TAMPA — This week’s minicamp practices represent the first opportunity for Bucs head coach Bruce Arians and his staff to implement their 3-4 defensive scheme in full-squad practices.
And even though training camp is still three months away, these days are important in teaching returning players the new system.
“It’s just a matter of schematics,” Arians said following Wednesday’s workout. “We will do more than most teams in terms of the number of blitzes that we have and number of fronts that we have. ... It’s just a matter of learning your gaps and learning your responsibilities.”
The main difference in the 3-4 scheme, a staple of new Bucs defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, is that it creates an aggressive front aimed at confusing opposing offenses into where the pressure it coming from. This isn’t the 4-3 zone scheme the Bucs have previously employed.
The linemen fill gaps and penetrate, defensive ends morph into outside linebackers who can rush or drop back into coverage, giving middle linebackers more freedom to blitz. The scheme also features defensive backs playing more aggressively in man coverage.
“It’s pretty great from what we just learned so far these past couple of days," said defensive tackle Vita Vea. “So far, so good. It’s a lot of new stuff, but we getting it done. I think I’d say like it’s a variety of different things. It’s only day two of minicamp, we still getting the hang of it and trying to figure it out.”
This week is more about implementing the system on the field. Rules prevent live hitting, so the focus is more on making sure players understand the scheme. Moving forward, that’ll be key for standouts like linebacker Lavonte David and defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul. defensive turned outside linebacker Carl Nassib also will go through a learning curve.
“It’s not totally different,” Nassib said. “It’s still football. It’s a little more of something, a little less of something else. It’s going to be a good offseason. I’m excited.”
Players like Nassib, who were used to lining up with their hand in the dirt, will now rush the passer standing up, and Nassib said that will allow him better vision getting to the quarterback.
"Definitely," Nassib said. "You've always got to improve your vision. If your hands in the dirt, you've got to see. If your hand's not in the dirt you've still got to see. Vision is very very important."
Vea played in a 3-4 defense in college at the University of Washington, so aspects of Bowles’ system are familiar. Vea will be an important piece of the scheme, as Arians said this week that he could lineup in all three lineman spots. Vea said showing that flexibility is valuable.
"It just makes us as a group, play better," Vea said. "Knowing everyone's job, know what we got to do and how it's supposed to be played and stuff like that. So we're just going to help us in the long run.”
Bowles has already made a strong impression on this group, Nassib said.
“The vibe is awesome,” Nassib said. “(Bowles is) great. He played. He’s been successful at the highest level. You always want to work with someone like that, who’s been through it all and is such a great example to everybody as a player and a man.”
Contact Eduardo A. Encina at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @EddieInTheYard.