersized as Zach Thomas, but he has the same motor and should not have any trouble adjusting.


The Bucs' first-round pick in 2008 was used almost exclusively as a nickel corner last season and still tied for the club lead with four interceptions. Under Bates, Talib will become a starter because of his supreme man-to-man coverage ability. No player might benefit as much as Talib.


Set to become a free agent, Buchanon spent the first few years of his career as a cover corner. He can play off the receiver as well, and his ball skills have never been in question.



The five-time Pro Bowl cornerback has spent his career in the Cover 2 scheme, which emphasizes zone coverage and less bump-and-run. At 5 feet 10, 178 pounds, Barber struggled at times against physical wideouts. He will continue to excel in the slot on passing downs, and it's hard to imagine Barber not adapting to any system. You still have to tackle and cover, right?


Under Bates, the defensive tackles will play over the top of the guard and center. Hovan relies on his speed and quickness, and the Bucs will want to get bigger inside. But a better rotation of defensive linemen could keep Hovan fresher at the end of the season.


The starter thrived in the old scheme that emphasized quickness over power. Haye is coming off an injury-plagued season and will become a free agent. He struggled against downhill running games and wore out as the season progressed. Maybe bigger is better.


Ole Miss DT Jerry Peria

At 6 feet 1, 290 pounds, Peria has enough size to anchor the run defense in the middle of the line and still get pressure on the quarterback. Projected as a top 20 pick.

Which players will fit into the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' new schemes? 02/19/09 [Last modified: Thursday, February 19, 2009 10:26am]
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